How to Catch Salmon: 7 Salmon Fishing Tackle Tips

Updated on December 8, 2022 by
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Salmon are one of North America’s most popular angling species, but they can be difficult to catch. This article will discuss some of the best Salmon Fishing Tackle Tips and Techniques to help you catch more fish.

We understand fishing can be arduous if you do not know the essential salmon fishing tips. If you want the best results in salmon fishing, consider the following tips.

Salmon Fishing Tackle Tips and Techniques

6 Types of Salmon

There are six species of salmon in North America:

  • Chinook
  • Coho
  • Sockeye
  • Pink
  • Chum
  • Atlantic

Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon are the largest and most widespread in North America from Southern California to Northern Alaska. They can be found in all five great lakes and ice-cold rivers. They have a distinctive black mouth and are sometimes called Blackmouth Salmon. They also have tell-tale black spots on their back and tails.

  • Average Weight: 10 to 50 lb
  • Fly Rod and Reel Size: 10+ wt
  • Spinning Reel Size: 4000-sized freshwater spinning reel
chinook salmon

Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon put up the biggest fight of any salmon species. They are prevalent from Oregon and through the northern Pacific Coast. They are also known as Silver Salmon or Hooknose Salmon. They turn bright red when preparing to spawn and males grow a hooked nose designed to fight other fish.

  • Average Weight: 7 to 11 lb
  • Fly Rod and Reel Size: 7/8 wt
  • Spinning Reel Size: 3000-sized freshwater spinning reel
coho salmon

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye Salmon are my favorite fish to eat. They are found from Washington through to Alaska. They are also known as Kokanee Salmon. Sockeye Salmon are impossible to confuse with other species because they turn bright red when they spawn, but their head and tail remain green.

  • Average Weight: 5 to 15 lb
  • Fly Rod and Reel Size: 7/8 wt
  • Spinning Reel Size: 3000-sized freshwater spinning reel
sockeye salmon

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon are the smallest species, only growing up to 30 inches. They are found in Washington through to Alaska and the great lakes. They have a pink hue to their body. They are also known as Humpback Salmon due to their shape change when they prepare to spawn.

  • Average Weight: 3 to 6 lb
  • Fly Rod and Reel Size: 5/6 wt
  • Spinning Reel Size: 2000-sized freshwater spinning reel
pink salmon

Chum Salmon

Chum Salmon are found from Washington through to Alaska. They are not found in the great lakes. They have larger teeth than other species, where they got the name Dog Salmon. They turn green with purple stripes when they spawn.

  • Average Weight: 5 to 15 lb
  • Fly Rod and Reel Size: 7/8 wt
  • Spinning Reel Size: 3000-sized freshwater spinning reel
chum salmon

Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon are the only species found on the East coast of North America. They can be found from Connecticut to northern Canada and into the great lakes. They grow almost as larger as Chinook Salmon and put up a good fight. They can sometimes be confused with brown trout.

  • Average Weight: 8 to 12 lb
  • Fly Rod and Reel Size: 7/8 wt
  • Spinning Reel Size: 4000-sized saltwater spinning reel
atlantic salmon

1. Prepare Your Salmon Tackle

Before you go to the sea or river, ensure all the things you need for salmon fishing are right with you. That is the first preparation you need to begin with.

Some of the things you need to ensure include the bait, rod, reel, and other tackle. You don’t want to waste too much time setting up your gear when you could be fishing.

The best spinning setup for salmon is:

  • Rod: 8 to 9-foot fast action graphite spinning rod
  • Reel: 3000-sized freshwater spinning reel
  • Line: 15-pound monofilament fishing line
  • Leader: 6 feet of 10-pound fluorocarbon leader
  • Hooks: 4/0 bait hook

The best fly fishing setup for salmon is:

  • Rod: 9 wt, 9-foot long fly rod
  • Reel: 9 wt, large arbor fly reel with 250 yards of line capacity
  • Line: 9 wt fly line
  • Fly: Size 10-14 flies in various colors and styles

Although fishing can be done at any time, you need to know the best time to catch big fish. Speak to as many locals as possible as online research to better understand the fish’s habits. Should you target them at dawn or dusk, and at which locations? 

2. Prepare the Hooks

Here is another very crucial tip for all salmon anglers:

The top-secret to catching salmon fish is through having a very sharp hook. This is generally done through selecting a chemically sharpened hook.

That is because salmon fish is well known for having a powerful jawline that requires a very sharp and strong hook. Ensure the hook is sharp so that when the salmon bites, it will get hooked. You should also change your hooks regularly after use as they started to blunt. If you have noticed that your strike rate in landing fish has dropped, then consider checking whether your hooks are still sharp.

releasing a salmon caught in kenai alaska

3. Choose the Best Bait

If you want to catch a good salmon, make good choices, particularly around bait or lure selection. Not every bait is suitable for your fishing activities. The best bait for salmon is salmon eggs and sand shrimp.

Various types of bait are used for fishing, but choosing the best is a big challenge. Therefore a good bait for salmon fish is roe. However, many other fishermen use other types of bait, such as cut bait, spoons, and many more. For the best results, ensure you use “roe” bait. This can be an artificial salmon egg, which is a colored bead that the fish cannot distinguish from the real thing.

salmon roe bait on a hook

4. Utilize a Red Line

Here is another handy tip for salmon fishing. A red line can guide you to getting more fish because as the red line gets deeper into the water, the line becomes more invisible.

According to studies, only sockeye salmon can see red when it’s below 15 feet. Therefore, most salmon fish cannot identify your bait while in water. The fish will take your bait more easily.

Hence if you need to increase the chances of catching more fish, use a red line. You can also use a clear fluorocarbon line for the same reason – they are virtually invisible underwater.

5. Make Use of a Flashlight

One top-secret many anglers do not know is that light attracts fish. Just like any other living thing, light is an essential thing. When the fish see a flashlight, they tend to move towards the side where the light is originating. The fish will come to the side where you have set your fishing equipment.

Make use of the flashlight on the dark waters to attract more fish. Note that you need to use a smaller flashlight because salmon do not like bright. If you use too much light, the fish will be scared away. 

Fly fishing reels for salmon

6. Choose an Appropriate Fishing Technique

Choosing the proper fishing technique is another crucial thing to consider when fishing. That is because you will not catch the fish if you use the wrong fishing technique. For instance, the drift fishing technique is more appropriate if you are fishing on a river or in a current.

That is because you will cast your bait upstream and allow the bait to float down in an area with salmon. Drift fishing is more realistic when fishing on high current rivers. 

Always do not fish against the tide while fishing on open water. That is because salmon face the direction of incoming tide flow. If you had placed your bait against the tide, the salmon would see and avoid it.

You can also fish with lures using a spinning or baitcasting setup.

Fly fishing is also popular with salmon and is an exciting and active type of angling. Make sure you get yourself a good pair of waterproof waders if you walk into cold waters.

7. Fish During Overcast Days

Another very essential tip for salmon anglers is to fish during overcast days. That means the time when the light is dull. Salmon fish prefer low light so fishing during overcast days can bring you the best results.

Avoid fishing on very sunny days. If the weather is sunny, consider fishing at dawn or dusk when the visibility is low.

Some of the other essential tips for fishing salmon include using colored lures. This is because the colors dissipate at deeper depths. Finally, always be ready to fish during peak times.

By considering the above Salmon Fishing Tackle Tips and Techniques, you will be able to enjoy the best salmon catch. If you are interested in learning more about other recreational fishing species in USA then read this article.

I would love to hear some of your salmon fishing tackle tips if you would like to leave a comment by emailing me.

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Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing I prefer than heading down to my local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test. My favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. My dream is to catch a Black Marlin.