Green River Fisheries Manager Robert Keith explains the two-year old kokanee are typically running 14 to 15 inches long and, if they can survive one more year, it could mean an excellent year for kokanee year next year, when they will be measuring 17 to more than 19 inches in length.
“As has happened during years gone by, when the two-year old kokanee show up in big numbers, so do the number of kokanee floating on the surface” Keith said. “Understandably, anglers are hoping to take home larger kokanee and when they catch a two-year old kokanee, they try to release it. If the fish floats back to the surface behind the boat anglers should consider turning the boat around and retrieving floater and adding it to their limit.”
“Two issues seem to be contributing to the increased number of Kokanee floating on the surface this July,” Keith said. “Angling is stressful to fish; they get caught, handled, and released. Surface temperatures are reaching the low 70’s on hot days. The kokanee are living at depths of 45 to 65 feet where the water temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The more than 20 degree temperature change from depth to the surface is stressful to the fish. Add to that their air bladder has expanded some on the trip to the surface and the small kokanee just don’t have the energy to overcome the extra air in the air bladder and dive back down to the cold deep water where they originated.”
“We recommend anglers catch their limit but limit their catch,” Keith said. “Unlike earlier in the year, when water temperatures were cooler, this is a good time of year for anglers to stop catch and release fishing for kokanee. If anglers attempt to release a two-year old kokanee, they should never bring the fish into the boat. First, try to give it some slack line to see if it can free itself and escape. If that does not work, net it with a rubberized net, keep it in the water, unhook it and release it as quickly as possible. Once you have released the fish, make certain it goes down. If it stays floating on the surface more than a short time it will not survive. At that point, we recommend you turn your boat around, collect the fish and add it to your limit.”
“The two-year old kokanee being caught this year are the larger, three-year old kokanee we all can look forward to catching next year,” Keith said. “Remember – with warm water and fish living so deep this time of year, please catch your limit, but limit your catch. Once you have caught your limit of kokanee consider targeting other species. Anglers can move to more shallow water and try to catch a rainbow to round their limit of four trout and salmon. Or, anglers can do the whole Flaming Gorge fishery a favor and pursue a limit of small lake trout, less than 28 inches.”
As always if anglers are planning to catch and keep fish within their limit they are encouraged to do so. Be sure to have a cooler handy with plenty of ice. Get the fish under the ice as soon as it is harvested and during transport. You will be pleased with the results when you get it to the dinner plate. For more information about catch and releasing fish properly call the Green River Region Game and Fish Office at 307-875-3223. Anglers will find additional information at the Game and Fish website firstname.lastname@example.org