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Saltwater Salmon


In the salt chuck, chinook and coho are widely accepted as the mainstay of the saltwater salmon fishery. Chinook fishing can be had year round, given the presence of resident fish that live in every harbour, sound and inlet 12 months a year. Resident fish offer anglers a reasonable chance to catch salmon throughout the year, but when it comes to the outstanding salmon fishing many of us dream about, what we’re really interested in is fishing the migratory salmon runs that occur off the BC coast from May through September. This is when schools of chinook and cohos destined for distant rivers come through in such prodigious numbers that the fishing for them can border on the unbelievable. Experience this kind of salmon fishing just once, and when you’re speaking of your tales of salmon utopia, your friends will call you a flat out liar. Such is the price that has to be paid when salmon fishing is that good.

Winter Harbour 2009 A 661

I understand this predicament, and I’ve been there myself. I’ve even been told to my face that I must be exaggerating my stories. “Come on, no one gets that kind of good fishing!” They’d implore. But it is that good. In fact, come July and August, when the coho are running strong I’ve had entire fishing trips where it was nearly impossible to get the downriggers to the deeper water where the chinook hang out, simply because the coho schools, that are typically found shallower, were hammering our lures every time we tried to let them down. “Oh man! It’s just another 10 pound coho!” we’d say, almost in frustration. What a wonderful problem to have.

Winter Harbour 2008 201

Everyone that fishes the coast often enough will eventually develop a favourite area. Some people love to fish the inside waters, and will do extremely well be it around the central island near Campbell River, up north around Port Hardy, or along the south island, in places like Gabriola Island and Thrasher Rock, where I spent a good deal of my youth. Others go to hallowed grounds, like Rivers Inlets and hook up with great outfitters, like the gang from Legacy Lodge, which I myself did several years back. We spent a few glorious days chasing monster tyee sized chinooks. If you’re looking to catch the biggest of the big salmon, this is the place.

Mels Big Camera Oct 2010 208

But for a drive to fishing destination, my favourite area is Winter Harbour. Having fished this area for more than a decade, I know the waters, the salmon runs, and what to do when I’m there. Salmon fishing is an art, and there are many, many ways to catch them, which is excellent because if one place or one technique isn’t working, changing up locations or fishing styles is often all that’s needed to put fish in the boat.

Winter Harbour 2008 176

Of all the ways to catch salmon, I’d have to say that the flasher-hootchie combo off a downrigger is a must for anyone who wants to tag fish often. It is a flat out salmon catching machine and it catches chinooks and cohos equally well. The only difference between effectively catching the two salmon species is water depth, and speed. Typically schools of coho swim closer to the surface. For the most part I find most of my coho in the top 60 to 80 feet of water, even though the water could be 200 or more feet deep. I would agree, there are cohos that swim much deeper, but as a general rule, most run close to the surface and that’s where I catch them. Chinook, on the other hand, are deeper dwelling. There are days when I could not touch a chinook unless I was sending that 10 lb cannonball 220 feet down. Most times I find chinook off the waters at Winter Harbour in depths anywhere from 100 to 200 feet. The trick is to run two downriggers and vary the depths until the fish start biting. Put one at 100 feet, another at 140 feet and see what happens. Then try 120 and 160 feet and give it another go. You get the idea. A sounder is handy in these situations. I’d almost say it is essential, just because it will at least identify that I am going over schools of fish that are likely salmon.

Mels Big Camera Oct 2010 270

These depths are not set in stone, however. In other places I fish chinook are still deeper than coho, but they may only be 60 or 80 feet down, where the coho will be in the top 40 feet of water. It’s all relative. But one thing that is consistent is lure speed. Coho like it fast, chinooks like it slow and that just seems to be the way it is. So if you’re targeting chinook, fish deeper, go slower and try different depths until the fish tell you what they want. But if it’s coho, pick up the pace and you should do just fine. There is a ton more to this whole saltwater salmon fishing scene. This is barely scratching the surface, but it is the perfect place to start. Learn how to fish a flash-hootchie well and there will always be salmon near and far, willing to bite your line.

Winter Harbour Mel 2010 020

Fishing Tips – Fred Noddin

Previous Fishing Articles
(1) It’s OK to Be Little Bitty
(2) Exploring Tundra Waters
(3) The Jewel at First Ice
(4) Fly Fishing Bucket List
(5) Guided or DIY?
(6) Pond Power
(7) Caddisflies
(8) In the Good Old Summertime
(9) A Southern Escape
(10) Springtime in Alberta - Can Thrill You to the Bone
(11) Sunny Day Rainbows
(12) New "Fishing" Year Resolutions
(13) Five Fine Places to Find Trout
(14) Catfishing Revisited
(15) Discover Squamish, an Outdoor Playground
(16) Falling for Cutthroat
(17) New Water and Old Friends
(18) My McLeod
(19) Temperature and Trout
(20) On the Road Again
(21) Tips That Will Make You a More Successful Fly-Fisherman
(22) 5 Ways to Catch Your Trout
(23) The Difference Maker - Reading Trout Stream Waters
(24) Rollin’ on the River
(25) Windy Day Pike
(26) Cures for Cabin Fever
(27) Snowbirding with a Fishing Rod
(28) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(29) A day on our foothill streams
(30) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(31) Fly Leaders
(32) In the Zone
(33) Learners Permit
(34) Flies of Summer
(35) Selecting the Right Boat
(36) The Italian Job
(37) Making a difference
(38) Pass the Salt
(39) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(40) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(41) Fall brings the big walleye out
(42) Hoppertunity Time
(43) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(44) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(45) Early Season Fly Fishing
(46) Walleye Logic
(47) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(48) Grammy’s Fish
(49) Top 10 Trout Lures
(50) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(51) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(52) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(53) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(54) There’s No Place Like Home
(55) A Golden Opportunity
(56) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(57) Un-matching the Hatch
(58) Alberta Super Bugs
(59) Glass is Back
(60) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(61) Speed Kills
(62) Entering the Twilight Zone
(63) Old Man River
(64) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(65) Small stream BT fishing
(66) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(67) In The Walleye Zone
(68) Zoo Trout
(69) Fly Selection for Beginners
(70) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(71) New Waters
(72) Big Bad Burbot
(73) Looking Back
(74) Out of Africa
(75) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(76) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(77) The Browns of Autumn
(78) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(79) Walleye Town
(80) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(81) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(82) Going With The Flow
(83) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(84) Swinging The Fences
(85) A View From The Aerie
(86) Dixieland Delight
(87) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(88) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(89) Montana's Cool Missouri
(90) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(91) Toothy Critters
(92) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(93) Top Ten Flies
(94) Northern Exposure
(95) Home Water Lessons
(96) Chicken Of The Sea
(97) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(98) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(99) Keep It Up!
(100) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(101) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(102) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(103) Hawg Holes
(104) Saltwater Salmon
(105) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(106) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(107) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(110) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(111) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(112) Fall Walleye
(113) Wet Flies
(114) Versatility the Key to Success
(115) Grayling of the Boreal
(116) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(117) Size Matters
(118) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(119) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(120) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(121) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(122) The Point Of It All
(123) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(124) Fall Fly Fishing
(125) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(126) Big River, Big Fish
(127) Bottom Bonanza
(128) Fishing Small Flies
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(131) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
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(137) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(138) Four Corners – Four Waters
(139) Chasing Pothole Trout
(140) Springtime Stoneflies
(141) The Torrents of Spring
(142) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(143) Bust Them With Bait
(144) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(145) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(146) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(147) Terrestrials
(148) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(149) Rocky Mountain High
(150) Reading the clues
(151) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(152) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(153) Fly Fishing 101
(154) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(155) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(156) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(157) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(158) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(159) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(160) Trust Your Electronics
(161) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(162) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(163) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(164) Walleye can be Humbling
(165) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(166) Winter Flyfishing
(167) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(168) Hot Fall Pike Action
(169) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(170) Reading Trout Stream Waters
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(173) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(174) Deep Water Perch
(175) Post Spawn Brookies
(176) A Fisher's Life
(177) The River's Last Stand
(178) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(179) Coho on the Coast
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(181) Summer in the Mountains
(182) Peak Walleye Season
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(185) The Burbot Event
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(197) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(198) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
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(200) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(201) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(202) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(203) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(204) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(205) The Fun in Ultra Light
(206) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(207) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(208) Never Stop Learning
(209) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(210) Jigging through the Ice
(211) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(212) Rainbows on Ice
(213) The Season of Ice Begins
(214) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(215) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(216) Facts On Cats
(217) West Coast Adventure
(218) June Walleye Frenzy
(219) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(220) First Fish of the Year Pothole Rainbows and Browns
(221) Northern Exposure
(222) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(223) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(224) Man Overboard
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