How to Catch Salmon

Salmon Fishing Tips

Salmon fishing is one of the purest American sports. From expert fly fisherman to casual anglers who enjoy hanging out at their favorite fishing hole, everyone loves hooking a salmon.

There are seven species of salmon – one Atlantic and six Pacific varieties – and they can live in both fresh and saltwater. Since Atlantic salmon are considered an endangered species, these salmon fishing tips are mainly focused on Pacific salmon species and freshwater lake and river fishing.

Time & Place

Bright, sunny and hot days are your enemy as a salmon fisherman. The best time to go out and catch a salmon is on cooler, overcast days. Early morning around dawn or at dusk are the best times to fish because of the generally cool temperatures and lower light. The best time to catch Pacific salmon is when they are spawning. Sockeye, Chum and Coho all spawn during fall. Chinook travel further to spawn and enter the streams earlier in spring and summer, but also spawn in fall. Pink salmon spawn in fall during every other year. Steelhead spawn most in spring, but also enter streams during winter and summer.


Before you head out to the water, visit a quality outfitter like Carhartt to make sure you have the proper gear.  Some durable waterproof boots, polarized sunglasses, extra socks, a good hat and a rain jacket are great things to keep with you. If you’re fishing in a stream, you’ll need waders. One last thing to remember is to always carry your fishing license and be aware that salmon fishing often requires a special stamp.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of sharp hooks. Keeping your hooks sharpened is essential because salmon have very tough mouths. In addition to a quality rod and reel, you’ll also need a good line, weights, leaders and lures. If you’re going out fly fishing or trolling, you’ll need some specialized gear.

Fishing for salmon demands a particular kind of bait, especially in spawning season when they won’t be interested in other baits. The best bait for salmon is fish eggs. Fish eggs, called roe, are available in small sacks ideal for salmon fishing. If you’re not going to use roe, spinning lures are the best artificial bait to go with.


There’s no one correct way to catch salmon. However, depending on where you’re fishing and what kind of setup you’ve got, there are some techniques particular to salmon fishing.

If you’re boating on a lake, river or reservoir, you can troll for salmon. In a nutshell, trolling involves towing a specialized rig that uses extra gear to control the speed and depth of the lures to best attract the salmon in larger bodies of water. Additional gear that you’ll need to properly troll salmon includes a downrigger, divers, flashers and heavy-duty rods, reels and line.

If you’re on a dock or bank, you can try floating or bobber fishing, which is an easy, relaxing way to fish. You add a floater to your rig to serve as a visual cue as to whether you’re getting a bite.

If you’re up for a challenge, fly fishing is a great way to get in the stream and catch a big one. Fly fishing takes some practice and specific gear, so it’s not for the beginner or casual angler. Drifting is a popular technique that fly fishermen use for catching salmon.

If you’re fishing from a dock, boat, bankside, or if you’re wading in the stream, you can try drift fishing. Drifting, the technique of casting your line upstream so it will naturally float downstream, creates an effect that makes the bait look more alluring to the salmon.

Now that you know some of the basics of salmon fishing, you’re ready to get out there and reel in a big one.