Trolling for Kokanee salmon at Bullards Bar, Northern California.


Bullards Bar Reservoir is located 35 miles east of Marysville. The closest town with stores, restaurants and bars is Camptonville, a few minutes from the boat ramps. In scenic Tahoe National Forest at an elevation of 2,005 feet. Bullards has 55 miles of rugged shoreline with 4,700 surface acres of water. The lake holds a wide variety of fish, including, rainbow and brown trout, catfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and kokanee salmon.

Kokanee salmon fishing during the summer is popular with locals and 'flat landers' as well. The typical rigs to fish for these land-locked salmon are either lead-core line or down rigged flashers in front of a small spinner or spoon. Some guys swear by a kernel of white corn or two on the lure. The corn appears to work but not yellow,only white corn. Trolled slowly at various depths it is possible to get the limit of five fish quickly and pursue the other things the lake has to offer.

Having lived in the area for years without a boat I often went out with friends or fished from shore when the kokanee spawn in the fall. During the spawn the fish turn from silver to red and can be caught jigging from shore in some areas.

When I did get the boat is how I found out that trolling really slow is not a rule for catching salmon. Two friends and I launched the 1957 15' aluminum boat and its relatively heavy 35 h.p. engine into the lake on a late summer morning. We rig our spinning gear with the above described flashers and bait but nobody has lead-core line or the down rigging supposedly needed to get deep enough to these fish. Slow trolling at about seventy feet is the normal for the conditions that day.

The boat needed carburetor adjustments and a small child could water-ski behind us at the slowest speed possible. We killed the crap out of those kokanee while making wide circles around other fishing boats. At times that I could react quick enough,
I had to jam it in reverse when we got a hit. Otherwise a fish lip would be all that was reeled in. I don't know who was more amazed, us or the other fishermen watching us catch fish and make a wake at the same time. Never have tried 'fast trolling' again neither can I remember catching more salmon so quickly!