Downrigger Trolling  for  Salmon

 

                                               
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A Salmon can eat a thousand herring, but only one cut plug.
 

Safety On The Water ;  For any type of fishing, water safety is the prime concern.  Trolling speed for many fish needs to be within certain parameters.   If you have a inboard or large outboard motor that is incapable of slowing down to a "fishable" speed, there alternatives that can be utilized IF you do not use a smaller trolling motor.  There are a couple of brands of spring loaded trolling plates that attach to the cavitation plate of larger motors what place a large restriction right behind the prop.  These can be lifted when underway with no restriction at that time.

 

This is not the time to drag a 5 gallon bucket to slow you down.  It may be past time to purchase a smaller trolling motor because you can not afford the off chance that a line to your "Slow Down Bucket" to get tangled in the prop. 

 

 Downriggers ; The choice of downriggers could get to be a lengthy session all by itself, as there will be many opinions as to which is best.   I have personally used Cannon manual and electrics, Penn manuals, and Scotty manual and electrics.   Each one has different features, some of a benefit over others.   My suggestion is to go with friends who have other brands to get a chance to use as many as possible before you lay out the amount of cash involved.   I had never even seen a downrigger used before I purchased my Cannons and I had a very steep learning curve.  The reason I got the Cannons was I knew a salesman who gave me a good deal on them.   After I had a chance to see how the Scotty electrics were used by a Alaskan salmon guide, when I sold that boat, I gave the guy a good deal on the whole package. 

 

Scotty electrics are into the 3rd version now.  The early ones used 2 cog drive belts, the 2nd version had only 1 drive belt.   And the new Scotty electrics have a lot more powerful motor and hence a faster retrieve.  Some of the guys don't like them as if the stops get bumped out of position, you might just pull the ball farther up than intended and break off the end of the cable.  They also have a larger digital depth meter with a pushbutton reset.

 

As a main downrigger, I personally would not want a manual version where the handle rotated as the line was being let out, an exception would be as a backup unit.   This can be an arm breaker.  One boat that I was on a number of years ago had an old Penn manual, where this was the situation.   The Cannon manual, you rotated the crank handle slightly back allowing the line to go out then by moving it farther back, it creates a cam type brake.   This worked, but I was always afraid that a good jolt would brake something internally plus it required a good cleaning and oiling frequently to keep it from seizing up if used in saltwater.

 

The Scotty electrics are a good design, and they have been constantly improved and are usually the downrigger of choice in the Pacific Northwest.  The year 2001 the electric motor design went from a two belt drive system to a single belt.  I have not been able to pin sales sources down as to why the change, but it is pretty well accepted that it was a design change that was motivated by economy.  One salesman even quietly suggested I don't get rid of my older 2 belt units. ???   I later found out that the belts on these seem to last forever as compared to the newer single belt units which tend to stretch over time, so a spare belt for the newer single belt units is advisable.

 

At about this same time Scotty went to a new Marinco brand twist-lock power-cord to the unit connector.  This was a very good move in that many users of the older units complained because of the old style plug in could get to where it's connection would not be good or would be bumped loose.   This made for problems of not knowing if they had power or not unit it was to late and you needed the ball retrieved ASAP to be able to get the ball up & out of the water soon.  As a interim remedy to that Scotty later placed a small green power indicator light on the units.

 

           Downriggers pay off for Puget Sound Anglers on a Sitka Alaskan King Salmon trip

 

If you take a Scotty to a repair center for any problem, like even a uneven drag, most time they will update it to the newest type of parts for no cost.  These units have a 2 way switch on the upper arm control box.   This box has a slot that the wire is run thru.   It has a kind of pivoting door that is controlled by the switch on the top.  This switch has a black outer ring, with an inner green button.   To raise the cable, you can push this green button and as long as you hold it down the motor will bring in the wire.   However if you want to have it come in automatically, (IF you have preset the stop buttons on the wire) you rotate the outer ring to the right until it locks.   This also sets the gate to where the button stops you have previously set on the wire as your stop position, a location that when these buttons pass thru this gate, the switch is tripped off.   These buttons now come in a package of both bright greenish/chartreuse and black ones.   It is recommended that you put one of each color on right next to each other.   This gives you a second one as a security to keep both of them from being slid out of position along with the green one is easy to see when it is coming up.   Scotty is one brand downrigger that will retrieve a 15# ball from deeper depths.

 

Scotty's policy is that the lifetime warranty only applies to the original owner.  Previously they didn't ask about it (or require the repair shops to ask about it), so you previously you could buy one off of Craigslist and still get the full warranty coverage.  But Scotty apparently figured out that the secondary market with full warranty coverage isn't good for sales of new riggers, so within the last year or so (2010) they started requiring that your downrigger be registered to get the free service.   The warranty covers general maintenance not parts other than friction pads, you have to pay for the pulley, belt and whatever else is broken.

 

One of the worst enemies to this unit is liberal usage of WD-40 that may get on the brake pads.  This impregnates the pads and ruins the braking (holding ability) of the unit so that your ball will not stay put, but keeps sliding lower.  If used in saltwater and using the stainless steel wire, you need to flush the wire on the spool off with fresh water at the end of the day.  Not a lot of pressure, but just enough to flush off the salt residue.  The other problem is when using the older electrical plug ins, they become corroded and you may get intermittent or even no continuity to the motor at times.  The real solution is to change over to the new Marinco brand twist-lock power-cord plug ins and receptacles.  You also need to check the pulley on the end of the boom to be sure that it rotates freely.

 

You want to set these line stops so that the ball is not pulled all the way up and out of the water.   As explained below in the Downrigger Weights  section, I like to have the ball stop so that it is still just in the water.   I have a shock cord attached to the ball that is long enough (about 15") that I can now grab this cord and pull everything in, then place the ball in a "Ball Baby" nest inside the gunwale.   Raising the 12 or 15# ball out of the water with the downrigger power is asking for a dented or crashed hull side.

 

When letting any downrigger cable out, do it in a smooth even motion.   If you cannot control the out spooling and it becomes jerky going down, it is time to tear it apart and clean things or take it to a service center for repairs.  If it goes too fast, the release clip and the line may tangle around the wire.  And if it goes too fast, when  you have to stop, it it may be so sudden that you fray or break the wire, or have the end terminal snap off because of the sudden stop.

 

Sometimes it is hard to operate the downrigger brake to let the ball down and at the same time thumb your reel's spool so your reel's line and the ball go down in unison.  The simple way to do this is to get everything ready, place your rod in the rod-holder, loosen the reel's drag so that it is just enough to keep the line from flying off the reel, yet allow the line to pay our easily.  Now loosen the brake letting the downrigger ball down, which with the line clip being attached to the wire and the rod's line, the ball will pull the line off the reel in an even manner and when you stop the ball, remember to readjust the reel's drag to the higher setting you want for fishing.

 

You will want to carry some spare parts for any make that you have.  You can always loose some bolts, blow a fuse, fray a wire, or possibly break a belt.   I usually carry a complete Scotty manual downrigger unit as a backup which mounts in the same brackets as my electric units.   I do this simply because it is cheaper and a lot lighter than a spare electric unit.  A spare can save the day if you have planned your outing, taken the time off, possibly traveled some distance for your day, or days on the water.   If problems are encountered, you can then repair the bad or damaged unit or replace the wire on shore later saving valuable fishing time by using the spare.  And this manual model takes up little space under my forward deck.

 

Scotty electrics have a built in hand crank built into the unit just in case the belt breaks or something happens to the connector and you have to manually crank it up.  Not a super easy thing to do, but it gets the cable/ball up so you get out of trouble and then you can handle the situation later.

 

Downriggers Cable ;  The old standby has been 150# test stranded stainless steel cable.  This is sold in lengths of 150', 200', 300', 400', and 500'.   A suggestion is to buy a longer replacement cable than they come with.   You can shorten the terminal end as it becomes curled, or even if you snag bottom and have it broken off, you may still have enough to just replace the snap and reattach another ball.  However do not get carried away by the thought if 200' is good then 300' will be better because when it starts to deteriorate if used in salt water, probably it would not be that helpful by trying to swap ends because the inner wire may also have became deteriorated.

 

The one thing about this cable is that it is not impervious to rusting and cable rot.  If you use it in saltwater, wash it off with fresh water or even spry it with a Salt Away to neutralize any salt action.  Allow it to set for a few minutes and then rinse off with normal water.   If you do not clean the downrigger wire, it can start corroding, even though being stainless steel.   I had one brand of replacement wire that rotted  in one year.   Inspect it before each season and replace if it looks like it is starting to deteriorate.  Carry a spare spool of cable on your boat, as you never know when you may get it tangled which could curtail your fishing for a day.

 

Some fishermen have changed over to a spectra type cable and many think it is great.  I have been told by one person who fishes a lot that he does not like the regular Scotty braided cable, but recommends the Low Drag version.  Others say that they purchase Power Pro fishing line.  One advantage by using this type of cable is that you do not need special cable end clamps as regular fishing knots work well.  Another advantage is it last longer and does not rust.  You do need to use different line stops however.  Some are in love with one or the other, so it boils down to personal preference as there are arguments on both sides.

 

Downrigger Balls & Ball Snubber ;  Most downrigger 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, and have less chance of line tangle between the rigging on both sides when you make turns.  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 however are not strong enough to pull a 15# ball.   Scotty is one brand that does this fine.

 

Some weights have a metal fin off the rear that can be bent to allow the ball to track in one direction more than just straight back.    This can be helpful if you bend them so they tend to direct the wires more outward.

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 (snubber) of some type on the end of the wire that is made of a non-conductive material, (nylon, plastic, leather etc.)  However I do not like the plastic/Nylon Scotty snap as my experience is it gets slightly bent (looser) and if I am not really observant, I have lost a number of balls because it opens up. 

 

In use, you need something to attach between the ball and the terminal end of the wire.  Scotty and Silver Horde make these about 12" out of a plastic that will stretch.  They say it acts as a shock cord also.  You can make your own out of 150# Tuna cord for a lot less.  This will beak the conductivity to the wire, and also very important at the same time give you something to hang onto when you may want to pull the ball into the boat without trying to hang onto the wire itself.  And they have a very good quick release snap on the bottom that goes into the ball's eye.

 

Scotty ball snubber

 

When you are fishing deeper that 120', the 15# balls really helps with depth precision.  But be prepared to replace belts, wire/spectra, etc. more frequently, and always coach newbies on the boat not to "stop" the gear on a dime....ease it slow rather than popping it to stop or you will occasionally pop off balls if you aren't obsessive about changing connectors and what not. A ball snubber as shown above really helps.

 

Rods ;  The rods used for downrigger fishing are usually 8' 6" and of a special design simply called "Downrigger Rods".   They need to be a stiff enough butt section, yet have a lighter tip and mid section, so that they can be cranked down with a perfect arch to just before the release clip is tripped.  These can be identified by having double the number of guides which put less strain on the rod.   They need to have many closely spaced guides on the tip section to maintain a even strain on the rod tip section.   Most downrigger rods are composed mainly of fiberglass as compared to graphite.   In use, the rod is arched greatly as seen in the RH header photo of this article.  What this does is place a lot of strain on the line & the rod, with a minimal amount of slack (belly in the line) from the release clip to the rod.  

 

When you let the line out off the downrigger and stop the ball, you probably will then have to reel in your rod's line slightly taking all the belly out of your line to where your rod is greatly bowed.   I have found that if I pull the line back in at this point with one hand and reel in the slack with the other, I can "feel it" better than just reeling.  I want the slack taken completely out, having the release pulled up to just before it releases prematurely.  If you accidentally trip it off occasionally, don't feel bad as then you are getting it very close to being right.  When the fish hits, the line is pulled out of the clip, the rod being under the drawn down tension snaps up, automatically setting the hook.

If you use a lighter rod you will not get this automatic hook setting action.   Most 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 and as soon as a hit is detected, reel in as fast as possible to take up the line slack getting into contact with the fish if it is still there.  One long rod that has been recommended is the G Loomis SAR 1265C.

 

So if you insist on using a light rod and then setting it in a rod-holder at a low angle as if you were mooching or diver trolling, you will not be able to "STACK" the tension on the rod needed.  You will more than likely have considerable hits, but unless you are watching your rod tip constantly and grab the rod ASAP, then reel like hell to take out the slack (belly in the line behind the line snap on the wire), you will loose 75% of the fish that hit your bait, especially when using barbless hooks.   If you insist, when your line pops off the clip, grab the rod and REEL FAST, because you now need to manually take out the slack to set the hook that the the rod would have done automatically.   DO NOT grab the rod, reel a few cranks then hold it up trying to feel a wiggle on the other end as the fish will be gone by then most of the times.

 

Here the rod is set at about the perfect arch
 

 

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 and down lower more, as if in mooching, it  CAN NOT achieve any of this automatic hook setting action as mentioned above and WILL miss fish.  Depending on the placement of the downrigger on the boat, the rod seems to work best if mounted generally pointing to the rear instead of to the side.   If to the side, you will have a lot of side strain plus the rearward strain on the rod.  It is also harder to get the rod out of the rod holder because you seem to be off balance if it set at an angle as compared to straight back.  However this preferred angle will depend on where on your boat you have the downrigger mounted, and the DR rod holder you are using, if you are stacking another line on the wire or running a diver off the stern (as you need the extra room at the stern then).  Or whether you have more than two downriggers on the boat, which governs rod placement as well.

Some west side of Vancouver Island Canadian guides seem to want to use the 10 1/2' mooching rod as an all-around rod.   This is not an ideal downrigger trolling rod by any means, especially if it is placed like they do 90 degrees to the side of the boat as an extension of the downrigger arm.   They then also seem to want to run the flasher 60' + behind the clip.  What this does is, there is so much belly in the fish line and with the long "noodle type 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 and REEL VERY 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 and something is wriggling on the other end, you lucked out.  Sorry for the rant on this subject, but I have been there, and exposed to that situation, not good.

 

V The main concern is to have a reel with a good smooth heavy duty drag as you are not fishing for 10" trout when using this method.  If you have a reel that is old and 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.  For an article on reel maintenance CLICK HERE.   The smaller fish will probably not be a problem, but a larger fish, in the 15# plus range, 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, which possibly could break off or pull the hooks out.  This is especially a problem when you get the fish to the boat and she does not like what she sees, now she is under you instead of out and away.  If she decides to go (it will be immediate) and the drag does not pull evenly, she will have excess downward pressure on the rod, (not the same as if she was 100' to the side) to the point of even breaking the rod or the hooks pulling out is a distinct possability.

 

Most commonly used reels will be the star drag, level wind reel.  Generally you may not really need a large capacity reel, since you are in a boat and do have the ability to chase the fish if need be, but read about this below  An Ambassedeur 5500, Shimano Triton 200G, Shimano Calcutta or Penn 310 GTI are some of the preferred ones.  The new Shimano Tekota 400 looks to be another winner also.   It is very seldom that more than 100 yards of line is really needed.   That said however, I like to run reels that I can spool with 250 yards of 25# monofilament line.   I have seen big fish take out line FAST in the opposite direction that when you are trolling more than one rod, by the time you realize what is happening, you are cutting your time rather short to be able to pull the other gear in and do a chase.   Remember you are bound greatly by still having your downrigger wires in the water and not wanting to turn around with the downrigger wires still out for fear of tangling the wire in the prop.  So as soon as you hook into a fish that feels like a fish (any fish), PULL THAT DOWNRIGGER WIRE UP, if you foresee the need to chase, then PULL THE OTHER UP, ASAP.  That what the automatic button is on the electric models is for. 

 

If the fish is manageable, you can leave the other downrigger out, hoping for another fish out of a possible school, but you do want the one downrigger up and ball secured out of the water so that they are out of the way when you come to the netting part.   I have found that I do not want to stop the trolling motor while netting a fish, unless it is a large uncontrollable fish

 

Another common thing that is done is when you get your line out or down and the rod set, adjust the drag SLIGHTLY lighter than normal and put the clicker on.  This will still allow the rod's tripping action to still set the hook, and will allow a little cushion for you as a fisherman to have a chance to test the fish before you may want to make a final adjustment to the drag.  Another option is to will leave the drag slightly loose and then if need be, lightly thumb the spool for added resistance.  This however is not for the novice fisherperson.  With the clicker on will also add slightly to the loosened drag plus it will notify those aboard that a takedown has occurred.  Once I am bringing the fish in, I then disengage the clicker simply because I do not like all that noise or do not want signals to be sent out to all the seals that may be in the area.  They soon learn that the sound of a clicker is actually a dinner bell for them.

The newer reels that have line counters will also help you return to a "Strike Zone" if conditions allow and you are not using the downrigger.  It will however scare the heck out of you if a large fish is really running, as now you know just how far he is out there.  The Shimano Tekota line counter reels cost in the $180 range.   The Abu Garcia's  Ambassadeur 5500LC or it's wider brother the 6500LC line counter reels sell for just above the $100 price range and are proving a good buy.   Okuma MagdaPro line counter series and the Cabellas DepthMaster II series as are made by Okuma.   Cabellas DM-20 or the larger DM-30 are good reels for $40, with the Okuma about a $15 higher price.  I however am not impressed with the Shakespeare Tidewater series line counter reels as the line counter has fogged up for me numerous times and the setting the drag takes a lot more turns of the star than all the other reels to achieve the same relative setting.  This drag may not be bad, except if you are used to other reels this one is different.

 

Another point, if you use a reel capable of holding 250 yards of 25# or so of line, during the season,  it is best to periodically if you fish a lot, remove about 30' and retie the terminal swivel, to eliminate any chance of having frayed line on the terminal end.  The next year swap ends of the line on the spool for fresh line on the normally used section (top) for the next season.

Do not make the mistake of using a steelhead rod and reel with 10# line for ocean salmon on a downrigger if you are in an area where you may hook into a 30# plus fish.  The reason is that when you are trolling with multiple lines in the water, and you hook into a hog, it may take longer than you realize just to identify what may be on the other end, as sometimes they may just tag along for a while and then seem to let you know who is boss.  This is especially true if you have to go down deep, like say 150' +, as with all this line out and you have a small capacity reel, you may have handicapped yourself.  If you are mooching, that is entirely different, as you do not have all the other semi-permanent gear (downrigger wire) in the water and you can move the boat quickly if you have to while the other fishermen reel in.

 

Line ;  Here is where you will get as many different ideas as there is line manufacturers out there.  The normally used type for many years was monofilament.  The suggestion is to find one brand that you are comfortable with and 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 and rest of the gear.  Some will use 15# line for the smaller winter Puget Sound Blackmouth, and the go up a notch to 20# when the fish get larger during the summer and fall.  If you are ocean fishing, my old standby is 25# Ande monofilament.   Recently however I am impressed with P-Line.  Except, see the section on deep trolling below.

 

With the newer bright colored lines becoming  available, there is one aspect that you may want to consider.  That is use a bright green or yellow if you are fishing where there is a chance of seals trying to take your fish.  If Mr. seal does take the fish, you have 2 options,  If you can see what may happen and the fish is really pulling but the seal hasn't taken it yet (1) as soon as possible lighten up on the pressure to give the fish a chance to get away from the seal.  Sure you may loose him from a loose hook, but this may give you some time.  (2) If the fish is closer to the boat and the seal takes the fish, then chase them but keep the boat above the seal and maintain this position.  This is where the bright colored line helps, as us older codgers can't see quite as well as we used to.  The seal has to come to the surface eventually to get a breath and eat the fish.  When he hits the surface and takes a gulp of air, you can usually get the hurting or dead fish back before the seal can recover.  On my boat, MY rod is spooled with the lime green colored line.  My other loaned out rods are spooled with pink, dark green or white.  This also makes for a more easily identifiable situation when you get lines all tangled into a mess.

 

With the advent of spectra type braided lines like Fireline, PowerPro etc. currently on the market, many fishermen have went to them.  I will not argue one way or the other here, except that I have found the spectra lines, being smaller dia. do have the problem if you use the small sizes (about equal to mono poundage) as they tend to cut into the other line on the spool if a big fish starts pulling hard.  This can create essentially the same thing as a backlash in the rest of the line on the reel and can give you the chance for the big fish to pull the hook out or break the leader.  On one instance this happened to me with the line being dug into the other line at the edge of the spool so tight that I could not dig it out or even find an end close enough to cut and could not salvage any line at all.   I had to literally cut the whole remaining spooled line in so many spots just to get the spool free to re-spool.  Therefore many who use the newer lines tend to go to a larger size than needed, like from a 25# mono to 40 or 50# spectra just to keep the line from cutting into the spool edge.  When the larger dia. line is used then part of the benefits of using it have diminished slightly.

 

One other bad point with spectra type line, is that WHEN you get a tangle, it is so limp that when it is tangled, about the only chance to be back fishing soon is to cut the line and clear the tangled parts then retie.

 

Deep Trolling ;  OK, here is a benefit of the spectra type lines on your reel.  If you have to do down below say 100' on the downrigger, then the use of the spectra type lines can be beneficial.  The reason is they are smaller dia., hence create lesser drag, which in turn creates lesser line blow-back.   Eliminating this excess blow-back gives you back some of the automatic hook set of the rod "Popping Off".   Plus virtually no stretch puts you in  more direct contact sooner with what is attached to the lure.

 

If on the other hand you have to use the mono line for deeper trolling, you will have to watch the rod closer and as soon as it pops off the clip, grab it, start reeling frantically to take all the belly (slack) up so you will be in contact with the fish ASAP.  This is important when fishing deep, especially with the requirement of barbless hooks in most NW fishing areas.

 

Tying Leaders ; 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 may 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 and you will have a small pig's tail at the cut.   For a link to a knot tying article, CLICK HERE.

 

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.

 

Common ;  It does not make sense to spend considerable dollars for a boat, towing vehicle, rod and reels only to scrimp on your terminal tackle.  If your daughter or grand-daughter looses a nice fish because the swivel or hook broke (since you reused an old one), or a frayed leader that you forgot to change out.  How do you really explain to her that you being a tight-tad led to her chance of a lifetime, or do you rationalize so well that you are convincing?  But can you really sleep well after that, knowing it was your really fault?

 

Also if you happen to get your leader tangled around your flasher, (usually caused by letting your gear down way to fast), after you get it untangled it may be best to change leaders to your lure.  A good reason to have your #2 lure all set aside ready to be attached.  Sure this old one is kinked after you have it undone, but does it have a nick in the mono?  Sure it will straighten out over time, BUT sure as heck the next fish that hits that lure with the kinky leader there will be a weak spot that you did not detect in your hurry to get it back in the water and you will loose that fish along with your lure.  Also check your mainline for nicks. 

 

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 quickly spin the weight & let go of it allowing it to spin freely.  Time the difference between each type of swivel before the spinning stops.  You will also be amazed at the differences in bead chain, barrel, cheap ball bearing swivels and the better Sampo brand.

 

Flashers & Dodgers ; The big difference between dodgers and 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 and forth, or have a swaying side-to-side action.  Dodgers are not generally as effective below about 60, because color is filtered out at that depth and they do not make as much "noise" as compared to flasher .

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, so you need to go fast enough to achieve this action.  The old brass Abe 'n Al of 50 years ago was one of the better known flashers.  The Canadian Hot Spot plastic flasher (which is somewhat of a modern design copy of the old Abe 'n Al) 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 & the ocean, 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 for better visibility in deeper water.

New for 2003 is a flasher made by Pro Troll, called an E-Chip.  It has a small metal tube about 3/16" dia. and 5/8" long glued into the rear section.  This is a metal tube with a small metal ball inside that when moved buy any means (attached to a flasher) the ball bumps a chip, which emits a slight electrical charge about equal to baitfish being frightened.  A plug similar to the Apex, but called the Sting King also has this same chip in it.  From what experience I have had,
IT WORKS.

 

About 10 years later they made this chip available to the public so it can be attached to about any combination of gear, which increases their revenue and allows fishermen to experiment.  A package of the large size (3/4" long) sells for $13. 

 

 Top LH, Pro-Troll with chip,   top RH,  8" Coyote, bottom LH, a Les Davis Dodger & bottom RH, a 11" Hot Spot Flasher Common size & colors of Fish Flash, in both 6" small, 8" medium & 10" large. 

 

There is a newer type of flasher on the market that some fisherpersons are using.  It is a breakaway type flasher, in that when the fish hits, the flasher's rear retaining pin pulls out, disconnecting the flasher's rear section from being inline and removing some of the inline resistance directly to the fish.   The unit comes with it's own short section of mono which has a large bead sliding on the front section of mono and to position the flasher when in operation, a metal crimp about midsection on the mono to trip the plug.  It uses a tapered plastic plug on the rear that the line goes through.   When a fish hits, the crimp slides rearward, pulling the plastic plug out of the flasher body.  The large bead also stops the flasher from sliding far up the line when the fish is on the hook.

 

In the photo below, you can see the QCOVE flasher on the top and a Hot Spot on the bottom that has been modified to accept the QCOVE plug.  If you are like me, having numerous standard flashers and the availability of now being able to obtain reflective UV tape, gives you the opportunity to salvage some older functional flashers.  In making this modification, you need to acquire a nylon bushing at your local hardware store for under 25 cents.  These bushings need to be 3/8" OD x 1/2" OAL x .171 ID.  You saw the rear metal ring out of the standard flasher's plastic so you can have a press fit of the bushing and then epoxy the bushing into this flasher.  QCOVE sells replacement plugs, and you can make up your own unit using a short section of 60# mono, a large plastic bead, crimp and swivel/snaps.  It may be best to probably purchase the newer style and copy the mono length and spacing of the crimp/bead and swivel.  This unit adds about a foot more between the mainline terminal swivel/snap and to where the leader is attached to the flasher, so you may want to look at your leader lengths and adjust if needed on some lures.

 

Some fishermen swear by these, while others are not so sure.  One of the naysayers concerns was that the plug needs to be lubricated so it will pull out if a small fish (shaker) hits, but he is worried that the plug may pull out when down deep when using a downrigger and he not be aware that it is tripped, and not being effective.

 

Here is shown the QCOVE breakaway flasher & a converted Hot Spot

 

Fish Flashes  ;  This rotary attractor has been around for the past 10 years or so, and was 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 4 sizes, Mini ( 4"), 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 and glo-in-the-dark, the more popular colors seem to be chartreuse, chrome, red, lime green or blue plaid, with the new purple coming in recently. 

 

In the spring of 2011 because of health problems, Al sold his business to Yakima Bait and cut a deal with them as a Pro Staff working the shows etc.

What these were first found to be very good for locally, was Chinook fishing in estuary waters in the fall where the water had enough turbidity to restrict visibility.  When using them, it may be advisable to add a Sampo ball bearing swivel to your mainline, in addition to the original supplied swivels of the Flash to help eliminate tine twisting.   These new units come with Sampo ball bearing swivels installed. 

 

As with most new inventions, there are people who try to copy or improve on them.   Fish Flash is no different.  There have be direct blatant copies, which Big Al has defended in court.  Others have a patents, but is it cost effective to hire a lawyer to prove if the second is an infringement?  Others have been made by a very observant fisherman, no patent, who make a slight change, caught fish and got into the tackle business. 

 

Miscellaneous copies of the Fish Flash.   Top LH is out of business Hookin'up Enticer,  top  RH is a Delta Tackle from Canada, that Big Al has authorized.   Bottom is Old Salty stainless steel Flasher  
 

 

I have tested the large and medium units in the ocean and can not really tell if one is any better than the other down to about 70', below that possibly the larger units may be beneficial.    The mini and small units have proven themselves in estuary salmon fishing or on landlocked Kokanee and trout.

 

In both of the illustrations below, you will see a 1 to 4 oz round lead sinker attached to a slider on the mainline resting just above the line release clip.  Now this sinker is an option and not normally used, but under certain conditions, it may be beneficial. This is an option that may gain you a fish occasionally as explained in the section below "No Attractors for Coho".   A flasher or dodger could also be substituted for this Fish Flash.

 

A Fish Flash attached to a downrigger unit in the normal manner.   Note the lengths may not be to scale
 

 

Ace in the Hole ;  This method shown in the photo below of downrigger trolling, is using a flasher attached directly to the downrigger ball instead of on the mainline.  The appealing thing here is that you do not have the flasher or any weight on your line or leader, just your bait or lure. Have the flasher back about 30" behind the ball and attached directly to it so it will just have enough distance to function.  No lure behind it, as it is simply an attractor for the lure close above.  Now attach your release clip on the DOWNRIGGER LINE far enough up the line so that the flasher (attached to the ball) can not raise up while descending and tangle with the leader.  You want the lure to be above and not that far behind the flasher, like a couple of feet. You need to have the clip attached close enough on the cable so the flasher on the ball is close enough to attract the fish and yet just far enough away so the two do not tangle as they are descending.

 

You will want the downrigger line stops set so that it stops the ball and flasher deeper in the water (below the surface) than otherwise, you may have to clamp the release clip BELOW the stop buttons, depending on the height of your gunwale.  Otherwise in the cable retrieval with the electric downrigger set on automatic, with the clip above the stop it will slip the clip down the cable when the clip hits the pulley and the line will then keep going in, but will not turn off the power then you either blow a fuse or possibly loose the ball by pulling the cable eye out or breaking the cable.  If your setup has to be where the clip is above the stop, then you just have to remember to next time you let out, to reposition the clip on the cable. 

 

The one drawback on this setup is that it is harder to bring in the cable/ball then readily remove the ball and flasher from the water if a fish is being fought while the boat is still moving and you need that location to bring the fish to for netting.  Here is the place for a fishing partner.   Or position a second set of line stops up the line a bit, letting then trip the automatic stop, pull the clip off the line and manually bring in the ball using the override button.

 

This setup is especially good for fishing the smaller Chinook or Blackmouth in Puget Sound as you can run a lighter rod and with the lighter rod, you can tell quickly if you have a small shaker fish hooked.  You can use no weight or a light one as a slider just above the release as described in the following paragraph.

 

This is called the Ace In The Hole setup, again possibly not to scale
 

 

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, or even Chinook, abandon your flasher, etc.  Simply use a 4 oz. slider sinker on your mainline and a mooching leader.  Instead of stacking and running more rods than you really want on the downrigger, run one each on your downrigger then simply troll the others.  Using this system for those of you using Scotty release clips, you do not need it in the heavy setting because you do not have a lot of drag.  For the lines on your downrigger, snap your release on the mainline below the sinker with the bait as far back as you prefer.  Now when you get a hit, raise or lower the other downrigger wire to the depth of the hit, pop off the release on the other rod, pull the wires up, kick your motor into neutral and you are very quickly mooching, hopefully in the school of fish.  You may want to either raise or lower your other lines to put them into the "Fish Zone".  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 re-bait and 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 trout trolling rudder.  Snap the main line into your downrigger release with up to 80-90' of  line behind the release.    You should be able to see your downrigger ball on the sonar screen, now by keeping a watchful eye on the fishfinder, when you see a fish arch above or below the ball, immediately raise or lower the ball to match the fish's depth.  Your bait will have enough time to move to the depth you have now set the ball by the time you have trolled to where you saw the fish.   Many times this method of targeting a single fish will pay off better than "Flock Shooting" the whole ocean in hopes of stumbling onto a fish at unknown guestimated location and depth.

 

Snubbers ; Since the requirement of barbless hooks in some states, it has been apparent that many fish are hooked, but come off before being brought to the boat.  Les Davis has now come out with a 10" rubber bungee cord type snubber that is attached in the system, either between the mainline end and the flasher or behind the flasher.  When hooked this will help maintain a more constant tension on the fish, and possibly help prevent the hook from pulling out.  This system is not new as commercial trollers have used this type of snubbers for YEARS.

 

My thoughts here is that it does 2 things.  IF you are using the new "Spectra" type braided lines and a stiff or fast rod, yes you WILL need a snubber to make up for the solid connection to the fish.  However if you are still using monofilament line, the line has enough stretch in it to give you the same effect as a snubber.   

 

 

There is a couple of alternatives that will improve your catching ratio.  You can use the braided line, but keep the drag set to just where it does not pull off the reel when trolling, put the clicker on. When you get the pop off,  let your loose drag peel line when you hook up.  Do this until the fish is well behind the boat.  Make sure the drag is loose.   Reel down on the fish to the point where the bend of the rod starts showing a definite hooked fish on it, but resist the temptation to set the hook.   The speed of the troll, the bend of the rod, the setting of the drag, the sharp hooks, and the snubber should be enough to do the job.  

 

Match the Hatch ; If using a squid or spoon, try to use a size and color of the baitfish in the area on that particular day.  As soon as you catch a fish, cut it open to examine the stomach contents.  This will give you a clue as to what bait is in the area. 

As Tom Nelson originator of Salmon University says about artificial bait's color,
"any color as long as it is green".   And if you fish below about 30', it is best to use a GLO or the new Ulta-Violet versions of a spoon or squid.  Tom also suggests a blue/green/cream glo squid with a small green Spi-N-Glo on the line in front of it 20"- 32" behind a Hot Spot flasher.   This system has also proven itself behind a diver.

 

Good Scent ; Use scent on all artificial baits, herring. anchovy, scrimp, seem to be the best.   Put Power Bait and /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, then inject the hollow tubing with scent, this then acts as a reservoir which 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 (Lemon Joy), 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. 

 

While on this and relating back to SMELL  There is a item on the market that brought out by Salmon University that is called the "Salmon Scenter".  This was a specially designed PVC tube with slots in the sides that is filled with their scent nuggets & then attached to the downrigger ball.   In essence, it milks out a scent trail and with your flasher/bait in this trail, it increases the percentage of strikes.  The scent nuggets are the same fish food that the hatcheries feed the small fish before releasing them.  This appears to work best for hatchery Coho, as it gives them something familiar to home in on, which targets the fin clipped hatchery fish as opposed to "Wild Coho" that usually have to be released.  

This original design has now become obsolete and has been replaced by a nylon mesh bag pre-filled with the nuggets and sold by Silver Horde.

 

Bad Scent ; Many times in things pertaining to fishing, cleanliness is next to godliness.  Therefore think of anything that you touch, or comes in contact with anything that may impart a offensive odor.  Do you clean your sardine wrapped KwikFish after using them and putting them away?  How about cleaning your spinners that are attached to a lure that you have used salmon roe, tuna oil, shrimp, prawn, or even herring or anchovy?  Then there is your attractant dodgers or flashers.

 

One very easy method is to purchase a painters 5 quart plastic bucket with a snap on lid.  Fill it with clean water and squirt a small amount of Lemon Joy soap into the water.  Use this to soak your lures and flashers in.

 

Any of these little things that many fishermen overlook, my be a contributing factor that is why your neighboring boat is catching fish and you are not.  Years ago in my commercial salmon trolling years, we used a gallon jug of herring oil, that after we were done pulling gear, all of the spoons, rigged hoochies and flashers were either soaked in or at least dipped in until the next trip.   This did two things, it protected the metal parts from salt corroding/rusting AND removed any bad smells.

Release Clips ;  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 and 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 pivoted pin, that if you try to manually trip it, sometimes it is hard, or about impossible to trip.

 

Release clips, Offshore top left, Pro Release bottom left, new Scotty top right, with older Scotty below & old Scotty Hair Pin type bottom middle 

 

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 gunwale to attach the release to the fishing line.  This will also allow you to attach it on the line more precisely each time. 

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 and reattaching the release if one trips off prematurely.

 

How Long a Release ; This pertains to the length of the heavy (100#) mono that attaches the release to the wire clip.  The longer the downrigger boom, the longer the release line has to be.   It has to be at least as long as your boom, otherwise you will be leaning dangerously over the gunnel to attach the line to the clip.  I usually use a 48" length.  One thing you can do if it pops off and you have pulled the wire in, but the release is trailing in the water too far out to grab, is to reach out with your rod tip, pick the clip up, then bring it in to where you can get ahold of it from there.

How far Back ; This is sometimes called DROP BACK, and 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 arched rod has when the release is tripped.   I seem to have settled on about 15' for most saltwater salmon fishing, but am experimenting with closer.  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 (originator of Salmon University) 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'

 

Blow  Back ; Your trolling speed and current 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. 

 

OK, I Know This is a Downrigger Article, But ; These Fish Flashes can also be connected about 12" behind a diver.  I 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.   One additional add on would be to add a Metric #2 spinner directly on the rear of this to increase it's effectiveness in that it does basically the same thing as the E-Chip by adding a noise.  If using them by themselves as trolling, without a diver or downrigger, you may want to also add a rudder keel between the mainline and the Flash.

 

The illustration below has worked well for Coho off the stern, out about 60', it will also take Chinook and Steelhead.   You need about 12"-16" dacron line between the Deep Six diver and the Fish Flash to get rid of the turbulence of the diver. The mooching leader needs to only be about 36" but place a plastic bead on the leader between the Spi-N-Glo and the hooks as a bearing surface.   No bait is really needed but scent never hurts.  Run your downriggers off the side but put this rig right off the stern in a rodholder and wait for the action.  I like the Deep Six over all other divers in that you can adjust the trip off by the tension on the clamp.   It is also a lot easier to trip from the rod, as compared to the other divers like the Pink Lady, where they need to be tripped by the fish.   You are supposed to be able to trip the others from the rod by throwing slack & then picking it up again, but they don't seem to work as advertised most of the time.

 

Fish Flash behind Deep Six with Spi-N-Glo for Coho

 

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, plus you will also cover more water.  Also it allows the fish less time to scrutinize your lure, possibly bringing on a strike, where if the fish has more time it may realize the lure is just that and not something to be eaten.  Depending on the flow, you may only be sitting in the same position with water passing under you, which may not be bad under the right conditions. 

 

Trolling Speed ; The most important thing is to have your flasher AND bait working as they were designed to do.  It depends on a few things.  You really need speed over ground, and not rely on your speedometer wheel type counter.   It also depends on what specie you are after. The old school was 2 to 2.5 mph for Chinook and 3 to 4 mph for Coho.  Now that said, an exception is when trolling for Pink salmon.  You need to troll DEAD SLOW, and into the current seems more productive here.

 

This slow trolling speed may have been so with the lures (mainly fresh herring) and gear of that day, but now things are slightly changed.  Take a look at the commercial salmon troller, many times he will be doing 6 mph.   The knowledgeable fishermen currently say most fishermen now troll too slow.   What ever bait you are pulling, or flasher/dodger, you will have to look at it in the water, then decide how it is functioning, then adjust your speed  from there.

 

If you are pulling more than one lure, you will need to be sure that all the lures function properly at the speed you are traveling.  Some lures work well at only one specific speed, while others are more forgiving.  Check the functioning of each lure before you finally let it out.  You may have to change lures if the speed is compatible with the lure that is catching fish if one lure is not functioning properly.  Or the trolling speed may need adjustment.  Also tidal currents do change, so the skipper needs to be aware of this and possibly change speed. 

One tried and true method of deciding if your speed is close is to watch your downrigger wire.  At normal trolling depths a 45 degree line angle is about right.  However this will change depending on the depth and amount of drag, as 50' depth will be a lot steeper angle than 150', even at the same boat speed.

 

Trolling, Contending With the wind ; How well do trolling autopilots like TR-1s fight wind?  Not quite as simple as plotting a course and forgetting it, but a properly tuned TR1 can make fishing in the wind a whole new experience.  It makes it a little easier, but YOU still have to drive into the wind.  The TR-1 will try like crazy to maintain the boats orientation in space, but it does not like to stay hard over for a constant period of time.  If it makes even one brief counter-correction, you get blown off course, even ever so slightly.  Repeat 2-3 times and your clearly off course.  The next time, the wind grabs the bow and you're WAY off course

It helps a lot (with or without an autopilot) to run a pair of trolling (drift) socks off the bow of the boat, adjusted so the bag hangs about mid-ship and with a short tag end off the tail of the bag tied to a cleat about 2/3 of the way back.  Still not fun in a heavy wind, but it can make fishing possible where it would be impossible without them.

Some fishermen go with a bow mount electric 70lb thrust Minn Kotta I-Pilot.   These PULL the boat through the water on either a compass heading or GPS tracker per the remote.  The sensor is in the head of the unit.  When they need more power for a faster troll or wind then they turn on the kicker for a little extra push and leave it alone letting the Minn Kotta does all the steering.  Using this method they can troll straight from the warmth of the cabin, while others get blown around, something to think about.

 

The one advantage you have while trolling by hand is instant throttle control. The autopilot has more lag in the throttle, so in really gusty conditions you can still be a problem if you are in slow current and not running enough throttle.

 

Pulling in Your Line ; If you have to pull your rod's line in to change gear or a missed hit and it did not pop off, don't try to trip it off the clip with the rod.  Raise it by bringing up the downrigger wire.  The reason is fourfold.  First, this is probably the most likely way to break a rod.  Second, if you happen to be using a clip that snaps onto the downrigger wire that you have set to the heavy setting, when you pull upwards enough to try to trip the clamp, you can also pull the whole clip/snap unit up at a very great angle which CAN slide the snap off the downrigger wire, many times unsnapping both the clip and the snap, loosing the complete unit.  Third, some clips do not trip as easily from the rod side as compared to from the lure side.  And fourth, if the lure is even somewhat working, it may catch a fish on the upward trip because now you are covering a varied water depth.

 

Seaweed ; Seaweed can get enough on the line to foul the swivels and 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.

 

Jellyfish ; At times these critters can make life miserable.  If they are on your gear, it is very likely salmon will not be interested.  It is suggested that you change lures, then take your time to remove all the remnants of this critter from your bait, scrubbing it with a toothbrush and soapy water.  Also when you pull the gear in and remove these jellyfish, they have a composition in their bodies that feels like nettle stings.  One word of caution, WASH YOUR HANDS before you go to use the toilet facilities. 

 

One fisherman shared his method of removing this jellyfish off his hands, by use rubbing alcohol.  On my boat I have a warm water tank coming from the kicker motor's overboard water system.  In this tank I squirt Lemon Joy which I use it to wash my hands AND contaminated lures like from jellyfish.   When not on my boat and I get jellyfish on, I have cleaned all the associated lure/flasher/line/swivels as best as I could, even to wiping them off with my handkerchief, then smearing a liberal amount of scent on the lure.  Maybe not ideal, but it works.

Leaders & Hook Sizes ;
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 and 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 6" 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 Type Behind Flashers Lengths ;  USE 40-70# TEST LEADER FOR TYING SQUIDS, HOOCHIES & FLIES.   These lures, having NO built in action like a spoon and 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 bend more, minimizing the action, allowing the bait to follow the flow, but be less enticing to the fish. 

 

Some will advocate the use of the newer almost invisible Florocarbon line and 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 and 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 clear water and in the top 50' of the water column, but it is 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 Baits & Targeted Fish ;  The following  dimensions regulate the rate of spin on the bait, - short = fasterlonger = slower.  For those of you who insist on 2 different speeds for trolling for both Chinook and 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.

I just run 30lb maxima across the board for my stuff. 32-36" for squids, 40"-46" for Spoons.  If I want a different action, I can shorten the leader.

Squid have no action themselves, go to shorter leaders so they get tossed around by the action of the flasher.  Spoons have their own action so don't run them too close in or the flasher will kill them.   However, it can be advantageous to run the spoon close enough so that the flasher ads an erratic stop and go action to the spoon.  Here you may have to experiment.

 

 

                               Measure distances from the rear of the flasher to the rear of the lure.  If in doubt, the old standby is the leader length 2 1/2 times the flasher length.
                                                  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" . .

 

 

Also there is the subject of pre-tying your leaders to the length and or leader weight, or just pull it off the spool and tie on the fly when you need it.  If you get into a bite that may only last a short time, being able to get your gear back in the water is important if you hope to get the fish box smelly.  To each his own, but I tend to pre-tie mine and wrap them onto a foam 1/2" pipe insulation.   I have NUMEROUS of these foam leader rolls.

 

I have settled on 3 main leader lengths, have them pre-tied and wound onto a 1/2" pipe insulation spool.  The lengths are 24", 32" and 40".  These are tied with swivels and snaps.  I always tie a snap on the  bottom end of everything for simplicity.  The snaps I like to use are the Duo Lock style.  A size #2 has a test strength of 30#, so will pretty well match your leader weights.  This size is small enough you can attach it to a small spoon and have no effect on the spoon's action. 

 

These pre-tied leaders also have an identifier of a small 4 mm bead on the leader.  The colors indicate the length of the leader.  The colors are no significance except that these are the colors I have on hand.  For instance, my 24" has a small Glo in the dark, 32" has a light pink and the 40" a light blue.

 

NOW ALL THE ABOVE TIDBITS OF INFORMATION MEANS VERY LITTLE IF THE FISH CAN NOT BITE THE BAIT.   There are some good underwater videos of fish approaching & TRYING to take the bait.  If you really look at these, you begin to wonder how some people even catch a fish.  If the lure is darting all over the place behind a dodger or flasher, sure it is attracting fish, but is it presented in a manner that the fish, in trying to strike it, misses more that a dozen times before the fish gives up & goes looking an easier meal.

 

What I am saying here, is you should at least check your attractor/bait action before you "Throw it over the Side".  The action of the bait is imparted from the flasher.  If the flasher is too large for the bait and or the leader length is mismatched, or a multitude of combinations, the bait will be jerked way faster that the targeted fish can respond.   Sometimes just going slower would change the results dramatically.

 

The main reason that many fisherpersons catch fish on the Fish Flash type rotating attractors is that the above problem does not happen with them.   Almost fool-proof as compared to selecting a Hot Spot Flasher, the right drop back from the downrigger wire, the right leader length and then a good lure, then the proper trolling speed.  This is not to say the Hot Spots are no good, quite on the contrary,  just that you have to be more of a professional fisherperson in understanding how and why they work, while being able to fine tune them if need be.

 

How many of you know someone who has spent MANY dollars on his "fishing machine", but somehow has never really connected with being at the right place, at the right time and even actually brings home a fish or two after many years of trying?  OK, luck of sorts may enter into the equation sometimes, but to be even somewhat consistent an efficient fisherman needs to have a game plan, and not resort to a game of "throwing darts".

 

Lures ; On most artificial lures, there is one thing you can do to up your boating percentage.  Many will come with a triple hook attached.   Remove this hook and install a #5 stainless split ring with a #4 barrel swivel between the lure and a new hook.  Replace it with a single Siwash hook that you put a slight sideways bend in the lower part or just move the point off center by 1/8".  This side angle seems to help on more hookups.  By adding the swivel you are also eliminating the situation of when fighting a fish the size of a salmon, the fish will more than likely roll numerous times (especially a Coho) putting strain on the lure & hook.  In doing so this fish uses the leverage of the solidly attached hook to the lure to pull the hook out.

 

On other thin metal lures like the 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 and narrow to imitate candlefish.  They are an excellent lure for intended purposes, however they can get straightened out during a fish fight.  On the same light, if a new one is not performing, you can put more of a bend in it to achieve more action.

 

One old standby sport lure is the Coyote spoon by Luhr Jensen.  These are make in a  3.5", 4" or 5" size.  Either one works well with the larger usually reserved for the ocean as compared to the more inland waters.   Depending on what bait fish are prevalent at any particular time, is also a determining factor, so have a few of each size.  At least this is the excuse you can use for your wife.  The newer ones are now coming from the factory with a small spinner blade attached to the rear of the spoon in the same hole as the hook.  

 

Colors of lures will be an arguing point until the end of time.  What was catching fish yesterday or last year may go untouched this year.  That said, the ones you will see in many tackle boxes may be green glo, army truck, watermellon, wonderbread, cop car, green spatterback, white lightning or even funcky chicken.  Now if you think these names are from someone's dreams, just take a look at them and you may realize some resemblance.

 

A combination of Apex, Sting King, Coyote, Canadian Wonder & the Bait Buster with a spinner blade attached Bait Buster top left, hoochie or squid bottom with #4 Spi-N-Glo on line, -  Tomic plug top right, herring bonnet lower right

 

APEX / STING KING   These 2 lures are very close to each other in design, with the Sting King having a E chip while the Apex does not.  (Color order of preference) #1=Chrome,  #2= Mother of   Pearl,    #3= Green/White,  #4=Black/White  by itself or with a flasher.  

 

One thing  I have noticed over the years is that you will have some missed hookups (drive-bys to some of you) or with a pinched barb on the Siwash hook, the fish will throw the hook at times.  What I have come up with is to retie the leader using 40# mono, with regular mooching type 5/0 hooks, but with 2 hooks about 4" apart.  You will then need to add something as a spacer on the line before you thread it thru the lure to position the front hook rearward enough to have it with the eye of the hook about even with the tail of the lure, placing the point of the hook far enough back to not be protected from the tail of the lure.  The easiest for fishermen is to use plastic beads, usually takes 4 to 5  (depending on the size of the lure) 6MM beads.  I like to use 2 red beads rearward and make up the other using Chartreuse ones.  This adds a little color to the lure and the red may just entice a strike imitating blood from a wounded baitfish.

In the photo on the left below, the upper Apex lure has 2 new hooks added, while the lower uses the one original Siwash as the rear.  However I think the the mooching hooks achieve a better hook up ratio in this circumstance, so I will probably change it out later.  What I have decided is that most fish attach the lures from the side and not the rear as most fishermen may think.  The fish can miss the single rear hook or only get lightly tagged by it.  Using the 2 spaced apart, if they hit it from the side, they may even get flossed by the line and then when they turn away, will get hooked on the inside of the opposite jaw.  I have NEVER had even one fish swallow any of these hooks as many expect.  Occasionally the trailer hook will also be imbedded in the outside under the pectoral fins.

 

On the photo at the right below is the new Brad's Super Cut Plug lure which has proved quite effective for me.  It has a hinged lower belly section that has a section of foam inside.  When closed, this hinged section is held in place with a supplied small wide rubber band at the tail section.  This foam can be soaked with scent, or totally removed and packed with smashed herring/anchovy or oil pack tuna as a scent attractor.  I personally remove this foam as it is my belief that after usage of scent on the foam, you will not be able to totally remove this and it could become rancid, thereby giving the lure a repelling smell instead of an attracting smell.

 

Apex shown here are my modified trailing hooks

Brad's Super Cut plug shown with the hinged section open & a closed ready to fish plug with modified trailing hooks

 

 


PLUGS   (old style large commercial) preferred color - some form of white.   No flasher, 35' to 75’ behind Down Rigger release clip.

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.

Squid or Hoochies -- here it has proven advantageous if you, when running a squid behind a flasher/ dodger, (not a Fish Flash) to add approximately a #4 green or blue Spin-N-Glo on the leader ahead of the plastic squid, using a plastic bead between the tow as a bearing.   This will add to the attractiveness of the lure.

 

2 Lures on One Line ; If you look on Scotty's webpage, www.scottyusa.com 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 and ride there.  You will now have to be alert, and when pulling the ball, to not put a electric downrigger on automatic and forget to stop it short to 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.
  
   This system or even stacking a 2nd line off a downrigger wire, you can get into tangles with each other if going much deeper than 50-60' because in ocean conditions there may be more than one current under the surface that you are not aware of.


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.   During fishing season, my thumbnails look pretty chewed up.  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.

 

Take your pliers and bend the hook out and away some from the shank so as to offset it a little more.   Next SHARPEN your hooks from the inside edge so as to direct the point slightly out and not in as the come from the package.

 

Hook style is something that you may look into.  Normal salmon hooks used tied to a leader will be an Octopus style as shown in the upper left in the photo below.  This has a turned up eye.  There is also a Siwash style that is designed to be used on spoons.  This hook has a straight shank but the eye is open so it can be in stalled into a swivel or spoon as shown on the top right below.

Then there is a newer style that has appeared since about 2009 and it is known as the Sickle style as shown in the bottom below.  These are made in either the Octopus style turned up eye or the Siwash open straight eye.  It seems that they are larger in size when compared to regular octopus style hooks, like a 3/0  Matsuo Sickle hook is equal to a 5/0 regular hook.

 

The benefit of these Sickle hooks is that once the fish has been hooked and the hook penetrates, the jaw or whatever part of the fish that is hooked, slides down into the Vee of the hook where it is harder for the fish to throw the hook.   This hook apparently has been made and promoted by Matsuo however many of the sporting goods stores have not figured out the benefits of stocking a supply of them. 

 

Different hook styles
 

 

Match The Hook to The Bait Size ;

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

HERRING SIZE PACKAGE LABEL COLOR

APPROXIMATE HOOK SIZE

  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

 

The above hook sizes do not really apply to running behind lures.  Smaller lures need a hook size/weight to match it's ability to give the desired action.  Larger lures seem more forgiving.  I will usually replace most factory hooks, or at least change things and tend to use larger hooks like 5/0 or 6/0.  These fish have a large mouth and you really want to hook them in the jaws, not deeper in the gills if there is any chance that you will have to release the fish.  Larger hooks tend top help accomplish this.

 

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 and 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 and up thru the backbone then out in the center of the back.  The other hook is passed thru the belly cavity and out the short side belly, then just allowed to dangle back by the tail. 

 

When using whole herring for bait, about the best way I have found is to run the rear hook thru the lips of the herring sideways.  Hold the herring by slightly squeezing it on top of the head and bottom of the jaw.  Right behind the forward part of the lip juncture between the top and bottom you will find a spot that the upper hook will go straight thru from one side and out the other, push it thru.   With the lower hook on the same side that the upper hook's eye is on, push it into the rear section of the herring, (usually about 3/4 of the way back).  Bring this lower hook mostly thru the bait and back out so that the hook's point is facing forward with the eye laying alongside the bait.  Now rotate the front hook 180 degrees without tearing the bait, and push it in thru the rear gill plates and out the other side so both hooks points are on the same side.  There should be a slight bend because of the tension from the front hook.  If the bend goes not give the desired spin, move the rear hook either forward or rearward or tie your leader spacing differently to match the bait size.   The above method holds the mouth closed.

 

Another method is to use one of the "herring bonnets" when you troll whole herring.  There are many different types, but essentially they allow you to put the nose of the bait in a protected bonnet.   This will help especially if the frozen bait is not as good as you may like, also it helps keep the bait from pulling apart, and gives a rotating turn to the bait, without the effort of placing the hooks EXACTLY in the right location for each bait.

 

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 helps to keep your bait cool while on the boat.  Use a small lunchbox type insulated cooler, put your salt and other ingredients in then use this as a bait-box on the boat.   It can be kept in a refrigerator for a a month or so, if for longer freeze it in the brine.  However keeping it too long in this solution kind of mummifies the bait to where it deteriorates.  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 and or green food coloring in brine to replace dead fish color.
Formula #2   add powdered milk into the brine.  This powdered milk being lactic acid, kind of acts like a tannic acid & sets the scales.
Formula #3  
combine 1 & 2

 

Then there are those that simply open the bait bag, allow the bait to lightly thaw and liberally sprinkle rock salt on the bait.  Then roll them in a paper towel then place back in the freezer.  What you are doing is dry packing them in rock salt.  This is good if you are one who mainly uses lures, but do not want to be without IF all the fish are biting is bait.  These will keep all day in a small lunch box size cooler.  Then put them back in the freezer after the day of fishing.

 

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 and zinc anode or a aluminum boat) in a conductive solution (salt water) you create an electrical charge.  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 electrical ground to the downrigger wire.  Different types of fish react to different electrical charges. 

 

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 and ground everything metal that is in the water.  One thing most overlooked would be your trim tabs.   They will usually be bolted thru the fiberglass hull, so just run a bare #10 wire as a ground from you negative battery terminal to the bolts and put a second nut holding this ground wire.    Do this to anything metal that is on the outside of the hull.

 

Scotty and Pro Troll both make a "Black Box" that can be installed on your boat, connected to your downrigger and adjusted to give the desired electrical charge to your wire.  These units give you the opportunity to over-ride any stray voltage, especially if you have a aluminum boat.

 

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 fresh water or better yet, use "Salt Away".  This solution apparently neutralizes the salt.  Next you want to lightly wash the same gear with plain water.  Let it dry, and then spray it with a corrosion blocker.  Two that are effective and economical are made by CRC.  They come in aerosol cans and are CRC "3-36" and CRC "Engine Stor".  Another would be LPS-1.   This stuff is a light spray metal protector and will help immensely on rod guides, reels, swivels and spoons.  WD-40 will also work well, but if left on over the winter will leave a skin that hardens over time.

 

What to do After You Hook a Fish ; In use, when you let your line out, you can set the drag slightly lighter than normal, but to where it does not pull off while the boat is moving.   Set the clicker to "ON", this will wake you up when a fish hits, and with the drag set slightly lighter, if the fish happens to be large enough to pull the line until you get things organized.   The release clip needs to be set tighter, which actually makes the fish when hooked, pull hard enough to set the hook into the fish's jaw.

 

OK, now your rod has "Went Off", meaning a fish probably has hit the lure and the line has snapped out of the line release.  What do I do?  Grab the rod ASAP and REEL FAST to take any slack in the line to see if you can feel the fish on the other end of the line.   Some salmon especially Blackmouth, come up from the bottom when hooked.  If this is the case you need to recover enough line to maintain contact with the fish so it does not throw the hook.  If it is still hooked and you can feel it, keep reeling in to keep the line tight.  You should NOT have to set the hooks as the fish will probably have done it for you by this time.  However if you insist, then just drop the rod tip a foot, and sharply snap it up.  You should not need to be so aggressive that you jerk the lure out of the fish's mouth or even break the leader.

 

As soon as the fish hits and pulls the line out of the clip, pull that downrigger wire and ball in.   Here is where the electric downrigger comes in real handy.  If you are using a electric model that has an automatic button and a preset shut-off trip, all the better.  When the ball stops just under the surface, pull it into the boat.  Do not leave it there if that is the side you plan on bringing the fish in, as these seem to be magnets for fish to head for, becoming tangled.  You or your partner may also want to rotate the downrigger arm straight back or forward to give more room off the side to net the fish, without entangling things.

 

Once you make a decision as to the size of the fish, do we leave your partners rod in the water or not.  If the fish is a Chinook under about 15# or Coho, you may leave the other rod out hoping to pick up another out of a possible school of fish.  DO NOT stop the motor, but keep trolling.  You also may want to turn the boat SLIGHTLY toward the side of the boat that the fish is coming in on to give more room to net the fish, while at the same time considering keeping the other lines from tangling in the prop.  You may slow down slightly, but do not stop.   For one, if you do stop, then your partner's line may become entangled with his downrigger wire.

 

The main thing to keep in mind, is at all costs try to keep the fish out of the other downrigger wire.   If this happens, good luck, as your chances of landing this fish have just diminished 200%.  If it happens to tangle your partners line, then have him put his reel in free-spool, only reeling in when lots of his line is out, but not interfering with the fighting of your fish.

If the fish is a larger fish and pulling out line that you have no control over, then you had better quickly pull all the downriggers up, stow the balls and be ready to chase it to recover some line back onto the reel spool, then continue to fight a somewhat less fresh eager fish.

 

Most experienced recreational trollers do not stop the boat when an average size fish hits, as there is usually other gear out.  But by the time you realize it is a fish large enough that you may have to pull the other gear and chase it, this fish may already have 150 yards of line out and going away from you.  As said before, you need a reel that has enough line capacity to act as a cushion to allow you to get the other gear in, turn around then chase the fish to retrieve some of this lost line.

 

It is best if the netter and the fisher to also wear Polaroid glasses, this will allow them to see into the water and see the fish a lot better by cutting out the surface glare.   

 

Some fish, depending on where they are hooked will want to go to the right, or the left.  Take it on the side it wants to go to, do not to to bring a RH hooked fish on the LH side of the boat.   If a fish is hooked with a lure on one side of the mouth and you keep putting him on the other side just because that is where you are comfortable in netting from, you very well may pull the hook out before he comes in.  Been There - Done That.  This then will also determine what you will do with the other rod / rods and downrigger wire.

 

This has also proven beneficial if you happen to have 2 fish on at once, as with the boat still moving, the second fish tends to not get as excited if you do not get it really close (keep it about 30' out) to the boat and it will usually tag a long, giving you time to net the other smaller or more tired fish netted first.

 

Netting the Fish ;  Wear Polaroid sunglasses to help cut the water surface glare and allow you to see the fish in the water better.   More fish are lost within 10' of a boat than any other location by fishermen who try to net too soon.   CLICK HERE for a article on netting a fish.

 

OK, the fish is coming in, (we are now assuming that you are not alone here.)  If possible let the fish tire out to the point that it comes in along side of the boat, without spooking and wanting to make another run.  Some skippers like to have the fisherperson move forward enough from the stern to allow the netter to stand in one of the rear corners.  This gives the netter a chance to cover more area if the fish tends to go behind and or under the motors.

 

The netter needs to grab ahold of the BOTTOM of the net bag lightly with a couple of fingers of the forward hand that is also holding the net handle close behind the bow to give maximum diversity.  This method is so that you are holding the bag out of the water and not spooking the fish.  With the other hand the netter has ahold of the handle as far back as possible and yet be able to control the net in any circumstance. 

 

Notice the left 2nd finger of the forward hand holding the net bag.   Also notice the Polaroid sunglasses Nice job on a 26# Chinook salmon, note the closed net bag
 

 

Be sure that the reel drag has NOT been tightened down more than normal during the fight, as if the fish makes another run with a tight drag, it may pull the hooks out or break the line, or rod.  If it is a large fish you may even lighten the drag slightly to assure this will not happen.   Allow the drag do what it is designed to do.  This will actually get more fish into the boat. 

Resist the temptation of holding the rod high when the fish is near the boat prior to netting, as if the fish makes a last run, he will normally go so fast and down that if the reel's drag is to tight, you will break the rod.  The alternative to this is to hold the rod lower and pointed in the opposite direction that the fish is going.  Work him back and forth along side of the boat, by moving the rod's direction.  You can usually see the fish in this instance when it is close and can be more prepared if it decides to go.  Plus it saves the rod if the fish does go at the last second close to the boat. This also gives the netter a better chance with the fish swimming  along side of the boat.

 

When the fish comes along side and appears to not offer a lot of resistance, the fisherperson needs to lead the fish toward the netter, but not bring it's head out of the water, (for some reason the fish finds extra energy if it's head is out of the water.)   As the fish is lead in, the netter makes a QUICK jab down IMMEDIATELY IN FRONT of the fish, at the same time releasing the fingers that are holding the bag's bottom at the same time the net hits the water and since fish has not reverse, the net can then be QUICKLY lifted straight up, closing the bag, trapping the fish in the net and then against the side of the boat.   Do NOT raise the net parallel with the water, (as this can break a net handle if it is a large fish), but pick the handle straight UP, again closing the bag.

 

Also here is one thing to remember, that IF the lure has more than 1 hook, when you net the fish, you have to do it right the first time, as if you do a close miss but are near enough to tangle a loose hook in the net, you can kiss the fish goodbye because the fish is now probably outside the bag and at the same time attached to it by the 2nd hook.

 

Sometimes this process has to be speeded up if you can see that the hook is lightly embedded in the edge of the fish's mouth, and you run a chance of having it pull out at any second.   Have the fisherman try to bring it in easy to make a quick shot at netting.   Do not try to net a fish that is deeper than VERY CLOSE to the top and remember that these fish have no reverse, but they can turn very quickly.

 

As soon as the netter has the fish in the net, the fisherman needs to strip of 6 feet or so of line so the rod tip will have a better chance of survival during the excitement when the net and fish are brought into the boat.

 

Releasing a Fish ;  If your fish is one that the regulations say is illegal, in that is is not adipose fin clipped, then you will have to release it unharmed without taking it out of the water.  In this case you should not tire the fish unduly, but get it in as fast as possible to ensure that it has a good survival.   There are a couple of ways to go here.  A hook release can be used.   This is like a small gaff hook with no sharp point on the end.   In use, when the fish is close to the boat and tired enough that you can grasp the leader a foot or so from the fish, use this hook remover by reaching out and hooking the line.   Next bring the remover close to the  fish, then with the other hand holding the leader, quickly raise the hook remover handle while at the same time lowering the hand holding the leader.  What this does is raises the fish's head into the remover, but reversing the hook & putting the weight of the fish to unhook itself.    

Depending on the size and specie of the fish, and whether it is tangled in the leader, you may have to net it, but keep it in the net tight against the side of the boat which incapacities the fish.   Also rolling the fish on it's back does wonders to quiet it.  Unhook the lure, then tip the fish out of the bag without bringing it aboard.  For a link to an article on releasing fish CLICK HERE.

 

Downrigger wire Around the Main Motor 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 if the wind and current are against you,   I recommend the "Sting Ray" type stabilizer fin that is attached to the cavitation plate of the main motor.  Your boat / engine may not need it's advertised usage of "getting out of the hole faster", but let me tell you, these fins sure make something for you to lay on when the motor is tipped up and to have something to 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 and it is rather choppy.  You may say it won't happen to me, but if you fish with downriggers enough and in many different types of weather, the odds are against you.   Also carry a spare spool of wire, crimpers, sleeves and an extra weights.

 

Prop Guard For Trolling Motor ; Fishing line, but more-so downrigger wire around the prop can put you in to a precarious situation fast if the conditions are wrong.  All the more reason to install a prop guard around your trolling motor prop.

 

Sometimes even though you try hard to have this not happen, things just go wrong.  Maybe you are in a rip tide with the current pushing you one way and the wind is pushing you another way with 2 downrigger wires not where they should be.

 

Here comes the use for a propeller guard.  These are usually made of 1/8" stainless steel about 2 1/2" wide & bent into a circle with about 1" of clearance around the outer edges of the prop.  They are bolted onto the top of the cavitation plate of the motor with 1/4" stainless bolts.   There is a welded tab on the very bottom that is bolted to the bottom of the skeg for stiffening front to rear.  These may seem to be expensive at the retail price but what if you loose a couple of 12# downrigger balls that retail for $40 each.  This device may also save the day by keeping your spider wire line from getting into the prop shaft seal and cutting it to shreds there you have just started fishing on the first day of your vacation.

 

Prop guard on Yamaha T8 trolling motor



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

This all started out as simply a leader length behind flashers list for my own use, that I put together from a "Pre-Salmon University" class that I took from Joe Pecioro & John Keizer from Gig Harbor PSA many years ago (probably in 1993)  when I decided to learn how to fish Puget Sound Blackmouth.  But it seems to have grown into a general salmon trolling page & then being split into many other fishing related articles.

Copyright 1996 - 2014  LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

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Originated sometime 1996, Last modified 03-16-2014   ***
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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.