Outdoors blog

Game on for big kokanee at Dworshak Reservoir

FISHING -- The word from kokanee researchers at Dworshak Reservoir: Get out and a few big ones now -- like the 16.5-incher pictured below -- or settle for lots of smaller ones in the next few years.

Idaho Fish and Game Department has finished its annual July trawl surveys and here's the detailed report from research biologist Sean Wilson on what's in the lake, where to catch them and what's coming up.

If you like big kokanee, it’s been a good year to fish Dworshak Reservoir.  The average length of adult kokanee caught in our July trawl survey was a little over 11 ½ inches, which is down a bit from last year when the average was a little over 12 inches.  However, don’t expect these larger fish in the next couple years.  While the number of adult fish we caught this year was down slightly from last year, the number of one year olds, which will be what we fish for next year, was up by more than 50% from last year.  Moreover, our fry catches were more than ten times what we caught last year, and were the highest in the last ten years.  While it will take some time to produce estimates of the population for this year, the trawl catches are pointing to a growing kokanee population, which will result in smaller fish in the next few years.

While most fish in the creel have been similar in size to those caught in the trawl, there have also been a few really big fish reported.  One of our creel clerks recently measured two exceptionally large kokanee at the Dent boat ramp, one that was over 15 inches and another that was over 16 inches.  In recent creel checks, we talked to 50 kokanee anglers who fished a total of 315 hours and kept 262 kokanee.  This results in an average of over 5 fish kept per day fishing and a little over an hour fishing per fish kept.  This doesn’t count many other fish that were released or hooked and lost.

Fishing has slowed recently on the lower end of the reservoir as the adult fish make their way up to the top end to spawn.  The smaller, one year old fish which are averaging 8-9 inches right now will be around all year in the lower reservoir for anyone who is still interested in catching some smaller kokanee.  If you can make the trip, the upper end of the reservoir, particularly above Grandad Bridge, should provide some fantastic fishing for another month or so.  Anglers should be able to find concentrations of large fish staging in the reservoir before moving up into the streams to spawn.  This can mean a cooler full of fat, feisty kokanee.  So make sure to plan a trip before this opportunity is gone.

Not a kokanee fisherman?  Dworshak can provide plenty of other angling opportunities.  We recently talked to 31 bass anglers who fished for 147 hours and reported catching 145 bass, most of which were released.  We also checked a variety of other fish, including trout and panfish.  So whether you like to fish for bass, kokanee or anything that bites, make plans to spend a day or a weekend on the reservoir before the summer is over.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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