Another Record Koke At Wallowa

Two days before Wan Teece of Enterprise, Ore., caught what might be a U.S. record kokanee — a whopping 8.23-pounder, and it’s only March! — I was on the phone with Bill Knox, the state fisheries biologist for Wallowa Lake, talking about the previous state record.

Gene Thiel’s 7-pound 8-ounce, 25-incher, landed Feb. 10 while jigging from a canoe in what are described as “icy conditions,” trumped Jerry Logosz’s July 2009 7-pound, 1-ouncer.

WAN TEECE AND HER NEW OREGON STATE-RECORD KOKANEE. (JACK TEECE, ALPINE EXPOSURES)

“There could be some more large ones caught this year,” Knox allowed. “I just don’t expect a lot of them.”

He pointed out that with salmon — which kokanee, or landlocked sockeye, are, of course — some spawn and die when they’re 4 years old, some when they’re 5 years old and a few when they’re 6 years old.

The longer they’re at sea, err, in Wallowa Lake, the bigger they get.

The fish in the big, deep Northeast Oregon water have benefited from the introduction of mysis shrimp, Knox adds, but that was back in the 1960s.

A more current factor may have been a weak year-class a few seasons back. Knox says that led to lower catch rates last year.

“But it translated to pounds per hour that wouldn’t have been all that different,” he says.

One guy who can tell you all about that is guide Mark Moncrief of Tri-state Outfitters. When I fished with him late last summer, he’d caught 152 20-plus-inch kokanee — twice as many as his previous record.

He’s still at it too. I emailed him after getting word of Thiel’s catch.

“Yes, there was one caught by a guy up here a few days ago that was 7.52 pounds and only 23 inches long,” Moncrief wrote. “Looked like a football. We have caught 34 kokes 20 inches or better already, but it is real spotty on the fishing so far. My son and  I did have one rare day where we boated 32 kokes in four hours of fishing and kept our 10-fish limit. The smallest one was 21 inches, the biggest one was 26 inches and 6 1/2 pounds.”

MID-FEBRUARY KOKANEE FROM WALLOWA LAKE. MID-FEBRUARY! (MARK MONCRIEF, TRI-STATE OUTFITTERS)

One thing that Moncrief told me is that he’s found minnows in the tummies of kokes he’s caught.

Who knows how many more of these monster kokes are in the lake, but with Teece’s fish, the state record has been broken six times at Wallowa since 1999.

She was out March 24 with her husband, Jack, trolling near the middle of the lake with a Jack Lloyd blade set-up dragging a Double-Whammy lure with 2 ounces of lead to keep it down deep.

WAN TEECE. (JACK TEECE, ALPINE EXPOSURES)

The fish was 26.25 inches long with a girth of 16 inches. Knox believes it may be a U.S. record for landlocked sockeye; the world record is a 9-pound, 6-ounce koke caught in B.C.’s Lake Okanagan.

With the catch, Knox expects even more interest in this popular fishery in coming months. Anglers annually spend 20,000-30,000 hours fishing for kokanee here, his agency reports.

In the meantime, last summer’s sonar surveys showed a good year-class coming on line for future seasons.

“There were a lot more fish than the summer before. We saw a big increase in young-of-the-year fish, but it will be a few years before they enter the fishery,” Knox says.

We’ll have more on Wallowa, its kokanee fishery and its mysteries in our May issue.

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2 Responses to “Another Record Koke At Wallowa”

  1. May Issue Loaded With Fishing, Family Getaways « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] wrote about our trip to Wallowa last year, and with all those King Kong-sized kokanee they’re catching up there, expanded upon it with fishing tips, sights to see and family fun […]

  2. Possible World Record Koke Landed At Wallowa « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] caught a 7-pound, 1-ouncer which Gene Thiel topped with a 7-pound, 8-ounce koke caught in February. Wan Teece bumped Thiel off with her 8.23-pounder caught in March, and that fish was aced out by Bob […]

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