NEW! Salmon Trout Steelheader RSS Feeds

Bringing more fishing news, articles and tips your way, instantly!

Tactics & Tricks RSS Feed Subscribe to Tactics & Tricks

Salmon & Crab: Offshore Double

Issue: September 2015

Posted on: 2015-09-01Early fall is one of the best times to head offshore in search of fish and crabs. If spending a day on the ocean, be prepared to devote some time cooking and cleaning crabs, because offshore catch rates can be high. Cover

A year ago in this column I shared tips on doubling-up on salmon and crabs while fishing inside bays. This time, let’s take a look at offshore opportunities, where the fishing can be good, but the crabbing, second to none.

One of the best-kept secrets in the recreational crabbing world is the rich, offshore water harboring crabs. The sandy environment located just off the main beach and beyond the breakers creates an ideal crab habitat and receives little pressure from sportsmen. When seasons and weather conditions allow access to these sites, crabbing action can be top-notch.

Contrary to what many believe, heading as far as possible offshore is not necessarily the best crabbing option, so before going out to salmon fish, drop the crab pots. Sticking close to shore, in 20 to 75 feet of water where sand accumulates and crabs thrive, will yield high success. Oftentimes you need only travel a couple hundred yards over the bar or outside the mouth of a bay to access prime crabbing grounds.

To save time and prevent drifting while setting pots, bait them prior to leaving the dock. Secure baits in each pot, coil the rope and buoys atop the pots, then, once you reach the crabbing zone, quickly drop the pots. Pots are usually dropped in a straight line parallel to shore which will allow currents to carry scent from your bait along the sandy habitat crabs thrive in. Secure the bait from the top of the pot, so if sand does drift into the trap, it won’t cover the bait.

By staying close to shore, typically within 500 yards, rocky outcroppings and deep seas can be avoided. Rock structures claim numerous pots as they get permanently lodged between them. In addition, strong currents and deep runs can be avoided by working closer to shore. Pots tossed too far out are susceptible to being carried away by harsh currents and even large, seagoing vessels. When crabbing offshore, avoid dropping your pots in shipping lanes.

Hitting sandy and/or muddy bottoms will produce the highest crab catch. If you don’t have hi-tech’ sonar to read such features, purchasing a navigational marine map is the way to go. These maps, created by NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Association), can usually be found at marine shops and government offices, and they show in good detail the substrates present along the coastline.

Though seasonal openings and closures dictate when crabbing beyond bays can be practiced, if you’re prepared the success can be astounding. Not only will these waters yield more crabs than in bays, but on average, larger ones.

Posted on: 2015-09-01 When heading out ocean fishing for salmon or bottom fish, drop some crab pots on the way out. If offshore crabbing is new to you, you’ll be amazed at how good it can be, and how large the crabs run. Cover

Buoy lines stretching 100 feet in length are ideal for offshore crab pots, though if working close to shore, 75 feet of rope will suffice. It’s better to have too much rope than not enough, keeping the buoys on the surface. Adding up to five pounds of extra weight in your pot is also a good idea. The added weight will keep the pots on the bottom, guarding against longshore currents that may otherwise carry them away. Be sure to check these pots at least once a day, twice being preferred, as you don’t want them becoming sanded-in.

If you don’t have a boat that’s sea-worthy, there are guides up and down the Pacific Coast who offer combination fishing and crabbing trips. For these adventures, it’s a good idea to get as many friends together as possible and fill the boat, for there’s potential to come away with not only limits of salmon, but loads of crabs.

During one offshore crabbing run out of Winchester Bay, Oregon, two buddies and I dropped our pots in the morning, hammered six salmon and pulled three limits of crabs on the way back to port. While launching out of Pacific City with my buddy, Capt’ Bill Hook and his son, we drew blanks on salmon, but caught a few bottom fish and our limits of extra-large crabs.

If heading offshore, be certain your boat is properly equipped and those operating skills and boat knowledge honed. Be aware that ocean conditions can quickly change, and that circumstances in any given body of water may vary from day to day. Respect the ocean, pay close attention to every detail and get those pots ready for some of the best crabbing you’ll ever experience.

Editor’s Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular, how-to book Recreational Dungeness Crabbing, send a check for $13.00 (includes S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This and other educational books, including cookbooks, can be ordered online at

Fishing Barbless Hooks

Issue: August 2015

Posted on: 2015-08-01Trokar’s 20º offset, 30º downturned point and three-angled sharpening approach set it apart from all other single, barbless hooks. These hooks are catching lots of fish, and fishermen, where barbless rules are in effect. Cover

Just pinch down the barbs and call it good!” I hear it so many times over the course of the year, and have been doing it myself for decades. But with today’s specialized barbless hooks being crafted, pinching down the barbs should become a thing of the past.

In today’s growing number of fisheries requiring the use of barbless hooks, manufacturers are stepping-up to meet the needs of anglers, and Eagle Claw appears to be leading the way. With precision-made barbless hooks, not only is the goal to lessen injury to fish being released, but to land more fish where they can be retained in waters where barbless-hook rules are in effect.

For whatever reason, a lot of people struggle with the concept of buying barbless hooks. Folks are content pinching down the barbs on their standard hooks with pliers and getting to fishing. But when you look closely at hook design, it’s easy to see why barb pinching may not be the best option. Most salmon and steelhead hooks have rounded, needle-like points, which are great for gaining initial penetration when a fish is hooked. The goal of the rounded tip is to drive the hook deep into the jaw of a fish, past the barb. The barb then becomes the contact point that keeps the fish on the hook, not the point.

But when a barb is pinched down, essentially all it’s doing is extending the needle-like point. This rounded, elongated tip, when buried into the jaw of a fish, moves around, back and forth, even gyrates, which makes the hole bigger. Eventually, given any slack, the hook can easily slip out, allowing the fish to get away. New, barbless hooks are designed to remedy this issue.

In a recent conversation with Eagle Claw representative, Bill Matthews, he enlightened me to advances the Colorado-based, American-made hook company is striving for in their line of Trokar barbless hooks. “The Trokar hook features a point that’s sharpened on three sides, versus the traditional needle-like, round sharpening style,” Bill begins. “This design offers deep, sturdy penetration that sticks and holds.”

Not only does the three-angle sharpening create a wedge-style hook point, it’s broader compared to rounded points, so is less likely to move around and create a larger gap as a fish is being fought. In addition to the angled sharpening approach, the bend of the hook also takes into consideration the lack of a barb.

“The new Trokar Octopus-style barbless hook (model TK405B), features a 20º offset, which is bigger than most offsets, and it has a 30º downturn on the point,” Matthews continues. “So, combined with the sharpness of this style of hook, the angles maximize the ability to hook and penetrate, meaning catch rates increase.”

During last fall’s Buoy 10 fishery—where barbless hooks are mandatory—several select anglers were testing these Trokar barbless hooks. The overall reports were impressive, with many claiming the Trokar barbless hook equaled or bettered their regular hookup rates from pinched-barb hooks. Many anglers even swapped out their spinners’ treble hooks for Trokar’s open-eye barbless Siwash hook, model TK440, reasoning the single, long-shanked Siwash hook outperformed shallower shanked treble hooks. Even on twisting, twirling, hard-fighting coho—the ultimate in barbless fishing challenges—reports of increased hookup rates, prevailed.

Posted on: 2015-08-01When a fish starts twisting and turning on the surface, the odds of losing them greatly increases with a barbless hook. That’s why it’s important to understand the technology behind today’s specially crafted barbless hooks, and give them a chance.  Cover

The Octopus-style barbless Trokar comes in sizes #1/0-6/0, and is good for mooching herring, trolling bait, and more. The Siwash-style barbless Trokar comes in sizes #1-7/0, which I personally tried on plugs and spinners for salmon and large trout in Alaska, and was more than impressed with the results. In fact, one day I hooked seven coho on the Siwash attached to a 4.5 Mag Lip, and landed every single fish.

The beefier point of the Trokar hooks, which act like a knife blade, means they take longer to degrade in saltwater, and sharpening is less frequently needed. While Eagle Claw has yet to develop a barbless treble hook in either the Eagle Claw or Trokar lines, Maruto creates a barbless treble in sizes for salmon, steelhead and trout anglers.

Maruto, of Japan, makes what’s called a semi-barbless hook, under the Grabber Hook title. Upon close inspection, the inside of each hook point features small serrations that increase holding strength once a fish is hooked, due to the angle of pressure. These hooks have been approved as barbless in multiple states, including Oregon and Washington, and are available in a range of sizes at

With growing restrictions on barbless hooks, and with more cognizant efforts to release fish in as healthy a state as possible, give these barbless hooks a try. Not only are they better for the fish being released due to less damage being inflicted, catch rates are greater than fish battled on hooks where barbs have simply been smashed down with pliers. In this day and age of technology, change can be a good thing, especially when it comes to specialized, barbless hooks.

Editor’s Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, 300 Tips To More Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $30.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit Follow Scott on Instragram, Twitter & Facebook

Egg Cures for Summer Steelhead

Issue: June 2015

Posted on: 2015-06-23 Cover

As summer progresses and low, clear water prevails, catching finicky summer steelhead becomes even more challenging. While steelhead can be fished a number of ways this time of year, when it comes to bait, the egg is arguably the best natural bait.

Sand shrimp, prawns, salad shrimp, crawdad tails and other baits work well, but more summer steelhead are caught on cured eggs, or roe, than any other bait. Knowing this, what delineates a good summer steelhead egg cure?

Because most steelhead fishing with eggs takes place in fast water, many anglers consider taste to be the primary target in a good bait. For this reason, it’s important to present a bait steelhead like the taste of and will hold in their mouth.

I consider sight to be the second most important factor in a good egg cure. Because steelhead have superior vision, they have the ability to detect minute particles floating downstream. A good color combination of eggs, yarn and a drift bobber of choice can mean the difference in making a fish move, wanting to bite, or remaining closed-mouth. This is why many anglers prefer bright orange, pink or red dyed eggs.

Smell would rank third on my list of priorities when trying to achieve a good steelhead cure; for salmon, smell is the number one factor in obtaining a well-cured egg. Steelhead don’t crave the same mineral contents as salmon, so cures carrying less chemical scents are often used on steelhead. Mind you, this does not mean scents should be neglected. I use them religiously.

Borax cures are the most common among steelheaders, due to their ability to harden eggs. In addition, borax cures are clean and easy to work with. There are two options when searching for borax cures: commercial products and homespun recipes.

Pro-Cure has a variety of borax cures on the market, ranging from natural to flame orange and fluorescent pink. I’ve used these cures and they turn out a very good egg. Other companies make cures specifically for putting up steelhead eggs.

Many home recipes call for powdered borax, a box of which can be purchased at most grocery stores. If working with this type of borax, be sure to get the powder form, not the course-grained variety. The finer the grains the more completely they will penetrate the eggs to make a better cure.

The colored borax cures on the market already have dyes in them, which the eggs absorb upon curing. If the color of the finished product is not what you envisioned, you can introduce additional dyes.

If it’s the natural look you’re after, no dyes need be applied. A natural looking egg can be obtained by working with some of the prepackaged, natural colored-cures on the market or by concocting your own recipe.

Obtaining a well-cured egg begins the moment you catch a hen. Once dead, bleed it by cutting the gills. The quicker you can get the blood out of a fish, the less likely it is to pool around organs, egg skeins included. Blood that pools and coagulates around the eggs results in exposure to bacteria, organisms that will taint the smell of eggs and decrease their effectiveness no matter what curing recipe is used.

Some anglers forego the bleeding, opting to immediately remove the eggs from the fish instead. Others go so far as to remove the eggs with rubber gloves on, to avoid contaminating them with human odors. Blotting the skeins with a paper towel removes blood that may harbor bacteria. Placing the skeins in a baggie and in a cooler is ideal if you’re set on removing the eggs.

Once home and ready to cure, I like cutting my skeins into bait sizes I know I’ll use when fishing steelhead. I do this for two reasons: I believe it allows them to more completely set-up during the curing process and I don’t have to spend time cutting them to bait size when I’m fishing.

If using a store-bought cure, follow instructions to obtain the best results. If using a homemade recipe, be sure to rotate the eggs once or twice a day to ensure the ingredients are making their way into the eggs.

Once removed from the cure, air drying is a vital step in securing a quality finished product. Remove each bait from the cure and place them on plastic racks or paper towels in a shaded, cool area. Avoid letting sunlight hit the eggs, as this will turn them too dark to fish. On warm, summer days, drying time may only be a matter of minutes. In cool, moist or warm, humid environments, drying may take a day or two. Some folks will position an electric fan over the eggs to expedite drying.

The objective of air drying is to achieve a firm egg that will resist punishment delivered in fast-moving steelhead waters. Attention must be paid so the eggs don’t dry to the point they become too dry and are severed when your egg loop is cinched tight. As a rule of thumb, I prefer eggs that are dried to the point that when I squeeze them between my thumb and forefinger, they retain that shape. I don’t like them so soft they return to their original shape, nor so hard they crack when squeezed.

Once the eggs are cured, I place two to three dozen baits in a baggie. This is approximately the number I’ll use during a morning of fishing. If I’m going to be gone all day, I’ll toss a few more baggies of baits in a cooler.

When on the river, take extreme care to keep your eggs in a cool, shaded area. If fishing from a river boat, a cooler is the ideal location to store eggs not in use. If bank fishing, you may want to carry a little cooler along, or keep one in your vehicle.

Any eggs I’m not using will be kept in the refrigerator or freezer. If I know I’m going to use them over the course of the next month, I’ll leave them in baggies in the refrigerator. But, if I have a healthy supply of eggs, I’ll keep them in the freezer for up to a year. If your freezer creates a lot of moisture, it’s a good idea to pack the eggs in borax to retard against freezer burn.

There you have it, what to look for when curing eggs for steelhead fishing and how to manage them. This summer, don’t let low, clear conditions keep you off the water. With some well-cured eggs and a bit of dedication, you’ll discover that catching the most finicky of summer steelhead can also be the most rewarding ones.

Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, Summer Steelhead Fishing Techniques, send a check for $17.00 (includes S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit

If steelhead don’t like the feel of an egg, they can spit it out before most anglers detect a bite. This steelhead gobbled these eggs, proving it liked the taste and texture; the alluring pink dye may have had something to do with it, too.

From size to color and texture, curing the perfect summer steelhead egg is as much a science as an art. Knowing what type of water you’ll be fishing helps determine what texture should be achieved.

Respectful Representation: Public Perception of Anglers

Issue: April 2015

Posted on: 2015-04-01Jody Smith (left) and the author’s father, Jerry Haugen, are two of the author’s favorite men to be around and fish with. Both represent sportfishing in a positive fashion, and have hooked many newcomers on our great sport. Cover

Leading my second springer of the evening into the net, I punched my tag and pulled anchor. Rowing across the riffle I’d been fishing, I was eager to identify the man in the familiar cowboy hat. Like me, he was alone, fishing from a drift boat.

It was pouring rain and daylight was fading. The closer I got to the man, I realized he wasn’t who I thought he was. He was nice, and congratulated me on my solo limit. I wished him luck, nosed the boat downstream and pumped on the oars.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, but I wasn’t surprised, after all, why would the man I thought it to be, be fishing an upper tributary of Oregon’s Willamette River, more than 150 miles from his home. The man in the boat had a stature, and wore rain gear and a cowboy hat, similar to legendary angler, Buzz Ramsey. This was back in the early 1980s; I was still in high school. Buzz was a man I highly respected, though I’d never met him.

Twenty years would pass before I’d actually meet Buzz Ramsey, and when I did, he was everything I’d envisioned. Who would have thought that as a boy growing up in the little town of Walterville, Oregon, I’d have the honor of both fishing and hunting with Buzz, many times. The moment we met, we hit it off; he was a class-act, a true gentleman, reminding so much of my father, the man I most respect in life.

I consider Buzz, and my dad, two of the best anglers I’ve fished with. Both catch fish, work hard, think outside the box and love the outdoors with great passion. I’ve never seen either one of them drink, heard them swear, or bash fellow anglers with harsh words. These are men of integrity, the kind of men I want my sons to grow up to be like, the kind of men sportfishing needs.

Over the past 15 years, Buzz and I have fished a good bit together, and been presenters at multiple sportshows along the West coast. When in the public eye, Buzz is always the same; positive, fun and takes time to listen to others, a true ambassador of the sport. Another legendary angler whom I greatly respect, Jim Teeny, exudes the same demeanor. Though I’ve never had the pleasure of fishing with Jim, I want to.

Projecting a positive image is important, for all of us. Buzz, Jim, and many others like them, know they’re constantly under the microscope, but they also carry a genuine desire to help people become better anglers; I try to do the same.

As anglers, we all share common interests that bond us. In America, we’re a minority among the masses, part of a mere estimated 11% of those who sportfish. Oftentimes, how we treat one another, and the public image we project, may not be as well represented as it should or could be.

Posted on: 2015-04-01Fishing is competitive, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun. All these people are on the water because they share a common love of fishing, it’s that simple. Cover

From littering on the river, to overindulging in alcohol, to carrying on with foul language in front of children, or anyone, is something all of us should be cognizant of. As anglers, and as people, we only have one chance to make a good first impression on others.

Case in point. During this past sportshow season my booth was next to that of a company in the fishing industry. By afternoon each day, all the representatives in that booth were so intoxicated, it was embarrassing. Women and children walked by all day long, hearing some of the most vulgar language imaginable. My two sons, ages 12 & 14, worked in my booth, and for five days they heard grotesque language and witnessed excessive amounts of alcohol consumed. It was revolting, uncalled for and offended many people walking by. When a potential customer was looking to make a big purchase, his wife yanked him away, saying he’d never own anything made by this company. He agreed and they quickly left the booth with their three young boys. Is that really the message industry professionals want to send to the public? Our goal is to encourage anglers to experience why fishing is so special, not repel them.

At another show a seminar speaker was so intoxicated, he struggled through his presentation. Many people left, some came and complained to me.

More than once I’ve been on a river and seen guides so intoxicated, they literally could not row downstream; their clients were not happy. I’ve also seen guides, and fellow anglers, intentionally tie-up holes for extended stretches, so no one would anchor by them, allowing them to eventually fish more water. Inevitably, verbal battles ensued and quickly a fun day on the river escalated into one full of tension for everyone within earshot.

What anglers do at home is their business, but when in the public eye, and on public waters, people need to be aware of how they’re representing all anglers. We must all be aware of messages being sent to anglers and non-anglers. After all, we’re all on the same team, fishing because we have the privilege and freedom to do so. Fishing isn’t a competition, it’s a rite of passage that’s supposed to be positive and enjoyable for everyone.

In today’s world of social media, where thoughts can instantaneously be shared, anglers must be in touch with what’s being said. Know that men, women, children and even non-anglers, read what’s written. Take this as an opportunity to make a positive impression, not to offend others and lose potential anglers.

With sportfishing license sales in a steady decline in recent years, we need more anglers, not fewer. It’s up to all of us anglers to represent fishing on a level that encourages others to see how fortunate we are to be able to fish rivers and lakes throughout North America, and make them want to experience it. Life is short, and enjoying our time on the water is a blessing, not a hardship.

Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, 300 Tips To More Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $30.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit

Last-Chance Steelhead

Issue: March 2015

Posted on: 2015-03-01Jody Smith with a late-season steelhead taken on a Mag Lip while working a shallow slick. A full-time guide, Smith encourages people to think outside the box and not be afraid to take chances when fishing challenging conditions, reasoning that if you don Cover

With winter steelhead season winding down, there are still fish moving into some rivers. While numbers may not be what they were a month or two ago, steelhead are still out there, you just have to find them.

Over the decades, some of my best late-season success has taken place in low-water conditions. Specifically, casting into small pocket water where fish are holding, has paid-off many times. Casting lightweight drifter setups into small sections of water can be the key to pulling fish from these tight spots.

The thing about these small pockets, they’re often so small, many anglers pass them by. On a recent trip, two boats were ahead of a buddy and I. They hugged the left side of the main current and side-drifted right through the fast, shallow, main current. The closer we got to the spot, it appeared too fast and shallow to hold fish. I thought we might latch into a traveling fish in this water, but since the two boats just fished it with no luck, we approached it differently.

Rather than fish the main current, we casted into small pockets, behind boulders and bedrock, well off to the side of the main current. Over the next 75 yards we caught two steelhead. Before the day was over, we’d hook and release six more steelhead, all of which were taken from pocket water well off to the side of main currents, less than five feet deep.

Though these small pockets will find you casting multiple times and covering very short sections of water, it’s worth the effort if that’s where fish might be holding. Drifts may cover as little as five feet of water, so use enough sinker to get the terminal gear down fast, and pull it out before getting hung-up.

Plugging shallow water is also an effective option. This can be done by way of backtrolling or sitting on anchor.

Posted on: 2015-03-01Bobber-dogging affords a direct pull between the float and terminal gear, meaning drifts can be precisely positioned. It’s also a very efficient way for multiple anglers to cover water. Cover

“I really like plugging the flats this time of year,” offers good friend and noted guide, Jody Smith ( “Most guys pass right by these spots, figuring it’s too shallow to hold fish, which is one reason I like them. My favorite spots are slicks, as fish often rest here after traveling through heavy rapids. It might only be two feet deep, and moving fast, but that shouldn’t keep you from fishing it. These are great places to hit early and late in the day, when fish are moving.”

On a recent trip with Smith we anchored and dropped our Mag Lips 40 feet behind the boat. Soon we pulled three chrome steelies from that shallow slick. A couple days later Smith had a guide trip and managed to pull seven steelhead from slicks, and those were in addition to what they caught through other methods that day.

Another effective low-water approach is covering as much river as possible with the lines in the water, searching for fish. Here, you’re looking for fish on the move as well as ones that may be holding. “I really like bobber-dogging when it comes to covering water,” shares Smith. “The float keeps the terminal gear where you want it, which is important when fishing low, clear water. Sidedrifting can find the boat separating too far from the terminal gear, pulling the presentation out of the strike zone, and that strike zone can be small when the water is low.”

On another trip with Smith, a buddy and I hooked into six steelhead in one, 300-yard stretch. The interesting thing was, the three boats ahead of us fished the water first and they didn’t touch a fish. One boat pulled plugs and two sidedrifted. When Smith suggested we bobber-dog the same water, and explained why, it made sense. “These guys are close, but they’re just not hitting the sweet spots where fish are holding right now,” pointed out Smith. “With all the bedrock in this stretch, fish are holding in very specific spots.” No doubt Smith’s knowledge of the river led to our success, as did the pinpoint accuracy bobber-dogging afforded.

Whether fishing from a boat or shore, apply stealth when working clear, shallow water. Going with a fluorocarbon leader can make a big difference, as can downsizing the terminal gear so it’s not too intrusive. Think ahead, read the water and anticipate where fish may be holding or traveling, then proceed accordingly. Once dialed-in to low-water steelhead, you’ll find the approaches apply from river to river, season to season.

Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, 300 Tips To More Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $30.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or visit

Alaska’s Coho Run Timings

Issue: February 2015

Posted on: 2015-02-01 There are many fly-out options when it comes to coho fishing in southern and western Alaska, but knowing when to go, where, is key to success. Planning your Alaskan fishing adventure should center around run timings.  Cover

No matter where you pursue salmon or steelhead, success comes down to being on the water when the fish are in. It doesn’t matter how good an angler you are, if fish aren’t around, there’s no way of catching them. Alaska is no exception to this rule.

Every year I hear from disappointed anglers who’ve traveled to Alaska, only to discover they weren’t there when the fish were. When this happens it usually comes down to a lack of research on the part of the angler. True, there are times when water conditions, commercial fishing pressure and acts of nature curtail a run, but for the most part, if you’re in the right place when fish historically arrive in a river, you’re usually going to catch something.

Take the famed Kenai River, for instance. June and July were historical prime times to catch the world’s biggest king salmon, but today, commercial fishing continues to devastate the run. This topic is a whole other story, but suffice it to say, if wanting to experience salmon fishing on the Kenai, target cohos instead of kings.

Coho runs on the Kenai come in a couple spurts. The first run usually shows around late July and continues through the end of August. Then, in early September, another run of coho enters the Kenai. This run can see fresh fish pouring into the system through November, and fishing them can be good all the way into December. If you want a true Alaskan salmon fishing experience—lots of salmon, few people, cold, clear skies, along with bald eagles, brown bears and moose—then consider hitting the Kenai in late October or early November, when coho flourish.

Posted on: 2015-02-01Scott Haugen planned this trip perfectly, resulting in plenty of great eating meat to take home. Cover

If looking to target coho near the Anchorage area, prime time is a bit earlier than on the Kenai River. Bird Creek, for instance, has its best coho fishing from mid-July through August, while Campbell Creek’s runs last from late July through September. Ship Creek sees silvers coming in from mid-July through September, while Twentymile River can find you catching plump coho from mid-August into late October.

If wanting to travel Alaska by road, mapping your trip around coho run timings is essential. For instance, if hitting the Dalton, Elliott, Steese, Taylor, Alaska or northern part of the Parks highways, coho fishing lasts from September through November, with October being the peak time.

On the Glenn, Denali and southern portion of the Parks highways, coho runs begin around mid-July and last until mid- to late October, with August being the prime time. On the Richardson Highway and Tok Cutoff, coho fishing can be good for about a month, from mid-August until the middle of September.

As for southeast Alaska, there’s a lot of land to consider here, meaning thorough research needs to be done on coho run timings once you know where you want to fish. Figure our what rivers you want to hit, then plan your trip accordingly.

Due to the extensive north-south distance occupied by the southeast Alaskan archipelago, the fresh-water run timings of fish can vary. For this reason, two run timings are necessary. The first takes in southern southeast Alaska, including the featured regions in and around Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell and Petersburg. The boundary line dividing northern from southern southeast Alaska extends from Frederick Sound, west and south into the Pacific Ocean. North of this line, including all of Baranof and Admiralty islands and the mainland north of Frederick Sound, the northern southeast Alaska run timings are in effect. The featured areas covered in the northern run timings includes Sitka, Juneau, Haines, Skagway and Yakutat.

As a rule-of-thumb, southern southeast Alaska sees coho fishing lasting from mid-June through much of November, with September being the prime month. Northern southeast Alaska experiences its coho run a bit later. with fish showing up in September and running through November. In the northern part of the Panhandle, mid-September to mid-October typically marks the peak coho runs.

Posted on: 2015-02-01Coho salmon attract more anglers to Alaska than any other species, and with good reason. Time your arrival and you’ll be amazed with the number of coho that can fill a remote stream, and how many you can catch and release in a day. Cover

Because silver salmon often congregate and travel through estuaries in large numbers, they can successfully be caught in these environments. Flying out on a float plane to a secluded bay or river inlet is what many silver salmon fans yearn for. Seeing the sky dotted with air taxis heading across Cook Inlet is a common sight come September, when Alaska silver fishing is at its best. It’s an experience worth living, and has personally resulted in some phenomenal fishing days I’ll never forget. Yes, it’s still possible to fly to remote places and land and release upwards of 100 coho a day, if your timing is right and your skills proficient.

No other salmon attracts more people to the Last Frontier as does the silver salmon. If looking to experience Alaska salmon fishing at its finest, plan your trip around the run timings and you won’t be disappointed.

Note: Signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, A Flyfisher’s Guide To Alaska, can be obtained by sending $38.00 (includes S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. The 455 page work is one of the most complete travel guides ever written for anglers heading to Alaska, no matter what gear you’re fishing with. It can also be ordered at

Winter Steelhead Fishing for the Kids

Issue: January 2015

Posted on: 2015-01-01Tiffany and Braxton Haugen nailed a double with good friend and noted guide, Todd Harrington. Timing, fishing in comfort and knowing when to call it a day are all key elements when it comes to hooking youth on winter steelhead fishing. Cover

In the May 2014 issue of STS, I wrote a feature on getting kids hooked on fishing. Happily, the story generated great feedback and a lot of interest. Since then, many people have asked me, “What about kids and winter steelhead fishing?”

Hooking kids on winter steelhead fishing is a different deal than spring chinook or summer trout. Because weather can be wet and cold and winter steelhead runs, spotty, challenges are in place before even leaving home. This means in order to hook youngsters on winter steelhead fishing you need to start laying the groundwork well before hitting the water.

Monitor weather patterns, closely. If your child doesn’t like cold, wet conditions, then don’t obsessively subject them to it. Then again, if fish runs are off the chart, getting the kids on the water for a quick trip can cure them of the bad-weather doldrums. This is where researching steelhead runs is a must, so you know where to find fish.

Rather than spend all day in bad weather with kids who don’t like such conditions, consider dedicating a few hours to a trip, then call it good. Of course, if fish are being caught, great, the time on the water might get extended. But if it’s cold with ice forming on the rod and the kids are miserable, know when to call it a day.

Posted on: 2015-01-01Sometimes, both above and below water, the conditions are less than ideal when it comes to winter steelhead fishing. Tracking storms and fish runs are a big part of finding success, and is especially helpful when it comes to hooking youth anglers. Cover

When I started winter steelhead fishing with my dad and Granddad, back in the 1960s, our heater was briquettes in a metal bucket. On most days, uninsulated boots and fingerless wool gloves found the body numb before we got out of view of the boat ramp. Back then we had no other options, and knew no different. Today, things have changed.

When it comes to kids, the goal of every trip is to have fun and keep them wanting to come back. To achieve this, invest in the best rain gear and warm clothes possible. True, it gets pricey, but it’s a small price to pay for comfort and getting a kid hooked on fishing.

Heated jackets and vests are invaluable investments on those biting cold days. Cabela’s heated clothes offer a remote control system that’s easy to operate, and it works. The same goes for heated gloves, as keeping hands warm is critical. Hand warmers are also an option, and for this I prefer the larger size that lasts all day. Slip one into each glove and you’re set.

Posted on: 2015-01-01The timing was right on this winter steelhead trip, where warm temperatures and prime water conditions resulted in fish being caught. Kazden Haugen, the author’s son, was pumped over this, the first fish of the day, and kept wanting more.  Cover

As for keeping the head warm, I’ll take hand warmers and stick them between the fold in a stocking cap. With one placed on each side of the head, you’d be amazed at how warm you’ll be.

Feet are one of the most important body parts to keep warm, and the best device I’ve found for this is ThermaCell’s newly designed Heated Insoles. They’re called ProFlex Heated Insoles, and in last month’s column I outlined how they work. I’ve not had good luck with simple foot warmers, as there’s not enough room in my boot for air to circulate and activate them.

Insulated rain gear is a must, and be sure to get quality designs where the seams don’t leak. The same goes for gloves on those rainy days.

As for actual fishing, keep the kids active and engaged. Fishing is not a passive sport, so don’t do the work for them. Give kids a sense of responsibility. Let them bait their own hooks, cast, deal with hangups and everything else that comes with a day on the water.

Take time to teach kids how to fish. Reading water is the most important element of any river fishing and it’s important to relay to kids, how to do this. No matter what the methods being fished, explain to kids why that approach is being used and more importantly, how to fish it. Kids are like sponges, capable of soaking up loads of detailed information.

Teach them the parts of a steelhead hole. Decipher ideal plugging water from classic sidedrifting spots. Point out the differences in running jigs through a stretch of water versus rolling bait. Get them to thinking and solving problems.

Finally, leave all portable gaming systems at home. Nothing can detract from a fun time on the water like having a kid, or adult, playing games. It amazes me how much of this I actually see. Fishing offers the opportunity for great family time, so take advantage of it.

When it comes to hooking youth on winter steelhead fishing, work together, keep it fun and know when to call it a day. As parents and adults who love fishing, it’s up to us to share our passions with our youth in hopes the pastime gets carried on by future generations.

Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s popular book, 300 Tips To More Salmon & Steelhead, send a check for $30.00 (includes S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This and other how-to books, including cookbooks, can be ordered online at

Proudly Maintained by Ashworth Consulting