Catching Trophy Chinook/King Salmon
using Downriggers and Hoochies
Last summer longtime guest Dennis finally brought Jill on his annual trip with us. Once the ladies discover the "magic" of The Rivers Inlet Sportsman’s Club they will want to come back every year!
Part of our amazing fishing success these past few seasons has been refinements we continually make to our tackle, techniques & training regime. For almost 30 years we were a traditionally top-water bait fishery. We would cut the head off a herring & “mooch” (slowly troll) through the top 20 feet of water using 4-6 oz. weights & light tackle. This works very effectively during the early mornings & on the tide changes when that surface bite is ON. However, when the sun comes up & the wind & tide are pushing the fish into deeper water we couldn’t get at them “mooching”. We added downriggers to our fishing arsenal a few years ago to get down to the fish when they are deeper. The “riggers” are a wire & pully system that has a 10 lbs. lead ball on the end for weight that you attach various sorts of gear onto & lower into the deeper water. The gear is clipped onto the downrigger wire & it releases when the fish bites. At first there was a bit of a learning curve for all. However, the last few years we have really refined our fishing “formula” to great success. When you first get into your boat the “default tackle” is 2 white hoochies (like a small plastic squid or skirt. NB If
you Google just “hoochie” you will get something else, need to add “fishing lure” in there). The hoochie is dangled behind a flasher or dodger that helps give the hoochie it’s action & also adds a “bait fish like flash” to the gear. We suggest that you run one line at 69 ft. (all guides do?) & the second one at 99 ft. I instruct the
guests to use the split screen on the GPS/sounders that we have in each boat & try & follow the 200 ft. contour line at 2.5 – 3.5 MPH. You cross-reference the speed by keeping the downrigger cable line at 45 degree angle. It is better to go a bit too fast than too slow as the speed is what gives the hoochie it’s “coochie” (don’t Google that either).
However, this depth is actually a “white lie” that I tell less experienced anglers so that they don’t “shame” themselves by getting all their gear tangled & caught on the bottom & have to return to the lodge with their “tail between their legs” to get new gear including downriggers & cannon balls. The “real deal” is fishing along the 100 ft. edge. The big trophy Chinook/King salmon are like bass hugging close to the shoreline around the structure of the ledges, edges, drop-offs, points & kelp beds. However, if you are going to fish this shallow then you need to pay VERY close attention & watch for when the contour line on your GPS does a
sharp turn away from the shore indicating the bottom is coming up. If you don’t react to this depth change quickly you can end up in shallow water with disastrous results. The success of this formula has been incredible, but it takes a bit of training, practice & boats-man-ship to pull it off. Other refinements to this technique are different coloured hoochies & flashers.
However, I am not totally convinced of this as the white hoochie with any colour flasher seems to consistently catch the most fish. The 2 main types of flashers we use are silver/green and a silver/purple/disco-ball. We suggest running the green at 69 ft. & the shinier “purple-haze disco” flasher at 99 ft. The possibilities are endless, however for the sake of running a fleet of boats we use the KISS theory (keep it simple stupid). Just to complicate things more, there is also a “culture” of using both a hoochie & flasher that glow. Tackle that glows is arguably more productive in low light conditions which occur in the early AM &
PM, on cloudy rainy days & when fishing at depths greater the 100 ft. I was skeptical of the whole “glow show” until it was just after sunset in low light conditions that I changed up my gear to a purple glow flasher & a white glow hoochie at 69 ft. & instantly got a bite, the trip derby winning 37 ½ pounder.
The other major adjustment in our fishing formula was in the training. I spent much more time instructing guests on the operation of the downrigger & the finesse involved in not creating “downrigger art” as we call it when everything ends up in a big tangle. Once you “get it” it is quite simple, but to the poorly trained angler total disaster is only one false move away. Finally, I spent even more time encouraging people to “own their tackle”. When the fleet of up to 20 boats comes back to the dock after each fishing session it is
like the “Indy Pit-Crew” goes into action. Our dock hosts run at full throttle refueling, cleaning & replenishing the boats & tackle etc. so that the guests can get back out fishing as soon as the want. However, they can only do so much in that short time so it is really the guest who needs to triple check that they have what they need in their boat & tackle box or you can end up out the water without everything you want/need. As your skill level goes up so will your tendency to “fine tune” what you want in your tackle box to be able to fish the way that you enjoy & are most successful. Lastly, I emphasized being meticulous with the gear. You have only 1 rod to take care of & there additional time spent on instructing guests to look for damaged &/or distressed line. If you see bad line you simply strip back line from the reel, re-tie the knot & check it for integrity by pulling hard on it. 1 in 3 knots I tie mysteriously breaks right away when vigorously checked. By pulling all the knots on your set-up as hard as you
can you do a stress test that will maximize your ability to boat that trophy 50 pounder, even if you make a few mistakes during the battle. You are going to catch lots of fishing during your stay with us. However, you may only get a few chances at a really really big fish so if you are diligent with the quality of your gear your chances of catching the “trophy fish of a lifetime” in Rivers Inlet will be greatly increased.
Tight Lines …
If you plan to be around to attend either of these shows call/text Simon (604-938-3677) & we can arrange to meet to chat fishing.
Recipe – Basic Pan Fried Salmon & Cauliflower
(max 30 minutes of the lemon juice will “work” the fish)
& add salt & pepper to taste
We have only ever had one actual cougar sighting in the forest near the lodge over our 30 plus years of operation, so have no fear. There is no danger of encountering a cougar during your stay with us, but I just thought this was a good story. On the occasion of this sighting, my young family was walking the trail behind the lodge when a cougar appeared out of nowhere. They quickly scurried back to the dock with the curious cougar following behind. I say “curious” because if you see them they are not hunting you. We often see signs of a local cougar population. The most obvious one is their distinctive paw prints that are sometimes observed on our occasional excursions to some of the local sandy beaches. As the salmon stocks re-bound to record levels so do other populations in the wild, including those of the cougar. At the turn of the century it was almost extinct in the eastern part of North American due to habitat loss & hunting, but it is on the rebound. The past few years there have been sightings in multiple eastern states including an incident where a cougar was shot within the Chicago city limits. With the surge in remote sensing cameras & hand held devices with cameras, we are seeing more & more cougar footage. Last week this video was shot near Courtenay B.C. on Vancouver Island where 3 curious young cougars surrounded a car!
The cougar goes by many names including mountain lion, puma & panther & are more closely related to the common house cat than to other big cats. It is native to the Americas & has a range from the Yukon to Tierra del Fuego, one of the greatest of any land mammal. They are a secretive, mostly solitary animal that are typically nocturnal hence the rarity of sightings. As a result, they are a revered & mysterious creature with lots of references to them in mythology, indigenous & modern culture. They prefer dense brush & rocky areas as here they have the greatest success with their preferred style of hunting which is to stalk & ambush their prey. Their main source of food is deer & sometimes livestock, but can be as varied as small rodents & even insects depending on availability. They are shy & avoid humans whenever possible so fatal attacks are rare. Often thought to be the “king of the forest” they are not always. They can be dominated by the gray wolf, black & grizzly bears & the other more powerful cat in the Americas the jaguar. More information on cougars can be found here.
One of the best features about our operation is that you can custom cater your vacation to your needs. You can be self-guided, partially or fully guided. The choice is yours. Long time guide Scott "The Rookie"
(far right) working his magic as always consistently producing giant trophy salmon for his guests.