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Angling for Success

By on May 18, 2015

Each week one of the Salmon University experts answers reader questions in our “Ask a Pro” feature. This week’s questions are answered by Tom Nelson. Submit your own question here.

Q: We are taking our boat up to Friday Harbor [Washington] on Memorial Day weekend and I am looking to drop a shimp pot and get some ling cod and halibut fishing in. I have not fished these areas and am looking for some guidance on locations for both. Thanks – Nate

A: Hi Nate – I hope the weather is good for you. There are several good places for shrimping and Halibut fishing. Halibut fishing is only open in that area from Thursday May 21st to Sunday, May 24th. Lingcod is open the entire Memorial Day weekend.

Good places to shrimp are off Iceberg Point, Salmon Bank, Eastern Bank and the west side of Waldron Island. All of these areas will also hold Lingcod and Halibut. Be sure to check your regulations for size limits on Lingcod.

Q: You maintain a 45 degree downrigger cable angle is best when trolling for chinook. Could you please let me know what size of weight you are using and what depth your downrigger is set at to attain a 45 degree angle. (If your trolling at 60 feet with a 45 degree cable angle, you obviously need a much greater cable angle at 120 feet to maintain the same trolling speed.) Thanks – Kevin

A: Actually, 45 degrees would be the maximum angle. 30 degrees is what you should be looking for most of the year. The angle of your downrigger cable is a little bit deceiving. After the cable breaks the surface tension of the water, it goes almost straight down and once you get deep enough, it begins to tail out. Since fish can see in front of them, to the side of them and up, but not down, a slight error in your downrigger depth won’t hurt your fishing effort. Ordinarily, we use 15 lb downrigger balls on our side downriggers and 10-12 lb balls on the two rear ones. But, no matter what the weight of the ball is, we still must adjust our trolling speed to different conditions.

The actual depth of your downrigger ball will be very close to what your counter is actually reading. Be aware that some electric downriggers can be harmed by using a 15 lb. downrigger ball. That is why I use Scotty Downriggers. If you don’t have Scotty, read your instruction manual and make sure your downrigger can handle a 15 lb. ball.

One last thing, you should always troll in the same direction the tide is running. If you are trolling against the tide, the depth of your downrigger ball is so wildly inaccurate, there is no way to calculate the actual depth you are fishing at.

image of Friday Harbor courtesy Jeremy Keith (CC BY 2.0)

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Tom Nelson
Tom Nelson is the publisher of Known throughout the Pacific Northwest as the “Dean of Saltwater Fishing,” he has helped develop and test tackle and gear for Scotty, Pro-Troll and Silver Horde, is a regular speaker at area sports shows, has taught more than 5,000 students how to fish during his classes at western Washington community colleges, and is the co-founder of the Puget Sound Anglers.