Salmon and Steelhead are some of the most sought after species in the world, and you’ll find more of them than anywhere else in the world in the Northwest. Several regions have have year-round fishing opportunities for Salmon and Steelhead, due to a broad range of life cycles and timing of their runs. Certain months, days and years are better than others, and some runs are heavily fished, while others are left mostly untapped. Whether your day will include a lot of action or a lot of practice casting, either day is an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Salmon and Steelhead generally put up an excellent fight. That moment you realize you have a fish hooked is the most anticipated and remembered moment in fishing. That addictive rush of adrenaline that accompanies the “tap, tap…..tap” of a subtle bite, or the even bigger rush of a take that feels like it could rip your arm off is simply more cherished than any hit from any drug known to man…and anglers know this.
Big Salmon and Steelhead will tend to run the show during the fight. A forgiving drag and optimal rod is appreciated when fighting these powerful fish as they will attempt to enforce their will on the situation. The trick is get them tired out after playing them.
Salmon and Steelhead hatch in freshwater then migrate to the ocean where they begin their most prolific feeding period when they’ll gain a lot of weight until their biological clock points them back in the direction of their home river to spawn. Upon entry into the estuaries of their home rivers they are energized and full of fight. The most sought after Salmon and Steelhead are the ones freshest in from the ocean as they are the peak of their life cycle. As they age and come closer to spawning they lose mass and begin to develop their spawning colours—during this time they are most impressive to look at, appearing almost tropical, but less likely to provide a good fight and the meat is generally not as good. But these spawning fish continue the population life cycle and provide essential nutrients back to the watersheds.
The many species of Salmon and Steelhead are partial to different baits and lures, which provides the angler a diverse range of techniques throughout the year. Whether in boats or on the riverbank, there are many ways an angler can improve the odds of having a successful day. Small adjustments and paying attention to the tiniest of details can often pay off.
To catch more fish on a year-round basis, anglers must be cognizant of the timings of runs, water and weather conditions, and fish behaviour.
Here are some tips to increase your odds of coming back home (or assuming you’re on a self-guided fishing trip at a fishing lodge, to the comforts of a gourmet meal made for you at the resort) exhausted yet elated.
Choose the Best Spot
Start with careful consideration of there place you choose to fish. Hopefully you chose the right day when fish are moving through or holding in the area you’ll be fishing. If fish are there, you just need to locate the areas within the body of water that will produce bites. Try to determine the depth and movement of the water. Each species of salmon and steelhead has a unique preference in the type of water they are most likely to be in. There’s a sense of satisfaction when honking a fish successfully in a new area, as it provides some confidence that fish occupy that part of the river. There are parts of a river that are not likely to hold fish, at least not for very long. In these areas, the odds of success are low and can give the impression that there aren’t many fish in the river.
On the flip side, there are certain spots that consistently or infrequently hold large numbers of fish—areas that give the impression of abundance. But consider whether you’re fishing for moving fish or holding fish. If the former, find the travel lane they’re moving through and give them an irresistible bait during the peak times of travel. If fishing holding fish, fish through every likely holding area with a few presentations, then move on when you’re confident you’ve given it your best shot. Many areas can be the right area on a certain day—don’t write off a location just because it didn’t produce immediately. But don’t waste time in a location that isn’t going to produce. If you don’t know either way, try it. That’s the only true way to find out if an area is good for fishing or not.
Pick the Right Time
Learn about the river you are fishing—does it have planted fish, or a naturally reproducing population? Learn the time of year they are likely to return or migrate through. Investigate the water conditions—if the river has a level gauge, make a note of the water level. Note if it’s raining, a light rain, or the river flowing furiously and looking like chocolate milk.
Water conditions, clarity and weather are going to play a huge part in whether or not fish are there and biting. An angler’s mission is to adapt to any conditions to best find and hook fish. This can mean some tough days learning your fisheries, and how best to fish them. But remember, more time on the water means a fuller understanding of seasonal change.
Select the Correct Bait
A mistake that some anglers make is the tendency to attribute all success to one factor, when in reality it’s usually multiple factors that lead to a bite. Sometimes anglers think that the bait they chose a particular day is the only way to catch that fish, but there are many different presentations that a fish could choose to bite. The correct bait is the one that gets bit, but a variety of different presentations can lead to a variety of good results. Fish just want a bait/lure that seems natural and represents either a part of their food source or something that triggers aggression. They don’t want to see too much extra tackle, or a heavy line, or unnatural movement. The bait itself is half the battle—presenting it properly to the fish is arguably just as important.
Putting the odds in your favour is the key to catching more fish. Whether it be your location, presentation or timing, keep changing it up until you find fish. Fishing is a lifelong pursuit and is one of the most rewarding ways to enjoy the outdoors.