Fish very early for Kokanee Salmon at Stampede Reservoir, Calif.

If you have a boat with downriggers and if you don't mind getting up at a terribly ghastly hour and if you like to fish very early in the morning, you might want to give some serious consideration to trolling for Kokanee Salmon at Stampede Reservoir, Calif.

If that is something that you might be interested in doing, here is some useful information:


Take U.S. 395 north to Reno.

In Reno, take I-80 west toward Truckee, Calif. A few miles just this side of Truckee, take the Boca Reservoir/Stampede Reservoir Exit. The first body of water you reach is Boca Reservoir. Continue past Boca. Stampede Reservoir is seven miles north of Boca Reservoir.

This will be about a 1.5 hour drive from Carson City.


Mostly Kokanee Salmon, up to a maximum size of about 18 inches.

The Kokanee is the landlocked version of the Sockeye Salmon.

You can also catch an occasional rainbow, a German brown, an elusive Mackinaw (Lake) trout or even a smallmouth bass.

Most astonishing, Mackinaw trout up to 20+ pounds have been caught there. So, if something huge takes your lure, hang on for dear life, it could be a trophy Mack.


Troll in front of the boat launch, in front of the "big island," in the mouth of the Little Truckee River or in front of the dam. The location will depend on the day and the time of that particular day.

If you're not sure where to fish, just watch for the largest concentration of boats and go there. They will be concentrated on top of a Kokanee school.

At this time of the year, that concentration of Kokanee will probably be at a depth of about 50-80 feet in water that is about 120-130 feet deep. So, you will definitely need your downriggers.


Fish early, early, early.

If in doubt, go even earlier!

You need to be ON the water, fishing at the very first crack of light on the eastern horizon.

So, if you are not very good at math, be advised that if you like to eat breakfast and then have a 1.5 hour drive to reach the boat ramp and then need some time to launch your boat to be ready to fish at that first crack of light, you need to get up very, very early. That is going to make for a very short night!


Troll slowly at a depth of about 50 feet to 80 feet deep.

Troll in a "figure 8 " pattern.

Use small gold-colored flasher blades, together with something such as a "Murph's Kokanee Bug," with that Kokanee bug only about 10-12 inches behind the blades.

Special Hint: A consistently successful Kokanee bug is Murph's Lollipop Kokanee Bug.

Most importantly, no matter what color or what lure you use, be sure to tip your hook with one kernel of white corn. That tiny piece of white (not yellow) corn is the secret to success with Kokanee fishing. Don't ask me why, I have no idea, but it works.


The limit at Stampede Reservoir is five fish per fisherman regardless of species.

And, don't forget to wear your Calif. fishing license where it is readily visible above the waist.


Kokanee Salmon are very sensitive to sunlight, and as the sun comes up, they retreat to deeper, darker water.

The wind normally begins to blow hard at Stampede Reservoir at about 10:30 a.m., which coincides with the movement of the Salmon to the deeper, darker water.

So, fish early and quit early.


Be sure to use downriggers rather than trolling with long lines or lead core line behind your boat.

Wherever the Kokanee Salmon are located, there will be a concentration of boats, all moving about in an erratic manner in a small area.

You would be very unpopular if you trolled through that mass of boats with long lines out behind you. It could get ugly and very noisy with lots of nasty swear words.


For fishing, call either Mountain Hardware in Truckee at (916) 587-4844, Vance's Guide and Tackle at (916) 725-2383, Ted Samford of Fishin' Not Wishin' Guide Service at (916) 389-2748, Sierra Angler's Guide Service at (530) 414-1374 or Rick Kennedy of Tight Lines Guide Service at (530) 273-1986.

For Murph's Kokanee Bugs, call "Father" Dick Murphy in Sun Valley, Nev. at (888) 852-2680.

For camping at Stampede or Boca Reservoirs, call the Tahoe National Forest, District Office, (916) 587-3558.

• Bet Your Favorite Pigeon

Bet your favorite pigeon that he can't tell you where I caught my largest-ever German brown trout, many years ago.

If he grins and says, "Don caught a 12 pound brown at Stampede Reservoir, while fishing with Chris Turner of Verdi," he might have been watching me bring in that huge trophy trout.

• Don Quilici is the Outdoors editor for the Nevada Appeal


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment