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.