Twelve Rules for Effective Salmon Fishing

By on June 25, 2008

Rule #1
Prepare your tackle and boat before going on the water. Rods should be rigged; hootchies, flies and other lures attached and ready. Boat batteries should be fully charged and, if possible, gas the boat the day before.

Rule #2
Pay close attention to the tides. The best tides have a three-to-seven foot change. Small tidal exchange areas are the best fishing. With big tide and wind the baitfish hide in the relative calm of kelp beds or very deep in the water.

Rule #3
Fish hard during the peak times: one hour before through one hour after tide change. Don’t waste time tying lures, changing areas, or eating lunch during peak time. In the summer, early in the morning or late in the evening are peak.

The Rhinoceros Auklet will almost always be on top of bait.

The Rhinoceros Auklet will almost always be on top of bait.

Rule #4
Use all the information you can get, such as boat house information, maps and charts, electronics, etc. Watch for birds, especially in the winter. The Rhinoceros Auklet will almost always be on top of bait. Other birds in the area may include Seagulls, Common Marine and Ancient Murrelets.

Rule #5
Fish with, or across, the tide flow – never against it. Salmon face into the tide flow and have a better look at your lure when it’s coming towards them.

Rule #6
Stay in the area you catch fish or see fish caught.

Rule #7
Dont fish only where there are other fishermen (i.e. famous hot spots). Salmon are around bottom structures or bait. It’s better to fish by yourself for ten salmon on a reef, than to fish for 200 salmon with 4,000 other anglers.

Rule #8
Explore, but learn to fish three areas extremely well then expand your areas by one per year.

Ultra Violet lures show up at all depths.

Ultra Violet lures show up at all depths.

Rule #9
Use a lure that has sight, sound and smell. Use any color, as long as it is green. The colors that show up in the deepest water are greens, blues and blacks. All glow lures glow green. In addition, Ultra Violet colors can be added to your tackle box, as they show up at all depths. While we can’t see UV colors, salmon see them very well. Use flashers or rattle plugs to create sound. Add scent to your lure, such as Smelly Jelly or other products.

Rule #10
USE COLORS! In the top fifty feet of water use any color. Below fifty feet try blue, green, purple, UV and glow lures. The exception to the rule: use white plugs for mature summer Kings. In Puget Sound, plankton absorb the colors of red, yellow and orange. By the time these colors reach 50-feet, they have pretty much turned gray and disappear from the sight spectrum of the salmon. Two species of salmon do see red, yellow and orange better. These are Humpies and Sockeye.

Rule #11
When using bait check your bait every 15 minutes. Remember, you only have three hours of premium fishing time. If using lures, be aware of any change in rod tip action and check your lure every thirty minutes or if you’ve bumped the bottom.

Rule #12
Sharpen your hooks and keep them sharp!

Rhinoceros Auklet image courtesy Dick Daniels (CC BY-SA 3.0).

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.