Big salmon tips and techniques

by David McRae
The largest Pacific salmon is the chinook salmon and are frequently called Spring Salmon or King Salmon. A chinook salmon over 30 pounds is called a Tyee. Tyee is a native word that means chief of chief's.
Chinooks are native to the West Coast of North America and range from Monterey Bay California, north to the Chukchi Sea of Alaska. The largest chinook salmon ever caught was by a commercial fisherman in 1949 in Petersburg, Alaska. It was caught in a trap and weighed in at 126 pounds. To bring us into more recent times and sports fishing. A novice angler snagged a monster 83.3 pound (38 kg) salmon off B.C.'s central coast in Rivers Inlet and released it back into the ocean. Two other big chinooks on record are a 97.4 pound (44 kg.) fish reeled in from Alaska's Kenai River in 1985 and another chinook weighed in at 85.8 pounds (39 kg.) in 1987 near Hakai Passage in BC.
Chinook salmon reach sexual maturity between two and seven years. As a result a three-year-old fish ready to spawn may only weigh four pounds while a seven-year-old fish ready to spawn may weigh more than 50 pounds. Both of these fish may belong to the same group of fish spawning. The smallest chinooks to spawn are only two-years-old and are often called Jacks.
The most important factor to consider is location, location, location. Big salmon are not everywhere. I consulted with Rob Rippon a guide at Island Outfitters in Victoria. The topic of the Leader Board surfaced. The Leader Board is a record of the biggest salmon weighed in at the Island Outfitters store in Victoria. This gives everyone a good idea of the size of fish and where they are located. Rob has watched the leader board for years. Over time Rob has observed the size of the largest fish decrease in size. Last year for the 2015 season the winner on the Leader Board was Justine Wilson who landed a 39.4 pound salmon. Any salmon over 30 pounds caught off the southern end of Vancouver Island is a big fish. If huge salmon is what you are after youíre going to have to travel to remote areas such as the west side of Vancouver Island, Cape Scott at the northern tip of Vancouver Island, or to many locations on the north and central coast such as Riverís Inlet, Shearwater or Langara Island located at the northwest tip of Haida Gwaii.
I have had great success in these remote locations. At the right time of year and the right place, the big salmon are plentiful and easy to catch. One trip to Cape Scott there were five of us on board. We fished two days in a row and landed a dozen fish that ranged from 36-46 pounds. A couple of days after that trip it was reported that the fish were 45-55 pounds. We fished with cut plug. A cut plug is a small frozen herring with the head cut off at an angle and the guts removed. Then it is placed on the end of a leader with two hooks, one in the tail and one just behind where the head was. If done right the bait should gently roll when trolled slowly. The big fish like larger bait moving slowly. Cut plugging is a great method for targeting the big ones. When cut plugging the troll speed is slow 1-2 knots and in shallow water, as little as 30 feet deep right next to the kelp.
The west side of Vancouver Island is a great place to target this summer if you are in search of big salmon. I have had much success there using large anchovies in a teaser head. This summer is shaping up to be the west sideís biggest number of chinook salmon in 10 years. Hatchery returns this summer are expected to be 250,000 fish. There is also the Columbia River chinook factor. Another run of big salmon that are native to the Columbia River, located on the west coast of the United States at the southern border of Washington State. These salmon feed along the west coast of Vancouver Island on their way to their spawning grounds. It is estimated 800,000 Columbia River fish are retuning to spawn in 2016. This makes a combined total of over a million chinook salmon feeding on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
If all the predictions are correct, there will be healthy numbers of large chinooks on the coast. Try cut plugging, large anchovy or a big spoon. Trolling at a slower speed will


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