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How To Fish Lake Merwin

(Merwin Reservoir)

 

HOW TO CATCH KOKANEE
AT LAKE MERWIN

The following is a feature story which was written in the Columbian Newspaper in September 1998.  I (I'm Dan MacNeil,  the Hazel Dell Hooker) have spent years and years trying to learn how to do better jigging for kokanee and after several times being skunked I started having some success.  More and more I was getting more fish so  I called Al Thomas,  the Outdoor Editor at the Columbian,  and asked him to join me on a trip to Lake Merwin.  He came along,  enjoyed the trip,  we absolutely killed 'em and he wrote the following story for the Columbian.

Thursday, September24, 1998
By ALLEN THOMAS, Columbian staff writer

It was two fishless hours into his Merwin Reservoir kokanee trip, and yet Dan MacNeil still had faith.

    He was on a mission to demonstrate kokanee fishing on the big North Fork Lewis River reservoir doesn't have to end when the dog days of summer arrive and the fish drop to depths of 60 feet or more.

    MacNeil, 50, a Clark County Fairgrounds area resident, borders between enthusiast and fanatic when it comes to kokanee.


click on map to see larger version
THANKS to
Microsoft Streets & Trips 2002
for above map

    He's fished throughout Oregon for the tasty landlocked salmon, including more than 100 trips to Paulina Lake near Bend. He's made weeklong trips for the big kokanee in Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam.

    Most kokanee fishermen on Merwin and Yale reservoirs troll, using a stiff rod, lead-core line, mooching sinkers and several flashing blades ganged together. It's a not-very-fun, equipment-heavy way to fish.

    Often it is necessary to reel all the paraphernalia in just to see if a kokanee is on the line.

    That's not MacNeil's way.

    Long ago, he too trolled for kokanee. But he's given up the heavy gear in favor of lightweight metal jigs.

    Armed with a 5-foot, 3-inch spinning rod, ultralight reel, 6-pound test and several Luhr Jensen "Nordic'' jigs, the appliance salesman attacked Merwin Reservoir in late August.

    He caught five-fish limits the first four trips and two kokanee the fifth trip.

    On the Thursday before Labor Day weekend, MacNeil shared his technique.

    In two-plus hours, I caught three squawfish, and MacNeil nothing. He kept moving, watching his depth finder and searching for kokanee.

    "Here we go,'' he said, as the rod nearly doubled. Seconds later, the fish actually stripped some line off the reel. In a couple of minutes, MacNeil netted the kokanee full bodied and a legitimate 14 inches.

    Surprisingly, the kokanee was still bright silver, not showing any outward signs of being nearly ready to spawn.

    In the next two hours, we proceeded to catch our limits. Nine of the 10 fish were 13 to 14 inches. The outcast, just 9 to 10 inches, looked like a dink in comparison.

    Last week, fishing was slower. Three of us fished a combined 13 hours for just four kokanee. The fish were losing color and developing a hook nose, telltale signs spawning was near.

    Kokanee fishing should be about over for the season. Most kokanee angling in Merwin occurs between March and early September.

    MacNeil said he jigged for kokanee at Merwin Reservoir four years ago and had limited success. Then came the floods and murky water of 1995, 1996 and 1997. Kokanee numbers and fishing success plummeted.

    "I thought this year I'd try it again near the end of the season,'' he said.

    Kokanee are found in many Washington and Oregon reservoirs, but tend to be small. Merwin, like Paulina Lake, has good-sized fish.

    Kokanee fishing at Merwin can be a challenge, said MacNeil, who uses a top-of-line depth finder to locate fish.

    "Here, you can see fish on the screen, but don't know if they are kokanee or squawfish,'' he said.

    MacNeil said he's going to keep fishing at Merwin, to learn its idiosyncrasies.

    "It's a lot closer than Paulina and if I keep coming up I'll get it figured out,'' he said. "If we get a few other people up here (jigging) we can all learn from each other.''