On April 16 & 17 I was fortunate enough to participate in Something Catchy’s Lake Chelan Kokanee Derby with Rick Denham from Holy Moly Outdoors. For those unaware, Something Catchy is a non-profit charity that promotes and coordinates fishing trips for children and veterans. I was very impressed by the passion and desire this charity brings to helping better the lives of children and veterans by sharing/introducing the love of fishing to these individuals. You can find them on Facebook for more info. I look forward to participating in more events with Something Catchy in the future.
As for the Derby, there were several prize categories besides Kokanee as there are numerous species of fish to be caught on Lake Chelan. For those who haven’t fished for Kokanee, a typical method is to troll a dodger with your set-up (wedding ring, hoochie skirt, mini-superbait) with a double hook set-up with corn or maggots approx. 10 – 16” behind the dodger. Colors and scents vary depending on what the fish like at the time and the time of day. For example, more UV or Glow is used on the dodger & lures earlier in the day and lower in the water column, while more natural colors are used when the sun is higher. Of course there are always exceptions, but that is a typical rule of thumb. With the Kokanee, you are seeking a school of fish and are trying to irritate them into biting. They are aggressive fish that don’t want to share their food, so they get pissed off and will bite if you’re lucky.
We started our day off early Saturday morning before sunrise and the lake was like glass. With three of us in the boat we started our day off fishing with (4) rods. Our initial offerings were UV and Glow dodgers with hoochie skirts of orange and pink and we started at depths ranging from 40 – 100’, with corn on one side and maggots on the hooks of the other side while trolling at 1.4 mph. Over the next few hours we were able to scratch 7 Kokanee together while losing at least 10 more. This was due to a few things that are typical with Kokanee: they have soft mouths, they go crazy at the boat, and sometimes short strike only getting that trailing hook. We switched our presentation and depth every 15-30 minutes to see if we could attract some more hits. At one point we put a Green/Yellow/White hoochie on one of the rods and dropped it to 60’. Rick mentioned seeing a large mark on the screen and within 10 seconds we were hooked up on a freshwater Chinook and chaos ensued. Rick grabbed the rod and started reeling while Matt and I cleared the other rods. The king immediately hit the surface and started tail slapping the water in an effort to get off the hook. After a couple runs, the fish settled in and started to swim with the boat and Rick started to reel him in closer. At that point I was able to net the king prior to him making another run. Success! The king weighed in at 7.09 lbs and cut bright red.
What a rush!!
As the kokanee bit had slowed, we decided to hit the shoreline for another one of Lake Chelan’s newest treasures – cutthroat trout. Trolling close to shore we used some different color Wicked Lures and the fishing was lights out. These fish averaged 11-15” for us but fought like larger fish. They were super aggressive and a blast to catch. Legally you can only keep hatchery cutthroat, so we got the pleasure of several catch-and-release native trout. Late in the day, after losing a large lake trout due to a downrigger clip issue, we ended our day with 7 Kokanee, 11 cutthroat and 1 king. Not too bad for never having fished this lake, however we had decided early on that winning the derby was pretty much out of the question so we were just happy to end the day with a good number and variety of fish. After a hamburger and hotdog BBQ put on by Something Catchy, it was back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.
Sunday started early again with amazing weather but the final weigh-in was at noon so the fishing time was cut short as compared to Saturday. Our goal for the day was to target kokanee early, cutthroat late morning and try for a lake trout before the 12 pm cutoff. Our lines were in the water before sunrise as we ran two rods down around 90-110’ and a couple other rods around 40-60’ to see where the fish were. We were able to net four after losing several others. Around 8:30 AM, we made the decision to stop targeting kokanee and motor up to a higher section of the lake to get our limit of cutthroat. Just like the day before, the fish were feisty and eager to bite and the limits were filling up quickly. At one point I had a cutthroat on who got off about 20’ from the boat, but I slow-reeled in the lure and that same fish bit again and ended up in the net! We did have to stop for a bit to deal with a couple issues: downrigger cable issue, downrigger ball stuck on the rocks and a visit from the local fish and game officers. Once we finished our limits, we motored down to try for the elusive laker we were seeking. Unfortunately we were unable to pull out the trifecta that day, but ended up with four kokanee and 15 cutthroat.
After a catered BBQ lunch put on again by Something Catchy, we participated in some raffles and watched the winners get their prizes. We even ended up with some grab bags filled with fishing goodies. The best part of the day was watching the organizers pull up all the kids and give them tackle boxes filled with fishing supplies. It was a great time fishing with good friends, a great organization and in a beautiful setting. While no prizes were won by our team, we learned a ton and ended our weekend with a two day total of 38 fish.