Atlantic Salmon How-To

By on August 23, 2017

With the unintentional release of thousands of net pen raised Atlantic Salmon into our local waters and the opening of fishing for them with no limits by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I know you’ve got one question: how do I catch them? Reports have come in of Atlantics caught as far South as Bush Point on Whidbey Island. Folks are out there catching them, and forty in a day is not uncommon. After talking to a couple folks who were around when this last happened in Puget Sound, I’ve come up with some saltwater tips and tactics.

For trolling in the saltwater look for jumpers. These fish travel in huge schools. When you find them either by sight or bite, stay on them. Circle or figure-eight through the school. Try depths from 20-80 feet and troll slow. They are net pen lazy and stupid. For terminal tackle, try Silver Horde Mini Ace Hi Flies in purple or red 36-inch behind a dodger. Silver Horde 2-inch Kingfisher Spoons in Cookies and Cream should also work with a longer leader. We’re trying to match their feed, which is hatchery pellets. Silver Horde Salmon Scenter hatchery pellet bags clipped to your downrigger balls would also be an excellent idea.

As funny as it sounds, try throwing some gravel in the water. This will mimic the sound of pellet feeding time at the pens. Also, casting anything shiny to them once you find the fish may work. These fish are around 10 lbs so our regular salmon rods and reels should should do the trick. It will be interesting to see how they fight.

When fishing for Atlantic Salmon make sure you do your research and inspect any fish well before you keep it. Proper identification will ensure you don’t keep a non-legal species. The biggest giveaway that a fish is an Atlantic Salmon is the large black spots on its gill covers. This distinguishes it from all Pacific species. An Atlantic will also have black X shaped spots above the lateral line, a slender base of the tail and may or may not have spots on the tail. Study some good identification pictures and description before you go.

Let’s get out there and try to get these fish out of the water! Who knows what repercussions this release may have? It may be crucial to catch them before they hit the rivers.


Kevin Klein