Category Archives: Trout and Salmon

Whirling Disease Resistant Rainbows

In the Gunnison River gorge, CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio, holds a whirling-disease resistant rainbow trout. CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW. 
Colorado’s Whirling Disease Resistant Rainbows
From The Fishing Wire

Some good news for a change to end this week . . . .
By Joe Lewandowski

After more than 20 years of study, frustration, experimentation and dogged persistence by CPW’s aquatic researchers, the tide has turned in the fight against Whirling-disease.Biologists boat electrofishing on the Gunnison River. Photo by © Bill Vogrin/CPW.

Whirling Disease first impacted Colorado’s rainbow trout in the mid-1990s and eliminated many wild populations of this popular sport fish. The aquatic tragedy sparked a decades-long effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife research scientists to find a remedy and re-establish populations.

About Whirling Disease
Myxobolus cerebralis, a metazoan parasite, can cause a serious affliction in some species of trout and salmon known as whirling disease. The water-borne parasite may not directly kill trout, but severely infected young trout often develop debilitating deformities of the skull and spinal column or display the erratic tail-chasing behavior from which the disease gets its name. To learn more, please visit the CPW website.

Since 2003, the researchers have been crossing a strain of rainbow trout resistant to the disease with other strains of rainbows in the hope of developing a trout that would fend off whirling disease. Now, after more than 20 years of study, frustration, experimentation and dogged persistence by CPW’s aquatic researchers, the tide has turned in the fight against the dreaded disease. Whirling-disease resistant rainbows are now thriving in the wild and the agency is collecting their spawn, enabling hatcheries to propagate millions of fish that will be distributed to rivers and streams throughout the state. I

CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW. “Thanks to advance genetic testing, we know these fish are maintaining their resistance to whirling disease,” said George Schisler, CPW’s aquatic research chief. “Now they are surviving, reproducing and contributing to future generations of Gunnison River rainbows.

”This long success story started on an August day in 1994 when former CPW researcher Barry Nehring, while walking the riverbank in the Gunnison Gorge, noticed small fish swimming helplessly in circles. He knew immediately that the fish were infected with a microscopic spore that damages the cartilage of young fish and prevents them from swimming and developing normally. Whirling disease had arrived in the wild.

George Schisler with Hofers trout.The disease was accidentally introduced to Colorado in the late 1980s when infected fish were imported to state and private hatcheries. After those fish were stocked in 40 locations, the spore spread and within a decade infected many rivers throughout the state. The disease kills young fish, so eventually, natural reproduction by wild rainbows ended across much of Colorado.

In search of a remedy, CPW scientists and biologists from wildlife agencies throughout the West started researching the disease in the late 1990s. At a national conference in Denver in 2002, a researcher from Europe who studied whirling disease gave a presentation about a strain of disease-resistant rainbow trout he’d found at a hatchery in Germany. Schisler, working with the University of California-Davis, imported eggs and then tested the hatched fingerlings, known as Hofers – named after the German hatchery. He found they were 100 times more resistant to the disease than the various CPW rainbow strains.

He also learned that because these fish had been raised in a hatchery for decades, they showed no inkling of the flight response needed to elude predators in the wild. So researchers started crossing them with wild strains, such as the Harrison Lake and Colorado River rainbow to produce fish that exhibit wild behavior and maintain resistance to whirling disease. Those fish were stocked in rivers around the state and some natural reproduction started.

Biologists working in the East Portal Section of the Gunnison River gorge began documenting wild reproduction of rainbow trout in that location in the mid-2000s. These fish demonstrated strong resistance to whirling disease, but also had instincts to survive in the wild. Through advanced genetic analysis, Schisler and his research partner, Eric Fetherman, determined that a DNA marker unique to the stocked Hofer-crosses appeared to have been incorporated into this population, resulting in observed resistance to the disease.

The researchers and agency aquatic biologists determined that developing a brood stock using the Gunnison River trout would be the best way to repopulate Colorado’s rivers with wild rainbows. Since 2014, more than 500,000 eggs have been collected from these fish to stock into whirling disease positive rivers and to create hatchery brood stocks.The trout now has its own moniker: The Gunnison River Rainbow. Photo by © Joe Lewandowski/CPW.CPW’s Glenwood Springs hatchery is propogating both the pure Gunnison River Rainbows and crosses of those fish and other strains of whirling disease-resistant rainbows. 

This summer more than 1.3 million of fingerling disease-resistant rainbows will be stocked in rivers and streams throughout the state.

The ultimate goal of the stocking effort is to restore natural reproduction in the wild, eliminating the need to stock rainbows in the future.However, re-establishing the rainbows continues to be a long-term project. After rainbows vanished, brown trout took over Colorado’s big rivers. They prey on the small rainbows that are stocked or hatch and compete for food and habitat with adult rainbows. Biologists say it will take many years for rainbows to become firmly established.

Research scientists don’t declare victory easily, but Fetherman noted that the research project in the East Portal is officially closed. Populations across the state will continue to be monitored because the tiny worms that produce the spores causing whirling disease will likely always exist in Colorado’s rivers.“I feel like we’ve done some good work and these fish are ready to be stocked statewide,” Fetherman said.

For more information on CPW’s aquatic programs, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.Written by Joe Lewandowski. Lewandowski is a public information officer for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife southwest region.

Grande Ronde Public Access Provided By The Public!

Grande Ronde

New Angler Access to Open on Washington’s Grande Ronde
Editor’s Note: Here’s an amazing story about a dedicated group of Washington state anglers and cooperative land owners who might have created a model for fishing clubs across the nation, pooling resources with other clubs to buy access to prime private water that will become public as the group donates it to the state Department of Wildlife next year.
from The Fishing Wire

The Wild Steelhead Coalition (WSC) is excited to announce that we have secured a major victory for angler access and steelhead conservation by completing the purchase of an eight-acre parcel of land with 2,000 feet of riverfront on the lower Grande Ronde River in Eastern Washington. In the coming months, the WSC will donate this land to the Washington Department of Wildlife (WDFW), which will permanently protect this riverfront property from development and continue to provide public access to this famed summer steelhead river in perpetuity.

This project, which would not have been possible without the support of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane, the Washington Chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International, is a testament to what the angling community can accomplish when we work collaboratively on behalf of anglers and wild steelhead. Together, these groups and hundreds of donors across the region raised more than $35,000 for the purchase of this unique property.

We would like to extend a special thanks to the previous landowners Radar and Kay Miller, who for years allowed the public to access their land and fish this prime stretch of steelhead water. When Radar and Kay decided to sell this parcel of land, they were committed to maintaining public access and worked proactively to figure out the best way to permanently conserve this land.“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Radar and Kay Miller for putting the public good ahead of profit and choosing to sell this land to us, and in turn, the general public,” said WSC board member Josh Mills.

“As they had hoped, this land will now be permanently protected for future generations. The Grande Ronde is my home river, and someday soon I plan to take my boys to this piece of water to show them this special place and teach them the value of public lands.”

The Wild Steelhead Coalition was invited to help secure this land by the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club of Spokane after the club had been approached by the Millers. The WSC immediately recognized the amazing opportunity, and we committed important initial funding, launched a larger fundraising campaign, created and implemented the property acquisition plan, and negotiated the land donation timeline with WDFW. We thank the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club for their leadership, financial commitments, and the opportunity to work on this project.

This project was a true collaboration by the fishing community. In addition to Inland Empire’s leadership and support, the Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Washington State Council of Fly Fishers International, numerous regional fishing clubs, and Sage Fly Fishing played a pivotal role in the fundraising efforts. The dedicated members of the Wild Steelhead Coalition also continued their long history of supporting wild steelhead and the fishing community by generously stepping up to support this project.

Completing the land transfer from WSC to WDFW is scheduled to take a number of months, and during this transition angler access to the river will be maintained through a land use agreement with WDFW. When this transfer is finalized, WSC will place signage on the property that thanks the Millers for their commitment to public access and that tells the story of the Grande Ronde’s summer steelhead and the challenges facing wild steelhead throughout the Snake River basin.

A successful collaboration like the purchase and donation of this land on the lower Grande Ronde River speaks to the vast number of people who value wild steelhead rivers and public access to Washington’s irreplaceable wild places. Thanks to this broad coalition of advocates, eight acres of land and nearly 2,000 foot of riverfront on one of the country’s best summer steelhead rivers will now be permanently protected and forever owned by the public.

###To learn more about the campaign and location of the parcel on the lower Grande Ronde River, please refer to our October post announcing WSC’s fundraising effort.

Puget Sound Blackmouth

Blackmouth

“Spinfishing”  for Puget Sound Black
mouth
By Captain John Keizer So how do you find Puget Sound winter blackmouth? The answer is don’t look for the blackmouth but rather look for what attracts blackmouth.

Blackmouth are a delayed released hatchery king salmon that don’t migrate to Alaska but instead inhabits the waters of Puget Sound after being released. The name blackmouth comes from the black gumline that identifies it as a resident chinook salmon. Blackmouth range from the legal size of 22 inches up to fish taken in the upper teens.

In the many years I have fished Puget Sound I have found that Puget Sound blackmouth relate to three things, structure, current and food.We have all heard the line, “Find the bait-find the fish.” It sounds so easy but so many anglers ignore this simple advice in locating blackmouth. Blackmouth salmon are voracious feeders and will be looking for sand lance (candlefish) or herring to fill their bellies year around in Puget Sound.

The sand lance, which are also known locally as “candlefish,” because pioneers used to dry them and make candles out of them due to their high oil content are an ecologically important forage fish throughout Puget Sound where they school in many bays, banks and inlets. Sand lance are important food for young salmon who crave the high oil content; 35% of juvenile salmon diets are composed of sand lance and blackmouth salmon depend on sand lance for 60% of their diet.

Sand lance spawning occurs at high tide in shallow water on sand-gravel beaches. Sand lance will also use sandy beaches for spawning. Knowing when and where this food source is will directly reflect on locating winter blackmouth.

Herring can be located at resting spots that are dictated by the current. As in river fishing, bait will be pushed into the lee of a current flow behind points, islands and land masses. The same is true in Puget Sound, knowing the position of the tide will allow you to find the best location to find baitfish and salmon feeding on it.

Trolling a downrigger is in my opinion the best method for consistently hooking blackmouth. I spend much of the winter season employing this method of fishing. I run 3 Hi Performance Scotty 2106 downriggers onboard Salt Patrol my 27ft North River O/S. Being able to cover lots of water with your tackle at a controlled depth is an extremely effective way to fish for winter chinook that like to inhabit the deep waters of Puget Sound.

My rod & reel setup is a Shimano Tekota-A 600 Line counter reel matched with a G. Loomis E6X 1265 moderate action rod. The reels are spooled up with 30-pound test mono main line. Yes, downrigger fishing is the one fishery that I still run mono line for.

New from Yakima Bait is the Spinfish bait-holding lure, representing a new design in combining lure-and-bait to produce more and bigger salmon. The SpinFish features a pull-apart fillable bait chamber with a scent-dispersing design. When trolled behind a downrigger this lure will produce a vibrating, spinning, wounded-baitfish action that salmon can’t resist.

Yakima SpinfishI was lucky to get to test the prototypes for the Spinfish last winter. My first experience with the Spinfish started with targeting winter blackmouth out of Port Townsend located on the northern part of Puget Sound. We ran the Spinfish behind 11” rotating flashers and medium size Fish Flash and had very good success on blackmouth up into the mid-teens. The strike on the Spinfish is not like on light tap on a bait bite. The blackmouth will hit the Spinfish hard, run a bunch of line out of the reel and then race to the surface for the rest of the fight.

Several times the rod tip would be in the water when we went to take the rod out of the holder.

To ready the Spinfish you just pull apart the body and fill with any bait including tuna, herring or sardines. I had the best results using canned Chicken of the Sea Tuna (packed in oil). Pour the canned tuna into a plastic container with the all the oil in the can. At this point I will add scents from Pro-Cure. Mix in some Bloody Tuna or your choice scent and mix and you’re ready to charge the Spinfish body. Pack the Spinfish body with tuna and put the two parts back together.

I rig my Spinfish 25-40 inches behind a Fish Flash or 35-45 inches behind rotating flashers. My setup last year was to tie two 4/0 Mustad octopus hooks close together on 30lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and add one glow bead above the top hook to act as a ball bearing. Slide the Spinfish on the leader and tie to swivel and then attach to the Fish Flash or rotating flasher and you’re ready to fish.Yakima Fish FlashThe SpinFish can be rigged to spin clockwise or counterclockwise and unlike other bait holding lures, it needs no rubber bands to keep the lure together. The precisely drilled sent holes in the Spinfish will disperse a sent pattern into the water and salmon will follow the scent trail back to the lure. Just like any lure bring your gear up every 20 minutes and check it for shakers (undersize salmon) and re-charge the Spinfish body with fresh tuna.

I normally have 4-5 Spinfish loaded with different bait scents and ready to swap out each time I check my gear. Blackmouth bites windows are short and you don’t want to waste time during the prime bite times rigging tackle.

The new SpinFish comes in two sizes, a three inch and a four-inch version, that now both come fully rigged and ready to fish. The three-inch size comes in 20 of the hottest colors Yakima Bait producers. The four-inch version comes in 10 proven fish-attracting colors. All the Spinfish colors are coated in UV blackmouth catching finishes.

Blackmouth like to do their feeding where the bait is. They are aggressive feeders and tend to feed when the current is minimal to expend as little energy as possible. That means the best time to catch them is when you’re fishing in the right current flow or lack of current movement. You may have heard that the best fishing for blackmouth is one to two hours before or after a tide change. Really its right before or right after a current change as that’s when the water goes slack and the fish will expend the least energy finding baitfish.

Catch River Steelhead

River Steelhead

Catch River Steelhead with Worm Jigs
By David A. Brown
from The Fishing Wire

If ever the term “Go with the flow” was applicable, it’s Cameron Black’s worm jig technique. Black partners with Marlin Lefever in the Columbia River-based Addicted Fishing guide service. Mastering this and other salmon/steelhead tactics, these Pacific Northwest anglers have worked with Mustad to develop technique-specific tackle including a Steelhead Jig Kit that contains 1/8- and 1/4-ounce worm jigs.

As Black explains, these jigs feature a sturdy Mustad Ultrapoint hook with the same KVD Grip Pin keeper popularized by several Mustad bass hooks. A key design point is the head shape, a detail that Black finds particularly helpful in fooling perceptive steelhead.

“The difference between a worm jig and a standard round ball jig is that it has a flat surface,” he said. “When you butt a rubber worm against the head, you have a flat surface, so it’s kind of a streamlined look.

“At the end of the day, steelhead probably don’t care if it’s the difference between a round head and the flat back, but when you add weight to a round head jig, the profile gets continuously bigger. When you use a 1/4-ounce flat back, you just extend that piece back so you get the same profile with an 1/8- and 1/4-ounce jig heads.

”Noting that steelhead can be very particular, Black said this streamlined presentation can mean the difference between a looker and an eater. With most steelhead growing up on a diet of earthworms and baby lamprey, the worm jig package, properly presented, can be deadly.Black’s preference is a 4- to 6-inch tube worm — specifically, the Addicted Steelhead Worm — in pink, orange, purple or blue. With worm and jig head suspended under a Mustad Addicted balsa float, the rig is fished with the current for a natural presentation.

“As the worm is drifting down the river, a steelhead keys on it, swims over and grabs the bait, buries the bobber and drives the hook home,” Black said. “A lot of this is in-river fishing — boulder mazes, riffles. This is a really versatile lure because you can fish it in 6 inches of water — sometimes, the steelhead are that shallow — and you can fish it in 10 feet of water.

”As far as imparting action on the rig, Black says: Don’t bother. The water does all the work for you.

“You’ll get some natural movement with the roils in the current and maybe some up and down if you’re fishing it in a little bit of a riffle, but it take such little movement for the worm’s tail to move,” he said.

“Really, what you’re looking for is when you cast upriver, you want that bobber and that worm to drift as naturally as possible. You don’t want to be pulling on it and you don’t want to have too much line in the water to where it’s impacting the bobber and the worm.”

Ideal depth for worm presentation, Black said, is about a foot off the bottom. Keep it in the fish’s face and the worm jig is an easy sell.For more on the Mustad Steelhead Jig Kit, visit www.mustad-fishing.com.

Fishing Flatfish for Fall Salmon


Fishing Flatfish for Fall Salmon
by Yakima Pro Cody Herman
from The Fishing Wire

As the nights become cooler and the rains begin to fall, salmon begin their upward migration to the waters where they were born in hopes of creating future generations. These crisp fall days also push anglers off the big open water and into the smaller tributaries in search of kings and coho.

The past several years have introduced many new techniques to salmon fishermen across the country. However, one lure seems to produce year in and year out: the venerable Flatfish -20’s to T-60 sized Flatfish have produced consistent action for anglers for decades. From backtrolling smaller rivers to casting and retrieving, the Flatfish continues to be one of the most versatile lures in a salmon angler’s tackle box.

To be better prepared for the fall salmon season, let’s go through the keys of successfully utilizing Flatfish.

Size: Flatfish are commonly used for Chinook, Coho and Chum Salmon. Chinook especially seem to key in on the heavy thump and action created from this lure. In selecting the proper size, one must first determine how their Flatfish will be rigged:

Flatline, lead dropper or behind a diver. If simply flatlining, knowing the depth each size of Flatfish can dive is important. While MagLips are designed for faster currents and deeper water, the wide action of a Flatfish will dive shallower but give off a heavy vibration. By adding a lead dropper or a diver, an angler can fish deeper holes with smaller sized flatfish if the fish seem to be keying in on a specific size or action. In most cases the M-2 and T-50 sizes seem to be the most popular among fishermen.

Color: Every angler has their favorite color. And, in turn, so do the fish. One color may be lights out on your home river, but may not work as well on a different system. The best line to remember is: “Never argue with the fish!”

Always start your day with a good spread of colors. Figure out which colors the fish seem to be reacting to and lock down your colors for the rest of the day! However, as the sun gets high, cloud cover comes in or the fog rolls through, a salmon’s color preference may change quickly!

Also, on heavily pressured systems, try to use colors the fish have yet to see during the day. If everyone is running red/gold…try green/chrome. Give the fish a different look! As these salmon make their way upstream, the rods and cones in their eyes will change, just like their physical appearance. This means fish will key in on different colors depending on how long they have been in fresh water.

To keep things simple, choose colors with variations of red and green, solid colors and metallics. But…always have a couple colors that you think are “off the wall” and no salmon in their right mind would bite…that color may end up being your hot lure one day!

Scent: The larger Flatfish in M-2 to T-60 have a large enough lip and surface area to allow anglers to “wrap” bait on the bottom of the lure to add a consistent scent trail.Natural bait ranging from tuna to roe, sardines, herring and more have all been used successfully.

One new product that has gained a lot of traction among West Coast fishermen is called “Fish Nip” from Pro-Cure. This Tuna based bait stores easily in tackle boxes and remains fresh for weeks on end. It is a bait that an angler can add their favorite oils to enhance their Flatfish with a scent that lasts for hours. The most important thing to remember regardless of the wrap you use…a little goes a long way! Try not to wrap too much bait onto a Flatfish. These lures have been designed to create a fish-catching action. Adding too much weight can alter the action.

Flatfish have been a staple among salmon anglers not only because they can produce bites in difficult conditions, but because of their consistency. There are many techniques fishermen use to illicit a bite from a fish that can be difficult to catch because of its “one track mind” during the Fall months. Diversifying your approach is always encouraged…but don’t forget about Flatfish!

Stocking Young Atlantic Salmon

Stocking Young Atlantic Salmon Downstream Means Higher Survival Success
From NOAA Fisheries
from The Fishing Wire

When it comes to recovering endangered Atlantic salmon, it makes a difference where smolt stocking takes place along a river. A new model can help by evaluating estimated survival of smolts released at different stocking locations.

Stocking salmon downstream

Stocking Green Lake National Fish Hatchery smolts in Maine’s Narraguagus River. Photo: NOAA Fisheries

Young Atlantic salmon smolt released at lower-river stocking sites on the Penobscot River are more likely to survive and enter the ocean than those released higher in the river system. They encounter fewer barriers such as man-made dams during their migration to the estuary, and their migration path is shorter. NOAA Fisheries scientists built a model that can help select release locations to improve survival of stocked smolt as they head for the ocean.

The 2018 Northeast Fisheries Science Center study, published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, highlights the continuing challenge to conserve this endangered species.

“This model is an important tool to support decision-making for the recovery of wild, self-sustaining Atlantic salmon populations,” said Justin Stevens, a fishery biologist at the Center’s Maine Field Station in Orono and lead author of the study. “Hatchery smolt stocking is a common strategy used in the program, and now we have a way to effectively evaluate its success.”

Using Historic Salmon Survival Rates to Improve Prospects for the Future

The researchers built a model to simulate historic survival of migrating Atlantic salmon smolt at different locations along the Penobscot River from 1970 through 2012, using existing studies of smolt survival. The model assessed the relative survival risks posed by three factors: dams, discharge into the river, and the length of the migration route.

By far, the number of dams encountered during downstream migration had the biggest effect on survival. The more dams the smolts encountered, the lower the survival rate.

A number of dams have been removed from the Penobscot River in the past few years. However, more than 100 man-made dams remain. Most are relative small and used for water storage or are remnants from 19th century industrial activities.

This study focused on 18 dams commissioned to generate hydroelectric power during the study period, for which hatchery records were also available. These dams are situated along primary salmon migration paths in the five sub-basins of the river.

Model Results Can Guide Management Decisions

“The information learned from this study can be used by state and federal managers to better inform future stocking practices and to work with the hydroelectric industry to minimize the impact of dams,” said Stevens.

This study provides a quantitative way to evaluate the effect of dams on smolt survival during downstream migration in the largest U.S. Atlantic salmon river.

The model calculates marine survival, from post-smolt to adult salmon. It accounts for losses during both freshwater and estuarine migration, and is an important new tool for making decisions about habitat improvement, fishery management, and Atlantic salmon recovery activities.

A Bit More About Endangered Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon smolt migrate from freshwater river habitat downstream to the ocean. Many do not survive the journey past multiple dams or their time at sea.

If they do survive, as adults they need to migrate from their time in the ocean back to the river. Adults then swim upstream past dams to spawn and complete their life cycle. Making multiple trips during their lifetime further reduces the likelihood of repeat spawners, and that negatively affects population growth.

Historically, Atlantic salmon in the United States ranged from the Housatonic River of Long Island Sound to the Aroostook River in eastern Maine. There were an estimated 500,000 adult fish in precolonial days.

Today, U.S. Atlantic salmon are limited to eastern Maine and the population numbers fewer than 2,000 adult fish. The Penobscot River supports the largest population, aided by a hatchery-smolt stocking program that produces about 75 percent of the annual adult returns.

This year has been designated as International Year of the Salmon. It is the kickoff for an international effort though 2022 to bring countries together to share knowledge, raise public awareness, and take action to conserve and recover both Pacific and Atlantic salmon.

River Coho Salmon

Casting Weighted Spinners For River Coho Salmon

By Yakima Baits Pro Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire

River Coho Salmon on a Weighted Spinners


Although the timing varies by region and river system, this is the month many Northwest, BC, Alaskan and Great Lake anglers start thinking about targeting coho salmon as they begin their run toward the river habitat or hatchery that produced them. (Scott Haugen Photo)

Coho, sometimes called silver salmon, average seven to nine pounds in size with some strains reaching 15 pounds or more. In all regions, any coho salmon that weighs in at 20 pounds or more is considered a lifetime trophy. The current world record sport caught coho salmon was taken in 1989 from, surprisingly, the Salmon River in New York State at 33 pounds 4 ounces. In 2012 a coho salmon was caught-and-released from the same New York river that (based on measurements prior to release) might have weighed in at 34 pounds.

And while coho can be caught any number of ways when returning to their natal stream, casting weighted spinners is one fishing method seldom overlooked by anglers.

The most common way to fish a spinner in rivers is to cast out, across and slightly upstream and reel it back to you with a retrieve speed that keeps it working near bottom. If the water is deep, you should allow your spinner sink near bottom before starting your retrieve. Fished this way, the river current will swing your spinner downstream through the fish-holding water. Once your spinner swings in near shore, it’s time to reel in and cast again.

You’ll be much more successful if you don’t get caught up in a steady, ridged, retrieve mode. Let your spinner work with the current. For example, if you feel a burst of water grab your lure, slow down or momentarily stop retrieving and let it work. Spinners are the most effective when slowly retrieved, as slow as you can, and within a foot or two of the bottom. Strikes are usually definite, but some fish will just stop the spinning blade so, if in doubt, set the hook.

In addition to allowing your spinner to work with the current, you can sometimes tease these fish into biting by working your spinner in an erratic fashion with lots of starts and stops, speed-ups and slow-downs, even changing the angle of your retrieve can sometimes produce results.

In extreme clear water, where upstream-looking fish might spook when seeing you, upstream casting can be the “go to” spinner method. Easy, position yourself within casting range of the fish-holding water and cast at an upstream angle. If the water is shallow, begin your retrieve as or just before your spinner hits the water, which can help you avoid hang ups.

After an upstream cast, especially when the water is shallow, reel fast as possible until you’ve picked up all slack line and begin to feel the resistance of the spinning blade; then slow down your retrieve speed and work your lure just above bottom.

Another productive technique is downstream casting, which works best on wide holes or tail-outs. Cast your spinner out, across and at a downstream angle. Since, the current is moving away from you, it requires a slow or no retrieve, as your spinner swings through the holding water.

When the fish are in, confirmed by vast numbers visible in clear water or due to them sometimes jumping, you may think a fast limit is a sure thing. And while you may quickly tag out (and I hope you do) realize that these fish can be finicky about what spinner size, style and color they’ll respond to. Coho salmon are famous for sometimes turning up their nose at nearly every offering but then going crazy (as in a fish-feeding frenzy) after only one cast with the right lure or color. My advice: try different offerings and let the fish tell you what they like.

Try Tipping: while tipping is a common practice among bass and walleye anglers, the trick is often overlooked by those chasing salmon. With spinners, what works is to tip the hook of your spinner with a short section (a one inch piece might be all you need) pinched from a scent-filled worm – like a PowerBait or Gulp! worm. And while different worm colors can work, what often adds to success is to hang a one-inch section of a worm in fluorescent pink from your hook – just let it hang straight back.

Spinners are available in an amazing array of weights, sizes and colors. For coho salmon, the most popular weights include the one quarter, one-third (3/8) and one-half ounce sizes – it all depends on water depth and fish preference. Some of the popular names include the Flash Glo and Rooster Tail. If you’re on a budget consider the Bud’s spinner. Keep in mind that regulations might require the use of a single, rather than a treble hook, when fishing salmon in freshwater rivers.

Although salmon will respond to solid metal finishes like nickel, brass or copper, coho may prefer lures featuring a combination of color and reflective metal. Spinners having fluorescent chartreuse, pink, green, blue, black, orange or red added to their makeup should be included in your arsenal. Remember, these fish can be fickle as the stock market so take along a wide assortment of different spinners, sizes and colors.

While both bait cast and spinning rod and reel outfits work, many anglers (including me) prefer to use a spinning rod and reel when tossing blades. The reason: spinning reels facilitate the casting of sometimes light-weight spinner sizes and, at least for me, better deal with the fast starts, stops, slow downs, and speed ups associated with fishing a spinner.

When it comes to fishing rods, eight and a half to nine foot rods in medium to medium-heavy actions are the most popular for spinner casting. Most anglers will combine these with medium size spinning reels capable of holding 140 yards of 10 to 14 pound monofilament line.

Likely due to a spinner’s sonic vibration, coho salmon respond to spinners by striking them savagely. Their built-in weight makes spinner casting easy while their vibration-producing blades attract fish in waters ranging from stagnant to fast moving. In short, the right spinner style and color will produce almost anywhere coho salmon hold.

Journeys of One Atlantic Salmon

The Mind-Boggling Journeys of One Atlantic Salmon
By John Holyoke
from The Fishing Wire

Charlie swims along his journey


“Charlie” the Atlantic salmon (right) swims among other salmon in a pool of the Sandy River in western Maine. Charlie is a repeat spawner, and was captured twice at Waterville’s Lockwood Dam, exactly two years apart. Photo Casey Clarke/Maine Department of Marine Resources

Your morning commute to work might be hectic and harrowing, but before you start feeling sorry for yourself consider the journeys that Charlie — the name given to a soon-to-be-famous Atlantic salmon — has taken over the past few years.

Charlie recently was captured in a fish lift at the Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec River in Waterville. That on its own is not a surprise. The fact the adult salmon was actually what’s called a “repeat spawner” and had been captured at the same facility exactly two years (and thousands of miles) earlier was grounds for celebration.

“This is the only repeat spawner we have ever had [in the 13 years since the Lockwood facility has been operational],” said Paul Christman, a marine scientist for the Maine Department of Marine Resources.

Christman said that over the course of a year, all of Maine’s salmon rivers might see one repeat returnee, most of those counted on the state’s busiest salmon river, the Penobscot. This year, more than 1,000 salmon have returned to the Penobscot. Just 56 have been counted at Lockwood. Making Charlie particularly intriguing is the fact he’s either a naturally reared fish from eggs planted by fisheries personnel or a wild-spawned fish.

And the journeys that Charlie has made are mind-boggling, Christman said.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, young Atlantic salmon can travel more than 6,000 miles during their migration to and from the North Atlantic, where they will spend between one and three years before returning to their native rivers. That means Charlie might have 12,000 miles on his fins by now. He has surely earned a break, which he is currently taking.

Charlie was first caught on June 18, 2017, and had a radio tag and a “PIT” tag attached to him. The PIT tag allows scientists to identify him by a unique 16-digit number. The radio tag allowed them to track him until he regurgitated it at some point after he began his return to the Atlantic two years ago.

The crew’s radio tracked him to a pair of comfortable pools in the river where he spent the summer.

Then, after making his way back downriver (and over four hydroelectric dams), he headed back to sea where he flourished for two more years before swimming back to Lockwood Dam on the Kennebec.

An obliging crew then gave the salmon a ride back to the Sandy, and that’s where he remains, resting comfortably after his second grueling trip in two years.

“As of last Thursday, he was sitting in one of the pools that he sat in two years ago,” Christman said.

Christman said DMR personnel have snorkeled nearby and report that Charlie looks healthy — and big.

Jennifer Noll, another DMR fisheries scientist, reported that when Charlie was captured two years ago he was almost 29 inches long. Now, he measures nearly 34 inches from snout to tail.

Christman said many fish die in their natal rivers before even heading to sea once, and they face countless challenges while in the ocean. Upon their return to a river, they must overcome more obstacles and survive predators that would like to enjoy a salmon dinner.

The fact Charlie has made those grueling, life-threatening trips twice makes him a rare fish indeed.

“He has defied all the odds. He has actually survived an enormous amount of mortality,” Christman said. “He is at least two years older, three years older than all the other [salmon] in the Sandy River. This guy has seen it all and survived. It really is amazing.”

Christman thinks Charlie successfully spawned two years ago — spawning redds were found near where he was hanging out — and hopes he is able to do the same this year.

Passing along his genetics to future generations can’t hurt, after all.

“This guy really wins. I mean, he’s got it all,” Christman said. “It’s really amazing to see a fish that has been through it all and survived [all of those threats]. I just can’t fathom.”

View of Charlie’s River


“Charlie” the Atlantic salmon would have made his way up this part of the Kennebec River to reach the Lockwood Dam, both in 2017 and in 2019. A marvellous tale of a charismatic species making the Kennebec River a home for spawning. Photo Maranda Nemeth.

Fishing PowerBait For Trout

Yakima Basics on Fishing PowerBait For Trout
by Buzz Ramsey, Yakima Bait Company
from The Fishing Wire

Catch trout on Powerbait


“Still-Fishing” (also known as dead-sticking or plunking) dough bait for trout is a popular and productive method for catching trout from lakes, reservoirs and rivers, many of which are frequently stocked with hatchery trout. It’s so Easy:Cast out, allow your outfit to sink to the bottom, wait for a bite, and set-the-hook when your rod tip dips toward the water. It’s important to leave some slack in your line, so trout can swim off with your bait and swallow it without feeling line resistance before you yank back on your rod tip to set the hook.

When using PowerBait you can greatly increase your success by using the right amount of dough trout bait in combination with a Lil’ Corky single-egg-imitation so that your bait will float above bottom to allow cruising trout to find it. This is fundamental to success and often results in quick limits. The buoyancy of your Lil Corky single-egg-imitation will take the guess work out of how much dough bait is the right amount to float your bait.

When rigging a Lil’ Corky/PowerBait combination, use a ball of PowerBait slightly larger than your Lil’ Corky. We can tell you, based on extensive testing and observation of underwater video footage, that you will catch far more fish if your Lil’ Corky and PowerBait combination floats side-by-side in the water column.

Selecting the Right Leader Length:

Leader length is important because, after all, you want your bait floating at the depth the fish are cruising, which might be close to the bottom during times when the water is clear and sun bright, higher in the water column during the spring – when water temperatures begin to warm – early and/or late in the day, or on overcast days. And while the average leader length should be 18-to-24 inches, a leader long enough to extend above bottom-growing vegetation might be the ticket to success when trout are swimming just above the weed tops.


Rigging is Easy:

Simply thread your main line through the hole in an oval egg sinker, add a small plastic bead, and tie your line end to a size ten (10) barrel swivel. Then attach your leader (18-to-24 inches), complete with Lil’ Corky threaded on the leader above hook, to the free end of your swivel end, then mold a ball of PowerBait around your hook.

Note: A size 12 treble hook should be used in combination with a size 12 Lil Corky, and size 14 treble with size 14 Lil Corky bait floater if you intend to keep the fish–if you’re release fishing, avoid trebles and go with a larger single hook, maybe size 10.


Terminal Tackle You Will Need:

1) Selection of size 12 and 14 Lil’ Corky floating egg imitation/bait-floaters; the most popular colors are pink pearl, red, orange, pink, sherbet, clown, and (for night fishing – where legal) luminous flame.

2) Selection of size 12 and 14 treble hooks.

3) Selection of ¼, 3/8 and 1/2 ounce “Oval Egg” free-sliding sinkers.

4) Size 10 barrel swivels.

5) Size 4 and/or 6mm plastic beads

6) Spool of four (4) or six (6) pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material. Fluorocarbon leader material is less visible to fish.

Prepared Bait

The most popular and productive dough trout bait is Berkley PowerBait with the garlic flavors preferred by many anglers. The most popular dough bait colors include Rainbow, Sherbet, Chartreuse, Peach, and Flame Orange.

Rods, Reels and Fishing Line

Anglers specializing in still-fishing PowerBait employ 6 to 7 foot soft-tipped spinning rods rated for 2-to-8 pound test fishing line. Your spinning reel should be one with a quality drag, like an Abu Garcia or Pflueger brand. Purchasing a rod and reel combination, like one offered by Shakespeare and sized for trout, can represent an affordable option. The most popular fishing line is six (6) pound test monofilament.

For more details, visit www.yakimabait.com.

Idaho’s Salmon

Hope for Idaho’s Salmon
by Chris Wood, President, Trout Unlimited
from The Fishing Wire

“I have concluded that I am going to stay alive long enough to see salmon return to healthy populations in Idaho.”

Those words by U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) at a conference at the Andrus Center last week may do more to project the recovery of the imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead than multiple lawsuits, five biological opinions, and a whopping $16 billion spent on a failed effort to recover Columbia and Snake river salmon and steelhead.

Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID)


Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) saying what needs to be said at an Andrus Center for the West event in Boise recently.

Twenty-eight years ago, after learning of the plight of “Lonesome Larry,” I dedicated my career to helping recover Idaho’s salmon and steelhead. Larry, a sockeye, managed to swim 800 miles, climbing 6,500 feet in elevation, crossing eight dams, countless predators—never feeding—to return to the lake he was born to have sex one time before he died. That didn’t happen—he was the only sockeye to return.

Wild salmon and steelhead in Idaho are on a path to extinction.

Before the construction of the four lower Snake dams, more than a million Snake River spring and summer Chinook and more than half-a-million steelhead returned to spawn. Today, those runs are a fraction of their historic abundance. In the 1950s, the Middle Fork of the Salmon was such a prolific fishery that anglers could keep two salmon per day for a five-week season. In 2017, fewer than 500 salmon returned to spawn in the Middle Fork – 1 percent of the historic runs.

Larry’s ancestors that gave Redfish Lake its name, once came in the tens of thousands. Last year, 134 returned.

Congressman Simpson rightly asks, “Why should Idaho bear all the costs of the Snake River dams and reap so few of its benefits?”

Half of all steelhead in the Columbia River system once returned to the Snake River in Idaho

The scientific evidence is overwhelming: after almost 30 years and billions of dollars spent on habitat restoration and techno-fixes at the dams, removal of the four lower Snake River dams is essential to salmon and steelhead recovery—adjustments will also be needed in hatchery, harvest and predator management.

Restoration, however, cannot simply be about fish. This hopeful and complex effort must be about people, too. Restoration of the Snake must ensure that farmers can irrigate and transport their crops. It must ensure that jobs are safe and energy supplies are reliable. It must help meet the social and economic priorities of local communities such as Lewiston. It must create robust, fishable, and harvestable populations of salmon and steelhead for recreational, tribal and commercial fishermen.

The fish are important; but people are, too.

While not himself calling for dam removal, Congressman Simpson’s willingness to ask the hard questions should result in an unbiased look at what is needed to bring back Idaho’s salmon legacy. U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) demonstrated the same type of leadership in developing the Idaho Roadless Rule which protects 9 million acres of incredible fish and wildlife habitat in the Gem State.

For three decades, we have accepted half-measures and lurched from crises to crises – unwilling to address the cause of the decline of Idaho’s magnificent salmon and steelhead. These fish are remarkably resilient. If given half a chance, they will return, but they are running out of time.

Read more like this at www.tu.org.