Hayden Lake kokanee fishing has become one of the more popular fisheries in the Panhandle Region. Kokanee stocking on Hayden was initiated in 2011 and quickly provided a great new fishing opportunity. Kokanee fishing now represents one of the larger draws to the lake.
Kokanee stocking densities in Hayden Lake are intended to provide large kokanee for anglers to catch. Kokanee tend to grow faster and reach larger sizes when there are fewer fish competing for food. Thus, stocking rates in Hayden Lake are kept fairly low in an effort to provide larger kokanee than in most other regional waters. Currently, approximately 100,000 fish per year are stocked in the lake. This amount was recently reduced from 150,000 fish in an attempt grow bigger kokanee.
Kokanee fishing has been good this summer. Anglers are finding kokanee averaging over 14 inches, with occasional larger fish in the mix. The majority of kokanee caught by anglers in Hayden Lake are two years old. Most of these two-year-old kokanee turn red by late summer, attempt to spawn soon after, and then die. Kokanee are a landlocked version of Sockeye salmon and share the same short life span as other Pacific salmon, which includes dying after spawning.
Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologists monitor kokanee stocking and spawning success in Hayden Lake. Kokanee are largely unsuccessful at spawning in the lake because there is little stream habitat available for spawning. This is a good thing because it allows their abundance to be regulated by how many fish are stocked. By limiting the number of kokanee in the lake, biologists can manage for a kokanee fishery with larger average fish size.
Hayden Lake has typically been stocked with a type of kokanee that matures and attempts to spawn in the late-summer and early-fall. These are referred to as early-run kokanee. A statewide shortage of hatchery kokanee in 2018 resulted in Hayden Lake being stocked with late-run kokanee that spawn in the late-fall.
As a result, some differences in growth, life span, and flesh color can exist. Anglers should anticipate that kokanee in next year’s fishery may be somewhat smaller on average. On the bright side, the late-run kokanee commonly spawn at three years old instead of two. This means we may see more larger-than-average kokanee in the 2021 fishery. Anglers should also note that these fish will have a lighter colored flesh, much like kokanee in Coeur d'Alene Lake or Lake Pend Oreille. Idaho Fish and Game returned to stocking of early-run kokanee in 2019.
- Attribution:Andy Dux