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Downrigger Trolling  for  Salmon

 

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           Downriggers pay off for Sitka Alaskan King Salmon

DOWNRIGGERS ;  The choice of downriggers could get to be a lengthy session all by itself, as there will be many opinions as to which is best.   I have personally used Cannon manuals, Penn manuals, & Scotty manual & electrics.   Each one has different features, some of a benefit over others.   My suggestion is to go with a friend who has other brands & get a chance to use as many as possible before you lay out the amount of cash involved.   I had never even seen a downrigger used before I purchased my Cannons & I had a very steep learning curve.  The reason I got the Cannons was I knew a salesman who gave me a good deal on them.   After I had a chance to see how the Scotty electrics were used by a Alaskan salmon guide, when I sold that boat, I gave the guy a good deal on the whole package. 

I would not want a manual version where the handle rotated as the line was being let out.   This can be an arm breaker.  One boat I was on that had an old Penn manual, & this was the situation.   The Cannon manual, you rotated the crank handle slightly back allowing the line to go out & by moving it farther back, it creates a cam type brake.   This worked, but I was always afraid that a good jolt would brake something & it required a good cleaning & oiling frequently to keep it from seizing up if used in saltwater.

The Scotty electrics are a good design, & have been constantly improved.  If you take it to a repair center for any problem, like even a uneven drag, most time they will update it to the newest type of parts for no cost..   They have a 2 way switch on the upper arm control box.   This box has a slot that the wire is run thru.   It has a kind of pivoting door that is controlled by the switch on the top.  This switch has a black outer ring, & an inner green button.   To raise it, you can push this green button & as long as you hold it down the motor will bring in the wire.   However if you want to have it come in automatically, you rotate the outer ring.   This also sets the gate to where the "buttons" you have previously set on the wire as your stop position, a location that when they pass thru this gate, the switch is tripped off.   These buttons now come in a package of both bright greenish/chartreuse & black ones.   It is recommended that you put one of each color on right next to each other.   This gives you a second one as a security to keep both of them from being slid out of position & the green one is easy to see when it is coming up.   Scotty is one brand that will retrieve a 15# ball from deeper depths.

You want to set these stops so that the ball is not pulled all the way up.   As explained below in the Downrigger Weights  section, I like to have the ball stop so that it is still just in the water.   I have a shock cord long enough that I can now grab it & pull everything in then place the ball in a Ball Baby nest.   Raising the 12 or 15# ball out of the water is asking for a dented or crashed hull side.

When letting any of them out, do it in a smooth even motion.   If it goes too fast, the release clip & the line may tangle around the wire.  And if it goes too fast, & when  you have to stop it it may be so sudden that you fray or break the wire, or have the terminal snap off.

You will want to carry some spare parts for any make that you have.  You can always loose some bolts, blow a fuse, fray a wire, or break a belt.   I usually carry a Scotty manual unit as a backup & it mounts in the same brackets as my electric units.   Simply because it is cheaper & a lot lighter than the electric units.  And a spare can save the day if you have planned your outing, taken the time off, & possibly traveled some distance for your day on the water.   You can then repair the bad one or replace the wire on shore later.

Scotty electrics have a built in hand crank built into the unit just in case the belt breaks or something happens to the connector & you have to manually crank it up.

The spools need to be washed off after usage especially if used in saltwater.  The best is to wash them off with one of the salt dissolving products. One being a product called Salt Away.   Wash the whole boat & internals of the motor with this product.   Then rinse off with normal water.   If you do not clean the downrigger wire, it can start corroding.   I had one brand of replacement wire that rotted  in one year.   Buy a  longer replacement able than they come with.   This way you can shorten the terminal end as it becomes curled, or even if you snag bottom & have it broken off, you may still have enough to just replace the snap & reattach  another ball.

RODS ;  The rods used for downrigger fishing are usually 8' 6" & of a special design simply called "Downrigger Rods".   They need to be a stiff enough butt section, yet have a lighter tip section so that they can be cranked down to just before the release is tripped.   In use, the rod is arched greatly.  What this does is place a lot of strain on the line & the rod, with a minimal amount of slack from the release to the rod.   When you let the line out off the downrigger & stop the ball, you probably will then have to reel in slightly to take out all the slack in your line.  I have found that if I pull the line back in at this point with one hand & reel in the slack with the other, I can "feel it" better.  I want the slack taken completely out & have the release pulled up to just before it releases prematurely.  If you accidentally trip it off occasionally you are getting it about right.  When the fish hits, the rod snaps up, automatically setting the hook.

If you use a lighter rod you do not get this automatic hook setting action.   Longer "noodle" rods are also not considered desirable here for the same reason.  This is not to say they can not be used, but if you do, you will have to be ever watchful & as soon as a hit is detected, reel in as fast as possible to take up the line slack & get into the fish.

ROD ANGLE ; Set the rods at about a 45 degree angle rearward to achieve the desired effect described above.  If your rod is pointing rearward & down lower more, it  CAN NOT achieve any of this automatic hook setting action.  The rod seems to work best if mounted pointing to the rear instead of to the side, as you will have a lot of side strain on the rod.  However this will depend on where on your boat you have the downrigger mounted, & the DR rod holder you are using. 

Some west side of Vancouver Island Canadian guides seem to want to use the 10 1/2' mooching rod as an all-around rod.   This is not an ideal trolling rod by any means, especially if it is placed 90 degrees to the side of the boat as an extension of the downrigger arm.   They then also want to run the flasher 60' + behind the clip.  What this does is, there is so much belly in the fish line & with the long "noodle rod", that if you get a hit, this limp rod does not set the hook and it may not even trip the clip.  Your only hope is to, as SOON as the rod tip twitches, grab the rod & REEL VERY FAST.  If you come in empty, well, then you missed the fish.   On the other hand if when you get all the slack reeled in & something is wriggling on the other end, you lucked out.

REELS ;  The main concern is to have a reel with a good smooth drag.  If you have a reel that is old  & or not maintained that has a drag that is erratic that will allow the line to be only stripped off in spurts, this is an invitation to loose a GOOD fish.  The smaller fish will probably not be a problem, but a larger fish, when running, will not have the same constant strain applied.  This then may allow it to stop at the "hard spot".   Next run will be starting with more strain, & possibly break off or pull the hooks out.

Most commonly used reels will be the star drag, level wind reel.  You may not really need a large capacity reel, since you are in a boat & do have the ability to chase the fish if need be, but read about this below.   An Ambassedeur 5500, Penn 310 GTI, Shimano Triton 200G,  or Shimano Calcutta are some of the preferred ones.  The new Shimano Tekota 600 looks to be another winner also.   It is very seldom that more than 100 yards of line is really needed.   That said however, I like to run reels that I can spool with 250 yards of 25# monofilament line.   I have seen  big fish take out line FAST in the opposite direction that you are trolling, by the time you realize what is happening, you do not have time to pull the other gear in & do a chase.   Remember you are bound greatly by still having your downrigger wires in the water. 

The newer reels that have line counters will also help you return to a "Strike Zone" if conditions allow.  The Shimano Tekota line counter reels cost in the $180 range.   Okuma MagdaPro line counter series appear to the same & made for Cabellas as the DepthMaster II series.   Cabellas DM-20 or the larger DM-30 are good reels for $40, with the Okuma slightly higher.  I am not impressed with the Shakespeare Tidewater series line counter reels as the drag is overly stiff.

If you use a reel capable of holding 250 yards of 25# or so of line, you can use it one year, & the next year swap ends of  the line on the spool for fresh line on the normally used section (top) for the next season.

Do not make the mistake of using a steelhead rod & reel with 10# line for salmon on a downrigger if you are in an area where you may hook into a 30# plus fish.  The reason is that when you are trolling with multiple lines in the water, and you hook into a hog, it may take longer than you realize just to identify what may be on the other end, as sometimes they tag along.  If you are mooching, that is entirely different, as you do not have all the other semi-permanent gear (downrigger wire) in the water & you can move quickly if you have to while the other fishermen reel in.

LINE ;  Here is where you will get as many different ideas as there is line out there.  The normally used type is monofilament.  The suggestion is to find one brand that you are comfortable with & stay with it.  You however need a line that is abrasion resistant enough to not be effected by repeated use of the downrigger release clip.  You also need a line heavy enough to pull the flasher & rest of the gear.  Some will use 15# line for the smaller winter Blackmouth, & go up a notch to 20# when the fish get larger during the summer & fall.  If you are ocean fishing, the old standby is 25# monofilament.  With the newer bright colored lines becoming  available, there is one aspect that you may want to consider.  That is use a bright green or yellow if you are fishing where there is a chance of seals trying to take your fish.  If Mr. seal does take the fish, as soon as possible lighten up on the pressure so he will not have a chance to break your line off.  Then chase them & keep the boat above him.  This is where the bright colored line helps, as us older codgers can't see quite as well as we used to.  The seal has to come to the surface to get a breath & eat the fish.  When he hits the surface & takes a gulp, you can usually get the hurting or dead fish back before the seal can recover.

With the advent of spectra type braided lines like Fireline, PowerPro etc. currently on the market, many fishermen have went to them.  I will not argue one way or the other here, except that I have found the spectra lines, being smaller dia. do have the problem if you use the small sizes (about equal to mono poundage) as they tend to cut into the other line on the spool if a big fish starts pulling.  This can create essentially the same thing as a backlash in the rest of the line on the reel & can give you the chance for the big fish to pull the hook out or break the line.  Therefore many who use the newer lines go to a larger size than needed, just to keep the line from cutting into the spool.  When the larger dia. line is used then part of the benefits have diminished.

KNOTS ;  In any fishing the knot is a very important factor, most all of the older style knots are not that effective on the new spectra type lines. Therefore it is recommended you consider using the simple little tool called "Knots for All", http://www.tie-master.com/  it is a 5" plastic tool that facilitates & makes knots on the new line possible. This simple tool was designed by fishing guide Joe Little.  When the spectra type lines first came out he tested a 15# spectra with the common knots & it broke at the 15#, but using this tool & his knot, it broke at 34#.

When tying leaders, the safest way to tie the leader onto the hook is to wrap it left handed, this places the leader around the solid part of the eye, and not laying on the cut end of the eye that  in against the shank.  With GOOD hooks it may make no difference, but many times if you get a lost fish due to a cut line at the hook, you will find that the leader was pulled into this sharp cut off end of the eye & you will have a small pig's tail at the cut.

At times you will want a cut plug to only have the front hook in the bait, with the back hook trailing, with this you then need to tie your leaders appropriately.

SWIVELS ;  The most common swivels used for saltwater fishing will be the barrel, bead chain and ball bearing swivel.  Each one has it's place.  However when trolling, it is suggested that you get the best available.  If you want to test the efficiency of different swivels, a simple thing is to take about 12-15" of dacron line, tie both ends to the upper end of a swivel.  Then tie a mono dropper to the bottom of the swivel and then about 5 or 6" to a 2 ounce cannonball weight.  The upper looped dacron  will make it easy to hang onto.  Now quickly spin the weight.  Time the difference between each swivel before the spinning stops.  You will also be amazed at the differences in bead chain, barrel, cheap ball bearing swivels & the better Sampo brand.

DODGERS & FLASHERS ;  The big difference between dodgers & flashers is the way they run in the water when being trolled.  Dodgers are usually rounded on the ends and slightly cupped both ends, they wobble back & forth, or have a swaying side-to-side action.  Dodgers are not generally as effective below  about 60’, because color is filtered out at that depth & they do not make any noise as an attractor.
  The flasher develops a full 360 degree rotation.   As a general rule flashers work better at a slightly faster speed that dodgers do.  Flashers have to rotate, they also create noise, -- go fast enough to achieve this action.  The old brass Abe 'n Al of 50 years ago was  one of the better known flashers.  The Canadian Hot Spot plastic flasher seems to be the one most fishermen use now.  The large size, the 11" Glo Green seems to be the preferred color for Puget Sound & the ocean, while the 11" Red seems to be preferred color by the locals  in Canada's Barkley Sound.   Charge the Glo versions with a camera flash for better visibility in deeper water.
   New for 2003 is a flasher made by Pro Troll, called an E-Chip.  It has a small metal tube about 3/16" dia. & 5/8" long glued into the rear section.  This is supposed to emit a slight electrical charge about equal to baitfish being frightened.  A plug similar to the Apex, but called the Sting King has this same chip in it.  From what experience I have had,
IT WORKS.

11" Hot Spot Flasher on left, 8" Coyote on bottom, with a Les Davis Dodger on top right & Pro-Troll with chip on RH bottom Common size & colors of Fish Flash, with #2 Metric spinner on one as an extra attractor

FISH FLASH ; This rotary attractor has been around for the past 10 years or so, & is made by Big Al's Tackle Co.  It is a plastic triangle with the rear widest wings bent so the flasher rotates.  They are made in 4 sizes, Mini ( 4"), Small ( 6" ), Medium ( 8") & Large (11").   These have proven themselves for many types of fishing, both saltwater & freshwater.  The one thing about them there is very little drag, since they spin on their axis.  They are available in many different metallic reflective & glo-in-the-dark, the more popular colors seem to be chartreuse, chrome, red, lime green or blue plaid, with the new purple coming in recently. 

   What these were first found to be very good for locally, was Chinook fishing in estuary waters in the fall where the water had enough turbidity to restrict visibility.  When using them, it may be advisable to add a Sampo ball bearing swivel to your mainline, in addition to the original supplied swivels of the Flash to help eliminate tine twisting.   I have tested the large & medium units in the ocean & can not really tell if one is any better than the other down to about 70', below that possibly the larger may be benificial.    The mini & small units have proven themselves on landlocked Kokanee.

OK, I KNOW THIS IS A DOWNRIGGER ARTICLE, BUT ;  These Fish Flashes can also be connected about 12" behind a diver.  I have tried them attached directly to a diver, but when that close, the disturbance of the diver effects the spin of the Fish Flash.  When using this diver set-up,  I use only a 36"- 48" leader for normal salt water fishing.   One additional add on would be to add a Metric #2 spinner directly on the rear of this to increase it's effectiveness in that it does basically the same thing as the E-Chip.  If using them by themselves as trolling, without a diver or downrigger, you may want to also add a rudder keel between the mainline & the Flash.

  The illustration below has worked well for Coho off the stern & out about 60', it will also take Chinook.   You need about 12"-16" dacron line between  the Deep Six diver & the Fish Flash to get rid of the turbulance of the diver. The mooching leader needs to only be about 36" & place a plastic bead on the leader between the Spi-N-Glo & the hooks as a bearing.   Not scent or bait is really needed.  Run your downriggers off the side & put this rig right off the stern in a rodholder & wait for the action.  I like the Deep Six over all other divers in that you can adjust the trip off by the tension on the clamp.   It is also a lot easier to trip from the rod, as compared to the other divers like the Pink Lady, where they need to be tripped by the fish.   You are supposed to be able to trip the others from the rod by throwing slack & then picking it up again, but they don't seem to work as advertised most of the time.

Fish Flash behind Deep Six with Spi-N-Glo for Coho

In both of the illustrations below, you will see a 1 to 4 oz round lead sinker attached to a slider on the mainline resting just above the line release clip.  This is an option that may gain you a fish occasionally as explained in the section below "No Attractors for Coho".   A flasher or dodger could also be substituted for this Fish Flash.

 

A Fish Flash attached to a downrigger unit.   Note the lengths may not be to scale

ACE IN THE HOLE ;   This method  shown below, of trolling is using a flasher attached to the downrigger ball instead of on the mainline.  The appealing thing here is that you do not use the flasher or any weight on your line or leader, just your bait or lure.   Have the flasher back about 30" behind the ball & attached directly to it.  No lure behind it, as it is simply an attractor for the lure close above.  Now attach your release clip on the mainline far enough up so that the flasher can not raise up while descending & tangle with the leader.  You want the lure to be just above & behind the flasher.

With the above set up you can run a lighter rod & with the lighter rod, you can tell quickly if you have a small shaker fish hooked.  This is a proven method for Blackmouth.  You can use no weight or a light one as a slider just above the release as described  in the following paragraph.

This is called the Ace In The Hole setup, again possibly not to scale

 

NO ATTRACTORS FOR COHO ;  If you are trolling in an area that you are reasonably sure there are Coho, a simple method may help get multiple hook-ups.  When you have located a school of Coho, or even Chinook, abandon your flasher, etc.  Simply use a 4 oz. slider sinker and a mooching leader.  Instead of stacking running more rods than you really want on the downrigger, run say one each on your downrigger & simply troll the others.  For the ones on your downrigger, snap your release on the mainline below the sinker & the bait as far as you prefer.  Now when you get a hit, raise or lower the downrigger wire to the depth of the hit, pop off the release on the other rod, pull the wires up, & kick your motor into neutral & you are very quickly mooching, hopefully in the school of fish.  You may want to either raise or lower your other lines to put them into the "Fish Zone".  Many times this is more effective than trolling thru the school.
  Also, at this time, if the frenzy is on, do not get real excited in bringing in all the fish to the net before you rebait & get the bait back in the water, as the thrashing fish seem to attract others to the area.

Another method somewhat akin to the above, is to run the 6' mooching leader behind a rudder.  Snap the main line into your downrigger release with 80-90' of  line behind the release.    You should be able to see the downrigger ball on the screen, now by watching the sonar fishfinder constantly, & then when you see a fish arch above or below the ball, immediately raise or lower the ball to match the fish's depth.  Your bait will have enough time to move to the depth you have now set the ball by the time you have trolled to where you saw the fish.   Sometimes this method of targeting a single fish will pay off better than "Flock Shooting" the whole ocean in hopes of stumbling onto a fish at the right location & depth.

SNUBBERS ;  Since the requirement of barbless hooks, it has been apparent that many fish are hooked, but come off before being brought to the boat.  Les Davis has now come out with a 10" rubber snubber that is attached in the system, either between the mainline end and the flasher or behind the flasher.  This will help maintain a more constant tension on the fish, and possibly help prevent the hook from pulling out.  

My thoughts here is that it does 2 things.  IF you are using the new "Spectra" type braided lines & a stiff or fast rod, yes you WILL need a snubber to make up for the solid connection to the fish.  However if you are still using monofilament line, the line has enough stretch in it to do the same as a snubber.   

There is a couple of alternatives that will improve your catching ratio.  You can use the braided line, but keep the drag set to just where it does not pull off the reel when trolling, put the clicker. When you get the pop off,  let your loose drag peel line when you hook up.  Do this until the fish is well behind the boat.  Make sure the drag is loose.   Reel down on the fish to the point where the bend of the rod starts showing a definite hooked fish on it, but resist the temptation to set the hook.   The speed of the troll, the bend of the rod, the setting of the drag, the sharp hooks, and the snubber should be enough to do the job.  

MATCH THE HATCH If using a squid or spoon, try to use a size & color of the baitfish in the area on that particular day.  As soon as you catch a fish, cut it open & examine the stomach contents.  This will give you a clue as to what bait is in the area. 
   As Tom Nelson form Salmon University says about artificial bait,
"any color as long as it is green".   And if you fish below about 30', it is best to use a GLO version of spoon or squid.  Tom also suggests a blue/green/cream glo squid with a small green Spi-N-Glo on the line in front of it 20"- 32" behind a Hot Spot flasher.   This system has also proven itself behind a diver.

SCENT ;  Use scent on all artificial baits, herring. anchovy, scrimp, seem to be the best.   Put Power Bait & /or scent into a squid body.
When using scent, try not to get it on the mainline at the location of the downrigger release, this makes for more premature tripped releases.  One other approach is when using a snubber, punch a couple small holes in the rear, & inject the hollow tubing with scent, this then acts as a reservoir & slowly releases the scent over a longer period of time.

   While on  the subject of scent, many people excrete a enzyme that fish find repugnant.  There is quite a bit of evidence that L-lysine from human hands repels fish.  People have different levels of this amino acid in their bodies, which is excreted onto their hands, and it is easily transferred to lures and bait.   To be on the safe side,  before you start to fish, wash your hands with a fishing type soap, or dishwashing soap (Lemon Joy), dry them, & then place a small amount of herring oil on them, rubbing it into your skin.  Pat your hands dry with a towel, without wiping it off.  This will help set things up for a possible catching experience, as there is a difference between 
Fishing & Catching. 

While on this & relating back to SMELL  There is a new item on the market & brought out by Salmon University that is called the "Salmon Scenter".  This was a specially designed PVC tube with slots in the sides that is filled with their scent nuggets & then attached to the downrigger ball.   In essence, it milks out a scent trail & with your flasher/bait in this trail, it increases the percentage of strikes.  The scent nuggets are the same fish food that the hatcheries feed the small fish before releasing them.  This appears to work best for hatchery Coho, as it gives them something familiar to home in on, & targets the fin clipped hatchery fish as opposed to "Wild Coho" that usually have to be released.  

This original design has now become obsolete & has been replaced by a nylon mesh bag pre-filled with the nuggets & sold by Silver Horde.

RELEASE CLIPS;  When using downriggers you will have to use some sort of line releases.  There are about as many different types of these as you can imagine, you will have to pick one with the proper tension for the fish being targeted, as a light one for trout will not hold the salmon flasher.  The most common use spring tensioned pads to hold the line, for a lighter trip off you set the line farther out in the gripping pad area.   When going thru weeds, the weeds sometimes foul the release, not allowing it to trip.   It is recommended that if you find weeds in the area to pull the gear more often to clean it.   The new Scotty release is designed to divert weeds off of it better than most.
   When using the new spectra lines, some spring padded type releases do not really hold the line well, or cause abrasion & can break the line off.  The best release found for these are the Pro Release, which uses a pivoting arm that snaps into adjustable rubber notches.  The one thing to remember here is that be careful when winding the line on the arm so that it does not overlap, & thereby not releasing when tripped.  This one does have one disadvantage, in that since the line is wound around the pin with the trailing part farther out on this piveted pin, that if you try to manually trip it, sometimes it is hard to trip.

Release clips, Offshore top left, Pro Release bottom left, new Scotty top right, with older Scotty below & old Scotty plunger type bottom middle 

  On all releases it has been found best to use one that has a heavy mono attached to the large snap that has enough length so that you can snap it onto the wire & without having to lean out over the boat's gunnel to attach the release to the fishing line.  This will also allow you to attach it on the line more precisely each time.  The most common length seems to be about 48".
    The one possible drawback for using a heavier release setting is that possibly a undersize fish will not trip the release as reliably.  You will have to balance the release setting to the actual amount of drag encountered by your gear.  It seems best to use a setting that when you wind down the rod's line, to create the rod arch after achieving your depth, that occasionally you will have it trip off without a fish.  This will be apparent within seconds after getting it set.

    Another thing to remember is that if you are stacking 2 lines on one wire, that they both will have to be set to a slightly higher trip tension, so that you don't have to be constantly bringing the wire up & reattaching the release if one trips off prematurely.

HOW LONG A RELEASE? This pertains to the length of the heavy (100#) mono that attaches the release to the wire clip.  The longer the downrigger boom, the longer the release line has to be.   It has to be at least as long as your boom, otherwise you will be leaning dangerously over the gunnel to attach the line to the clip.  I usually use a 48" length.  One thing you can do if it pops off & you have pulled the wire in, but the release is trailing in the water too far out to grab, is to reach out with your rod tip & pick it up, then bring it in to where you can get ahold of it from there.

HOW FAR BACK? This is sometimes called DROP BACK, & is in reference to how far back do you let the flasher go before snapping the release onto the line.  It will depend on the water clarity, the fish targeted, the visibility of your line, etc, etc,.   Some fishermen run the gear back 40', while others go back 10'.  Remember however, that the farther back you go, the less setting power the rod has when the release is tripped.   I seem to have settled on about 15' for most saltwater salmon fishing, but am experimenting with closer.  Some of these lengths are what is required to allow the attractor to operate properly.  Also if you are relying on a "Black Box", your electrical charge on the wire decreases as you go farther back.  Here are Tom Nelson's recommended lengths.
                     Large Metal Flashers ---- 6 to 10'                                         Large Plastic Flashers ---- 8 to 15'
                     Small Metal Flashers ----  8 to 12'                                         Small Plastic Flashers ---- 10 to 20'


DOWNRIGGER WEIGHTS ;  Most weights, (balls) used for salmon fishing will be from 10 to 15#, with 12# being the most common.  If you use the heavier weight you can get deeper with less blow back, & have less chance of line tangle between the rigging on both sides.  Also the plus here is it helps keep the wire more straight in the water & lessening the chance of a tangle around the prop.   Some electric units however are not strong enough to pull a 15# ball.  

Some weights have a metal fin off the rear that can be bent to allow the ball to track in one direction more than just straight back.    This can be helpful if you bend them so they tend to direct the wires more outward.

Ideally the ball should be painted or plastic covered to help with the conducting of electricity in a polarity problem.
  If the ball is not coated, then the next best thing is to use a ball connector of some type on the end of the wire that is made of a non-conductive material, (nylon, plastic, leather etc.). In use you need something to attach between the ball & the terminal end of the wire.  Scotty & Silver Horde make these about 12" long & out of a plastic that will stretch.  They say it acts as a shock cord also.  You can make your own out of 150# Tuna cord for a lot less.  This will beak the conductivity to the wire, & at the same time give you something to hang onto when you may want to pull the ball into the boat without trying to hang onto the wire itself. 

BLOW BACK ;  Your trolling speed & current will make a difference here, usually you want your downrigger line angle to be about 45 degrees no matter what actual speed you are traveling.  This equates to 143' of line out to reach 100' of water depth.  If you are out farther than this angle, you can not reach the depth you intend to.  The problem comes in if you are trying to reach say 200', the wire angle would equal  286', but your line drag may increase this length even more.  You will have a belly in your fish line from where it enters the water to your release clip so much that the rod action will not set the hook like it is supposed to do if fishing shallower. And if the line is straight up & down, you are not moving at all.   Most downrigger wire is only 250' long. 

TROLL WITH THE CURRENT The fish will be swimming into the current, if you troll with the current, the fish will see it coming, instead of it sneaking up behind them, & you will also cover more water.  Also it allows the fish less time to scrutinize your lure, possibly bringing on a strike, where if the fish has more time it may realize the lure is just that & not something to be eaten.  Depending on the flow, you may only be sitting in the same position with water passing under you.  
      
TROLLING SPEED ;  The most important thing is to have your flasher & bait working properly, as they were designed to do.  The old story is troll slow for Chinook & fast for Coho.  That may have been so with the lures & gear of that day, but now things are slightly changed.  Take a look at the commercial salmon troller, many times he will be doing 6 mph.   The knowledgeable fishermen currently say most fishermen now troll too slow.   What ever bait you are pulling, or flasher/dodger, you will have to look at it in the water & decide how it is functioning, then adjust your speed  from there.

PULLING IN YOUR LINE ;   If you have to pull your line in to change gear or a missed hit & it did not pop off, don't try to trip it off the clip with the rod.  Raise it by bringing up the downrigger wire.  The reason is threefold.  First, this is probably the most likely way to break a rod.  Second, some clips do not trip as easily from the rod side as compared to from the lure side.  And third, if the lure is even somewhat working, it may catch a fish on the upward trip.

WATER TEMPERATURE ;  Fish will try to stay in a water temperature that they find comfortable to them.  This may explain why some fish stay nearer the bottom than others, because the water will be warmer on the upper layers.  
   This may be way more important on the estuary Chinook salmon fishing like Buoy 10.  Usually at the time the season opens here there has been no rains for a couple of months & the river's water temperature may be 72 degrees.  With the water this warm as compared to 56-58 degree of the ocean water the fish have just come from, the fish will move in & out with the tide.  The estuary's water temperature will be between 56 & 65 degrees depending on the tide, because of the mix of ocean water to the warmer river water.  However the bulk of the fish seem to not stay in the lower river.  The ones that do, will try to locate a hole that will have cooler water.
   You may have heard that the fish lay off the mouths of the rivers waiting for fresh water of a rain, yes, this may be true, but I think it also could be that the new rainwater is also cooler.
   If there is no rain, then when the fish have matured to the point that they have to go upriver, they do not stay in any one location for any period of time, just let me go back home.
   One thing you may consider is to get a fish thermometer and occasionally attach it to your trolling cannonball.  This will read temperature at where you are fishing.  Otherwise the temperature taken off your depth-finder sensor will only read the water surface temperature. 


SEAWEED ;  Seaweed can get enough on the line to foul the swivels & therefore create twisted gear.  If troubled with seaweed  or grass on your line, adding a golf tee on the mainline as your uppermost gear, will help divert most weeds off.  The tapered small portion of this golf tee seems to allow the weeds to be passed off, where a knot at a swivel seems to stop & hold the weeds.

JELLYFISH ;   At times these critters can make life miserable.  If they are on your gear, it is very likely salmon will not be interested.  Also when you pull the gear in & remove these jellyfish, they have a composition in their bodies that feels like nettle stings.  One word of caution, WAS YOUR HANDS before you go to the toilet facilities.  One fisherman shared his method of removing this jelly off his hands, by use rubbing alcohol.

LEADERS & HOOK SIZE ;
Terminal leaders, 20#, 2/0 - 3/0 solids for cut plugging for early Blackmouth, Feb- July
Terminal leaders, 20#, 3/0 - 4/0 solids for cut plugging for later Blackmouth & Chinook
Terminal leaders, 20#, 3/0 - 4/0 slips when using frozen bait in bonnet
Terminal leaders, 25# / 40#, 4/0 - 5/0 solids, tied close, for large bait in Estuary use (large Chinook)
Terminal leaders, 40# / 70#, 5/0 - 5/0 or even 6/0 -6/0 solids, tied close for use with squid behind flashers

Tie terminal leaders 2 lengths,
(1) 36", rolled onto pipe insulation for faster attaching (you will use more of this size & it saves leader)
(2) 72       "          "        "            "            "       "            "           (you usually will find these as the std. commercially tied)

Primary leader 36" with black swivels, for behind sinker or attracter, make up the desired OAL with terminal leader

LEADER LENGTHS FOR REGULAR  TROLLING,    (Estuary rig) bait        36" - 72"
      
  "                  "             "   MOOCHING                                 (Most Saltwater) bait 72" 
While we are on this subject, it has been found that it may be best to NOT tie your leaders on limp monofilament.  The reason seems to be that with the spinning action of the bait, even if you use swivels between the sinker or attracter, that the limp leader just doesn't have the ability to resist the twisting action of the bait up the line to where the swivel can do it's job.

USE HEAVIER LEADERS FOR SQUID BEHIND FLASHERS ;  USE 40-70# TEST LEADER FOR TYING SQUIDS, HOOCHIES & FLIES.   These lures, having NO built in action like a spoon & need the motion of the flasher to impart an action to the bait.   This heavier leader being stiffer, imparts the action of the flasher to the lure.  Whereas a lighter limper leader will bend more, minimizing the action & allowing the bait to follow the flow, & be less enticing to the fish. 

Some will advocate the use of the newer almost invisible Florocarbon line & leaders, it has been a practice of some to use this type of leader material for all leaders behind flashers.  This larger material being harder to see in the water also has the benefit of being less susceptible  to abrasion & being nicked by the fish's teeth, which in turn lasts longer between leader changes.  This material is not cheap however, and is rather hard to find.  If you find it, only purchase "Leader" material, as the abrasion factor is different than for the line.  Using this leader may be beneficial if you are fishing in clear water & in the top 50' of the water column, but it is my contention that if you constantly troll below that depth, you are simply paying more for your leaders as compared to standard  monofilament.

USE DIFFERENT LEADER LENGTHS FOR DIFFERENT BAIT & TARGETED FISH ;  The following  dimensions regulate the rate of spin on the bait, - short = fasterlonger = slower.  For those of you who insist on 2 different speeds for trolling for both Chinook & Coho, you can do it from the same boat at one constant speed, by regulating the leader lengths.   It is not solely the boat speed, but the action the bait has that entices the fish to hit, and this can be controlled mostly by leader lengths behind the flasher.

                                               Measure distances from the rear of the flasher to the rear of the lure
                                                  Best to use the most invisible 20# leader possible when using bait

Large Hot Spot Flashers (11") Squid Chinook (Adult) 40"- 46" Med. troll 2.5 - 3 mph
. . Coho 30" - 36" fast troll 3.5 - 5 mph
. . Blackmouth 30" - 36" . .
Mini-B2 . 30" . . .
Grand Slam BT . 28" - 31" . . .
Bait All 47" - 55" . . .
. APEX   3" Chinook / Coho 49" . .
. APEX   4.5" Chinook / Coho 72" . .
Mini Hot Spot Flashers (8") Squid Chinook (Adult) 26" - 31" . .
. . Coho 20" - 24" . .
. . Blackmouth 20" - 24" . .
. . Sockeye 18" - 22" slow troll .
                                   (White)     "     pink Pinks 16" slow troll 1.5 mph
. Bait All 32" - 36" . .
. . .   . .
Large Metal Flashers Squid Chinook (Adult) 30" - 37" . .
. . Coho 27" - 31" . .
. . Blackmouth 27" - 31" . .
. Bait All 44" - 50" . .
. . . . . .
Small Metal Flashers Squid Chinook (Adult) 20" - 27" . .
. . Coho 17" - 23" . .
. . Blackmouth 17" - 23" . .
. Bait All 30" - 34" . .
     size 0/0 bare red 2/0 hooks Sockeye 9" dead slow 70 Degree Line Angle
. pink mini squid Sockeye 12" dead slow "     "       "
Fish Flash (large/med.) Bait Coho 22" - 24" (use Sappo swivels)
                      medium large orange spin-glo Coho 24" - 36" (use Sappo swivels)
                      large Bait Chinook 18"  in tidewater .
Divers / Mini Hot Spot Squid Chinook 32" . .
. . Coho 24" . .
. Bait Chinook / Coho 36" . .

LURES ;  On most artificial lures, there is one thing you can do to up your boating percentage.  Many will come with a triple hook attached.   Remove this hook & install a #5 stainless split ring & a #4 barrel swivel between the lure & a new hook.  Replace it with a single Siwash hook that you put a slight sideways bend in the lower part or just move the point off center by 1/8".  This side angle seems to help on more hookups.  By adding the swivel you are also eliminating the situation of when fighting the fish, the fish will more than likely roll numerous times putting strain on the lure & hook.  In doing so this fish uses the leverage of the solidly attached hook to the lure to pull the hook out.

On others metal lures like the thin Silver Horde "Coho Killer", if after catching a fish, you might want to check the lure's action before you let the gear down again.  These lures are thin & narrow to imitate candlefish.  They are an excellent lure for intended purposes, however they can get straightened out.  On the same light, if a new one is not performing, you can put more of a bend in it to achieve more action.

A combination of Apex, Sting King, Coyote, Canadian Wonder & the Bait Buster with a spinner blade attached Bait Buster top left, hoochie or squid bottom with #4 Spi-N-Glo on line, -  plug top right, herring bonnet lower right

APEX / STING KING   (order of preference) #1=Chrome,  #2= Mother of   Pearl,    #3= Green/White,  #4=Black/White  by itself or with  a flasher.
PLUGS   (old style commercial) preferred color - some form of white.  No flasher, 35' to 75’ behind Down Rigger release clip.
Mini-B2 & squid -- use 40-70# leader 5/0 or 6/0 hooks tied so front rear bend is even with rear eye with hooks Pointing opposite, use plastic straws on leader above hooks, as spacer in squid. Adjust this spacer so that both hooks hang behind the rear of the squid. Salmon seem to be "short strikers" & this gets more hook-ups. You may want to cram front body of squid with power bait or scent.  When using the Glo versions, charge them with a camera flash.
Squid or Hoochies -- here it has proven advantageous if you, when running a squid behind a flasher/ dodger, (not a Fish Flash) to add approximately a #4 green or blue Spin-N-Glo on the leader ahead of the plastic squid, using a plastic bead between the tow as a bearing.   This will add to the attractiveness of the lure.

2 LURES ON ONE LINE If you look on Scotty's webpage, www.scottyusa.com they show how to run 2 lures off one rod line using a downrigger.  Basically you attach the lure like you normally do, but then let it down about another 15 ft or so, attach another release clip, (this one should be short from the wire to the release).  Pull slack so there will be a belly in your line when in motion, snap another lure onto your rod's line between these release.   This 2nd lure (preferably  a spoon, etc. and on a shorter leader to help avoid tangles) will find it's way to the center of the belly & ride there.  You will now have to be alert, and when pulling the ball, to not put a electric downrigger on automatic  & forget to stop it short & remove the top release.  You will also have to use extra care when netting a fish caught on the top lure.
   This principle can also be used in mooching or diver trolling fishing, if you make the 2nd leader short (20") and attach it to a swivel placed in the line about 40" above the lines terminal end.


THE HOOK ;  Buy the best hooks you can afford.  It makes little sense to pay a small fortune for a boat and then scrimp a few bucks on the one thing that is the most important of all.  
Rule #2.  Sharp Hooks.  This seems like an obvious thing but most fishermen ignore it.  Very few salmon hooks are sharp enough even brand new.  The Scotty Pro team worked eight years filming salmon hitting baits and lures in the ocean. They learned that the salmon come after your bait time and time again.  The average salmon misses or just grazes the bait at least two times before he hits solid enough to get hooked.  They observed one salmon hitting a bait twenty two times before he got hooked on the twenty third try.  If your hooks are sticky sharp you have a much better chance of that hook digging in as a salmon hits and slashes at the bait. 
You will find fishermen swear by as many different brands of hooks as is out there on the market.  They will all catch fish, some seem to be better than others.  The important thing is to keep them
SHARP .   I test the hooks tip by scratching my thumbnail, if it digs in it is sharp, if it slides across, sharpen it.   During fishing season, my thumbnails look pretty chewed up.  Carry a hook file or emery stone and sharpen those hooks on every trip.  Recheck them occasionally.  You will definitely be rewarded with more salmon in the fish box.

Take your pliers and bend the hook out and away some from the shank so as to offset it a little more.   Next SHARPEN your hooks from the inside edge so as to direct the point slightly out and not in as the come from the package.
  
 

MATCH THE HOOK TO THE BAIT SIZE ;

  When using bait, you should generally match your hook size to the herring size for best results.

HERRING SIZE PACKAGE LABEL COLOR

APPROXIMATE HOOK SIZE

  3-4" Orange label   1/0 - 2/0
  4-5" Red label   2/0 - 3/0
  5-6" Green label   3/0 - 4/0
  7-8" Blue label   4/0 - 5/0
  8-9" Purple label   5/0 - 6/0
  9-14" Black label (horse herring)   5/0  - 6/0

CUTTING  & HOOKING BAIT ; When cut-plugging a herring, you should wet your hands, cutting board, herring etc.  This will promote the non removal of scales off the bait.  The more scales you leave intact on the bait the better the bait will perform for you.   In cutting the bait, if you do not use a cutting guide, use the 45/45 degree rule.  Then remove the entrals.  One modification is to also cut a 90 degree Vee notch at the rear of the body cavity.  This generates longer bait life by not tearing the cut angle & allows the water to flow out this hole, creating bubbles. A modified West Port hook up is good.  This is hooking the upper hook thru the belly cavity & up thru the backbone & out in the center of the back.  The other hook is passed thru the belly cavity & out the short side belly, then just allowed to dangle back by the tail. 

When using whole herring for bait, about the best way I have found is to run the rear hook thru the lips of the herring sideways.  Hold the herring by slightly squeezing it on top of the head & bottom of the jaw.  Right behind the forward part of the lip juncture between the top & bottom you will find a spot that the upper hook will go straight thru from one side & out the other, push it thru.   With the lower hook on the same side that the upper hook's eye is on, push it into the rear section of the herring, (usually about 3/4 of the way back).  Bring this lower hook mostly thru the bait & back out so that the hook's point is facing forward with the eye laying alongside the bait.  Now rotate the front hook 180 degrees without tearing the bait, & push it in thru the rear gill plates & out the other side so both hooks points are on the same side.  There should be a slight bend because of the tension from the front hook.  If the bend goes not give the desired spin, move the rear hook either forward or rearward or tie your leader spacing differently to match the bait size.   The above method holds the mouth closed.

Another method is to use one of the "herring bonnets" when you troll whole herring.  There are many different types, but essentially they allow you to put the nose of the bait in a protected bonnet.   This will help especially if the frozen bait is not as good as you may like, & it helps keep the bait from pulling apart, & gives a rotating turn to the bait, without the effort of placing the hooks EXCACTLY in the right location for each bait.

TO TOUGHEN YOUR BAIT ;  To toughen herring or anchovy bait, soak in 1 cup rock salt to 1 quart water, to form a salt brine, bait should be soaked in this overnight, however even a few hours helps.   It can be kept in a refrigerator for a a month or so, if for longer freeze it in the brine.  The brine being a strong salt solution will not freeze.  You however may want to make a wooden floater lid on your container to keep the bait submerged.

Formula #1   put blue & or green food coloring in brine to replace dead fish color.
Formula #2   add powdered milk into the brine.  This powdered milk being lactic acid, kind of acts like a tanic acid & sets the scales.
Formula #3  
combine 1 & 2

SINKER DROPPER LENGTH, REGULAR TROLLING Estuary (Shallow water)      (15’)    12"
         "                        "                        "                       "                         "                          (Deeper water)      (35’+) 24"
This rig consists of a sturgeon sinker slider unit on the mainline. Attach a lighter dropper to the slider for the cannon ball sinker.
Attach a Fish Flash to the mainline, with the bait tied to the Flash. Use a large Fish Flash as the water is usually not clear.
Here is surely a time to slide a golf tee on the mainlines uppermost section above the sinker slider to keep off the weeds.

SINKERS for MOOCHING ;  Since the barbless hook requirement, the old tied in line kidney sinker should be abandoned, because it can be used as leverage for the salmon to throw the hook.  It is suggested that it be replaced be the Metzler slider bar type sinker, or the simple sturgeon sinker slider on the mainline and then attach the round cannon ball sinker to this slider snap.  The round ball is cheaper & has less resistance so therefore a lighter sinker will get you down just as deep.  Another good thing to do when using the slider, is that the cheap snaps usually used on these sliders will bend if you get the sinker hung up.  Or you can use a lighter short 6" leader as a dropper, thereby breaking the dropper and saving your other gear.

WASHINGTON 2 OUNCE LIMIT ;  To fish deeper if in a Washington State 2 oz weight restriction areas, if you are using standard gear, switch to a 20# spectra type line. This is usually equal in diameter to 6# mono for size & will create less drag. The word is that using this gear, watching the tide change & back-troll.  Buy using this method, 150' depths can be achieved with a 2 oz weight. Or use the super-line and a diver that weighs less than the 2 oz. Doel Fins & Luhr Jensen Jet Divers are 2 that do comply, and can get down to about 50 ft.  Rig the Jet Divers on an 18" dropper off the end of the mainline 3 way swivel. Then off the 3-way swivel go with 40" to 50" of leader to a small Hot Spot Flasher or Fish Flash, then 20" to 24" leader to a squid or herring for Coho, or 26" to 31" for Chinook.

POLARITY ;   Commercial trollers have for years known that some boats will out-fish others, this can sometimes be traced to electrical current in the downrigger wire.  If you remember your chemistry from high school, when you place 2 dissimilar objects (stainless wire & zinc anode or a aluminum boat) in a conductive solution (salt water) you create an electrical charge.  Scotty  & Pro Troll both make a "Black Box" that can be adjusted to give the desired electrical charge to your wire.  Different types of fish react to different electrical charges.  If you have any doubts, you can simply check your wire with a volt/amp meter.  It should have a voltage  of + .5 to +.7 from your ground to the downrigger wire.  If it is outside this range either way, it will benefit you to consider doing something to correct the problem.  If the voltage is low, you can add zincs to your motor/trim tabs, etc.  If it is high, then it is suggested you check things out & ground everything metal that is in the water.  One thing most overlooked would be your trim tabs.   They will usually be bolted thru the fiberglas hull, just run a bare #10 wire as a ground from you negative battery terminal to the bolts & put a second nut holding this ground wire.    Do this to anything metal that is on the outside of the hull.

PROTECTING YOUR GEAR ;  The saltwater environment is something that will ruin more gear than anything else.  Many fishermen don't properly take care of the rods, reels, flashers, or spoons.  The result is when they want to use them next year, many are ruined or badly in need of TLC.  One method commonly used by knowledgeable persons is to, as soon as you get off the water, or at least before you leave the boat for the night, spray the gear with "Salt Away".  This solution will remove the salt.  Next you want to lightly wash the same gear with plain water.  Let it dry, and then spray it with a corrosion blocker.  Two that are effective & economical are made by CRC.  They come in aerosol cans & are CRC "3-36" & CRC "Engine Stor".  Another would be LPS-1.   This stuff is a light spray metal protector & will help immensely on rod guides, reels, swivels & spoons.

WHAT TO DO AFTER YOU HOOK A FISH  In use you can set the drag slightly lighter than normal, but to where it does not pull off while the boat is moving.   Set the clicker to "ON", this will wake you up when a fish hits, & with the drag set slightly lighter, if the fish happens to be large enough to pull the line until you get things organized.  

OK, now your rod has "Went Off", meaning a fish probably has hit the lure & the line has snapped out of the line release.  What do I do?  Grab the rod & REEL FAST to take any slack in the line & see if you can feel the fish on the other end of the line.   If it is still hooked & you can feel it, reel in & keep the line tight.

Once you make a decision as to the size of the fish, do we leave your partners rod in the water or not.  If the fish is under about15#, you may leave the other rod out hoping to pick up another out of a possible school of fish.  Do not stop the motor, but keep trolling & you may want to turn the boat SLIGHTLY toward the fish to give more room to net the fish, while at the same time considering keeping the other lines from tangling in the prop.  You may slow down slightly, but do not stop.   For one, if you do stop, then your partner's line may become entangled with his downrigger wire.

As soon as the fish hits, pull that downrigger wire & ball in.   Here is where the electric downrigger comes in handy.  If you are using a electric model that has an automatic button & a preset shut-off trip, all the better.  Pull the ball into the boat. You may also want to rotate the downrigger arm straight back or forward to give more room off the side to net the fish, without entangling things.

If the fish is a larger fish & pulling out line that you have no control over, then you had better quickly pull the other downrigger up, stow the balls & be ready to fight the fish, or even chase it to recover some line back onto the reel spool.

It is best if the netter & the fisher to also wear Polaroid glasses, this will allow them to see into the water & see the fish a lot better cutting out the surface glare.   

Another thing to keep in mind, is at all costs try to keep the fish out of the other downrigger wire.   If it happens to tangle your partners line, then have him put his reel in free-spool, only reeling in when lots of his line is out, but not interfering with the fighting of the fish.

Most experienced recreational  trollers do not stop the boat when an average size fish hits, as there is usually other gear out.  By the time you realize it is a fish large enough that you may have to pull the other gear & chase it, this fish may already have 150 yards of line out & going away from you.  You need a reel that has enough line capacity to act as a cushion to allow you to get the other gear in, turn around & chase the fish to retrieve some of this lost line.

Some fish, depending on where they are hooked will ant to go to the right, or the left. Take him on the side he wants to go to, do not to to bring a RH hooked fish on the LH side of the boat.   If a fish is hooked with a lure on one side of the mouth & you keep putting him on the other side just because that is where you are comfortable in netting from, you very well may pull the hook out before he comes in.  This then will also determine what you will do with the other rod & downrigger wire.

This has also proven beneficial if you happen to have 2 fish on at once, as with the boat still moving, the second fish tends to not get as excited if you do not get it really close (around 30') to the boat & it will tag a long, giving you time to net the other smaller or more tired fish first.

NETTING THE FISH ;   Wear poloroid sunglasses to help cut the water surface glare & allow you to see the fish in the water better.   More fish are lost within 10' of a boat than any other location by fishermen who try to net too soon.   

OK, the fish is coming in, ( we are now assuming that you are not alone here.)  If possible let the fish tire out to the point that it comes in along side of the boat, without spooking & wanting to make another run.  Some skippers like to have the fisherperson move forward enough from the stern to allow the netter to stand in one of the rear corners.  This gives the netter a chance to cover more area if the fish tends to go behind & or under the motors. 

The netter needs to grab ahold of the BOTTOM of the net bag lightly with a couple of fingers of the forward hand that is also holding the net handle close behind the bow to give maximum diversity.  This method is so that you are holding the bag out of the water & not spooking the fish.  With the other hand the netter has ahold of the handle as far back as possible & yet be able to control the net in any circumstance. 

Notice the left 2nd finger of the forward hand holding the net bag.   Also notice the Polaroid sunglasses Nice job on a 26# Chinook salmon

Be sure that the reel drag has NOT been tightened down more than normal during the fight, as if the fish makes another run with a tight drag, it may pull the hooks out or break the line or  rod.  If it is a large fish you may even lighten the drag slightly to assure this will not happen.   Allow the drag do what it is designed to do.  This will actually get more fish into the boat.  When the fish comes along side & appears to not offer a lot of resistance, the fisherperson needs to lead the fish toward the netter, but not bring it's head out of the water, (for some reason the fish finds extra energy if it's head is out of the water.)   As the fish is lead in, the netter makes a QUICK jab down IMMEDIATELY IN FRONT of the fish, at the same time releasing the fingers that are holding the bag's bottom at the same time the net hits the water & since fish has not reverse, the net can then be QUICKLY lifted straight up, closing the bag & trapping the fish in the net & then against the side of the boat.   Do NOT raise the net parallel with the water, but pick the handle straight UP, again closing the bag.

Also here is one thing to remember, that IF the lure has more than 1 hook, when you net the fish, you have to do it right the first time, as if you do a close miss but are near enough to tangle a loose hook in the net, you can kiss the fish goodbye because the fish is now probably outside the bag & yet attached to it.

Sometimes this process has to be speeded up if you can see that the hook is lightly  hooked in the edge of the fish's mouth, & you run a chance of having it pull out at any second.   Try to bring  in & make a quick shot at netting.   Do not try to net a fish that is deeper than VERY CLOSE to the top & remember that these fish have no reverse, but they can turn very quickly.

As soon as the netter has the fish in the net, strip of 6 feet or so of line so the rod tip will have a better chance of survival during the excitement when the net & fish are brought into the boat.

 RELEASING A FISH ;   If your fish is one that the regulations say is illegal, in that is is not adipoise fin clipped, then you will have to release it unharmed without taking it out of the water.  In this case you should not tire the fish unduly, but get it in as fast as possible to ensure that it has a good survival.   There are a couple of ways to go here.  A hook release can be used.   This is like a small gaff hook with no sharp point on the end.   In use, when the fish is close to the boat & tired enough that you can grasp the leader a foot or so from the fish, use this hook remover by reaching out & hooking the line.   Next bring the remover close to the  fish, & with the other hand holding the leader, quickly raise the hook remover handle while at the same time lowering the hand holding the leader.  What this does is raises the fish's head into the remover, but reversing the hook & putting the weight of the fish to unhook itself.    

Depending on the size & specie of the fish, & whether it is tangled in the leader, you may have to net it, but keep it in the net tight against the side of the boat.   Unhook it & tip it out of the bag without bringing it aboard.  For a link to an article on releasing fish CLICK HERE.

DOWNRIGGER WIRE AROUND THE PROP ;  Needless to say this is to be avoided if at all possible.  For those of you who use the main motor for trolling at times,   I recommend the "Sting Ray" type stabilizer fin that is attached to the cavitation plate.  Your boat / engine may not need it's advertised usage of "getting out of the hole faster", but let me tell you, these fins sure make something for you to lay on when the motor is tipped up & to have something to hang onto while someone else hangs onto your feet while you unwind the wire off the prop.  Especially when you are 15 miles out in the Pacific Ocean & it is rather choppy.  You may say it won't happen to me, but if you fish with downriggers enough the odds are against you.   Also carry a spare spool of wire, crimpers, sleeves & an extra weights.

If you run the spectra type lines & get that around the prop shaft, you will very likely be in for problems of tit cutting the shaft seals out if allowed to run even for a very short time. 

Compiled by LeeRoy Wisner.  Some of the above information has been gleaned from many sources, and 50 years of personal salmon fishing, with special thanks to John Keizer,  Tom Nelson, Tom Pollack & Dick Pool.

This started out as simply a leader length behind flashers list, but seems to have grown into a general salmon trolling page.

Copyright 2004-2005 LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

Originated sometime 1997, Last modified 12-30-2005
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