April 12, 2024

Article Written By: Capt. Lou Borrelli,

 As the summer winds down the mature Chinook salmon move closer to shore as they prepare for their final run up rivers and streams.  These 4 year old fish will spawn and the die as nature has designed.  Since salmon are ocean fish by design, their instinct is to bulk up on food to prepare for what can be a very long journey to their spawning grounds.

One would think that fishing would be easy at this time, but this is not always the case. Not only do the salmon prepare to spawn, they also change physically. They will no longer stay in cold water. You may find fish as warm as 70 degrees. (That’s 30 degrees warmer than their usual temps)  They lose the pretty silver color and turn brown.  Their lower jaw will start to hook and teeth will grow. Their stomachs will begin to shrink and eventually, they will not be able to eat any longer.

When this time of year comes around, it is time to change tactics. Typically you will be fishing closer to shore. A good place to start is where 50 degree water is on the bottom.  You should notice multiple marks on your fish finder. Almost as if they are swimming single file. These fish can be big but very hard to catch.  Cut bait rigs or files trolled behind large flashers or dodgers can be productive.  J Plugs (with rattles) in the early morning can also trigger strikes as well as magnum size spoons.  Bright colors and glow lures are a good choice.

Early morning can be the most active. The bite may be on for only a short time then shut down as fast as a light switch. When this happens try changing things up.  Lengthen your leads off the down rigger weights as well as your bait rigs off the flashers.  Don’t be afraid to try different lengths. I have some leads as long as 5 ft from my flies/bait rigs to the flashers. Keep in mind these fish are moody. Your bites may come from aggravation more than hunger.  When the bite shuts off completely, don’t hesitate to go deeper and try for young salmon and active steelhead. Just because the summer is ending it doesn’t mean that all fishing is over.  In the deeper water you will revert back to summer tactics.

A good fact to remember is that Chinook salmon will always return back to the stream/river that they were born in. Even if the fish were placed in the streams/rivers by the state, the fish will return. In NY State for instance you can get reports on the stockings of the fish at each location.  This is good information to have so you know what to expect every late summer and early fall. Once the fish leave the lake, they will head into the streams/rivers. They will migrate as far as they can before they will lay to rest.   This is the time to put the boat away and prepare for next years action!

Good Fishing

Capt. Lou Borrelli

To see the original article, go to http://www.fishhound.com/blog/staging-kings