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Smoked Kokanee Fillets


  • 15-20 skinned and de-boned kokanee fillets
  • 16 cups water
  • 4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup non-iodized salt (canning, pickling or kosher salt)
  • 4 table spoons garlic powder
  • Olive Oil


  1. Rinse the fillets with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Boil the water and combine all ingredients (besides the kokanee) in a non-reactive (non-metallic) container.  Stir and allow cool.
  3. Add the kokanee.
  4. Cover the container and put in the fridge overnight.
  5. Coat the smoking racks with olive oil.
  6. Remove fillets from the brine and put them on the racks without rinsing for drying them.
  7. Allow fillets to form a shiny glaze (pellicle) before smoking.  I usually leave mine on the racks in the refrigerator for one to four hours or more.  Some people put a fan on them to help dry them out.


Smoke the fish in a low temperature electric smoker for 2-6 hours depending on thickness and temperature.  Use one pan of alder chunks for a light smoky flavor.
  • Start out at 120 degrees for about 2 hours to remove the moisture. (Warning: if you increase the heat too fast you will get an unwanted ‘curd’ layer at the top of the fillets.)
  • Then up the temperature to 150 degrees until the fish is done to your liking (usually about 1-2 more hours for myself).
  • Next, sanitize the fish at 220 degrees for 20 minutes to kill off any bacteria or parasites. You can do this stage in the smoker, or do like I do and finish it off in the oven. The internal temperature of the thickest piece needs to reach 160 degrees for at least 20 minutes to make the fish safe to eat.
  • Finally, allow the fish to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes.


Wrap the fish in paper towels and keep it in the refrigerator when it's not being enjoyed.  It will keep this way for about 14 days.  For long term storage, vacuum seal and freeze the fish immediately after it cools.  Fish stored this way will last four months.


This is my favorite smoked fish recipe by far.  I got it from a book called The Kokanee Obsession by D. Kent Cannon.  It's not too salty and the ingredients are cheap and simple compared to some others that I've tried.

You can pepper the fish with some coarse ground pepper when it is drying on the racks if you prefer.  Smoking time will vary greatly depending on what kind of smoker you own and the outside temperature at the time.  It will be your own preference as to when you remove the fish from the smoker.  The sooner you take it out, the more moisture it will retain.  If my fish has been in the freezer for a while, I'll use pepper and smoke it longer so it comes out like teriyaki jerky.  With fresh fish I smoke it for less time to get more of a moist, flaky product.

If you use this recipe for thicker fillets like river salmon or mackinaw, just cut the fillets into ¾ inch thick strips and follow the same instructions.