COHO FISHING
ON THE NOOKSACK RIVER

Nooksack River at Everson

On the Nooksack River, Coho (Silver) Salmon fishing is an enjoyable early fall event (September, October). Only the hatchery Silvers can be taken home (at the hatchery, the adipose fin is cut off -- for quick identification by fishermen). Coho are delicious when they are Chrome colored. As Coho stay in the river, and start using up their body fat, they turn red. They do not taste good when they are red (lack of tasteful body fat), but are good smoked. Chums (Dog Salmon) are ok smoked, and are caught after mid October.

There are three primary techniques for river salmon fishing from the bank. These techniques are basically plunking, casting, and drift fishing. The most successful technique for catching salmon is Drift fishing, using corkie and yarn. It may be that in the lower parts of the river, in the early season, that spoons and spinners may work better than Drift fishing. At times, fish can only be taken with eggs. On the Nooksack, only a single hook can be used (no treble hook, or series of hooks).It is thought that salmon are annoyed by, and will attack spoons and spinners, but are hungrily attracted to corkie and yarn and eggs.

SALMON LIFESTYLE

MIGRATION PATTERN (TIMING): Coho usually return to their native river to spawn between by the first or second week in September, and are found in the river till mid October and as late as early November.

HANGOUT: Salmon are looking for two things constantly in their travel upstream: Rest and safety. Generally, the farther upstream the fish travels, the more rest he needs, and the distance between stops becomes shorter. Salmon are bottom dwellers. When these fish rest, they do so in that portion of the water from bottom gravel up to about 14 inches or so. Salmon love to hide in deep pools or slots, especially in low, clear water conditions. The tail end of a hole or drift where the water gets shallow and begins to speed up (tailouts), are favorite areas for feeding, resting and holding of fish. Fish also hang out at the edge of drifts above heavy rapids. Salmon holding in the lower to middle stretch of a stream are generally found in deep slots along a bank, behind a current-breaking jam of down timber or around large boulders that offer respite. As always, the head and tail of any pool are a favorite salmon hangout.

MOVING UPSTREAM-LOW RIVER: If the river is low, the fish usually won't bite and they will not head up the river until it rains. Some say the cold water (glacial melt) keeps them from feeding. The rain either warms the water, or mixes the water, so fish start biting again. Salmon swim pointing into the current, and they have a tendency to seek calmer water so that they do not have to be expending energy by constantly battling to stay in one place. In early September, if there has been no rain, salmon can be found in the lower reaches of the river (below Slater Road Bridge).

SALMON SENSES: Fish definitely see color and/or shades of color and can be very fussy about it. They also have a keen sense of smell. Keep these in mind while fishing: select colors that attract the salmon you want, and add a scent also.

FEEDING PATTERNS: Salmon are not actively seeking food but do at times go on a vigorous bite. When salmon enter a whole or drift, they are most aggressive eaters. This is a place where they can relax from the current, and wait for food drifting downriver. Another strange feature of Salmon is that they do not feed every day, but sometimes can go for several days without feeding. Lures trigger a feeding response even though salmon may have been swimming past natural food all day and all night. If the river is muddy, you will have a very difficult time catching anything because the fish cannot sure the lure, therefore, most fishermen avoid the river till conditions improve.

FISHING STRATEGY (When and Where to Fish)

WHERE TO FISH: The places where salmon are found are the slower moving water directly upstream from faster flowing waters seems to be the best. You will find that fish seem to be the most aggressive after just entering a pool. Always fish the tail end of a pool if given a choice.

TIME OF DAY: Fishing is usually at its worst between about 10:00 and 4:00.

LURES: All salmon will follow a lure -- some more readily than others. Coho salmon will follow a lure quite readily in certain types of water. A spinner or wobbler, if fished up through a long pool will take these fish quite consistently.

YOUR POSITIONING ON THE RIVER: The first rule of positioning on the river is putting yourself on a spot at the uppermost section of the holding water you are fishing. This means you will always be working downstream. Start fishing a drift at the tailout and work upstream. TAILOUTS are at the tail end of a hole or drift where the water gets shallow and begins picking up speed. The tailout is where the fish first stop as they come into the drift, and are favorites for feeding, resting and holding fish. Then, as you work upstream, you are approaching the fish from behind, and, especially in low water, that is an important factor. There are three very important reasons for starting at the top of the drift and working down. First, it allows the spoon to be worked in front of the fish. Two, since salmon are territorial creatures, the invading wobbling spoon will be treated like any smaller fish in the river's pecking order, attacked and subsequently removed. Three, there is no chance your line or spoon will be dragged across the body of the salmon from its blind side.

DEEP HOLES: Extremely deep holes or fast water require yet another kind of casting technique called "upstreaming". The lure is cast upstream and then allowed to settle toward the bottom as you reel in a line very slowly. By the time it has reached a position across from you, it should be near the bottom and then can be slowly reeled in until the current catches it. Then the cross-stream technique is used. With spoons, the upstream cast provides the "extra weight" to get your lure down in deep water.

FISHING TECHNIQUE (What to use and how to use it)

BASIC DRIFT FISHING TECHNIQUE: The basic drift fishing technique consists of casting across and slightly upstream, and then allowing your drift bobber and accompanying sinker to drift naturally downstream in the current, the sinker gently bouncing along the bottom. When your lure has drifted back near the bank, it is reeled in and another cast and drift made.

SPOONS AND SPINNERS: To fish spoons and spinners, cast directly across stream and allow it to sink to bottom. Do not slack line lure or it will hang up. Retrieve lure so it has just enough action to scrape bottom occasionally. As the lure starts to swing across river, dip rod to counteract the push of the current that makes the lure rise to surface.

Down across presentation is used for tailouts or riffle water. Cast your lure upstream and across, then reel in any slack line. Anytime you allow drag on your reel, the lure will lift off the rivers bottom. The second factor to consider is what size of blade to use. When allowing drag on your reel your blade will speed up, the greater the drag the faster the blade will turn, so you may have to increase the size of blade to slow your presentation. Follow the working spoon downriver with the rod tip, at or slightly slower than present current speed. The deeper the run, the lower to the water the rod tip should be held to allow the spoon to work at maximum depth. The shallower the run, the higher the rod tip, to allow for more "push" on the spoon and greater pressure on the line to keep the spoon from sinking. When the spoon has completed its wing and is beneath you, hold the rod tip high and pointing slightly upstream from where you stand to allow for maximum "push" against the lure and line. At the same time reel in line and work the spoon as slow as possible back toward you. Many salmon will follow the spoon and hit it when it is slowly worked back upstream like this.

HOW TO CAST: Casting upstream a little bit, starting at about 45 degrees, varying it as you go, you need enough weight that you can feel the weight bouncing along the bottom. As soon as the lure hits the water lower your rod tip to just above the water level by a foot or two. Now just flip the lure out, lower the rod tip and let go of the line. Salmon run up river along the edges for the most part.

CAST CLOSE FIRST, THEN OUT: It is advisable to cast closer to shore on the first casts, move your casts farther out on your next casts. By using this method you will not be fishing OVER the closer fish and spook them. You will in this manner cover all the water starting from closer to farther out from one location. A typical approach should be to work from the head of the run or pool, fishing the nearest water first, progressing each cast to the far side of the river, before working your way downstream in the same manner.

ZIG ZAG: Zig Zag and Twitch your line. It is good fishing tactic to try pulling some line and releasing it or turning sharp corners. Do EVERYTHING you can to prevent a lure from running at a constant speed and in a straight line. Twitch the rod tip every few seconds, speed up and then slow down the retrieve, stop the lure dead in the water and then start it up again, reel extremely fast for a few seconds, and so on.

LINE TENSION: Slowly pull the line in to take the slack out of your line to the lure, so you will have constant tension on the line. Keeping a constant "pull" on the line is essential. As soon as you feel something different from the bottom you have bounced, set the hook!

HITTING BOTTOM WITH BAIT OR CORKY: You gear should hit the bottom often enough to keep your bait 14 inches or so from the bottom. How often will depend on the kind of bottom and the current you face. You should be hitting bottom at least every two or three feet during a drift. When using a floating type of gear (e.g. Corky), a closer contact than this is preferred, without hanging up. Spoons should be fished NEAR the bottom.

HARDWARE ACTION: A hardware angler who knows a lure's vibrating or wobbling action can, by watching the rod tip, determine the necessary retrieval speed and whether or not the lure is working properly. Start by making a short cast and then begin a slow, steady retrieve. A vibrating tip means the spoon or spinner is working. A spoon should swim and wobble from side-to-side while a spinner should have a constantly revolving blade.

FISHING SPOONS: The most common cast will be across the stream from your position or just slightly upstream, allowing the spoon to sink a moment or two before beginning a retrieve. As the spoon works downstream and gets caught in the current, you should slow your retrieve. To make the spoon run deeper, lower the rod tip and follow the spoon downriver at current speed. As it works across the stream, back toward your position, stop reeling altogether.

FISHING TAILOUT: Because of their shallowness, tailouts are hard to fish with cross-stream casts and are best worked with downstream casts. Position yourself above the tailout you wish to work and then cast across and downstream, into the edge of the tailout. When the spoon or spinner hits the water, take a few turns of your reel handle and then let the current do the work for the rest of the way, pushing and activating the lure as it crosses the river back to your bank.

LURE SPEED: Most anglers try to fish spinners too fast, even though the most effective method has proved to be a slow-moving lure, fished near the bottom. When spinner fishing, that the slower the blade is turning, the more hookups you have.

EGG LOOP SNELL: When tying your hooks, use the egg loop snell. The advantage is that you can put egg roe into the loop leaving the hook completely exposed. This insures better hook ups once the fish hits. When the fish are hitting but not taking the bait completely, there is a trick that you can use. Place a large corky (or reversed spin-n-glo with no wings) up from the hook about 6 inches and pin it there using a tooth pick. Then place your eggs on the hooks. This allows for the eggs to be held off the bottom, but when the fish hits, it only feels the roe and not the hard plastic body.

LURE CASTING

Spinners are lures consisting of a blade, which spins or undulates. The spoon bait consists of a blade, which vibrates at various frequencies and amplitudes. Many think that in clear water a dark (copper) colored blade is needed and in murky water where there is less light a bright (silver) colored one is better, however, this is not the logic of a fish. Depending on the light we can see that a silver colored lure is preferable when the weather is fine whereas when the weather is overcast a dark lure is better.

Cast the spinner out and as soon as it hits the water, begin reeling to start the blade in motion. As soon as the blade begins turning, you will feel vibrations and your rod tip will throb. If you feel steady ticks from the spinner blade, the lure is too close to the bottom and you should reel faster. If you don't feel a tap once in a while, slow down as the lure isn't working close enough to the bottom. You should use a retrieve speed that causes the spinner blade to nick a rock or touch bottom every few seconds.

On dark days, or at times when there's not much light on the water, such as early morning or late afternoon, a Brass or Copper finish will work well. On bright days, or in clear water, choose Nickel finishes. Brass or Copper also work well when water is brackish, murky (tea-colored) or deep. When the water visibility is poor do not use nickel finish on your spoons and spinners. Nickel finish appears black in color a couple feet under the surface.

GEAR SETUP
 
ROD      - 8-10' long, medium to heavy action
REEL     - Level Wind. Spinning reels for spoons/spinners and beginners.
LINE     - Coho 12lb, Pinks 8lb, Kings 20lb+.  Re-spool fresh line every year
HOOKS    - Single (no treble) size 1/0
SWIVELS  -
SPINNERS - #3 for low and clear water
           #4 for normal flow
           #5 for high and swift water
           Silver plated with red tape on inside of the blade (best)
           Poor visibility/high water - use gold, silver, or brass colors
           Good visibility/low water  - use black, tarnished brass or copper blade colors
SPOONS   - 1/4 oz for low and clear waters
           3/8 to 1oz in normal flow
           1/2 to 1oz in high and swift waters.
           Silver plated with either red or orange tape on the inside of the blade
           Colors same as spinners
DRIFT RIGS 
         - Yellow and orange corky, sand shrimp and orange yarn
              Or Yellow and orange corky, cluster of eggs and orange yarn.
  CORKIE - Orange, or yellow and orange color
  YARN   - COLORS - (Lime-green/Chartreuse for Coho).  Possibly red or orange.
           Tye just ahead of hook, and below the drift bobber, so as not to interfere with its action
           Not so long that it covers or interferes with the hook point, and trimmed
  WEIGHT - Lead on a swivel (too heavy will snag, too light will not keep drift bobber near bottom)
  BOBBER TIP - Birdy bobbers use a small, round bead between bobber and hook (acts like a ball bearing)
  ROE    - Cleanest way is in baggies, tied with cheesecloth and dental floss.
           Most natural way to present salmon roe is in dime size chunks in a bait loop.
           Coho like fresh roe usually better than spoons, spinners, corkie/yarn. Use chum or pink roe.
  LEADER - 18-48"(some say 14-30") long, longer for low or clear, and shorter for average water conditions
           Have several made up in advance, for fast changeovers.
SCENT    - Oils (Sand Shrimp, sardine, roe).  Smells fade, so change your bait often.
PLIERS   - (Needle nose type) Getting hooks out of fish
FISHING LICENSE
pic of drift rig
pic of drift rig


pic of lead swivel
arrangement

LEAD SWIVELS

image of Spinners and Spoons

SPOONS AND SPINNERS

Birdie Drifters

BIRDIE DRIFT BOBBERS



CURING ROE (SALMON EGGS)

When removing roe from a fish, keep away from water. (Do not rinse) Never freeze eggs in water for later use. Always cure roe as soon as possible. Roe will keep in refrigerator in Ziploc bag for up to a week before curing. If curing roe that has been frozen, do not let thaw rapidly, but gradually in a refridgerater. Thawing quickly causes ice crystals to sink in the egg and break open the egg covering.

Put eggs on Screen Mesh (Not metal). Air dry for 1 - 2 days. Mix with un-iodized salt mixture (light sprinkle). Buy curing blend (Procure or Wizard). Place roe in paper towels over night to drain. Unwrap and place on news paper in skeins. Cover with borax (get in to seams of skeins). To have colored eggs mix in a small package of sugar free Jell-O (Optional step) or buy Procure instead of borax. Cut Into bait size pieces. Cover in borax. Spread out individual baits on newspaper. Let air dry until crust has appeared on one side. Flip over baits until the form crust on top side again. Place in container and cover with fresh borax. Freeze.

KNOTS

FISHERMAN'S KNOT [The Improved Clinch Knot]

Fishermans's Knot

TIP: A standard fingernail clipper is a great tool for making a clean final cut on the tag end. Here's another tip: Leave the remaining tag end about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch long; then touch the very tip of the tag end to the hot end of a lit cigarette (or a just-blown-out match) in order to create a ball on the end of the line, which prevents the tag end from pulling out under stress.

BAIT LOOP KNOT (Bumper Knot)
Egg Loop Tying

1. Cut line into lengths 6 inches longer than your intended leader length. 
2. Put end #1 into eye of hook from top 
3. Hold end #1 against shaft and wrap 6-8 turns down shank with line from just above eye. Pinch last wrap.
4. Grab end #2 and put though eye of hook from shank side until approximately one inch sticks out of eye 
5. Slide fingers to pinch the line from end #2 against shank 
6. Grab line and wrap 4 more coils along shank over the top of line end #2 that is pinched against shank 
7. Keep coils tight and pull line end #2 until slack line is taken out of hook 

DOUBLE CLINCH KNOT

1. Double line and place though eye hole

3. Trim loop off and tag end.

2. Wrap line loop around line 5-6 times.
Put loop end back though bottom hole and tighten.

4. This knot is very strong and usually holds 100%

1