Bottom Bouncing And Bar Fishing For Chinook and Sockeye

Bottom bouncing and bar fishing for Chinook and Sockeye salmon has become far and away the most prominent method of fishing in recent summer runs for sports fishermen. Gear used for bottom bouncing in rivers such as the Columbia or Fraser, is unlike any other and very productive. The only necessity to have a good day fishing Sockeye using this method, is making sure they will be there in moderate numbers allowing even beginners, to experience results!

Lets have a look at some of the standard stuff now. A 1O.6 ft graphite rod that is used for salmon and levelwind reel is a typical river set up and will be perfect. If you are new to bottom bouncing and don’t have funds to go buy anything right away, a medium action spinning rod and reel in the 8 to 9ft range can get you started too. The terminal tackle such as weights, line swivels and more also make all the difference and we’ll have a look at that next.

Heres a very “raw” idea of the ways I like to hook up an easy, non-bulky rig for my bottom bouncing tackle;

bottom bouncing setup

A large river system plus a large fish like a King salmon equals allot of stress on your gear. This all equates to have a line that has a strong enough test as to not snap yet not be too much to damage lost fish or equipment. My motto to buying anything (my wife hates it) is “you always get what you pay for!”

This modo has cost me allot of money but everything I buy lasts me!! When it comes to fishing line this modo holds true – buy quality or you will be sorry. A 15lb to 30lb test is perfect for your mainline and a capacity of 150 to 225yds is good, especially if you hook a big Chinook! I like the super lines such as Berkleys Fire-Line as the actual diameter of the line is so thin, that you can beef up your test a bit, it doesn’t have memory like monofilament and it’s got much more feeling transmitting which results in more hook sets. Berkley has won awards for it’s new “Fireline – Crystal” which integrates the quality of superline of a braided nature and clarity of a monofilament line, making for the most versatile and powerful superline available.

The next thing you’ll need is a basic swivel, size 10 or 8 will work. I like to have a ball chain swivel connected to my leader from my main line. Before I attach my ball chain though I put a bead that is bigger than the eye of the Bouncing Betty weight that will slide up and down the line freely above the swivel. The ball chain swivel acts as a guard from the bouncing betty weight, that can damage the mainline, put nicks in it and lead to a lost fish or leader setup. The bead above the swivel acts as a bearing and allows the bouncing betty weight to move around and not get hung up on the swivel as it’s moving in the water. This setup is my favorite and is one of many ways to rig up your salmon gear.

From left to right: ball chain swivels (my fav), standard barrel swivel, ball bearing swivels that are very strong and fantastic for stealthy rigs (especially when steelheading), and another 3 way swivel great for bar fishing that can all be used.

There are several different types of weights on the market that work well while bottom bouncing and bar fishing for Chinook and Sockeye salmon. First is standard pencil lead, its cheap and versatile, although can cause problems. Pencil lead is commonly bought in coils. The advantage to pencil lead is how it’s bought, as you can cut off exactly how much weight you want to use. The disadvantage of it is that if you don’t know how much weight to cut off, you won’t get the depth or feel that you need, not ot mention it’s made of lead so it’s toxic and not good for the environment. Pencil lead is also cumbersome and is not as popular as a bouncing betty weight ball – I wouldn’t recommend them for this specific fishing technique.

Another weight used while bottom bouncing is called a slinky weight. A good way to describe this is; a cord with lead or steel split-shot pushed inside while the ends are heated shut and a snapswivel is attatched at the end so you can hook it up to another swivel or your line.

The advantage to a slinky weight is that they are less likely to get snagged because they are less likely to hang up unlike other weights. A disadvantage to them is they don’t have as much bottom “feel” or transmission as say, a ball weight.

After we have our rod, reel, mainline and swivel picked out the next thing we need to discover is how to choose a good leader for the system we’re fishinig. The leader material should be one or two line “ratings” less than your mainline, 12 or 15lb test is usually good for your blueback (Sockeye), but for beginners or even advanced anglers, you may want to use a heavier test like a 25lber in case you get into a rockin’ Springer.

Remember how I said you get what you pay for? Well a good abrasian resistant, stiff mono that is of good quality, will find you better landing chances. With that, the next tip I give you is arguably one of the most contraversial peices of advice out there! Ready? You want Sockey and Sping salmon? Use a 15 FOOT leader!! Yup 15 feet! This is considered “cheating” by allot of anglers or conservationists and is deadly effective, but I’m telling you the secret to catching lots of fish here right? Some will call it flossing or snagging, but above all It’s one true way to get an unbelievable amount of salmon in the big coastal river systems.

Don’t piss your fellow anglers off!! WATCH YOUR LINE! Read this!

Try and remember that casting a leader that is 15 feet long on a big river can be difficult, challenging and dangerous. Hooks are floating under the water and cannot be seen! If you have a couple “beaks” (slang for an angler with no etiquette and is only interested in his own environment or gear.), that are way out in the water infront of everyone elses drift, you have to reel in sooner so you don’t hook them.

Also always be aware of your back-cast and actual cast! Most fishermen who are bottom bouncing have laser sharp hooks that will cut through your leg or head with ease. One more thing to remember; while landing a big King long leaders can prove to be even more of a task as your leader is only able to reel up as far as your weight and rod tip will allow, or in other words, once your weight hits your rod tip you still have a fifteen foot leader with a fish on the end that you have to land somehow!

Common “lures” if that’s what you want to call it – considering salmon are generally territorial and not biteing, but rather getting snagged – will consist of either Spin ‘n’ glows, corkies and/or yarn. Color is not very important and I have always had great success with all colors although purple or bright yellow (chartreuse) is my most successful color. Size 12 or 14 is common for spin ‘n’ glo’s and corkies, while a “tuft” of wool that is about as long as two digits of your finger long will work.

Last on the list is the hook. Standard steelhead style hooks are perfect, size 1 to 3/0 work fine. Remember, as with line, you get what you pay for. Buy quality hooks, its worth it.

Finally, now that we have our bottom bouncing set up all ready, how do we fish it? Well it is not all too difficult but will require some practice to fully master. Basically you will want to make your cast slightly up stream, then immediately pick up your slack line, but do not retrieve. Allow your gear to bump along the river bottom.

While your gear is travelling along the river bottom, follow its direction with your rod tip and hold your rod at about 45 degrees up from the horizon. After you have gone about 25 yards, then retrieve and repeat. When you are first getting started don’t worry too much about feeling the bite or take of the fish. It is very subtle and for the most part this will take care of itself as the rod will just bend over and get heavy and the fish is on!

Here’s a tip; as your line starts to flow past you feed additional line out to extend your drift, but be sure to keep enough tension on your line in case you get a hit.

Fraser river Sockeye fishing is unique in that this is an abundant fishery, so retention of fish is permited and this is a good thing. There is nothing better than enjoying a fresh sockeye with family and friends that you actually caught yourself. As anglers we have a responsibility to make sure that the fish we retain are not wasted. Here are a few tips to make sure your catch makes it home in prime condition.

Once you have caught a Sockeye and have dispatched it, cut or pull out a gill from both sides of the fish. This will allow the fish to completely bleed out. Bleeding stops any bruising and improves the quality of the meat. Allow about ten minutes to properly bleed out the fish. As soon as the fish is finished bleeding then clean or dress the fish immediately. Once the fish is properly dressed out, you must store it on ice in a cooler. Fish start to go bad as soon as you kill them, so the cleaner the better.

I have seen many Sockeye stored unbled and uncleaned on the beach or in the shallows by the beach basically rotting in the sun, this is such a waste. After all the effort and expense it takes to go fishing, it just makes good sense to make sure our catch comes home in prime condition and not as fertilizer.

The reality of living in a populated area is that when the weather is warm and there are lots of fish around, the people just seem to come out of the woodwork! The fact is, you will probably be fishing with other anglers, in some cases, lots of other anglers. In peak season, 3000 to 5000 anglers per day will fish the Fraser river for Sockeye. The good news is that the Fraser is huge and there is room for all.

Flossing and Lining

What the heck is flossing or lining a fish? Well it’s basically a technique that is used while bottom bouncing, common while bar fishing the Faser for sockeye and chinook. A long leader that is anywhere from 6 to 12 feet in length is used to sweep across the river bed as it drifts downstream with intentions of hooking a fish in it’s mouth as the line acts like tooth floss. The line is often undetected by the salmon and so it shouldn’t be as fish are not really biting out of hunger in river systems, but biting for protection of their territory against objects that annoy them.

Most anglers who are on rock and gravel beds floss because it’s what they know and it provides a very productive way of fishing, although some anglers as well as conservationists disagree with it. Some see it as “snagging,” where the fish are not being hooked out of hunger or even instinct really, but rather being hooked technically in the mouth – which is legal, not to mention fun. Wether it’s morally correct is up to the individuals fishing the water – they have to decide if what they are doing is okay for that fishery.

Here are a couple of examples of superline that are commonly used for bottom bouncing. I’ve had great success with the inexpensive Power Pro, but Berkley Fireline has been a staple among anglers for some time. Don’t think that you need to buy in these quantities! You can always buy in smaller quantities and pay maybe 40 bucks to spool up your reel.

Most fishing regulations request that you target specific species of salmon during the run ex: Springs in the early season without effecting the spawning paths of the Sockeye. Here is where flossing or lining gets a little more “test y.” It’s almost impossible to target Chinook when flossing as the only differences that I’ve seen in past experiences is that Chinooks will often be in faster deeper water, which really doesn’t’ mean anything considering that Sockeye are just as likely to be there, maybe just not as often!

Basically, this is a personal decision, but as I see it, most anglers have decided to accept this style of fishing and enjoy this tremendous fishery that the Fraser River has to offer. What do you think?

  • Wether you believe it or not, experience WILL tell you that when fishing in busy river systems sometimes refferred to as “bottom bouncing” or “bar fishing,” there IS actually an etiquette! Much like golfing you should try your best follow and pass on these ideas:
  1. Never cast your line or lure on top of another’s line. More times than none, this will result in a snag, but most importantly the loss of a fish that may not be legal if one is hooked by accident not to mention angry anglers and they can get real angry. (remember its supposed to be fun!)
  2. Always cast upstream and don’t cast any more than two people above you if it’s shoulder to shoulder crowds. Casting upstream more than that effects the “flow” of casting to anglers and can be frustrating to have to wait for someone who does this.
  3. As your line drifts downstream, keep it clear of peoples legs that are in the river, and don’t forget that your line will be further down the stream than where you see it go into the water. If you can see the person beside you at the end of your drift in a straight river, chances are you’re line has drifted too long.
  4. The person who is up-stream from you always casts first! You should be aware of your surroundings, whats going on and wait for the line to drift down a bit before casting OVER their line. This will help prevent snags and keep the casting flow going.
  5. If you have a fish on your line, you should yell “fish on” to let people know that you’ll need space.
  6. If you think that you have a Chinook on – usually they strip lots of line from your reel immediately, or they will hold in one spot or they will give a “head shake” which will cause your rod tip to go down in large downward bends – yell “SPRING ON!” and start moving with it down the river if you have to (and usually you have to!)
  7. If you think that you have a Sockey – which instantly go nuts and move all over the place – or something else on, you should be able to bring the fish in where you are, so try not to take up the whole river unless your not sure, and get it in as quickly (without horsing it) as possible.
  8. It’s common sense, not to mention illegal in some cases and un-ethical in most others, that if you have your limit, you should give your spot up to another angler.
  9. Clean up after your self for goodness sakes!! Theres enough lost gear in the river as it is and it doesnt’ warrant you being able to leave your beer/pop cans or tackle on the river bar.
  10. Read the rules of the regulations before you fish. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen guys out there catching fish and not knowing what kind of fish they had or what body of water allowed them to fish for certain species of salmon. The species section will help you with this, so please take advantage of it!
  11. Have fun! Plain and simple. If you follow these rules you’ll have fun out there, and just remember there are always going to be “grumpy fishers” out there that are not willing to teach beginners and show a little patience, but rather complain and whine. It’s best to avoid these people all together, as they just wreck the sport for everyone.

If you look to escape the “hustle and bustle” of bottom bouncing and bar fishing for Chinook and Sockeye, and would like to use the clarity of water to really see what???s happening when you chuck a lure or fly, try your luck at drift fishing for Steelhead or Coho! Drift fishing can really provide some amazing landscapes to enjoy while floating through some of the best untouched pools and back eddies where un-pressured fish love to smash whatever you put in front of them!