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Learning new ways to fish for kokanee at Ririe Reservoir

Living the Wild Life

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“We caught some red kokanee the day after we fished with you,” Kirt Greenhalgh told me when we met on July 22. “It won’t be long before the big ones won’t be edible.”

By Aug. 4, when I fished Ririe with my friend, Mike Bruton, about half of the large kokanee had already absorbed their scales which turns them red and starts their meat to break down. So, we released all the red kokes and kept the ones that were slightly pink or still silver. Most of the silver ones were in the 10-inch length and very delicious!

Always looking for a more effective way to fish, Mike and I were trying out some new things to us – stuff we had borrowed from others. In my last article on kokanee fishing on Ririe, Greenhalgh’s brother, Alan, contacted me about calling one of his lures by the wrong name; and he demanded a correction. I contacted Alan and we discussed lures and kokanee fishing. That led to me being invited to “learn how to fish for kokanee” by fishing with the Greenhalgh brothers on Ririe, and I gladly accepted the invitation.

RELATED | Delving deep to catch the kokanee in Ririe Reservoir

Alan is known statewide as one of the most knowledgeable experts on kokanee and fishing for them as he has spent the last nine years studying those fish and their habits. In 2012 he “stepped off the cliff and did tackle full time” when he created Kokabow Fishing Tackle, LLC, located in Meridian. Since then he has created a line of lures and developed fishing styles that are extremely effective on these fish.

“Kokanee feed primarily on Zooplankton, so they do not feed on anything we fish with to catch them,” Alan said as we fished together. “They hit out of anger. Our lures are invading their territory and they are not happy about it, so the madder they get the more aggressive they become and the harder they hit. If you are getting light hits and not losing your bait, they are usually slapping the lures with their tails because they are not mad enough.”

According to him, most fishermen use leaders that are too long between the attractor blade and the baited lure. He teaches that the lure carrying the bait should be between eight to 12 inches behind the blade to allow the sound that angers the fish to be transmitted properly to the baited hooks. It is the vibration and sound through sound waves that triggers the aggressiveness of the fish.

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Mike Bruton with a red kokanee caught using a Watermelon Kokabow blade. | Bill Schiess,

“I also like to create changes of movement with my blade, so I do not troll in a straight line,” Alan said. “I like to troll in “S-curves” which causes lures on one side of the boat to slow down and drop while the lures on the other side will speed up and climb. I will also increase the speed of the boat or slow it down from between 1.1 to 1.5 miles per hour to change the lure’s action.”

The blade he has created is called “Tail Feather Trolling Blades” and is designed after a salmon spoon patented in 1926. Instead of using stickers on his blades, most of Alan’s blades are painted a vibrant color on each side with inlaid glitter making then highly reflective.

“When I start a fishing trip, I will set up each rod of the with a different color combination and keep track of which colors are producing the most,” he told me. “Once I have the color the fish hit the most, we will put that color on all four rods if two of us are fishing. I call it “talking to the fish” as I want to know what they want and by listening to them I keep all rods active.”

Greenhalgh has also created lures that hold the baited corn. All of his Kokabow Spinners, Kokabowbugs and Kokabow Squids are unique as each features a painted willowleaf blade with the beads made from high-quality glass. He believes that the sound of the willowleaf blade rotating around the glass beads creates a unique sound that causes the kokanee to attack the baited lures.

“I am an Idaho manufacturer making Idaho tackle that catches Idaho kokanee,” he proudly told me. “Our focus is on catching fish, not fishermen.”

Ririe Reservoir has been one of his main testing waters and with his brother, Kirt, living in Ririe, he has the opportunity to fish there several times each year. In the meantime, Mike and I will be satisfied by using the Kokabow Way to catch the fish that will replace the red dying ones.