How to catch salmon really boils down to two methods, trolling and mooching. Assuming you have done the research, you know the runs are in progress, the newspapers indicate that fishing is good, weather is OK (that is, not dangerous), you have questioned as many local fishermen as you can find, have a boat ready to go, and all the necessary gear, then and only then it is time to “wet the line.”
Always prepare and get everything you will need the night before. Why the night before? Because you will be getting up real early, like one to two hours before dawn, not sunrise, dawn. You are likely to need this much time because it is critical to be on the fishing grounds at least 1/2 hour before dawn. Most salmon are caught early during that period one to two hours after dawn during “the bite.”
I always use a check list that includes everything and I mean every item you will need, bait, gas for the truck or car, rod and reels, fishing license, clothing, rain gear, food, beer, head lamp (because it will be dark), cell phone, weather report, etc. The list seems to keep getting longer over time. But then I have forgotten just about everything on my list at one time or another. One time I did not load up my trolling rod and had a very bad morning watching one of my fishing partners get his limit before 6:30 am.
So make a check list and use it by checking off each item the night before.
Trolling Method To Catch Salmon
Always make sure your vessel running lights are working before starting out and get the frozen herring thawing out in a bucket of water. Speeding to fishing grounds in the dark from a boat launch or marina has its hazards, like logs (also know as dead heads) and other boats. So pay attention, even if you are still are half asleep.
Once you have arrived on the fishing grounds kill the large engine and get the kicker engine started. Wash your hands if you have any gas smell on them. Strip off several feet of line from the trolling reel and discard. Bait the herring by running one hook through the rear of the herring and the other through the head, then slide the two hooks together to create a slight bend in the bait. Tie the leader to the flasher about 3-4 feet from the bait and then tie an 8 oz weight, or a 12 oz weight for faster trolling, about 2 feet in front of the flasher. Adjust the trolling speed to 3-5 knots and put the salmon train overboard behind the boat and insert the rod butt into the rod holder. Pull line off the reel spool one arms-length at a time (called a pull). The bait will trail out behind the boat and sink.
To adjust the depth of the bait in the water column assume one pull will place the bait one foot down with a trolling speed of 3-4 knots using an 8 oz weight. Faster trolling speeds will require more weight. Start at 20 pulls to place the bait and flasher approximately 20 feet down. Wait five minutes and pull out 10 more pulls which should place the bait at 30 feet. Continue this process all the way down to where you get near the bottom and then start bring the bait up 10 feet every five minutes. If you get a fish on try to remember the depth you were at. This is real hard to do with all the excitement, but it is important to get back to that same depth to catch another fish. If you are going to learn how to catch salmon efficiently, getting the bait to the correct depth in the water is key.
Fishing For Salmon With A Downrigger
When fishing with a downrigger one uses the same techniques except that a line weight is not necessary. The line is clipped on the steel cable about 20 feet above the bait and the flasher and several feet above the rigger weight. The rigger weight is lowered to the correct depth with the rigger handle clutch. It is important to be careful here, lower slowly or the fish line will detach prematurely. The depth can be read off a dial, there is no guessing about how deep you are fishing. Another advantage of a downrigger is that when a salmon takes the bait the line is released from the steel downrigger cable and you can play the fish without the line weight.
Mooching Method For Catching Salmon
Learning to catch salmon with the mooching is easy and is a very common method used when fishing for king salmon. If you use bait you use the same method to attach the bait, but use a smaller 2 oz weight. The line is slowly lowered down the water column and when it is at the correct depth, lock the reel and begin raising and lowering the bait with rod action. This is why mooching rods are usually much lighter and not as stiff as trolling rods. The idea is to give the bait a quick up and down motion to attract the salmon. Many fishermen like this method of salmon fishing because it requires no trolling engine, thus things are quiet and peaceful. A buzzbomb lure or other artificial lures such as various spoons may also be used with this method.
Once a fish is hooked, everyone else must bring their lines in and the boat kicker engine, if trolling, must be placed in neutral after the boat is turned at right angles to the fishing line with the fish. If using a downrigger get the cable up as quickly as possible to prevent snags with the line with the fish. One plays the salmon by keeping the tip of the rod high and setting the tension on the reel so the fish can run. Play the fish until it is sufficiently near the boat to net. Check the size and species to determine that it is within legal limits. If it is legal, bring the fish on board, if not, try to get the hooks out as gently as possible and release the fish. Some regions require that a salmon card be filled out immediately, so don’t forget.
In summary, part of learning to catch salmon is knowing where you are going to fish, geting prepared the night before with a check list, arriving at the fishing grounds ½ hour before dawn, and checking the weather. And remember learning how to catch salmon will also take some practice if you are a beginner.