kokanee lures

rapalas or spinners in rainbow or brown trout colors are the best sockeye fishing lures

Before entering the river to spawn some Sockeye Salmon will still feed while congregating at the mouth of the river. Once Sockeye Salmon leave the ocean and move up stream, they stop feeding.


Most Sockeye that are caught in small streams and rivers are snagged and not caught by strikes out of hunger. At this time they have nothing on their minds beside spawning.


They are aggressive and territorial and defend their spawning ground from Rainbow and Brown Trout that follow salmon up stream to feed on their eggs. As such they’ll strike out at anything that comes too close including lures and baits. This is how you approach fishing for them during this time.

How to catch Kokanee/ Sockeye

Don’t appeal to their sense of hunger, but appeal to their sense of self-preservation.  You do this by bringing lures and baits close to them and in front to cause a strike.

Best Fishing Lures for Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye will hit Rapalas or spinners that have rainbow or brown trout colors. Sometimes they’ll also hit loud colors such as bright red or bright yellow. So your best chance at landing a Sockeye is to provoke a strike with a bright color lure brought in close but not too fast.


The threat to the Sockeye Salmon’s territory is more effective if it’s slowly retrieved. Baited hooks with eggs, worms work well, as do small spoons and spinners as well as small flies.

Trolling for Kokanee

  • In the lower stretches of a river, back-trolling from a drift boat with diving plugs, such as Kwikfish or Hot Shots, is an excellent way to locate moving fish.
  • When wading in the narrow, upper-river or tributary streams, spoons, spinners or streamers are highly effective.


As Sockeye Salmon swim up stream they generally start to deteriorate pretty quickly. This means their flesh is of a rather poor quality and is not the best for table fare.

  • Note: If they are gutted and put on ice quickly, the degradation is minimized. Smoking is also an excellent way to deal with the reduced quality but the smoking process should be done quickly after they are caught and gutted.

Recommended Rivers for Fishing

Rivers that offer the largest and most stable populations include the Anadyr River located in Russia, the Sacramento River in California, the Fraser river in Canada, the Skeena river in British Columbia and the Copper river in Alaska to name just a few.


The coastal rivers of British Columbia offer some of the greatest fishing grounds in North America. While Alaska also offers good Sockeye Salmon fishing, British Columbia is more accessible to the weekend warrior and you’ll find fishing trips are cheaper.


California, Washington and Oregon also have some good Sockeye Salmon fishing. Some rivers in these states are under legislative protection so be sure to check with local state governments for fishing restrictions.

Death after Spawning

Usually by the time Sockeye Salmon have finished spawning, they’re on the verge of death. This is where Atlantic salmon differ from most Pacific salmon. Atlantic salmon don’t die after they spawn, living many more spawning seasons before they expire.


Resource for fishing regulations: Govt of Canada Fisheries and Oceans