It’s mid September and I made my first Fall trip out to the Chilliwack / Vedder River in pursuit of early Coho Salmon. The river levels recently bumped up with a few heavy rain days, when you see those levels spiking and plateauing it’s go time! For my first Fall trip, I had a specific run planned where I wanted to start fishing but it’s always a wild card as the river changes after freshet. Each year after freshet the river pools and runs will often change, so its important to get out early and scout out your favorite fishing locations to see what shape they’re in.
Anyway, I’m fishing with my dad and father-in-law, we get to the location at first light and sure enough the run is much lower than it was in previous years. That said, there is nobody there and we’ve got it to ourselves and that makes it it even more appealing. On my second cast I got into a beautiful hatchery Coho buck that weighed just under 5 lbs. Here’s how we target and catch our Coho.
How to Catch Coho Salmon
Catching Coho are one of my favorite Salmon to target as their fight is incredible. These fish get the adrenaline going with a hard fight paired up with big acrobatic jumps like a Steelhead. Before getting into the actual techniques and tackle I use to target these fish, here are a few general tips when fishing for Coho.
First light Biters. I don’t know any other Salmon species that is as finicky as Coho. I’ve found the best action is always first light or last light (first light being the best). This is a common tip for most species, but with Coho it’s much more relevant.
Fish Structure. Coho love to hide beside or under structure, typically fallen trees, big roots or other wooden cover in the river. It can be difficult to fish these structures, so you’ll have to get creative. For example, you can’t drift a float through the wood but you can cast a spoon or jig and let it drift under the cover. I’ll speak more on the techniques below. If you do find this type of structure and get into a fish, it’s likely you’ll find more!
Closed Mouth / Pressured Fish change ups. When your fishing pressured fish with lots of anglers around, you’ll want to fish lures/baits that are not being presented. That means coming to the river with options. For the most part anglers will be fishing cured roe, small spoons/spinners or twitching jigs, but come with variations of colors and sizes in all of these effective techniques. For example, instead of simply throwing a popular spinner, customize your gear and add a small hoochie as a tail for the spinner. Get creative and change it up!
Coho Techniques. There are a number of ways to fish for Coho here are my favorite ways to target them when fishing for them from the river bank (each technique is outlined in more detail below).
- Float Fishing
- Casting Spoons & Spinners
- Twitching Jigs
Float Fishing Setup with a Casting Rod
One of my favorite ways to target any Salmon is using the float fishing technique. Watching a float dive under the water never gets old! If you’re unfamiliar with this technique or gear see the diagram and details on my tip page how to setup the float fishing setup.
The most common thing I fish under my float is cured roe. This is probably the most effective bait for fishing any type of Salmon. Roe bags, shrimp/prawns, worms, etc are effective as well, but I haven’t found a bait more effective than cured roe. The only problem with using this bait is the mess. I recommend bringing a rag to wipe your hands as it’ll stain your hands.
You’ll connect the roe by an egg loop knot on your hook. An egg loop provides a loop of line to be pull off the hook which acts as a cinch on the roe eggs. Without the egg loop knot you’ll have a tough time keeping the bait on the hook. Speaking of hook, the most common hook I use with roe is a size 1/0 Octopus hook, I’ll often put a roe piece the size of a toonie on that. When the water clarity is very clear, I’ll use a smaller hook like a size 2 Octopus hook and use a piece of roe the size of a quarter (maybe smaller if you can).
Other Lures or Baits under a Float
You can fish almost anything under a float: Jig, Spoon, Spinner, Plastics, etc. In fact, I’ll often fish a spoon & spinner under a float as the float enables you to swing the float and do things you won’t be able to do with a spinning setup. One of my favorite reasons for using a float is the quick change ups. I’ll have a few leader boards with a number of pre-tied options ready to be fished! I use a duo-lock (again see my float fishing diagram tip page) to connect to a swivel of my pre-tied leaders. Each of these pre-tied leaders will have various lures, hook sizes, leader line weights, etc. I don’t have to tie any new knots but simply do 2 quick unclip and clips and I’m fishing a new lure under my float! See image below to see how I manage some of my leader boards (either by species or by leader line weight).
Casting Spoons and Spinners with a Spinning Rod
I have caught more Coho on spoons and spinners than any other technique or approach (even roe!). The Coho smash spoons and spinners with such hard takes that it keeps me coming back to the metal lures. This is a popular technique but I think the reason it may not be as effective for some anglers is the way they’re fishing them.
The biggest mistake I see anglers doing when fishing these lures is fishing them too shallow. I get it, you don’t want to get hung up on the bottom as these lures aren’t cheap! But that’s typically where the fish are, so you have to learn the water depths and current and figure out how to get your spoon or spinner into that bottom section of the river. And yes, that will mean you’ll get hung up on the bottom a lot, but once you get the proper timing on how long to let them sink on a run you’ll eventually begin to reap some excellent rewards!
My favorite spoons for Coho are usually Gibbs Crocs or Gibbs Coho lures. As for patterns and colors, I like Copper/Orange, Silver/Orange and all Pink/Cerise with a little flash sticker. For spinners, I’ve been very successful with the Blue Fox Vibrax Copper, Blue or Orange spinners.
Twitching jigs is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to target Coho salmon (especially from the river banks). Typically the setup is a spinning rod and reel and having some sort of leader line tied to a twitching jig. The twitching jig has a heavier jig head, usually 3/8 oz – 1/2 oz. The jig can be made of all the common materials Rabbit fur, Marabou, Schlappen. The biggest difference between a twitching jig is the long tail that hands below the hook. This tail gets a lot of action as the jig is twitching up/down through the water column.
“Twitching jigs” name comes from the action the angler is giving the jig with their rod. The rod is quickly raised up (“twitched” up) this will raise the jig up in the water column, then the line is retrieved as the rod tip drops back down. Essentially you’re trying to move the jig up and down through the water column as you’re retrieving it back to the shore. This is a very effective way to target Coho and the fish will often bite when the jig is on the drop.
This first trip out the Vedder was a success, we got into some fish, go to do some scouting on our favorite runs, the weather was perfect! What more could you ask for?! Anyway, I’ll likely have some more Journals coming out soon as this is prime Salmon season! Also, will likely be putting together a Coho YouTube video soon which I’ll attach to this Journal (check back soon if it’s not yet here).
How can I get more content like this about fishing? Can you recommend journals and websites?
Hey Eddie, thanks for the comment. Are you looking primarily for Salmon techniques and gear? I’ll send you an email to clarify, but some helpful websites (and Youtube channels) are fishingwithrod.com, salmonuniversity.com & fishwithjd.com. I also have a number of TIPS pages outlining Salmon setups/diagrams, those can be viewed here: https://www.bcfishingjournal.com/tips/. I hope this helps! Jesse
we just moved to chilliwack, would like to take my 91 yr old husband fishing. can u help.?
Hey Yvonne, I’m assuming you’ll want fishing opportunities with easier access. If you’re looking to fish in the Vedder/Chilliwack River, the easiest access can be found at Lickman Road and Peach Road. There are parking lots beside the river at both these places and paths down to the river with plenty of sections to fish. If you’re looking for still water fishing, I’d recommend Mill Lake in Abbotsford. It’s stocked with Rainbow trout each year and they also have small largemouth bass, sunfish and other species like that. I hope that helps. All the best in Chilliwack! Jesse