Salmon fishing is a very popular sport worldwide. No matter whether on the island of Rügen, in Sweden, Norway, Canada, Scotland or Alaska. The salmon fishing enjoys every year increasing popularity.
So that you don’t do anything wrong with salmon fishing, we want to help you with this beginner’s guide to salmon fishing to catch a salmon that is as capital as possible. Therefore this article is divided into 2 sections.
On the one hand, we concentrate on fly fishing and on the other hand we deal with trolling. The former is mainly practiced in Canada and Alaska. Target fish here are red salmon and also Atlantic salmon. Trolling from the boat is increasingly practiced on king and silver salmon.
To give you a better overview and to learn to assess your “opponent” better, we would like to introduce the most important salmon species first.
Let’s start with the Atlantic salmon.
Atlantic salmon or also Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
The Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) belongs to the genus of salmon and can reach a proud weight of up to 47 kg. It loves cold and fast flowing waters. Its distribution area lies mainly in the North Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and the Arctic Ocean.
Many anglers fish it using the technique of fly fishing. This is why it is generally held in particularly high esteem among fly-fishers.
As Atlantic salmon do not take in food during their spawning migration, this fish is a particular challenge for fly fishermen.
However, there are other fishing techniques besides fly fishing that can be used to catch this fish. An Atlantic salmon can become very large and then has enormous power and a high energy reserve.
The whole body is designed for endurance and speed.
Below is a picture of the Atlantic salmon:
It usually has a light underside and is often spotted above the lateral line.
Atlantic salmon spend several years in the sea before spawning. They then return to their place of birth. During this time they often have to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles and protect themselves from grizzlies and other dangers.
Due to the strains they take on during the migration, many salmon die after spawning. The salmon that survive usually migrate back to the sea.
Here they gather new strength again.
Young salmon stay in fresh water for about 2 years before migrating to the sea. Unfortunately, the population of Atlantic salmon, caused by commercial fishing, has decreased considerably in recent years.
Due to increasing stocking measures the Atlantic salmon is now also found in Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.
Red salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Red salmon live mainly in the Pacific Ocean. Typical of this species is its striking red colour.
Its territory lies in the North American coast from Alaska down to California.
It can grow up to 90 cm long here.
But beware: the red salmon has sharp teeth! Nevertheless, many anglers fish without a steel leader.
Because this often disturbs the course of the lure. However, some salmon can escape if you cut the monofilament fishing line at the bite, similar to pike fishing for pike.
The red salmon is usually born in lakes and rivers. It spends about 1 year of its life in these. Afterwards it migrates to the Pacific Ocean. This migration can last up to 3 years.
After arriving in the Pacific Ocean, it stays there for about 4 years. Afterwards it swims back to its birthplace. Here it spawns and then dies.
In the following picture you can see a typical red salmon migration:
The red salmon is also colloquially called blue back salmon. Of all Pacific salmon species, red salmon has the greatest economic value.
King Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
The King Salmon or Quinnat (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) usually weighs up to 61 kg and is found predominantly in rivers, lakes and seas.
It is striking for its dark green-blue colouring on the head and its relatively straight lateral line. Its distribution area is mainly in the Arctic Ocean, the North Pacific and the rivers bordering there.
The king salmon is mainly fished in the sea with the towing technique. On the river, however, fly fishing and spinning are used.
Here is a typical king salmon caught with a fly rod:
It is one of the largest and strongest salmon species in the Pacific. The king salmon are also born in rivers and lakes, before they migrate to the Pacific Ocean after about 1 to 3 years.
In the sea they recover from their journey and become sexually mature. Afterwards they return to their birth river.
There they spawn and then die. All king salmon spawn only once.
On their migration they still have to watch out for natural enemies such as the brown bear in the Alaska area:
Younger king salmon first eat insect larvae and small crabs. After some time, small fish such as minnows, bullheads and loaches are also on their menu.
Adult king salmon, on the other hand, feed on crustaceans and fish. These include sprat, mackerel and herring.
Silver salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
Silver salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), also known as Coho salmon, usually reaches a weight of up to 15 kg and is found mainly in rivers, lakes and seas.
Its distribution area is the North Pacific and the estuary of the rivers. It is mainly fished with the fishing technique of trolling at sea.
Most river anglers use spinning and fly fishing. It is noticeable by its pale stripe on the lower jaw and its black spots on the upper half of the tail fin.
You can see these very well on the following picture:
In addition he has black spots on the upper half of the caudal fin
The silver salmon is particularly appreciated by many fishermen and anglers. Because once you have them on the hook, you can expect a spectacular drill – despite the fact that they become slightly smaller than king salmon.
We recommend a spinning rod or fly rod for freshwater fishing.
Downriggers and artificial lures are the most commonly used for trolling at sea. If you want to go fly fishing, you should concentrate mainly on slow-flowing waters. You will learn more about this in the following.
When should you fish for salmon / when is the best time?
Salmon usually bite very well at 6 o’clock in the morning. Especially off the island of Rügen you can go salmon fishing very successfully in the morning hours. Therefore Rügen is also considered by many salmon anglers as an insider tip.
During the day (i.e. 9 to 18 o’clock) and in the evening (18 to 22 o’clock) the chances of success on salmon are still given. But by far not as optimal as in the morning.
At night, i.e. from 10 p.m. onwards, you have almost no chance of being successful in sea fishing for salmon.
We have also had good experience in summer and autumn.
Fly fishing for salmon
Fly fishing is a very popular way to catch salmon. However, there are a few basic things you should consider before you start. Because salmon fishing can be very tedious and can take a long time before you get your first successes.
To improve your chances of success you can start by putting together the right equipment.
Because besides the right rod, the right reel, the right line and the right hook are crucial for success.
But also assemblies and locations (the tactical procedure) should not be underestimated. Let’s start with the right equipment.
Fly fishing equipment for salmon
Knowing only the behaviour of the salmon is no reason to catch a salmon. The right equipment is also important.
And this includes the right rod, the right reel, the right fishing line and the right hook. In the following we want to show you exactly what is important and what you have to pay attention to.
By the way: If we are particularly convinced of certain equipment (the market is huge anyway), we point this out and recommend the fishing equipment to others.
Which rod should you use for salmon fishing?
Anyone who wants to start fly fishing will not be able to avoid the question of which fly rod to use.
The basic rule is: On larger rivers, some of which are embedded in breathtaking landscapes, a two-handed fly rod is often completely sufficient. On smaller rivers, however, a single-handed fly rod is fine.
For the one-handed rod you can use an 8 hand rod. For the two-handed fly rod you can also use a 9er.
When choosing between a one-handed or two-handed fly rod, pay attention to which is easier for you. Here you can, for example, orientate yourself on past experiences.
If you are looking for a very flexible fishing rod, you should choose a two-handed rod in line class 9/10 and a length of approx. 14 feet.
Below is a selection of different fly rods in direct comparison:
The final decision should always depend on the area to be fished. Even on larger rivers (where you would expect to use a two-handed rod) you can benefit from a one-handed rod.
Especially in current pockets or when you want to fish a narrow channel.
Remember: The lighter your rod, the better and more sensitive the salmon bait can be offered. This is why a one-handed rod is especially useful at low water.
In spring, however, the water level of many rivers rises. Here a heavier rod is often indispensable.
For a classic two-handed fly rod we can definitely recommend Anzeigedas model from Shakespeare.
It is very easy to cast and has a medium action. Furthermore, it is very handy and makes a very valuable optical impression.
The fly reel
If you have decided on a two-handed rod, the matching fly reel should be as voluminous as possible and have a high line capacity.
A good and reliable brake system is also essential. This is because the salmon usually have a lot of power and sometimes have to be “braked”.
Especially with two-handed rods, the weight of the reel is decisive. The right balance is important to prevent fatigue during fishing.
If you like to use very thin monofilament fishing lines to fish over long distances, you should choose a reel with a closed body.
A line capacity of about 150 m is a basic requirement. This is because salmon can suddenly pull off a lot of line very quickly.
For the above mentioned salmon rods we recommend the AnzeigeFly Aluminium Gunsmoke fly reel. It is specially designed for salmon fishing and fits perfectly with the above mentioned fly rods.
The right fishing line
What would the right reel be without the right fishing line? The most important thing is the sink behaviour. And that doesn’t necessarily make the choice easy.
Basically there are two types of line:
- Full head line
- Wefting head line
Wefting heads are usually more compact. In particular, large flies are transported better and they are more resistant to stronger wind conditions. However, with full lines the fly usually stays in the water for a longer time.
shooting heads are especially good for beginners. This is because they have beginner-friendly casting characteristics and are generally very flexible. Here we can recommend the model from AnzeigeMAXIMUMCATCH
Full head lines often require a little more time to get used to.
You should choose a fluorocarbon or monofilament fishing line as a leader. A thickness between 0.30 and 0.40 mm is suitable for this. Here the final thickness should always depend on the environment.
If there are many obstacles such as roots, trees or stones, the lines should be somewhat stronger. We have had good experience with the displayShimano Aspire as fluorocarbon.
Fly as bait for salmon fishing
There is a very large selection of hook and tube flies. So large that you can easily lose track of them. You should not be put off by this when salmon fishing.
It is important that you believe in your fly yourself. Because the many rules often unsettle you. Below are a few important rules that you can use as a guide when salmon fishing:
- Adjust your fly to the colour of the water
- Cold water = big flies
- Warm water = very small flies
- Sunny days = discreet, inconspicuous colors
- Cloudy days = conspicuous, bright colors
Sometimes it can be better if you do exactly the opposite of what all anglers do. Especially if the river sections are very busy.
So for example If everyone is fishing with big flies in deep sections of the river, you might want to try it with small flies on the surface.
A larger set with a selection of 100 handmade flies can be found here.
Hooks for salmon fishing
Besides the bait, the hook is also important.
If you tie your own fly, you should choose a hook size from 4 to 12 if you are fishing in summer. For example the fly hook displayTiemco SF TMC 100.
In spring a hook size of 2 to 8 is advisable. And as soon as autumn starts, you should choose a hook size from 2 to 6.
This way you are on the safe side.
The right fly assembly
As a rule, salmon fishing for fly is done with a fly at the leader end.
Use for example a fast sinking tube fly to lead the fly deep. You will need the following utensils for the assembly:
- fast sinking tube fly
- main line
The following picture shows the typical assembly of a fly assembly.
You can connect the main line to the fly with a simple unique knot. This knot is used to connect the line to a fly with a straight or angled eye:
If fishing with weighted fly patterns is prohibited, you need a fly line with a sink tip.
This will bring the fly to the appropriate depth. If you are not successful with a fly after several casts, it can also help to change the pattern of the fly.
The variation has already activated some Atlantic salmon. A large selection of suitable flies can be found here.
Where should you fish for salmon? The right fishing spot
Of course, in addition to the right fishing equipment and the right assembly, the right fishing spot is also crucial.
You may stop feeding during their migration, but if you know where the salmon are migrating, you can still be very successful at salmon fishing.
Especially beginners should look for smaller rivers first. For example the Danish floodplains where you do not have to cast very far. But also Iceland, Scotland, North America and the east coast of North America are suitable for salmon fishing. But in Germany you have no chance to fish salmon anymore.
Here is a list of countries, rivers, lake islands and places where salmon fishing is still possible in principle:
Salmon, whether Atlantic salmon or red salmon, are not usually in the strongest current.
Rather, they stay in pools and depressions. If you think you have found the right place, you can always furrow through the current with the fly.
Until one bites.
Casting and positioning the line: How to fish for salmon
Try casting across the current. This builds up water pressure on the casting line and the fly can be pulled through the river in a quarter circle.
Alternatively you can try casting downstream on the fishing line. Let the fishing line be pulled across the water by the current.
When it has reached downstream give it a short break before you catch it again. Then you can cast it out again and try your luck again.
An alternative is the so-called swing. Here the fly is placed diagonally downstream at a 45 degree angle.
This causes the taut line to cross the current. You should move it a bit downstream after each drift and lead it more or less fast.
Notice that a steep angle leads to a faster drift. If the angle is a bit flatter, this will lead to a slower drift.
In addition, the line can also be laid in a bow on the water. Especially if you place it upstream, the fly will usually slow down. If you place it downstream, the opposite happens: it becomes faster.
Remember: You always have full control of the fly and you determine the speed.
Drill and set the hook
As soon as the salmon has taken the bait and the line is taut, you should set the hook jerkily.
The hook in the mouth of the salmon will deepen. Make sure that you don’t set the hook too strongly but also not too lightly.
First of all a too strong hitch can hurt the salmon and moreover it can lead to a false bite.
It can happen that the salmon starts to fight properly and also jumps out of the water during the fight. Make sure that the line is always kept under tension to avoid sudden line breaks.
When he is sufficiently exhausted, release him from his hook while still in the water. Salmon are often still quite excited and flap around like mad.
So try to avoid getting hurt on the stony ground.
Use additional hooks without barbs. These are particularly easy to remove after the fight.
Reset salmon or take them home with you?
Once you have freed the salmon from its hook, you can put it back into the river or take it home with you.
But the most environmentally friendly way is to simply put the caught salmon back into the river.
Then other anglers can also enjoy them.
If you decide otherwise, always observe the current legislation. If the legislation allows, you can take the caught salmon home with you.
What you decide in the end is of course up to you.
Trolling for salmon
Below we will look at a completely different method (besides fly fishing) to be successful in salmon fishing.
Before the king and silver salmon rise from seawater into freshwater, they strengthen themselves once more to avoid the strenuous exertions.
At this time you can be very successful in sea fishing for salmon. A popular method is trolling from a fishing boat.
Equipment for trolling
When trolling you need different equipment than when fly-fishing for salmon. Because the conditions on the boat are usually completely different.
Therefore you should adjust your equipment accordingly. Below we will discuss the fishing equipment that you really need on the boat when trolling.
The right fishing rod for trolling salmon
When trolling or trolling, the rod can be subjected to very high forces. Therefore the load requirements are usually particularly high.
Because not only can a large salmon bite when trolling, but there is also the risk of the bait getting caught in the haulm. With an average speed of 1 to 3 knots on the boat, an enormous force can be exerted on the rod by a “hanger”.
It is therefore important that the trolling rod is as flexible as possible but still hard. A certain stability is also a basic requirement.
Therefore a trolling rod with parabolic action is best suited for sea fishing for salmon on a boat. This will immediately absorb sudden loads.
In the following picture we illustrate the individual rod actions (on the far right you will find the parabolic action):
Because just when the hook gets caught or there is a sudden bite from the salmon, a parabolic action is worth its weight in gold. You simply risk losing less fish.
Below you will find various towing rods with excellent characteristics in direct comparison. These rods usually consist of 2 parts and are all suitable for salmon fishing.
Who would like to invest a little more money here from the beginning, should take a look at the advertisementShimano Vengeance AX Boat 210H. It is 2.10 m long and consists of 2 parts and 7 rings. It is also ideal for salmon fishing.
Due to the strong backbone it is also ideal for down rigging for salmon.
Fishing reel for boat fishing
If you want to fish salmon from a boat, we recommend that you use a multi reel. Multi-reels can withstand particularly high loads. No matter whether you are fishing for salmon, tuna, cod, halibut or shark.
It is also becoming increasingly popular for catfish fishing as well as jerkbait and vertical fishing.
High-quality multi-reels for fishing for salmon are made of aluminium and have carbon fibre or carbon brake discs.
In addition, the brake can usually be adjusted very finely. The 2 gear transmission rounds the whole thing off
If you take salmon fishing really seriously, you will probably not be able to avoid the AnzeigeDaiwa Sealine SG 47LC3BL with line counter.
It is not only suitable for salmon fishing but also for pike fishing with bait fish and pike-perch fishing. This means that you can also be relatively flexible with it.
However, it is somewhat more expensive. But with this model you also get a model that you will have fun with for the next 10 years and you will always have to wait for the next better model.
It is equipped with 3 ball bearings and a gear ratio of 4.2:1, which means that with one turn of the crank you wind the fishing line 4.2 times.
With a 0.35 mm thick monofilament line the line holder is approx. 440 m. This is perfectly adequate, especially for boat fishing.
In addition, it weighs just 500 g and has a line pull of 60 cm.
The right line
As fishing line you should spool the multi reel with 250 m of a 0.40 mm monofilament fishing line.
Usually a line thickness between 0.4 and 0.5 mm is chosen. If you are aiming for big salmon, we recommend using even thicker fishing lines.
The 250 metres are important because the salmon will swim away from the person hooked. This gives you enough room to “power him out” a little without him immediately “pulling away” with the whole line.
And this is where the brake system of your multi reel will prove itself.
The most important thing is that the lines are stretchable. 15% stretch is completely sufficient.
For us the following colours have proven to be particularly catchy:
Make sure that the fishing line is abrasion resistant. A line thickness of 0.3 to 0.45 mm is usually sufficient for the leader.
Here a length of 1 m to 1.5 m is advisable. Here we can recommend for example AnzeigeSeaKnight Monster blade fishing line.
Salmon mounting for trolling with wobbler & flasher as bait
When sea fishing for salmon we usually use a wobbler (rubber fish are also possible) and a flasher. A flasher is usually located behind the plugs.
It usually tilts back and forth during trolling.
Through the reflections the salmon will notice him and he can see the lure from a distance. We have had very good experience with him in the past.
Because especially when trolling for salmon you can increase your catch results.
What do you need for this installation? The following is a performance:
- Rubber fish (10 to 12 cm)
- Flasher (10 to 21 cm, size 3 e.g. the Rhino display flasher with rubber fish (especially for trolling) as bait)
This is how your salmon assembly for trolling looks like:
This assembly is perfect for large and deep waters. These include lakes in Sweden like the Vätten and Vänern.
The flashing signals of the flasher, which are conspicuous and rotate, trigger pressure waves which the salmon can perceive over the side line.
And exactly these pressure waves make them curious.
If the flasher then also moves (e.g. by turning), the salmon usually can’t resist any more.
For us, this installation has proved to be particularly effective when towing on the boat.
We recommend the use of a downrigger on the tow boat. The downrigger is a winch with a rope at the end of which a weight is attached.
In combination with a boat rod the weight keeps the rod under tension. At the end of the fishing line it is connected to the downrigger cable by a small clip.
When the line is bitten, the clip is released and the hook is set.
And this is how you set the downrigger:
Attach the main line to the clip and switch the multi reel to freewheel mode. Afterwards you can let the downrigger weight slide into the depth.
When the correct depth has been reached, switch off the freewheel mode and put the salmon rod under tension. This will cause the tip to bend.
Now you can place the rod in the rod holder. And this is how it looks like in practice:
The AnnouncementCannon Lake Troll Downrigger has proven to be very good for us.
However, it is not quite cheap.
The salmon now bites, the taut rod shoots up and the downrigger is set.
As most boat rods are slightly softer, there is also less risk of the salmon slitting (i.e. the hook slits the lip and a false bite occurs).
Then the fight with the fighting salmon can begin.
Additionally use a fishfinder (we have compared different models here). This way you can make sure that the weight and the lure don’t hang too low or hit uneven spots.
Here you have to find a good balance because king salmon also like to stay on the bottom.
Therefore do not go too fast with your boat and at a rather moderate speed if you want to use a downrigger.
Land the salmon
Be sure to use a good landing net to lift it onto the boat. It’s no more annoying than when it slices open just before landing or the hook bends.
When you remove the hook, be careful not to hurt it too much.
Then release it again if you do not want to use it.
This video also shows very clearly how to land a salmon safely in dream weather:
We hope that you have found the right method (fly fishing or trolling) to go salmon fishing successfully.
Depending on the circumstances and circumstances we can highly recommend both techniques. But besides the right technique, the right equipment is also crucial.
Therefore, a combination of both is certainly very important for successful salmon fishing.
The next salmon will not be long in coming 😉