ALLPHIN: Cuts, bows and kokes at The Berry
As Summer makes its official entrance later this month, Strawberry Reservoir is producing some quality fish. In just the past week, I’ve received reports from anglers catching cuthroats, rainbows, and kokanee salmon in several areas around this extremely popular fishing destination.
Catching cutthroats and rainbows in the late spring is no surprise, but reading reports of catching kokanee salmon in several areas around the lake made me salivate for a great kokanee salmon fillet. Let’s explore various ways to catch fish on Strawberry this week and on into the summer.
When they first stocked kokanee salmon in Strawberry, we trolled for them along the long wall near the opening to the “narrows” on the Soldier Creek side of the reservoir. We found the fish on our fish finder and trolled Carter spoons behind downriggers between 35 and 45 feet deep. Since kokanee salmon have soft mouths, we used a rig that I called a “rubber snubber” which allowed for a softer hook set. Much like monofilament line stretches when pulled tight, our rubber snubbers would allow the fish to “load up” on the rod before breaking loose from the downrigger. My dad and a couple of my older children and I routinely caught our limits of fish very consistently for a couple of years. However, those fish eventually disappeared and the most kokanees I have seen since have been in the river during the spawn.
Reports are coming in on a regular basis about fantastic kokanee fishing in the Sage Creek areas extending to the mouth of the narrows on the Strawberry side. The fish have been staying as shallow as 11 feet and as deep as 50 feet. Once again, downriggers have been the key to putting the lures right in the breadbasket of the elusive freshwater salmon. Squids, spinners, and spoons seem to be the ticket when targeting kokanees. Start with pink and then move to white, purple or even bright orange as the day progresses.
If you don’t have downriggers, you could certainly use dodgers to get your lures down to the fish. Get on the water very early if you want to catch some kokanee without using downriggers. Remember the limit is four fish.
Historically, this time of June is the tail end of the cutthroat spawn all over the lake. Rather than targeting fish moving into the tributaries to spawn, I like to target the areas near the Renegade boat ramp and work the meadows surrounding the ramp. Cutthroats will move very shallow and will respond to jerkbaits, tubes, spinners and flies, depending on the day and the progression of the spawn. This is a time to be very quiet while searching for fish. They will spook very easily and generally won’t come back for several hours. The earlier you are on the water the more opportunities you will have to locate and catch some quality fish. I always recommend releasing cutthroats this time of year.
Finally, the rainbow population is as high as it has been for many years. Management efforts of private and public interests are turning Strawberry back to a stellar put-and-take fishery, while still producing some trophy-class fish. Though fewer anglers are using this particular method, I recommend locating a point near the entrance to a deep cove and then anchoring in 20 feet of water. Then, use a two-bait rig including Powerbait on one treble hook, and then a night crawler on the other hook. You could use two Powerbait rigs, but night crawlers work well and it is much easier to remove a night crawler hook from a tout than a No. 16 or 18 treble hook.
Whether you are targeting kokanees, cutthroats or rainbows, don’t stray too far from Strawberry Reservoir. I intent to fish Starvation later this week and will report next week on Strawberry’s neighbor to the East in next week’s column.
Good luck, and send me your reports.
Don Allphin can be reached at email@example.com.