Nantahala lake, Salmon Capital of the South
The Kokanee Salmon are the landlocked version of the Pacific Sockeye salmon. Stocked in Nantahala lake in the early 1960's as forage for the predator population of Walleye, Smallmouth and largemouth bass. The salmon have been naturally reproducing ever since. The average kokanee salmon is 12" across the country with a few lakes producing larger fish. Nantahala is one of those lakes. The average salmon in Nantahala is 18" with many fish over 20" . My personal best is a beautiful 3 pound 8 ounce male salmon just one ounce shy of the North Carolina state record. Kokanee Salmon are plankton eaters not predators. On the lake, the fish are usually located at or near the thermocline. I fish with two downriggers using matching Lamiglas "Kokanee Special" rods with Ambassadeur 5500 C4 reels and 8-10 pound PLine Floroclear line. As the season heats up, the thermocline drops deeper in the lake. Kokanee can be caught year round with the best fishing during the heat of the summer. Early spring offers a short window when the fish can be caught on the surface with fly and spinning tackle. In the fall when the salmon run up the river and creeks there are also light tackle opportunities. In addition to the salmon, there is a healthy population of lake run Rainbow trout locally called Steelhead and a few Brown trout. Nantahala Lake also offers Walleye, Jumbo Perch, giant Bluegill, fat smallmouth and giant Largemouth bass 8-10 pound. For the giant largemouth, you guessed it, 6'-8' lures resembling Kokanee salmon are the bait of choice. With years of fishing experience, I have mastered southern salmon.