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Anglers Northwest Fishing Tips & Techniques  

Fishing Tips & Techniques

Fishing Tips & Secrets!

Downrigger Fishing Tip

   Trolling is the most effective way to catch many species of fish. A moving bait or lure in the water trolled at the depth where fish are present is the best way to ensure a hookup. The use of modern downrigger technology further improves trolling results. A downrigger is a spool of wire/cable mounted on your boat. A heavy weight is hung on the end of the braided downrigger wire. A downrigger release is hooked to the wire and your fishing line is hooked into the release. The downrigger can then be lowered to precisely the fish depth. When a fish hits, your line is released and you fight the fish on your rod and reel free of heavy lines and weights.

Downrigger Fishing Method

Better downriggers are equipped with line depth counters so you know exactly how deep you are fishing. A fish finder and a downrigger are a deadly combination. The fish finder shows you what depth the fish are and the downrigger allows you to fish exactly in front of them.


Fishing with downriggers
for salmon and lake trout
on Fort Peck Lake in Montana

Fort Peck Salmon Stalker

   The use of a downrigger is simply a method to present a trolled lure or bait to fish living in deep water.

   The advantage to the downrigger, with a line release system, is the fisherman can fight the fish -- not fight the weight required to get down to the fish.

The rod and reel used for downrigger fishing need to meet only a few basic special requirements. The rod must be soft enough in the belly and tip to allow for a good arch when attached to the weight. With changing boat speed, wind and wave action, the rod has to move with the swing of the heavy weight it is attached to. The use of a stiff rod will result in periodic false releases. A longer, softer rod also helps maintain a tight line between fisherman and fish in rough water.

A standard downrigger setup consists of a downrigger winch system, cable, weight and release. This will allow for one lure on one rod and reel to be lowered to the desired depth ó the depth to be determined by bait fish or fish seen on your depth finder. The depth the ball is lowered to is indicated on the line counter provided with the downrigger. A second rod, reel and line can be attached by using an additional release called a stacker. Stackers attach directly to the downrigger cable and should be placed at least 20 feet above the first release clip. This allow for full mobility of both lures and avoids tangling the lines.

The terminal tackle behind the release clip can be almost any favorite lure, bait or fly. On Fort Peck, the primary fish targeted with way are Chinook salmon and lake trout. Both species may be fished and caught at the same times of the year and in similar locations on the lake. The most widely used terminal setup is a flasher and squid. Both come in many sizes and colors. All will catch fishermen and many will catch fish. The most-used colors for flashers are blue/silver, chartreuse/silver, silver/silver ó all with glow-in-the-dark tape. Squids are available in hundreds of colors, but shades of blue, green and white with silver tinsel and glow-in-the-dark are the top choices.

Leader length, though critical, will vary from day to day and is one of the variables that must be adjusted to entice fish to strike. Manufacturers recommend a leader one-and-one-half times as long as the length of your flasher. That is a good place to start, but can be shortened to give the squid more action at slower boat speed.

The distance the lure is put out behind the weight is also a daily variable. It can vary from six to 50 feet. This adjustment is probably the first and most often change made to stimulate a strike. Often, when there are many boats in a small area, the fish are more prone to strike a lure trolled at a greater distance behind the weight. The only time you have to keep this distance short is when you are fishing very close to, or even touching the bottom, with your weight. A longer lead behind the ball will cause the flasher to be knocked off the release more often.

Boat speed is a Ford, Chevy or Dodge sort of argument. Many salmon fishermen say you can not go too fast for salmon. Another group of fishermen will troll at a dead crawl. I have found a good average speed using a GPS is between 1.8 and 2.4 miles-per-hour and use a lot of sharp turns as you troll. The turns cause the inside lines to slow and drop, while the outside lines climb and speed up. Strikes will often come during the turn. A good rule of thumb is to watch your cable angle into the water. A 45-degree angle is a good general speed.

If you choose to use a stacker rod on your downrigger, use a spoon, fly or biat rig on the top line. The use of two flashers causes too much line drag and is easily tangled with the lower line. Line drag is the biggest factor determining the depth your lures are running. For example, if you let your weight down 90 feet and attain a line angle of approximately 45 degrees, your baits are probably traveling approximately 75 feet down ó another good reason for the sharp turns and speed adjustments.

Downriggers can be purchased in both manual crank or electric. The manual strong-arm variety will cost less, but can provide a real workout. Remember, if you fish with a partner and use two downriggers with stackers, and you donít want to chance tangling a fish with other lines, the fisherman without the fish has three rods and reels and two downriggers to reel up. If your partner is your wife and you like to catch fish, you will choose electric!

Dan Smith loves to downrig the depths of Fort Peck for big chinook salmon. Consider him at least a semi-pro, if not a downright professional at it.


TIP:  Netting Fish Properly

Itís in the bag, or is it? Many a nice fish is lost because of anglers not netting the fish properly. When you net a fish, you should always lead the fish into the net headfirst. Because fish donít swim backwards, any movement by the fish should force it deeper into the net. Donít try to scoop the fish up from behind if you want to land the big one.




© COPYRIGHT 2011 - All Rights Reserved.  Anglers Northwest  -

© COPYRIGHT 2011 - All Rights Reserved.  Anglers NW  -