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Tidewater Silvers  at Cabela's

Tidewater Silvers

Author: Scott Haugen

From Alaska to California, silver salmon fishing has been sizzling the past few months. If looking to get in on the action, here are some hints to help land more fish in tidewater.

Rob Thomas with a hefty tidewater silver caught
while trolling herring.
Getting pelted by the rain, British Columbia's coastal weather did it's best to ruin the morning. But it didn't happen. My partner and I hooked into eight silver salmon as fast as we could get our lines out. Two weeks later I was drift fishing for silvers in the mouth of a prime Alaskan river, and was not disappointed. A few weeks after that found me trolling for silvers in bays and estuaries off the Oregon coast, where fish were not lacking.

Silver salmon can be fished several months of the year. Knowing where to find silvers and how to outwit them is critical to success. These fish thrive in many environments, and being familiar with their behavior in these settings and adjusting your techniques to fit their lifestyle is key.

Ocean Options
Finding silver salmon in the ocean sounds like a no win situation, but timing is crucial. Research the waters you plan on fishing to learn the best time of year to fish. Depending on where you're going on the Pacific Coast, fish numbers and seasons can vary. Talk with people in the area, find out if fish are moving, what they're hitting or if they've been showing up.

No matter where you find silvers -- or when in the season you plan on fishing them -- mooching is one of the most productive means of coaxing these fish into battle. Dead drift mooching and motor mooching are simple techniques that yield fish. Mooching is nothing more than moving your bait up and down, attempting to attract a fish through sight and/or scent. In dead drift mooching, cut the engine, drift with the tide or current and get your bait to the desired depth. If no waves are present to help move your bait, you'll get an arm workout by constantly pumping that rod up and down, trying to emulate a crippled herring in hopes of capturing the attention of passing silvers.

Hit silvers at the mouths of rivers and bays on
incoming tides.
Motor mooching involves putting your motor in gear and traveling at a slow pace. It's not trolling, as trolling speeds are not attained. Motor mooching works well where tides are slight or currents slow as it generates added action on the bait. I've had steady success motor mooching on the outskirts of kelp beds, where baitfish often thrive. In heavy tides and swelling seas I've motor mooched to hold me in these waters as silvers will often hug kelp beds, both to find food and help resist the current.

Though artificial lures can be mooched, herring and sardines are my personal favorites. They are a natural prey of aggressive feeding silvers, and hooking these baits on a double-hook setup gives me the confidence needed to catch fish.

To your mainline, tie a stout snap swivel, to which a banana sinker is clipped. Two to eight ounces of lead is typically used, depending on ocean conditions. Many anglers paint their sinkers fluorescent orange to serve as a visual attractor. A bead chain is affixed to the other end of the weight and a leader tied to the chain. Common leader lengths are from three to six feet.

On this two-hook leader, thread the upper hook down through the nose and out the lower jaw of the herring. The trailing hook is run through the lower body, in and out one side, with the eye of the hook either buried beneath the skin or pulled completely through to where it freely dangles. You want to attain a slight twirling action in your bait when the rod is lowered and raised.

As for finding silvers in the ocean, look for kelp beds, ledges, edges of currents and feeding baitfish. On big flood tides that push hard, these salmon will also hold against a peninsula or point of land rather than be carried farther out to sea. Hit these areas and you'll find fish.

Cohos In The Bay
As summer progresses, silvers (coho) start moving toward the rivers from where they came. Fishing these estuaries is a favorite of many anglers. Fish can move into these environments on every high tide -- and in large numbers -- creating incredible fishing opportunities. On a recent trip to a bay, my father and his buddy had an outstanding day hooking into 18 silvers.

Tossing lures in bays and rivers is effective on
silver salmon.
Trolling is the the most common means of hitting fish in bays. Like the mooching rig described above, the trolling setup is similar. The only difference is the mainline, dropper and leader are all attached to a spreader. A dropper of eight to twelve inches is good, with two to six ounces of lead attached. This will keep the sinker and bait from getting tangled when pulled through water.

Rather than a sinker, anglers who troll often opt for divers, flashers, plugs and other hardware to get the bait down. In most of my trolling, I'll use weights rather than a diver to get me to the fish. I like using as little hardware as possible, for when that fish hits, I want the fight to be maximized.

Plug-cut herring is a solid bet for trolling. Cut the head from the herring at an angle and pull out the entrails. The angle of the cut determines how fast the herring spins when pulled through the water. I like a sharp cut producing a fast twist that will get the attention of these fish.

As silvers enter bays, they can have periods of voracious feeding. In addition to trolling in main channels, don't hesitate hitting shorelines where fish search for food. Silvers often spread out in bays and mouths of large rivers and catching them in ten feet of water or less is common.

Take Me To The River
Throwing lures for silvers can be red-hot in the mouths of rivers, where these fish often hold in large numbers prior to continuing their migration upstream. Likewise, great success can be found by tossing lures in bays. Work the edges of these bodies of water, where fish often travel away from the main currents.

Watch for salmon surfacing to figure out where to fish. Silvers are not shy about showing themselves; between spotting them and putting that fish finder to use, you're bound to get into fish. Observing where other anglers gather and concentrate their efforts is also a good way to get on fish.

Silvers are cold water, anadromous fish. Look for them to move upstream on the front of incoming tides, where temperatures are cooler. Many anglers prefer hitting incoming high tides as not only does it cool river temperatures, but also moves in more baitfish. Two hours prior to high tide, through the high and into the slack are when many anglers focus on silvers...but outgoing tides can be excellent, too.

Silver salmon are notorious for their hard fighting nature. Next time you go after these fish in tidewater, don't hold back -- you can bet the fish won't.

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