Make a plan every time you go fishing. You will catch more fish in the long run, if you make a plan, stick to it and amend it if it doesn’t work. That’s because you are actively thinking about catching fish, and zeroing in on what it takes to be in the right pace at the right time, using the right thing.
First, check your fishing gear before going out and fix what needs fixing or buy what you don’t have. Examples are bait and colour of bait head, and rigging them. The instructions for wire-rigging are here: http://onfishingdcreid.blogspot.ca/2014/02/wire-rigging-teaserhead-feb-23-2014.html. Zoom the images to see what the setup looks from both sides of the head. Cut off and retie the ball bearing snap on the end of your mainline, to avoid nicks causing breaks when that big one is on the line.
One thing I bought last year was a hand-held, waterproof radio to back up the one in the boat, and to be on me, if I fell out and wanted to save my life – which I do. Ditto for a Spot Gen3 that is carabinered onto your clothes, which is waterproof, and sends an SOS to a satellite for a search to be started pronto. Similarly, you can send a note each time you hit a fish (not where you land it) and receive on your home computer the exact lat and long position of each and every fish that hits.
Then decide, based on your records – you do keep records of every fish you catch, don’t you? - including bites on gear that you don’t land the fish – what to fish with.
Start with a plan of three lures – or one in excess of the number of rods you are fishing – including bait head, flasher, plastic, tin and so on. Then place the gear you think most likely to catch fish on the downrigger that you can see most easily. As my captain’s chair is on the starboard side, I put the best gear on the port rod. And, put this one at the depth you think the fish are most likely to be found. In winter this makes it the deepest rod, with the others set higher. Done this way, you will only have to deal with one downrigger bumping bottom at a time, to reel up – and the easiest to see.
As for flashers, the current most commonly used are the Gibbs Madi, Lemon Lime and Purple Onion. But keep in mind flashers you have caught fish on in the past, like glow green, Army Truck, Purple Haze and so on. I try the Super Betsy in winter, even though it is a summer blade, because it sets up an electrical potential that salmon prefer. In my boat, since I have moved from stainless to braided cable, a Black Box will not work, so it’s a good idea to have a blade doing the same job.
I always put a bait line out, on the port rod, an artificial on the starboard side. Choose from the hootchies/squirts and spoons that your records show to be winners. For example, the half green/half glow spoon commonly called a Coyote, and the Cop Car Glow are good winter spoons to try. The Coho Killers in Splatterback and White Lightning are also winter spoons, though they tend to rust after awhile. My Vancouver Island Fishing Guide lists all types of tackle for both winter and summer at all saltwater places on Van Isle. You will notice that the best gear differs from place to place.
Before you go out, decide where you will fish, based on where you think the fish will be, again those records will help you. Check the tide and current tables for where you will fish, and decide where to drop the gear. If you fish the last hour of the flood which is usually when salmon bite, ask yourself where the current or tide will have blown the fish to and start there. Fish bite the most after the ebb turns to flood, so similarly decide where the ebb will have pushed the fish, or more likely, the bait, typically in a back eddy formed around a land structure, whether a point, underwater rock or bank.
Your plan should always include a back up for where you will fish. For me, an example, would be my intending to fish the bumps on the ebb side of Trial – for winters – as well as the well-defined wall on the west side. When I drew a blank after two hours, I took my own advice and moved east to the Flats. I fished my way there and was just lucky that the tide and current were conflicted, so I could make it around the south of Trial.
I have often found that, despite it not fitting with all this strategy stuff we build up, that I take fish absolutely off a particular point regardless of where the back eddy is, and so, instead of following my own advice to lift rods, pull in the downriggers and motor smartly to your second most likely fish spot, try to motor past the point. If the tide is too strong, pick ‘em up and move, but if your speed over ground is 1 knot or less on your GPS, pick ‘em up and move.
On the day I am talking about and have mentioned, once on the Flats proper, I received four bites in one hour. There was no tide change, but there was a current change to flood. The point is that if you don’t have a plan B thought out ahead of time, you may have assigned yourself to a zilch day if you have not identified what you consider the second best bet to find fish.
And, there is deciding when to change lures. Typically check bait every 20- to 30- minutes as there is zero chance of catching a salmon on a shredded, non-existent, or unfishy bait action (you want a spiral with the head spiraling within the rotation diameter of the tail, not describing a circle that is larger or smaller than the tail’s spin). Don’t sit twiddling thumbs, continue thinking about strategy your whole fishing trip.
Plastics need checking every half hour to make sure the fronds are dangling freely, unimpeded by a bunch being caught on a hook, or piece of weed, etc. Spoons are the most likely to just keep on working, and this is an advantage as they need less checking.
Final note: remember the SVIAC Alpine Juan de Fuca fishing tournament on Father’s Day, June 20 and 21, 2016. Get your ticket before they are all gone: http://anglerscoalition.com/?page_id=3029.