Coho Salmon Fishing

Coho Salmon Fishing

We know a lot of anglers, especially kayak anglers, like pulling crank baits for coho salmon fishing. They certainly have a place in cold water coho salmon fishing. However, once the surface temperature of the water reaches 42 degrees, dodger/fly combos will yield higher catch numbers. Insects start to hatch which closer resembles a fly. 

Dodgers - dodgers for coho salmon fishing have a much larger profile and can bring fish in from a distance that a crank bait cannot mimic. Coho salmon have a definite draw to size 20 orange/red dodgers and the fire-dot dodgers in early season. The dodger/fly combo will remain a staple throughout the entire season. With that said, as waters warm even more toward the mid 50’s, spoons will begin producing well too.

Stubby Dodgers - The latest rage in coho salmon fishing is the “Stubby” dodger. It’s a 6” dodger with the width of an 8” dodger. Hence, Stubby! These dodgers will have a greater vibration in the water simply because of their profile. The greater the vibration, the more fish it will draw in. Although they are not a necessary tool is coho salmon fishing arsenal, we do like to use them with 2” slider flies, on the down-riggers, short 2-3 color lead cores, and our inside dipseys.

Slider vs. Tied to the Hook - Both work equally well for coho salmon fishing. Slider flies tend to offer more longevity than those tied to the hook as they can be slid up the line when unhooking the salmon. The slider also moves while in the fishes mouth. Hence, they do not get destroyed nearly as fast as those tied to the hook. Sliders may cost more up-front, but in the long run are worth the money spent. Keep the hooks sharp and watch for a knick in the leaders!

1” or 2” Flies - We have found that 2” flies, especially slider flies can be run all season long. In fact, the 2” sliders made by Rapture Trolling Flies are the best we’ve used. Our first lines out for coho salmon fishing this spring will be loaded up with 2” flies because they work so well. The only time we will downsize to a 1” is when the bait (Alewives) have moved from the area and the salmon are feeding on fly hatches. In this scenario, we use many darker colors like purple/black/blue.

Color - On sunny days we like to load up with light blues and greens which are mixed with mirage or pearl. The sun’s reflection off the alewife really dictates the color of the day or hour at times. However, without some trial we don’t know what that is exactly. Overcast and rainy days we lean toward darker greens, blues, purple, and black... again, mixed with mirages or holographic material. If a fly gets bit more than 2 or 3 times you've found the pattern. Change out the non-performers for the preferred color or something close. One staple is blue/green/gold. This color has been the best producer season after season from May - July.

Tying the Leader and Hook Sizes - When using 1-2” slider flies, we tie the leader to 16.5” length overall.

  1. Slide the fly onto the line head first. 
  2. Next add the hook (#4 for 1” and #2 for 2” flies) to your leader material. A simple Palomar knot will be sufficient and slide the fly down over the hook.
  3. Next, pull the line off the spool over the top of a ruler to 17”. 
  4. Now, fold the line over itself holding the 17” mark in hand and tie a double overhand knot. 
  5. Finally, pull the knot tight and cut the leader from the spool. Length will now be 16.5”.

Leader length can be extended up to 18” and should be of 40# test leader material.

** Fluorocarbon line is costly. Keeping the line attached to the spool as described above will help reduce waste. Remember, it is the stiffness of the leader material that gives the fly action behind the dodger.

Spring Kings = Magnum Spoons (Bonus Tip!) - There are definitely some nice kings in the mix during the spring as the water temperature is favorable for them while it is in the 40’s. The pre-spawn alewives are very large, which is why in the spring we lean toward the magnum spoons if we are targeting a king or two.

The coho salmon do not respond well to spoons until the waters warm up into the 50’s and the alewives are post-spawn. With so many small alewives in the feed, smaller size spoons become better producers for later season coho salmon fishing. 

Hopefully these tidbits of information help fill your coolers.

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Frequently called the "Best Chicago Fishing Charters" in Chicagoland and proudly serving the Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois areas for over 40 years, Captain Jerry Nied has been chartering the finest of fishing trips. Spendthrift Charters is one of the largest fishing charter fishing vessels available on Lake Michigan today. We currently have three 39-ft Tiara ships to satisfy every fishing need, no matter the size of the group. Captain Jerry is a full time U.S. Coast Guard and licensed captain. Fishing charters are available 7 days a week. Call now for the next available Chicago fishing charter departure time!

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