June 2011

June 2011
June 2011
June 2011

 

SALTWATER FISHING TACTICS THAT ARE COMMON TO THE WEST COAST

by Larry E. Stefanyk

It is not our intent to go into great detail on fishing tactics, for there are some excellent books devoted solely to this topic. Suffice to say that no matter where one travels along the entire West Coast, five basic tactics are employed. Depending on location and conditions, there may be some minor variations in rigging, but they are all based on these five tactics.

TROLLING: Includes the use of downriggers, planers, and heavy sinkers, plus high-speed “bucktailing” on or near the surface with little or no weight attached to the line. When downriggers are used, the term “downrigging” often replaces “trolling.”

MOOCHING AND BAIT FISHING: Whether free drifting, anchored, or
using motor power to control their drift, “moochers” suspend dead baits at varying levels beneath their boats. Anglers targeting bottom fish do much the same, but usually attempt to keep their baits right on or close to the bottom.

JIGGING AND DRIFT-JIGGING: Light to medium weight lead-head jigs or metal-bodied drift-jigs are fished anywhere from the surface to the bottom. Heavyweight drift-jigs, or cod jigs weighing up to two pounds are fished right on or close to the bottom. Depending on the sizes of lures used, anglers may employ anything from ultralight spinning tackle to heavyweight rods and multiplier reels, and some enjoy using 300-pound-test hand lines while fishing for halibut.
CASTING: Using spinning or bait-casting tackle, a wide range of lures or baits can be cast from boats or shore, often with great success. And they’re especially effective for salmon around kelp beds or migration routes bordering shorelines, and for shallow-water species like perch, rockfish, greenling and flounder.

FLY FISHING: This facet of saltwater fishing continues to increase in popularity. All five species of salmon can be taken on flies, but the favourites by far are coho and pink salmon during the summer and fall months. Anglers may fish from the beaches, wade the estuaries of creeks and streams, or travel offshore in boats. Many bottom fish species also provide good sport to fly fishers.

COMMON BAITS AND LURES FOR SALMON AND BOTTOM FISH
The most common salmon bait is a herring. It may be used as a whole dead bait with its head inserted in a plastic holder that imparts action; as a “cut-plug” with the head severed at an angle to impart a rolling motion; or as a “strip” (fillet), which is also inserted in an action-producing holder. Other popular baits in some areas are anchovy, pilchard (sardines) and sand lance (needlefish).
Baits for large bottom fish include all of the above, plus virtually anything else you can skewer with a hook. For fishing deep water, salmon bellies and similar scraps with the skin left intact are a prime bait, especially for halibut, as they have an attractive scent and are quite durable. The second choice for scent is herring, but it is soft and easily stripped from a hook. A far better choice is the filleted remains of salmon or bottom fish, with the head left intact (which is where the hook goes). The most durable bait by far is a piece of octopus tentacle, but the scent is not very strong. Attaching a piece of octopus with pieces of herring is a combination that has an attractive scent that draws bottom fish in, then gives them something to chew on after the herring is stripped off.
For smaller bottom fish like flounder and greenling, small pieces of herring or other baitfish are good, but don’t overlook cooked clam necks, pile worms, chicken skin — virtually anything with scent that is small enough for them to get into their mouths.
Popular trolling lures for salmon include light-coloured or chrome finished plugs like Tomic Plugs, Luhr-Jensen J-Plugs, and Lyman Lures; spoons including Tom Mack, Coyote, Canadian Wonder, Road Runner, and Krippled K; and solid plastic action lures such as Hot Spot Apex and Gibbs Hockey Stick to name a few.

An important part of any salmon angler’s tackle selection are hoochies, which are small squid imitations with a fringed skirt of soft, flexible plastic. A green or green/white hoochy is often a good searching pattern for Chinooks and coho, and various shades of pink, red or purple for the other three salmon species. Hoochies for sockeye and pinks should be smaller and somewhat sparser than for larger salmon. Luminous or glow colours also produce well at times, and those that react to ultraviolet light are especially good choices for deep-water trolling.
Plastic dodgers and flashers incorporating non-tarnish finishes of brightly-coloured Mylar, often with contrasting coloured edges or stripes, are now much more popular than traditional dodgers and flashers of solid metal with chrome or nickel finishes. For Chinooks, coho and chums, lures or baits might trail behind a flasher anywhere from 4-10 feet, while for sockeye and pinks a leader of 16 to 28 inches is preferred. Small flashers work best for sockeye and pinks, and should always be trolled dead slow and in a straight line.
Drift-jigging refers to the use of fish-shaped lures fashioned from solid metal. They may be cast and retrieved, or simply lowered to a specific depth and jigged. Their compact size-to-weight ratio permits the use of light-to medium-weight tackle, and in some areas this tactic often out-produces other methods. A sampling of popular drift-jigs includes Deadly Dick, Dungeness Stinger, Hopkins, Gibbs Minnow, Kastmaster, King of Diamonds, Laser, Nordic, Pirken, Radiant Dart, Rip Tide Striker, Stingsilda, Super Striker, Zelda and Zzinger.
Jigging refers to fishing on or near the bottom in deep water with lures weighing up to two pounds. These may be traditional cod jigs, or cylindrical-shaped pipe jigs and dink jigs adorned with a large, colourful, hoochy rigged on top to reduce hang-ups. Popular models include Lucky Jig, Halibut Spinnow, Mudraker and Halibut Hammer, but many anglers simply use a lead dink sinker — either unpainted or painted — to which they attach a hook and hoochy. Also used are typical leadhead jigs that suspends horizontally from the line. These have a large single hook that rides point upward, and are usually dressed with colourful bodies of hair, feathers or soft, flexible plastic. Chinook and coho take them readily at times, and they are especially good for fishing right on or near the bottom for species like flounders, rockfish, lingcod and cabezon. In the larger sizes — up to 1.5 pounds — they are often a good choice for halibut.

 

Huxley’s Run: 

One of my favorite fishing trips was one of which I expected less.

We were heading out on an annual foray into one of the wilderness rivers of
British Columbia. Rick, Ken and I. Like old times. Like every time. Except
this time Rick was bringing his kids.

I don’t know how old Ben and Steven were at that time. Ben might have been in his early teens and Steven was probably around 10. Upkeep, I thought.
Well, if Rick wanted to bring them, and it was his boat and camping equipment, then I had little to say. I figured I would just stay downstream or upstream, far away as possible.

The boat ride to our river was long, cold, lumpy and rainy. I think the boys slept through it all, which ticked me off as well, since in rough weather I had to stand up by the centre console and absorb the pounding with my arthritic knee.

Campsite was reached and despite the boys being there, I was still blessed with the task of gathering the rocks for our fire. With every heft, I looked slant-eyed at the boys who, it seemed to me, were getting a relatively easy ride with things.

But things changed and Rick quickly instructed them about the rules of camp
– including washing the dishes which made me think Rick was a god of some form or fashion.

Whatever preconceived notions I had about the boys interfering with our fishing fun vanished as soon as the five of us lined the river and began fishing. I helped Steven, whose adult waders came up to his neck, release a fish or two, and we were hooting and hollering to each other as the fish were willingly putting us into double headers and triple headers.

But then it was back to camp. With supper done we luxuriated in the camp chairs, with the fire burning bright and night coming on. Which was fine for us, but the boys were getting a little edgy. Too early to sleep, too young to drink and nothing really to do.

That’s when I made my first draw.

It was the bear spray. I pulled it out from its holster like a gunfighter and pointed it at Ben. He smiled, then yawned. I drew on Steven shortly after. He smiled, then yawned. I did it again, again and again. Until finally, bored with not fishing and sitting around camp, they started to draw on me.

Rules were quickly set. You had to make eye contact with your opponent before drawing. Rick and Ken watched and chuckled, mentions of me being childish peppered the darkening evening. And then, while waiting to make eye contact with Ben or Steve, I glanced at Ken. He drew on me. Defeated, I looked at Rick and his hand came up and shot me through the heart.

The next couple of days were marked by as many fish as there were draws. It was such that when Steven and Ben were fighting fish and I approached to see their catch, they would hold the rod in one hand while still fighting the fish, and draw with the other.

It was a simple little thing that made that fishing trip so wonderful. Over the years I watched Ben and Steven Schmidt’s career with the Campbell River Storm hockey team and onwards. But I had not really met them in person for a few years.

Not too long ago and I happened by Rick’s place to pay a visit. A strapping young man around six feet tall and about 180 pounds or so looked down at me when I entered the house.

“How you doing Ben?” I asked, not sure if it was Ben or Steven. “Good,” he replied. There appeared to be no recognition on his part. Albeit I had probably gained as much weight as he had, and the hair, well, had a healthy drift of snow happening. But not recognize me?

He led me into the house and directed me to where Rick was, “He’s in there,” he said politely and turned to go.

I couldn’t help it. I said, “Heh,” and waited for him to turn around to meet my gaze. And then I drew. No bear spray, but my pistol finger came up and pointed right at him.
I stood there for a few seconds, my smile slowly fading to an embarrassed grin.

He at first had a surprised look on his face and then a look of confusion as he stared from my finger pistol to my eyes. I was frozen in place, like some gunfighter in a wax museum

It became quite awkward in those few seconds and then a slow smile spread across his face. “You’re still slow,” he said, before turning and walking away.

Subscribe Today!

Your complete fishing magazine for the west coast of British Columbia ONLY $24.65

Featured Product

AVAILABLE IN A LIMITED EDITION OF 75 HARD COVER COPIES Signed by Author AVAILABLE NOW Ultimate Trout Fishing in the Pacific Northwest By Larry E. Stefanyk...more info

Reel Obsession Sportfishing

Our Supporters