Silver salmon have been appearing in good numbers offshore, but the sudden onslaught of sweet freshwater from their home streams has brought many closer to shore. In fact, a few are even nosing upstream into the rivers now.
I’ve seen dry years in Kodiak when the silvers failed to enter rivers until Labor Day or even later. Silvers will certainly enter our rivers throughout September, but I think it’s safe to forecast good early catches along the beaches and even in rivers.
Last week my wife and I were feeling housebound by the wind and rain, and had to get outdoors. We loaded rods and tackle, waders, and of course raingear into the truck and backed down the driveway.
We might or might not catch silvers, but we certainly needed to try.
In screeching wind and sheets of rain we managed to fly cast, mostly enjoying the challenge and the “breeze” whipping around us.
But in no time at all, my wife hooked a silver!
Dinner that night confirms that she landed it too.
Silver or coho season is the highlight of a Kodiak year for most anglers. You can be relatively certain of good fishing in September, but connecting with them in August is even better.
We’ve always been able to catch plenty offshore in August, but their arrival in rivers and along the beaches right now opens the door to all anglers.
No matter how you prefer to fish, whether offshore trolling, beach wading, soaking roe in rivers or casting in lakes, you stand a fair chance of connecting with silvers if you set out after work tonight.
Silvers are so popular because they’re big, willing and powerful. You don’t have to be an expert angler to hook them, but you’ll certainly learn lots about fighting fish once you connect!
I’m always amazed by the variety of offerings silvers will hit, too. No matter whether you troll, jig or mooch from a boat, or use roe, spinners or flies from shore, silvers are likely to cooperate.
Of course they seem to have preferences from one day to the next or even from hour to hour, but if you set out with a variety of offerings and sort through them over the course of a day, you have a good chance of connecting.
I’ve caught offshore silvers from the surface to as deep as 120 feet. I bet I could catch then even deeper if the conditions were right, but I simply haven’t tried it.
Trolling accounts for most offshore silvers, whether on herring, spoons, hoochies or flies, with most of the action in the top 60 feet of water and often the top 30 feet. But as you troll around with your deeper lines keep an eye out for surface action, especially on flat calm days.
If you can spot the schools on the surface, try laying off a little and casting spoons or jigs to them. Talk about hot action!
We probably catch more silvers by mooching than any other way. Herring is always good, but you can go through a lot of herring on a busy day. Keep an array of hoochies, jigs and flies on hand in case you run low on herring. Odds are you won’t regret the short supply of herring on your boat!
Some of the most exciting fishing of the year occurs when you find silvers cruising the shoreline of a bay, and especially on the shallow flats off any river mouth.
Blind casting will certainly work, but I prefer to find a position with the sun behind me so I can see the fish before casting to them. You haven’t lived until you watch a whole school of silvers turn to follow your offering, then see the frontrunners of the school race each other to overtake your hook. Talk about smashing strikes!
When using spinning tackle I tend to use spinners most of the time when the fish are within easy reach. Silvers love them!
But they’re also suckers for spoons. I use spoons most when blind fishing, and especially when the silvers are laying offshore a little further and require long casts.
But don’t get lulled into steady retrieves when using spoons! That might be the best formula for spinners, but you’ll catch lots more silvers with an erratic retrieve when using spoons. I like to raise the rod tip smoothly to move the spoon forward, then lower the tip while reeling just fast enough to keep a tight line as the spoon stops and begins to sink. Most strikes will come as the spoon is falling through the water.
Once silvers enter the river, it’s Katie bar the door on fishing methods. Spinners are often the lure of choice, but I know anglers who score big with spoons using the retrieve I just described. It’s often a good retrieve for spinners in freshwater too, though you almost never see anyone using it.
Roe is the top choice for most anglers in freshwater. Whether in rivers or lakes, it’s easy to spot roe anglers by the array of bobbers floating in front of them. Even if silvers are laying deep, they’ll often come to within a foot or so of the surface to smack roe.
I’m an addicted fly fisher, as is my wife. Sure we do well and enjoy fishing with bait or hardware, but we have the most fun with flies. It helps that I tie all our flies, but there’s an extra bit of satisfaction in beating the challenges of fly fishing for silvers.
Fly fishing has also taught us lessons that pay off with hardware. Consider these points and see how they can be applied to spoons and spinners.
Silvers are really moody about color. With light changes their color preference will change, whether on sunny versus cloudy days, or early and late in the day versus midday.
In broad terms they prefer green to blue in lower light, but will shift strongly to blue in bright light. Purple is a great low light color from surface to bottom, but pink can come into its own down deep on overcast days. Black is a joker in the deck, but always worth a try. I’ve done especially well with it on sunny days, but now and then it is a top producer on overcast days.
The other aspect of fly fishing that translates well to spinners and spoons is studying the surface activity of silvers. If they’re slow and lazy on the surface, keep your offerings close to the top. If they’re making long flat, jumps keep your offering close to the surface, but move it fast.
If the silvers are jumping almost straight up or simply making quick swirls at the surface, they’re holding deep and you’ll get your best hits there.
Here’s the really interesting part of their behavior most days. They’ll often prefer a sinking lure or fly rather than one that’s moving forward. Simply casting a fly, spinner or spoon and keeping a tight line as it sinks will draw more strikes than retrieving. Of course on days like that flies have an edge over hardware unless you switch to very light spinners and spoons that sink slowly.
Perhaps the most amazing fishing demonstration I’ve ever seen came while watching a guy with a spinning rod. He rigged a bobber high up the line so it suspended a marabou jig just off bottom, then allowed the water action to move the jig. He didn’t retrieve at all. But wow, did he ever catch fish when no one else could draw a strike.