8 AM - 4:30 PM (PST) Mon-Fri
8 AM - 3 PM (PST) Mon-Fri
By Jason Brooks
By the time September hits, most Coho anglers are dragging out the drift boat or hiking along the bank of their favorite river. I, too, love Coho fishing on coastal streams, but the salt is where it is at in the early fall. Ocean bright, feisty Coho are rushing to get to the rivers and gorging themselves along the way. Quick to bite, and even faster to jump, there is nothing like catching Coho in the ocean and Puget Sound on a cool September day. Here's a few tips to help you find more fish.
When in big, open water such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca or the Salish Sea, Coho like to travel in deep water, but not deep down. Look to the shipping lanes and then stay on top. You will often find Coho jumping, but the best way to find them is to keep an eye on the sonar unit.
Large schools of fish will often be within the top 50-feet of water. At first light, run the gear shallow, from 15-feet to 30-feet down. Once you find their depth, be sure to target it as the fish are predictable once you find them. As the daylight hits the water, and especially if the bite goes "off," readjust and find the right depth again.
If you can run multiple rods, then you should always have a "surface rod" out. This is often a third rod that you longline out of the back of the boat while the other two rods are on downriggers. The surface rod is as described — a rod that you may put a 2- to 5-oz. mooching weight on, then run a lure such as the Hum Dinger® 1/2 oz. in Blue Glitter/Nickel or Silver/Blue behind. This rod will run shallow, which is where most of the Coho are and often accounts for just as many, if not more, fish than the downrigger rods.
Coho are not as large as their Chinook or Chum cousins, so gear doesn't need to be as stout. They are very acrobatic, though, and extremely fun on light gear. A limber rod with a medium- to fast-action will not only add to the excitement of the fight, but actually help you land more fish. This is because the fishing rod is part of the gear that helps keep the fish on the line. Since you must use barbless hooks, the idea is that a long and limber rod will act as a large spring, so when the fish leaps out of the water, you can lift on the rod and keep pressure on it, ensuring the hooks stay put.
One thing you don't want to do is skimp on the line, as these fish are not line shy and will put a lot of stress on monofilament. It is good to have the reels spooled with 65-lb. braid with a 50-foot top shop of 40-lb. monofilament. Leaders need to be stout, as well, as you want a lot of action on your lure to entice the bite.
Coho like to swim fast and this will work to your advantage. Troll along at 3 miles per hour and don't be afraid to go up from there. Not only does going fast create the urge to bite quickly, but it also adds more action to your lures. This is another reason why you want to use a stout leader as a light leader is likely to tangle or be too weak to hold a fish that violently attacks the lure. When you do increase the speed, make sure you are using gear that can handle it and not foul up.
This is where the Sling Blade™ 9" shines. Designed to troll at various speeds, the Sling Blade is easy to adjust by increasing the bend in the dodger when trolling slow, while also flattening the bend to keep them straight when trolling at increased your speeds. Able to work at any speed variance, the Sling Blade is always working.
The advancement of UV being integrated into lures, flashers and dodgers has really helped the modern day angler. September days are often overcast, and UV really shines on these days. For the downrigger rods, a typical setup would be to run a ScentFlash™ UV Paddle Flasher or a Sling Blade Dodger 9" with a short leader to a Wiggle Hoochie 4.5" with Green Spatter Glow being a good choice. The Wiggle Hoochie Bills 2.25" on the Wiggle Hoochie is also UV and adds to the lure's attraction while providing incredible back-and-forth movement.
One "trick" I have been using for several years now is to connect a ScentFlash UV Triangle Flasher directly to the downrigger ball. This adds more flash and attraction, but also a large scent column. Coho are schooling fish and you will often see a fish or two following a fish that you are reeling in. Keeping this in mind, if you use a ScentFlash UV Triangle Flasher on the downrigger ball, then run a downrigger clip a few feet above it to your ScentFlash UV Paddle Flasher with a Wiggle Hoochie, as this imitates a school of Coho going after baitfish — with the Wiggle Hoochie being mimicking the baitfish they're chasing. Surely, because Coho are schooling fish, any "follower" will come over to see what the commotion is all about.
Now, back to the top water rod I discussed, you want to keep it simple. Simply use a light mooching weight 36- to 42-in. in front of a Wiggle Hoochie or Hum Dinger 1/2 oz. Be sure to use a long and limber rod for this application, as there is no slack at all, unlike when using a downrigger where you get a little bit of blowback. The idea is that when the fish grabs the lure, the rod loads up quickly and helps set the hook. When using a downrigger, this is done when the fish pulls free of the clip, as the tension on the clip helps set the hook.
Coho in the salt are actively feeding. Use a lot of scent so that when you go near a school of fish, they get excited with the smell of baitfish. If you have ever used a real herring or anchovy, then you know how much their slime stinks.
Thanks to innovative Mack's Lure products, you can create a large scent trail in the water column with the ScentFlash UV Paddle and Triangle Flashers, but also be sure to add scent to your lures, as well as up and inside the hoochie skirts. Mack's Lure UV Bait Scents by Pro-Cure, and particularly the SBF Pro Gels, are perfect for this as they are sticky, but also be sure to utilize the ScentFlash Pads, which allows you to easily switch out scents in the flashers. When using the ScentFlash Pads, use water-soluble scents, such as anchovy or herring as they disperse in the water quickly and work extremely well.
Be sure to get out to the saltwater this September and find some ocean Coho. They are big, bright and ready to bite. It's a lot of fun and a great way to spend the day. As the fish push into the Puget Sound and the Columbia River, you will find that they are easy to target and fun to catch.
Jason Brooks, an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer based in the Pacific Northwest, is a Mack's Lure Pro Staffer and regular contributor to the Mack Attack Magazine.