With this being our fist time Salmon fishing, our goal was to ask as many questions as we could regarding who, what, when and where, how and why… So here is my recount of as much information as I can put into one trip.
The fish this week were relating as much as they could to the cold water. Our guides both said the ideal water temperature at the ball on the down rigger should be about 55 degrees. We found temps ranging from 62 to 39 degrees on our trip but depended on the wind pushing cold water down from the north. The important question was how do the fish relate to the cooler water temps – the answer was the colder the water, the shallower the fish were. Most of our fish were caught 15 to 30 down when we were fishing in 42 to 60 ft of water with 48 to 52 being the target depth.
The terminal tackle was a mix of different rod and reel types. Most of the rods were medium heavy to heavy action with line counter bait casting reels. The line of choice seemed to mostly be 20lb heavy game trolling line with a mix of lead core in short lengths to help drop the plugs down as needed.
The trolling setup in both boats was nearly identical. Both guides used 4 Big Jon Down Riggers spread out on the back of the boat. Each had 3 fishable down riggers with one that was just for measuring speed and temperature (this is known as the ball). The three down riggers were using just one bait per ball with a down rigger on each side and one down the middle.
The baits on the down riggers were also consistent with a mix of spoons and plugs both days. The only plug used by both guides was the Luhr Jensen Rattlin’ J-Plug Lure. These plugs where used in multiple sets and seemed to be the second most productive tool we had. We used different multiple sets and caught 20 to 30 percent of our fish on these. These plug gave great action and jumped all over the water column. White and chrome colors with red were the best baits until dark, when we switched to glow plugs.
The other down rigger bait of choice was a variety of spoons. There where many different colors being used with silver, chartreuse and white being the most common colors with a splash of red thrown in. Spoons were used with limited success but word was the spoon bite was good the day before. Only one Coho was caught on a spoon. A few times we also ran a Dreamweaver Spin Doctor Flasher about 7 to 10 foot in front of the plugs, about 150 feet behind the ball. Most of the spoons and plugs were run 50 to 150 feet behind the ball.
Each boat also deployed 6 planer boards (3 on each side of the boat). These planer boards where staggered at an estimated 75, 100 and 150 feet behind the boat on each side. We would start by setting one side of the boat then work to the other side. The planer boards each had different lengths and types of line that ran from the planer board out to the plug and were changed many times each day. Many time each guide would have anywhere from 3 to 10 colors of lead core line or copper braided line out behind the planer board to help weight the plug down in the water column. Each plug was set 150 to 250 ft behind each planer board. Again, each planer board had Luhr Jensen Rattlin’ plugs on for both guides with the occasional spoon mixed in. We hit 30% to 40% of our fish on planer boards so this was a very effective tool.
A majority of our fish came off of the other 4 rods out. Each guide ran two rods out each side of the boat called their “High” rods. These rods are where we had most of our action this week. Each one was baited a little different but a bulk of our action came on what where called Meat Riggs – Cabela’s: Pro-Troll E-Rotary Bait Holder. Each meat rig was taken down and away from the boat with a Luhr Jensen Dipsy Diver or a Walker Deeper Diver Deep Troller System set at 4 1/2. Each guide was little different from here out also with the Lie a Lot using a sock absorbing or snubber band behind the Dipsy Diver to reduce the original shock of the salmon hit to just having 4 or 5 flies. These seemed to be set out at 50 to 55 feet of line. Our most deadly combo seamed to be a dipsy diver tied to 4 or 5 flies arranged down to the meat rig. This seemed to produce about 60 to 70 percent of our hook ups. The meat rigs were tipped with pieces of fresh and canned herring. The fresh herring seamed to produce more fish but the bite and guides were so different both days I think you would have to pattern them for a couple of days to get a good read.
All in all if I was going to go back and take my own boat I would try and run 2 down riggers with a plug on the top and a spoon on the bottom. I would stack this with one or two meat rigs with dipsy diver set at 50 to 55 feet followed by 2 planer boards on each side with plugs going out. Each guide said meat is the key if fishing is slow.
~ Nick & Benton