A fish tale has been out there for years! I know you've heard it! Well if you haven't, for years the tail has been that only ten percent of the anglers out there are catching a staggering ninety percent of the fish! Well I’m here to tell you that this tale has been true for as long as I’ve been fishing.
I’m not an advanced angler by any stretch but know enough to tell you that fishermen who catch salmon on a regular basis have two factors in the palms of their hands – literally. Factor one is time on the water. The more time your line is in the water, the better chance you have…bar none! Second is the skill factor or technique. Finding where the salmon are holding, when to fish at that spot and how to choose which lure or what type of bait or tackle, is possibly the most important factor of all!
First you need to realize that there are as many techniques to catching salmon as there are salmon...LOTS! So what we may find successful you may not. We may not even know what techniques you use to be successful out there, but we would love to hear about it. In the mean time though let's look at some of the basic ways of fishing for salmon and then we'll move forward in breaking them down further;
Trolling For Salmon - Freshwater and Saltwater - J-Plug Trolling, Trolling Spoons in Freshwater, Trolling Spoons in Saltwater, Downrigging and Anchor Fishing for Salmon.
River Fishing - Bottom Bouncing or Bar Fishing for Salmon, Drift Fishing and Backtrolling or Backbouncing.
Jigging For Salmon - Jigging in Freshwater For Steelhead, Jigging For Salmon In Saltwater, Jigging for Coho.
Gear Fishing With Lures, Spinners and Spoons in Freshwater Systems - Lure Fishing for Steelhead, Lure Fishing For Coho, Spin-n-Glows for Chinook. Gear Fishing Using Floats, For Coho and Steelhead as well as Gear Fishing Using Bait and Lures.
Lures, Spinners and Spoons in Saltwater
Flyfishing - Spey Casting With Flies (Saltwater Fly Patterns), Flyfishing In Rivers for Coho, Flyfishing Lakes for Coho, Flyfishing In Rivers for Steelhead, Flyfishing for Pinks / Humpies.
Bait Fishing and Baitcasting - Using Bait In Saltwater, Fishing for Salmon with Bait In Freshwater.
Winter Steelhead Fishing Techniques - Summer Steelheading In BC
Using Flashers and Dodgers for Salmon
River Fishing For Salmon
The art of river fishing for salmon has really earned it's name, especially in recent years with the numbers of returning salmon being lower than ever before. River fishing, simply put, is a skill that anglers need to hoan to become productive in freshwater systems. Go Salmon Fishing wants to expose these tactics to you and hopes that you are a practicing catch and release fisherman that only takes out of our rivers what you have to, to conserve for generations to come. Here are some of the great articles that we've written on how to catch salmon on the river:
Bottom Bouncing For Sockeye And Chinook
Reds and Kings, Bluebacks and Springs, no matter what you call them, they are most definitely the largest recreational fishery out of the five Pacific Ocean species and the most effective freshwater tactic is called bottom bouncing or flossing!
These two species often spawn during the same time with the Chinooks a little ahead of the Red’s, which results in the possibility of catching either species. Remember when I said finding where the fish are holding? Well if your line is in the water with more than one species of fish holding there…you can guess what’s going to happen. It’s like winning the Lottery! Especially when you’re bottom bouncing or “flossing” for salmon.
Bottom bouncing or bar fishing, is a technique used in freshwater river systems during the salmon spawning periods where the fish are moving up the river to lay eggs and then die after their life cycle is completed. This tactic is often used on the mighty Fraser River in British Columbia
As the fish move UP the river and your line moves DOWN the river you are essentially “snagging” the salmon. Some are snagged illegally in the tail or fin, resulting in a badly injured salmon that needs to be release immediately due to regulations, while the others are snagged in the mouth by the line acting like a “floss” before the hook is dragged across the mouth.
Many anglers aren’t too fond of the bottom bouncing technique as skill is minimized and many fish are wasted due to regulations concerning “foul hooked fish.”
Bottom Bouncing employs the use of a casting rod, baitcasting or spincasting reel, monofilament line or “super” line, hook and bait (often a small piece of wool and a corkie). To learn more about bottom bouncing for Salmon click here.
Anchor Fishing (Chinook)
Forward Trolling (Kings)
How to Find and Attract Salmon
If you are going to catch salmon in open water the first thing you have to do is to find where they are. The Pacific Ocean and its inlets present a vast expanse of water. So do the larger lakes and reservoirs. Some of these waters will hold salmon and some will not. Knowing the habits of salmon can help a lot. If you are contemplating fishing out of a certain port or harbor the first thing you should do is get the salmon fish reports. The newspapers, marinas and bait shops can tell you if the salmon fishing has been good or bad in a given area. Over their lives salmon may migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles. They are constantly in search of food and ideal water temperatures. If baitfish are abundant and the water is in the 55 to 57 degree range, salmon will stay in one locality sometimes for months. If the baitfish disappear the salmon will soon disappear also. If the water gets too warm the salmon will either go deep to cooler water or move out of an area.
Once you establish that salmon have been caught in the general area where you want to fish, the next problem is finding the schools. They may be shallow, they may be deep and they may be concentrated or scattered. If they are shallow (in the top 40 feet of water) your best strategies are to look for baitfish schools on your electronic fishfinder or look for birds diving and feeding. Salmon attack shallow baitfish from underneath and push them to the surface. Sea Gulls and other birds will then dive on the same baitfish. Diving birds are usually an excellent indicator that salmon are present and are feeding. If the salmon are not at the surface look for deeper balls of bait. Sometimes these will be near the bottom or along reefs or rocky structures. These will usually be herring (in the saltwater) which are another good food source for the salmon. In this instance you will need downriggers to get to the salmon which may sometimes be hundreds of feet down. In finding salmon you should also look for concentrations of boats that have found the school and are catching fish.
Salmon have some definite likes and dislikes. Knowing these can help you find and catch them.
By the same token Mr. salmon also has some very strong dislikes.
As salmon begin to mature and start their move back to their spawning rivers, they become very predictable in their habits. They will usually migrate along the same paths each year at approximately the same time. This migration starts months ahead of when they enter the fresh water. If you know these patterns or can get information about them you will frequently be rewarded with abundant catches of large salmon.
Under the section on fundamentals we pointed out that the most important factor in attracting salmon is action on your bait or lure. Erratic or wounded fish action is the best. When salmon get ready to feed they will look for a tight school of baitfish. If they find one, they will go crashing through the middle of the school hitting the baitfish with their heads and tails. They will then turn around and look for the cripples which they will eat. If you are fishing this same school of baitfish you want your bait or lure to look like the baitfish and to look injured. If the salmon are feeding on anchovies you want an anchovy bait in a harness or a lure that is the same size and color as an anchovy. If they are feeding on squid or krill you want hootchies and if they are feeding on herring you want herring or herring imitations. I will often open the stomach of the first salmon I catch to see what it is feeding on and what size.
Modern downriggers have revolutionized trolling for salmon. With a downrigger the sport fisherman now has the capability to take his lures to the exact depth where salmon are feeding. Sometimes this can be hundreds of feet below the surface. The counter on the downrigger tells the fisherman exactly the depth of his lure. A downrigger coupled with an electronic fish finder is a deadly combination. The fish finder locates the fish and the downrigger takes the lure to the depth.
Both manual and electric downriggers are available. In recent years more salmon fishermen have moved to electric downriggers because they can be easily and quickly brought to the surface and out of the way when a salmon is hooked.In concept a downrigger is not a complicated device. A spool of wire is mounted on a boat gunnel. A heavy weight (typically ten pounds for salmon) is connected to the end of the wire. A salmon lure is rigged on your rod and reel and ten to twenty feet of line is pulled out from the reel as the boat is trolling. This places the lure ten to twenty feet behind the downrigger wire. The fishing line is then connected to the downrigger wire with a downrigger release. This release is going to pop open when a fish hits and the fish is then landed on the rod and reel. After the release is hooked to the line, the downrigger is lowered to the desired depth. As it is lowered the fishing line is pulled out from the rod and reel. For a complete discussion of different downriggers and how to use them go to the new Pro-Troll book Downrigger Fishing Techniques. This will explain how to select downriggers, rigging techniques, weight sizes needed and much more.
Both manual and electric downriggers are available. In recent years more salmon fishermen have moved to electric downriggers because they can be easily and quickly brought to the surface and out of the way when a salmon is hooked.
Most fishermen using downriggers prefer long and light rods in the ten to twenty five pound class. Fiberglass works very well and holds up to the heavy loading on a downrigger. The author uses eight foot six inch Seeker fiberglass rods #SA 853. They are excellent for both trolling and mooching. For non downrigger trolling applications you will need a heavier rod to hold the weight or planer device used to take the lure down. A long light rod helps catch more fish particularly when you are fishing deep with your downrigger. After the downrigger is at depth we recommend tightening the drag just enough to be able to bend the rod tip in a big arc. When a fish strikes there is a momentary period of slack line. The rod tip will spring upward helping take the slack out of the line.
There are three important characteristics in selecting a salmon reel. It should have the best drag you can buy, a retrieve ratio of at least four to one to keep up with your downrigger and plenty of line capacity. The author fishes with Shimano Charter Specials with lever drags. Twenty pound test monofilament line represents a good compromise between enough strength to land large salmon and a thin diameter which minimizes the drag through the water when hooked to your downrigger. Some fishermen prefer to fish with twelve or fourteen pound monofilament but line this light will frequently twist during trolling. A lot of salmon lures spin as part of their action and will badly twist light line. Heavier line in the thirty to forty pound range will create a strong drag in the water. Extra heavy downrigger weights will be required to compensate for this drag. Some fishermen like the new spider wire types of lines for salmon. They cut through the water very nicely while trolling. The drawback comes in landing fish with no stretch line. The stretch in monofilament helps get a lot more fish into the boat.
Salmon have a strong sensivity to very weak electrical charges in the water. Your boat and your downriggers generate small natural charges of electricity anytime your boat is in the water. If these charges are in a salmon's comfort range he will be attracted to your boat and your downrigger wires. If the charge is too high or too low salmon will be repelled. A Black Box is a device you can hook to your boat and downriggers that allows you to set the ideal charge for salmon. Most experienced salmon fishermen use a Black Box. You can learn about it on the Pro-Troll website. click on Black Box Technology.
Sockeye Fishing Techniques for the Alberni Inlet" - by Marilyn Murphy
Technique: Fish as many rods as you can, as close together as possible, but without getting tangled up. And troll is long straight tacks. Use a sounder to locate the depth and locations of the main schools. Then position your gear ABOVE the fish, as much as 20 feet or more. The fish that break away from the school and follow your gear are the ones we are after. Usually after one or two strikes, keep trolling, don't stop completely to play your fish, keep trolling slowly because more than likely the rest of the gear may load up with the following fish. We usually troll our gear using downriggers (a must) fishing 35-95 feet deep; the preferred depth may change year to year depending on the depth of the thermocline.
Where: If you were to look at a chart of the Alberni Inlet you will notice a series of narrows, the fish generally stack up and hold on either side of the narrows, about quarter channel to the shoreline. When deciding where to fish, let your eyes to the work. Start at the top of the inlet, run down (south) and look for groups of boats with action. The sockeye are attracted to "groups" of gear, so don't be discouraged by large groups of vessels fishing, this is a good thing.
Lure: MP16, MP44 (MP stands for "mini-plankton, and the number is the colour code). There are a many colours that are similar to, which are equally as effective. Local shops will have the "hot ticket".
Hook: Just as important as the lure is the hook you choose, single is by far the best. Sockeye twist and spin, so using trebles often works against you. The idea is to get a good solid hook set (let the virtues of a very sharp hook do this, since physically setting the hooks on sockeye result in pulling gear out of their soft mouths.) A single tied Gamagatsu or Eagle Claw LASER SHARP or ACCUPOINT hook is recommended, and many prefer red or black over Chrome. Tandem hooks work too, but these often get tangled up in your net and are not entirely necessary unless the bite is slow and you want to make every strike count.
Leader: It is very important to choose a dense enough leader that will transmit the action of the flasher to the lure, although 25-30 pound seems over test, this is ideal for getting the desired performance to the lure. We prefer an ultragreen or clear line. (Not brown or Chameleon)
Flasher: Hot Spot or Oki Flasher are the ones to use, in colours red or chartreuse, but usually red. Avoid the imitation flashers, their swivels are usually poor quality, I prefer the Hot Spot Commercial version which has Ball bearing swivels on both ends. Nothing worse than trolling around for half and hour to check your gear and find they are all tangled up in a spinned cluster of what now has to be re tied and re rigged. If you have flashers with regular barrel swivels, cut them off and attach good ball bearing swivels at both ends using large split rings.
When: Over the years its pretty much proven that the big action is early in the morning before the full sun comes over the hills of the Alberni Inlet and hits the water. These are tall hills so there are hours of morning action before this may happen. Usually once the wind picks up and we start side tracking, we become ineffective. If the weather says calm, some days the bite just goes on and on.
Sounds exciting? Well it is, so have fun!
TROLLING SPOONS FOR FRESHWATER SALMON AND TROUT
The best trolling spoons are lightweight and thin which will provide the most erratic, darting baitfish action in the water. Many spoons such as the Krocodile® and Super Duper® are manufactured in casting and trolling models and it is important that you select the lightest weight models. For example, one die may stamp several different thicknesses of a spoon, such as the No. 5 Krocodile®, which produces 3/4-, 1-, 1 1/2- and 2 1/2-oz. models. For trolling, you would choose the lighter 3/4- or 1-oz. size.
SPOON TROLLING RIGS
SHALLOW TO MEDIUM
Dodgers can be used as attractors in conjunction with a spoon behind a downrigger with good results. Size #0 or #1 Jensen Dodgers are recommended. Allow 12 to 18 inches of leader between spoon and dodger. Shorter leaders produce more frantic and faster spoon action while longer one result in slower action.
Flashers are yet another kind of attractor that can be used with a spoon behind a downrigger. Flashers such as the Alaskan Eagle or Abe 'n Al® produce a deliberate, slow roll which often is favored by species such as Chinook and lake trout. Because of the rotating nature of the flasher, spoons trailed behind must have more leader than that used with dodgers.
Certain fish species, particularly when it comes to larger fish, display specific preferences when it comes to trolling spoons and/or colors. The following species-by-species breakdown will provide valuable information you can apply immediately.
TEMPERATURE AND OXYGEN
In large fresh water lakes and reservoirs time of day isn't nearly as critical as locating the preferred temperature level for the fish species you are seeking and the thermocline. Lakes stratify into three separate layers with the onset of warm weather and generally stay that way until fall. The middle layer of water, where there is a large concentration of dissolved oxygen, baitfish and therefore predator fish is called the thermocline and can generally be found from 10 to 80 feet down. This is not only an oxygen-saturated layer, but a temperature layer as well and fish relate to it as both a comfort zone and a zone where their body metabolism functions efficiently.
The peak feeding and optimum temperature for coho and Chinook salmon is 55° with an active range of 44° to 58°. For lake trout, peak feeding and optimum temperature is 50° with activity from 43° to 53°. For steelhead trout, optimum temperature is between 50° and 55° with activity from 40° to 75°. Brown and rainbow trout have an optimum temperature preference between 55° and 60° with activity from 44° to 75°. Striped bass exhibit a range of temperature preference from 60° to 78° with the optimum temperature between 70° and 72°.
Fish rarely venture out of these preferred temperature zones, except to catch a meal and then will return quickly. One thing to remember when fishing temperature layers such as the thermocline is that it can change from day to day because of wind and/or wave action and you'll have to locate it each time out.
SPECIALIZED FINISHES & COLORS
Fish definitely see color and/or shades of color and can be very fussy about it. One of the big advantages of trolling with spoons is the wide variety of specialized finishes available . . . there's a color to fit every angling situation.
GENUINE SILVER PLATE
"HOT TAIL" FINISHES
Herters Herter's Youth Roaring Fork Felt-Sole Waders - Brown (3)
Outcast PAC 1000 Pontoon Boat - Green
Clam Outdoors Guppy Flutter Spoon - Silver
Frabill Bro Series Spinning Combo - Titanium