Wallowa Lake gains reputation for kokanee

By Observer editorial May 21, 2010 01:13 pm
Subtract “all” and “a” from the letters in Wallowa Lake and you have “Wow Lake.” The landmark lake is putting the wow in fishing, and Northeast Oregon on the map, this spring. The lake has yielded two U.S. record kokanee already this year — and it’s just May. Kokanee, as you probably know, are a form of sockeye salmon that live and reproduce in lakes. They are found in lakes all over the West. They are known to be much smaller than their ocean-going cousins, and rarely get more than 14 inches long.

Enter the Wallowa Lake giants — and some local fisherman with some whopper stories to tell. And all true.

On Feb. 26 Gene Thiel of Joseph caught a  7-pound 8-ounce, 25-inch kokanee that broke the state record. Wan Teece of Enterprise topped that March 24 with an 8.23-pound, 26 1/4-inch kokanee, possibly a U.S. record. Not to be outdone, Bob Both of Lostine landed a new U.S. record, an 8.85-pound trophy kokanee on May 8.

The world record is 9 pounds, 6 ounces caught in 1988 in Okanagan Lake, British Columbia.

The Canadians, though, may be nervously looking over their shoulders at Wow Lake.