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Coho (Silver) Salmon

What to expect in Sitka:

Season: Silvers typically show up around Sitka around the first week of July, but the timing is a bit variable. We’ve seen decent silver catches as early as mid-June. On the flip side, in rare years they show as late as the last week of July. The driving forces in coho concentrations are food and oceanic currents. In order to grow so quickly, coho follow the most nutrient rich water. Fortunately, the waters around Sitka: Biorka Island, Shark Hole, and the open ocean North Pacific attract massive schools of baitfish nearly all summer long. Find the bait, and the silvers will surely follow. Expect silver fishing to remain good well into the second week of September in salt water. Fresh water fly fishing for silvers begins in the third week of September and peaks in October.

Size: Early season coho average between 6 and 8 pounds. By late July that average creeps up to 8 to 10 pounds. You can expect a general pattern of increasing size throughout the season with the biggest silvers coming in from mid-August through the second week of September. Silvers from 12 to 16 pounds show up in our catches fairly often in August. Cohos over 20 pounds are ever possible, but anything but common.

Techniques: Silvers can be caught fly fishing, downrigger fishing with flasher and hoochies, jigging, and working artificial baits like Berkley Gulp. Most AU silvers are caught mooching. The method is extremely effective; you can catch kings, chums, and pinks at the same time; and it’s hands-on. Our fishing mantra is simple: you hold the rod, you feel the bite, you hook the fish, and you bring the fish to the net. Fishing is not a spectator sport and you didn’t come all the way to Alaska to sit there passively waiting for your line to pop free of a downrigger.

Gear:  Mooching gear for silvers begins with top of the line G.Loomis rods ranging from 8’6” to 10’6” in length – your pick. We pair that with a Shimano Tekota 500 LC, which features a line counter so you know the depth of your gear all the time. We spool the reel with Berkley Big-Game 20 pound test in solar collector green. We use sliding weights from Metzler, Berkley Big-Game 30 or 40 pound test leader, and the world’s sharpest hooks from Gamagatsu. We also use circle hooks form Daiichi and Owner when catch and release is the priority. For bait, we use a plug-cut herring 99% of the time, but we’re developing a growing interest in artificial baits, specifically Berkley Gulp. Everything we use is available from our favorite supplier – Ted’s Sporting Center ( in Lynnwood, Washington.

Regulations: Six silvers per angler per day. There is no annual limit and no minimum size limit.

Crazy Cohos: Coho (silvers) salmon double their body weight between June and September in their final summer. When food is abundant, they will pack on a pound a week. In people, we’d call this an eating disorder. In fish, we call it perfect. Especially when a frenzied school surrounds the boat, chasing baits, chasing each other, eating bare hooks, biting sinkers and generating the kind of pandemonium that dreams are made of. How long do these “white hot” bites last? In real time, they go from 10 minutes to a couple hours. In memory, the sights and sounds of fish jumping on the ends of all four lines, free swimming fish racing past the boat, and anglers shouting and scrambling around the decks, lasts forever.