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How to Catch a Salmon

Updated on May 29, 2013

Salmon on Ice

It is critical to get fish on ice after they have been caught.
It is critical to get fish on ice after they have been caught. | Source

Catching a Salmon

If you have never experienced catching a salmon and you enjoy fishing you really need to make sure and plan a trip to go Salmon fishing to see what it is all about. There is countless ways to catch a salmon, but it really depends on if you are fishing the ocean or in bays and rivers for the fish as the techniques used to get bites will vary depending on the situation. Some of the most popular ocean methods involve mooching live bait or trolling rigs with sardine wrapped lures and in the rivers there is many different combinations of baits from salmon eggs to shrimp to large spoons and spinners that you cast and retrieve.

One of the easiest ways to catch a salmon if you have never done it before is find a guide and hire them to take you out on their boat and go fishing. To truly experience big Chinook salmon fishing you should make a trip to Alaska or somehwere along the Pacific Northwest where large kings run during the Fall and Spring. A guide will have the right baits, scents, and colors of lures to use on the body of water as well as know where the hot spots in the river or ocean are located at.

Salmon Bobber for Float

Using Salmon Roe to Catch Salmon

Techniques for Catching Salmon in Rivers

Salmon are born in the upper portions of rivers and creeks and swim all the way out to ocean and spend several years in the ocean before returning to the river to spawn and die and it is during this migration that anglers fishing along the bank have an opportunity to hook and land a salmon. Bank anglers have refined many different techniques for fishing for salmon and depending on the make up of the river and where the fish are holding different lures and baits may outperform.

Bobber Fishing
Fishing with a bobber, weight, hook, and some kind of bait is one of the most effective methods of catching a salmon in the river. the fish are known to chew on fresh salmon eggs and shrimp and sometimes the most effective bait is a combination of shrimp and eggs. Bobber fishing allows an angler to present the bait at the depth the fish are holding at and being that Salmon prefer to hold in deeper holes to rest while moving up river to spawn, the bobber with a slip knot allows the angler to precisely determine the depth that the hook and bait will rest and drift through the hole at. Try and keep it right near the bottom, but not resting along the bottom to put the bait in the most likely place a fish will be sitting.

Casting Spinner or Spoon
Many anglers like to actively cast a a lure to fish certain parts of the river for Salmon, cast up stream of the likely holding water and drift the spoon or spinner through the location and keeping the blade wobbling or spinning depedning on the style of lure. I prefer a silver and a silver with blue can also be effective. In some river systems casting a small crankbait like a speed trap in chrome blue back can be very effective with catching salmon and I have been successful with that with Coho's many times.

Trolling Kwikfish Wrapped With Sardines
Trolling a kwikfish or back bounding a plug from a drift boat can entice wary fish into biting out of aggression. In larger bodies of water set the kwikfish to run at the depths that the fish should be at depending on the style of lure, line size, how much line is out and if using a down rigger or other components to determine the depth the lure will run. Keep the boat just barely moving forward on a slow troll and get ready to grab the rod and fight a king salmon when the rod gets slammed down hard from a strike.

Rigging Herring

Using a full size herring for bait is perfect for trolling for salmon.
Using a full size herring for bait is perfect for trolling for salmon. | Source

Learn to Make Your Own Salmon Eggs

Bait for Salmon Fishing

There are 3 baits that are used by a majority of anglers that fish for these species of fish.

  1. Herring - When the fish are still out in the ocean or when they are in the tidal areas or other large rivers, trolling with a large herring on a mooching rig can be very effective. The herring is rigged up with two hooks and the head is removed at an angle in order to cause the bait to roll. This spinning action cause the fish to strike and the smell and taste of the herring is enough to make the fish fully commit and take the bait down. When fishing with a trolled herring the rod is best left in the holder and when the fish starts to take it, do not set up on the fish immediately. Let the boat motor and the aggressive nature of the fish take the rod all the way down solid, the boat should set the hook most of the way and the angler just tightening up the line and making sure the hook is home.

  2. Eggs - Fishing with an glob of salmon eggs under a bobber is one of the most effective methods for taking migrating salmon up the river to spawn. Eggs are one of the first things that a baby salmon eats in the river as a hatch ling and young smolt and if you do your job right they will be the last thing that they eat as they go up to spawn or be caught for dinner. Using an egg loop knot the line is used to create a loop and secure the eggs to the hook. Use a thin piece of yarn above the hook to add scent and when the float goes under to indicate a fish on the other end, reel down and set the hook hard and get ready for a serious fishing battle.

  3. Add a sand shrimp to your ball of eggs for a super bait combo that is hard to pass up for most fish. The sand shrimp should be threaded onto the line before placing on a clump of salmon eggs and is used to help augment the smells put out in the water by the bait more so than anything.

A big and consistently fresh herring and a baseball size glob of eggs is usually much more likely to get noticed and catch a fish than a little skinny minnow and a golf ball size eggs, so do not skimp on the bait and you will get a better catch rate even though you may go through twice as much bait in a day.


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    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      This brought back childhood memories of standing in cold streams of Alaska, fishing for salmon for our winter food supplies. Bleck. :) I guess if I didn't have to do it so much as a kid, I'd probably enjoy it.

      Now, halibut fishing or going for silvers out of Seward or THAT is a different story...I'd be ALL over that! :)