By: Stephen Shen
Another historic salmon season is underway in the Great Lakes where salmon fishing is incredible. Our fish (on Lake Ontario) are slightly smaller than last year. However, numbers are outstanding. At this time most active feeders are in water below 60 degrees. On the other hand, this will change as these salmon begin to stage for their spawning migration.
When chasing kings the bait bite has been consistent for several years. In fact, more people are running bait than ever. Meanwhile, it’s important that your bait stands out among the rest. Every bait angler needs good bait to be successful. Good bait means maintaining scale retention, flash and shine. As a guide, if we can catch one king salmon per bait, it’s worth it.
Below are my short notes on running bait for Great Lakes salmon:
Pro Color Choice:
You can run natural bait day in and out and from dawn to dark and you’ll always been in the game. However, it’s worth dedicating one rod to colored bait. Some days colored bait will be your most successful presentation. With that said, you always need to have a mix of natural and colored bait. Let the fish tell you what they want, but as rule the following cheat sheet will hold true.
Chartreuse: best in high sun
Natural: always works
Blue: Overcast conditions
Green: Low light
How To Brine: Fool Proof
We aren’t going to dive into a long how-to blog when it comes to brining. Since Fire Brine came out many years ago it couldn’t be easier to brine bait. You take the bait (herring) and place it in a Ziploc or container, pour in the desired Fire Brine color (natural, blue, chartreuse), seal the bag or container and let it sit overnight. The bait is good in the morning and ready to fish. It’s that easy.
*When brining, submerge the bait in the brine. The herring should be completely immersed in it.
*Keep the bait cold. Cold bait remains firm longer. If your bait gets warm it will turn mushy, even if brined. This is important, because bait isn’t cheap. It’s about $2 a strip. You don’t want to waste it.
The Great Lakes are littered with an endless amount of spoons, flashers and flasher-fly combos. When chasing kings that are feasting in preparation for the fall spawn my favorite set up is an A-TOM-MIK Twinkie Rig with an A-TOM-MIK Pacific herring strip brined in Chartreuse or Natural Fire Brine fished behind a Spin Doctor or E-Chip Flasher.
Keep in mind even once the kings stop feeding trolling bait remains an effective technique. Consider this: these Chinook grow to 20-30 pounds in three and a half years by eating bait. Naturally, out of aggression and instinct they still hit bait. Brined herring strips remain the top producer for large Chinook in the Great Lakes until these salmon enter the rivers.
Editor’s Note: Guide Stephen Shen operates STS Guide Service. For more info on his guided trips please visit: www.stsfishguide.com.