Sunday, 8 January 2017

Winter Chinook Tackle

While there have been far too many windy days preventing fishing in the past month, anglers are getting out on good days. In our Victoria area fishery that extends from Sheringham Point to Saanich Inlet, certain lures and flashers have caught more than their share of fish.

On the flasher end, the newish Gibbs Madi, Lemon Lime and Purple Onion have been the go-to flashers along with the Bon Chovy and Purple Haze. The Moon Jelly hue in the Gibbs lineup is positively sexy. Anyone who has ever caught a chinook salmon in winter will know that purple is the background colour on their shoulder, underlying the basic silver and metallic grey above their lateral line.

You should look into the O’Ki line of Betsy flashers which has a full range of colours. You will recall that the Super Betsy is a good combination of colours in the Race Rocks and west fisheries late in the summer and through fall, before October rains wash the coho home. But with a half dozen variations, there are glow flashers that also work all winter, too. 

Do note that flashers and tackle that have worked in the past will continue to work, though it makes good sense to pick up the new things, use them, and evaluate which ones you think are an improvement. For example, the Army Truck in a flasher is still a useful winter flasher, and of course, in its day, was the go-to colour combination. And the green Hotspot flasher with a glow side, now an oldie-but-a-goodie choice, will still work in the winter, too.

And any pattern with glow-in-the-dark colours, along with UV properties will also work now. The reason is that in winter we consistently fish at depth where sunlight penetration is lost, and thus any gear with light emitting power stands out more because it is, well, sending out light. Ultra violet flashers, and particularly hootchies, have the added advantage at depth because salmon, unlike humans, can see UV light.

Turning to the spread you put out, it is a good idea to make a plan of the first three lures you are going to try in your day. So, you have the first spread, and an option for the next. Your records – you do keep fishing records, don’t you? – will tell you what worked for you in preceding years in the winter. I always put out one bait line because it often catches the most fish, but only one line. 

The reason for putting out only one bait line is that you need to pay attention to the bumps the tackle gets – shakers for example – and bait’s inherent qualities to soften and change the spiral you so patiently introduced into the wire in the back third of the bait’s body before sending it down. It needs to be checked frequently, at least every 20 minutes, and thus you are constantly dealing with that rod. The advantage of spoons is that they need the littlest care, and can be counted on to be fishing far longer without fouling than any other tackle.

Typically, we use anchovy, small where the predominant bait is needlefish, and medium where the larger herring predominate. Put this on the port side where the captain can most easily see the rod first. Captain’s chairs are on the starboard side of boats, hence, port for the bait rod. Note that if you see the leaderboard at Island Outfitters, you will note that all top-five fish were taken on bait. So, it is no accident. If you put most effort into perfecting only one type of lure, make it bait. Just keep refining what you do, noting what does and does not work.

As for teaser heads to anchor bait, you will want a good dozen colours to choose from. For winter, all should have glow properties, and UV, if that is offered, the Bloody Nose being an example. Green, white, pearl, combinations, 602 and so on all being examples. For an alternative, try the silver Purple haze head. For rigging a wire and images of completed heads, see:

Turning to plastics, use hootchies where herring predominate, and squirts where needlefish predominate. An alternative hootchy where needlefish are the most common feed, are ones with lines that run from nose to tail, presenting a slimmer silhouette to the fish.

Common patterns include glow green/white, white with UV red eyes, Purple Haze – there are two Purple Haze colours: silver/purple, and translucent purple, the latter changing colour slightly once it has been in the water, and becomes more fishy, presenting a more purple hue – Irish Mist, Mint Tulip, Army Truck and any hootchy with glow.

Finally, spoons have been good this winter, and are far and a way the best lure for dependable action. There is no bait to erode, no plastic fronds to get caught in hooks, etc. Once you put them out, they can be counted upon to continue working. If you leave one line a bit long, make it the spoon line.

And a whole host of spoons have been good this winter: any green/glow lure (do recall the Coyote Spoon), glow/silver, G-Force, Skinny Gs in Brass/Silver, Bon Chovy spoons, Coho Killer White Lightning, Green Splatterback, and also the Cop Car Glow. 

A spoon I was sorry to see go was the Radiant white glow. It was so strong it would send out light all night long. I once hung one up in my bedroom and it did indeed glow all night long, far outstripping its competitors. I note that Lighthouse Lures says their glow lasts longer than any on the market, but haven’t tried them yet. Anyone else?

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