It is the third week in September and saltwater trolling time for coho. Check retention regulations (link below) for your area and get out there. In Victoria/Sooke waters, now that pink and sockeye are through, most coho fishing will be found in the offshore tide lines of Juan de Fuca Strait.
The wanton bite that happens when three species are targeting the same feed is over, and the remainder is Puget Sound and local stocks, largely on their own. In the distant past we fished the top 30 feet regardless of bottom depth, but in the past decade it’s best to think as deep as 100 feet and adjust until you find the fish. Scan your depth sounder for scratchy schools of bait and fish.
Fish by throttle, not speed over ground as measured by your GPS. When you add tidal push to speed over ground you can be fishing either too fast or too slow. Instead, increase your throttle speed to 800- to 1000-rpm which results in your fishing faster than water speed. Ignore your GPS speed.
Coho are the most excitable species of salmon and will snap after something interesting at much higher speed. Because they prefer higher speed that is the prime consideration. But higher speed is also an advantage in that it allows you to fish more territory in the same amount of time, thus increasing your chances of finding fish.
Tide lines are your best bet for several reasons. Tide lines are spots where two different plumes of water moving in opposite directions and at different speeds run into one another. They are evidenced by dark, or even light lines and all the kelp weed and flotsam pushed into the line is held there in the middle of the two lines. Tide lines are vertical ‘structure’ that extend down into the water because different currents exist under the water surface too; and any on the surface, have to flow somewhere after hitting one another and they can’t go up, so they go sideways or down.
A second reason is that plankton that can’t swim faster than the tide gets swept into a tide line and held there as long as it lasts. Ditto for bait fish that feed on them and also can’t swim faster than the tide. The coho are keeping up with lunch and thus there, on the moving side of the line, unless they are still staging, as does happen in Juan de Fuca. With all the recent rain we have had, this is the cue, the taste of water, for coho to stop staging and move on.
Another reason to fish tidelines is that they give you a defined place to fish, rather than moseying all over the place when you don’t find tidelines. This becomes self evident when you are out on a calm day and there seems to be an infinity of water, but ‘nare’ a drop of fish. Tide lines are one of the big three in fishing: being in the right place at the right time using the right thing.
Tidelines give you the right place, so stick with them. Fish back and forth across them if the moving side is not producing. You will have to be checking line for eel grass and dodging kelp which can be a major headache. But with your release clips set up properly, most weed will not get past them to the flasher or lure. Use one five feet above two stops under which the clip is attached, and then one stop below so the line cannot migrate to the ball (this seldom happens and the more frequent issue is the clip migrating up and moving the stops even higher, hence the reason for two stops above the clip).
Using the right thing is your choice of tackle. It used to be that red was the best colour, for example, that is why the red Krippled K was the best lure. These days there are multiple colours and multiple tackle that catches coho. The Madi, Lemon Lime, and Purple Onion, have to be added to the Betsy and Super Betsy, particularly the ones that are intended to give off an electric charge from electrolysis. Plaid will work or the good old fashioned red Hotspot.
Leaders are longer, usually 34 to 40 inches – as speed has a relation with leader length. The faster the speed, the longer the leader that will work. As for terminal tackle, spoons, hootchies and squirts are your usual choices. We don’t fish with plugs much anymore, which I think is related to having to debarb them. A Siwash hook used to be the best, with its long sharp point for penetration, but the least useful without its barb. Take the hook in a pair of pliers from point side to shank side and bend it 20 degrees to kirb it.
A 232 red and gold Tomic plug used to be a standard and I have found that old gear still works, if you are searching for something, er, new. In hootchies and squirts, favour red, pink, white, and clear combinations, Bubble Gum being one and the matching Yamashitas will also work. Mint Tulip and Irish Mist are good squirts – for ones that are not a pink/red combinations.
And these days the most interesting new thing in tackle are the slim spoons that have taken over: Coho Killers, Sitkas, and others. The plain silver, half silver and half brass and blue/ green combos, as much as 42 inches behind a flasher. It seldom pays to use bait because it is the most easily ruined lure and requires being lifted at least every 20 minutes, so you are sure you are towing something a fish wants to bite.
But the most important thing is being there at the right time. Before a high tide and after a low are the fishy hours. I am sure you can figure out how to get out on the water. Tell your wife/partner you are bringing home dinner. Just be there.
This DFO link gives retention limits in all saltwater areas of BC: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/areas-secteurs-eng.html.