Blackmouth Basics 2
Last month in Part 1 we covered how to target winter blackmouth by locating bait, current movement and structure. This month we will talk about fishing techniques. Blackmouth fishing, like all salmon fishing can be divided in to 3 basic fishing methods. I will discuss what tackle I use and have had the best success with over many years but as always I encourage anglers to go with what works best for them. If you have a productive technique always go with it, this is simply some of the methods that work for me.
Let’s start with mooching. I use a lightweight fast action rod; my choice is a G Loomis HSR1021C. For a reel I use a Shimano Tekota 300LC loaded up with 30lb Power Pro braid. This setup has great balance and sensitivity. You can feel the slightest pickup on a bait.
Cut plug herring is the bait of choice when it comes to mooching. Begin your bait preparation with a sharp knife. Lay the herring on the cutting board and with the head to the right make one clean cut at a 45-degree angle behind the gills with the knife slightly angled toward the tail. Remove the head and viscera from the body cavity.
I Pre-tie several spools of leaders with Mustad 9263 thin wire barbless 2/0-3/0 hooks in 12-14 lb. test about 6-8ft. long. Take the first hook and run it through the abdomen and out the lateral line on the side of the herring, leave it hanging free. Take the top hook the 3/0 and run it out the top of the spine of the herring near the front of the cut. If you did it right it will spin like a drill bit in the water. Blackmouth like tight spinning herring. I run round ball mooching sinkers 2-6 oz. on a sliding rig.
Fish the total water column dropping to the bottom and reeling up slowly or watch your sonar and target feeding blackmouth under the bait.
Jigging is especially effective if the fish are concentrated. Since you do not cover a lot of water in this method of fishing you need to locate the fish with your sonar and try to hover over them. With the Lowrance HDS unit I can watch the jig drop right into the fish school, there is little doubt when you are in the right spot.
To employee jigging correctly you need to remain vertical over the fish. This can require backing the boat in to the current with the kicker engine to fish your jigs vertically.
I prefer Pt. Wilson Darts rigged with a barrel swivel and single sidewash jigs in 3-6 oz. size. You will have to use a heavier jig the deeper you fish. The best jigging action accomplished by raising your rod tip 3-4 inches and dropping it back down so the jig can flutter. For blackmouth, work the bottom 10 ft of the water column.
For a jigging rod and reel I prefer a Shimano Trevala Butterfly jigging rod with a Shimano Trinidad 16N reel. I use 50lb power pro for a main line tied to a QuickRig swivel to 20lb fluorocarbon shock leader tired to the jig. The QuickRig is a very small swivel that is capable of being reeled through he eyes of the rod but has the strength to hold halibut or even a marlin. This allows me to use a longer leader but able to reel all of it up onto the reel. This is an extremely useful setup as just by changing the size of the shock leader I can use this setup for salmon, halibut or even tuna jigging all with one rod & reel setup.
Trolling off of a downrigger is in my opinion the best method for consistently hooking blackmouth. I spend much of the winter season employing this method of fishing. I run 3 electric Hi Performance Scotty 2106 downriggers on the 26 ft. Salt Patrol Team Lowrance Boat, they’re hard to beat for producing blackmouth day in and day out. Being able to cover lots of water with your tackle at a controlled depth is an extremely effective way to fish for winter chinook that like to inhabit the deep waters of Puget Sound.
My rod & reel setup is a Shimano Tekota 500LC reel and G. Loomis 10.6-foot SAR1265C rods. The reels are spooled up with 25-pound test main line. Yes this is the one method that I still run mono line in.
Top tackle if you want to fish light is a cutplug herring. It’s hard to beat if you’re a light tackle enthusiast like myself. If there are a lot of fish around and no leader eating dogfish then you can’t beat a herring for fun on this setup.
Pro-Troll ProChip 11 Inch flashers in green glow colors are the work horse of my hardware fishing. I couple these with Silver Horde spoons, my favorites are The Coho Killer, Kingfisher and Sonic Edge. I can’t tell you over the years how many fish these spoons have produced for me.
The green glow spatter back and white glow squids and the Ace High Fly can also do plenty of damage on the blackmouth population.
For correct leader lengths visit SaltPatrol.com and check out the chart on flasher leader lengths and videos on rigging spoons and hootchies.
Trolling downriggers I spend most of my time glued to my Lowrance HDS sonar screen watching for bait or fish near the bottom and adjusting my rigger depth to match what I’m seeing on the screen. I like to run my gear about 1-2 feet above where I see salmon marks on the HDS. Salmon can look ahead or up but not down very well and like to strike from below their prey.
I like to troll bracketing the water depth by adding depth on each pass until I hit fish or locate bait. I then I try to stay with the bait or fish and keep pounding them with tackle until I get a hookup or run the fish off. Then its back on the troll, eyes glued to the sonar.
Capt John Keizer