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Thread: The take - When a salmon strikes a lure.

  1. #1

    Default The take - When a salmon strikes a lure.

    Hey guys,

    Just had a quick question, or more of something I noticed that I was hoping would start a discussion.

    I went down to Seward early this morning because of the reports of some coho being caught from shore. Did not catch or see any.

    Anyways, I was casting spinners at the mouth of Spring and I hooked into a few fish. A couple of Chum, a couple of pinks and 3 dollies.

    THe thing I noticed immediately about the strikes from the salmon was that, they were so subtle. Sometimes I only knew I had a hit because the blades would stop spinning. I would think I had weeds on so I would jerk the rod, and all of a sudden, I felt weight and the fight was on.
    Also, they would only strike my lure about 5 feet in front of me. This made me think maybe they were following the lure for a while, then decided to just mouth it a bit before it got away.

    With the dollies it was very different. I would cast out 30-40 yards and they would hit all the way out there and would start fighting immediately.

    This year, I am lucky enough that I am gonna be around for coho season. Ive read soooo many posts about fishing cohos so Im really excited about it. But the events this morning made me wonder; Do cohos just mouth the lures as well?

    Is this a normal thing I experienced this morning? Perhaps its just those fish, and on another day, maybe they smash the lures?

    When I fished the lagoon back in May, I hooked 2 kings in 3 casts with a #6 vibrax. Well thats not true, I fished friday to sunday and only got 2 hits all weekend but they happened one after another.
    Anyways, the hits were so violent, I actually felt embarrassed when people started staring at me. It was really weird because everybody looked at me like I didnt know what I was doing, because, well, I just wasnt prepared. My drag started going 'zzzzzzzzzzzzz' and I just didnt reel in or know what to do. I could not believe how violent that strike was, but that is what I love about fishing lures. That take. That strike. When that hook set is just a formality because you know that fish just stabbed the crap out of his own mouth!!

    So I was just wondering, when the silvers arrive in the local streams, or if I manage to do my trip to Kodiak and get into silvers over there, should I expect a subtle nibble? Or a violent strike where I might drop my rod? or the in-between?

    Just trying to get some feedback and also some stories about some good hard hitting fish you guys may have gotten into in the past.

    discuss.
    Random guy in Fly shop: "Where did this happen???? In real life or in Alaska?"

  2. #2

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    That's a pretty typical hit for dogs, and it's a good wake up call for silvers. In my experience they hit spinners much the same way, but more solidly on spoons. A great stunt for silvers is to lift your rod tip to cause the blade to spin, then stop the rod and reel just fast enough to keep the line tight as the spinner sinks a couple of feet. A whole lot of silver strikes come "on the drop" before you get your line tight after a cast and again when you do what I just described. But most folks don't ever get to experience it because they either don't get their lines tight quick enough after a cast, or because they never stop retrieving long enough to let the spinner or spoon sink a bit. If you're casting to silvers crashing bait offshore or along kelp beds you'll get ten strikes on the drop as your lure sinks for every one you get on a retrieve.

  3. #3
    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Spinners?

    My advice is if you want solid hookups with a spinner.... DO NOT SWING! This is salmon fishing, NOT the BassMaster Classic!

    When you get a strike, simply reel into the bite, let the rod load up, then give it a firm pop when you feel the headshake.

    There are only so many things that can happen to your spinner as you retrieve your cast.

    1) Blade stops spinning. Either you are reeling too slow or you just got a bite. Do NOT swing. REEL FASTER! The dead blade will either come to life or the rod will load up with a fish... now set!

    2) You feel the lure tapping. Either you are ticking bottom or you are getting a bite. Do NOT swing. REEL FASTER! The tapping will either stop as the lure lifts off the bottom or the rod will load up with a fish that lunges at the spinner (that the salmon thinks is trying to get away)... now set!

    3) You feel increased resistance. Either you are loaded up with weeds or about to snag up... or you have a fish. Do NOT swing. Reel FASTER! It will either come tight to the snag or the rod will come alive with a headshake... now set!

    4) You suddenly feel no resistance.... no if's and's or but's... it can only be ONE thing.... IT'S A FRICKIN' FISH that just gave you the ultimate slack-line bite! He's got no brakes... he's charged the lure and got your spinner in his mouth, and is still coming at you FAST! Do NOT swing. REEL FASTER! When the line comes tight and the rod loads up... SET!

    Lather....
    Rinse....
    Repeat....
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Member Raptor_1's Avatar
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    Good advice from FnP. A lot of the salmon I catch on spinners exibit tendencies that you describe. Something just feels "different" with the retrieve. Like he says, reel faster to clear the fowl, or load the rod up with the fish and then set the hook.
    Alaska: We're all here cuz we're not all "there"

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    Member AF EOD's Avatar
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    Well, a bunch of trips come to mind where I got to observe the strike but one in particular stands out. Back in Aug 2006 when all the Parks Streams were blown out and the road was closed, I found one HELLUVA silver bite at Caswell. The water was high but still had it's slightly stained visibility. I caught MANY fish that day, and got to observe nearly every one. Also, with the stage set like that I figured it was time to experiment. Here's what I learned with the variety of spinners I used:

    Color: Just needed to be bright. I used bright green or bright pink, no real difference that day.

    Speed: LOW and SLOW, for sure. The top lure was a #4 Mepps Trophy with pink triple-bead type body and silver blade. I found that this lure was a little heavier so it was condusive to getting the lure down. The blade thumped real nice and I was able to tell when I was turning it just fast enough to generate action. The vibrax also caught a lot of fish, but didn't get down as far and the thump was slightly less noticeable.

    Line: I might get shot for saying it, but...the braid was the way to go. I had excellent feedback for what my lure was doing and could cast anything a mile. It wasn't combat fishing so why not?

    The cast: I can't tell you how many I hooked with about 4 feet of line between my lure and the rod tip. I even caught some doing "figure 8's" after observing a fish following. These were the toughest to avoid a premature hook set. A silver will follow your lure for a long way...one of the reasons for low and slow. A good long cast with an angle to increase the amount of time your lure is "in the zone" is the way to go if you can...and work it all the way to the bank.

    The bite: With mono, I couldn't feel the thump quite as well and it felt like it just loaded up. The silvers would follow it in with their mouths open and then gently (so it seemed) mouth the lure. It was when they turned that I felt the load. It took a few tries not to get over-excited and take it from them, LOL! The mono had some stretch to it so it really felt like it just loaded up.

    With braid, I was able to feel the fish actually thump it. Over time, I was able to clearly discern between bumps/bottom/debris and an actual bite. There is no stretch in the braid so I had to be careful (Like FnP said) not to bass-pro that thing and prematurely begin (lose)the battle.

    As far as the violence of the strike, without a doubt the majority were a subtle INITIAL take...then, it was on! I even observed that there was usually one crazy fish that would swim all the way across the creek to nail it (while my lure swings past a dozen that fin out of the way), and even a fish this aggressive had a subtle INITIAL take as far as feel.

    Bottom line: Get used to the way your lure feels in a particular current set-up, with the particular gear you are throwing, and be ready to detect a subtle change: Lure stops thumping, extra weight, slack, etc... After three or four fish I bet you'll be well on your way to being dialed in.
    "Live that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Show respect to all and grovel to none. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people."

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    I fish Kodiak with the spinners manufactured by Tony Davis of Kodiak Custom Fishing Tackle. My retrieve is steady and my strikes are violent.

    Eggs are the exact opposite. They mouth gently and sedom resist until they feel pressure.

    Hope you make it there...

    Rosenberg/Florida
    "Two decades researching and defining fishing opportunities in the Last Frontier!"


  7. #7
    Member akhunter3's Avatar
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    Wow. Good info guys! Interesting to read
    Nurse by night, Alaska adventurer by day!

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    for those who think reds don't strike...

    Just retied my setup and was actually straightening my line out in the water, when wham! The red nearly took the rod out of my hand. What a surprise! Fun too!

  9. #9
    Member akhunter3's Avatar
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    Lucky! I couldn't get a red to hit today to save my life. Killer thing to have happen when the water is all slack and there are fish rolling everywhere
    Nurse by night, Alaska adventurer by day!

  10. #10

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    So, it seems more common to have a fish just mouth a lure than hit it hard?
    If that is the case, this makes me really curious why the fish is mouthing the lure at all? I used to imagine that it was just PO'ed that the lure was there, but is that how a salmon reacts when its mad? It just mouthes it?
    I doubt its trying to eat it? I would assume most of their food would get away if they just gently tried to lip it into their mouth! haha!
    Come on herring, let me kiss you to death.

    Also, Brownbear mentions that spoons get harder hits. Maybe its because spoons actually imitate wounded fish and thats when the salmon really attacks it.

    Im guessing a lot.
    Last edited by sodabiscuit12345; 07-20-2010 at 02:09. Reason: spelling.
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    Member big_dog60's Avatar
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    It depends alot. It is not uncommon for salmon to hit your luer hard. I think it depends a lot on how the fish approches the luer.

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    Member AF EOD's Avatar
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    There are plently of factors, to be sure: species of fish, speed of retrieve (equal/opposite reaction and all that), type/weight of line, etc... Bottom line, if you are tuned in for a soft initial take, you will catch more fish...simply because if it is a hard strike there is no mistaking it, but a soft take can easily be mistaken for some other sort of non-fish-related interference.

    Case in point was our year fishing for kings...we did a lot of catching while drifting flies. Probably one in five kings that I caught gave plenty of notice that there was a fish on the line and the rest were kind of a "feels funny". It was learning to recognize the "feels funny" that made the difference between one king caught and several caught. Trying to explain the "feel" was difficult when coaching our less experienced fishermen but once they caught one or two they were dialed in...not spinners and totally different technique but the principle is the same.
    "Live that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Show respect to all and grovel to none. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people."

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    Sadly I can't really describe what the take feels like. Not to sound cocky, but I think I've spent enough time fishing that my body just reacts. I do know they are pretty soft takes, a momentary pause or a skip in the spinner. It does really catch you off guard when an energetic fish slams the lure. For cohos the strike can range all across the board. It all depends on the water, weather, and the number of fish. When they are in thick and they are fresh fish they can really slam a lure.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

  14. #14
    Member AF EOD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sodabiscuit12345 View Post
    So, it seems more common to have a fish just mouth a lure than hit it hard?
    If that is the case, this makes me really curious why the fish is mouthing the lure at all? I used to imagine that it was just PO'ed that the lure was there, but is that how a salmon reacts when its mad? It just mouthes it?
    I doubt its trying to eat it? I would assume most of their food would get away if they just gently tried to lip it into their mouth! haha!
    Come on herring, let me kiss you to death.

    Also, Brownbear mentions that spoons get harder hits. Maybe its because spoons actually imitate wounded fish and thats when the salmon really attacks it.

    Im guessing a lot.
    I may be REALLY stretching here but for sake of discussion...

    I've done a lot of fishing for largemouth/peacock bass. These are very aggressive predators that have been known to tatoo any number of lures. When they are spawning, it's a totally different ballgame. If you come across a bedding fish guarding fry/eggs (and they are locked on), they are in a total defensive mode. You are literally "antagonizing" (for lack of a better word) the fish into biting when you pitch a jig into it's bedding area. The parallel I'm trying to draw is this:

    When the bass are in a spawning/non-feeding mode (like salmon after entering freshwater???) and you finally convince one to bite, the bite is almost always subtle...almost like they are just trying to pick it up and move it out of the bed. I've even seen peacocks "blow" at a lure several times before they actually latch on. Perhaps a subtle bite from a spawning fish is more of a territorial, SOMETIMES half-hearted "teach you a lesson" type bite??

    That being said, I've had my share of bites where the rod has been dang near ripped from my hand by a salmon many miles upstream from the ocean...especially so with kings on spinners/spoons. But hey, like I said...just an item for discussion.
    "Live that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Show respect to all and grovel to none. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people."

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    That makes sense. Similarly, salmon that strike at eggs aren't looking for a meal, they are just crushing them to reduce possible competition for their offspring. That's why most of the time the eggs just get picked up, it's not a hard hit.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKBoater View Post
    That makes sense. Similarly, salmon that strike at eggs aren't looking for a meal, they are just crushing them to reduce possible competition for their offspring. That's why most of the time the eggs just get picked up, it's not a hard hit.
    So thats why eggs work!? Interesting. I had no idea why eggs worked but that makes sense.

    Also AF EOD, I think your posts makes a lot of sense. When I started the thread, I actually had saltwater stripped bass in mind. These guys can really hit a lure hard, and I was wondering if any species of P.salmon did the same. I guess the answer is 'sometimes'.
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    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKBoater View Post
    That makes sense. Similarly, salmon that strike at eggs aren't looking for a meal, they are just crushing them to reduce possible competition for their offspring. That's why most of the time the eggs just get picked up, it's not a hard hit.
    I'm not saying this is false...but how can we possibly know a particular fish's motivation for picking up eggs? Personally, I find it hard to believe that salmon plan ahead and rationally take action to reduce possible competition for their off spring. If they are intelligent enough to make advanced decisions such as this, why do they bite a Vibrax spinner/Pixie/whatever that doesn't resemble anything natural whatsoever?

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    hey I don't have evidence to claim one way or another. I read in a book somewhere that salmon that bite spinners and such it's more of an instinctive, reactionary bite. But I can't back any of this up.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

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    Roger that akboater. Just for fun, I asked my som why he thought salmon mouthed eggs...he said it's because they don't have hands! Perhaps we'll never know why they do it, but just glad they do. Fish on!

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    Smart kid.
    I'd agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

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