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B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
Sockeye Strategies
by Bob Waldhaus
Every June and July we head to Port Alberni to fish sockeye. This is a fantastic fishery which attracts hundreds of anglers every year. The sockeye returns these past few years have been fantastic and we have had many great days catching these wonderful fish. Last year was an exceptionally good year. We would head out on the water around 5 am, with 4 people on board it took no time in filling our 16 fish limit. We would spend no more than 2 hours on the water and we would be done for the day. The strategies I use to catch sockeye have stayed consistent through the years. When fishing sockeye you must get as much gear in the water as possible. I will run 2 dumby flashers (A dumby flasher is a flasher with no leader or hoochie attached) and 4 rods. That gives me 6 flashers in the water with 4 having gear attached. To start it is very important to use dumby flashers on both downriggers. The flashers are usually setup 10 feet behind the boat and are clipped on just above the cannon ball. From there you drop down 10 feet and attach your first rod and ensure the distance to the flasher is 10 feet behind the boat. You then drop another 10 feet and attach another rod and flasher, again 10 feet behind the boat. This setup with give you 3 flashers 10 feet apart with the top 2 having gear attached. This is my most effective way to catch sockeye. From here you would determine what depth to fish. My rule of thumb is to have one side 5 feet deeper than the other. For example having one side at 55 feet and the other at 50 feet would give your gear depths of 45,40,35,30 feet. The gear I use again doesn’t change much year to year. MP15 Bubblegum hoochies, Blue - Pink hoochies and White-pink hoochies have been very productive every year. Some folks will run just black hooks or red hook with great success as well. My Leader lengths range from 18inches to 23 inches with 23 inches being my most popular. I use green or red Hotspot flashers as well as pink haze. My trolling speeds vary between 1.8 and 2.0 knots.
When the fishing is really good, as it was last year, it is pretty easy for most folks to have great success catching sockeye using almost any techinique. When the sockeye fishing is slow as it has been so far this year I find the techniques I use can increase my odds dramatically. These past few weeks have been very slow due to the colder weather, with most folks not catching any sockeye at all after many hours on the water. I have yet to have a really poor day. I have managed to catch at least 4 sockeye every trip. When the sockeye are not schooling up it becomes very challenging to get them to bite. I find that trolling very slowly and varying my speeds periodically can trigger a strike. Once you get one sockeye on your rod watch the other rods because it is very common to have one or two more strikes while reeling in the first fish. When fishing is slow it is also very important to quickly get over the same area you just caught that fish. I will plot the spot on my GPS where I caught the fish and perform a figure eight trolling pattern over the same spot a few times. I have had much success doing this and on slow days can double or triple my catch very quickly. While on the water always watch what other boats are doing. Sockeye school up and if you see someone fighting a fish there is a good chance that person is over a school of fish so head in that direction. Many times when you get to that spot the action will start. If you get a chance to get to Port Alberni to fish sockeye try some of these techniques. Sockeye fishing is also the perfect fishery to introduce kids to salmon fishing. With warm weather now upon us the sockeye fishing should be fantastic in the coming weeks. Sockeye fishing in Port Alberni is good from mid June until early to mid August.
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by Bob Waldhaus
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