Casting for kokanee on Lake Granby
The five mile run across Lake Granby from the Stillwater boat ramp up into Columbine bay takes your breath away. The steep walls of the pseudo-fjord fall deep into the water. Moose and Elk occasionally swim the channel. The bald eagle’s nest near the inlet guarantees you will sight a big bird, or two, every trip.
The full windshield on my Crestliner Fish Hawk keeps the 40-degree wind off my face while the Mercury Verado engine quietly moves us up the bay at 40 mph. At 5 a.m. in mid-September, the sun barely illuminates the fog. At the last deep section of the bay, the kokanee show themselves on the surface of the water. Dimples and fins give them away. By the time the boat drops off plane, the fog has lifted slightly. Dimples show up just out of casting range. A few clicks on the handheld i-pilot and the Minn Kota Terrova silently maneuvers the boat into casting range. The spot-lock option on the motor uses a GPS system to control the prop and keep us in place. It takes a few casts but eventually a kokanee bites the spoon on the drop. A short but vicious fight ends with a silver-sided fish in the live well for later.
It is not possible to catch and put microscopic daphnia zooplankton on a fishing line but the mature salmon will regularly hit flashy fluttering spoons. The Lindy Viking and PK Flutterfish in the one-eighth- to one-fourth-ounce sizes both cast well and come in the pink and orange colors preferred by kokanee. If casting is not your speed, a small jig tipped with a waxworm 3 to 6-feet under a bobber will also work.
An hour into the morning the sun starts making its way across the water. The three of us cast frantically towards every rise. Although we see only a few rises at a time, the school is so big it covers almost the entire inlet. As soon as we cast in one area it seems the fish start rising behind us. At no other time of the year can you be surrounded by literally a thousand fish!
The retrieval of the spoons can be a key to success. The best speed could be described as “medium-slow” with about two turns of the reel every second. A jigging retrieve unlocks the action of the fluttering spoons. Moving the rod tip 6 to 12 inches with a small wrist action before letting the spoon fall for a few seconds works best. It is vital to note that the fish hit as the spoon falls and the jigging action is not a snagging-style motion.
If there is one fish that should be taken home for dinner it is pre-spawn kokanee. The silver salmon die after spawning anyway. The few lakes with naturally reproducing stock have special regulations against salmon harvest to protect their numbers. Other lakes fed by stocking programs expect that fish will be taken at some point in their lives. The kokanee either feed you or die and feed the bears.
The sunlight hits the far side of the bay and pushes the shade towards us. The salmon stop rising by 7:30. At that point you have a couple of options—troll for the deeper fish, focus on lake trout, or head home for the freshest possible salmon benedicts.
By the beginning of October the salmon move on up the river for spawning and this casting and trolling pattern vanishes.
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