HOW TO CATCH KOKANEE
AT LAKE MERWIN
The following is a feature story
which was written in the Columbian Newspaper in September 1998. I (I'm
Dan MacNeil, the Hazel Dell Hooker) have spent years and years trying to
learn how to do better jigging for kokanee and after several times being
skunked I started having some success. More and more I was getting more
fish so I called Al Thomas, the Outdoor Editor at the Columbian, and
asked him to join me on a trip to Lake Merwin. He came along, enjoyed
the trip, we absolutely killed 'em and he wrote the following story for
By ALLEN THOMAS, Columbian staff writer
It was two fishless hours
into his Merwin Reservoir kokanee trip, and yet Dan MacNeil still had
He was on a mission to
demonstrate kokanee fishing on the big North Fork Lewis River reservoir
doesn't have to end when the dog days of summer arrive and the fish drop
to depths of 60 feet or more.
MacNeil, 50, a Clark
County Fairgrounds area resident, borders between enthusiast and fanatic
when it comes to kokanee.
click on map to see larger version
Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002
for above map
He's fished throughout
Oregon for the tasty landlocked salmon, including more than 100 trips to
Paulina Lake near Bend. He's made weeklong trips for the big kokanee in
Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam.
Most kokanee fishermen
on Merwin and Yale reservoirs troll, using a stiff rod, lead-core line,
mooching sinkers and several flashing blades ganged together. It's a
not-very-fun, equipment-heavy way to fish.
Often it is necessary to
reel all the paraphernalia in just to see if a kokanee is on the line.
That's not MacNeil's
Long ago, he too trolled
for kokanee. But he's given up the heavy gear in favor of lightweight
Armed with a 5-foot,
3-inch spinning rod, ultralight reel, 6-pound test and several Luhr Jensen
"Nordic'' jigs, the appliance salesman attacked Merwin Reservoir in late
He caught five-fish
limits the first four trips and two kokanee the fifth trip.
On the Thursday before
Labor Day weekend, MacNeil shared his technique.
In two-plus hours, I
caught three squawfish, and MacNeil nothing. He kept moving, watching his
depth finder and searching for kokanee.
"Here we go,'' he said,
as the rod nearly doubled. Seconds later, the fish actually stripped some
line off the reel. In a couple of minutes, MacNeil netted the kokanee full
bodied and a legitimate 14 inches.
kokanee was still bright silver, not showing any outward signs of being
nearly ready to spawn.
In the next two hours,
we proceeded to catch our limits. Nine of the 10 fish were 13 to 14
inches. The outcast, just 9 to 10 inches, looked like a dink in
Last week, fishing was
slower. Three of us fished a combined 13 hours for just four kokanee. The
fish were losing color and developing a hook nose, telltale signs spawning
Kokanee fishing should
be about over for the season. Most kokanee angling in Merwin occurs
between March and early September.
MacNeil said he jigged
for kokanee at Merwin Reservoir four years ago and had limited success.
Then came the floods and murky water of 1995, 1996 and 1997. Kokanee
numbers and fishing success plummeted.
"I thought this year I'd
try it again near the end of the season,'' he said.
Kokanee are found in
many Washington and Oregon reservoirs, but tend to be small. Merwin, like
Paulina Lake, has good-sized fish.
Kokanee fishing at
Merwin can be a challenge, said MacNeil, who uses a top-of-line depth
finder to locate fish.
"Here, you can see fish
on the screen, but don't know if they are kokanee or squawfish,'' he said.
MacNeil said he's going
to keep fishing at Merwin, to learn its idiosyncrasies.
"It's a lot closer than
Paulina and if I keep coming up I'll get it figured out,'' he said. "If we
get a few other people up here (jigging) we can all learn from each