"Lights Out" Fishing for Staging Coho???

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by JayB, Sep 22, 2013.

  1. Just trying to set a benchmark here. 'Tis the season for staging coho, and the catch-to-cast ratio I've witnessed seems to be roughly one hookup per 15 hours of casting. The one day I got out this weekend was pretty typical for me - but I've only been out targeting these fish a handful of times over the past few years - five guys hammering away for 3 hours with one hookup per the bunch. Aside from me - everyone seemed to know what they were doing.

    So here's the question - is that as good as it gets, or are there times when the fish turn on and it's lights out fishing - even for ~30 minutes? I'm probably typical in that it's almost impossible for me to give up and stop casting when there's big-ass fish jumping within casting range, but I couldn't help thinking "These guys must know something that I don't." That is, they must have had at least *one* day where they gutted it out casting endlessly for hours, and were rewarded with action way hotter than one bite per 15 man hours of casting.

    Mind you - I'm not complaining, and I'm perfectly happy to plug away with no fish to hand as long as there's the prospect of something big hammering my fly - but I have a hard time believing everyone else is cool with that too. So what's up - is fishing for staging coho glorified casting practice even in the best of times, even when you're fishing small, sparse patterns with a textbook "amphipod hop" or are there times when you've been able to consistently connect with the oh-so-visible fish?
    ten80 likes this.
  2. Fishing for staging coho turns from exciting to frustrating rather consistently for me
    Good luck
    I end up looking for cutthroat that want to eat
  3. I wouldn't hold my breath for a feeding frenzy. It could probably happen, but hasn't for me, as staging fish are the biggest challenge I've found in the sound. Kind of like a $20 slot machine, it doesn't pay off very often, but exciting when it works.

    Per Mike Croft, the best course is to change colors on your fly until you find one they'll take. This can change from year to year, or daily.

    To deal with the issue of making many casts, I started using a switch rod several years ago, with an Outbound long, intermediate with fluoro leader and fish from a boat. I can make overhead casts all day, and it's easy on me to reach as far as I want, limited by how much running line I want to pile up. Most of the takes seem to be at a pretty good distance, so the extra range with the two hander helps both ways.
    Tacoma Red likes this.
  4. I would love to know why staging Coho in the sound are dramatically different than staging Coho in Alaska. My first fly fishing salmon experience was last summer in the Inside Passage. Most of the fish we caught were staging and or just entered the rivers. Granted, there were a lot more fish, but the daily limit was attainable, and you could find fish that would strike throughout the day. Most people I've talked to in WA suggest that your chances of catching Coho from the beach are rare if it's not during the first couple hours of light. Both Silvers I've caught this year have been very early in the morning.
  5. Staging coho suck! You can get the occasional fish but it is pretty rare to have a lights out day. I usually do it about once a year and am quickly reminded why I normally don't bother.
    Gobstopper likes this.
  6. Most of the staging coho in Puget Sound are hatchery fish. In my opinion wild coho bite much more aggressively when staging and when they enter the rivers. That probably explains why you can whale on them in Alaska and BC in the estuaries. Later in October when the wild coho enter our S rivers, there is better biting and catching.
  7. Staging coho are really tough. Not usually as quite as tough as one hookup per 15 hours though. It can turn on, usually around tide changes (even if they are above the reach of tide in a river), and first light is often good for a fish or two.

    One of the biggest problems with these fish is that they are really, really light biters. They can follow a fly, eat it and keep moving towards you and you'll never feel a thing. Your catch rate will go up if you get into the habit of doing a strip strike any time you feel anything different at all. What you think is a piece of weed on your fly can suddenly turn into a ten pounder when you do that. I got one yesterday and the only indication I had of a take was a slightly lighter feeling on the retrieve.
  8. My thought is that many of these fish have been "staging" since they rounded Point Wilson.
    KevinLS and Bob Triggs like this.
  9. I don't think the question of the non-biting "staging" coho here in Puget Sound has little to do with hatchery/wild. This year the forecast was for over 1/2 of the coho returning to Puget Sound to be wild.

    The Snohomish coho are among the poorer biters to be found in the Puget Sound yet more than 90% of the fish are wild. Yes later in the season the coho that have been in the river for a while become a bit more "snappy" but that has more to do with their nearing spawning and becoming more aggressi9ve. Though to be fair those fish are not what is found in fresh fish; both on the table or on the end of our lines.

    Suspect that the poor biting of PS coho has more to do with more or less constant fishing pressure on those fish. For the last 6 weeks there been constant pressure on those fish (from their ocean feeding grounds, during their migration to the sound, as they stage in the terminal areas and while they make their way into and up the river). Can we really be surprised that the more aggressive fish have left the population. This has been going a number of fish generations. One result of that selection is the most seasons the majority of the mature coho are less aggressive and have ceased feeding before reaching the terminal areas.

    Starman77, SilverFly and cook like this.
  10. Agree with both of your comments!

    Once in awhile when I get lucky, I have had some awesome fishing for staging coho. It almost always happens when I stumble into a group of staging adult coho that have just setup at a location within the last 24 hours. I am looking for fish that are finning or swirling on the water surface and not the ones that are going airborne 1 or 2 ft. with belly flops. Those adult coho IMHO are the ones that are the non-biters.

    On a pea soup foggy morning several years ago I found a small cove with newly arrived staging coho and could hear boats going by but they were not able to spot me due to the fog. I was getting hookup almost very cast for an hour until the fog lifted and a native American beach seiner spotted me. He moved in and netted several hundrel adult coho out of the cove. I had already had my fun for the day so it did not bother me that he "scooped" all the fish. A few years before in the same cove I had similar awesome fishing except that darkness make it necessary to hot foot it back to the boat ramp.

    Normally when I am fishing over staging adult coho,I get frustrated with no hook ups. It is time to go fishing for sea-run cutthroat while being on the lookout for newly staged adult coho.

  11. Quick Report: On Snohomish from 12:45 to 6:30 today. Fish jumping and rolling everywhere, and even rolling within inches of the boat yet no bites. We threw everything we had at them, no luck. Super frustrating, but still fun to take the 4 year old nephew out in the pouring rain and see him be such a trooper. Maybe next time I guess.

    Cheers - Kevin
  12. since i live so close i fish the snohomish fish every year and the sky all the way up to gold bar.
    i have yet to figure out any one thing that would point to why they bite when they do.
    last was very frustrating, and not just for me. i find it funny that these fish will hammer the smallest dick nite one day and then ignore the same lure the next day only to hammer a hot red plug 10 times bigger than that small spoon.
    yet i keep on trying.
    but they can be aggressive at times. and if you are there when it happens, it can be fun.
    in my time chasing these fish i have found that they are not fly chasers. at least not for me.
    i also find it funny that what we used to get them on years ago, will not work now ?
  13. The Wallace hatchery coho are notorious for not biting are they not? Chrome October coho with intact adipose fins bite better in the Snohomish system, whether you use gear or flies. I wouldn't even bother fishing the Snohomish system until the rivers rise in early to mid-October.

  14. Dimebrite -
    Yes without a doubt those Wallace fish are very poor biters; however my point was that those wild fish are not much better. Currently all the "S" rivers have lots of coho in them and the vast majority of those fish are wild which are producing mostly frustration.

    Once the coho have been in the river for a while they do seem to get more aggressive. While the hatchery fish quickly move into the safety of the hatchery the wild fish with their much more protracted spawning period (lasting well into the New Year) and widely scattered spawning areas the wild fish are much more available to the angler once they move to that slightly more aggressive pre-spawn period

    SilverFly likes this.

  15. I've been saying this for years. Every time I've brought this up as a problem, either on a forum, or with fish and game (ODFW at the time), all I've gotten is crickets chirping. Either that, or the response is that it's "just a hatchery fish thing". Well yeah, it IS a hatchery fish thing because they get pounded so hard by sport fishermen it's a miracle if any biters make it to the hatchery. Why the hell would biting behavior in freshwater (or staging) be somehow exempt as a selective trait? It's a genetic recipe for lockjaw.

    I think this problem can be fixed if we can ensure that aggressive biters get back to the hatchery. It wouldn't be that difficult either. A program where fair-caught fish (by any method) could be marked with a tag or fin punch, would show hatchery personnel that this is a fish to be spawned. The only regulation change needed would be a hefty fine for keeping a marked fish. I'm sure there's plenty of fly and gear fishermen who would willingly release a bright hatchery fish to forward such a cause.
  16. if you think of puget sound as one large estuary, it doesn't surprise me that by the time they get to the actual mouths of rivers and creeks they would be more lock-jawed than estuaries closer to major feeding grounds. even in the puget sound "feeding" grounds the fishing changes for boat anglers the further you get from the ocean. this means less surface activity the further you get down the strait and the gear guys fish deeper progressively down the strait. why is bucktailing so good on the coast and progressively gets worse the further you get into puget sound? even the difference between neah bay and sekiu is massive and the difference between sekiu and port angeles is roughly comparable. most offshore fly guys that i know do not worry about using stingers on sub-surface flies because frankly they are not necessary with super aggressive fish... where the beach guys almost always fish them to stick soft biting fish.

    fishing pressure likely does have an impact, but i am still not convinced that biting is a genetic trait passed on down the generations. i believe that if you removed the pressure, the bite would improve regardless of the previous generations non-biting parentage. i think you combine massive pressure from the moment they enter puget sound, plus a longer estuary time-frame, and you get less aggressive fish.... or it is all the fishermen sore-mouthing the wild fish down the west coast of vancouver island, neah bay, and sekiu? :)

    interesting thread.
    Starman77 and SilverFly like this.
  17. I agree. The amount of angling pressure on salmon in this area is immense, and I am sure it has selected for fish that don't bite when they are migrating. All the work done on selection in fish has shown that it does not take many generations to change a physical trait, why would a behavioral on be any different?
  18. I imagine that there is a fair bit of mixing of genetics in salmon (it has been shown that hatcheries don't maintain distinct genetics), so I do not see there being distinct populations of biters vs non-biters.

    We must ask if the pressure exerted by anglers is actually intense. I know that the fish I personally target shake in fear at the mention of my name, but when I consider that only a few thousand anglers dispersed throughout the immense Puget Sound are targeting tens or hundreds of thousands of fish passing through at great speed, it seems unlikely that a majority of the fish ever see an artificial lure or fishing pressure. It seems to me that the sheer volume of Puget Sound (ie. >>billions of cubic feet of water) would dilute the effect of sport anglers fishing off of beaches and boats.

    One might ask an old-timer if salmon were better biters "back in the day," but the answer is invariably always that everything was better back in the day :p

    EDIT: the text below didn't post the first time for some reason. Apparently DimeBrite and I are thinking on the same wavelength today...

    It might be impossible to isolate all of the variables that contribute to a lessening bite as fish move upriver, but my guess is that it may have to do with water temperature and depth; it seems reasonable that fish may encounter increasingly warm water as they enter the Sound, then estuaries, and finally rivers. The water also becomes shallower and is more easily penetrated by light. I have often found that the bite is better in rivers after rain has decreased their temperature and increased turbidity and depth, perhaps this is indicative of the effects of these variables on the bite
  19. Let's not forget water temperature and turbidity. River silvers bite better once the river temperatures drop from my experience. Warm temps seem to make the silvers lock jawed. In general, hatchery silver runs enter the rivers first during low flows before the big rains of fall cool down the rivers. Could it be that these hatchery silvers shut down due to warmer water temps and clearer water conditions? It may not be genetics at all, rather the timing of their river entry. The "wild" silvers enter the rivers over a greater time period, many not leaving the salt until the rivers have risen, cooled, and picked up silt. These are the silvers that will bite in the lower stretches of the river, and most of them happen to be "wild". My hypothesis does not apply to boot coho that will snap at almost anything.
    Starman77 likes this.
  20. Dimebrite -

    Under your theory it should be game on for the various "S" rivers. They all have undergone a significant rise the last couple days. The Snohomish rose from 3,000 to 8,000 cfs and the Skagit jumped to 22,000. Looking forward to lots of reports of "light out" fishing on those Staging coho.


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