Basic Salmon Mooching Tackle

Written By: Steve ‘Hippo’ Lau, June 29, 2013
Species: Saltwater Salmon

Basic Salmon Mooching Tackle

Some time in the 1980s, mooching (otherwise known as drifting) for salmon, became a big hit for local salmon chasers.  The use of lighter tackle for mooching instead of the heavy, "good enough for marlin fishing" type rods and reels used for salmon trolling made salmon fishing a whole lot more fun, and not having to troll (and lose!) big 2.5 lb. lead balls made it a lot more economical as well.

Take a couple of years of no salmon fishing, add to that a couple of years of record krill blooms, and you have a recipe for not having a lot of success with the mooching technique.  For mooching to be successful, the main feed for  salmon must at some point switch from the krill to some kind of bait fish.

The last couple of years, because of the tremendous upwelling, saw a massive explosion of krill off our northern coast, and with it the culinary delight of big, greasy krill fed salmon.  Its dark red flesh is highly prized by those who relish salmon, and that has resulted in premium prices.  Last year I saw prices in some of the tonier super markets reach $30 a pound for wild local salmon.

While krill is good for the salmon and also for those who like eating salmon, it is terrible for those who like to mooch for salmon;  as when salmon are on a krill  bite, they don't very much cater to many kinds of drifted fish baits.

Lately, however, the salmon have been on a baitfish tear, gobbling up short belly rockfish by the fistfuls.  The latest report has the Tigerfish reporting sixteen limits of husky salmon all caught while mooching.  THE MOOCH BITE IS ON!

There are those in Fish Sniffer land that may not be totally in tune with mooching since the last good bite while mooching happened some five years ago.  What follows is a short description of some suitable tackle for salmon mooching.

RODS:  A variety of rods can be used for mooching; however, the best tool for the job is a long, limber rod.  For a long time, most anglers chose a heavy steelhead rod or river salmon rod for this work, but in recent years the use of a downrigger rod has been the better choice.  The difference is that the steelhead/salmon rods have a thinner tip because one of their functions is to detect the light bites of river run fish.

Downrigger rods, which range from 8' to 9', don’t need to have sensitive tips because they don't need to detect bites so they are a little thicker and much more durable. In addition, down rigger rods generally have some kind of foam grips that are much more durable than cork when used with rod holders.  A good example of these rods is Shimano's series of Talora rods.

REELS:  Conventional salt water level wind reels are a natural for this kind of fishing.

It is an advantage to have a following line guide (one that doesn't disengage in free spool)

when mooching for when it comes to repeating how much line has come off the reel, it is easier to count how many times the line guide has gone back and forth than it is to keep counting pulls of line.

There are a number of very good reels on the market, but the best bang for the buck is Shimano's TR-100G, a reel that is mostly graphite and stainless steel.  It is a simple reel and simple to keep clean.  At the end of the day, tighten the drag down and spray 'er down.  Wipe dry with an oily cloth and put 'er away.

And oh ... don't forget to loosen the drag.

LINE:  Some people may want to use braided superlines for this kind of fishing, but I am convinced that nylon monofilament is still superior for this type of fishing.  There are a number of good lines out there on the market and I am sure any of you can name a good half dozen brands.  

For me, however, it is really hard to beat P-Line's CXX Extra Strong monofilament.  Green or blue are both good colors to pick from, and some people like clear.  Others don't think color matters since a six-foot leader is involved.  I guess it is safe to say that you should just use the color you are comfortable with and leave it at that.

NEXT TIME:  Sinkers, sliders, snap swivels, leaders, and hooks to use when mooching.

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