Top 6 Tactics for Catching Salmon

November 28, 2021

When it comes to fishing for salmon on the Columbia every angler has their secret method. As a long time Oregon Fishing Guide, the tactics we are going to discuss here are our top five because they just plain work and have been catching Columbia River salmon for generations.  So here we go get your pen and pencil and start writing. Here are the Top 6 Tactics for catching salmon on the Columbia River

1.) Pro trolling 

Incorporating flashers into your fish game is one of the best methods for attracting salmon to your presentation. We like to incorporate the anywhere from a 4” to and 8” Pro-Troll flasher into the mix.  When setting up you’ll want to use a 65lb test to an 8 to 16 oz cannonball weight then run a 60lb test bumper to the flasher. You’ll want about a 24” leader to the lure or bait using 25lb to 30lb test. This is a solid tried and true rig that will help you get the fish in the boat as well as our favorite out of the Top 5 Tactics for catching salmon on the Columbia River

2.) Trolling Herring 

One of the absolute most effective ways to catch salmon is trolling herring. There are a couple different schools of thought when it comes to fishing herring, but all the methods mentioned here are proven fish catchers. First is trolling the whole herring, this method tends to be a bit more difficult when it comes to getting the desired spin of the bait for optimal attractant. You can, however, use a bait clip with a fin that provides excellent action. There are also nose cones that work very good as well.

Cut plug, however, is probably the most popular method as it incorporates a cut herring that spins well in the water when trolling. The beauty of cut plug herring is that when trolling in the water the movement of the plug gives off the appearance of an injured baitfish. This is by far probably the most effective technique used to catch salmon from a boat but requires frequent rebaiting as cut-plug tends not to hold up as long as whole bait fish.

These are the two basic forms of trolling herring and are a powerful technique that catches Columbia River salmon over and over again and thus had to be in our Top 5 Tactics for catching salmon.

3.) Trolling Spinners

When fishing for Fall salmon on the Columbia it’s undeniably that Trolling spinners is among the most effects tactics for catching both Columbia river Chinook and Coho. We prefer salmon trolling spinners that utilize the 3.5 Colorado. Our favorite are the Dirty Troll 3.5 Colorado Spinners like the Pink NightmareFire Squid, Death StarCopper Killer, and Sparkler. These spinners have all produced excellent catch rates and are of a higher quality that other spinners we’ve seen on the market.

4.) Diver/ Plugs

The Diver / Plug combo is an excellent salmon fishing technique to use when it’s necessary to get your setup in deeper water depths without requiring significant additions in weight. The beauty of fishing a diver is that it can get you anywhere from 6 “to a couple feet off the bottom and decreases the likelihood of getting snagged. This ensures your setup gets in front of the fish and increases your chances for success.

The set is fairly simple and only requires a diver, leader, and plug.  It’s best to run divers off a dropper line. I generally make my drop line anywhere from one foot to three feet in length, depending on the conditions. As a basic rule of thumb, you should go with a shorter length in fast water; and longer when you’re fishing slower, deeper water.

Next, you want to run a slider with stopper bead to allow free movement of the setup. This will help to prevent the fish from getting off in the event the setup gets tangles in the net when landing a fish.

5.) Wobblers

For years we have successfully incorporated wobblers into our arsenal of fishing tactics setting this up you’ll need to incorporate a 5 ft.  leader and 5 ft. dropper. Wobblers or spoons will trail with a second rig just below like a flatfish, or spin glow.

This packs a powerful punch offering two presentations on one line. Great for trolling both up or downstream and are typically fished at a depth of between 45’ to 50’ Feet. Once you fish this set up you’ll see why it made the Top 5 Tactics for catching salmon on the Columbia River.

6.) Back Bouncing 

Back bouncing is generally the final shot you’ll get after you run the boat through the school. When the side rigs fail the set up coming out of the back of the boat gets the win. This technique requires the angler to be an active participant as the goal is to bounce the set up off the bottom as you float along.

The key is to be able to feel when the weight hits bottom and to lift the rod tip to pull the weight up off the bottom, so it doesn’t get snagged. Most common rigging utilizes a cannonball sinker weighing between 1oz to 10oz. A slider with a stopper bead and about 24” leader and the lure trailing. We like to back bounce, Kwik fish wrapped in bait, Spin glows with a shrimp or a wobbler.

These are among Top 6 Tactics for catching salmon on the Columbia River and we use them every year to put Columbia River salmon in the boat for our clients. If you’d like to see exactly how we employ these techniques call Columbia River Fishing Adventures and book your trip today.

Book Your Trip Today