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how to troll for salmon 

WHY FISH BITE -- Rule #1. The most important fundamental, if you want to catch salmon, is the action of your bait or lure. If you have good rolling and erratic action, you will have a much better chance of catching salmon. When a salmon hits your bait or lure he is looking for dinner. If your bait looks like a wounded struggling baitfish you have a much better chance of getting the salmon's attention.
Salmon have three sensing mechanism they use to find their prey. They are sight, smell and lateral line response (sound). If you are trolling and your lure passes within a few feet of a salmon and he sees it, you will probably catch him. The problem is that in the ocean and most other bodies of water the salmon can't see more than a few feet. This gets worse as you go deeper. If you are relying on sight alone, you probably won't bring home many salmon.
The second sense is smell. Salmon have an extremely sharp sense of smell, but if you are trolling a bait forty feet down and the salmon is at fifty five feet he will never smell the scent trail left by your bait unless he gets right behind it.

photo by Bud' Fishing Guide Service

The third sensing mechanism is the one you want working for you. Down a salmon's side and on his head and back there are tiny hair-like projections called cupula. Each of these has a nerve cell at the end. These cells are used to pick up vibrations in the water. It is just like when you can feel the loud music when a teen-ager drives by with his radio on. If a salmon is swimming thirty feet down and a school of baitfish swims across the surface above him, he knows exactly what's going on. His lateral line cells pick up the vibrations made by the wiggling tails of the baitfish. He doesn't see them or smell them but he knows exactly where they are. If some of them are wounded and swimming erratically he knows he has his next meal. This is the mechanism you want to take advantage of. If your lure is putting out erratic vibrations twenty or thirty feet from a salmon you can pull him like a magnet. He will follow the vibration like a radar beam and attack your bait. This is why we say action on your bait or lure is the most important strategy you can use.
Lures like the Crocodile, the Apex put out the erratic powerful vibrations that will get you salmon. A trolled cut-plug herring creates the the same vibrations. When using the imitation squid lures, they will rely on the flasher for this vibrations. Whenever you put a bait or lure in the water you should carefully check its action. If it is not rolling or shaking, don't let it down. Sometimes the bait needs adjusting or a hook is lodged at a funny angle. Another possibility is that your boat trolling speed is not right for the lure you are using. Sometimes all you need to do is speed up.

SIGHT, SMELL, SOUND, -- These are the three main attractants in fishing, I repeat myself here, from the above, but it is important.
Sight is any attraction of the flasher, plus the lure itself.
Smell will be the use of natural bait or scent.
Sound is created by the Flasher, and the lure itself, these create a erratic vibrations that may convey to fish that
their buddies are attacking baitfish.
For optimum results, all of these should compliment each other.

photo by Bud' Fishing Guide Service

RODS -- The rods used for downrigger fishing are of a special design. They need to be a stiff enough lower section, yet have a lighter tip section so that they can be cranked down to just before the release is tripped. In use, the rod is arched greatly. What this does is place a lot of strain on the line & the rod, with a minimal amount of slack from the release to the rod. When you let the line out off the downrigger & stop the ball, you probably will then have to reel in slightly to take out all the slack in your line. I have found that if I pull the line back in at this point with one hand & reel with the other, I can "feel it" better. I want the slack taken completely out & the release pulled up to just before it releases. If you trip it off occasionally you are getting it about right. When the fish hits, the rod snaps up, setting the hook.
If you use a lighter rod you do not get this automatic hook setting action. Longer "noodle" rods are also not considered desirable here for the same reason. This is not to say they can not be used, but if you do, you will have to be ever watchful & as soon as a hit is detected, reel in as fast as possible to take up the slack & get into the fish.

ROD ANGLE -- Set the rods at about a 45 degree angle rearward to achieve the desired effect described above. If your rod is pointing rearward more, it CAN NOT achieve any of this automatic hook setting action. The rod seems to work best if mounted pointing to the rear instead of to the side, however this will depend on where on your boat you have the downrigger mounted, & the DR rod holder you are using.

The Canadians seem to want to use the 10 1/2' mooching rod as an all-around rod. This is not an ideal trolling rod by any means, especially if it is placed 90 degrees to the boat as an extension of the downrigger arm. They then also want to run the flasher 60' + behind the clip. What this does is, there is so much belly in the fish line & the long "noodle rod", that if you get a hit, this limp rod does not set the hook and it may not even trip the clip. Your only hope is to, as SOON as the rod tip twitches, grab the rod & REEL FAST. If you come in empty, well, then you missed the fish. On the other hand if when you get all the slack reeled in & something is wriggling on the other end, you lucked out.

REELS -- The main concern is to have a reel with a good smooth drag. If you have one that is old & or not maintained that has a drag that is erratic that will allow the line to be only stripped off in spurts, this is an invitation to loose a GOOD fish. The smaller fish will probably not be a problem, but a larger fish, when running, will not have the same constant strain applied. This then may allow it to stop at the "hard spot". Next run will be starting with more strain, & possibly break off or pull the hooks out.

Most commonly used reels will be the star drag, level wind reel. You do not really need a large capacity reel, since you are in a boat & do have the ability to chase the fish if need be. However it is very seldom that more than 100 yards of line is really needed. An Ambassedeur 5500, Penn 310 GTI, Shimano Triton 200G, or Shimano Calcutta are some of the preferred ones.

If you use a reel capable of holding 250 yards of 20# or so of line, you can use it one year, & the next year swap ends of the line on the spool for fresh line on the normally used section (top) for the next season.

LINE -- Here is where you will get as many different ideas as there is line out there. The normally used type is monofilament. The suggestion is to find one brand that you are comfortable with & stay with it. You however need a line that is abrasion resistant enough to not be effected by repeated use of the downrigger release clip. You also need a line heavy enough to pull the flasher & rest of the gear. Some will use 15# line for the smaller winter Blackmouth, & go up a notch to 20# when the fish get larger during the summer & fall. If you are ocean fishing, the old standby is 25# monofilament.

KNOTS -- In any fishing the knot is a very important factor, most all of the older style knots are not that effective on the new spectra type lines. Therefore it is recommended you consider using the simple little tool called "Knots for All", it is a 5" plastic tool that facilitates & makes knots on the new line possible. This simple tool was designed by fishing guide Joe Little. He has tested a 15# spectra that with common knots broke at the 15#, but using this tool & his knot, it broke at 34#.

When tying leaders, the safest way to tie the leader onto the hook is to wrap it left handed, this places the leader around the solid part of the eye, and not laying on the cut end of the eye that in against the shank. With GOOD hooks it will make no difference, but many times if you get a lost fish due to a cut line at the hook, you will find that the leader was pulled into this sharp cut off end of the eye.

At times you will want a cut plug to only have the front hook in the bait, with the back hook trailing, with this you then need to tie your leaders appropriately.

SWIVELS -- The most common swivels used for saltwater fishing will be the barrel, bead chain and ball bearing swivel. Each one has it's place. However when trolling, it is suggested that you get the best available. If you want to test the efficiency of different swivels, a simple thing is to take about 12-15" of dacron line, tie both ends to the upper end of a swivel. Then tie a mono dropper to the bottom of the swivel and then about 5 or 6" to a 2 ounce cannonball weight. The upper looped dacron will make it easy to hang onto. Now spin the weight. Time the difference between each swivel before the spinning stops. You will also be amazed at the differences in bead chain, barrel, cheap ball bearing swivels & the better Sappo brand.

DODGERS & FLASHERS -- The big difference between dodgers & flashers is the way they run in the water when being trolled. Dodgers are usually rounded on the ends and slightly cupped both ends, they wobble back & forth, or have a swaying side-to-side action. Dodgers are not generally not as effective below about 60’, because color is filtered out at that depth & they do not make noise as an attractor.
The flasher develops a full 360 degree rotation. As a general rule flashers work better at a slightly faster speed that dodgers do. Flashers have to rotate, they also create noise, -- go fast enough to achieve this action. The old Abe 'n Al is one of the better known flasher. The Canadian Hot Spot flasher seems to be the one most fishermen use now. The large size, the 11" Glo Green seems to be the preferred color for Puget Sound, while the 11" Red seems to be preferred color by the locals in Canada's Barkley Sound. Charge the Glo versions with a camera flash.

FISH FLASH -- This is a relatively new attractor, & is made by Big Al's Tackle Co. It is a plastic triangle with the rear widest wings bent so the flasher rotates. They are made in 3 sizes, Small ( 6" ), Medium ( 8") & Large (11"). These have proven themselves for many types of fishing, both saltwater & freshwater. The one thing about them there is very little drag, since they spin on their axis. They are available in many different metallic reflective colors, the more popular seem to be chrome, red, lime green or blue plaid.
What these were first found to be very good for locally, was Chinook fishing in estuary waters in the fall where the water is not as clear as you may like. When using them it may be advisable to add a Sappo ball bearing swivel to your mainline, in addition to the original supplied swivels of the Flash to help eliminate tine twisting. These units can also be connected about 12" behind a diver. We have tried them attached directly to a diver, but when that close, the disturbance of the diver effects the spin of the Fish Flash. When using this diver set-up, I use only a 36"- 48" leader for normal salt water fishing. For estuary fishing in off-colored water a leader length of 18" - 24" has proven a fish getter. If using them by themselves as trolling, without a diver or downrigger, you may want to also add a rudder keel between the mainline & the Flash.
The small units have proven themselves on landlocked Kokanee.

NO ATTRACTORS FOR COHO -- If you are trolling in an area that you are reasonably sure there are Coho, a simple method may help get multiple hook-ups. When you have located a school of Coho, abandon your flasher, etc. Simply use a 4-6oz. sinker and a mooching leader,. If you are running more rods than you want on the downrigger, run say one each on your downrigger & simply troll the others. For the ones on your downrigger, snap your release on the mainline as close to the sinker as you can get it. Now when you get a hit, pop off the releases, pull the wire up, & kick your motor into neutral & you are very quickly mooching, hopefully in the school of fish. Many times this is more effective than trolling thru the school.
Also, at this time, if the frenzy is on, do not get real excited in bringing in all the fish to the net before you rebait & get the bait back in the water, as the thrashing fish seem to attract others to the area.

Another method somewhat akin to the above, is to run the 6' mooching leader behind a rudder. Snap the main line into your downrigger release with 80-90' of line behind the release. Now by watching the fishfinder, if you can see the downrigger ball on the finder, & then when you see a fish arch above or below the ball, raise or lower the ball to match the fishes depth. Your bait will have enough time to move to the depth you have set the ball by the time you have trolled to where you saw the fish.

SNUBBERS -- Since the requirement of barbless hooks, it has been apparent that many fish are hooked, but come off before being brought to the boat. One way to help eliminate this is to place a 18" rubber snubber between the mainline end and the flasher. This will help maintain a more constant tension on the fish, and possibly help prevent the hook from pulling out.

MATCH THE HATCH -- If using a squid or spoon, try to use a size & color of the baitfish in the area on that particular day. As soon as you catch a fish, cut it open & examine the stomach contents. This will give you a clue as to what bait is in the area.
As Tom Nelson says about artificial bait, "any color as long as it is green". And if you fish below about 30', it is best to use a GLO version of spoon or squid. Tom also suggests a blue/green/cream glo squid with a large green spin-glo on the line in front of it 20"- 32" behind a Hot Spot flasher. This system has also proven itself behind a diver.

SCENT -- Use scent on all artificial baits, herring. anchovy, scrimp, seem to be the best. Put Power Bait & /or scent into a squid body.
When using scent, try not to get it on the mainline at the location of the downrigger release, this makes for more premature
tripped releases. One other approach is when using a snubber, punch a couple small holes in the rear, & inject the hollow tubing with scent, this then acts as a reservoir & slowly releases the scent over a longer period of time.
While on the subject of scent, many people excrete a enzyme that fish find repugnant. There is quite a bit of evidence that L-lysine from human hands repels fish. People have different levels of this amino acid in their bodies, which is excreted onto their hands, and it is easily transferred to lures and bait. To be on the safe side, before you start to fish, wash your hands with a fishing type soap, or dishwashing soap, dry them, & then place a small amount of herring oil on them, rubbing it into your skin. Pat your hands dry with a towel, without wiping it off. This will help set things up for a possible catching experience, as there is a difference between fishing & catching.

LINE RELEASES -- When using downriggers you will have to use some sort of line releases. There are about as many different types of these as you can imagine, you will have to pick one with the proper tension for the fish being targeted, as a light one for trout will not hold the salmon flasher. The most common use spring tensioned pads to hold the line, for a lighter trip off you set the line farther out in the gripping pad area. When going thru weeds, the weeds sometimes foul the release, not allowing it to trip. It is recommended that if you find weeds in the area to pull the gear more often to clean it. The new Scotty release is designed to divert weeds off of it better than most.
When using the new spectra lines, some spring padded type releases do not really hold the line well, or cause abrasion & can break the line off. The best release found for these are the Pro Release, which uses a pivoting arm that snaps into adjustable rubber notches. The one thing to remember here is that be careful when winding the line on the arm so that it does not overlap, & thereby not releasing when tripped. This one does have one disadvantage, in that since the line is wound around the pin with the trailing part farther out on this piveted pin, that if you try to manually trip it, sometimes it is hard to trip.
On all releases it has been found best to use one that has a heavy mono attached to the large snap that has enough length so that you can snap it onto the wire & without having to lean out over the boat's gunnel to attach the release to the fishing line. This will also allow you to attach it on the line more precisely each time. The most common length seems to be about 48".
The one possible drawback for using a heavier release setting is that possibly a undersize fish will not trip the release as reliably. You will have to balance the release setting to the actual amount of drag encountered by your gear. It seems best to use a setting that when you wind down the rod's line, to create the rod arch after achieving your depth, that occasionally you will have it trip off without a fish. This will be apparent within seconds after getting it set.

Another thing to remember is that if you are stacking 2 lines on one wire, that they both will have to be set to a slightly higher trip tension, so that you don't have to be constantly bringing the wire up & reattaching the release if one trips off prematurely.

HOW FAR BACK?-- This is sometimes called DROP BACK, & is in reference to how far back do you let the flasher go before snapping the release onto the line. It will depend on the water clarity, the fish targeted, the visibility of your line, etc, etc,. Some fishermen run the gear back 40', while others go back 10'. Remember however, that the farther back you go, the less setting power the rod has when the release is tripped. I seem to have settled on about 15' for most saltwater salmon fishing. Some of these lengths are what is required to allow the attractor to operate properly. Also if you are relying on a "Black Box", your electrical charge on the wire decreases as you go farther back. Here are Tom Nelson's recommended lengths.
Large Metal Flashers ---- 6 to 10' Large Plastic Flashers ---- 8 to 15'
Small Metal Flashers ---- 8 to 12' Small Plastic Flashers ---- 10 to 20'

DOWNRIGGER WEIGHTS -- Most weights, (balls) used for salmon fishing will be from 10 to 15#, with 12# being the most common. If you use the heavier weight you can get deeper with less blow back, & have less chance of tine tangle between the rigging on both sides. Also the plus here is it helps keep the wire more straight in the water & lessening the chance of a tangle around the prop. Some electric units are not strong enough to pull a 15# ball.

Ideally the ball should be painted or plastic covered to help with the conducting of electricity in a polarity problem. If the ball is not coated, then the next best thing is to use a ball connector of some type on the end of the wire that is made of a non-conductive material, (nylon, plastic, leather etc.). Scotty & Silver Horde make these. This will beak the conductivity to the wire.

BLOW BACK -- The speed will make a difference here, usually you want your downrigger line angle to be about 45 degrees no matter what actual speed you are traveling. This equates to 143' of line out to reach 100' of water depth. If you are out farther than this angle, you can not reach the depth you intend to. The problem comes in if you are trying to reach say 200', the wire angle would equal 286', but your line drag may increase this length even more. You will have a belly in your fish line from where it enters the water to your release clip so much that the rod action will not set the hook like it is supposed to do if fishing shallower. And if the line is straight up & down, you are not moving at all. Most downrigger wire is only 250' long.

TROLL WITH THE CURRENT -- The fish will be swimming into the current, if you troll with the current, the fish will see it coming, instead of it sneaking up behind them, & you will also cover more water. Otherwise you may only be sitting in the same position with water passing under you.

TROLLING SPEED -- The most important thing is to have your flasher & bait working properly, as they were designed to do. The old story is troll slow for Chinook & fast for Coho. That may have been so with the lures & gear of that day, but now things are slightly changed. Take a look at the commercial troller, many times he will be doing 6 mph. The knowledgeable fishermen currently say most fishermen now troll to slow.

PULLING IN YOU LINE -- If you have to pull your line in to change gear or a missed hit, don't try to trip it off the clip with the rod. Raise it by bringing up the downrigger wire. The reason is threefold. First, this is probably the most likely way to break a rod. Second, some clips do not trip as easily from the rod side as compared to from the lure side. And third, if the lure is even somewhat working, it may catch a fish on the upward trip.

DOWNRIGGER WIRE AROUND THE PROP-- Needless to say this is to be avoided if at all possible. For those of you who use the main motor for trolling at times, I recommend the "Sting Ray" type stabilizer fin that is attached to the cavitation plate. Your boat / engine may not need it's advertised usage, but let me tell you, these fins sure make something for you to lay on & hang onto while someone else hangs onto your feet while you unwind the wire off the prop. Especially when you are 15 miles out in the Pacific Ocean & it is rather choppy. You may say it won't happen to me, but if you fish with downriggers enough the odds are against you. Also carry a spare spool of wire, crimpers, sleeves & an extra weights.

WATER TEMPERATURE -- Fish will try to stay in a water temperature that they find comfortable to them. This may explain why some fish stay nearer the bottom than others, because the water will be warmer on the upper layers.
This may be way more important on the estuary Chinook salmon fishing like Buoy 10. Usually at the time the season opens here there has been no rains for a couple of months & the river's water temperature may be 72 degrees. With the water this warm as compared to 56-58 degree of the ocean water the fish have just come from, the fish will move in & out with the tide. The estuary's water temperature will be between 56 & 65 degrees depending on the tide, because of the mix of ocean water to the warmer river water. However the bulk of the fish seem to not stay in the lower river. The ones that do, will try to locate a hole that will have cooler water.
You may have heard that the fish lay off the mouths of the rivers waiting for fresh water of a rain, yes, this may be true, but I think it also could be that the new rainwater is also cooler.
If there is no rain, then when the fish have matured to the point that they have to go upriver, they do not stay in any one location for any period of time, just let me go back home.
One thing you may consider is to get a fish thermometer and occasionally attach it to your trolling cannonball. This will read temperature at where you are fishing. Otherwise the temperature taken off your depth-finder sensor will only read the water surface temperature.

SEAWEED -- Seaweed can get enough on the line to foul the swivels & therefore create twisted gear. If troubled with seaweed or grass on your line, adding a golf tee on the mainline as your uppermost gear, will help divert most weeds off. The tapered small portion of this golf tee seems to allow the weeds to be passed off, where a knot at a swivel seems to stop & hold the weeds.

Terminal leaders, 20#, 2/0 - 3/0 solids for cut plugging for early Blackmouth, Feb- July
Terminal leaders, 20#, 3/0 - 4/0 solids for cut plugging for later Blackmouth & Chinook
Terminal leaders, 20#, 3/0 - 4/0 slips when using frozen bait in bonnet
Terminal leaders, 25# / 40#, 4/0 - 5/0 solids, tied close, for large bait in Estuary use (large Chinook)
Terminal leaders, 40# / 70#, 5/0 - 5/0 or even 6/0 -6/0 solids, tied close for use with squid behind flashers

Tie terminal leaders 2 lengths,
(1) 36", rolled onto pipe insulation for faster attaching (you will use more of this size & it saves leader)
(2) 72 " " " " " " " (you usually will find these as the std. commercially tied)

Primary leader 36" with black swivels, for behind sinker or attracter, make up the desired OAL with terminal leader

LEADER LENGTHS FOR REGULAR TROLLING, (Estuary rig) bait 36" - 72"
" " " MOOCHING (Most Saltwater) bait 72"
While we are on this subject, it has been found that it may be best to not tie your leaders on limp monofilament. The reason seems to be that with the spinning action of the bait, even if you use swivels between the sinker or attracter, that the limp leader just doesn't have the ability to resist the twisting action of the bait up the line to where the swivel can do it's job.

USE HEAVIER LEADERS FOR SQUID BEHIND FLASHERS -- USE 40-70# TEST LEADER FOR TYING SQUIDS, HOOCHIES & FLIES. These lures, having no built in action need the motion of the flasher to impart an action to the bait. This heavier leader being stiffer, imparts the action of the flasher to the lure. Whereas a lighter limper leader will allow the bait to follow the flow, with minimal action.

Some will advocate the use of the newer almost invisible Florocarbon line & leaders, it has been a practice of some to use this type of leader material for all leaders behind flashers. This larger material being harder to see in the water also has the benefit of being less susceptible to abrasion & being nicked by the fish's teeth, which in turn lasts longer between leader changes. This material is not cheap however, and is rather hard to find. If you find it, only purchase "Leader" material, as the abrasion factor is different than for the line. Using this leader may be beneficial if you are fishing in the top 50' of the water column, but it my contention that if you constantly troll below that depth, you are simply paying more for your leaders as compared to standard monofilament.

USE DIFFERENT LEADER LENGTHS FOR DIFFERENT BAIT & TARGETED FISH -- The following dimensions regulate the rate of spin on the bait, - short = faster, longer = slower. For those of you who insist on 2 different speeds for trolling for both Chinook & Coho, you can do it from the same boat at one constant speed, by regulating the leader lengths. It is not solely the boat speed, but the action the bait has that entices the fish to hit, and this can be controlled mostly by leader lengths behind the flasher.

Measure distances from the rear of the flasher to the rear of the squid
Best to use the most invisible 20# leader possible when using bait

Large Hot Spot Flashers (11") Squid Chinook (Adult) 40"- 46" Med. troll 2.5 - 3 mph
Coho 30" - 36" fast troll 3.5 - 5 mph
Blackmouth 30" - 36"
Mini-B2 30"
Grand Slam BT 28" - 31"
Bait All 47" - 55"
APEX 3" Chinook / Coho 49"
APEX 4.5" Chinook / Coho 72"

Mini Hot Spot Flashers (8") Squid Chinook (Adult) 26" - 31"
Coho 20" - 24"
Blackmouth 20" - 24"
Sockeye 18" - 22" slow troll
(White) " pink Pinks 16" slow troll 1.5 mph
Bait All 32" - 36"

Large Metal Flashers Squid Chinook (Adult) 30" - 37"
Coho 27" - 31"
Blackmouth 27" - 31"
Bait All 44" - 50"

Small Metal Flashers Squid Chinook (Adult) 20" - 27"
Coho 17" - 23"
Blackmouth 17" - 23"
Bait All 30" - 34"
size 0/0 bare red 2/0 hooks Sockeye 9" dead slow 70 Degree Line Angle
pink mini squid Sockeye 12" dead slow " " "
Fish Flash (large/med.) Bait Coho 22" - 24" (use Sappo swivels)
medium large orange spin-glo Coho 24" - 36" (use Sappo swivels)
large Bait Chinook 18" in tidewater
Divers / Mini Hot Spot Squid Chinook 32"
Coho 24"
Bait Chinook / Coho 36"

LURES -- On most metal lures, there is one thing you can do to up your boating percentage. Many will come with a triple hook attached. Remove it and replace it with a single Siwash hook as described below. Also, if it does come with a Siwash, take the hook off & install a #5 stainless split ring & a #4 barrel swivel between the lure & the hook. The situation you are eliminating is, when fighting the fish, the fish will more than likely roll numerous times. In doing so this fish uses the leverage of the solidly attached hook to the lure to pull the hook out.

On others metal lures like the thin Silver Horde "Coho Killer", if after catching a fish, you might want to check the lure's action before you let the gear down again. These lures are thin & narrow to imitate candlefish. They are an excellent lure for intended purposes, however they can get straightened out. On the same light, if a new one is not performing, you can put more of a bend in it to achieve more action.

APEX (order of preference) #1=Chrome, #2= Mother of Pearl, #3= Green/White, #4=Black/White by itself or with a flasher.
PLUGS (old style commercial) preferred color - some form of white. No flasher, 75’ behind Down Rigger release clip.
Fisher Joe’s, Narrows Deceptor plug the original fiberglas cut plug herring is too heavy to run off a Hot Spot, but works OK, 36" – 72" behind a Fish Flash. The newer plastic injected versions in the 5" size may work off a Hot Spot.
Mini-B2 & squid -- use 40-70# leader 5/0 or 6/0 hooks tied so front rear bend is even with rear eye with hooks Pointing opposite, use plastic straws on leader above hooks, as spacer in squid. Adjust this spacer so that both hooks hang behind the rear of the squid. Salmon seem to be "short strikers" & this gets more hook-ups. You may want to cram front body of squid with power bait or scent. When using the Glo versions, charge them with a camera flash.

2 LURES ON ONE LINE -- If you look on Scotty's webpage, they show how to run 2 lures off one rod line using a downrigger. Basically you attach the lure like you normally do, but then let it down about another 15 ft or so, attach another release clip, (this one should be short from the wire to the release). Pull slack so there will be a belly in your line when in motion, snap another lure onto your rod's line between these release. This 2nd lure (preferably a spoon, etc. and on a shorter leader to help avoid tangles) will find it's way to the center of the belly & ride there. You will now have to be alert, and when pulling the ball, to not put a electric downrigger on automatic & forget to stop it short & remove the top release. You will also have to use extra care when netting a fish caught on the top lure.
This principle can also be used in mooching or diver trolling fishing, if you make the 2nd leader short (20") and attach it to a swivel placed in the line about 40" above the lines terminal end.

THE HOOK -- Buy the best hooks you can afford. It makes little sense to pay a small fortune for a boat and then scrimp a few bucks on the one thing that is the most important of all.
Rule #2. Sharp Hooks. This seems like an obvious thing but most fishermen ignore it. Very few salmon hooks are sharp enough even brand new. The Scotty Pro team worked eight years filming salmon hitting baits and lures in the ocean. They learned that the salmon come after your bait time and time again. The average salmon misses or just grazes the bait at least two times before he hits solid enough to get hooked. They observed one salmon hitting a bait twenty two times before he got hooked on the twenty third try. If your hooks are sticky sharp you have a much better chance of that hook digging in as a salmon hits and slashes at the bait.
You will find fishermen swear by as many different brands of hooks as is out there on the market. They will all catch fish, some seem to be better than others. The important thing is to keep them SHARP . I test the hooks tip by scratching my thumbnail, if it digs in it is sharp, if it slides across, sharpen it. Carry a hook file or emery stone and sharpen those hooks on every trip. Recheck them occasionally. You will definitely be rewarded with more salmon in the fish box.
Some fishermen will alter rear bait hook's tip when pulled behind flasher by bending the point outward slightly, (will get more hook ups)


When using bait, you should generally match your hook size to the herring size for best results.

3-4" Orange label 1/0 - 2/0
4-5" Red label 2/0 - 3/0
5-6" Green label 3/0 - 4/0
7-8" Blue label 4/0 - 5/0
8-9" Purple label 5/0 - 6/0
9-14" Black label (horse herring) 5/0 - 6/0

CUTTING & HOOKING BAIT -- When cut-plugging a herring, you should wet your hands, cutting board, herring etc. This will promote the non removal of scales off the bait. The more scales you leave intact on the bait the better the bait will perform for you. In cutting the bait, if you do not use a cutting guide, use the 45/45 degree rule. Then remove the entrals. One modification is to also cut a 90 degree Vee notch at the rear of the body cavity. This generates longer bait life by not tearing the cut angle & allows the water to flow out this hole, creating bubbles. A modified West Port hook up is good. This is hooking the upper hook thru the belly cavity & up thru the backbone & out in the center of the back. The other hook is passed thru the belly cavity & out the short side belly, then just allowed to dangle back by the tail.

TO TOUGHEN YOUR BAIT -- To toughen herring or anchovy bait, soak in 1 cup rock salt to 1 quart water, to form a salt brine, bait should be soaked in this overnight, however even a few hours helps. It can be kept in a refrigerator for a a month or so, if for longer freeze it in the brine. The brine being a strong salt solution will not freeze. You however may want to make a wooden floater lid on your container to keep the bait submerged.

Formula #1 put blue & or green food coloring in brine to replace color on a dead fish
Formula #2 add powdered milk into the brine, this sets the scales

SINKER DROPPER LENGTH, REGULAR TROLLING Estuary (Shallow water) (15’) 12"
" " " " " " (Deeper water) (35’+) 24"
This rig consists of a sturgeon sinker slider unit on the mainline. Attach a lighter dropper to the slider for the cannon ball sinker.
Attach a Fish Flash to the mainline, with the bait tied to the Flash. Use a large Fish Flash as the water is usually not clear.
Here is surely a time to slide a golf tee on the mainlines uppermost section above the sinker slider to keep off the weeds.

SINKERS for MOOCHING -- Since the barbless hook requirement, the old tied in line kidney sinker should be abandoned, because it can be used as leverage for the salmon to throw the hook. It is suggested that it be replaced be the Metzler slider bar type sinker, or the simple sturgeon sinker slider on the mainline and then attach the round cannon ball sinker to this slider snap. The round ball is cheaper & has less resistance so therefore a lighter sinker will get you down just as deep. Another good thing to do when using the slider, is that the cheap snaps usually used on these sliders will bend if you get the sinker hung up. Or you can use a lighter short 6" leader as a dropper, thereby breaking the dropper and saving your other gear.

WASHINGTON 2 OUNCE LIMIT -- To fish deeper if in a Washington State 2 oz weight restriction areas, if you are using standard gear, switch to a 20# spectra type line. This is usually equal in diameter to 6# mono for size & will create less drag. The word is that using this gear, watching the tide change & back-troll. Buy using this method, 150' depths can be achieved with a 2 oz weight. Or use the super-line and a diver that weighs less than the 2 oz. Doel Fins & Luhr Jensen Jet Divers are 2 that do comply, and can get down to about 50 ft. Rig the Jet Divers on an 18" dropper off the end of the mainline 3 way swivel. Then off the 3-way swivel go with 40" to 50" of leader to a small Hot Spot Flasher or Fish Flash, then 20" to 24" leader to a squid or herring for Coho, or 26" to 31" for Chinook.

POLARITY -- Commercial trollers have for years known that some boats will out-fish others, this can sometimes be traced to electrical current in the downrigger wire. If you remember your chemistry from high school, when you place 2 dissimilar objects (stainless wire & zinc anode or a aluminum boat) in a conductive solution (salt water) you create an electrical charge. Scotty makes a "Black Box" that can be adjusted to give the desired electrical charge to your wire. Different types of fish react to different electrical charges. If you have any doubts, you can simply check your wire with a volt/amp meter. It should have a voltage of + .5 to +.7 from your ground to the downrigger wire. If it is outside this range either way, it will benefit you to consider doing something to correct the problem. If the voltage is low, you can add zincs to your motor/trim tabs, etc. If it is high, then it is suggested you check things out & ground everything metal that is in the water. One thing most overlooked would be your trim tabs.

PROTECTING YOUR GEAR -- The saltwater environment is something that will ruin more gear than anything else. Many fishermen don't properly take care of the rods, reels, flashers, or spoons. The result is when they want to use them next year, many are ruined or badly in need of TLC. One method commonly used by knowledgeable persons is to, as soon as you get off the water, or at least before you leave the boat for the night, spray the gear with "Salt Away". This solution will remove the salt. Next you want to lightly wash the same gear with plain water. Let it dry, and then spry it with a corrosion blocker. Two that are effective & economical are made by CRC. They come in aerosol cans & are CRC "3-36" & CRC "Engine Stor". Another would be LPS-1. This stuff is a light spray metal protector & will help immensely on rod guides, reels, swivels & spoons.


the specific information above was compiled by LeeRoy Wisner. Much of the above information has been gleaned from many sources, and 50 years of personal salmon fishing, with special thanks to John Keizer, Tom Nelson, Tom Pollack & Dick Pool.

The above information was used with the permission LeeRoy Wisner of
LeeRoy Wisner had posted several EXTREMELY informative articles on the Puget Sound Anglers website and we strongly recommend visiting that website or
click here to email him directly. As an editor's note I must say that in my lifetime of searching every available resource I have never come across so many helpful and informative articles as those written by LeeRoy Wisner. Thanks again and hats to LeeRoy for giving us permission to post these articles so that you can learn more about fishing and hopefully you catch more fish!