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Tips and Techniques to Salmon Fishing
Salmon Behavior in the River

By: Chad Wiest

Salmon are similar to animals in many ways. Thinking of them in this way can help you become a better angler. Understanding this behavior and thinking like they do will narrow down large river systems into likely places you can find them. Perhaps, this will make your job of catching them a little easier. Salmon fishing tipsThey desire a comfortable place to rest, just like animals. Many of the most productive fishing spots are such places. Usually, a spot where the current has a break from the higher flows of the main current are utilized. If you had to swim against the current, you would want to take a break once in while too! Tail outs, the inside of a bend in a river, behind a hump, or any other structure creating a soft spot out of the main flow are a few of those comfortable resting spots. This is especially true during big tide swings or after a high water event. You want to look for “soft water” or any slower moving water on occasions like these. Like animals, salmon are also territorial. Surprises are just as disagreeable to salmon as they are to us. When salmon are holding in their resting spots, the smallest of intruders can upset them. They do not want to share their space and attack the unwanted visitor. When you place your bait or lure in front of these resting fish they tend to snap. These are reaction bites and are some of the most violent. Many animals choose to travel along the same paths year after year and season after season. Any deer or elk hunter will tell you there are beaten down trails running all over the woods. They use those paths for the same reason salmon choose the same paths year after year. Those paths are the easiest way to get from point A to point B. They want to expend the least amount of energy to accomplish their goal. Once you have found these places, chances are they will be there again unless the river changes. Just like animals in the wild, salmon want to avoid predators. Looking at the top of salmon they have a darker green back with spots transitioning to a silver side and white belly. By staying close to the bottom seals and sea lions have a harder time seeing them. It has also been discovered that salmon cannot see down, only forward and up. Another reason they prefer resting on the bottom to avoid predators. Salmon are in a lot of ways predictable if you learn some of their behaviors and locate the places they frequent you will discover they are creatures of habit. This is just one tool in my toolbox that has helped me increase my success. Although I applied this to salmon the same can be said of steelhead. These wonderful fish have patterns and learning them will help you put more fish on the line.

Salmon tips

Flashers and the Myriad of Possibilities

By Captain Chad Wiest

Salmon fishing in the rivers has seen a lot of new possibilities in the realm of fish attractors. In-line flashers or no-drag flashers have become very popular in the last few years and for good reason, they work to bring the fish into your bait. Two companies in particular are on the forefront of innovation with color choices and finishes, Yakima Bait Company (Big Als) and Short Bus Flashers. From black to clear backgrounds and more color/ size choices coming out regularly, you might never fish them all. But, when do some colors work better than others and why? Sometimes the water is clear or green, or brown and mixes of. This last fall a dredge was working the mouth of the river stirring up a lot of sand, upriver there was a red algae bloom and between them was a mix of clear ocean water, brown (tannic) river water, and murky, sandy water. Last spring we had low clear water and a post rain event muddy water. The visibility can vary from 5 ft to 6 inches. These variables impact my color choice and leader length. It is a well know fact the clearer the water the longer the leader and vise versa. As a general rule my leader length from the flasher is no more than a foot and a half longer than the visibility. If you can see your flasher 1 ft or less under water the leader should be about 2.5 ft long. If you can see your flasher 4 ft. under water 5.5 ft. leader length. These are approximates and should be used as guidelines. Another factor that needs to be considered is size of flasher. The clearer water the smaller 6” flashers have worked well for me and the 8” flashers in medium visibility. I like to stay away from UV finishes in very clear water as well such as the Pole Dancer and really like the more subtle colors such as half red/ half green. I also switch over and use no flasher at all if a large amount of eel grass is in clear ocean water that I am trolling during large tide swings in the fall. But when the water is murky, with two feet or less of visibility these UV finishes are my go to. With 2-4 ft of visibility I like to run the very popular chartreuse and variations of it. I also like to run flashers together, one color on the front two rods, one color on the back two rods, or all rods with the same color. As you can see the variety of water conditions and variety of flashers leaves you with a myriad of possibilities. I hope this gives you a baseline to work with. These are general guidelines and not absolutes. I have seen some strange tackle and techniques work, but to increase my hookups I like to follow this regiment. Experiment on your own, but, remember that confidence in your setup is the most important and good luck!

Salmon Tips

The Value of Good Electronics for Salmon fishing in Oregon

By: Chad Wiest

When I first began fishing for fall Chinook salmon many years ago we had just the basics. A tackle box, rod, spinner, and a net, was all the equipment we had to catch fish in the little 12ft. aluminum boat. We caught some fish too. Although you can get by without electronics, having them makes your time on the water safer and more productive. A good stand alone unit will have a variety of useful functions. I run a pair of Lowrance HDS units in my boat (a 5” and 7” model). With the split screen option having two units is not necessary but I like to have one on chart and one on sonar for a larger display. These have helped my confidence and catch rates. Since purchasing five years ago they have performed flawlessly under wet and windy Pacific Northwest weather conditions. The ease of operation of these units makes life easy. When you are responsible for navigating busy rivers and watching five rods in the boat to make sure they are fishing, this is imperative. With an easy format of operation and 8 buttons and a directional pad, the system is very intuitive. You can quickly switch functions from gps to sonar or zoom in and out on the large screens. It also has a variety of features that you can add on like mapping upgrades, Sirius radio and weather, radar, and NMEA 2000. Another feature I love is the easy upgrade of the entire operating system. I just downloaded the 4.1 upgrade to a SD card, popped it in and presto! I now have an upgraded system. Safety is my primary concern having guests out on the water, everything else is secondary. Having a good reliable chartplotter/gps unit helps provide a higher level of safety. The salmon often bite best in the very early morning. To get from the dock to where they are, it takes leaving in the dark so you can be fishing at first light. While a gps is not a replacement for a vigilant captain, it can help. Visibility can be down to less than 10 ft. in the heavy fog our coastal river systems see. It is here that the tracks from yesterday can easily be followed to the holes that are holding fish. Without my Lowrance helping to show the way, life would be a lot less safe. Salmon really like to hug the bottom in a lot of areas, and knowing where that is as the depth changes has increased my hook ups. Another reason I love my Lowrance HDS units is the ability to change the color schemes of my sonar. In low light, the whites are too bright, in the sun the low light settings are difficult to see. With this feature I have easy viewing of my screen in all conditions. I have learned to trust my sonar, and when you are marking fish that area usually produces bites. I can even make out harbor seals and bait balls. The water temperature feature has also helped increase my catch rates. I realize now that during my early years I was at a severe disadvantage without any electronics. The new breed of electronics is so user friendly and reliable that not spending a little extra money on the top of the line electronics will cost you in the end with less fish in the boat. Give them a shot, you will not be disappointed!


Using herring for Salmon Fishing:

Whole or cut plug herring is an effective and popular technique for catching salmon in many fisheries along the west coast. Here are a few tips that might help you produce more bites.

1. Choosing the right bait. There are multiple suppliers of herring along the west coast. Sizes vary by color. From smallest to largest: Red, Green, Blue, Purple, and Black. The most commonly used sizes are green and blue but there are times when the little reds and large purples can be used. When purchasing your bait it is important to look at the bait itself. You are looking for clear (not cloudy) eyes, no visible blood, vacuum sealed, and missing very few scales. Unfortunately, the next feature of the perfect bait will not be clear until opened and cut. When cutting the herring for use you want to see only blood inside the belly cavity. Often suppliers sell herring that are in spawn and the cavity holds milt(sperm) sacks or skeins of roe. These herring have put most of their energy ie oils, into creating these and have lost some of their scent helpful in enticing a bite. Avoid these herring if possible.

2. Brining. There are as many formulas for brines as there are fisherman who use them. Everyone has their own variation but many have Salt(non-iodized). Salt firms up the bait and helps to keep it on the hook longer. Powdered milk is another. This helps to keep the scales on the bait which will eventually fall off after being dragged through the water. These scales are like little mirrors that help bring the fish to the bait in murky water. Mrs. Stewarts blueing (found in the detergent aisle in grocery stores) is also found in many brines. This helps to bring out the shine and iridescent colors in the scales. These are the three main ingredients and after this many other scents can be added. I like Pautzkes Nectar, Anise, and krill. People also like Garlic, shrimp, vanilla, and tuna. There are times when each one of these scents will produce more than any other and also times when they want them straight out of the pack. It is important to not over do it with any scent and usually less is more. Experimentation is key here to find what combo you like most.

3. Keep it clean. Salmon can smell exceptionally well. Keeping your bait cooler, knives and cutting boxes can increase your odds of a hook up. A popular soap is non-ultra lemon joy. It helps to carry away stale odors and leaves no trace of foul odors on your bait. A bloody knife and box sitting in the sun can go from clean to ripe in a short time. This is an easy fix.