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Salmon River Fishing Techniques and Rigs

Salmon River Fishing Techniques

​There are many different salmon river fishing techniques and learning to master them all will mean that you can fish just about any water and in any conditions.

​Some can be done from the shore and others require the use of a boat using a variety of different rigs and tackle.

One thing is common throughout all of these techniques and that is getting your bait, fly or lure down to roughly the same depth as the salmon.

This really cannot be stressed enough as your chances of a bite improve dramatically once you keep your rig at the right depth.

Learning how to read all of the contours and features of the river will also make a major difference.

There really is no point in spending time and energy working a stretch of river that is just too shallow. In shallow waters if you can’t see the salmon then chances are they are not there and you are just wasting your time.

Pockets, deep swim lanes, eddy’s and breaks basically anything that has some form of structure to it or even deep open water is where you will find them.

​Salmon River Fishing Techniques and Rigs

​1. Drift Fishing

Drift fishing for salmon usually involves floating downstream on a drift boat and bouncing or drifting you bait along the bottom.

​Salmon eggs are probably the best salmon bait with sand shrimp and cut herring also being very effective.

You will need enough weight on your rig it get down to where the salmon are but not so much that you either get snagged or your rig stays stationary on the bottom.

​When on the drift you can cast upstream of any potential deep pockets where salmon may be lying, allow your rig to bounce it’s way downstream towards the salmon.

I normally use a slinky rig when drifting and it is one of the best river salmon fishing rigs for when you are using bait like salmon eggs.

​2. Bobber Fishing

Bobber fishing particularly when using salmon eggs is still one of the most popular techniques for salmon river fishing.

Nothing beats seeing your bobber disappear under water as a salmon takes your bait. Visually it’s one of the most exciting ways to fish.

​Given that salmon like to stay deep you really need to tune your bobber so that your bait is suspended at roughly the same depth as the salmon.

Salmon will rarely if ever strike at a bait if it is several feet above them.

It is a very common mistake to set your bobber up so that your bait is running too high in the water column.

​3. Plunking

Plunking is a pretty simple salmon fishing technique for rivers but to get it right you need to match the flow of the river and the weight that you use correctly.

Plunking for salmon involves casting a lure or bait from the shore. The weight in your rig will then hold the lure in a stationary position.

If you get it right your lure will get all of it’s action from the flow over the water over it, even though it is stationary it will look like a small fish holding itself in one position against the current

​4. Casting Spinners/Spoons

Casting salmon spinners or spoons gives you the ability to cover a lot of open water. If you are new to the particular river you are fishing it can be one of the most effective methods to learn the contours and topology of the river bottom.

​A lot of anglers will just make a few casts and then move to another area. Instead of this cast in a fan like patter n making sure that you cover pretty much every part of the water in front of you.

Obviously you may want to avoid working over the really shallow areas as salmon do tend to favor deeper waters.

Aim to target deep pockets or holes first and then work across any natural swim channels that you can see.

You will need to control the depth of your lure as it moves across and down the river. The easiest way to do this is to vary the retrieval speed.

When working salmon rivers that have a lot of holes and pockets in the river bottom a slow retrieve is almost always the best.

Slowing done either a spoon or a spinners will help it to stay deep. It will also make the blades/spoon spin slower giving you a really deep vibration lower frequency of flash.  

​5. Back Trolling

Back trolling as the name suggest involves working a salmon fishing lure from a boat by letting it out to the required length and then slowly moving downstream with the current.

The real trick with back trolling is to ensure that your lure is moving a the correct speed to get it to dive and and give off it’s inbuilt vibration whether that’s with a plug or a spoon.

When back trolling for salmon you will spend a lot of your time adjusting your speed to match the changes in the rivers current.

You can do this using a drift boat with oars on generally calmer smaller rivers or using a trolling motor on larger rivers, some salmon fishermen will even back troll from a jet boat.

​You can also back troll from the shore, to do this you will need a shore line that is free from obstructions so that you can walk slowly downstream with your rod held out over the water. A good set of chest waders and boots is essential here as too is making sure you are safe when walking along the river bank.

​6. Twitching Jigs

​Twitching jigs along a river bank of from a boat had fallen out of favor for many years but it seems to be making a bit of a come back in recent times especially with more modern salmon fishing rods that that have fast actions.

Choose your favorite jig and cast it out to just upstream on the river where you think the salmon are lying. Allow it to sink and touch the bottom.

Once it touches you can either twitch the rod tip to make the jig dart upwards or you can allow it to bounce on the bottom for a few feet and then twitch it up.

Often you will find that a salmon strikes your jig on the way down after you have twitched it up.

  • Updated October 16, 2021
  • Salmon