Kokanee (Oncorhynchus nerka)

Category: Fish
Common names: Silver trout
If you see this species, please share your observation using the WDFW wildlife reporting form. Providing detailed information such as a photo and exact coordinates will improve the confidence and value of this observation to WDFW species conservation and management.
Kokanee are the non-anadromous (non-migrating) form of sockeye salmon. Visit the sockeye salmon page for more information. 

Description and Range

Physical description

Kokanee are the non-anadromous (non-migrating) form of sockeye salmon and like all salmon, they die at after their first spawning. Kokanee have blue backs and silver sides and unlike other salmon and trout, except chum salmon, sockeye and kokanee lack distinct dark spots on their backs and tail fins. In addition, when compared to other trout, they have finer scales, larger eyes, and deeply forked tail.Average 9-12 inches. Kokanee can grow up to 20 inches in quality populations.


Licenses and permits

Washington anglers must have an annual freshwater or combination fishing license. Licenses can be purchased online; by telephone at 1-866-246-9453; or at hundreds of license dealers across the state. 

Rules and seasons

Information on fishing regulations and seasons is available in the sportfishing rule pamphlet and the Fish Washington app, which conveys up-to-the-minute fishing rules for every lake, river, stream and marine area in the state.

Where you may encounter kokanee

Kokanee are present in numerous lakes around the state where they have been stocked to provide angling opportunity. They are open water feeders that target plankton and prefer depths where the water temperature is near 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, kokanee can be found at different depths throughout the year due to varying water temperatures and conditions.

Lakes where this species may be found

Cowlitz County, Clark County
Cowlitz County
Ferry County
San Juan County
Whitman County
Yakima County

How to fish for kokanee

Fishing prospects calendar

The Kokanee fishery typically lasts from April-October before the adults leave the lake to spawn in tributaries starting in late-October and early-November. Fishing is best in the spring before they move into deeper water to avoid warming water temperatures, but they can be targeted throughout the summer in deeper offshore areas near the thermocline. There may be a slight uptick in some waters in the fall as adults return to shallower water and move near shore towards spawning tributaries.
Chart of fishing prospects throughout the calendar year

Kokanee can be caught from spring through fall.   The best kokanee fishing occurs during late spring when plankton blooms become more common.   The kokanee become more aggressive and will be found closer to the surface.   Trolling, still fishing, and jigging are all effective ways to fish for kokanee.   The majority of trollers use strings of trolling blades or dodgers ahead of brightly colored spoons or spinners that have lots of silver, red, or orange in their finish.   Still fishers often use size 8 to 12 hooks tipped with maggots, shoe-peg corn, or small pieces of worm.   Jigging can be an effective method when a large school is located, and depending on how deep the fish are, a ΒΌ oz. to 1 oz. jig should get the job done.

Some popular lure types for kokanee are spoons (e.g. Dick Nite, Mepps, Kokanee Kandy, Triple Teaser), spinners (e.g. Rooster Tails, Panther Martins, Mepps), wedding ring spinners (i.e., Mack's Lures, Jim Diamond), crankbaits (i.e., Apex Kokanee Killer, Tomic Wee Tad, Jensen Kwikfish), and trolling flies (i.e., K-Fly, Smile Blade Fly).   Kokanee have very soft mouth so it is a good idea to use snubber or very soft rods.

State record

WeightAnglerLocationDate Caught
6.25 lbs Clarence F. Rief Lake Roosevelt, Grant County June 26, 2003

See all sportfish records


This species is identified as a Priority Species under WDFW's Priority Habitat and Species Program. Priority species require protective measures for their survival due to their population status, sensitivity to habitat alteration, and/or recreational, commercial, or tribal importance. The PHS program is the agency's main means of sharing fish and wildlife information with local governments, landowners, and others who use it to protect priority habitats for land use planning.