Why Salmon & Steelhead Are One of The Worlds Most Addictive Fish - Fishing Addicts Northwest

Why Salmon & Steelhead Are One of The Worlds Most Addictive Fish

By on March 22, 2016

Line peels, rod bent downriver as a big, bright fish breaks the water surface. Tail propelling it powerfully into the air, the fish shows it’s beautiful blushed side and spits the hook all in one motion. Disappearing to leave the river quiet and seemingly untouched.

steelhead scenic wild beautiful fish

Photo by Cameron Black

These type of moments can make your stomach cringe and wish you had done something different, but will keep you coming back for more.

A successfully landed fish, whether released or otherwise, is an experience that every angler is looking to have. The allure of the unexpected in fishing grabs anglers all over the world and provides a huge economic and recreational value to the surrounding communities and anglers.

Fishing has ingrained itself deeply into our roots as people and connects us with our rich outdoor world.


bouy ten fishing salmon limits

An August harvest of hatchery coho and chinook.

Salmon & Steelhead 

Salmon & Steelhead are some of the most sought after and respected species in the world. With a broad range of life cycles and run timing, many areas that have salmon & steelhead will offer  year-round fishing opportunities. Certain months, days and years are better than others. Some runs are heavily fished, others are left mostly un-tapped. You never know whether your day will be full of fish action or a day of practice casting. Either day is a good experience and will teach the angler something. This up and down-nature of the fishery generates an addictive pattern in otherwise ordinary people. Salmon & steelhead generally make for an excellent fight, the freshest fish have a beautiful, nutritious meat and it’s a known fact that humans are attracted to shiny objects! There are few things better than the feeling of fooling a big salmon or steelhead.

The moment you realize you have a fish on is often the most anticipated and talked about moment in fishing. Whether it be the tap-tap of a subtle bite, or a full-fledged, rip your arm off take, these moments give a rush of adrenaline as the fish starts the battle.

Big salmon & steelhead have the tendency to run the show during the fight. A forgiving drag and optimal rod is necessary to fight these powerful fish. They can enforce their will on the situation but also can be tired out after playing them. As always – use care if you are handling a protected species.

30 pound steelhead

Marlin Lefever holding a prized wild steelhead.

Salmon & steelhead are born in freshwater and migrate out to the ocean at certain points in their life cycle where they begin their most fruitful feeding period. During this ocean-feeding phase they gain a lot of weight and nutrients until their biological clock points them back in the direction of their home river to spawn. Upon entry into the estuaries of their home rivers they are usually fresh and full of energy. The most sought after salmon & steelhead are the freshest in from the ocean as they are the peak of their life cycle. As they age and come closer to spawning they lose weight and begin to develop their spawning colors. During this time they are less likely to provide a good fight or good meat, this makes for a great natural protection of spawning fish as they are not of value to humans at this point. Spawners continue the populations and provide essential nutrients to the watersheds they occupy.

The many species of salmon & steelhead are partial to different baits and lures which provides a very diverse range of techniques throughout the year. Whether on boat or on bank, there are many ways an angler can have a successful day. Sometimes small adjustments and paying attention to the littlest of details can pay off. Other times the fish just plain aren’t there.

Improving Your Odds

In order to catch more fish on a year-round basis an angler must adapt to the run-timings, weather/water conditions and behavior of the fish. This is not the easiest task, especially near metropolitan areas that are heavily pressured. Therefore, the pursuit of staying on fish puts many anglers to the test. Fish move and hold in many areas, either in abundance or in small numbers, but all it takes is one nice fish to get the blood pumping!

big wild steelhead

Travis Bishop holds a perfect steelhead specimen.

The challenge of finding, enticing, hooking, fighting and landing fish has many people fully addicted to the pursuit.

Salmon & Steelhead fishing is largely a matter of odds and timing. Go on the right day and put the right bait, in the right area and you should have a pretty good chance at a fish. If not – blame it on your friend for eating a banana and try it again another day!

  1. The right day: Learn about the river/fish pathway you are fishing. Learn whether or not it has planted fish or a naturally reproducing population. Learn what time of year they are likely to return or migrate through. Choose a day that fits your schedule: bonus points if it’s not a weekend. Now look at conditions – does the river have a level gauge? Look at what level the river is at – even if that means nothing to you. Make a note of that measurement whether it be in feet, CFS (cubic feet per second) or something else. Is it raining? Just a light rain, or is the river going to rise and turn to chocolate? Water conditions, clarity and weather are going to play a huge part in whether or not fish are there and biting. An anglers mission is to adapt to present conditions to best find and hook fish. This often means a lot of tough days learning your fisheries and how best to fish them. More time on the water means a fuller understanding of seasonal change. All this aside: the right day is usually today. You can’t hook fish if your line isn’t in the water!
  2. The right bait: One mistake anglers sometimes make is attributing all of the success to one factor, when in reality it’s a number of factors that make up that bite. Some anglers think that the bait they chose a particular day is the only way to catch that fish – there are many different presentations that a fish could choose to bite. The right bait is the one that gets bit, but a variety of good presentations can offer a variety of good results. Fish just want a natural seeming bait/lure that represents either a part of their food source or something that triggers aggression. They don’t want to see too much extra tackle, heavy line and unnatural movement. The bait itself is half of the battle but presenting it properly to the fish is very arguably as important. This is why getting tackle that doesn’t get in the way of your fishing is essential.

    giant chinook

    Big chrome salmonoids are a prized catch in many areas of the world!

  3. The right area: This starts with the place you choose to fish – hopefully you chose the right day when fish are moving through or holding in the area you will be fishing. If the fish are there you just need to locate the areas within the body of water that will produce fish. Try to find the depth and look at the movement of the water. Each species of salmon & steelhead has a unique preference in the type of water they are most likely to be in. This provides a great sense of satisfaction when a fish is successfully hooked in a new area as it provides the confidence that fish occupy that part of the river. There are many parts of a river that are not likely to hold fish, at least not for very long. These areas the odds of success are low and can give the impression that there isn’t many fish in the river. These are the wrong areas to spend a lot of time fishing. On the flip-side there are certain places that consistently or sporadically hold large numbers of fish. Areas that give the impression of abundance. These are the right areas! A bit factor to consider is whether you are fishing for moving fish or holding fish. If you are fishing for moving fish, find the travel lane they are moving through and give them an irresistible bait during the peak times of travel. If you are fishing holding fish, fish through every likely holding area with a few presentations then moved on when you are confident you have given that water your best shot. Many areas can be the right area on a certain day – don’t write off good water just because it didn’t produce immediately. Also, don’t waste time on water that isn’t likely to produce. If you don’t know either way – try it. There is only one true way to find out if an area is good fishing.

Putting every possible odd in your favor is the key to catching more fish. Whether it be your location, presentation or timing – keep changing it up until you find fish. Fishing is a lifelong pursuit and is one of the most rewarding ways to enjoy the outdoors.

fishing addicts northwest

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Fish on!!

-Lucas

 

 

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