Game And Fish Offers Tips On Catching Kokanee Salmon On Fontenelle Reservoir


GREEN RIVER— Fontenelle Reservoir is the other Kokanee fishing destination in southwest Wyoming and the bite is on. Fisheries managers with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Green River region, say Fontenelle Reservoir has finally started to clear up, following a long spring and summer of high and muddy inflows from the Green River drainage above.  Kokanee salmon and trout fishing has improved, as the water in Fontenelle Reservoir clears up.

“When people think about Kokanee fishing in southwest Wyoming, they think of Flaming Gorge Reservoir,” said Green River Fisheries Supervisor Robert Keith. “Many people don’t realize the Game and Fish also stocks kokanee in Fontenelle Reservoir.  Fontenelle is a little out of the way, but the kokanee fishing rivals the Gorge; big fish and amazing catch rates once you find them. Fontenelle also has a liberal six trout daily limit, all of which can be kokanee, if you decide to let all the trout go that you catch.  There is one catch, Fontenelle kokanee don’t behave like Gorge kokanee.  You will catch a few kokanee at depths you would expect to catch Gorge kokanee, but you will miss out on some spectacular action.”

“Simply put, Fontenelle kokanee are shallow – very shallow – up near the surface,” Keith said.  “As with Gorge kokanee, Fontenelle kokanee typically school over the river channel in 60-80 foot of water.  Sometimes they school over the big flats in 30 to 50 foot of water. This typically happens when a good midge hatch is occurring.  Irrespective, whether they are over the river channel or over a big flat, most Fontenelle kokanee schools are near the surface. If you want to catch them you need to keep your lure near the surface.  On occasion, you will catch a kokanee deeper than 14 feet, but you will see much more action if you keep your lures within two to 10 feet of the surface.”

Keith said this past July 3rd and 4th is a prime example.

“I was fishing Fontenelle kokanee with my family and we started trolling wedding rings and small bladed squid at 10 feet below the surface and caught one kokanee. The action really got going when we put the downrigger ball four feet below the surface. Because the kokanee in Fontenelle are located shallow, it is paramount to long line your lure 100 feet or more behind the boat. Long lining for shallow kokanee is made easier with downriggers and planer boards. Downriggers work great for dialing in how shallow the Kokanee are.”  

“Vary the depth of the downrigger ball starting two feet below the surface until you find the most action. Side planers excel at getting your lure away from the boat and in front of shallow kokanee. Use a weighted dodger or put a bullet weight in front of your favorite dodger or cow bells. The addition of a little weight will keep the lure from rising to the surface. Vary the size of weight until you find the right depth.”

“All kokanee are particular about the color they will hit on any given day. Start the day fishing as many different colors as rods you can legally use. Once a pattern emerges switch to that color. Green wedding rings with a silver blade and red wedding rings with a brass blade are proven producers on Fontenelle. Varying the blade size at times can help.  Larger blades seem to work better when the water is off color. Green wedding rings with Chartreuse blades also work well when the water is off color.”

“One of the biggest challenges about fishing Fontenelle kokanee is finding them. They live so near the surface it makes them impossible to detect with sonar.  It is best to start fishing the river channel and then check the flats. Once you hook a Kokanee, mark the location. Kokanee are rarely alone. Once you locate a school, circle back through it and catch more fish. The schools on Fontenelle tend to stay in the same area through the season and most set up in similar areas year after year. Keep a log of where you catch fish.  It will come in handy in the future.”

“There is one more peculiarity you need to keep in mind when fishing Fontenelle Kokanee,” Keith cautions.  “The bite can taper-off when sun rays penetrate the water directly.  On calm days it is best to hit the water at or before sunrise. The bite typically tapers off shortly after 8 am as the sun gets higher in the sky.  On sunny days the bite will resume if clouds cover the sun, even temporarily. Cloudy days are almost always good fishing. Whether sunny or cloudy a little wind and resulting chop always improves the bite.”

Keith said the kokanee bite on Fontenelle should be good for the remainder of July and part of August this year.  “Give Fontenelle Reservoir a try and take a break from the kokanee crowds on Flaming Gorge this summer,” Keith said. “You will likely get into some rainbow trout and Brown trout as well, while you a pursuing the bright silver kokanee that make Fontenelle Reservoir their home.”