How To Ice Fish For Kokanee Salmon (Rods, Lures, Techniques)

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Whenever we go out ice fishing, our favorite fish to target is kokanee. They aren’t always the easiest fish to catch but they are the best-tasting fish in my opinion. In this post, I’m going to be talking about how to ice fish for kokanee salmon.

It’s not that complicated to catch fish out on the ice but there are a few things that could help you land more. We’re going to be talking about where to actually find kokanee, how deep you should be fishing, what gear should you be putting on, and my favorite lures/bait to use for kokanee.

I’m not saying these tips will guarantee you catch the most fish but it’s what I’ve been using for a number of years now. Everywhere is slightly different but it’s something you should try for sure. Continue reading or watch the video below for the full details on how to ice fish for kokanee.

Where To Find Kokanee In The Winter

Whenever you’re fishing for kokanee, you’re going to have to do things a little differently than if you were fishing for trout or some other type of fish. When you’re fishing for those, you can catch them in the shallows or at the drop-off points. That’s probably not going to work for kokanee.

In the winter, kokanee will be much deeper because they’re feeding on Zooplankton. I’ve had the most success fishing between 30 and 80 feet. You can still catch them deeper and you can also catch them shallower, but somewhere between 30 and 80 is where I’ve caught 80% of my fish.

The difficult thing about kokanee is that they can be tough to find. They tend to stay in schools and the hardest part will be finding them. When you do find them though, you’ll have a tough time keeping them off the hook. If you have a fish finder it’ll be a lot easier but I don’t use one myself and I’ll assume you don’t either.

What I like to do is drill a few holes that are spread out a bit. I’ll start in the first one and if nothing bites within 10-15 minutes, I’ll move to the second. I’ll start somewhere around 30 feet and then if nothing bites, drop it down 10 feet. I’ll just repeat this until something bites. Then you’ve found the school.

Ice Fishing Gear

The first thing we’ll talk about is what fishing rod to use. It’s not really a huge deal but the main thing you’ll want is a light action rod. Kokanee isn’t big fish so you’ll want something lightweight so you can actually feel the bite.

The smaller ice fishing rods are going to be your best bet but I’ve used a normal spinning rod many times and it’s done the job. The Ugly Stik GX2 is a great cheap option. See our favorite ice fishing gear here.

The next thing we’ll talk about is what fishing line to use. For pretty much all my rods (ice fishing included), I’ll use a braided line with a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. If I’m just going after kokanee, I’ll use a 10 lb braid but you can up that to 20 lbs if you want to target bigger fish too.

You can use regular braid (it can ice up) but your best bet will be ice braid. See the ones I use here. I’ll then attach a 2-foot leader using 12 lb fluorocarbon because it sinks and is also the hardest for the kokanee to see.

What you’ll then want to do is attach some sort of flasher to your braided line. A flasher is going to attract the fish and it’s a must-have in my opinion. Something around 4.5 inches long normally works great. You can also take the hooks off a similar-sized spoon and use that.

Using silver and/or red seems to work the best. If you can get one that glows, it’ll work even better in low-light conditions. You’ll then attach your fluorocarbon leader to the other end of the flasher and then attach your favorite lure/bait (we’ll talk about this next).

Ice Fishing Lures For Kokanee

There are a number of different things you can use to catch kokanee and they’ll all work on different days. The one thing I’ve noticed is that the smaller lures tend to work a lot better. You’d be surprised by how small you can go and still catch kokanee.

The first lures that work really well are Mack’s glow hooks. All you have to do is shine a flashlight on them for a couple of seconds and you’re good to go. They’ll glow in the water and that’ll attract the fish. The colors you’ll want to use are red/pink, white, or chartreuse. With pretty much every lure out there, you’ll want to put one or two pieces of pink maggot power bait or corn that are dyed pink.

The second lure that works well (and is kind of similar) are the small tungsten glow jigs. The only thing kokanee is eating in the winter is super tiny Zooplankton so that’s why you want to use a small jig. Something red/pink, white, or chartreuse will most likely give you the best results. Again, you’ll want to put one or two pieces of pink maggot on the hook.

The third lure that I like to use is going to be a glowing squid. It’s pretty much the same thing as you’d use in the spring/summer but the main difference is that it glows. I’ve had the best results with the smaller ones but try using whatever you have. Put a little bit of pink maggot on the hook and send it down.

How To Ice Fish For Kokanee

Now that you have everything set up, it’s time to get out on the ice and start fishing. You’ll want to go somewhere that has at least 30 feet of water, and if you don’t have a fish finder, you’ll just have to do your best to guess.

Like I said before, I like to drill a few different holes, to begin with because kokanee stays in schools. I’ll start in the first hole, try a few different depths, and if nothing bites in 10-15 minutes, I’ll move to the second hole.

The best way to ice fish for kokanee is by jigging. If you’ve never heard of jigging, all it is is dropping your lure straight down and slowly lifting and lowering your rod. You can jig all year round and it’s one of the more effective ways to fish.

Here’s how you jig for kokanee:

  1. Drop your line down to 30 feet.
  2. Leave it there for a couple of seconds.
  3. Slowly life your rod 1-2 feet.
  4. Let your lure slowly fall.
  5. Leave it there for a couple of seconds.
  6. Repeat.

Do this for a few minutes at 30 feet and if nothing bites, drop it down 10 more feet. Continue doing this until something bites or you get down to 80 feet or so. If that’s the case, you might want to try a different hole. Ice fishing for kokanee is going to take a bit of patience but it’ll all be worth it if you can find a school of them.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. This site is where I test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

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