How to Catch Salmon
There are five species of salmon found in North America. The Chinook (King), Coho (Silver), Sockeye, Pink, and Chum Salmon. The techniques we will describe here apply primarily to the Chinook salmon because it is the largest and most popular of the sport fishing species. Some of the techniques also apply to the other species.
Most salmon are caught by trolling bait or lures. Frozen Anchovies and
Herring are the two most popular baits. The bait is usually mounted in a
bait holder to give it action. Other bait setups are rigged with slider hooks
with the bait cut in a special way or curved by placing the hooks in the
front and back of the baitfish and pulling tension on the leader. The object
of all these setups is to get the bait to roll and wiggle as it is trolled.
Salmon are also taken very effectively on a variety of spoons plugs and
other lures. Flashers and dodgers also play an important role in taking
Rule #1. The most important fundamental, if you want to catch salmon, is action on your bait or lure. If you have good rolling and erratic action, you will have a much better chance of catching salmon. When a salmon hits
your bait or lure he is looking for dinner. If your bait looks like a wounded struggling baitfish you have a much better chance of getting the salmon's attention. Let me explain. Salmon have three sensing mechanism they use to find their prey. They are sight, smell and lateral line response. If you are trolling and your lure passes within a few feet of a salmon and he sees it, you will probably catch him. The problem is that in the ocean and most other bodies of water the salmon can't see more than four or five feet. The water is too murky. If you are relying on sight alone, you probably won't bring home many salmon. The second sense is smell. Salmon have an extremely sharp sense of smell but if you are trolling a bait forty feet down and the salmon is at fifty five feet he will never smell the scent trail left by your bait unless he gets right behind it. The third sensing mechanism is the one you want working for you. Down a salmon's side and on his head and back there are tiny hair-like projections called cupula. Each of these has a nerve cell at the end. These cells are used to pick up vibrations in the water. If a salmon is swimming thirty feet down and a school of baitfish swims across the surface above him, he knows exactly what's going on. His lateral line cells pick up the vibrations made by the wiggling tails of the baitfish. He doesn't see them or smell them but he knows exactly where they are. If some of them are wounded and swimming erratically he knows he has his next meal. This is the mechanism you want to take advantage of. If your lure is putting out erratic vibrations twenty or thirty feet from a salmon you can pull him like a magnet. He will follow the vibration like a radar beam and attack your bait. This is why we say action on your bait or lure is the most important strategy you can use. Lures like the Crocodile, the Apex and the Rotary Salmon Killer put out the erratic powerful vibrations that will get you salmon. Whenever you put a bait or lure in the water you should carefully check its action. If it is not rolling or shaking, don't let it down. Sometimes the bait needs adjusting or a hook is lodged at a funny angle. Another possibility is that your boat trolling speed is not right for the lure you are using. Sometimes all you need to do is speed up.
Rule #2. Sharp Hooks. This seems like an obvious thing but most fishermen ignore it. In the authors experience, very few salmon hooks are sharp enough even brand new. The author and his Scotty Pro team worked eight years filming salmon hitting baits and lures in the ocean. They learned that the salmon come after your bait time and time again. The average salmon misses or just grazes the bait at least two times before he hits solid enough to get hooked. We observed one salmon hitting a bait twenty two times before he got hooked on the twenty third try. If your hooks are sticky sharp you have a much better chance of that hook digging in as a salmon hits and slashes at the bait. Carry a small file or emery stone and sharpen those hooks on every trip. You will definitely be rewarded with more salmon in the fish box.
In later chapters we will elaborate on some of these points as well as others and try to give you some specific steps you can take to ensure you bring home more salmon.