Trolling Freshwater Spoons


Trolling freshwater spoons for salmon is a technique that many use in the great lakes as well as big water reservoirs and other large lakes where salmon are to be found.  A spoon is most effective for species of salmon like Chinook and Coho as well as land locked Steelhead.chinook coho steelhead

The reason for the effectiveness of this type of trolling can be explained when you look at how a spoon works in the water given the proper speed and spoon.  First off when a spoon is being trolled behind a boat at a speed designed for that particular lure, you will get usually one of two things:

    baitfish - herring
  • Eratic movements that simulate wounded bait fish.
  • Eratic movements that simulate escaping or distressed bait fish.

Both are effective if used properly as the design will produce a movement that is almost identical to that of a bait fish, which accounts for the majority of a salmons natural diet.   Number one is usually used at slow speeds where the spoon simply flutters or wobbles from side to side with an occaisional dart off to one side, where number 2 provides more quick and jagged movements that are extremely random and really simulate the movements of a small fish in distress at higher speeds.

Speed, is therefore a very important factor and is just as important as picking the proper spoon out for conditions that you will be fishing for salmon in.  Another factor that I find is more important than speed is temperature.

Temperature - The "X" Factor

Temperature is probably the one thing that we can't really control when we're fishing so I like to call it the X factor because of it's important role in fishing for any species of fish. The ultimate temperature in a freshwater lake when salmon fishing is often referred to by scientist as the thermocline. This layer of water provides the most amount of dissolved oxygen, where there is a large number of bait fish which in turn promote predatory big game fish feeding.

The thermocline is usually between 10-80 feet in depth and provides Coho and Chinook with temperatures they like and metabolize best at, ranging from 44° to 58°.  This is the magic temperature in which salmon feel the safest and therefore are very active.  

Tip: It’s important to recognize that the thermocline is seldom constant in large bodies of water, as the waves, currents and time of year or day effect the temperature of open freshwater. A tool like a water temperature gage can effectively help you find the isotherm where salmon hang out.

If you can find where the fish are – which is allot easier when trolling because of the amount of quality water covered – get your speed and your spoon right and you have some understanding of how fish “think” or react in their environment, you will with out a doubt, out fish anyone with any other technique or method.  It can be tough to have all those factors in your favor and sometimes it’s just being at the right place at the right time, but 90% of it is having all these factors working for you for maximum results.
 
Choosing the right trolling spoon:

If you decide that you need to add some new spoons to your tackle box, Go Salmon Fishing.com recommends you trying something that is light weight and thin for the best results.  These two attributes will create very natural looking simulations of baitfish and will really attract a salmons instinctive nature to attack, making it a little easier to get the response you're after.

Tip: most manufacturers of spoons, design a lure for both trolling and casting!  For trolling we recommend a very light weight – if not the lightest – spoon available in that model for trolling purposes.

How to set up a trolling rig and what goes hand in hand with freshwater spoons:


Dodgers - First thing you need to be aware of is something called a dodger.  A dodger is simply an attractor that is paired with a spoon when fish are a distance away, in low visibility water or are in deep dark water.  Dodgers simply help the fish see your spoon which may otherwise go undetected and if you’ve ever trolled a “ford fender” lure, consider the ford fender your dodger and the wedding band your spoon!

Stealthy and Cheap - My favorite two words. Choosing a Leadcore is a great idea for trolling if you incorporate it with a planer board.  The leadcore line gets your line down deep and when used with a super stealthy fluorocarbon leader, can be deadly effective!  For an even more effectiveness throw the planer board to the mix!  The planer acts as a way to deviate the spoon away from the path of the boat resulting in undisturbed water.  All of this gear gets you spoon trolling deep, away from the boat, in undisturbed water in a stealthy fashion and is very cost effective!

Divers - Another cost effective - cheap - way to get your spoon down into deeper water and are similar to the way a downrigger works - which is much more expensive but much more effective.

Go Salmon Fishing.com covers dodgers, flashers, divers and downriggers in other sections  of salmon fishing tips and techniques if you would like to learn more about them and possibly purchase one, so be sure to check out further articles or go to the tackle shop on the homepage.

It's business time! Hard cold facts:

Deciding what type of Spoon to use in conjunction with your dodger or flasher or maybe just by itself can be a difficult task, but we want to clear some of that up for you right here, right now.  Believe it or not salmon actually have a preference as to what design or color that they like and although it’s not set in stone you can definitely use these guidelines to determine what colors are best for your day out on the lake.

Coho Spoons Suggestions:

For Coho salmon I suggest trying something silver, silver and blue or orange and green.  I’ve always loved the Blue Fox Vibrax in silver and blue as I’ve had great success with it in rivers and lakes.  I have also had good luck with spoons like Flutter Spoons, BlueFox Pixie spoons and Luhr Jensen Rattlesnakes.  Try and stick with size 3 and 4 at ½ or ¼ oz, although if the water is under allot of pressure you can try a number 2.

Try adding a dodger ahead of your spoon for some added action but make sure it’s small.  That should get you a couple of spoons tucked into your tackle box that I know works as great freshwater spoon staples.

 

I’ve often caught Coho right on the surface, but they are usually found from the surface to down about fifty feet of water as they prefer the shallows to the deep water like Chinook.

Chinook Spoon Suggestions:

Springs or Kings will always hold in deeper water than the Coho who prefer the shallows.  Over the years I’ve always had better luck hooking into a spring when I’ve used something to get my spoon down, and have found the same to be true even when casting spoons into rivers. 

For color on Chinook spoons I like to go with a blue and green spoon.  Hot Spots Apex Salmon Killer and Hot Spot Apex UV Series spoons are fantastic lures to add to your tackle, but my absolute favorite has to be the blue and green Dreamweaver although I’ve had great luck on a blue and green Fishlander Wobble spoon as well.  Silver and pearl metallic colors work very well with King salmon as well.



Quick tips:

  • Shallow water spoon trolling usually doesn’t require any weight at all although you can use a small ½ ounce sinker 6 feet from the spoon.
  • When trolling spoons in freshwater, keep them anywhere from 50-150 feet from the boat.
  • Trolling works great during dawn, dusk and times when the water has low visibility but the sun is shining.
  • Spoons are great partners for downriggers, divers and dodgers or both!  Remember “dodge, flash, dive,” and you will remember what spoons work great with!
  • Big fish like Chinook prefer water temperatures to be 45 degrees F when trolling so bring a water temperature gage of some sort.

Try trolling saltwater spoons for an experience all of it's own or read about it first here.