|By Braden Buttars and Joe DuPont, Idaho DFG|
from The Fishing Wire
You set the hook and immediately your rod doubles over and there is no doubt you have hooked a big one (salmon or steelhead – you pick). Line starts peeling from your reel and you hold on for the ride. After some intense moments of thinking you may have lost the fish and some spectacular jumps, your buddy finally slips a net under the fish.
After a shout for joy, what is the first thing you say? How many of you said, “Is it clipped”? I suspect many of you did seeing a clipped adipose fin distinguishes a hatchery fish from a protected wild fish telling anglers it is legal to harvest. Many of us take it for granted that hatchery fish have a clipped adipose fin, but have you ever wondered what it takes to make this happen?
Joe DuPontThe Idaho fish marking program started in 1975 with a small group of people directed to tag salmon and steelhead raised in Idaho’s hatcheries. Their primary objective was to insert tiny pieces of wire, known as coded-wire tags, into the snouts of over one million salmon and steelhead. Each of these tagged fish also needed their adipose fin clipped to signify it contained a coded-wire tag. The recovery of these coded- wire tags would then help us evaluate how Idaho hatcheries contributed to fisheries in the Columbia River and ocean.
Northwest Marine TechnologyIdaho’s fish-marking program has changed dramatically since 1975. In 1984 the fish-marking program was directed to remove the adipose fin from more than 9 million Idaho hatchery steelhead so that anglers could distinguish hatchery fish from wild fish. This required a small army of people equipped with scissors working 40 hours a week for about three months to accomplish this task.
Once, to meet a deadline at Dworshak Hatchery in 1987, over 130 different temporaries were hired to keep four marking trailers operating 16 hours a day to remove the adipose fins from almost 3 million steelhead in 10 days. By the early 1990s, almost all hatchery Chinook Salmon released in Idaho were fin clipped, and hundreds of thousands of PIT tags were being injected into smolts to help answer specific research questions and provide managers real-time data to better manage fisheries.
It got to the point that Idaho’s fish marking program could not accomplish this alone and Federal Agencies also began to help. Despite this, Idaho’s fish marking program clipped and tagged approximately 11 million juvenile salmon and steelhead each year. All this work was done by hand requiring a dedicated force of temporarily.
In 2002 Idaho began to automate the fish marking program allowing more fish to be processed with less error. The first AutoFish Trailer was purchased in 2002. In 2004 Idaho purchased two additional AutoFish Trailers and two more were purchased in 2014. With this new technology, the Idaho Fish-Marking Program is now able to processes around 17 million salmon and steelhead from 9 Idaho hatcheries that contribute to major salmon and steelhead fisheries throughout Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
Now that Idaho’s fish marking program has been using automated trailers for 18 years, they have refined this process to where most fish never need to be touched by a person. To make this happen, the automated trailers are parked right next to the raceways where the fish are being raised. This allows the fish to be directly pumped from the raceway, run through the marking trailers where their adipose fins are clipped and coded-wire tags are injected, and then discharged back to a nearby raceway with no direct human contact.
The first time you step into one of these marking trailer is seems more like you are entering a high tech computer facility than a place where fish are being marked. These automated trailers have the ability to sort individual fish by size using video imaging so that the right size fish goes into the right machine. This is required because each machine is programmed precisely to handle certain sized fish. Once a fish is sorted into the right machine, it gently clamps the fish in place and in a fraction of a second it can insert a coded-wire tag, clip its adipose fin, and confirm that the adipose fin was removed adequately. All this is accomplished without removing the fish from the water or using any type of anesthetic which reduces stress on the fish.
For more detail on how this process click on this video link fish marking video.
Because of this technology, we now have an accurate count of all clipped hatchery fish at each hatchery and how these fish were marked or tagged. The application of these technologies allows fisheries managers to evaluate, track, and manage fish to provide for the protection and recovery of wild fish, while maximizing commercial and sport use of hatchery fish.
In case you were wondering, in 2019, Idaho’s Fish-Marking Program was responsible for marking 16.35 million juvenile fish (10.7 million salmon and 5.65 million steelhead) as well as manually inserting 398,443 PIT tags across 9 anadromous fish hatcheries managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Note: I found this especially interesting! Ronnie
It is thought that fish may miss critical migration cues in the barges that they would otherwise pick up during in-river migrations.
|By Allison Lebeda, Joe DuPont, Lance Hebdon, and Jonathan Ebel. |
Idaho Fish & Game
from The Fishing Wire
Barging Juvenile Salmon and Steelhead through the Columbia and Snake Rivers does not work as well as natural migration.
Juvenile salmon and steelhead born in Idaho waters must swim hundreds of miles and navigate a network of eight dams before they can reach the Pacific Ocean. Migrating through the mainstem hydrosystem can be one of the more daunting obstacles these young fish must face.
These fish, which we commonly refer to as “smolts” can pass through a dam in one of three ways.
First, they can be swept through the turbines, where the water forces large blades to rotate at high speeds.
Second, a series of screens can guide smolts away from the turbines where they will be routed through channels and pipes around the dam. We call this the juvenile bypass system.
Third, they can be carried over one of the dam’s spillways where they will plunge over a hundred feet into turbulent waters below.
Thanks to recent changes in the operations of the dams, most smolts pass over the spillway. The diagram above depicts the three passage routes that smolts can use to pass dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
In the late 1970s, poor adult returns of salmon and steelhead prompted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (from hereafter referred to as “the Corps”) to develop a fourth method of passing large numbers of juvenile fish past the Snake and Columbia River dams: barging.
Initially, two barges were available to transport juvenile fish, but gradually more barges were added, and by 1981, the barging program had the ability to barge large numbers of fish on a daily basis. Today, between 15 and 22 million smolts are collected from the juvenile bypass systems at Lower Granite, Little Goose, and Lower Monumental dams and placed in one of eight available barges.
Barging typically occurs from late April through July, and transports smolts through the hydropower system until they are eventually released below Bonneville Dam. Collection and transportation, known as the Juvenile Transport Program, is a considerable collaborative effort by the Corps with private, federal, and state agencies. Each barging trip lasts two days and covers nearly 300 river miles, but is ultimately faster than the migration for fish that must pass through the dams on their own power.
At first glance, barging juvenile salmon and steelhead through the hydropower system seems the obvious solution to increase adult returns. Immediate survival of barged juveniles is nearly 98% compared to the 40-60% survival rate often experienced by smolts that must make the full journey past the dams in-river.
Barging was the dominant method of passing smolts through the hydrosystem from 1981 through 2006 when 60-100% of smolts passing the dams were put on barges. However, with increased spill over the dams, the addition of surface spillway weirs, and upgrades to existing juvenile bypass systems, the relative benefits of barging have declined in recent years. The proportion of smolts put on barges now ranges from 10-50% of the run as a result of increased spill over the dams and the consequent decrease in fish entering the juvenile bypass systems.
Despite high survival of barged smolts to the release site downstream of Bonneville Dam, transported fish often return at lower rates as adults than fish that migrated down the Snake and Columbia rivers on their own.
One explanation for this is multiple species of smolts are often confined in crowded conditions when being barged, which can increase stress and allow diseases to spread more easily between fish. Additionally, returning adults that were barged as smolts tend to migrate upstream slower, fall back over the dams more often, and stray more than fish that were not barged.
It is thought that fish may miss critical migration cues in the barges that they would otherwise pick up during in-river migrations.
Ongoing research using smolts tagged upstream of the hydrosystem and tagged at Lower Granite Dam has helped modify the barging program to improve survival of barged fish. Of fish that enter a juvenile bypass system, those that are subsequently transported tend to return as adults at higher rates than fish that are bypassed and returned to the river.
This is important because millions of smolts migrate past these dams this way each year. But, it is not as simple as one may think. The relative benefits barging provides to smolts varies by the timing of their migration, what species they are, their size, and whether they are a hatchery or wild fish. For example, endangered Snake River Sockeye Salmon do not benefit from barging in most situations. This may be because they are smaller, can be easily descaled through abrasion, and prefer uncrowded open-water habitats found in lakes.
Meanwhile, steelhead benefit from barging in many situations potentially because they are larger, more resilient, and prefer faster flowing habitats not found in reservoirs. Both these species migrate at the same time and are transported together. Unfortunately, there is no current way to separate the two species after they have entered the juvenile bypass systems and transport-destined raceways.
For smolts migrating later in the season, those that are barged tend to do better than those that aren’t. This is likely because later in the year, migration conditions tend to worsen for smolts as flows decrease and water clarity and temperature increase. These conditions increase their stress levels and increase predation on them.
When you consider all these things, it certainly adds complexity on evaluating whether a smolt should be barged or not. For now, managers have taken a spread-the-risk approach using barging in concert with improving in-river migration conditions.
In summary, although barging can increase the number of smolts that reach the ocean, transported fish often return at lower rates as adults than fish that migrate in-river. Under certain conditions, barging juvenile salmon and steelhead can lead to higher survival and higher return rates as adults. Migration timing, fish size, river conditions, and fish species are just some of the variables that play a role in whether barging can be beneficial or not.
Researchers with the multitude of cooperating agencies continue to learn from and modify the Juvenile Transport Program to best increase adult returns. Barging juveniles through the complex network of dams is not the sole solution to salmon and steelhead restoration, but it is one of multiple tools managers have that can aid in increasing juvenile survival and adult returns in some situations.
Trolling for Trout works!
|By Buzz Ramsey, Yakima Baits|
from The Fishing Wire
Rainbow and other trout (brown, brook and cutthroat) offer anglers fishing success in lakes and reservoirs where trolling is a popular way to catch them. Some water bodies host wild fish populations that sustain fisheries. But what populates most trout waters across America, from New York to Oregon, are millions of hatchery fish raised by State Fish & Wildlife and Federal agencies before release into local waters – all for you and me to catch.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we spend much of our fishing time chasing salmon and steelhead, but pursue trout and other fish each-and-every year too. And while the trout planted in the lakes near our home are not always big, usually averaging 12-to-14 inches, we sometimes catch fish nearing the ten pound mark. These trout are fun to catch on light tackle and a challenge when bigger than expected.
Whether you move your boat along with a pair of oars or motor, what makes trolling effective is the amount of water you can cover, which pretty much guarantees the lures trailing behind your boat will come in contact with hungry fish.
The uses of oars or an electric trolling motor are popular means of propulsion when trolling because they facilitate slow going. For example, electric trolling motors are designed with a variable speed control that starts at zero. If your method of propulsion is a gas outboard, getting it to idle down may require a fresh tank of gasoline and, perhaps, a pre-adventure tune-up for it to run smoothly at low idle.
While trolling slowly is important, so is trolling in an erratic pattern. Fish that are initially attracted to your gear may lose interest if your offering doesn’t run away or swim erratically when approached. You can somewhat mimic this injured-prey reaction from predatory fish by zigzagging or changing your boat speed, which will sometimes trigger following fish to striking before their curiosity wanes.
The one lure that has changed our trolling success more than any other is a plug called the Mag Lip. Mag Lip is distinctive due to its ability to dive extra-deep while yielding an erratic, darting “skip-beat” action that produces savage strikes from fish. The “skip-beat” action produced by Mag Lip adds greatly to what we can achieve by changing boat speed and direction. The strike response due to the “skip-beat” action can be compared to how a house cat pounces when coaxed with a ball-and-string.
Many guides and anglers report a higher hook-to-land ratio when using Mag Lip as compared to other lures and credit the savage strikes and better hook-to-land ratio to the unique action produced by this relative new to-the-market lure.
Determining the correct trolling speed depends on what lures you employ combined with the pace trout might respond to best. For example, you might troll a small FlatFish somewhere between a half and one (1) MPH, since this plug was designed to produce frantic action when pulled slowly.
Trolling FlatFish at the speed they perform best can be especially effective when water temps are cool, fish are less aggressive, or when the forage they seek matches the size and color of this high-action plug. For spinner, spoon and plugs, like Mag Lip, the right trolling speed is usually in the range of 1 to 1-1/2 MPH, with 2 MPH considered fast on most waters.
When forward trolling, try positioning your lines at different distances behind your boat. Although the most productive distance might vary depending on water clarity and how boat shy fish might be, a good place to start is to run your lines from 50-to-100 feet out. Staggering the distance of each line means your gear will make multiple passes by the fish, increasing the chance of an encounter.
Another thing to keep in mind when trolling is the depth you position your gear. For example, trout might be found near the surface when the light is low, like early or late in the day and when overcast, but go deep when the sun is bright. Therefore, positioning your lines deeper during the middle of the day might keep the bite going. Water temperature can also affect where fish might be found as they will likely go deeper or suspend at a preferred temperature zone when surface temperatures get uncomfortable from summertime heat.
While Mag Lip dives deep the depth achieved varies based on line test (diameter), and distance out. For example, all according to Mark Romanack of Fishing 411 TV fame’s Precision Trolling App, the 2.5 (2-1/2 inch) size Mag Lip will dive eight feet with 50 feet of let out and ten feet with 75 feet of let out – this data is based on ten-pound test Berkley XT monofilament. You can add another foot of dive if using ten pound test Fireline, as this high-tech line is thinner than monofilament of the same test.
And while Mag Lip is our favorite plug for trout, we make use of other lures too. For example, there are times when a slow-trolling presentation produces best, which is when we employ the wild action produced by small FlatFish (sizes F-3 to F-7 for trout) at speeds ranging from a half to one mile-per-hour (MPH). Perhaps due to when trout are feeding on minnows, thin bladed spoons, like a Triple Teaser, sometimes out produce other lures when trolled from 1-to-2 MPH.
The vibrating/fish-calling action of a spinner, like a Rooster Tail, works when forward trolled too. If you troll a spinner, keep in mind that their action can twist fishing line. Therefore, it’s important to rig a ball-bearing or other quality swivel twenty or so inches from your spinner or halfway down your leader when rigged in combination with a sinker, attractor, downrigger, or bottom walker.
Adding a fish attractant to any lure can increase its effectiveness. You’ll find an innumerable array of scents available for this purpose. In addition to spraying my lures with an attractant, like Rooster Tail Scent Spray from Yakima Baits, I often add a short section (usually a half inch or so) from a scent-filled worm, grub or maggot (PowerBait or Gulp!) to the hook of my plug, spinner or spoon – just rig it to hang straight back.
If you tip spoons, be advised that employing too large a tip can deaden their action – so keep tipping baits extra short on spoons. Although the above tipping baits are available in different colors, we’ve found the white or black colors often produce best, at least on the trout lakes near our home.
Buzz Ramsey is Brand Manager for Yakima Bait Company and a member of the management team – www.yakimabait.com. Find Buzz on Facebook/Instagram.
|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.
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.
“Spinfishing” for Puget Sound Blackmouth
|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 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
|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 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 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.
Casting Weighted Spinners For River Coho Salmon
By Yakima Baits Pro Buzz Ramsey
from The Fishing Wire
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.