Bass Techniques and equipment

Information source: myodfw.com

Bass fishing techniques tend to be based on the kind of lure you’re throwing.

  • Worms (and other plastics) – Perhaps the most popular and effective bass lures, rubber worms come in a variety of sizes and colors, and can be fished using a variety of techniques. Bass will often hit a worm as it is dropping through the water. A very, very slow “dragging” retrieve along the bottom can entice inactive or non-receptive fish, while the use of a more animated curly-tailed worm can attract more active fish in warmer waters.
  • Crankbaits (aka diving plugs) – These lures got their name because they are designed to cast out and then “crank” back in. Hollow plastic or wooden lures designed to dive to varying depths, they come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes to imitate bait fish.
  • Spinnerbaits – These were once called safety-pin lures because the shape of the wire framework resembles an open safety pin. These lures combine a lead head with one or more flashing spinner blades, a sharp hook and a rubber skirt to hide the hook. These are very versatile lures that can be fished year-round in almost any conditions.
  • Jigs – Jigs are heavy, lead-headed lures with a single hook often masked with a rubber skirt, hair or other materials. Designed to ride hook side up, these are good lures to fish around wood and docks throughout the season.
  • Top-water lures – Available in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors to imitate frogs, mice, prey fish and other foods, these can be the most exciting lures to fish because you see the fish come to the surface of the water and take the lure in an aggressive, splashy take. Bass are sun shy, so fish top-water lures early or late in the day when the sun is off the water.
  • Swimbaits – These are large (up to 8 inches) soft rubber or plastic lures with a jig head that resemble prey fish. Once used mostly during the pre-spawn season, these lures are becoming more popular among anglers targeting trophy bass throughout the year. These lures will not catch large numbers of fish (if you fish them exclusively be prepared for fishless days) but when they work they will catch trophy-sized fish.

Equipment:

Like many other kinds of fishing, bass rods and reels can be highly specialized depending on the type and size of the lure you will be casting. For the beginning bass angler, a good all-purpose rod to start with is a 6- to 61/2-foot baitcasting or spinning rod, with medium action and rated for an 8- to 12-pound line and 1/4- to ¾- ounce lure.

Salmon fishing in marine areas

Information source: wdfw.wa.gov

Photo 1. Banana or Trolling Sinker

The most popular boat fishing methods can be lumped into two general categories, drift fishing and trolling.

Drift fishing

Drift fishing generally means fishing without a motor, although in some cases a small outboard may be used to slow down or speed up your drift. Drift fishing is most effective in specific areas where salmon are concentrated. Types of drift fishing include mooching, jigging, and fly-fishing.

Photo 2. Cut plug herring.

Mooching

Historically mooching was the most popular form of salmon angling and began many years ago during the winter months in Seattle. The art of mooching is slowly being lost as most modern anglers prefer to troll. Die-hard moochers like the simplicity of the gear, the feel of the bite and the hook up, and enjoy the peace and quiet of fishing without a motor. Mooching requires a dedication to the sport and many years of practice to master.

Mooching is essentially fishing with a light banana shaped weight (Photo 1) to pull a hooked herring down to the depth you believe the fish are at. Most moochers use a “plug-cut” herring (Photo 2) which spins as it rises and falls. A plug cut herring is cut with a bevel from front to back and from side to side.

The bevel is what causes the herring to spin as it is pulled through the water. Beginning moochers should probably purchase a miter box cutter to ensure the proper angle is obtained (Photo 3). Moochers will typically fish with an 8 ½ to 9 foot rod with a level wind or bait casting reel capable of holding 100-200 yards of line (Photo 4).

Photo 3. Miter box for cutting “cut plug” herring

A reel that can be put into direct drive works best for mooching, as the bait can be lowered by simply letting go of the handle while holding your thumb lightly against the spool and allowing line to peel out, or raised by reeling in. However, finding a direct drive reel is getting harder each year. You might have to look for a used one. A standard level wind reel will also work. Moochers will generally use a main line of 10-20 pounds, and leaders of 8-15 pounds. Leaders can be tied with either 1 or 2 hooks (Photo 5), and there are many ways to attach the herring to the hooks (Photo 6). You should match your hook size to the size of herring you are fishing. For example, a 4/0 hook closest to the rod and a 3/0 hook away from the rod match up well with “green pack” (5-6”) herring.

Photo 4. Level wind reel with direct drive feature

Moochers raise and lower the bait in the water column using their rod and reel, causing it to spin, or they simply allow the movement of the boat and waves to impart an action on the bait. When mooching, you should attempt to keep your line angle at 45 degrees. You can change the line angle by using a lighter or heavier weight. If the line angle gets near vertical, the leader will tend to wrap around the mainline, leaving a nasty tangle and an ineffective bait. If the current is moving very fast, the angler can use their boat motor to “back” into the current until they achieve the 45-degree angle. Conversely, if the current is moving very slow, you can move forward in spurts until the correct angle is achieved. You can approach mooching a couple of different ways. Some anglers will work the entire water column, letting the bait down say 10 feet, reeling up 3 or 4, letting down another 10, reeling up 3 or 4, etc. until they have reached the bottom. You can then start over again, or work the bait back up through the water column in the same manner. Other moochers prefer to fish at a particular depth. They let their line out until they are at the depth they wish, then work the bait up down at that depth, or let the wave and boat action work the bait up and down.

Photo 5. Standard mooching leader and hook setup.

Jigging

Another popular method of drift fishing is jigging. When jigging, anglers use a fish-shaped, lead jig (Photo 7) that they move up and down with sweeps of their rod. A shorter, stiffer rod works better for jigging. For example, a 7 ½ foot rod rated for 4 or 6 ounce lures is a great choice. As with the moochers, a direct drive level wind reel is ideal for jigging. The newer “Spectra” based lines are the best to use for jigging. These lines have very little stretch and allow you to feel every little tap on your jig. Use 10-20# line for your mainline. When fishing at depths greater than 100’, the Spectra lines are almost a necessity. You may want to use a 3-4’ monofilament leader when jigging. Jigs can cause a lot of line twist. So use a good quality swivel between your mainline and leader to prevent line twist. 

Photo 6. Cut plug herring rigged with hooks

Jigs can be fished either vertically or horizontally. To fish vertically, let your line out to the desired depth, and raise and lower the jig continuously. You can vary the speed and distance that you jig, or even change after every 4 or 5 jigging motions. To fish horizontally, cast the jig out and let it sink however long you want. The longer you let it sink, the deeper it will go. When you reach your desired depth, pull the rod towards you; this causes the jig to rise. Then push the rod back in the direction of the jig and reel up any slack line; this causes the jig to fall. Pull towards you, push away and reel, pull and reel, etc, until you have retrieved the jig. The jig will be rising and falling all the way in on the retrieve.

Photo 7. Salmon jigs.

While jigs come in many sizes, shapes and colors, you can get started with just a few. Good colors to start with are chrome or white. Jigs weighing 2, 4, and 6 ounces will cover most of the fishing situations you might encounter.

Fly fishing

With the recent exploding interest in fly fishing there has been a growing interesting in chasing salmon in the salt with the fly rod. For years some of the most exciting fishing in Washington has been “bucktailing” during the mid-summer period on the outer straits. This entails trolling a skipping bucktail fly in the wake of the boat for the activity feeding coho. The fishery developed in the Neah Bay area during the latter part of the summer and entails trolling at a fast pace with the unweighted fly skipping near the boat in its wake. Traditional polar bear coho flies (in blue/white, green/white, chartreuse/white, etc) were used in this fishery (Photo 8).

Photo 8. Polar bear coho fly.

With improving fly lines, more and more anglers are looking to take salmon on cast flies. Coho salmon are the primary target for this fishing though Chinook, pinks, and chum can all be taken on the fly while they are in saltwater. Typically the actively feeding coho have offered the best chance for the fly angler to present their fly to the fish. The feeding coho that have chased one of the baitfish (herring, candle fish, etc) to the surface are the easiest fish to take. The observant angler should be able to detect this feeding activity by the wheeling birds, and splashes of the feeding salmon. Often this activity is along the various tide rips.

Successful flies include any of the bait fish imitating patterns with chartreuse and white, and pink and white being two popular colors. Fly size for these streamer type flies range from 2 to 5 inches in length. Many anglers opt to use weighed flies, often the “Clouser” type with lead “dumbbell” eyes. Flies with large heads and/or eyes often increase the effectiveness of the fly. Both floating and fast sinking lines are used depending on the feeding depth of the fish. Most anglers opt for fly rods in the 6 to 8 weight range equipped with reels that have decent drags.

Photo 9. Motor mooching or slow trolling setup

While the basic gear used for steelhead and other freshwater fish are perfectly serviceable in the salt waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it is important to remember to thoroughly rinse the gear with running freshwater after each day’s fishing.

Trolling

Trolling consists of fishing out of a constantly moving boat. Trollers will use weights, divers, or downriggers to achieve a desired depth to present their bait or lures. Trolling is more effective than drift fishing when salmon are spread out over a large area. Trolling with a downrigger is probably the most popular method of salmon fishing in saltwater in Washington.

Photo 10. Older style fiberglass salmon rod used to troll with heavy weights or divers

Motor mooching

Motor mooching is trolling with the same banana shaped weight and cut plug herring used by drift moochers (Photo 1). Most anglers fishing this way troll slowly with a plug-cut herring (Photo 2), although a few anglers will substitute a small spoon for the herring. Some anglers alternately put their motor into and out of gear to change depth and speed, and impart a different action to the bait. This is the simplest form of trolling and is cherished by folks that want to minimize the amount of gear needed and enjoy each fish caught.

Almost any type of rod and reel will work when trolling, as long as it is matched to the weight you are using (Photo 9). Historically, salmon anglers often used 6’ heavy fiberglass rods for trolling (Photo 10). Over the past 3 decades, lighter graphite rods have become more popular. An 8 ½ to 9 foot rod rated for 20-30 pound line and 2-6 ounce lures or weights would make a good choice. Most anglers prefer a quality level wind reel, but in a pinch you can get by with a heavy spinning reel. For trolling close to the surface, use 1 or 2 ounce sinkers. For trolling deep, use 3 to 8 ounce sinkers. You can also vary the depth you fish by the amount of line you let out. Many

Photo 11. Trolling divers

anglers count the amount of line they let out by the number of times they pull line off the reel up to the first guide on their rod. These are called “pulls” and can be used to either standardize all the baits to the same depth, or set out gear at different depths to find where the fish are. For example, a good combination for coho is 3 ounces of lead at 30 pulls. If you catch a fish at that depth combination, you will want to lower back to the same depth. If you aren’t catching fish, try adding or subtracting weight or letting out more or less pulls of line.

The standard 20-25 pound mainline works well for motor mooching, but you could also go down to 15 pound. Leaders in the 10-20 pound range all work well. Most anglers prefer a heavier leader for chinook and a lighter leader for coho. For chinook, fish close to kelp beds or other structures and troll slowly, less than 2 mph and close to the bottom. Start with blue or purple pack herring for chinook. For coho, find tide and/or current rips that concentrate bait and coho, and troll faster, 2-4 mph. Use green pack herring or smaller for coho, and stay near the surface.

Photo 12. Flasher

Divers

Trolling with a diver employs a stout rod with heavy line and a diving mechanism or diver (Photo 11) that takes the lure or bait to a specified depth. A diver can actually fish at depths up to 100’. When a fish strikes, the diver “trips” and stops diving. The tripped diver also does not pull as hard against the rod and you don’t have to fight it and the fish at the same time. Before downriggers became popular, divers were a common method that anglers used to fish deep. Divers are still used by folks that enjoy the simplicity of the gear or don’t have downriggers, or in certain situations were anglers feel that downriggers might spook the fish. For example, divers are still used extensively in the lower Columbia River (Buoy 10) during August and September. While a diver will get your gear down deep, they can put a tremendous strain on your rod, which is in part why historically salmon rods were short, heavy fiberglass rods. A quality graphite rod rated for 30-50 pound line will do the trick when fishing with divers. A lighter rod can be used, but the divers are very hard on them and the rod may not last very long. A quality level wind reel is again the reel of choice. Use 30-40 pound mainline to ensure you don’t lose your gear. Because you will be using heavier mainline than used in other types of trolling, you may need a reel with a larger line capacity.

Table 1. Recommended leader lengths between flasher and lure or bait

 

 

8″ Flasher

8″ Flasher

11″ Flasher

11″ Flasher

 

Hootchies

Lures or bait

Hootchies

Lures or bait

Chinook

26″ – 36″

26″ – 48″

36″ – 50″

42″ – 72″

Blackmouth

20″ – 24″

20″ – 36″

20″ – 34″

20″ – 56″

Coho

22″ – 30″

22″ – 48″

26″ – 40″

24″ – 42″

Pink

18″ – 24″

18″ – 36″

27″

42″

 

Generally, anglers will use a diver with a dodger or flasher (Photo 12) and either a bait or lure (hardware). The old standby of a cut plug herring is always a good choice. Lures include hootchiesbucktailsspoons or plugs (Photos 13 – 16). Whether you decide to use bait or lures, you should generally rig all of your rods with the same type of gear to ensure that you are fishing each setup effectively. For example, it is very difficult to fish a cut plug herring on one rod and a spoon on the other, because the cut plug herring needs to be trolled at a much slower speed than the spoon. So try to stick with all bait or all hardware.

A plug cut herring or a spoon can be used without a dodger or flasher and the fish caught tend to fight better because they aren’t dragging the dodger/flasher through the water. However, if using a hootchie or bucktail, you must use a dodger or flasher to give the hootchie or bucktail action. The dodger or flasher causes the hootchie or bucktail to dart erratically from side to side. A dodger sways from side to side without rotating all the way around. A flasher rotates a full 360o. Adjust the boat speed to achieve the proper motion from the dodger or flasher. Fish with either dodgers or flashers, not both at the same time, because there isn’t a boat speed that is optimal for both. Use 40-60 pound leader between flashers or dodgers and hootchies or bucktails, as the heavy line will transmit more of the action from the dodger/flasher to the hootchie or bucktail than lighter line will. The length of leader between the flasher and lure is the subject of much debate. Each type of lure has a different leader length that it fishes best at, and different leader lengths seem to work better for each species of salmon. The following recommendations are just general guidance, don’t be afraid to experiment with different leader lengths.

Photo 17. Electric downrigger

Downriggers

A downrigger is simply a large reel and boom with wire line that is used to lower a heavy lead ball to a specified depth. There are both manual and electric downriggers (Photos 17 and 18). A “release” mechanism (Photo 19) is used to

Photo 18. Manual downrigger with cannon ball attached

attach the fishing line to the lead “cannonball”. This mechanism releases the fishing line when a fish has been hooked, allowing the angler to fight the fish without the burden of heavy weights or divers. Using a downrigger to control the depth while trolling is probably the most popular method of saltwater salmon fishing today. When used in conjunction with a quality fish finder, the ability to put your gear at the exact depth that fish are at can be extremely effective. Secondarily, anglers can use lighter rods and still fish at great depths. The lighter rods allow you to enjoy the fight of the fish. A good downrigger rod generally is more limber than other salmon rods. Rods from 8 to 10 feet in length and rated for 12-30 pound line work well. Again, a quality level wind reel is superior for downrigger fishing. Your mainline should be 20-30 pounds. Leader weight and length depend on the type of lure or bait fished. Most downrigger anglers use a flasher or dodger, although they are not essential unless you are using a hootchie or bucktail. Behind the dodger/flasher, use either a cut plug herring, a spoon, a hootchie, or a bucktail as described in the diver section above. With the most common plastic flashers, put an 11” flasher 8’ to 20’ behind the downrigger ball, and put an 8” flasher 10’ to 20’ behind the ball.

Photo 19. Line release for use with downrigger

Fishing with downriggers requires a little more planning than other types of fishing. If you are fishing with more than one downrigger, you should fish them at depths that are at least 5’ apart to minimize the chance of tangling the lines on a turn. The deeper you fish, the more important it is to separate the lines. You should also pay close attention to the depth of the water, especially if the bottom is rocky or snaggy, and ensure that you are fishing above the bottom. You should only allow your cannonballs to hit the bottom in areas you know are sandy or silty. Retrieving a snagged 10-15 pound cannonball attached with 150 pound wire line can be very difficult and usually results in a lost cannonball, a broken wire, and lost fishing tackle. Finally, it may be helpful to install a stainless steel propeller guard (Photo 20) on your kicker motor (or your only motor if it is 25 horsepower of less). The guard will help prevent your downrigger wires and fishing lines from becoming tangled in the propeller.

Finding salmon

Knowing the habits of salmon is important for figuring out how to catch them. In general, each of the species can be found in the following areas:

Photo 20. Propeller guard for trolling motor

Chinook

Adult chinook salmon are usually found in two general habitats. Early in the morning or late in the evening, chinook can often be found cruising very close to shore, especially near kelp beds. At this time, they can be caught in 20’ to 120’ feet of water. They are most likely suspended in the water column, that is, they aren’t on

the bottom. In open water, chinook are going to be found were there is abundant bait. They can be anywhere from in the top 20’ of water to down on the bottom at depths of 200’ or deeper. Usually they will move deeper during the day as the sun gets brighter. A good starting depth for open water is between 40’ and 80’.

Blackmouth

These juvenile chinook are generally found within 10’ of the bottom at depths between 60’ and 150’. Occasionally they will be suspended, especially if there is lots of bait that is suspended.

Coho

Coho are an open water fish. The easiest way to find coho is to locate tide and/or current rips. These rips concentrate zooplankton and other invertebrates, which concentrate baitfish. Coho are often in the top 20’ of water, regardless of the time of day or weather. They can be found down to 70’ or 80’, but seldom are caught below 100’.

Pink

Pink are also an open water fish. However, they are not necessarily associated with tide rips. They can often be found at depths of 40’ to 80’.

Sockeye

Marine Areas 5, 6, and 7 Sockeye Fishing Techniques

Freshwater salmon fishing

Freshwater salmon fishing can be done from the shore or a boat, and many of the methods can be used either way. Boat fishing affords anglers some opportunities not available to shore anglers.

Drift fishing

Figure 1. Diagram showing standard strategy for salmon fishing a run or drift on a river.

Photo 1. A corky and yarn set up.

Drift fishing is a common method where the angler casts a line upstream, lets the line drift down through the run or pool, and then reels in the line to start the process over again. You can drift fish from the shore or an anchored boat. Generally, the idea is to weight your setup so it bounces along the bottom, touching every foot or so, at approximately the same speed the current is moving. More weight will slow down the speed at which your bait drifts downstream and less weight will speed up the drift. The usual strategy is to work the entire run from the shore closest to you to the shore furthest from you, and from the upstream end of the run (near the end of the riffle) to the downstream end of the run (near the start of the next riffle) (Figure 1). Under crowded conditions, you may simply have to work your way into a line of anglers and fish right where you are, without moving. Cast upstream at a 30-45 degree angle and let your bait bounce along until you reach a 45-30 degree angle downstream. Reel in and do it again. Your goal is to bounce your offering along the bottom until a fish picks it up with its mouth.

Photo 2. Two types of weights for drifting. On the left is a pencil lead and rubber tubing setup, on the right is a “slinky” weight.

Novice anglers often have trouble telling when a fish has picked up the bait versus when their gear has caught on a rock. Over time, an angler develops a feel for the difference and learns when to set the hook and when to gently coax the gear off of the rocks. When in doubt, set the hook.

Photo 3. Complete drift fishing set up.

Typical drift fishing gear includes an 8 ½ or 9 foot rod rated for 15-30 pound line, and either a bait casting reel or a spinning reel. For larger fish, like chinook salmon, use 20-25 pound line. For smaller fish, like pink salmon, use 10-15 pound line. There are an endless variety of weights, lures, floats, and/or baits that anglers can use. A standard setup for salmon often consists of a snap swivel at the end of the mainline, a leader from 12-48” to a single hook with egg loop, a corky on the line above the hook, and yarn on the hook (Photo 1). For weight, push the snap swivel through a ¾’ long piece of rubber tubing and then push a “pencil” lead into the tubing, or simply push the snap through the parachute cord of a “slinky” weight (Photos 2 and 3). Bait and/or scent can be added to this rig. Salmon roe and sand shrimp are the most popular baits to add to this setup, but many others can also be used. Instead of a corky and yarn setup, you can also substitute a winged bobber (Photo 4) or other drift bobbers, for the corky, or just fish bait alone. The weight and corky setup can also be removed and you can drift with spoons or spinners, bouncing them along the bottom and slowly retrieving them.

Plunking

Photo 5. Plunking from anchored boats.

Plunking employs a similar setup to drift fishing, except that the gear is cast into a likely holding area or migratory path, and allowed to anchor in one spot (Photo 5). The gear is then left alone until a fish strikes, or you decide to change gear. Active lures such as winged bobbers, spoon, spinners, or kwikfish are often used when plunking in current. Plunking can be done from shore or an anchored boat.

A very popular lure on the Columbia River is a kwikfish wrapped with a small filet of sardine or other fish (Photo 6). Use an 8½ to 9 foot, extra heavy rod. Your mainline should be 40-60 pound monofilament or spectra. At the end of your mainline, slip your line through the end of a swivel or slider, add 4-6 beads, and then tie to a swivel. Tie 4-6 feet of 40-60 pound monofilament leader to the other end of the swivel and then directly to the duo-lock snap on the kwikfish. Tie an 18-30” piece of 15 pound leader to the slider (or swivel that you ran the mainline through) and attach 1-8 ounces of lead. Most salmon anglers use sizes K13 to K16. Use the larger sizes in slow water and the smaller sizes in faster water.

Be sure to tune your kwikfish so that it tracks straight when you pull it upstream through the water. If it dives to the left, turn the screw eye clockwise. If it dives to the right, turn the screw eye counter-clockwise. Back the kwikfish downstream until the weight is firmly settled in place on the bottom and the kwikfish is still wobbling from side to side. Put your rod in a rod holder and don’t try to set the hook when a fish first hits. Let the fish pull the rod down to water level at least 3 times before trying to reel it in.

Thin bladed spoons can be plunked on lighter, or medium action, rods in smaller rivers or slower water (see Photo 7 and Photo 8). The size of the spoon is matched to the depth and current speed where it will be

fishing. They can be fished with weight and a dropper if necessary, or you can just “flatline” them in shallow water, that is, fish them without any added weight. Thin bladed spoons should be let out behind your boat until you reach the desired location, generally in 4-5 feet of water on the upstream side of a riffle. These spoons work best on lighter lines, around 15 pound test, and if you are fishing without weight, they work best when the line has a belly in it between the water and the tip of rod. Spoons are very effective on pink and coho salmon. Use smaller spoons (½ – 1½”) in pink, white, red, cerise, or combinations for pink salmon. For coho use medium size spoons (2 – 3”) with silver or brass blades that can also be painted. Popular colors are chartreuse, fluorescent pink, and fluorescent orange.

Where in a river to set your gear is a critical element of plunking. On larger rivers, try to set up on an inside curve where any fish migrating up that side have are forced around the point. In smaller rivers, look for tail-outs just upstream of riffles. These are areas that fish will rest in after swimming through the riffles. At low flows in small rivers, stay towards the main current, and look for areas where the current starts to slack up a

bit. In larger rivers, or small rivers at high flows, work the edges where the current isn’t too fast. Remember that upstream migrating salmon are looking for the easiest route up the river that offers enough cover that they feel safe from predators. That cover may be deep water, logs, boulders, a bubble curtain, or even the white water in a riffle.

Bobber or Float Fishing

Bobber or float fishing is often used in situations where water is very slow moving or even stationary, such as in a big eddy or tidewater at slack tide. Rods of 10-12’ are not uncommon for float fishing. Spectra lines are desirable because they don’t stretch and they float. To rig for float fishing, use a sliding float (Photo 9), a swivel, some weight to pull the line through the float, and a 12-24” leader to a bait or lure. A “bobber stop” and small bead are used to set the float at the depth you wish to fish. The bobber stop can be reeled through the rod guides if necessary for easier casting. Bobber stops can be

Photo 9. Slip bobber

purchased pre-tied, or you can tie your own with 15-30# Dacron using a uni-knot. Very early in the morning, you might find fish suspended off the bottom and will want to set your bobber stop so that your gear is at the depth you think fish are suspended at. Once the sun hits the water, salmon tend to move to the bottom and you should adjust your bobber stop so that your bait or lure is within a foot of the bottom. Serious bobber anglers use a longer rod than drifters or trollers, and switch their mainline to a no-stretch Spectra based line. (See diagram of a common slip bobber set up)

When fishing in current, you will need to “mend” the line occasionally. Mending generally means lifting and/or flipping the line so that any belly is removed and the line is then in a straight line between the rod and bobber. The line needs to be mended to ensure a good hookset if the bobber goes down. Spectra based lines float and are therefore easier to mend, and their lack of stretch ensures that all of the hookset is transmitted to the bait or lure. Salmon eggs are the top choice for bait, although sand shrimp are very popular for chinook salmon. Some anglers like to fish both at the same time. Marabou jigs (Photo 10) can be used instead of bait and can be especially effective on pink salmon, or other salmon when the water is very low and clear.

Trolling

Trolling consists of fishing out of a constantly moving boat. Trollers will use weights, divers, or downriggers to achieve a desired depth to present their bait or lures. Freshwater trolling for salmon is conducted primarily in the lower ends of larger rivers, such as the Columbia River, where incoming tides cause river flows to slow down or even reverse such that the flow is upstream. The standard drift fishing rod equipped with 20-25 pound line can be used for river or bay salmon trolling. Trolling setups are usually comprised of a three-way swivel at the end of the mainline, a 12-36” dropper line and weight off the center of the three way swivel, and a 4-8’ foot leader with twin hooks and a cut plug herring or lure.

Instead of a cutplug herring, you can also troll spinners (Photo 11)plugs (Photo 12), kwikfish, or bait harnesses (Photo 13).

Photo 14. In-line rotating flasher.

Weights are usually 2-8 ounces depending on the speed of the current and boat. The dropper line used for the weight is usually lighter than the mainline so that the dropper breaks before the mainline if the weight becomes snagged. Many anglers now use an in-line rotating flasher along with their herring (Photo 14).

Rig the in-line flasher between the three-way swivel and the herring, ensuring that the distance from the swivel to the flasher is longer than the distance of the weight dropper line.

When fishing for spring chinook, try to stay near the bottom, bouncing your weight often. Fish at the depth your fish finder shows fish for fall chinook and coho. Bottom is always a good bet for chinook. For coho, you may not even need weight

for your lures and can sometimes find fish quite close to the surface. Trolling can also be effective in estuaries such as the mouth of the Columbia River (Buoy 10), Willapa Bay, or Grays Harbor, and in extreme terminal marine areas such as the mouth of the Nisqually River.

Salmon fishing in estuaries and tidewater

Tidewater (or estuary) fisheries offer small boat owners access to ocean bright fish, often in high densities. These fisheries can be very popular as demonstrated by the extremely popular “Buoy 10” fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River. This is not a place to go for solitude, peace and quiet. But it is a place where fishing can be fast and furious. Other well known tidewater locations include Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. However, any river entering the Pacific Ocean or Puget Sound has the potential to offer some exceptional salmon fishing in tidal influenced areas.

There are three major types of tidewater fishing, and a handful of other methods. The majority of anglers will be trolling, plunking, or fishing under a bobber or float.

Trolling

Photo 1. Typical baitcasting outfit for salmon trolling.

Trolling is probably the most popular method of fishing tidewater. Trolling consists of fishing out of a constantly moving boat. Trollers use weights, divers, or downriggers to achieve a desired depth to present their bait or lures. The standard drift fishing rod equipped

Photo 2. Spinning reel

with 20-25 pound line can be used for river or bay salmon trolling. An 8 ½ or 9 foot rod rated for 15-30 pound line, and either a bait casting reel or a spinning reel works well for trolling (Photos 1 and 2). Use at least 20-25 pound line for tidewater trolling, as these fish usually fight extremely hard. Trolling setups are usually comprised of a three-way swivel at the end of the mainline, a 12-36” dropper line and weight off the center of the three way swivel, and a 4-8’ foot leader with twin hooks and a cut plug herring or lure. You can also rig a sliding weight set up instead of a three-way swivel.

Instead of a cutplug herring, you can also troll spinners (Photo 3)plugs (Photo 4), kwikfish, or bait harnesses (Photo 5).

Photo 6. In-line rotating flasher

Weights are usually 2-8 ounces depending on the speed of the current and boat. The dropper line used for the weight is usually lighter than the mainline so that the dropper breaks before the mainline if the weight becomes snagged. Many anglers now use an in-line rotating flasher along with their herring (Photo 6).

Rig the in-line flasher between the three-way swivel and the herring, ensuring that the distance from the swivel to the flasher is longer than the distance of the weight dropper line.

When fishing deeper waters at Buoy 10, use a diver (Photo 7) or downrigger (Photo 8) to get your gear down. When its crowded, be sure to keep your lines as close to your boat as possible so you don’t get tangled with the lines from nearby boats. If someone on your boat hooks a fish, be sure to move your boat away from the others to fight it, and if you’re next to a boat that hooks a fish, move away so they can land it.

Fish at the depth your fish finder shows fish for fall chinook and coho. Bottom is always a good bet for chinook. For coho, you may not even need weight for your lures and can sometimes find fish quite close to the surface.

Photo 9. Plunking from anchored boats.

Plunking

Plunking employs a similar setup to drift fishing, except that the gear is cast into a likely holding area or migratory path, and allowed to anchor in one spot (Photo 9). The gear is then left alone until a fish strikes, or you decide to change gear. Active lures such as winged bobbers, spoon, spinners, or kwikfish are often used when plunking in current. Plunking can be done from shore or an anchored boat.

A very popular lure on the Columbia River is a kwikfish wrapped with a small filet of sardine or other fish (Photo 10). Use an 8½ to 9 foot, extra heavy rod. Your mainline should be 40-60 pound monofilament or spectra. At the end of your mainline, slip your line through the end of a swivel or slider, add 4 beads, and then tie to a swivel.

Tie 4-6 feet of 40-60 pound monofilament leader to the other end of the swivel and then directly to the duo-lock snap on the kwikfish. Tie an 18-30” piece of 15 pound leader to the slider (or swivel that you ran the mainline through) and attach 1-8 ounces of lead. Most salmon anglers use sizes K13 to K16. Use the larger sizes in slow water and the smaller sizes in faster water.

Be sure to tune your kwikfish so that it dives straight down when you pull it upstream through the water. If it dives to the left, turn the screw eye clockwise. If it dives to the right, turn the screw eye counter-clockwise. Back the kwikfish downstream until the weight is firmly settled in place on the bottom and the kwikfish is still wobbling from side to side. Put your rod in a rod holder and don’t try to set the hook when a fish first hits. Let the fish pull the rod down to water level at least 3 times before trying to reel it in.

Thin bladed spoons can be plunked on lighter, or medium action, rods in smaller rivers or slower water (Photo 11 and  Photo 12). The size of the spoon is matched to the depth and current speed where it will be fishing. They can be fished with weight and a dropper if necessary, or you can just “flatline” them in shallow water, that is, fish them without any added weight. Thin bladed spoons should be let out behind your boat until you reach the desired location, generally in 4-5 feet of water on the upstream side of a riffle. These spoons work best on lighter lines, around 15 pound test, and if you are fishing without weight, they work best when the line has a belly in it between the water and the tip of rod. Spoons are very effective on pink and coho salmon. Use smaller spoons (½ – 1½”) in pink, white, red, cerise, or combinations for pink salmon. For coho use medium size spoons (2 – 3”) with silver or brass blades that can also be painted. Popular colors are chartreuse, fluorescent pink, and fluorescent orange.

Where in a river to set your gear is a critical element of plunking. On larger rivers, try to set up on an inside curve where any fish migrating up that side have are forced around the point. In smaller rivers, look for tail-outs just upstream of riffles. These are areas that fish will rest in after swimming through the riffles. At low flows in small rivers, stay towards the main current, and look for areas where the current starts to slack up a bit. In larger rivers, or small rivers at high flows, work the edges where the current isn’t too fast. Remember that upstream migrating salmon are looking for the easiest route up the river that offers enough cover that they feel safe from predators. That cover may be deep water, logs, boulders, a bubble curtain, or even the white water in a riffle.

Bobber or Float Fishing

Bobber or float fishing is a very popular method in British Columbia and Oregon, but isn’t seen often in Washington, except during steelhead season. Bobbers are usually used in situations where water is very slow moving or even stagnant, such as in a big eddy or tidewater at slack tide. However, you can fish under a bobber in moving water. Rods of 10-12’ are not uncommon for float fishing. Spectra lines are desirable because they don’t stretch and they float. To rig for float fishing, use a sliding float (Photo 13), a swivel, some weight to pull the line through the float, and a 12-24” leader to a bait or lure. A “bobber stop” and small bead are used to set the float at the depth you wish to fish. The bobber stop can be reeled through the rod guides if necessary for easier casting. Bobber stops can be purchased pre-tied, or you can tie your own with 15-30# Dacron using a uni-knot. Very early in the morning, you might find fish suspended off the bottom and will want to set your bobber stop so that your gear is at the depth you think fish are suspended at. Once the sun hits the water, salmon tend to move to the bottom and you should adjust your bobber stop so that your bait or lure is within a foot of the bottom. Serious bobber anglers use a longer rod than drifters or trollers, and switch their mainline to a no-stretch Spectra based line.

When fishing in current, you will need to “mend” the line occasionally. Mending generally means lifting and/or flipping the line so that any belly is removed and the line is then in a straight line between the rod and bobber. The reason for mending the is to ensure a good hookset if the bobber goes down. If you have a big belly in the line, all you accomplish with the hookset is taking the belly out. Spectra based lines float and are therefore easier to mend, and their lack of stretch ensures that all of the hookset is transmitted to the bait or lure. Salmon eggs are the top choice for bait, although sand shrimp are very popular for chinook salmon. Some anglers like to fish both at the same time. Marabou jigs (Photo 14) can be used instead of bait and can be especially effective on pink salmon, or other salmon when the water is very low and clear.

Most of the time, a salmon will simply pull the entire bobber under water in one smooth motion. You need to set the hook hard with a big sweep of the rod when that happens to ensure a good hookset. Because your line runs to the bobber and then down, you don’t have a straight shot to the hooks. Therefore you need to pull enough to straighten the line out and move the hooks. Occasionally salmon will just mouth your bait without pulling the bobber under and it may simply quiver or dance, or even just stop. Experienced bobber anglers set the hook whenever something unusual happens. When fishing a bobber in tidewater, small fish such as pile perch, sculpins, or even smolts, can be frustrating because they may try to eat your bait. When these small fish are abundant, they will constantly cause your bobber to dance and quiver. But you must set the hook when it does this, because it may be a salmon. You might set the hook 20 times on these small fish, but on that 21st time, you’ll only get halfway back and be firmly into a nice chinook.

Be sure to keep an eye on your bobber when fishing this way. When the fishing is slow, its very easy to get distracted or lose interest and look away from your bobber. Invariably, when you turn back to find your bobber, you won’t see it anywhere. Just about the time you start to mutter to yourself “where did my bobber go?”, it will come floating back up after a fish has let it go.

Selecting the right rod, reel and tackle for freshwater species

Information source: myodfw.com

Consider these a starting point. There are lots of other alternatives – talk to eight different anglers about what they use to catch trout and you’re likely to get eight different answers, based on their experiences and personal preferences. None of them are wrong, just different.

So here are our suggestions for getting started. All purpose starter outfit for:

Trout, bass, panfish

  • Rod: 5.5 feet long, medium action
  • Reel: spincast
  • Line: 6-12 pound monofilament
  • Lure and tackle: #7 snap swivel, size 8 bait hook, #5 lead split shot, bobber, PowerBait
  • Other lures to consider: many kinds of natural and synthetic baits, spinners, jigs, poppers

Also suitable for many bass fishing situations.

Light trout and panfish

  • Rod: 5 feet long, ultra-light action
  • Reel: spinning
  • Line: 2-6 pound monofilament
  • Lure and tackle: 1/6 oz. Rooster Tail spinner
  • Other lures to consider: many kinds of natural and synthetic baits, spinners, crappie jigs, poppers

Larger bass

  • Rod: 6.5 feet long, medium action
  • Reel: baitcasting
  • Line: 6-15 pound monofilament
  • Lure and tackle: 3/8 oz. jig with weed guard
  • Other lures to consider: many kinds of natural and synthetic baits, spinnerbaits, poppers, crankbaits

Also suitable for trout and panfish.

Trout, panfish, and bass fly-fishing

  • Rod: 9 feet long, 5-weight, medium/fast action
  • Reel: fly reel
  • Line: weight forward floating
  • Lure and tackle: 7.5 foot, 4x leader, wooly bugger (streamer)
  • Other lures to consider: wet flies, nymphs, dry flies, small poppers

All-purpose steelhead

  • Rod: 8.5 feet long, medium/heavy action
  • Reel: baitcasting
  • Line: 8-12 pound monofilament
  • Lure and tackle: #5 spinner
  • Other lures to consider: plugs, steelhead jigs

Steelhead jig fishing

  • Rod: 10′ 9″ feet long, light/medium action
  • Reel: spinning
  • Line: 6-10 pound monofilament
  • Lure and tackle: 3/8 oz. swivel weight, 1/8 oz. jig, 1/2 oz. West Coast slip bobber, bobber stops
  • Other lures to consider: spinners

Steelhead fly-fishing with single-handed rod

  • Rod: 9 feet long, 8-weight, medium/fast action
  • Reel: fly reel
  • Line: weight forward floating for an 8-weight rod
  • Lure and tackle: 9 foot, 12-pound leader, steelhead wet fly
  • Other lures to consider: steelhead nymphs, skating (dry) flies

Steelhead fly-fishing, two-handed rod (Spey)

  • Rod: 14 feet long, 9-weight, fast action
  • Reel: fly reel large enough to accommodate spey line
  • Line: Skagit spey line for a 9-weight
  • Lure and tackle: 15 foot sinking tip, 3 foot 12-pound leader, stinger-style winter steelhead fly
  • Sinking tip effective for winter steelhead. Change to a floating tip for summer fish.

All-purpose salmon

  • Rod: 9.5 feet long, medium to heavy action
  • Reel: level wind
  • Line: 15-30 pound braided
  • Lure and tackle: spreader bar, 5-8 oz. dropper, spin ‘n glo, #2 octopus hook baited with artificial salmon eggs
  • Other lures to consider: spinners, plugs, wobblers

All-purpose sturgeon

  • Rod: 7 feet long, heavy action
  • Reel: level wind
  • Line: 25-40 pound braided
  • Lure and tackle: barrel slider with 5-8 oz. weight, 6/0 hook
  • Baits: smelt, squid, anchovies, sand shrimp

All-purpose walleye

  • Rod: 8.5 feet long, heavy action
  • Reel: spinning
  • Line: 12-30 pound monofilament
  • Lure and tackle: bottom dragger weight system, wedding ring baited with worm
  • Other lures to consider: walleye harness

Steelhead Fishing techniques

Information source: myodfw.com

Anglers can choose from a variety of techniques when fishing for steelhead, but regardless of the type of gear used, there are three keys to catching a steelhead:

  • Spend time on the water. Get to know a river and hone your technique, and you will land more fish than if you chase after every “hot lead.”
  • Cover water efficiently. Keep your lure or bait near the bottom and methodically fish every part of a run or pool
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Have confidence in the water you’re fishing and the lure/bait you’re using.

Bobber and jig/bait – This is a good technique for both bank and beginning steelhead anglers. A weighted jig or bait is tied below a floating bobber and drifted in the current. When the bobber dives, stops or wobbles, set the hook!

Drift fishing – The bait or lure is bounced along the bottom with the help of a significant weight. The key is to keep the bait near the bottom of the water and drifting along at the same speed as the current. Getting a natural presentation and detecting the subtle takes of steelhead make this a difficult technique to master. But its effectiveness makes it one of the most widely-used steelhead fishing techniques.

Plunking – A heavy weight holds bait or a spinner-type bobber stationary in the current near the bottom of a river. This is a great technique when water levels are very high and steelhead are holding or traveling in soft waters near the bank. Good for beginners or anglers with limited mobility.

Spinners – Many anglers are familiar with the cast and retrieve method, but those that master the cast and swing presentation often have better luck with steelhead. This involves casting the spinner slightly upstream and letting if drift naturally in the current and then “swing” toward the bank.

Pulling plugs (aka hot-shotting, backtrolling) – A plug is a plastic lure designed to dive and wiggle in the current. While they are often pulled behind a boat where they can move and wiggle in the water as the boat drifts downstream, plugs also can be cast from the bank and slowly swung in the current.

Fly-fishing – A challenging but rewarding technique for targeting steelhead. Anglers use single or double-handed rods to swing flies through the current, or a nymph/indicator rig to drift a nymph near the bottom.

Equipment

Most steelhead rods tend to be a little lighter and more sensitive than salmon rods. A good all-purpose rod might be an 8 ½ footer rated for 8-12 pound test line with a medium heavy action. Most experienced anglers prefer a bait casting set-up over a spinning set-up.

Of course there also are specialized rods for different fishing techniques (pulling plugs, bobber/jig, fly-fishing, etc.) and if you’re purchasing a rod for steelhead fishing you should consider a number of things:

  • Type of fishing you’ll be doing the most (drift fishing, plunking, pulling plugs, etc.)
  • Size of the lure to be cast
  • Type of reel (bait casting, spinning)
  • Size of line (#12, #20)
  • Rod length (casting on large streams, small streams with lots of brush, fishing from a boat)
  • Warranty

Steelhead fishing ethics

Steelhead fishing is very popular in Oregon and chances are you’re going to be sharing a run or pool with another angler. A certain steelhead fishing etiquette has evolved that helps create an enjoyable fishing experience for all. Some key elements include:

  • If you’re fishing from a boat, be sure to give bank anglers plenty of room. And don’t anchor in the middle of a hole if there are people fishing it from
    the bank.
  • Leave plenty of room between you and your neighbor on the bank. A good rule of thumb is to leave as much room as you would like another angler to leave you.
  • A new angler typically steps into a pool or run upstream (or above) the other angler’s position because most steelhead anglers gradually move downstream in order to cover the entire run. If you’re not sure what direction another angler is moving, ask them. Most anglers are happy to have you follow them through a run.
  • Treat all anglers the way you would like to be treated.

Tackle for trout fishing

Information source: myodfw.com

The list of necessary trout fishing gear and equipment can be very simple. A rod and reel, and a small selection of lures, bait hooks, bobbers and artificial bait is enough to go fishing just about anywhere you might find trout. A good shopping list to get started might include:

  • A lightweight 6-foot spincasting or spinning rod with matching reel and 4-6 pound monofilament line
  • A handful of 1/16 oz. spinners
  • Package of size 8 bait hooks
  • Couple of red/white bobbers
  • Jar of PowerBait or PowerEggs
  • A package of #5 lead split shot
  • Worms

Fly-fishing is another popular way to fish for trout. It requires more specialized equipment and tools, but a good starter outfit could include:

  • Graphite 5-weight fly rod, 9 feet long
  • Matching fly reel
  • Weight forward, 5-weight fly line
  • Tapered monofilament leaders, 4x 7.5 feet long
  • Spools of 4x and 5x tippet
  • Assorted streamside tools
  • Flies

Fishing techniques for lakes and ponds

There are lots (and lots) of ways to fish for trout, but three of the easiest ways to fish for trout in lakes are:

  • Suspending bait under a bobber. Start with a piece of worm or a little PowerBait or similar product on a bait hook. Attach a small, lead weight just above the hook to help the bait sink, and add a bobber 1 ½ to 3 feet above the hook. Cast out to a likely spot and wait for the bobber to wiggle, dive or jerk. This is a good technique when fish are cruising nearer the surface or when you want to keep your bait and hook suspended above a weed bed.
  • Fishing with bait off the bottom. Sometimes trout are in deeper water and the bait needs to be down deep where the fish are. In this technique there is no bobber to suspend the bait. Instead the lead weight is attached about 1 ½ feet above the baited hook and cast out. The lead weight will sink, but the bait will float up and hover 1 ½ feet above the bottom of the lake.
  • Retrieving a spinner, spoon or fly. Spinners mimic small minnows, leeches and other favorite trout food. When fishing a spinner or spoon, cast it over trout-habitat-looking water. Let it sink for a minute then begin reeling it in (retrieving). Vary the amount of time you let the spinner sink and the speed of the retrieve until you find the combination that catches fish.

Fishing techniques for rivers and streams

In moving water it is the current, instead of your retrieve, that will affect how your lure moves in the water. Some good trout fishing techniques for moving waters include:

  • Casting a spinner or spoon. Begin by casting the spinner slightly upriver and reel in any slack line.
  • As the current carries the spinner down river, hold as much fishing line off the water as you can to achieve a natural “drift.” Once the spinner has swung toward the shore and is straight down river, begin a moderate retrieve.
  • Drifting a worm or an artificial bait (PowerBait, for example) with enough split shot to get within a few inches of the bottom. Sometimes adding a bobber will help keep track of where the bait is drifting.
  • NOTE: Where a river slows and deepens into a pool with very little current, you can use many of the same trout fishing techniques you would use in a small pond or other still water.

A final word about keeping fish

Each year, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks over 7 million trout in lakes, ponds and reservoirs throughout the state. These hatchery fish are raised and stocked for anglers to take home and enjoy on the grill or in the frying pan or oven.

However, most trout in rivers and streams are wild fish that reproduce naturally. Some anglers prefer to release these fish so they can be caught again, or perhaps reproduce. In a handful of rivers and lakes, catch-and-release fishing is required. If you’re going to release the fish you catch, here are some tips for doing it safely:

  • Use barbless hooks.
  • Land the fish quickly, before it tires too much.
  • Wet your hands before handling the fish, and try not to remove it from the water.
  • If you’re going to take a photo, have the camera set and the scene composed before lifting the fish out of the water and quickly take the picture.
  • Use needle-nosed pliers or hemostats to remove the hook. If the hook is deeply imbedded, cut the leader near the hook, which will rust away after a few days.
  • Revive the fish in the current before letting it go.

Warm Water Basic fishing tackle

Information source: myodfw.com

A 5½ to 7 foot medium-action rod with spin cast reel is easiest to operate for a beginner

  • 4- to 8-pound test line
  • Hooks – Variety pack of bait-holder style with sizes 10, 12 or 14 for sunfish, crappies and perch, and sizes 4, 6 or 8 for bass, walleyes and catfish
  • Sinkers – Variety pack with several sizes of split shot, sliding, and dropper styles
  • Bobbers – Small tapered ones have less resistance and are less easily detected by fish when they bite
  • Small barrel swivels (for slip-sinker rig)
  • Crappie jigs

Rigging up

Different rigs and baits may work better at particular places and times of year, so ask a local bait or tackle shop for up-to-date fishing information.

Rigging up

Different rigs and baits may work better at particular places and times of year, so ask a local bait or tackle shop for up-to-date fishing information.

Bobber and bait (or fly) rig for sunfish and perch

Bobber and jig rig for crappie

Bait and slip-sinker rig for catfish