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Deadmans 2Every year, toward the end of November and into the early parts of December, the Kokanee Salmon in Deadman’s Basin start to spawn. They swim close to shore to lay and fertilize eggs.   During this time they are aggressive, trying to fight off any other fish that may disturb their spawning. It is also during this time that fisherman come to snag the salmon through the ice. When Zach, his dog Sam, and I went fishing over the weekend, we were in for a surprise.


Fishing for Kokanee Salmon at Deadman’s Basin

When most people think of salmon fishing, they think of the salmon that start in the ocean and make their way inland every year. There are a variety of those types, including king salmon and red salmon (also known as Sockeye). I wrote about a fishing trip to Alaska in 2014, if you want to learn how to fish for Sockeye, or Reds as they’re called, check out that post.

Kokanee Salmon are essentially a landlocked subspecies of Sockeye Salmon. They don’t grow quite as big, and they obviously don’t migrate to the ocean after birth. But they are strikingly similar, and genetically nearly identical.

Ok, nature lesson over, now it’s time to fish.

Every year during the spawn the Kokanee swim close to shore. They tend to stick around in 1 to 4 feet of water, and like all salmon they die after the spawn. This makes for two interesting situations. First, they are easy to catch. Since the water is so shallow, you can see right down into it. Second, you can catch a lot of them. They are just going to die, so the FWP has set the limit at 35 per person.

Salmon, however, don’t feed while they spawn. They use up all the energy they have, to the point where their muscle mass is deteriorating. So using bait doesn’t work real well. Instead, you have to use a jig that looks like a minnow. The salmon feel threatened and go to “smack” the minnow away from their spawning grounds. It is then that you snag the fish. If you want to learn more about fishing for salmon at Deadman’s, check out the article I wrote on


Walking on Water

As we approached the lake on November 28, 2015, we were surprised that there was still a lot of open water. Despite the current temperature being around 4 degrees, and despite the fact that it has been in the single digits every night for 3 or 4 days. When we got closer we realized that we were wrong.

The water must have frozen when there was absolutely no wind (a rare occurrence for Central Montana). During that time it froze quickly enough that air bubbles weren’t trapped. The result was ice around 2.5 inches thick that was clear as glass.

Deadman's Basin in Montana

It was actually nerve wracking to walk on the ice. It was hard to tell how thick it was, and even though it was plenty to support our weight, the idea of seeing straight into the water made your heart beat a little faster. Fortunately you only fish for Kokanee in 1 to 4 feet of water, so if we did go in we wouldn’t sink to the bottom.

After fishing for a little while we weren’t having much luck. It turns out that when you can see straight into the water, the fish can see straight out of the water. They tend to avoid unknown objects hovering above them. After a little while I walked down the lake looking for a better spot, and Zach stayed and snagged the only catch of the day.

Kokanee Salmon

I snapped a few pictures of my feet and Sam standing on the ice. I thought they looked cool because she appeared to be walking on the water.

Sam on Deadman's BasinGet Found Online

I then shot a short video. That video, it seems, is pretty popular. After uploading it to YouTube on Sunday, I was contacted on Monday by a licensing company. I was contacted again on Tuesday. If you’re here reading this, it’s likely that you found my site through their efforts.


The Rest of the Fishing Trip

The rest of the trip was a bust. At one point we could see a dozen Kokanee Salmon swimming around, but any attempt to snag them they avoided us. We finally gave up and decided to come back when the ice was thicker and we could set up an ice hut and hide ourselves a little better. We spent the rest of the morning listening to the cracking ice, smashing holes with a spud bar (we used it to test the ice thickness), and sliding blocks of ice across the glass-like surface.

Come Monday I was back to work as a Content Developer for my marketing company Sery Content Development. We help businesses get found online. That’s when the excitement over this video came in.


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