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How To Catch Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon Fishing Tips

By

Lake Michigan Trophy Fish

This nice fish was taken by Blue Max Charters on Lake Michigan

Captain Jim Hirt
We are truly blessed with a world class fishery on Lake Michigan. It is not uncommon to boat fifteen fish in a five hour period. The management of this resource over the twenty plus years I have been chartering has been outstanding.

Chinook salmon in the twelve to seventeen pound class are a regular part of most trips. The big hogs over twenty five pounds are not as common as they used to be. It requires a special attitude on your part to target a wall hanger.

Timing Is Critical

As stated in the previous article timing is critical. On most days I have a fair idea of the size and quantity of the catch I expect to produce before the lines are set. Please allow me to give you an overview of the optimum conditions for predictable success. I will also try to cover exceptions to the rules that I have run into over the years.

Weather is as big of a factor as any and when the conditions are favorable you can expect huge fish. Weather fronts, sky conditions, barometer and sea state all play a role in turning on the fish that dreams are made of. I always look for barometer movement. A steady barometer may offer a great chance to get a suntan but it is not conducive to trophy fishing. When the sky turns black and the waves start to build Mother Nature gets up and going. The odds of huge fish are definitely on your side if you have the guts to stay the course.

A word of caution, it is essential that the novice or faint of heart use prudent judgment in these conditions. You must know your equipment and have it in top shape. When this may be a little extreme for some allow me to present some options.

Where Big Chinook Live

Big Chinook Salmon are a cold water species so look for them in temperatures below 45 degrees. The exception is when they come into spawn. At this point in their life temperature is not important. Keep your baits in 45-degree temperature and you will increase your odds on big fish. When I am catching small fish, I know the water is too warm for a trophy. It is time to adjust the tackle to colder water. A temperature gauge is a tool a salmon fisherman cannot be without.

Clear water and sunny conditions are the enemy. This scenario will turn off most fish. However some fish can be had when certain presentations are used. A stealthy approach is necessary for the biggest fish. In definition stealthy is a presentation that avoids being noticed.

Trolling Methods

Several methods are used for salmon trolling. Downriggers are a popular method to run tackle with many variations possible. In sunny conditions increase your downrigger leads to 100 feet or more. By running long leads you work water undisturbed by noise and turbulence of the boat.

Leadcore is another good choice. A weighted line with a fluorocarbon leader is attached to a planer board. The planer board is run well off to the side of the boat out of the travel path. Leadcore is graduated to allow five feet of depth for every color. Five colors will run lures approximately 25 feet down 10 colors fifty feet and so on. This allows you to fish any depth you want and is a killer for huge kings.

Chinook live four and a half years and it makes sense that they will be the biggest at the end of their life cycle. These monsters will be the most aggressive and easiest to get in the months of July through September. I have produced Kings over twenty pounds in April, although this is the exception to the rule.

Lures To Use

Let's wrap this up with my favorite lures. Magnum spoons are my first choice. Big lures big fish with a consideration to the size of the baitfish and amount of light in the time period you are fishing. When fishing in very bright conditions or with the presence of small baitfish go to regular or small lures. My magnum spoons are about five inches long, regular four inches and small three inches.

The two most productive spoons for me during the 2006 season was the Vulcan magnum and Reaper Magnum both sold by Badgertackle.com For a slow 2.0 M.P.H. or slower presentation I use the Reaper. Above 2.0 speeds the Vulcan is best, it mixes well with most big plugs and flasher flies.

Good Luck!

Copyright© 2006, James J. Hirt, All Rights Reserved

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