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Thread: 2019 Blue Mesa Kokanee Fishing Report

  1. #51

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    Hey fellas, been a long time lurker here. I have been following these Blue Mesa Kokanee reports for the last few years. Ive never posted on the topic because Im new to trolling for kokanee and didnt feel I had anything to contribute. Maybe I should have been posting the success I have had this year which sounds about par with everything that is being shared. Basically every color I have, every dodger I have, 5-2.0mph and the depths I see them at. Thats about it. I think I just get lucky once in a while. I have found no hot pattern although I think my pinks, purples have done best and 90% of my fish I have caught are right at 1.2 mph.

    The main reason I am posting today is I think I can help with the concern about the # of kokes. Obviously the kokanee are very shallow. I seem to see them from surface to about 15ft.
    I havent been out there in 10 days so that may have changed a bit. Here is my contribution if it helps. I have no idea about the sonar you guys are using, but this last year I took the jump into garmin panoptix. I have the PS22 transducer on a pole I can spin around and look 360 degrees and over 100 feet away. When I do find kokanee, It is pretty obvious. They have a different return because of their air bladders. These schooled fish are not "stacking" in this shallow water they are in schools but spread out. With regular sonar on whatever type of downview the unit has, even with a large cone angle, there is no way to see these fish. Sideview might be pretty handy but for me, shallow fish in deep water is hard for me to see in side view. I have no idea why these fish are being so finicky this year, most likely the unstable water and murkiness, but like I said, I am pretty new to this. To be able to consistently see these shallow fish with a down facing cone they would have to not flee from boat. I promise they do!!! I can spot a school and troll straight at them. When the boat is about 20ft or so away they will either dive down or flare off to the side. When I know I have gone over them I will turn my transducer to back and they will come back to pretty much where they were when I am about 40ft past them. I can watch my lure/dodger go right throught them, I can watch them turn and follow my lure, which is great. I have triggered some hits with a speed change or drop my pole and let my lure fall, then pull up and speed up. Anyways, being new to this I am not sure exactly how many fish I should be seeing, but I can say I can see at least 80% more fish on my screen with my panoptix than show up with my 2d sonar, I think the fish are there, just not in the mood to go in my cooler.

    Syver

  2. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by furmaster View Post
    Hey fellas, been a long time lurker here. I have been following these Blue Mesa Kokanee reports for the last few years. Ive never posted on the topic because Im new to trolling for kokanee and didnt feel I had anything to contribute. Maybe I should have been posting the success I have had this year which sounds about par with everything that is being shared. Basically every color I have, every dodger I have, 5-2.0mph and the depths I see them at. Thats about it. I think I just get lucky once in a while. I have found no hot pattern although I think my pinks, purples have done best and 90% of my fish I have caught are right at 1.2 mph.

    The main reason I am posting today is I think I can help with the concern about the # of kokes. Obviously the kokanee are very shallow. I seem to see them from surface to about 15ft.
    I havent been out there in 10 days so that may have changed a bit. Here is my contribution if it helps. I have no idea about the sonar you guys are using, but this last year I took the jump into garmin panoptix. I have the PS22 transducer on a pole I can spin around and look 360 degrees and over 100 feet away. When I do find kokanee, It is pretty obvious. They have a different return because of their air bladders. These schooled fish are not "stacking" in this shallow water they are in schools but spread out. With regular sonar on whatever type of downview the unit has, even with a large cone angle, there is no way to see these fish. Sideview might be pretty handy but for me, shallow fish in deep water is hard for me to see in side view. I have no idea why these fish are being so finicky this year, most likely the unstable water and murkiness, but like I said, I am pretty new to this. To be able to consistently see these shallow fish with a down facing cone they would have to not flee from boat. I promise they do!!! I can spot a school and troll straight at them. When the boat is about 20ft or so away they will either dive down or flare off to the side. When I know I have gone over them I will turn my transducer to back and they will come back to pretty much where they were when I am about 40ft past them. I can watch my lure/dodger go right throught them, I can watch them turn and follow my lure, which is great. I have triggered some hits with a speed change or drop my pole and let my lure fall, then pull up and speed up. Anyways, being new to this I am not sure exactly how many fish I should be seeing, but I can say I can see at least 80% more fish on my screen with my panoptix than show up with my 2d sonar, I think the fish are there, just not in the mood to go in my cooler.

    Syver
    That is very cool! I live in WY and have never fished Blue Mesa, but I fish Fontenelle reservoir for Kokanee a lot. It is a weird reservoir, in that the Kokanee never stratify at depth. They are almost always near the surface, even when the the water is 70 degrees on the surface. Because the fish are almost always shallow, lots of people run the dual board planing boards to spread their lures out away from the boat. You can run multiple lines off the boards, and you use release clips like on downriggers, so you dont have to mess with dragging the planer board each time you hook a fish...

    This has been a weird year at Fontenelle too, as far as figuring out a pattern and finding fish....

  3. #53
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    81

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    Syver,

    Thanks for the info re fish on your sonar. My sonar is at least 15 years but I keep it because it works very well for jigging and when the fish are deeper it works plenty well enough for trolling. But at times this I sure wish I had something that could help makes sense of where to find the fish. So thanks.

    Back about 10 years ago I was out trolling one very hot day in August on Blue Mesa and went up to stand in the bow of the after seeing some kind of disturbance in the water ahead of me. I saw what looked like a thousand kokanee about 2 ft below the surface and they were parting like the Red Sea in front of my boat. I tried casting into them but they ignored my lure. I tried a long line and turning big circles to pull the lure through them but never got a bite. It never made sense to me because of their normal behavior and it was way too hot for them to like the surface, but there they were. Let's hope there are lots of fish and they are just hard to catch because of this odd behavior -- sounds better to me than too few fish.

  4. #54

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    Well, all I know is being fairly new to fishing these finicky fish. I sure do enjoy it. I love a challenge and by god this is one fore sure. From what I read.... when stacking a downrigger(which I donít do). The top line should have a further setback, because when the kokes decide not to hit the line off the ball, they usually tend to head upward. Then, you have more bait right in their face. I canít see why the planet boards wouldnít have the same results. I seen a well known guide on the lake running two drís and two planers. I figured itís because he had 4-5 clients, but I would love to know if those were getting hit more often.??

  5. #55
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Posts
    9

    Default

    Furmaster, thanks for the insight! I have watched videos of guys jigging lake trout in multiple holes on a spread using the panoptix, the way they were able to watch the behavior of the fish coming in was incredible.

  6. #56

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    Itís pretty cool, I donít think it is putting any more fish in my cooler, but I know Iím in the right areas and depths I should be. I just think when these fish start heading deeper you will see more fish

  7. #57
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
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    81

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    This morning (Thursday) we had our best fishing trip on BM this summer with 8 kokes that averaged 1.6 pounds. The largest was 2.1 lb. All fish showed some gill lice. We also caught several small lakers and browns.

    We started fishing at 6 am in the Bay of Chickens and then went on to the Iron Works, where we caught our fish (I'll skip the Bay of chickens next time I'm out) starting at 6:30 am. Fish were hitting DRs at 25 and 27 ft, on an orange bead/spinner and a blue squid behind a blue dodger. As the morning progressed we fished deeper, getting hits at 33 and 36 when we quit at 10 am. LC caught a couple of fish at 4-5 colors and at 8 colors on a purple spinner/bead lure behind a purple dodger. Next trip we'll probably stack the downriggers, as the fish are getting kind of deep for LC unless we have 100 yards of line out, which makes actually catching a salmon kind of tricky. We've been fishing with small lights immediately ahead of the dodger and it seems to help a little -- maybe. Still no signs of schooling salmon.

    Morning temps were in the mid 40s and the water is 67, unchanged for quite some time.

    We won't be able to get out again until Tues or Wed of next week, so anyone who has success please share so we can follow your advice next week.

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  8. #58

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    That is great news, I was thinkin about going over there this weekend. The small lights you referenced....like the lights most people including me use for jigging? Nice to hear they are dropping down a bit. I think it makes them easier to find.
    Congratulations on your outing!!!

  9. #59

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    Went out yesterday and ended up with 4. Lost probably 4-6. And 3 trout. Most of morning I ran some blue beads with silver dodger from 20-35 ft. Later in day fish dropped between 40-65ft. Seemed chartreuse was doing better down there. The fish are starting to school up.
    This was all at Iron works. Lots of boats running around, especially those water skiers that think itís fun to ski through all the boats

  10. #60
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
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    81

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    Fishing is still slow on Blue Mesa.

    The temp this morning at 5:15 was 50F at Neversink and water temperature remains the same at 67F. Based on a tip from our friend Willie, we started on the S shore of Cebolla, about a mile west of the mouth of Cebolla creek. We picked up 3 nice kokes, two in the first 40 minutes and one not long before we quit at 9:30. We fished DRs at 30, 35, 40 and 45 ft and caught two salmon at 45 on orange and 1 salmon at 30 on purple, in addition to too many small lakers. The three salmon averaged 1.9 lb.

    We are seeing lots of boats around the Iron Work and several of the boats obviously expected to jig for schooled salmon. We aren't seeing schools around the 80 ft depth, or anything that looks like a school. We see plenty of fish between 60 and 90 ft but all we get trolling those depths are small lakers. Some of the males are showing modest hook jaws and a female this morning was the first I've seen with eggs showing some growth.

    The lake is over-full at 7519 ft, 1 ft below full pool and 99.7% of capacity. At this level large trees along the shore are at risk of drowning. We saw a 20 ft, 3 ft diameter tree trunk with lots of branches floating in the middle of the Cebolla basin; a Park Service boat with three non-law enforcement rangers passed within 50 yards of it twice. We've been starting a little later this summer to avoid such hazards in the dark -- and it isn't as if there is a first thing in the morning bite to lure us out of bed 20 minutes earlier. On the other hand, it was a beautiful sunrise, we had perfect fishing conditions, and we're having grilled salmon for dinner.

  11. #61

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    I have yet to catch a koke before the sun comes up. Missed a few, but couldnt be 100% they werenít trout. Honestly I have had more action at 2-3 pm than any other time. Just sayin.

  12. #62

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    So last night I wrote a 1000 word report on here on my weekend (might be exagerating a bit) I went to submit reply and it had kicked me out and wanted me to log back in...lost it all.
    Anyways in less words. Fished both days this weekend, almost sank boat in storm, caught 8 Kokanee, lost a few, caught 10,000 lake trout.
    Not in a great hurry to go back. Caught all fish early in day at 35-40ft. Blue beads and various dodgers. Marked some deeper schools, but couldnt get them to bite.

  13. #63
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    3

    Default Lake Trout

    Quote Originally Posted by furmaster View Post
    So last night I wrote a 1000 word report on here on my weekend (might be exagerating a bit) I went to submit reply and it had kicked me out and wanted me to log back in...lost it all.
    Anyways in less words. Fished both days this weekend, almost sank boat in storm, caught 8 Kokanee, lost a few, caught 10,000 lake trout.
    Not in a great hurry to go back. Caught all fish early in day at 35-40ft. Blue beads and various dodgers. Marked some deeper schools, but couldnt get them to bite.
    What do you do with the many lake trout you catch. Keep them, kill them, what??

  14. #64

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    Return them to lake, although I did make sure to feed the bald eagle at the pinnacles with a couple.

  15. #65
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
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    Default Lake Trout

    Quote Originally Posted by furmaster View Post
    Return them to lake, although I did make sure to feed the bald eagle at the pinnacles with a couple.
    What size lake trout have you been catching? Is it a good idea to return them to the lake? I have read, I believe on this forum, that lake trout are devouring the kokanee fingerlings. True or not?

  16. #66

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    Lakers caught are between 1-4lbs. Iím sure they donít treat the kokes well. I should be dispatching these fish...just feels wastefull sometimes, but then again I have no issues shooting 500 prairie dogs a year. So no real reason that I release them I guess.

  17. #67
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Falcon, CO
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    53

    Default Next month

    We are going for a week next month. Only date we could get a camping spot at the KOA. Where we stay. The fish should be schooled up by then. Planning to take lots of jigs, is there a better color than orange and pink? Never been to BM this late in the year. Ordering some Blue and silver jigs, which jigs work best?
    Wanting to go bad.
    CH
    God does not detract one minute of life for the hours spent fishing.

  18. #68

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    Who knows with these fish. Prepare to try it all. My pink and white pline jig was my best overall last year but not everyday. I have my better days when I take the time to center over the schools exactly. Also scents have really upped my game. Iím not so sure color is as important as it might seem.
    Last edited by furmaster; 08-02-2019 at 11:06 PM. Reason: Adding stuff

  19. #69
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    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    We still haven't seen a substantial school of kokanees at around the 80 ft depth level but it should happen soon if it is going to happen this year. I have doubts whether there are enough fish to actually create a school but we plan to take the electric trolling motor and other jigging accessories out to the lake today just in case.

    When jigging was hot and easy several years back almost any heavy lure worked well. Most people seemed to use Luhr Jensen Crippled Herrings, 1.5 oz, glow white w/ green stripe. I've also used much cheaper Cabella jigs that worked fine -- I gave a lot of them away to people who came up on us to ask how to set up for jigging. I replace the galvanized (and dull) single hook that comes with the jigs w/ a very sharp size 6 extra wide gap (EWG) treble hook -- I lose fewer fish with better hooks. When I can, I like to add the whisker things to the hooks. Practically any weight will work. I'm too impatient for the lure to hit 80 ft to use anything less 1.5 oz jigs. In the last couple of years we've seen lots of different brands. I'm with furmaster that color probably doesn't matter much -- at this depth science tells us that every color is grey, but that doesn't explain why blue and purple lures trolled at 80 ft deliver better than other colors this year. I think glow is important and I sometimes slip a large, glow tube jig over my lures without glow paint on them. I prefer 10 lb braided line and I tie in 2 ft of high vis yellow PowerPro braided line at 80 ft for easy depth management. As furmaster said above, scents can help a lot when the fish don't want to bite. I hate the slimy, stinky stuff and rarely use it. I encourage jiggers to try meal worms rather than corn or scents. We sometimes get bass like hits when we use meal worms. If fishing is slow I also recommend using a second rod dead stick if you have sufficient space on your boat. It is hard to know whether to use lights or not. Sometimes lights seem to scare fish away but other times it seems you can't catch a fish without a light. We still use the very bright C&H lights I found in a Cabellas salt water catalog about 10 years back, but we also use the new, dimmer lights that turn off and on from contact with the water.

    The folks managing the fishery recommend not returning lake trout to the lake -- in other words, eat them or kill them. I've never liked killing fish unnecessarily but after seeing them nearly destroy the kokanee fishery in the past (and maybe now), I'm pretty cold-hearted with them. My wife really, really hates lakers and watching her smack them with a wooden club and cut a gill is almost scary -- that girl can carry a grudge about fish that eat salmon.

    I'll also second furmaster's advice about taking time to get centered right above the fish. The schools can be so small that we sometimes catch fish from the center of the boat but not from the bow or stern. It can take some fussing to get the transducer pointing straight down. Good luck. Let's hope there are enough fish this year to create schools.

  20. #70

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    The last time I was out I was seeing some schools later in the day in that 75ft range. I found 4-5 of these schools. I hope that a lot more fish show up or else it will make for a rough jigging season.... and I look forward to it all year. I even built myself a new rod just jigging kokanee. If I can figure how to post a pic off my phone I will send a pic I took of these schools.

  21. #71
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    Jul 2019
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    3

    Default Schooling

    Quote Originally Posted by furmaster View Post
    The last time I was out I was seeing some schools later in the day in that 75ft range. I found 4-5 of these schools. I hope that a lot more fish show up or else it will make for a rough jigging season.... and I look forward to it all year. I even built myself a new rod just jigging kokanee. If I can figure how to post a pic off my phone I will send a pic I took of these schools.
    We have caught Kokanee while trolling, even when they are schooling. I assume only 3-4 year olds school up for the run up the river. Suppose some of them aren't in the big school where the scrum is and are in small schools or wandering around. The scrum is fun once or twice, but trying to catch kokanee without chasing the guides is challenging and more fun. We also keep and eat lake trout as well as others we catch. Jigging is fun if you can locate a school and stay over it. Seems as soon as you catch one, many other boats show up. Guess they don't have sonar or can't use it.

  22. #72
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
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    Gunnison, CO
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    Jigging has started but is quite slow so far.

    Our friend Willie told us on Monday afternoon he had caught 3 salmon jigging, all three bang, bang, bang, then nothing. We were bringing out fuel and went out into the white caps to take a look. We found a small school and I also unthinkingly came too closely to a couple of guys jigging and probably washed them off anything they were over. It was a good reminder that most people aren't intentionally mean but all of us are thoughtless at times. Sorry who ever you were.

    We went out Tuesday around 9 and saw quite a few very small schools. We were able to stay right on top of several schools but never had a bite and never felt a fish bump a line, which is very common when you put a jig into a school.

    We went out today - Thursday - at the same time and Mary had two good bites and dragged one fish about half way up before her shoulder gave out and the fish used the slack to sneak away. Willie reported no bites / no fish, and the same was true for Andy and Sue. All three are experienced jiggers. It happens.

    The first photo was taken right in front of the Iron Work and US 50, in pretty shallow water. The left side shows the wide cone sonar shot and the right shows the very narrow cone shot. I put my rod in a holder and brought my jigs from it and the my dead stick rod above the school, which you can see on the right side. The next photo is in deeper water over the Gunnison River channel. The first photo shows a school only 5 ft in depth while the second school was 10 ft thick. Both schools were very small. We stayed on them for over 15 minutes and felt nothing except for Mary's two bites. That seemed to be par for the other 20ish boats -- we saw no fish caught.


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    Finally, the photo below shows some of our go-to jigs, none of which has caught us a fish this year.

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    We have no idea what is going to happen next. Good luck.
    Last edited by kokanee64; 08-08-2019 at 10:32 PM.

  23. #73
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Idaho
    Posts
    637

    Default

    Thanks for the report. Ever since becoming a hard deck addict (Ice fishing), I love jigging for kokes!
    "The Fish Whisperer" 21' Alexis Classic Thunder Jet

  24. #74
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Gunnison, CO
    Posts
    81

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    Slow Jigging

    We took friends and their grandson jigging on Friday. We got on several schools and stayed on them long enough to irritate the fish, but no luck until suddenly Mary hooked a first and then a second salmon. The grandson got to reel one up from the depths, plus drive the boat up and down the lake, and the day went down as a success. Ok, so maybe benchmarks are a little low right now; we take the W when we get one. We skipped the weekend but tried again on Monday. We searched vigilantly but never found a school large enough to temp wetting a line.

    I've not wanted to say anything for fear of even more jinxing, but I've noticed over the course of the summer than the few fish we have caught show more and more gill lice and the summer progressed. Early in the summer some fish appeared lice free based on a casual look. The two fish caught on Friday were overloaded with gill lice -- impossible to miss. I'll leave it to others to speculate what this might mean for future years. This year is already in the books as the worst in 20 years.

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