on downrigger fishing for Salmon from
Tom Nelson of Salmon University
Notes by Brian D.
Tom Nelson, from Salmon University, spoke last night at
the Edmonds Yacht club, sponsored by PSA Sno-King Chapter.
He shared 50 years experience salmon fishing, explaining
which techniques consistently catch fish in Puget Sound
and BC. Many people from beginners to advanced, came to
listen to his informative talk and learn how to catch more
fish. Tom states that there are three things with cause
fish to strike, sight, sound and smell.
The most effective way to cover water and find fish, is
to use a downrigger. Tom suggests using a 15lb ball on the
downrigger cable, to keep your lure at the depth which holds
fish. The majority of the fish are at or near the bottom,
so a heavier ball is better at maintaining the correct depth
and keeping your line more vertical in the water column.
Tom also suggested using cast iron balls, instead of lead
for the downrigger weight. He explained that when fishing
deep, losing the ball is less likely with cast iron, because
it is less grabby than lead. Lead tends to stick more than
cast iron, to snags on the bottom. Cast iron tends to bounce
off. Adding a snubber will also decrease your chances of
losing a ball when it comes into contact with a snag. Many
times when your downrigger ball comes into contact with
the bottom, it causes the fish to strike your lure, so it
is important to be able to confidently bounce the ball without
The black box topic was discussed briefly and explained
how it can help catch more fish. There are two well made
boxes on the market, one made by Scotty offered at $250.00,
and one made by Pro Troll offered at $99.00. Black boxes
can be effective at helping catch more fish because they
turn negative charges emitted from the downrigger cable
to a positive charge. Tom says that the ideal positive charge
emitted from the downrigger cable should be .6- .65 volts.
Aluminum boats are more susceptible to negative charges
than fiberglass, so it is a good idea to test your boat
before investing in the box. Visit Pro Trolls web
site for more information on testing.
Scent was discussed at length as being important in helping
to catch more fish. Scent not only attracts fish, it also
masks offensive odors that turn fish away. The most effective
scents on the market are herring, shrimp, shrimp anise mix,
and anchovy. Use scents liberally on all lures, flashers
and even leader. Be careful not to let scent come into contact
with downrigger release clips, as they are extremely slippery
and will reduce their effectiveness to hold your line! Tom
has developed a new product, which was designed to be used
as a chumming stick, attached to the downrigger cable. It
is a thin black tube, about 6 long, that holds a
specially developed mixture, used to attract salmon. This
stick is very effective at attracting hatchery fish, because
the ingredients in the mix are the same food the fish are
fed before they are released. Success rates when using the
stick were sometimes as great as 25 to 10. He will be selling
this innovative product at the Puyallup Sportsmans
show Jan 22- 26.
The most effective lures used to catch salmon are green,
purple and black in color. As lures are fished deeper into
the water column, colors like red and pink turn gray and
therefore, not as visible to fish. Green, glow green, purple,
and black continue to stay visible even as the lure is trolled
in water as deep as 150 feet, where visibility is low. Spoons
have the best action if they are tied on lighter leader,
15-20lbs. Hoochies are best tied with 40lb-60lb leader,
since they do not have any action on their own and are typically
rigged behind a flasher. The heavier leader causes the squid
to move more erratically and yields a higher percentage
of strikes. Flashers are excellent at attracting salmon
to your lure because of the vibrations given off by its
action, as it is trolled through the water. Salmon key in
on this vibration and bring them close to your lure. The
vibrations mimic an attacking salmon. Color does not matter
so much with the flasher, because the salmon are attracted
by its vibration. It is important to use ball bearing
swivels on the flasher, because the spinning action can
cause severe line twist and lead to breakage.
One mistake that often occurs when fishing with hoochies
is the hooks are buried into the squids tentacles
and fish are often missed because they dont get hooked.
Salmon are not very good catchers and will often come after
a lure several times before they are actually hooked. It
is best to have your trailer hook well exposed so that salmon
attacking the lure from the side, have a better chance at
getting hooked. Salmon dont know what hooks are, so
exposing them will not frighten the fish away. Tom likes
to use 6/0 barb less hooks. Not only do the rules specify
barb less hooks in Washington and BC, but he believes you
get a better and deeper hook set.
Some of Toms favorite lures are Coho Killers and Sonic
Edge made by Silver Horde, in green and glow green, lathered
in Smelly jelly on 15lb leaders. He runs these behind flashers
for even better action. He rigs his hoochies with clear,
translucent and green skirts to add bulk. He removes every
fifth tentacle on the squid, slips the hoochie over the
skirt, then uses glow beads on the leader to be sure that
the hooks are well exposed on the back of the bait. He runs
his hoochies behind a flasher, using 6/0 hooks, on 40-60lb
leader. In the summer, use 42-44 leader length, in
the winter use 32-36. Again, apply scent liberally.
Make sure you troll fast, 2-6 mph ground speed. If the release
clip on your downrigger cannot handle the speed, purchase
an adjustable tension clip, like Scottys hair trigger
release clip. It is common for anglers to troll too slow,
causing the action of the flashers and spoons to suffer.
Also, it is important to troll with the tide flow. Salmon
face into the water flow and will turn and chase down a
lure as it passes by.
Tom stresses that technique catches fish. Using the proper
techniques, lures, and scents will help you catch more fish.
His experience comes from fishing Puget Sound for over 50
years and has developed his proven methods to put more fish
in the boat for every angler.