A few years back I was trolling downstream from Willamette Park, my crew and I had our rods staggered throughout the water column in an attempt to cover the greatest amount of water possible. Passing through the deep hole just up from the Spaghetti Factory Teddy’s rod took two sharp dips, hesitated,……buried, then went slack just as he was about to pick up the rod. Teddy then began a long painful retrieve only to find the horrific sight of a thoroughly mauled Herring, and no Spring Chinook to show for it. As can often happen to those that don’t fall into the “Open class” category of Spring Chinook anglers, we went the rest of the day without another opportunity. Though it’s impossible not to miss a bite once in a while, there are some things we can do to maximize the number of chances we convert on.
It all starts with a good rod that should be matched up to the type of fishing you are doing. This doesn’t mean you have to spend $300 on a state of the art composite rod (though that does help) but you should expect to drop at least $60. The Okuma SST, Berkley IM7, and North River are all good lines of technique specific sticks that won’t break the bank. My absolute favorite all-around rod of all time is the 934 Kenai Kwik. However, you won’t find me dragging hardware behind it because it is designed as a bait rod and has too soft a tip for blades. Find something that works for how you plan to fish.
Everyone has a different opinion on mainline and although I’m a fan of braid for many tactics, I don’t often use it to troll for Springers. When I do it would be for back-bouncing or trolling spinners, but I mostly pull bait so mono is my go-to.
For most people, the first lesson they ever learned about catching fish is to always keep your hooks sharp. This has never been truer than with barbless hook rules in effect on the Willamette and Columbia. Speaking of hooks, most of the rivers we fish in the spring allow up to three per rod. Don’t hesitate to experiment with this. I would recommend if using a triple mooching rig to not go over 3/0 with any of the hooks. Anything heavier will add too much weight to get a proper roll in my experience.
This weekend I played around with running a size 2 treble as a trailing hook. If you’re wondering how I pulled that off considering you can’t thread a treble through a Herring, I Simply used a Herring Helmet which allows you to only run the top hook through the mid-point of the bait. I would also recommend that you shorten up your hook spacing to about 3 finger widths. I didn’t get bit that day, but I ran a similar setup at Buoy 10 last summer with good results.
Knowing how and when to set the hook is another critical component to landing Salmon. Anytime you’re using bait, be it Herring, Prawns, eggs, or even wrapped Kwikfish, it’s important to remember three words: Let them eat. Leave the rod alone until it is buried and line is coming off the reel. There is a theory that when a Salmon picks up a bait (specifically baitfish) it will chew it a few times then turn the opposite direction and swim off. This is in an attempt to swallow the bait head first. Salmon can’t swim backward so if you set the hook before line is coming off the reel, you run the risk of pulling it right out of Mr. Springer’s mouth. I will sometimes tell novices when they get bit to ignore their rod and stand over their reel and look down at it waiting for the drag to peel before picking up the rod.
News just broke that the Columbia River season will be cut short by one day so Friday the 8th will be our last chance at black-faced Springer for a while. Hopefully you have a chance to get out and take advantage before it closes, if not there’s always the Willamette. I’ll be digging razors since we have great tides this weekend. Hope to see you down there!