Sunday, 17 May 2015

Salmon Season – The Small Things

Finally, summer fishing on the west coast. May brings big chinook, most en route to the Fraser, and among them the 4(2) and 5(2) chinook. DFO estimates 45,000 of the latter will reach the river mouth, not as many as it would like. In the Victoria area we may retain 2 chinook. The shorter must exceed 48 cm (62 cm in Sidney waters) with the larger, and only one, may exceed 67 cm. The management plan will be re-evaluated for the period after midnight, June 12.

In fishing for larger summer fish, we fish closer to shore, in shallower water and find those nooks and crannies having the least tidal flow or an ebb tide back eddy. Having said this, it is also true that some areas have better fishing on the end of the flood. Port Renfrew is one of these waters. And in Sooke, Aldridge Point is best on the flood. Memorize summer contours because, with shallower water, typically less than 75 feet, and  with rocks jutting out and up, there is less margin for error – your gear hits the grabby bottom and rips, rather than sliding along deeper, winter, mud/sand bottoms.

It is time to take that annual look at gear and update what needs to be new, for big fish. Consider braided line for your single-action reels, with 20 feet of 25- to 30-pound monofilament in front. I use figure eight knots, then martingale the two together. I switched my freshwater bait-casters to braided line some years ago, and it has some distinct advantages. I thought it would shred, leading to breaks, but have found this not to be the case. In comparison with mono, braid breaks fewer times, and there is no need to cut-off 10 feet and reattach your swivel and snap each time out. Use a Palomar knot to attach mainline snaps.

The second advantage for bait-casting and other casting reels is that braid is more slippery than mono and so lures are cast more easily and longer cast distances result. Another braid advantage is that mono is stiffer, and scuffs to a translucent, visible finish over time. You will have more line twist in mono because it is stiffer than braid.

I now use braid for my downriggers, and have been surprised that it has less tendency to shred than one would think. It ‘sings’ a bit when the harmonics of line and water are right, but there is no electrical potential, pushing fish from the lure end of the tackle. So, a black box is not needed with downrigger braid – as opposed to stainless cable. On the other hand, I have noticed in quicker, swirling tides, there is a greater tendency to get downrigger lines wrapped around one another, along with mainlines, making for annoying messes to be untangled.

Cannonballs with fins on their trailing edge can be set to move farther out from the side of the boat. Simply bend the fin toward the boat and the ball tracks farther out. Note that all downrigger cables should have a ball clip on their end. Do not tie a cable/braid directly to the ball as you are looking to lose your downrigger on a hang-up. And, clips swivel, reducing line twist. There is nothing more annoying than line twist getting around your rod tip or line guides leading to broken mainline and loss of tackle and fish. Not to mention the rod tip. Grr.

Probably the most important small tackle item is ball-bearing swivels. Check these each spring, clipping a flasher to the clip and giving it a spin. If it spins freely, you are ready to go. If not, replace the swivel, or use an oil-based commercial scent. Don’t use WD-40 as it will stream off the clip directly into your tackle.

Get in the habit of using more ball-bearing swivels rather than fewer. We fish bait, and larger bait more frequently, and fish slower in summer for chinook. Four ball bearings are required: end of mainline; both ends of a flasher; and the top of the leader. The purpose is to make bait spiral (not spin) easily with the head spiraling in the same diameter as the tail – most easily set up with wire-rigged heads and the bend on the wire, behind the dorsal fin of the bait. See:

Fewer ball-bearing swivels may be used with: plugs, Apexes; spoons; and hootchies. All of these lures sway side to side rather than spiral, hence, fewer ball-bearings are needed. A simple figure eight knot on the leader, as the commercial guys do it, is sufficient, and the trailing clip on flashers and dodgers, needs no ball bearing either. You will recall Pal No. 3 shiny dodgers. The trailing edge simply sways from side to side and is used in summer because of the slower, more deliberate nature of big chinook. No need for bearings other than the leading edge of the bait leader.

One more small thing: get release clips with 30- to 48-inches of stout mono. The purpose is to hang the clip from the cable over the gunwhale, making it far easier, once you have tested gear action by the boat, and let out 25 feet, to pick up the clip and set the mainline within it. Then lower away. Clips that won’t reach the gunwhale will have you reaching farther out, every time to bring the clip to mainline – with the risk of falling out.

And one final thing: use Farr Better flashers in summer for big fish. They come with a pin you insert in the trailing edge. When the fish bites, the pin pops out and the flasher, attached at its leading edge only, no longer causes shear on the line, resulting in losing big fish, particularly when they hit the surface. Nothing worse than watching a trophy swimming away because shear has ripped the hooks from its mouth.

And buy yourself a better quality rod because you are a better quality guy. Fish like better gear, too.

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