The search for fresh(water) salmon

Posted: Monday, April 05, 2004

Your quarry

All Pacific salmon stop eating before entering saltwater, and they all die soon after spawning. All are good eating, but they are at their best in saltwater.

In most cases, the closer a salmon is to the mouth of a river when caught, the better eating it will be.

Salmon usually stay near the bottom of streams, where there is less current and more cover. They seldom move far to take a lure.

The king, or chinook, provides some of Alaska's most exciting fishing. While the rare fish can reach 90 pounds and more, the average is closer to 20 pounds.

The hard-fighting sockeye, or red, is the favorite of many anglers. It averages 4 to 8 pounds.

The pink, or humpback, averages about 4 pounds. In even-numbered years, like 2004, a large run of pinks returns to the Kenai River.

The silver, or coho, favored for its acrobatic abilities, ranges in average weight from 8 to 12 pounds.

Your tackle

Buy the best gear you can afford. Line is most important. A premium monofilament in the 15- to 20-pound range is adequate for most salmon fishing. For Kenai River kings, use 25- or 30-pound.

A reel for salmon fishing should hold at least 150 yards of line and have a good drag system.

The rod should be about 8 feet, 6 inches long, with a medium-heavy action.

Beginners have less trouble casting with a spinning outfit than with a bait-casting outfit.

Learn to tie the Trilene, Palomar and egg-loop knots. Some tide books contain knot-tying instructions.

For kings and silvers, a Spin-N-Glo ahead of a Gama-katsu "octopus" hook is a good rig.

Local tackle shops carry pre-tied rigs. Cured salmon roe will improve your "bite rate."

An effective way to catch sockeyes is by making short casts from the bank usually about 10 to 15 feet with a coho fly.

You can catch pinks on most any small spinner, spoon or streamer fly. They are one of the easier salmon to catch.

Be sure to get a fishing license. If you'll be fishing for kings, get a king salmon stamp.

Also pick up a free copy of the sportfishing regulations and read them.

Your technique

Try "drift-fishing" from the bank. Cast across and slightly upstream. Your sinker should be just heavy enough that you can feel it tapping along the bottom as the current carries your bait or lure downstream.

Follow your line with your rod, keeping the rod tip at eye level. When you no longer feel the sinker tapping, reel in and cast again. Stay alert.

If you feel anything unusual, assume it's a fish. Lift your rod sharply to set the hook. If something pulls back, yell, "Fish on!"

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