By Rick Kennedy | 07/15/2014

With Stampede Reservoir being my home kokanee water for the last several decades and the fish being smaller than average there in recent years I’ve wandered over the hill to Lake Tahoe the last two seasons in search of larger kokanee. And, fortunately, I’ve found them without expending too much energy.

So far this year, in my boat, I’ve seen fish up to 18 inches. These are fat, hard-fighting, 18-inch fish. I’ve witnessed other anglers at the boat ramp with fish up to 3.5 pounds and larger. Also, I’ve had several reports from reputable anglers of even larger kokanee so far this year. It’s going to be a great summer for kokanee fishing in the Tahoe Basin. There’s big kokes around, but don’t expect all of them to be huge.


I’m curious as to where these bigger kokanee spawn. I coordinate the egg take efforts for the California Inland Fisheries Foundation and spent the last couple of years working with Fish & Wildlife and volunteers and haven’t seen an 18-inch fish come into Taylor Creek, where we do the egg take. The creek has been loaded with smaller fish, which tells me there’s larger kokanee somewhere else besides Taylor Creek where most kokanee anglers fish near.


So far this year I’ve caught kokanee directly in front of Cave Rock Boat Ramp, Camp Richardson and Meeks Bay, but the largest concentration I’ve found has been on the south end of the lake in front of the Camp Richardson area. These fish are likely headed to spawn in Taylor Creek later this summer.


Fishing kokanee on Lake Tahoe has made me fish differently than I would at Stampede. At Stampede, we normally fish close to our downrigger weight. At Tahoe, when I can watch my downrigger weight 40 feet down, it makes me think I need to get my presentation further away in order to not spook the fish. So on Tahoe, I’m running my set much further back than any other lake because of the clarity.


The locals up there tend to drag large flashers, like Ford Fenders. It’s effective fished with a spinner behind it. However, I like to keep it ultralight and use a small dodger and spinner or squid body tipped with my favorite corn, which is usually pink Fire Corn. Normally, I’ll run a Sep’s sidekick or Sep’s Strike Master, but I’ve also done well on a pink Rocky Mountain Tackle Blade. I’m always using Uncle Larry’s and Rocky Mountain Tackle spinners, but Radical Glow tubes are becoming my favorites.


When targeting Tahoe’s kokanee be prepared to go deeper than you would at most Nor Cal lakes. For example, at Stampede we are going 30-40 feet down, but at Tahoe we’ll be 60-100 feet. In my experience, and what I’ve been told, late July and August is prime time for kokanee up here. This is when they start schooling up and are easier to target. And, I’m guessing there will be a crowd up here with these big fish around. It’s should start forming any day now.

Editor’s Note: Veteran kokanee guide Rick Kennedy operates Tight Lines Guide Service. For more info on his Tahoe kokanee trips please visit