Fishing for Chinook Salmon or “King Salmon.”
Fishing the North Coast of California out of Eureka is known for its salmon fishing. The reason for this is due to the overlapping of the northern and southern migration patterns. Salmon from the Sacramento rive systems, Klamath river system, Oregon, Washington, and British Colombia all converge and overlap out in front of Eureka! Although about 60% of the salmon come from the Sacramento rivers. There are many hatcheries up and down the seaboard and rearing pens in B.C..
There are many techniques to salmon fishing up and down the state and from charter to charter. We run a six pack vessel, so the way we run our rods may be very different that what you may expect. Usually we run 6 rods, 4 of which are run off the back with a double deep six, and two off the side with Cannon down riggers. Some use Scotty down riggers, I have personally used both, but I prefer the Cannon because of the positive ion control and the auto stop when the down rigger ball breaks the water.
Also I found that with the Scotty’s that the stop pills that you have to put on you retrieval line pop off when you don’t notice and it runs the down rigger ball in to your pulley and often breaks it off taking you out of thee game while you scramble for your spare ball and rigging. Now I’m not saying that the Cannons are without problems, because they aren’t. If they are not spooling the wire on correctly they can jump and create kinks that are prone to breaking and you can lose the ball that way also.
They need to be maintenance during the season and every year. The switches tend to stop working and the breakers and power cords also go bad. There really isn’t a fail proof down rigger out there that can stand up to the rigors of a charter boat. Those things go up and down hundreds of times a day, and if the fish are deep they get worked extra hard retrieving 15 pounds of weight all day long. At the end of the day the Cannons out fish the Scotty’s IMO.
Rods, reels and methods used while fishing for Salmon:
There is a large range of rods and reels used for fishing salmon so I’m going to talk about what I am using at the moment. The four rods I run off the back I use interchangeably with rock fishing. The are Penn jig sticks 6’6” with a Penn Squall 20 level wind reel. I run 65# braid with a terminal swivel to a double deep six followed buy a number 0 Dodger with a medium long leader and a cripple anchovy head and a tray bait anchovy. I usually run chrome Dodgers but you may want to change that up depending on water clarity.
Now this is where it gets weird, we use flashers on our down riggers while running Dodgers off the back! You ask why that is weird? It’s because they both run optimally at different speeds. A dodger is meant to swing back and forth, that’s why some people call them sling blades, and a flasher is meant to turn a slow circle! The way to get around that is to either use a pro troll flasher with the fin attached or pay particular attention to you speed. The best way to know if they are operating properly is to look at your gear just under the water!
The other way we fish is a technique called mooching. Mooching is done when the fish are schooled up in larger numbers. I use a banana weight with a 4 to 5 foot leader. You can do this a couple different ways. The way I do it is to tie a small live bait hook to the leader and run a bait needle through the eye of the anchovy and coming out near the vent then half hitch the line around the tail. You can also use tandem hook rigs with a cut plug bait. Often times the bigger fish are caught mooching because you are just drifting and the big fish don’t have to expend very much energy to get your bait! I use Lamaglass X-11 8’0” rod as they are noodley and they can pick up the bite when it happens, although sometimes you just see the line slowly move away from the boat. There are many alterations that you can do to mooching and trolling, I have only scratched the surface, so have fun if you try these ideas! Cheers, Captain Matt Dallam