Salmon Fishing Tips

Salmon Fishing Tips

In the Great Lakes and coastal oceans, the Salmon fish dominates. The fish thrives in the coastal oceans like the Pacific and can be as big as 100lbs. In the Great Lakes, the fish are in the range of 30lbs. These fish are fighters that even challenge stout tackles.

You can fish for salmon during both the warm and the cold months. In the warm months, the fish reside in deep waters and you can catch them from your boat. In the cold weather however, you can catch them near the shore, creek mouths, piers, harbors and even rivers.

In this article, we dive deeply into everything Salmon, and provide easy tips for catching them.

All About Salmon

The salmon is an andromonous fish that mainly lives in the ocean. Although they are cold-water fish, when their lifespan is ending after three to four years, they relocate to freshwater to spawn before they die.

There are multiple species of salmon in the Pacific Ocean. The species include: sockeye, pink, coho, chum and Chinook. Chinook are the biggest, weighing even over 100 pounds. However, the average salmon fish is less than 50 pounds. In the Great Lakes, the largest salmon is about 30 pounds, with the average being slightly less than half of that. There is also the Atlantic salmon that resides in both water bodies.

The first Pacific salmon to be stocked in the Great Lakes was the Coho. It was the first to be introduced to Lake Michigan’s tributaries. Late on, the Chinook was introduced. This triggered sports fishing in the Middle West and the stock numbers have remained stable at about 3 million every year in Lake Michigan.

Although the successful stocking of the Pacific Salmon in Great Lakes happened in mid-1960s, the population of the Chinook salmon has still remained low.

The Great Lakes Salmon behave in a similar manner as their ocean sisters. They spend their whole life, three to four years, in lakes feeding. When they are almost dying, they relocate to spawn in the tributaries.

Salmon Fishing Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

#Catching Salmon in rivers

The tactic used by shore fishermen to catch salmon is also used in the lower regions of the ocean tributaries and Great Lakes. This tactic involves using a little weight to drift the spawn from the bottom. You can also use large spinners.

As the salmon move closer to their spawning grounds, they become less active. This makes it more difficult to catch them.

#Lures to use trolling

There are multiple lures that fishermen can pick from when fishing salmon. The most common are the large spoons. You can get these in many brands. However, the most important thing is to ensure the spoon size resembles local forage.

Another popular lure is the dodger and fly. Minnow-imitating plugs can also work as well.

Whatever the gadget you are using, your focus should be on locating the correct depth of the fish, after which you can adjust the size, shape or color of the lure.

#Trolling for open-water salmon

There are two main seasons for salmon fishing; during the fall migration and over the rest of the year. Since Salmon in Great Lakes or oceans spend a great period of their life in schools going after bait fish, it is easy to catch them through trolling during this time.

Trolling is the process where you actively search for schools of bait fish. Salmon fish are drawn to bait fish close to the thermocline. You can use this to your advantage.

#Shore fishing for salmon

The best fishing time for anglers is when summer is ending. During the last days, the piers, river mouths and break walls present a good fishing opportunity. Good anglers use spoons like little minnow baits, Kastmasters and Cleos. Some anglers also use bottom rigs with night crawlers or spawn.

Since Salmon are fighter fish, long, limber rods, medium lines and high capacity tools are perfect for constructing long casts to ensure you win the fight. A salmon will often make several drag-screeching runs of 100 yards or more after it has been hooked.

#Fly-fishing for salmon

On the shallower sections of the river tributaries, fly fishermen have a good chance of making a catch. Ideally, long 8 to 10 wt. rods and roughly 8 lbs. tippets should do the work. As a fly fisherman, you should either bump the bottom with miniature egg patterns, or swing wooly buggers or streamers in front of the fish. Normally, you will find salmon fish along the current seams or piled up in the slack water under the spawning gravel.

#The thermocline is key

A thermocline is a thin layer that sets apart the warm upper part of the water from the lower, cooler part. This normally happens in most water bodies during warm weather. Small insects sometimes get trapped in the thermocline, and this attracts bait fish. Consequently, schools of salmon fish get attracted to the bait fish. This is the perfect time to locate the thermocline on your fish finder, normally the thin line on the graph, and present your lure.

#Put your bait where the fish are

If you need an efficient way of getting your minnow imitating baits to the very deepest part of the salmon fish, use dipsy divers and downriggers. A downrigger is a ball made of lead. You can lower the ball vertically from your boat.

The downrigger has clips that hold the line from rods in rod holders. It also has a striking fish wish that is played straight from the rod and pulls the lure free of the clip. When at very high speeds, the ball may come up some meters from the blowback. However, it is still efficient as it will give you good depth control.

#Dipsy divers get lures deep

A dipsy diver is an attachment to the fishing line that resembles a disk. A lure is run a short distance from the diver. When it is in action, the dipsy diver will be pulling at a downward angle. Line counter reels are also used. With this said, let’s say that for every 70 feet of line, there is 40 feet of depth. However, the depth of lures can be adjusted by the anglers according to what they prefer. When an angler sets the hook, or a fish strikes, the diver will detangle and stop the downward pulling.

Things to Bring When Salmon Fishing

#Shore fishing accessories for salmon

Shore fishing for salmon starts when summer is ending and goes on through the better part of fall. Therefore, rain gear, boots and warm gloves will come in handy during the unpredictable fall weather. You should also invest in long-handles, collapsible net to use when landing salmon from piers and break walls.

#Lures for shore fishing

There is a huge variety of shore fishing lures. For very aggressive salmon, lipless crank baits are efficient. There are also spoons like Little Cleos and Kastmasters that are 2/5 oz. or heavier that cover lots of water. These also come in trendy colors; gold/red and blue/silver. You could also settle for long minnow baits like Rapala. These don’t cast as well as the others but you will catch a considerable amount of fish.

#Shore fishing tackle for salmon

Ideally, shore fishing tackle for salmon should include long, limber rods. For long casts, high capacity spools with a minimum of 200 yards consisting of 8-12 lbs. test are required. For easy manipulation of lures, snaps may come in handy. On the other hand, bait fishermen may need snout hooks and a good amount of lead, say 1oz., to hold the bottom.

#Open water fishing

You need a boat specially designed for big water if you are going open-water fishing any other time, apart from the cold-water season. The boat should have a large outboard so that you can have wider water coverage to locate fish. Other items you will need include: dodger/fly combos, minnow plugs, several spoons, dipsy divers and downriggers.

#Tackle for open water

A good fish finder with GPS makes it easy for anglers to locate schools of salmon fish in the water and mark the specific productive regions. If you are fishing from a boar, use stout trolling rods, spooled with about 12-40 lbs. test line. For good depth control, use line counter reels in combination with dipsy divers. Also have a net to hold the landing fish when your boat is on the move.

#Wading for salmon

Another way of catching salmon fish in shallow water is by wading. However, this can be risky especially during fall. As a wader, you should be insulated and protected from the cold waters. Therefore, invest in wading staff and boots with studs to cover footing. Also, have an inflatable life vest for safety.

#Fly-fishing for salmon

If your strategy mostly involves using a fly rod to get a salmon catch, be ready with very simple clothing. For delivery of streamer patterns or small egg along the bottom, use fly rods weighing about 8 to 10 lb. You can also invest in spey rods to help you with swinging streams against the current distracting the salmon.


Salmon fish can grow to large sizes and can therefore make for a bountiful catch. However, they are predators and no predator is friendly.

This fish is found in tributaries of both coasts and make for a good sporting activity in the last days of summer and the beginning of fall. Although Great Lakes salmon fishing is subsiding, if you are a determined angler, you will still make your catch and be proud of it.

Use the tips above to improve your chances of catching salmon fish.


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