Captain’s Column: Kokanee Fishing and Predicting a Better Whitefish Bite
The kokanee salmon on Lake Mary Ronan weren’t exactly jumping in the boat for anglers last weekend but many managed to get their limit. “It was a funny bite with the kokanee this year, you really have to pay attention,” said Jens Gran from Polson. I have given Gran the nickname of being the Lake Mary Ronan guru. “I like to fish for the salmon whenever I can they are challenging but very fun to catch and very good to eat” says Gran. Most days on the lake you will not have a hard time finding where they are biting-just look for the boats. The kokanee set-up seems to be the same year after year. “I like to use raw shrimp and shrimp oil, sometimes it doesn’t work, but most of the time it triggers them to bite”, adds Gran, “I also bring white corn and maggots to tip my glo hook with too!” To counter the light biting salmon Gran has uses a ultra-ultra light fishing rod. He can tell just by looking at the tip of the rod if a salmon is about to be hooked. “I bought this rod a couple of years back and it really made a difference”, he said. Gran said the fish seem to be running a little bigger than last year.
Jim Vashro the fish biologist from Region One for FWP had this to say in an e-mail about what he expects the whitefish bite on Flathead Lake to be like this summer. “Well, people have been asking so I’m going to stick my neck out. Flathead Lake had very good fishing for whitefish in 2004-2007. Fishing was then very poor in 2007-2011. Lake Whitefish are one of the most abundant fish in Flathead Lake but they are generally scattered and deep. That changes in years with good perch hatches. Large schools of young perch move near shore in mid-summer and whitefish schools move in to cash in on a great food source. The weather during perch spawning and hatching, roughly mid-April to mid-May, determines perch year class strength. Strong cold fronts produce a drop in air and water temperature with accompanying strong winds. The fronts can stop spawning in its tracks and the changes can kill or dislodge perch eggs stuck to vegetation in shallow water. 2004-2007 had relatively mild springs. 2007-2011 saw one or more very strong cold fronts each spring with air temperatures dropping to the mid-20s and wind speeds up to or exceeding 30 mph. 2011 was hit even harder by high water outflows that may have flushed what few perch hatched and continued cold weather into June that delayed zooplankton development and starved what few young perch were left.
This spring saw good numbers of perch spawners and the spawn appeared to be steady. We’ve had a few windy days but nothing over mid-20s for mph and temperatures have been in the 30s or above. I would say the signs point to a good or better lake whitefish fishery in Flathead Lake this summer.” Let’s hope his theory is correct.