Kokanee hot spot becomes Donner | TheUnion.com

Kokanee hot spot becomes Donner

As a kokanee fishery, Donner Lake has taken a back seat to Stampede Reservoir for decades. Stampede is a flooded meadow with a rich food chain. It has a reputation as the big fish lake in the Truckee area. The only exception would be the large mackinaw in Donner Lake. In the kokanee angling world, Stampede has traditionally out produced Donner Lake. Well, that has changed.

For the last four years, there has been a progression of ever-larger kokanee each season in Donner Lake. Four years ago in late summer, 16 to 18-inch fish were common when the fish were at maximum size before spawning. Recent catches by guides Rick Kennedy of Grass Valley and Keith Kerrigan of Truckee have consistently produced 16 to 18-inch fish. This past weekend, Ric Brown from the Sacramento Valley landed a 19-inch kokanee. This is in mid-May, with the three best growing months still ahead. Kokanee can grow an inch per month in the summer and we may see a lot of fish well over the 20 inch mark.

There is a correlation between the number of fish planted and their size at maturity. With a constant food source, fewer fish planted should result in larger individuals. But for the last 5 years, the number of fish planted has remained nearly constant at 50,000. There is local speculation that the food source has increased, recent catches have had their stomachs packed with plankton.

The past winter, though wet, was relatively mild. Kokanee are plankton feeders and marginally warmer water may have allowed for increased plankton production. Another speculation is that the mackinaw are doing well at eating their way through the kokanee population. Keith Kerrigan of Truckee caught a 13-pound mackinaw on kokanee gear during the weekend. Whatever the reason, the best kokanee fishing in the Truckee region has been in Donner Lake.

Keith Kerrigan of the Sierra Guide Service begins his kokanee season in May on Stampede. He will switch over to Donner in late May. This year he has spent the majority of his month on Donner. He says ” that he will catch fewer fish on Donner but the quality makes up the difference”.

Currently the water temp on Donner is 58 degrees, up 2 degrees since last Friday, even with the weather system that came through during the weekend. The fish are being caught between 20- and 35-feet deep. Keith Kerrigan recommends starting with pink as a lure color on Donner Lake. He has had the most success recently with his “Sierra Anglers” Pink or Pink & Purple Kokanee Bugs. These were fished behind a pink/copper Vance’s dodger. Keith has good luck using copper-plated dodgers under overcast skies. He will switch from copper when skies clear. Keith’s second choice for lure color on Donner is chartreuse.

Another interesting observation that Kerrigan made was “there has been one plant of 4,500 rainbows in early May. Normally these fish will stretch out along the north shore of the lake east of the launch ramp. These fish have disappeared and no one has seen them since.”

Last weekend, Ed Everhart and his son Cole took 11th place in a field of 150 boats during the “Future Pro” bass tournament on Lake Oroville. They had five fish that weighed 10.82 pounds. The first-place team came in with 11.94 pounds.

Ed and Cole have been pre-fishing the lake for a few weekends. During the tournament day, many of the fish were post-spawn and the larger fish of the previous weekends were gone. Their best success came fishing clay banks in 10 to 15 feet of water using tube baits. Crank baits were effective but only on smaller fish. Another pattern that produced good fish was to target flooded bushes in 15 feet of water. Oroville has been rising steadily this month and is very close to maximum capacity.

For the Memorial Day Weekend: The striper bite continues on both the Feather and Sacramento rivers. For the angler targeting big fish, this continues to be the best bet. Shad on the Feather and Yuba should be good by now but I have only heard scattered reports of shad sighted on these rivers and the Sacramento. The high water makes it hard to fish the rivers for shad.

Up at Bucks Lake outside of Quincy, the launch ramp opened last week and the mackinaw are on the bite. Macs up to 20 pounds have been landed. The road from Bassett’s Station over the hill to Graeagle was plowed open last week. But the most current word I have is that only the road to Sardine Lake is open. The rest of the lateral roads to higher lakes remain snow bound as of last Friday. The road to Jackson Meadows remains closed as does the Bowman Lake Road a little past Fuller Lake. You can access the dam area at Fuller for float tubes and shore angling but the road to the launch ramp is still snow covered. Tony from the Nevada City Angler noted trout were rising on Fuller last Wednesday but did not fish as a lightning storm was brewing.

The rivers of the Sierra are high, cold and dangerous. One man is believed to have lost his life this past weekend on the South Yuba trying to save his dog. Be careful out there!

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