Mooching is our method for fishing salmon at Angling Unlimited. Over the course of 25 seasons, we’ve taught a lot of people how to fish for salmon the “hands-on” way. We know it’s effective and we know that people who feel their own bite and hook their own fish have more fun and get a greater sense of satisfaction. Here are the 10 most common pitfalls aspiring salmon moochers run into:
1. Tangling the bait over the main line
Our mooching gear consists of a sliding sinker, followed by a plastic bead, a bead chain swivel, and a 7 foot leader that has a single hook or double hooks at the end. We rig a herring on those hooks so it spins. If you drop the herring straight down from the rod tip and let the sinker fall on top of it, then let it down rapidly, the bait spins over the mainline and the salmon won’t bite it. This can be avoided by gently casting so that the bait lands in a straight line beyond the sinker. Then let the line out at a steady clip, but not without a little thump pressure on the spool. It takes a little practice, but it’s essential to fishing efficiently and effectively.
2. Casting the bait off the hook
If you cast your gear with the herring below the water surface, the bait will rip off the hooks or tear in such a way that it doesn’t spin. If you don’t notice, you’ll go up and down without a chance of hooking a salmon. Even if you do notice, it means time out of the water to for a re-bait.
3. Mooching deep all the time
Puget Sound moochers who specialize in Chinook salmon are particularly fond of fishing the bottom because it works at home. In Alaska, you can do well near the bottom in some places and at some times, but there are many days when the salmon are up in the water column. Also, there are lots of locations where the bottom is covered with bottomfish. You can’t catch a king if you’re constantly reeling up small halibut, flounders, and rockfish. We’ve got great electronics on our boats and your skipper will often provide detailed information on depth of the fish. When fish aren’t showing on the sounder, work the entire column with faith that a bites come near the top just as often as near the bottom
4. Feeding the bite too long
Salmon typically inhale a bait – they don’t nibble. But, they don’t turn and swim away thus pulling down on the rod tip. The experience to the person holding the rod ranges from a slight pecking feeling, to a sudden lightness of the gear. The most common sensation is a light pecking feeling which is the fish swimming up or laterally with your bait. Don’t wait for the fish to pull down on the rod because that may never happen. Hold the rod steady, confirm living contact with your bait, and then reel. Normally this is about a 2 or 3 second process. Waiting for the hard pull down that never comes results in the salmon eating the bait right off the hooks.
5. Fiddling with the bait too much
We believe in getting the perfect spin on your bait. That said, if the captain is screaming “school of kings at 70 feet”, the last thing you want to do is bring you bait up and check the spin. Get it to 70 feet. Every moment spent adjusting the bait is a moment when you’ve got no chance of hooking a fish.
6. Set the hook too soon, too aggressively or without tension on the fish
Setting the hook is 100% optional with mooching. In other words, it’s unnecessary. If you time it right, it does no harm, but if you time wrong you’ll miss a lot of bites. Better to reel hard, catch up to the fish, keep reeling which forces the fish to turn which puts the hooks in without the need to set. If you are using circle hooks, you definitely don’t want to set under any circumstances.
7. Set the drag too light
We are serious about the sport of fishing at Angling Unlimited and we don’t encourage horsing fish in. That said, you can’t hook a salmon with the drag set too light. So, we set the drags tight for the hook up. Once the fish is hooked, the angler can go as light as he or she likes on the drag. Just remember to reset the drag before fishing again or you’ll end up reeling into your next bite only to watch the drag slip at a tension to light to put the hooks in the fish.
8. Giving up on the bite
When a good moocher misses a bite, he or she presents the bait a second time and, if necessary, a third time. Sure, the bait isn’t perfect after the first bite, it may even be gone, but making that second or third proposal often pays dividends. It’s always worth the try.
9. Fishing the same speed, all day, every day
How fast should you work your bait? That depends on a lot of things. How fast is the boat drifting? How fast are the other people on the boat working their baits? Are they catching? In general, ocean salmon are very aggressive and like fast moving baits, but they can change moods. Also, how fast the boat is drifting changes with wind and tide, which affects the speed of your bait through the water. If what you’re doing isn’t working, mix things up until you get a bite. Then, stick with that speed as long as it keeps working. Although the moderate to fast drop and retrieve is generally the rule, there are times when salmon seem to like dead slow baits and even dead baits that aren’t moving at all. Mix it up.
10. Fishing with the rod tip high
According to the old joke, the definition of fishing is a jerk at one end of the line waiting for a jerk at the other end of the line. To feel the subtle jerks at the business end of the line, you want to be as motionless as possible at your end. If you stick the butt of the rod into your gut and hold the tip high with extended arms, you won’t feel the lighter salmon bites and you’ll tire your arms, wrist, and back. Better to put lower part of the rod handle under your arm, squeeze it between the arm and your ribs and keep the tip low. You’ll have better sensitivity to the bites and you can do it all day without getting tired. Save that arm strength for fighting salmon.
We’ve all be guilty of at least one of these during our time fishing. Let us know which one you avoided that really helped you land more salmon.