A silver swarm of coho salmon have already made their appearance in Pacific Northwest salt waters. But September is the time when these acrobatic fish really flip the switch. So, let’s get the lowdown on these high fliers.
Coho salmon arrived in a somewhat unexpected bumper crop last month. This is always good news. As much as the experts try to predict what salmon runs will do from year to year, it’s still really Mother Nature at the controls.
Hopefully, the silvers just keep on coming. Coho definitely take second billing next to the kings, their heavyweight cousins. However, for sheer fun and numbers, the coho hold their own. They are usually willing biters and not the wiliest or most elusive fishing foe.
Many a family’s memories of summer are made on a crazy day of cartwheeling coho. They do jump and fight! I like to break out the knuckle buster reels and just plain enjoy the moment when the silvers are on the feed. It’s grin inducing to watch them come up and catch air at the side of the boat before they are landed. And then, off to the smoker.
While maybe not as good eating as Chinook, they are pretty darn tasty and a staple in a supply of smoked treats for the fall and winter. And, who doesn’t like to break out the smoked salmon when a football game is on? It’s an autumn tradition in the Northwest.
So, how do we go about catching these soon-to-be crispy critters? Well, it’s not the most technical of saltwater piscatorial pursuits. It’s mostly a troll show with downriggers deployed. Standard terminal tackle of spoons and hootchies behind a flasher will work just fine. About 48” of leader behind the flasher for spoons and 36” for hootchies.
Start higher in the water column than you would for chinook. If you’re out in the morning, keep the gear especially shallow. Try 30 to 60 feet down on the downrigger counter. As the sun gets higher, try going deeper.
However, I’ve seen days when a herring trolled with only a banana sinker in front of it or a bucktail fly trolled close to the boat just behind the prop wash catches the most fish. Talk about fun, watching a slashing coho come up and take a fly on the surface…boom!
On the converse side of the depth equation, I’ve also seen days when the majority of silvers were caught down at 120 to 130 feet in the water column.
As far as the depth of water to fish in, it usually doesn’t matter. These fish can be out in deep water. Look for tide rips and fish along the outside or seam of those hydraulics. They are where you find them. Also look for bait and fish on your electronics and on the surface. A big bunch of active birds usually denotes a ball of bait fish beneath them with salmon driving them up.
Where available, Chinook salmon fishing can be off the charts this month. Some of the largest kings of the year are often caught in September. Chinook fishing had been pretty darn good in many places in August. Those crazy pink salmon will be schooling around too. As always, check the regulations for the area you are going to fish before you head out, as some places traditionally open in U.S. and B.C. waters are now closed or restricted.
Albacore angling should be still be productive off the coast this month. Add some tuna for a tune-up to that first regular season Seahawks kickoff. No matter how you slice it, fresh albies and football go together in September in the Northwest.
This month Northwest Salmon Derby Series include a couple great local coho contests. First up is the Edmonds Coho Derby on September 7, put on by the Sno-King chapter of Puget Sound Anglers. Check them out at edmondscohoderby.com. Next is the biggest derby in the West, the Everett Coho derby on September 21-22.
This event, at Everett Bayside Marina, sees an average of 2,000 adult participants with more than 270 kids per year. The top five largest prizes pay from $500 up to a whopping $10,000 for first place.
Many other merchandise prizes are given away. Like all derbies on the series circuit, participants are entered in the drawing to win the grand prize of a brand new boat. Tickets are only $30 per entrant for both days of fishing. The proceeds from this event go to support many fish enhancement projects. Go to everettcohoderby.com for entry and info.
It should be a fun month to get out on the water. Beautiful days and beautiful fish await!