Ocean Salmon Tips &...
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[Closed] Ocean Salmon Tips & Techniques  


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Joined: 2 years ago
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25/04/2020 9:28 am  

Trolling for Ocean Salmon



The ocean salmon season usually begins sometime in April and runs through September. The exact dates change every year. Barbless hooks are required. One rod per person on the ocean. Chinook or “King” Salmon are allowed but not Coho Salmon. You must know the difference. Look at the lower jaw. The lower jaw should be all black around the teeth. If there is a light band that’s a Coho so release it. The size limits also vary from year to year.

Be sure to check the CDFW website for identification guides and read the regulations!


Medium to Heavy at least 7ft or longer. Longer rods have more flex but shorter rods are easier to bring fish closer to the boat. There are many opinions on this so you’ll have to Google it and do some research.

We are currently using Ugly Stick Tiger 7ft Medium Casting rods.


Baitcaster reels are used for trolling. You want a fair amount of capacity on the reel in case the line breaks and you lose some.

“Level Winds” are nice because they wind the line up evenly on the reel. Line Counters are nice so you know your depth. Otherwise, you can peel the line off one foot at a time and count out how many feet are out.

When you let line out of a baitcaster you place it in free-spool and hold your thumb on the spool so it doesn’t all go out at once. Then, use your other hand to pull the line out one foot at a time. This way you can count your “pulls” to get the depth you want if you don’t have a line counter.

We are currently using the Shimano Tekota 700LC with 65lb P-line braid.


20-30lb mono or 40-65lb braided line is common. Mono has more flex but braid is more sensitive to see the rod movement. Some use braid with a “top shot” of 30ft of mono on the end. Swivels, etc. should be comparable to the line size. Braid is typically 3x the strength of mono.


1.5mph-2.5mph If your boat can’t go this slow you need to use a trolling plate or drift socks to slow it down. Even 5gal buckets attached to the transom with ropes will do.

Most boats use GPS speed but if you boat has a water speed sensor to the get actual water speed that’s even better.



FBR’s or Krippled Anchovies are very popular. These lures use frozen anchovies “tray bait”. The anchovies are attached to the lures and the lures make them spin to attract the fish.  FBR's come in different colors and UV is very popular.  Some put a small rubber band around the end of the FBR above the tail to keep the hook from flopping around too much.

Crowbars or Cable Baiters are also popular. These use a wire with a hook on the end that is threaded through a frozen anchovie.  The idea is to make the presentation look as natural as possible.  The wire is bent to form a curve and make the bait rotate.  Here is a video on how to rig a crowbar


Hot Spot Apex 5.5” Salmon Killers are also very popular. Black/White “Cop cars” and Watermelon are the most common color.

Note:  You must file off the barb!  Regulations require barbless hooks!


This is another style of rigging tray bait with a simple 2 hook setup. How to Rig Choked Herring for Salmon Trolling


Most salmon fishermen I know use scents.  Oils or gels.  Gels are good for lures (Apex) because they will stick.  Pro-cure makes popular scents such as:  Bloody Tuna, Anchovie, Butt Juice, Herring and more.


Some use flashers and some do not. Flashers are placed ahead of the lure to attract the fish.


At the end of your mainline you will have a swivel snap attach to a “sinker release”. This is where the cannonball sinker is attached. Sinkers are usually 40 oz. When the fish pulls on the sinker release the sinker falls off so bring extra sinkers. The Pucci Gravity Sinker release is the most common. There are also copper “whistle” style releases as well.


Note:  A 40oz sinker will only go so deep -about 50 ft.  After a certain point the sinker will just trail behind the boat and not go any deeper.  To go deeper you must use a downrigger.  We have downriggers but do not use them that often.

Typically, you will use ~4ft of monofilament line from the release to a lure attached with a swivel snap. If you use a flasher place that in front of the leader line about 24" behind the release.

How to find them:

Salmon do not show up on sonar. However, bait balls of anchovies will. Search around for bait balls, bait boils on the surface and look for birds. Birds also feed on the anchovies and whales are always a good sign, too. Use a rod with a line counter and match the depth of the bait balls or slightly higher. Salmon strike upwards. Also, try to be just outside the bait ball to get their attention. Some will circle around bait balls/boils/birds many times before they move on. If you get a strike you know there are fish around. Work that area for a while.

Landing and Processing:

Set your drag to about 90%. That’s where it’s almost locked down but you can just pull it by hand with enough force. You don’t want to rip the hook out but with barbless hooks you must always keep tension or “bend” on your rod. Feel the fish. Don’t be too aggressive but always be ready to reel quickly if it comes towards you and keep that rod bent so it doesn’t throw the hook.

When you have a fish on some boats will stop to land it and some keep moving. Don’t stop the boat until you have the rod out of the rod holder so you can reel and keep that rod bent.

Use a large net to land your fish. Rubber nets are preferred to nylon so you don’t scuff up any fish that will be let go. Since you may have a fair amount of leader line you can only reel it in so far. Step backwards as far as you can and hold the rod tip high to bring the fish up to the boat.

Once on board gut them as soon as you get a chance and store them on ice. You are not allowed to fillet salmon on the ocean. CDFW will often check your catch when you return and the fish need to be whole for inspection.


We usually launch from Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay. Common areas include Deep Reef, Pedro Point, and right outside the buoys. Outside the Golden Gate is also productive and the Marin Coast. Keep an eye out for reports and word of mouth is always the best.

There are other areas to the South and up North but I am not familiar with them.