Why Fish Bite

We as fisherpersons in order to catch fish need to understand what it takes to persuade fish to bite our lure/hook. We need to have the lure near/in front of them and to have it attractive enough to either fool them in to thinking is something they normally eat if they are a “willing biter”, or get mad at it and strike in a aggressive/defensive mode.
If anyone could predict exactly why and under what conditions each species of fish would consistently bite a specific lure, they would be a millionaire very soon.

Rule #1. Fish where the fish are. This sounds rather basic rule, and yes it is, here I am not trying to be funny but just practical. It my take some experimenting on your part, or it could just be following information as to where the best fishing was last week. You can not however expect to catch salmon in a river in the summer if they are on their northern migration route 1000 miles away, in Alaskan waters at that time, as compared to the fall when they are returning prior to spawning. Fish will be where their natural instincts dictate and where the food is. So at any other time other than their home to spawn timing, if you can find baitfish, like herring, anchovies, or shrimp or bugs you will usually find larger fish feeding on them.
Rule #2. The most important fundamental, if you want to catch salmon, or any other specie for that matter, the action of your bait or lure is important. If you have good rolling and/or erratic action, you will have a much better chance of catching a fish. When a salmon hits your bait or lure he is looking for dinner. If your bait looks like a wounded struggling baitfish you have a much better chance of getting the fish’s attention than a lively one swimming normally.

Rule #3. Salmon have three sensing mechanism they use to find their prey. They are Sight, Smell and lateral line response Sound. It will behoove you to use these to your advantage.
SIGHT- If you are trolling and your lure passes within a few feet of a salmon and he sees it, you will probably get him to strike, may not catch him, but that is another issue. The problem is that in the ocean and many other bodies of water the salmon can’t see more than a few feet. This gets worse as you go deeper and darker. If you are relying on sight alone, you probably won’t bring home many salmon.

Color of the lure can be very important. Some colors change dramatically as they go deeper and therefore become darker. One is RED, that color is probably the first to change to BLACK. GREEN changes to a MILITARY OD. BLUE changes to a DARKER BLUE. However YELLOW appears to get brighter. ORANGE changes to a DARKER ORANGE. WHITE turns SLIGHTLY GRAY. And CHROME is still CHROME.

With the new Ultra Violet lure colors, there is a new game in town, as shown in the photo below. This of course also depends on turbidity of the water.

Lure colors change at water depths shown below in the color spectrum, but with Ultra Violet lure colors extend considerably farther

SMELL – The second sense is smell. Salmon have an extremely sharp sense of smell, but if you are trolling a bait forty feet down and the salmon is at fifty five feet he will probably never smell the scent trail left by your bait unless he gets right behind it.

There are inline scent dispensers that are used for trolling for fish that you insert a scent into. They have small blades on the body to rotate the unit thru which small holes dispense the smell. These are used inline and are about the size of a ball point pen in diameter up to a couple of inches long.

Many companies have been founded that produce fishing scent that is either injected into the lure or smeared onto the outside of it to produce a scent attractant.
Each specie may have a scent that they seem to prefer. Like Chinook salmon seem to like anchovy, garlic and or anis. Chinook in rivers tend to prefer a “Hotter” roe cure, like adding sodium sulfite to the cure.

Lemon-scented Joy is one of the best grease-killing soaps available to the fisherpersons. Next is to clean it with Crest — REGULAR flavor Crest toothpaste

One well known guide puts a little dab of this toothpaste on the lure and I rub it, cleaning the lure with it really good just prior to putting it back in the water. It only takes a few seconds in the water with any smell left disappearing. He is adamant in using regular-flavor Crest. CLICK HERE for a full story.
For a link to a fish smell article CLICK HERE.

SOUND – The third sensing mechanism is the one you want working for you. Down a salmon’s side and on his head and back there are tiny hair-like projections called cupula. Each of these has a nerve cell at the end. These cells are used to pick up vibrations in the water. It is just like when you can feel the loud music when a teen-ager drives by with his radio music on loud.
If a salmon is swimming thirty feet down and a school of baitfish swims across the surface above him, he knows exactly what’s going on. His lateral line cells pick up the vibrations made by the wiggling tails of the baitfish. He doesn’t see them or smell them but he knows exactly where they are, very similar to like he is using radar. If some of them are wounded and swimming erratically he knows he has his next meal. This is one of the mechanisms you want to take advantage of. If your lure is putting out erratic vibrations twenty or thirty feet from a salmon you can pull him like a magnet. He will follow the vibration like a radar beam and attack your bait. This is why we say action on your bait or lure is the most important strategy you can use.

Lures like the Crocodile, Coyote spoons or the Apex plug put out the erratic powerful vibrations that will get you salmon. Some of the newer spoons now have a small spinner blade attached to the rear at the same location of the hook, this creates more vibrations. A trolled cut-plug herring creates basically the same vibrations as a wobbling spoon.
When using the imitation squid type “hoochie” lures that have no action on their own, they need to rely on a flasher for this vibration. Whenever you put a bait or lure in the water you should carefully check its action. If it is not rolling or shaking, don’t let it down. Sometimes the bait needs adjusting or a hook or swivel is lodged at a funny angle. Another possibility is that your boat trolling speed is not right for the lure you are using. Sometimes all you need to do is speed up. However if you bait is attached closely behind a dodger and is being thrown all over in a 2 foot circle, the fish may not be able to bite it. If you lengthen the leader, the circle may diminish to say 6″ which the fish may then be able to attach and become hooked.
Currently Pro Troll as come up with what they call an “E-Chip”. It is a small round metal tube that apparently inside on one end is a chip. Inside this tube is a small steel ball. The whole thing is then capped off and sealed. What it is supposed to do is when the ball bumps the chip as the lure or flasher rotates or wobbles, it lets off small electrical impulses like a wounded or scared baitfish. This is supposed to RING THE DINNER BELL.

They make a flasher Pro Troll 11 and a Pro Chip 8, quite similar to the Hot Spot flasher and then a plug called the Sting King, again similar to the Apex along with a rotary helmet with these chips in all of them.

From what I have tried of these, believe me, they DO out-fish the plain ones.


Again these are the three main attractants in fishing, I repeat myself here, from the above, but it is important. Sight is any attraction by a flasher, plus the lure itself.  Smell will be the use of natural bait or scent.  Sound is created by the Flasher, and the lure itself, these create a erratic vibrations that may convey to a fish that their buddies are attacking baitfish.

For optimum results, all of these should compliment each other. Most effective baits / lures try to capture this objective. Plus read the paragraph below.

Rule #3 1/2 . Now you may have heard that a falling barometer also triggers fish into biting. Yes, this can very well be so, and I can say I have seen it happen. However it was also at a upcoming outgoing tide, in a known area where salmon seem to stage at that time of the tide. But we had fished pretty much all day, after 6 hours, and then within a 1/2 hour period we hooked and landed our 2 salmon. Right after we landed the second fish and headed for the dock, it started raining, then thunder/lightning, hail along with more rain. I will never know if this storm had any effect on our success as being in the right spot, time and of course fresh bait surely did not hurt, so possibly a combo of them all came into play here.

This is the evidence of the falling barometer in addition with the other needed components which may have contributed to the catch of this Columbia River Spring Chinook.

Why Fish Don’t Bite ; OK maybe this is in order also. How many times when you are driving a car that the sun is in your eyes, you are straining to see good. Fish are no different but they don’t have the ability to use sun visors and they have no eyelids. But they have an option of looking the other way, which may be away from your lure. I suggest you read the book “Charlie White’s 101 Fishing Secrets”. In it he shares some of his underwater camera observations. One is that fish never approach or strike a lure if the sun is in their eyes. This could also be construed to come under my rule #1.

You should be trolling WITH the current. It also may need to be looked at more so if you are fishing in shallower water. So when you are in a situation where the current or tide pushes you into trolling in one direction but the sun is on your bow, you should probably consider to trolling in a zig-zag course. Salmon will always be swimming into the current, or at least heading into it to maintain position, however possibly allowing the current to push them backwards if that is where they want to go. With the sun at their back they can see better. However I doubt this would pertain as much if you are using downriggers when fishing 120′ deep.

Cleanliness ;
Now let’s take another look at Rule #2, smell.
Many times in things pertaining to fishing, cleanliness is next to godliness. Therefore think of anything that you touch, or comes in contact with anything that may impart a offensive odor. Do you strip and clean your sardine wrapped KwikFish after using them and putting them away? How about cleaning your spinners that are attached to a lure that you have used salmon roe, tuna oil, shrimp, prawn, or even herring or anchovy? Then there is your attractant dodgers or flashers.

One very easy method is to purchase a painter’s 5 quart plastic bucket with a snap on lid. Fill it with clean non chlorinated water, squirt a small amount of Lemon Joy soap into the water. Use this to soak your lures and flashers in. If you are fishing the next day, leave them in it. If it may not be until next week-end, then wash them off, dry them and store them.
Any of these little things that many fishermen overlook, my be a contributing factor that is why your neighboring boat is catching fish and you are not. Years ago in my commercial salmon trolling years, we used a gallon jug of herring oil, that after we were done pulling gear, all of the spoons, rigged hoochies and flashers were either soaked in or at least dipped in until the next trip. This did two things, it protected the metal parts from corroding/rusting AND removed any bad smells.

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