The Iconic Salmon E-mail
Written by Allen Bushnell   
Saturday, 23 June 2012 00:06

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Perhaps the most iconic fish species in the northern temperate coastal regions has always been the salmon. These anadromous fish spend most their lives in the salt, but return to freshwater birth streams for spawning. Yearly salmon runs are predictable, if not always consistent, and were (and still are) a vital staple for native societies' survival. It could be argued that a number of indigenous cultures actually centered in on their local salmon runs in terms of village location, or annual migrations to the summer fishing grounds. This is where they would catch and preserve the necessary protein that would see them through each winter. For the ancients, salmon embodied spirit as well as flesh. Salmon commanded reverence, respect and gratitude.

Human survival may not be so critical today, but for a few of us, the quest for salmon is still somewhat atavistic in nature. Not everyone is "driven" to chase salmon every year, but just about everyone enjoys it. And why not?  Big, hard-fighting fish that are beautiful to look at and offer firm red meat with a taste all its own, unlike any other fish from the sea.

Salmon species can be found around the world, though mostly in the Northern hemisphere. The Pacific Northwest coast hosts five species of salmon. The King (Chinook) Salmon are largest and can weigh in at 125 pounds. Silver (Coho) Salmon are smaller, topping out around 25 pounds, but usually going in the 5-15-pound range. Sockeye (Red) are often said to be the most delicious of all the Pacific salmon, and average 8-12 pounds. Chum (Dog) Salmon got their nickname from prominent fangs that appear prior to spawning. And Pink (Humpy) Salmon, the smallest but most numerous of the Pacific species, provide tons of action for anglers every year.

The Atlantic Salmon is a very close relative, and ranges the North Atlantic from Portugal to Russia, across to Greenland and Iceland, and down the North American Coast as far as Connecticut. Like their cousins the ocean going steelhead trout, most Atlantic Salmon survive spawning, and can make a number of of transitions from saltwater to fresh and back again. Asia also hosts a few species, ranging from the Kamchatka Peninsula to Taiwan and the Formosa Straits. Collectively known as Cherry Salmon or "Masu," a number of subspecies exist including a landlocked freshwater variety. And of course, we can't forget the giant Mongolian Taimen. A salmonid that is troutlike except for its gigantic size. The IGFA world record for Taimen is 93 pounds, 8 ounces, but a verifiable report from 1943 cites a specimen that weighed in at 231 pounds!

Being anadromous, adult salmon can survive in fresh or saltwater. Many anglers are surprised to learn of a booming fishery in the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Michigan which hosts viable spawning population of both King and Silver Salmon. In South America, Chile and Argentina are now enjoying runs of King and Silver Salmon originally raised in hatcheries, but now spawning naturally in the southern regions of those countries. Even New Zealand has transplanted Chinook.

No matter where one fishes for salmon, choosing the correct gear is a vital aspect of success. These are hard-fighting heavy-headed fish capable of lightning-like direction changes and even aerobatics on occasion. This issue of Kayak Fishing Magazine features input from top salmon kayak fishermen. Though they hail from different locales with different geography, most are in accord when it comes to using the proper equipment while salmon fishing.

For trolling or mooching, all agree that a softer or medium fast rod should be used for the extra shock absorbing bend. For most applications, monofilament line is used for the same reason, and quality tackle components are a must. As Bryce Molenkamp from Seattle, Washington puts it, "Mooching really is a 'soup to nuts' type of fishing and takes specialized gear to pull off correctly. In the Puget Sound area the water is really clear and there's lots of rivers pouring into it. Salmon are just about off the feed bag and more cautious about what they eat. In order for them to not detect that the bait is on a line, you need to create a shock absorbing system. It consists of a 9-10 foot moderate action rod and mono. You also need you gear to spin as freely as possible. The best ball bearing swivels, Sampo are the only way to go." Molenkamp favors Daiwa rods and reels for both trolling and mooching techniques. See West Coast Salmon Fishing for more information.

Rob Wendel may be fishing in Wisconsin but  Lake Michigan salmon fight the same. "I use a Okuma Catalina Line Counter Reels with either Okuma SST Rods or Classic Pro Rods depending on the application. The line counter reels help keep my baits trolling at the correct depth when using  various divers and trolling weights. When casting I use Okuma Trio 40 Spinning reels matched up with 9'6" Okuma SST medium spinning rods." See Great Lakes Salmon Fishing for more information.

Captain Chris Mautino in Seward, Alaska can fish for any of the five Pacific salmon species. And, the fish get BIG up north. Essentially, he uses the same type equipment. "The gear for trolling or mooching is similar for both techniques. I like an 8-9 foot medium power rod with a soft tip but lots of backbone. Salmon tend to be 'up feeders.' That is they will take a bait while swimming up toward the surface. Many bottom varieties of fish come off the bottom, grab a bait and head straight down. The rod goes bendo when these fish strike, and they generally hook themselves. Salmon are far more subtle, and you will have an advantage with a stick that has an ultra sensitive tip section. My favorite model is the Super Moocher CSM 900-2 made by Seeker Rods. I match this rod to a reel with a smooth drag and just as importantly, a line counter,so I can better control the depth of my lure. I like the Diawa line counter reels. Specifically the low profile AccuDepth ADICV25 and Sealine LCX models." See Alaska Salmon Fishing for more information.

 

 

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