the Bait

Every fisherman has a a favorite lure or method of fishing to catch salmon. I still remember the different lures that caught those big fish for me years ago – that silver plug, that white and green spoon, that “special” hoochie and flasher. Nostalgia comes rushing back every time I see these lures in the tackle shop or in my tackle box.If these lures worked for me so well that time, then why not the next time I go fishing?

Here’s the thing…

Like any fish, salmon feed from instinct passed to them for millenia, from their gene pool. They are not meticulously analysing every lure and bait that passes by, choosing the ones that look the most realistic. They feed when they’re hungry, and at predictable times of the day, such as dawn, dusk and tide changes. When they are in the feeding mood, they will strike at anything that resembles the food in their native water. But that doesn’t mean you will catch them with anything in your tackle box or even on your favorite lure, even if it got you a big one just last year!

When the fish begin to feed, there will already be dinner present. Herring, squid, needlefish, pilchard, anchovies, and even perch will be roaming the waters, waiting to become the next meal for the hungry salmon. Often when I clean a salmon, I notice that the stomach contains only one type of bait. Very rarely do I see three or more kinds of baitfish in the entrails. The salmon will be stuffed with herring, or squid, or anchovies depending on the type of feed in the area. So when the salmon start to feed, you want to know what they are feeding on in order to maximize your chances of a strike.

If you know, from observation or questioning of other fisherman, that the salmon are feeding on herring, you will want to know the approximate size of the herring in the vicinity. The more you know about the current bait fish, the more you can match your lure to the size of bait in the area. If the salmon are feeding on needlefish, try a long, slender spoon or a needlefish style hoochie. If it’s herring you are trying to duplicate, use an appropriately sized Coyote spoon or other herring imitation. Don’t just wing it and hope your favorite lure will work for you this time.

One disclaimer: Salmon always seem to have a weakness for squid. Maybe that’s why hoochies work even when there are no squid in the area. They’re like me, when they see calamari on the menu, they have to give it a try.

So the next time you are on the water, do your best to match your lure to the bait, and if all else fails, fish a glow hoochie 41 inches behind a good flasher.

Keep your hooks sharp! ‘Til next time…