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How to Catch Salmon
|The most popular boat fishing methods can be lumped into
two general categories, drift fishing and trolling.
Trolling consists of fishing out of a constantly moving
boat. Drift fishing generally means fishing without a motor,
although in some cases a small outboard may be used to slow
down or speed up your drift. Drift fishing is most effective
in specific areas where salmon are concentrated. Types of
drift fishing include mooching, jigging and fly-fishing.
Historically mooching was the most popular form of
salmon angling and began many years ago during the winter
months in Seattle. The art of mooching is slowly being lost
as most modern anglers prefer to troll. Die-hard moochers
like the simplicity of the gear, the feel of the bite and
the hook up, and enjoy the peace and quiet of fishing
without a motor. Mooching requires a dedication to the sport
and many years of practice to master. Mooching is
essentially fishing with a light banana shaped weight (Photo
1) to pull a hooked herring down to the depth you believe
the fish are at. Most moochers use a “plug-cut” herring
(Photo 2) which spins as it rises and falls. A plug cut
herring is cut with a bevel from front to back and from side
The bevel is what causes the herring to spin as it is pulled
through the water. Beginning moochers should probably
purchase a miter box cutter to ensure the proper angle is
obtained (Photo 3). Moochers will typically fish with an 8 ½
to 9 foot rod with a level wind or bait casting reel capable
of holding 100-200 yards of line (Photo 4).
A reel that can be put into direct drive works best for
mooching, as the bait can be lowered by simply letting go of
the handle while holding your thumb lightly against the
spool and allowing line to peel out, or raised by reeling
in. However, finding a direct drive reel is getting harder
each year. You might have to look for a used one. A standard
level wind reel will also work. Moochers will generally use
a main line of 10-20 pounds, and leaders of 8-15 pounds.
Leaders can be tied with either 1 or 2 hooks (Photo 5), and
there are many ways to attach the herring to the hooks
(Photo 6). You should match your hook size to the size of
herring you are fishing. For example, a 4/0 hook closest to
the rod and a 3/0 hook away from the rod match up well with
“green pack” (5-6”) herring.
Photo 1. Banana or Trolling Sinker
Photo 2. Cut plug herring.
Photo 3. Miter box for cutting “cut plug” herring.
Photo 4. Level wind reel with direct drive feature.
Standard mooching leader and hook setup.
||Photo 6. Cut
plug herring rigged with hooks.
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Moochers raise and lower the bait in the
water column using their rod and reel, causing it to spin,
or they simply allow the movement of the boat and waves to
impart an action on the bait. When mooching, you should
attempt to keep your line angle at 45o. You can change the
line angle by using a lighter or heavier weight. If the line
angle gets near vertical, the leader will tend to wrap
around the mainline, leaving a nasty tangle and an
ineffective bait. If the current is moving very fast, the
angler can use their boat motor to “back” into the current
until they achieve the 45o angle. Conversely, if the current
is moving very slow, you can move forward in spurts until
the correct angle is achieved. You can approach mooching a
couple of different ways. Some anglers will work the entire
water column, letting the bait down say 10 feet, reeling up
3 or 4, letting down another 10, reeling up 3 or 4, etc…
until they have reached the bottom. You can then start over
again, or work the bait back up through the water column in
the same manner. Other moochers prefer to fish at a
particular depth. They let their line out until they are at
the depth they wish, then work the bait up down at that
depth, or let the wave and boat action work the bait up and
Another popular method of drift fishing is jigging. When
jigging, anglers use a fish shaped, lead jig (Photo 7) that
they move up and down with sweeps of their rod, i.e.
jigging. A shorter, stiffer rod works better for jigging,
for example a 7 ½ foot rod rated for 4 or 6 ounce lures is a
great choice. As with the moochers, a direct drive level
wind reel is ideal for jigging. The newer “Spectra” based
lines are the best to use for jigging. These lines have very
little stretch and allow you to feel every little tap on
your jig. Use 10-20# line for your mainline. When fishing at
depths greater than 100’, the Spectra lines are almost a
necessity. You may want to use a 3-4’ monofilament leader
when jigging. Jigs can cause a lot of line twist. So use a
good quality swivel between your mainline and leader to
prevent line twist.
Photo 7. Salmon jigs.
|Jigs can be fished either vertically or
horizontally. To fish vertically, let your line out to the
desired depth, and raise and lower the jig continuously. You
can vary the speed and distance that you jig, or even change
after every 4 or 5 jigging motions. To fish horizontally,
cast the jig out and let it sink however long you want. The
longer you let it sink, the deeper it will go. When you
reach your desired depth, pull the rod towards you; this
causes the jig to rise. Then push the rod back in the
direction of the jig and reel up any slack line; this causes
the jig to fall. Pull towards you, push away and reel, pull
and reel, etc, until you have retrieved the jig. The jig
will be rising and falling all the way in on the retrieve.
While jigs come in many sizes, shapes and colors, you can
get started with just a few. Good colors to start with are
chrome or white. Jigs weighing 2, 4, and 6 ounces will cover
most of the fishing situations you might encounter.
Thanks to the
State Dept. Of fish & Wildlife for the
to see trolling techniques.