There are very few places in the world where you can successfully catch trophy sized salmon using bait on light tackle in shallow water. Rivers Inlet stands out as one of those unique fishing destinations, & this certainly puts us on the map as far world-class sport-fishing experiences. “Mooching” is the traditional old-school way to fish for salmon. The 10‘ 6” lightweight mooching rods are equipped with a single action saltwater fly reel with 300 yards of 30 lbs. test monofilament line. Attached, is a 6 oz weight an 8 ft. 30 lbs. test line leader, with a mid swivel & 2 4/0 hooks. The head is cut off a herring at a precise angle, & affixed to the leader so that a nice lively spin or roll to the herring is achieved. The bait is lowered down anywhere from 5-50 “pulls” out of line. The action of the bait is achieved by putting the motor in & out of gear trying to maintain a varied angle on the line somewhere between perpendicular & 45 degrees. Working with the currents & constantly adjusting the boat speed creates irregular bait action. Sometimes the bait is spinning fast & at other times shimmying lifelessly downward. The big Chinook/king salmon are like bass & rest from the currents around the structure of the points & shallows of the kelp beds. Presenting the herring to salmon in this fashion emulates a wounded baitfish and they are tantalized to strike at this easy prey. As you are meandering along the shore at slow speeds working the nooks & crannies where the big salmon lurk, the bite can be extremely light. Sometimes, it is just the tiniest of taps on the rod tip as the salmon takes the bait & tries to turn it to swallow it head first. At other times, the rod will “pop up” & the line will go slack as the salmon swims with the bait towards the surface. Then it is necessary to reel like mad before catching up to the fish & setting the hook. Least often, the salmon hammers the bait & line starts screaming out of the reel. The most magical bite is when the rod tip taps lightly a few times, line has to be fed out so that it takes the bait, the rod tip buries, the hook is set & then the rod tip just starts bouncing. At this point, you know you have a REALLY big fish sitting stationary in the water shaking its head back & forth trying to throw the hooks. Then, the salmon runs hard, line screaming straight down, out, around, fish jumping, all of the above. Either way, there is a lot of finesse to hooking & landing a salmon when mooching. For this reason, mooching remains popular amongst discerning anglers looking for the ultimate sport fishing experience at the Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club.
Mooching & trolling use the exact same rod & reel set-up. The difference is keeping the engine in gear at all times to go slightly faster, & moving further off shore. This can be very effective & exciting fishing when the coho/silver salmon are biting on the surface. More ground can be covered & the skill level is lowered because there is no need to adjust boat speed or worry about encountering the bottom. However, if the top water bite is off, it is time to get out the “secret weapon” for trolling … the downrigger. A downrigger consists of a 3 ft. horizontal pole which supports a 10 lbs. cannonball attached to a spool of cable that is wound up & down to the desired depth. A variety of gear/bait/lure options can be attached to your line & then affixed to the lead ball/cable set-up with a release clip. When there is a bite, the clip pinching the fishing line releases from the downrigger set-up so that the weight is gone. The usual gear fished off a downrigger starts with a metal or plastic rectangular dodger or flasher. This provides action to the lure or bait as well as helping attract fish from greater distances. Our main “go-to” lure is a plastic imitation squid (typically white) called the hoochie that is run 36 inches below the flasher. We also use spoons, plugs, & other lures in a variety of colours, finishes & patterns as well as teaser-heads for herring. You can even run a straight-cut plug off the downriggers so the options & combinations are endless. The main advantage of the downrigger is that you can get down deeper when the top water bit is off, cover more ground to find the fish & have less gear hassles & fish more effectively as you don’t need to deal with the complexities of bait. The other main component is speed, you need to be travelling between 3-5 knots to make the gear work & give it “lurability”.
For bottom fishing the gear is much more heavy duty. The rod is stiffer & shorter at around 6 ft. The reel is a multi action with a star-drag mechanism spooled with 100 lbs. test “firewire”. The terminal tackle is a 1-2 lbs. cannonball & a leader with 2 1/0 jay hooks on 80 lbs. text monofilament line. The lead & the hooks are distanced from each other by a stainless steel spreader bar that inhibits tangling on descent. The bait used is salmon bellies or even salmon heads (for the big ones) as they don’t come off easily & sometimes herring. Jigs, pilks & various other types of lures are also used. The action to attract the fish is jigging the rod tip aggressively up & down. The fish are drawn to the shine of bait or lure, the vibration of the movement as well as the smell (if using bait or scents).
Halibut inhabit the sandy flats in 100-300 ft. of water. There are a number of known spots minutes from the lodge. We usually fish on the slack tide as the absence of current makes it easier to keep the boat in position & the gear fishing effectively on the bottom. The technique is to drift over the grounds, going from shallower to deeper water so as not to get snagged on the bottom. The conditions can vary according to wind, tide, current & swell, adjusting the technique accordingly. Sometimes the boat is in reverse to maintain a perpendicular line angle and keep the bait on the bottom. At other times, when the conditions are ideal the boat drifts perfectly over the spot with the motor off.
Lingcod inhabit the rocky outcroppings, reefs & drop-offs in 50-250 ft. of water. The same set-up as halibut is used except the weight is lighter (1 lbs. or less) lighter) & the spreader bar is eliminated. For more excitement, use a salmon mooching rod with a 6 oz weight & shortened salmon leader. The lingcod hot spots are usually more specific & thus the drifts are shorter than for halibut.
Perhaps the most challenging way to catch a salmon is on a fly. It takes some technique & discipline, but for those with both the rewards are great. Our open boats are perfect for fly-fishing with nothing in the way to impede your cast. We cast flies to target the salmon on the top water & mid water or troll bucktail flies on the surface in the boat wash. We also mooch with fly rods using 1-2 oz weights (or no weight) with a herring & regular salmon mooching leader. There is nothing like the fight of a chrome bright hard fighting coho/silver salmon on a fly rod.
If you are a trout or bass fisherman you will enjoy the novelty & excitement of casting into the endless kelp-beds that surround the lodge for almost every type of bottom & reef fish that inhabit our waters. We use 1 oz jigs, spoons, spinners, crocs & just about anything & everything that wiggles in a variety of colours & shapes, it all works. The boat is positioned about 20 ft. offshore & the cast is to the edge of the kelp bed, where the lure sinks for 10 second & then retrieved slowly. The action can be non-stop with a bite on every cast!