There is a lot to be said about a fresh 20lb spring silver Chinook salmon at the end of your line. That being said there is no taste in the world that is even close to a Salmon fillet sizzling over the hot barbeque coals. For this reason along with their enormous size are why they’re known as the ‘King Salmon’.
Down rigging for spring Chinook salmon in the great lakes is a preferred technique of many open water anglers. Some think that with this method of trolling you don’t need a lot of skill to hook a big King. Luck you say! Well, if you are at the right depth, trolling at the right speed with the right bait, and in the right temperature. Oh! And you just happen to be right on top of them; well then maybe; just maybe it’s not luck, but skill?
Within days of the first ‘ice out’ of the spring, the place to start your search is in deep water. If I want good quality Kings then 85 to 120 ft of water is where I troll. This is especially true in the deep Lake Huron and Georgian Bay waters. At ice out I have checked the temperature on the surface and then run my temp probe down to 120 ft. Depending on the lake, I’ve found a 5 to10 degree temperature difference, the bottom being warmer of course. Trolling this early in the season for big Kings requires a slow approach. A speed of .9 to 1.3 mph is a good pace to keep. Remember, the water is cold so fish ‘slow’.
As the days pass, the lake water starts to mix because of wind. At this point, start your trolling deep again and work shallow keeping a close eye on your sonar. Once you see fish on your screen, work them thoroughly adjusting the cannon balls to just above the fish’s depth. Temperature does not play as an important role as it did, but it will become important again soon. With this in mind, I keep a watchful eye on my surface temperature. As the days and weeks go by, and once it reaches 40 to 45 degrees then the fun begins. This is when trolling with planer boards or dipsy divers, as well as, downriggers comes in very handy. The King tends to roam and become very aggressive as the temperature warms up. By now they are eager to hit anything in their path. That is why I like to use the planer boards. With them being out and away the fish don’t have the boat to spook them. Potentially, you can also fish 40ft of water under the boat and have the one board deeper as the opposite board runs shallower depending on bottom structure. This method covers a lot of water fast and is effective.
As the spring progresses and the surface temperature starts to climb above 45 degrees, it’s time to go deep again. At this time I run as deep as 120 to 150ft with my bait literally scraping bottom. During this deep trolling I like to use light spoons because they don’t tend to pick up as much bottom debris as heavier lures. With good sonar you will see them hugging the bottom like walleye. Perseverance really pays off at this stage of the game.
This spring Salmon extravaganza can last as long as 4 to 8 weeks or as short as 2 to 4 weeks. Basically, this three phase window of opportunity depends on one all important factor, temperature. As it is in the summer, the fall or any part of any season temperature dictates what a good angler will do on any particular day.
Finding spring Kings is not rocket science. I have found that by using these simple tactics, it can help me locate the Salmon. But getting the salmon to cooperate is a completely different matter altogether!
Visit Nic DiGravio at http://www.probassfishing.ca