It would be interesting now to take a survey and find out how many folks are still fishing silvers.
In fact you can do that without bothering the pollsters and statisticians.
Just take a drive out the road system!
I bet on weekdays you could count them all on one hand, and on weekends you probably wouldn’t use many fingers on your second hand.
Silver fishing is pretty much in the rear view mirror for most of us now as we move on to other fall activities.
But that doesn’t mean the silvers are gone, by any means.
Sure there are a lot of dark fish around, but there are a heck of a lot of bright fish still coming in.
As a matter of fact, I’ve caught bright fish as late as Thanksgiving. I probably could have continued to find a few more but cold hands, snow on the ground and ice in my rod guides convinced me it was time to quit for the year.
The challenge is in connecting with the bright ones while avoiding the dark ones.
If you haven’t cleaned and stowed your fishing tackle for the year, I think I can help you find a few more bright fish for your enjoyment.
There are really two bottom lines in connecting with bright silvers this time of year. You have to either find places where the bright ones are concentrated or find ways to avoid the dark fish while targeting the bright ones.
If you want the best chance for bright fish, concentrate on the river mouths and lower stretches of the rivers, especially on incoming tides. In lakes, focus your efforts on the outlet where incoming fish tend to hang for a while before moving on toward the upper end.
Make regular trips to your favorite waters through October and November and you’ll make an interesting discovery.
Think back to the start of silver fishing earlier this fall, and the fish seemed to arrive in distinct “runs,” the timing differing for each watershed and in fact the numbers of fish going up and down regularly over a span of weeks.
The same thing is happening now, as a matter of fact.
The silvers come in good numbers for a few days, then their numbers drop. And a few days later a new batch of fish will arrive.
I’m sure some of fluctuating abundance of new arrivals is due to the appearance of schools of fish at the river mouths. But there’s more to it than that.
At least two of the rivers on the road system have distinct late runs of silvers that start arriving somewhere around the middle of October. Very good numbers of fish can be found coming in with each new tide.
They’re distinctly different than the fish of previous weeks, mostly because they’re they’re usually smaller.
While in September the average size likely approached 15 pounds, the late arrivals will have trouble averaging 10 pounds. They’re bright as can be and sporty by all measures, but they’re simply smaller.
If you’re not finding fresh fish coming in with each tide, you don’t have to head back home quite yet.
You can certainly move further up river and search for the bright fish mixed with the darker ones.
It’s certainly fun to catch and release the dark fish, but I greatly prefer the bright ones. I get very few jumps from the dark while the bright jump a lot, so it’s an easy choice for me.
The trick is finding locations where you can see the fish and target your efforts on the bright ones.
It’s easy to spot the difference in the water. The fish that have been in the river longer and are darker in fact look dark in the water.
The recent arrivals look smoky gray and in fact stand out quite clearly among the earlier arrivals.
If you watch, the brighter fish often stay a little out of the way of the darker and more aggressive fish nearing their spawning time. You’ll spot them in the lower part of holes in most cases or often in the shallower water along the edges of holes, while the darker fish dominate the deeper spots.
Then it’s a matter of making your casts to concentrations of the brighter fish. If in fact you can see them so well, you can actually pull your hook away from darker fish that show interest.
I go one step further.
I hate to put stress on those dark fish that are getting close to spawning. I don’t think it does them much good to have a long fight on the end of your line just before they start battling for spawning rights, even if you release them.
Since I tie my own flies, I can afford to simply break off dark fish when I hook them. That’s lots easier if I use a lighter leader.
But what if you don’t tie your own flies, or don’t fly fish for that matter?
It doesn’t do a lot of good simply to pinch the barbs on your hooks. In my experience barbless hooks stick even deeper in fish and in fact it’s harder to shake the hook out of them rather than landing them to remove the hook.
A lot of experimenting has shown me a better way than pinching barbs.
I cut off the hook point right behind the barb, then use a file to make a short blunt point on the remaining shank.
It still hooks and holds fish you want to land, provided you keep your line tight.
But give the fish a little slack and nine times out of ten they will shake the hook free on their own.
This works as well for spinners and spoons as it does for flies, especially if you trade out the treble hooks for singles with the points modified as I describe.
But what if you prefer to fish with roe?
It’s very easy, even common, for silvers to suck roe too deeply for catch and release. You might have intended to release a dark fish, but it comes to shore with a cloud of blood flowing from its gills.
A long-departed friend and dedicated roe angler showed me a solution.
He used small circle hooks with barbs pinched.
Provided you smoothly tighten the line rather than jerking to set the hook when you get a strike, the silver is almost always hooked right in the corner of the mouth for easy release.
If circle hooks work so well for hooking halibut in the lip, why shouldn’t they also work the same for silver salmon. In fact, they do!
Great fishing aside, my real reason for stretching my silver fishing as late as possible is the crowds. Specifically, it’s the lack of crowds.
Especially on weekdays but even on weekends you can fish all day with very little chance of sharing the water with any other anglers. It’s true wilderness fishing, a few miles from home.
But like true wilderness fishing, there’s also the increased likelihood of sharing the water with bears.
They’re very active now in the final weeks before denning, so you’re going to encounter more of them.
Be smart about the bears and be “bear aware” at all times.
You’re out there fishing for the fun of it, while they’re pounding down the fish and putting on as much weight as possible before their long winter’s nap.
It’s best to simply back off and find another place to fish if bears are in the area.