Folks in North Puget Sound have such a wide array of fishing opportunities, from our saltwater fisheries to our local rivers, but Lake Stevens up in Snohomish County is a true gem with great fishing for most of the year. The city of Lake Stevens sprawls out around its namesake lake, and the entire community partakes in the great fishing that can be had at this centrally located lake. I own Livin Life Adventures, a guide service that offers trips on Lake Stevens and wanted to share the strategies I use to catch Kokanee in my home lake.
Lake Stevens holds populations of Smallmouth Bass, Largemouth Bass, Yellow Perch, Sunfish, and Rainbow Trout. Lake Stevens has plenty of fishing options, but my personal favorite is that little silver bullet that we call the Kokanee Salmon.
The question is, how does one go about catching these finicky and soft mouthed landlocked Sockeye Salmon? I will share with you my methods and strategies. It’s not too difficult, it simply takes a little homework, a little time on the water, but with a little effort you to can fill the fish box with these tasty resident salmon.
Lake Stevens Kokanee Fishing – Basic Gear
To catch Kokanee in Lake Stevens, it is essential to head out to the lake with a boat in tow. It doesn’t have to be a big boat and a kayak or small aluminum boat is just fine. While we all find ourselves fishing next to the newest, biggest, spared-no-expense dream boats, remember that it doesn’t take much to get out and enjoy a great day of Kokanee fishing on Lake Stevens. Here are the basics: Your boat will need to be able to troll between 1 mph and 1.4 mph, a fish-finder is necessary, as are rod holders, and downriggers.
Just remember, you do not need the big, fancy, expensive toys to enjoy a day on the lake. A basic Fishing Buddy Fish Finder will do the job. There are even some great speedometer apps for free to download on your smartphone You can make what I call Redneck Downriggers to get your gear down to depth. Other options are leaded line, flat lining, and trolling weights.
Kokanee Fishing Rods & Reels
So, now you have your boat and your downriggers, but what sort of gear do you need? Let’s start with your rod and reel. To help achieve the best success rate we can get, we use kokanee specific rods.
Do a little shopping around and you will find you many options on the market, and your perfect match. Kokanee rods are light weight rods, usually between 7 and 8 feet. They have a slow action and are very limber.
The best fishing rods for Kokanee are a fiberglass or a glass/graphite blend. Remember that Kokanee have very soft mouths, so using a rod with plenty of flex will give you a greater hook-up to landing ratio. A Kokanee rod that features a slow and soft action acts a shock absorber when fighting fish and helps to keep them hooked as the fish twist, flop, and jump without pulling the hooks out of their fragile mouths.
If you can’t spend the money on a new rod, adding a light weight snubber to your tackle on a lightweight trout rod will also suffice. Most kokanee rods are designed to match with baitcasting reels, which are much easier to use with downriggers. Note that although we call them “baitcasting reels”, you are not actually casting; it’s just the style of reel and rod. I use Shimano reels such as the Chronarch, Curado and Caennan, which feature a very smooth drag, and are of the highest quality without spending an arm and a leg.
I put 10 pound test monofilament line on my reels for main line. The added stretch helps in fighting kokanee, but the 10lb resists abrasion from the downrigger cable and other things better than lighter line, so I don’t lose my dodgers and spinners if things get tangled up. On the end of my main line I add a snap swivel to make changing tackle quick and easy.
Kokanee Fishing Tackle and Lures
We are getting closer to being ready fish for Kokanee at Lake Stevens! Now let’s talk tackle.
The first thing you are going to need is an attractor, something to draw the Kokanee in, and a size 4/0 dodger is my go-to. There are two dodgers I use and live by. My favorite make is the Dick Nite Dodger, which is a 4/0 “skateboard” style dodger that comes in an array of fish catching, UV painted, colors.
I have caught fish on every color of Dick Nite Dodger, but my top producers are the Pink Spatter Back, Glow Clown, and 50/50. The second dodger I use is the “Arrow Flash” from Kokanee Kid Fishing. These come in UV and real precious metal finishes, including gold and silver. These dodgers seem to kick & dodge more than the skateboard style dodgers, and impart more action to the lures that are fished behind them.
Now, what lure do you put behind your dodger? My top producing lure on Lake Stevens is hands down, a Wedding Ring spinner, either with a Mack’s Smile Blade, or a more traditional Indiana or Colorado Blade spinner. These spinner lures can be easily bought pre-riggerd or you can get the components to make them yourself.
Although the pre-rigged lures are already setup for you, I strongly recommend that you cut them apart and re-tie the leader. I re-tie all my spinners on a 12 pound fluorocarbon line, with two size 4 or size 2 hooks.
Tie a barrel swivel at the end of your leader to keep your spinners together and for easy changing. Kokanee Kid Fishing makes a lot of really great spinners, with the best part being that they are ready to go straight out of the package. No need to re-tie anything. They already have great hooks, and the leader length is already set for you with a barrel swivel already tied on. Their products will help you shorten your learning curve by miles! Green, red, pink, and orange are all great colors to use, as well as their metallic offerings.
Kokanee Fishing Baits and Scents
You are going to want to add bait to those hooks as well. Gulp makes a great product in their Gulp Maggots which are easy to use, effective, and come in several colors. However, I usually just stick to shoe-peg corn. Not sweet corn, not creamed corn, not corn on the cob, specifically white shoe-peg corn! You can find it at most grocery stores in the canned vegetable aisle. You can fish the corn plain, or play with it by adding different scents and/or dye it different colors (I leave mine white but I do add scent).
I find that fishing with bait is extremely important, but I also add scent to the dodger as well. To do this, I only use Dick Nite’s Kokanee DNA Gel Scent. It is thick enough to stay on the metal dodgers, and has all the scents required to attract Kokanee already built in! Just smear some on the non-painted side of your dodger and you are ready to go!
Now that you have your boat ready, your gear setup, your rods rigged and your tackle and bait organized… you’re ready to hit the lake!
Lake Stevens Boat Launch
There are two launches on Lake Stevens. The eastern launch, in the cove, is the Lake Stevens City Boat Launch. It’s free to use with your parking pass from WDFW that you get with your fishing license. There is a shallow, mostly paved ramp with a nice dock. Wyatt Park is on the west side of the lake. There is a fee to launch here, but the ramp is much nicer, there’s real toilets (instead of the porta potties at the city launch) and nice docks to use. From either boat launch its a short boat ride to fishable water.
Where to Kokanee Fish on Lake Stevens
I usually start fishing as soon as I’m over 40 to 60 feet of water. Trying to keep my speed around 1.2 mph, I work my way around the lake trolling in S curves or zigzag patterns, until I find fish. I start off mostly following the 80 foot depth line, and will work out or in depending on where I see fish jumping or happen to get a bite. Once I get a hit, I make a note of where it happened (I set waypoints on my chart plotter – fish finder) and will make circles or more passes, working the same area. I will often pick up several more fish out of the same school this way.
Make note of the sun too. You will often get bit going one direction a lot more than the other. I set my gear back 40 to 60 feet behind the downrigger release, and fish anywhere from 5 to 40 deep. Use your fish finder to see schools of kokanee and target those depths.
Now, I would give you some hot spots to fish in the lake; however, if you look at the lake on the screen of my Lowrance HDS (where I set my GPS waypoints when I catch a fish) you can hardly see the lake, as it is one solid mass of waypoints. I have caught a Kokanee in almost every square foot of the lake that’s deeper than 40 feet.
You have to get out there! Watch for jumpers, be methodical, and have a fun day on the water!
If you are interested in fishing with me on Lake Stevens, please check out my outfit at http://www.livinlifeadventures.com/
Captain Brianna Bruce