Kokanee turn bright red and green when spawning and make for stunning pictures.

Species: Kokanee Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Location: Odell Lake, OR
Date: August 6, 2005

As a kid, I think I fished from a boat maybe half a dozen times. For that reason, I remember every time I had this opportunity afforded only to the wealthy very clearly.

***

When the family headed to Odell Lake for the first time, I worked my early teenage charms on my parents to convince them to rent a boat.

“The limit is 25 Kokanee,” I argued.

“The boat will pay for itself.”

After spending nearly $100 on jigs, spoons, spinners, and flashers, another $50 for the boat rental was gravy.

As we loaded our trout poles — complete with undersized reels spooled with six-pound mono — onto the boat, we spotted several anglers cleaning stringer after stringer of chrome-bright Kokanee, and we were very optimistic.

***

Many of my fishing stories from this stage in my life begin with naivete and end with disappointment.

This is one such story.

Despite trolling all over the bloody lake, somehow snagging half of the gear in water more than 100 feet deep, and losing two very nice fish (likely either big Browns, Bulls, or Lakers) on our way to matching sunburns, we’d picked up just a handful of fish.

The day was redeemed when we picked up a few fish jigging Gibbs and Nordic Kokanee Jigs, though that was just my family. I still only had one fish.

I was quite proud to have landed the largest fish, a 14-inch buck, which is really quite sad if you think about it.

The handful of fish we boated came home with us, as most fish we caught in my youth did. They tasted delicious, but it was a small consolation for an otherwise disappointing trip.

***

It would be more than a decade before I landed Kokanee again, but the two fish pictured in this post did come on back-to-back casts in the fall of 2014. These ones were much larger, but I misidentified them as pre-spawn rainbows and released them.

Kokanee are some of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever captured. The variability of the species is part of its appeal.

I’ve since caught a lot more Kokanee, but I haven’t kept another. This I regret and plan to change. Hopefully very soon.

#SpeciesQuest // #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #16 — White Crappie.

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