Adult salmon rely on cover and structure less than other fish. They
go where they must to find food and get a comfortable temperature.
In the Great Lakes, salmon schools are are scattered during spring
and early summer. Their search for 53 to 57 degree temperatures may
take them miles from shore or within casting distance of piers.
Although fishing is excellent on some days, catching salmon
consistently is difficult. But as spawning time nears, they gather
near tributary streams where finding and catching them becomes easier.
Trolling for Salmon
Trolling enables anglers to cover large areas in a short time,
increasing their chances of finding salmon that are scattered in open
water. Most trollers use several lines, so they can experiment with
different lures and depths to find the combination that best fits the
situation at hand.
Of course, it is possible to catch salmon simply by running a line
behind the boat and trolling at random. But specialized equipment,
such as a temperature gauge, recording sonar unit, downriggers and
trolling boards, greatly improves the odds of finding and catching
Shore Fishing for Salmon
Shore fisherman begin catching salmon in early summer, months
before the spawning run begins. Salmon stay in the vicinity of stream
mouths, generally feeding just off shore for a few hours in early
morning. During midday, they move miles from shore, but return again
Most fisherman cast with flashy spoons. Heavy lures are best,
because they can be cast farther. Still fishing with spawn bags and
alewives also works well. A heavy duty spinning rod and a large
spinning reel with at least 250 yards of 20 pound test monofilament
line are ideal for shore casting.
Pier Fishing for Salmon
Piers, especially those near stream mouths, attract salmon
throughout the year. However, the best fishing is just before the
spawning run or after the run has started. Piers are popular because
they enable anglers to fish deep water that could not be reached from
Stream Fishing for Salmon
Even before salmon begin their upstream migrations, they begin
changing from bright silver to dark brown and finally to black. Their
digestive tracts shrink to almost nothing and they stop eating. As a
result, salmon are reluctant to bite once they move into their home
streams. Still, many are taken during the spawning run, probably
because they strike out of instinct rather than hunger.
At the spawning sites, female salmon dig shallow nests or redds on
the stream bottom. Once on their redds, salmon spook easily and are
difficult to catch. Some anglers spend hours fishing the same redd.
Natural Bait for Salmon
Natural baits are used extensively by West Coast salmon fisherman
and are becoming more popular on the Great Lakes. Favorite baits
include, alewives, smelt, herring and fresh spawn.
Trolling, still fishing or mooching are common bait fishing
techniques. When mooching, the angler drops the bait to the bottom,
then slowly raises and lowers the bait while the boat drifts. When
fishing with fresh spawn, most anglers still fish or drift fish with a
single egg, a gob of eggs or a spawn bag.
Artificial Lures for Salmon
Salmon like colorful, flashy lures with a lot of action. Color of
the lure depends on weather, location and season. In general,
chartreuse, green, blue and silver lures work best. Red and orange
lures often catch salmon just before spawning time.
Silvery colors are the best choice on sunny days; fluorescent or
phosphorescent colors on cloudy days. Some fisherman flash their
phosphorescent lures with a lantern or camera strobe to make them glow
in the water.