Lessons Learned in 2014

By Marcus Weiner

Anglers are curious people by nature: ever eager to find new hotspots, learn new techniques, fish new rods or tinker with tackle. It's these innovations that drive advances in the sport, which ultimately result in more fish and happier anglers. Listed are a variety of lessons we learned in 2014. Email info@fishalaskamagazine.com and share things you gleaned in 2014.

Shorten and Stiffen Leaders for Chinook

Try cutting back on your leader length on boondogging riggings. We found a shorter leader kept the bait closer to the bottom, especially when using a Spin-N-Glo, and we also learned that the larger-test, stiffer leader kept the hook more reliably in a point-up position, increasing hook-ups. Try hard monos and fluorocarbons, such as those designed for saltwater angling, to help as well.

Don't Leave the Marina without Scent

On a recent saltwater trip, we struggled to catch halibut and didn't reach our limit. The next day, I brought Pro-Cure Butt Juice Bait Oil and Super Gel, and we limited quickly. Additionally, I caught a 70-pound fish, much bigger than the 30-pounders that we'd been hauling in. It's okay to bring your own scent on a charter boat; just make sure you share if you start catching more fish than everyone else.

Always Bring Polarized Glasses

It's proven itself time and again that when river fishing, you should always have a pair of polarized glasses. It will help you read the river and see fish. On a recent coho trip in Yakutat, we fished Tawah Creek. There were two small pods of fish scattered in the half-mile run. Most of the anglers were not wearing glasses and could not find the fish. From the high bank, with a pair of Smith Optics glasses with amber frames, I found several pods of chrome silvers and was able to take limits on the fly because I could accurately place the fly right in front of them. They were mostly uninterested in biting, so it took persistent, accurate presentation to get fish to eat.

Artificials Can Out-fish Bait

Since learning to fish, I've been throwing bait into every type of water I could find, usually with good results. From nightcrawlers to grasshoppers, salmon eggs to herring, I learned at an early age that good bait usually caught good fish. On a trip this summer in Sitka trolling for coho, I found that the Silver Horde #35 Double Glo Octopus was consistently catching more fish than herring. At a rate of about 2 to 1. And on the fourth day, the charter captain didn't even use herring for coho, instead sticking exclusively to said lure. On that day, like all the others, it took mere hours to put two dozen coho in the fish box, and without a shred of herring. Not only did this cut down on costs, but it increased fishing time by negating the need to re-rig herring, and when a coho would short strike the lure we were still fishing rather than retrieving the line to re-bait.

The Right Knife Makes All the Difference

After hauling in loads of big coho on a fly-out to the Tsiu River, Brian and I set to filleting the beauties while Les manned the vacuum-packer. I was testing a 7-inch fillet knife while Brian was using the Yakutat-proven and guide-endorsed Victorinox Forschner Fibrox 12-inch Cimeter Knife. He ripped off nice, clean fillets much faster than me. When he took a break, I used his knife and produced the same quality results. I've seen this style knife in the hands of fish-cleaners all over the state and now understand why it is probably the most popular fillet knife in Alaska. It glides through the salmon and is stiff enough to ride on top of the spine and cut through rib and pin bones, so that the fillet-master can remove a complete fillet with rib bones in a matter of seconds. The knife I brought worked fine for removing rib bones, but the Cimeter Knife is the right choice for filleting salmon.

Technique-specific Rods Help Anglers Catch More Fish

Rod advancements in today's high-tech marketplace revolve around materials and technique-specific designs. When floating a bobber and jig with an 11-foot Lamiglas spinning rod earlier this year, I was able to keep line off the water, maintain longer drag-free drifts and hook more fish. Later in the year, I used a 3-piece Okuma Nomad Saltwater Offshore Travel Rod to jig for bottomfish. Not only was it a nice rod with a stiff butt section and sensitive tip, but it broke down into a small case that easily fit in my luggage. Still later in the year I used an Edge StR 904-2 baitcasting rod to throw hardware to Lost Coast coho. It was light, fast, super sensitive and great to cast. If you want the best chances to catch the most fish, get rods that are designed specifically for the techniques you're going to employ.