Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby set for Saturday

  • By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
  • Wednesday, May 16, 2012 9:34pm
  • Sports

Time is running out to pick up a $20 ticket for Saturday’s third annual Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby. Last year’s event drew about 250 entrants and another 50 or 60 kids, according to Greg Rockenbach at Greg’s Custom Rods in Lake Stevens. Young people 14 and under fish free and have their own prize list.

Tickets are still available at all outlets: Greg’s; John’s Sporting Goods; Ted’s Sport Center; Triangle Bait &Tackle; Three Rivers Marine; McDaniel’s Do-It Center; Holiday Sports; and Hook Line &Sinker.

The top cash prizes include: largest kokanee, $1,000; biggest kokanee limit (up to 10 fish), $500; biggest trout, $500. The first-place kids’ prize of $100 is for the largest kokanee, but second ($75) and third ($50) can be any species caught in the lake. For rules, more information and a parking map visit

Retired state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Curt Kraemer of Marysville fishes Lake Stevens regularly and recommends the following setup:

A 4-inch dodger — Dick Nite, Gold Star, or one of several other brands — followed by 18 to 30 inches of leader and a Wedding Ring spinner. Kraemer uses 10-pound test leader because, he said, the fish aren’t leader-shy and a heavier test allows him to fish longer without re-tying. He likes a brass spinner blade and red, orange or pink beads or, if it’s early in the day or he’s fishing deep, chartreuse. Use two hooks, size 2 or 4, in tandem, about three-quarters of an inch apart.

Another productive setup utilizes the same dodger, followed by 10 or 11 inches of leader and a mini-hoochie, 1 to 2 inches long, in glow colors, pink, or lime green. Bait both rigs with a kernel of white shoe-peg corn (the longtime favorite but not necessarily the most effective), a Berkley GULP maggot, a live maggot, or a small piece of prawn. Kraemer said it’s important to use scent on the bait — krill, shrimp, anise, or name your favorite flavor.

The proper depth is changing quickly with the recent warm weather, Kraemer said. The fish are moving deeper and are scattered from near the surface to 30 feet deep or so.

“That’s still shallow enough to find one or two with lead-core line, for those without a downrigger,” Kraemer said, “but a sounder and downriggers are a huge advantage.”

Troll slowly, from 0.9 to 1.4 mph, use a long, light-action rod, and have a long-handled net available. Kokanee have very tender mouths and must be played gently.

Kraemer said fish numbers are perhaps down a little from last year, but fish are in great shape, averaging 12 to 14 inches or so. They tend to travel in age groups, he said, so if you’re consistently hooking small fish, move on.

This early in the season kokanee are scattered. The deep water around the aerator, in the lake’s northwest corner, always holds fish, as well as the triangle east and south of there. The east shoreline is also a good bet, Kraemer said, and, if all else fails, follow the other boats. As a rule of thumb, most of the fishing tends to be in the north half of the lake.

On the table, these small, choice, landlocked sockeye are as good as you can find anywhere in the state, but you have to take care of them. Kraemer said to bleed them the moment they’re in the boat and get them on ice.

“Wonderful on the grill,” he said.

The cabezon saga

Found myself bouncing around in the slop on Possession Bar with Gary Krein and All Star Charters on May 2 on my annual lingcod trip, and for the first time in my long and storied career in the outdoor communications biz I hooked, fought and landed a cabezon. Nice fish, about 8 or 9 pounds, but ugly as sin. I thought lings were ugly, but a ling is Brad Pitt compared to a cabezon.

You don’t get much off one of these critters in the way of table fare, but Judyrae and I were looking forward to finally trying cabezon on the grill. Over the years, good fishermen had told me that, deep friend and dipped in butter, they were the best thing in the Sound. Equally good fishermen had told me they were tough and tasteless.

So we gave it our best shot, and we liked it. Very mild flavor, but very firm texture. More like eating a steak than a chunk of flaky whitefish. Almost as firm as sturgeon, but not quite.

Good fish. Here’s how the Kruse family did it:

You’ll need two cabezon fillets, skinned, bones removed; one teaspoon garlic powder; one teaspoon onion powder; one teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning; 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon True Lime Crystallized Lime, or lemon-pepper seasoning; salt and pepper to taste; one cube butter, melted.

Rinse and drain the fillets on a paper towel. In a small bowl, combine seasonings and pat onto both sides of fillets. Let stand for an hour or refrigerate for several hours, then arrange fillets in a fish barbecue basket.

Barbecue, using plenty of smoke, over medium-high heat until almost browned on the down-side, maybe 7 minutes or so. Meanwhile, combine melted butter and remaining seasoning and brush on the top side of fish. Continue cooking until brown, then turn over and brush the other side, cooking until browned. Serve with remaining seasoned butter.

Good deed

Help preserve North Gissberg Pond (Twin Lakes County Park) for youth-only fishing. Snohomish County Parks seems to want to drop the youth designation and to open the north lake, one of the few juveniles-only fishing lakes in the county, to adults and other activities.

Google “Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Department, Gissberg Twin Lakes County Park. Scroll down to “This Survey,” click on it, and take a couple of minutes to fill out the survey.


Let me clarify a dumb comment made in a recent column about the huge, probably state record, tiger trout caught last month in Roses Lake near Lake Chelan. In an interview with state biologist Travis Maitland in Wenatchee, I said there was no way the 15-pound fish could have grown from 1-pound-max plants in 2009. I said something about maybe it had been a larger, surplus, fish like maybe one of the Chelan Hatchery’s broodstock. Of course, a tiger trout, a cross between a brown and a brook trout, could not be a “broodstock” fish, because the hybrid is sterile, and Maitland would certainly not say something like that.

Biologist Chad Jackson in Ephrata, said it’s possible, actually probable, that the big trout was planted earlier than 2009, possibly as a “raceway hopper” — a tiger juvenile that jumped over a hatchery raceway separator into the adjacent raceway filled with, say, rainbows, and then hauled to Roses as a stowaway.

For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at

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