My experience with fishing Mother Lode and low elevation foothill lakes is that you can catch kokanee pretty much all day, although the optimum times are usually first thing in the morning and again in the evenings. Recent trolling adventures that I made to Don Pedro and New Melones Lake produced solid action on jumbo kokes throughout the day. Both lakes have green, plankton-rich water with varying degrees of clarity throughout the season.
However, the situation is different on clear water High Sierra lakes, such as Bucks Lake and Lake Tahoe. Often you have just a limited time in the morning and again in the evening to get your limit; if you fish during the middle of the day, you’ll catch very few fish.
A trip that I made to Bucks Lake, located in Plumas National Forest at the edge of a wilderness area, is a case in point. Bob Cherney, sales representative for Universal Telescopic and P-Line, reported hot kokanee action on Saturday, August 7. “I hooked 20 fish and only landed one kokanee and two brookies because the fish were so hot,” he told me. “However, the bite completely shut off at 7:30 a.m.”
The next day we went fishing and the same scenario took place. We started trolling at 5:45 a.m. and hooked up our first kokanee at 6 a.m. For the next hour, we found hot action, hooking nearly 20 fish and landing 8 quality kokanee in the 13 to 14 inch range. However, the bite shut off abruptly after 7:30 a.m; we spent the next two hours struggling to catch our final two kokanee.
This illustrates how in clear water conditions like those found at Bucks Lake, periods of low light – early and late in the day – produce the best fishing. Other anglers who got on the water after us caught very few fish because they had missed the bite.
Another suggestion for clear water kokanee fishing is to use a long length of line to distance your lure from the downrigger. Cherney, who makes his own kokanee bugs, puts them on a leader behind a Luhr Jensen 4/0 Dodger or Abe & Al’s Dodger. He lets out 50 to 60 feet of line behind the boat before snapping the downrigger release on the line.
Also, light leaders of 4 to 6 pound test, as well a light mainline, are necessary because of the clear water conditions.
If you follow these proven clear water tactics, you’ll increase your success rate while kokanee trolling at higher elevation Sierra Nevada lakes.