By Spinner Dave
Trolling with spinners is definitely not at the top of most anglers’ lists when they think of methods for fishing for Alaska’s king salmon. Largely overlooked, spinners can be used in a trolling application in saltwater and tidal estuary (bays and tidewater) fisheries with good success. Rigging and fishing spinners in these areas is a pretty simple process and those who are new to the method are usually pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of spinners once they get some experience with them. Let’s take a look at some of the basics involved in putting together some successful spinner trolling for kings.
The spinners used are typically the non-weighted variety and will require weight on the line to get them down to the appropriate depth. The setup that is best-suited in this case is an in-line trolling sinker attached to the end of the mainline. Kings can be large and they tend to not be line-shy, so mainline of 30- to 40-pound-test is good. From the in-line sinker (aka banana weight), attach about 5 feet of heavy leader. For this, 40- to 50-pound leader is not too heavy; my personal recommendation is 50- to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader. Again size of fish coupled with relatively large and sharp teeth calls for some extra strength to guard against lost fish. At the end of the leader you can either tie directly to the eye of spinner or as I do, you can tie a duo-lock clip (#4 or 5) and clip the spinner to that. And, even if your weight has a good swivel or bead chain on it, adding a ball-bearing swivel or bead-chain swivel at the weight or in the middle of your leader is highly recommended to help eliminate line twist.
In larger bodies of saltwater like Cook Inlet or Resurrection Bay, the size of your weight, if you are fishing in 10- to 40 feet of water, will be as little as one-ounce to as much as 4 ounces. Keep in mind that you want to be sure your spinner is above the fish, so it is better to err on the side of being too shallow than too deep—particularly when in the shallowest water. Put the spinners out about 45- to 60 feet behind the boat and troll between 1.5 and 3.0 mph. Probably the most surprising thing to those who first experience success on king salmon in saltwater is that you can catch them in shallow water. Most people think deep water and downriggers, not 4 ounces of lead or less in 30 feet of water or less.
If you move to a smaller body of water, such as a confluence of a river or creek into saltwater or the tidewater section of that river or creek, then you will likely be fishing shallower water as a whole, which lends itself to getting your spinner down into the bottom third of the water column consistently. In this case, move to a dropper line of about 18- to 24 inches for your weight and shorten your leader to 36- to 42 inches. If working the tidewater section of a stream, try trolling with the flow to cover water. If fishing “in front” of a stream, where it dumps into saltwater, troll a pattern over the area(s) that would seem to be likely traveling lanes for the fish. Keep an eye out for any bars and associated drop-offs and concentrate your efforts in those areas. Keep track of any pattern that emerges when it comes to hooking fish.