2012 Mid-season Fishing Report. Kokanee

Ocean Coho a No Go

I always feel fortunate and thankful for the opportunity to go dory fishing, to get out on the ocean, to ride the swells and feel the salty spray, and 2012 was no exception. However, the coho fishing was terrible. That’s not to say we didn’t catch any, we just didn’t catch any that we could keep.

In order to “protect” the “wild” coho salmon, sport fisher-persons are only allowed to keep hatchery fish that have been marked by the removal of the adipose fin.

For whatever reason the ratio of hatchery to wild fish has been very low this year. In years past it seemed like the majority of coho were fin clipped and you might catch one wild for every three caught, but this year, all up and down the coast, keeper coho are very hard to come by. What happened to all the hatchery fish? Did the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) forget to put them in?

In theory, when you catch a wild coho, you’re supposed to release the fish unharmed, the so-called catch and release. But in practice, by the time you get the fish to the boat, identify it as wild, and remove the hook from the thrashing fish, it’s usually beaten up pretty bad. I’m not sure what the survival rate is for these fish but it’s pretty sad to think you’re not actually catching and releasing so much as you are killing and releasing…

The general consensus amongst the old salts is that with a season like this, a limit of one fish per angler per day, wild or hatchery, with a five fish maximum for the season, would be a whole lot easier on the resource than killing and releasing a bunch of wild fish trying to find a keeper.

But I’m not complaining. Crabbing was good and some folks did quite well this year on tuna and bottom fish, so it was just a matter of adapting to the conditions and making the best of it.

And as a special bonus this year I stuck around for the Pacific City Dory Days parade. Free Candy!

Kokanee

“Salmon” fishing hasn’t been a total bust this year thanks to the Kokanee. Kokanee are a type of land locked Sockeye salmon that inhabit certain of our lovely mountain lakes. They’re great eating, fun to catch on light gear, and when the bite is on its possible to catch a freezer full.

In the spring, when the water surface temperature is still cool, they can often be found shallow, in the top 30 feet or so. Flatline trolling a dodger and hoochie, with a little bit of corn, on a fly rod, can be productive and a whole lot of fun.

Later in the season they go deep and if you’re going to troll you really need a down rigger to get at them. Locating schools of kokanee with a fish finder (often they’re hugging the bottom) and jigging can also be quite effective.

By autumn, with the turning of the leaves, so turn the kokanee into their spawning colors. The kokanee have a three-year life cycle and, being a salmon, they spawn and then they die. The physical changes these once bright chrome silver fish undergo, in preparation for their final journey back to the place of their birth, is really quite amazing and, like any salmon, once they’ve “turned” their meat is no good, all of their oils having now been converted into eggs and milt.

Paulina, Green Peter, Billy Chinook, Odel and Wikiup are all known for Kokanee. Wikiup is a favorite of mine as there’s nothing quite like a Wikiup sunrise.

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