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25 Feb 2007 - Kayak Salmon Techniques

Article written and submitted by -- Stuart


Generally speaking, trolling is more effective than mooching earlier in the season when the fish are more scattered. You can cover more ground to increase your hook up ratio. The downside to kayak trolling is fatigue and the difficulty to go deep if the fish are down.

For deeper water trolling, I prefer the following:

1. Spectra line (cuts the water) and allows you to go deeper with less weight.
2. Lead weights on a sinker release (spring loaded).
3. NO dodger or flasher (puts up too much drag).
4. FBR/RSK/Crippled Anchovy for bait, or an Apex or Crocodile for artificials. No hoochies because they require a dodger or flasher.

I like spectra over mono because the thin diameter really helps to get you deeper with less weight.

I prefer lead over a planer (deep six, pink lady, etc). Why, consistency. I also like the fact that when you slow your bait, it will drop deeper. When you troll through a ball of bait and don't hook up, mix it up. Stop paddling for a while and let you line sink through and swing up when you kick it in gear. Sometimes that will help to get hit. Lastly, it's a little more consistent on the swing too. My other reason against planers is that I hate fighting a fish with a planer on the line. Get the fish close and the 4 oz bulky planer is swinging back and forth out of the water.

In a boat, I'd use a dodger, but paddling, it's just going to create more drag and fatigue. As for what type of bait/lure to troll, it depends. I tried an FBR for the first time yesterday. Very impressive rotating action. Although I haven't caught a fish on one, it looked really good w/o a dodger.

No bait, the 4.5 apex is a good solution. Plus you won't have to reel up to check bait as often, though you should every now and then to make sure no sea weed or crap is on the line.

If you're trolling shallow on the top 30 feet, forgo the spectra and go with mono, though I'd still use a release and lead weights.


This is my favorite method to fish for salmon. You get to "play" with the fish before it's hooked and do battle on a lighter action set up. I like my mooching rod to be AT LEAST 8.5ft long with a slow action (longer curve/bend in the middle as opposed to near the tip). A longer rod is easier to land a fish with a 4 ft leader, plus you can get it around the front of your yak to switch sides.

I'm also fan of spectra if you mooching over 60 feet or in a fast drift. Spectra enables you to use much lighter weight to get down and fish your bait at a slight angle (as opposed to straight up and down like rock cod fishing). Again, if you're shallow, stick with mono.

I use either a 15 or 20lb spectra mainline (which is like sewing thread), and tie a 10 foot mono top shot (15-20lb test). This top shot, plus a slow action rod help absorb any sudden runs a fish may take.

On the top shot, I use the plastic slider versus the hard tied banana weights. One of the advantages is that it's very easy to change your weight with the changing conditions. The other advantage is that it puts up less resistance if a fish runs with your bait while you feed it line.

My leader is roughly 4-4.5 feet of 17-20lb mono (preferring the softer lines like Trilene XL). Use good SHARP hooks like Gamagatsu's or Owner's. Try to buy the barbed hooks and crimp them as opposed to barbless. You're still legal, but the little nub from the crimped barb holds the bait better and may possibly help keep a fish on too.

I mooch anchovies over herring. You can fish the bait whole, cut, forward or backwards. I've had success with all, without noticing a difference on getting hit.

Since I don't believe there's much of a difference, I like to just hook them under the jaw, out the top of their head, right between the eyes. This leaves the hook very exposed and is simple to rig. It still darts around with good action.

If you fish your bait backwards, it spins a little more and puts up a little more drag. Good in a slow drift but not good in a fast drift.

When mooching, I keep the bait moving. Experts say to its best to slowly reel up or dropping down. A lot of times, your bait gets picked up on the drop and you may get "slack line". Or, if you are reeling the bait up, I hold the tip up high in the event I may get a hit. If that happens, drop the tip and immediately go to free spool.

Sometimes, rather than reeling up and down, I try to find out the general depth where the fish are hanging. Once I do this, I fish "a 10 foot range" by raising and lowering your rod (a longer rod helps here too), with the reel in free spool and my thumb on the line. This way, my bait is always in the "zone" and fluttering up and down. If I get hit, it's real easy to feed line since the reel is already in free spool.

What to do when you get a hit (tap, tap, tap)? FEED LINE!! Sometimes they run, sometimes they just sit and munch or sometimes they head up and all you get is slack line. Either way, try to keep the least resistance, so the salmon really take the bait. Experts say to wait at least 10 seconds (sounds about right), but it all depends what the fish is doing. If you get slack line, just reel to catch up with the fish and hope it loads up. Otherwise, wait the 10 seconds (feels like eternity) and lock the reel. The hook setting method is really to let the fish self hook, so wait for it to load up (or slowly reel in) rather than try to swing for the fences.

Other helpful tools for mooching include a drift sock. This will help control your drift. If that doesn't help, you'll have to "power mooch" or "motor mooch". In a boat, we used an electric motor, but on the yak, you've got the paddle. The disadvantage on the yak is that you can't hold your rod and paddle at the same time. So, when you have to "power mooch", get ready to go to free spool and grab your rod. I prefer, to hold it between my legs instead of a rod holder.


Bait. Personally, I like to use the best bait possible though bag bait with half a tail and missing scales still produces. If you get tray bait, the best brand I've found is Gray's Harbor (green label). The worst tray bait is Sea Wave (blue label). Why? Gray's is consistent and FIRM. Sea Wave is ALWAYS softer and mushier. It just doesn't hold up nearly as well.

The other brand I tried last year and this year is Lethal Weapon (from Moss Landing). It's as well cured as Gray's, except I've found they are inconsistent in size. Some trays have 14, some 12. Some a mix of different size bait. Aside from that, it seems to be every bit as good as Gray's. One other thing, always sort through the freezer and try to get the best looking tray, similar to buying eggs at the grocery store.

If you're lucky to catch live bait on a sabiki, that's even better than anything frozen. It's got that beautiful shine that the frozen stuff looses. Make sure they suffocate and are dead before using, because live bait doesn't stay on a barbless hook very well.

Fish the right spot. Get fish reports. Find out where the fish are being caught. Both location and depth.

Refine the right spot. If you have a FF, look for bait balls and fish them. Make your bait look different by giving it movement compared to the thousands of similar acting bait.

I can't wait for the summer. The weather will be better and the fish will be BIGGER!!!!

By Stuart

Comments *

1) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by kickfish on February 26, 2007, 04:09:06 AM
Hi Stu,

Great piece of work.  Only thing I would add is about the rubberband around the gills.  Also, I use a threader and go through the eye and down the backbone.  A little short of the tail to do a few half hitches.

Ken kickfish
2) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by alien on February 26, 2007, 02:10:49 PM
Nice readding article. Can't wait to try it again this year. Mooching is the best for light gear.
3) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by Fishtrap329 on March 01, 2007, 08:41:05 AM
Excellent info especially for newbies like my self and for other that never salmon fish before! Only experience is from pacifica pier and a few times from party boat.
4) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by prowlingNorCal on April 10, 2007, 07:09:42 AM
Hi Stuart,

I'm having a hard time reading this great sounding article as it goes "off the page" on the right margin. Is this a setting on my side or is it just how it posted?
5) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by billyabe on May 07, 2010, 10:33:21 PM
Excellent article--thanks for the great inspirational photo too!  I wonder if it is important to note that F & G reg 27.80 (3) requires that "...if angling by any other means than trolling (mooching, for example), then no more than two (2) single point, single shank , barbless CIRCLE hooks shall be used." 
6) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by Derrick A2H on March 07, 2012, 12:53:30 PM
How do smelt work for bait?
7) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by dennisrivkin on May 04, 2012, 10:30:08 AM
Thanks for the article. I'm new for the kayak fishing and would like to know what line weight and which rod to use for Salmon. Is it 15-30lb medium light action?
8) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by StephKillsit on June 12, 2012, 04:28:56 AM
Great tips, looking forward to hooking up a Salmon soon.
9) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by schpen on August 21, 2013, 01:22:04 PM
Hey Stuey!
It's Ken.  I went straight to the salmon article- cause that's what our fathers liked to do.
Just got a kayak a year ago. Ted wants to go too.
How do you find the time!
Great article by the way!

Let's go!
10) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by Shell Beach on July 27, 2022, 12:09:14 PM

When you're using a sinker release how much weight do you typically use? 

11) Re: Kayak Salmon Techniques
Written by PGH@69fishman on August 16, 2022, 09:24:32 PM
Great information 🎣
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