Possible World Record Koke Landed At Wallowa

A truly humongous kokanee weighing at least 9 pounds, 7.8 ounces was landed at Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Lake yesterday, nearly 2 ounces more than the standing world record and almost 11 ounces heavier than the new state record set just last month.

Ron Campbell of Pendleton, Ore., landed the fish while trolling just after daybreak.

“This one here, it tore me up. Pound for pound on light tackle, that was a thrill … That was a handful,” he says this morning.


Also tearing him up, his phone, ringing in with calls from tackle manufacturers, taxidermists, TV shows and reporters. The standing world record is a 9-pound, 6-ounce kokanee, caught by Norm Kuhn in June 1988 at Lake Okanagan, British Columbia.

“It’s not certified, but it’s going to be the new world record,” says Campbell, hard at work this morning figuring out the forms to make it all official.

A private fire investigator who works across the West and Hawai’i, Campbell did not reveal the exact setup that landed the fish.

“It was pretty standard gear that I was using,” he says. “I think the fish could have been caught on anything — Wedding Rings, Apexes, hoochies. There’s no big secrets on this one.”

Secrets or not, kokanee gear makers have been filling the pages of Northwest Sportsman with advertisements linking their tackle with the unusual number of record fish to come out of Wallowa over the past year.

Last July, Jerry Logosz caught a 7-pound, 1-ouncer on a red Apex Kokanee Killer behind a Shasta Tackle Sling Blade Dodger which Gene Thiel topped with a 7-pound, 8-ounce koke jigged up in February.

Wan Teece bumped Thiel off with her 8.23-pounder caught in March on a Mack’s Lure Wedding Ring Double Whammy Kokanee Pro tipped with maggots.

Then that fish was aced out by Bob Both‘s 8-pound, 13-ouncer in May. Both’s bit a Wedding Ring/Smile Blade/corn/Bolo Blade setup.

Interestingly, Ron Campbell’s brother, Larry, of Cove, Ore., previously owned the state record for kokanee with a 5.19-pounder caught at Wallowa back in 2000.

Both bros were on the water yesterday too.

“I cruised past him and said, ‘Well, there’s your new record,'” recalls Ron. “He goes, ‘Holy …”


But catching the 27-plus-inch-long fish so early meant the local grocery stores and their state-certified scales were still buttoned up for a couple hours.

When Campbell did get the fish into Safeway in Enterprise and the Joseph Family Foods, he got conflicting weights.

However, 9 pounds, 7.8 ounces is actually the lighter of the two marks, according to state fisheries biologist Bill Knox. The higher was somewhere around 9 pounds, 10 ounces, he believes.

Knox was outside Sunday morning when he got the news.

“I was mowing my lawn when someone came and hollered at me, ‘Some folks are looking for you!” he says.

He still doesn’t want to be pinned down on whether Wallowa’s kokanee are as big as they’re gonna get.

“I don’t know if it’s over yet. (Ron Campbell) claims he had a bigger one on the week before, but lost it,” Knox says.

Campbell says that in recent weeks he’s landed a 7-3 and several in the 5-pound range.

He’s aiming higher too.

“Oh, yeah, I’ll be right back up there. I don’t know where the peak’s going to come at Wallowa. Only time will tell,” he says. “Who knows — that’s the thing about records.”

One thing he does know, though, is that while landlocked sockeye are notoriously light-jawed, Wallowa’s monsters are real battlers.

“If you’re gonna land that record, you gotta have good gear,” he advises.

Knox says that overall fishing remains “fairly slow,” but that smaller fish are beginning to show up in the creel. He terms that a “good thing.”

“Big fish are an indicator of low abundance. On top of whatever else is going on to produce big fish, seeing some small fish in decent numbers is a better sign in terms of it makes me less concerned we’re about to crash,” he says.

A sonar survey last summer revealed something on the order of 260,000 young kokanee in the lake, up nearly 400 percent from the previous year.

We wrote about the fishery, management issues and things to do in the region in our May issue.

3 Responses to “Possible World Record Koke Landed At Wallowa”

  1. IGFA Awaits World-record Kokanee Documents « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] week before he landed the 9-plus, he hooked into something even bigger but lost […]

  2. Locals Expect Double-digit Koke Before Wallowa’s Run’s Done « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] Ron Campbell, a private fire investigator from Pendleton. His koke not only demolished the state record by […]

  3. 2 World Records For OR Koke Angler « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] retired firefighter caught a 9.67-pound landlocked sockeye at Northeast Oregon’s Wallowa Lake June 13, killing the standing world record, a 9-pound, […]

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