There are six types of salmon (with different names between them), including Chinook, Coho, Pink, Sockeye, Atlantic, and Dog. Salmon fishing attracts thousands of anglers to charters worldwide, and massive sport-fishing communities exist on just about every ocean. Ocean-going salmon fishing is not accessible to everyone, though.
Can You Catch Salmon From The Shore?
You can catch salmon from shore with some attention to temperatures, timing, and location in particular. Salmon have very particular preferences when it comes to the temperature of the water. While their preferred temperatures are generally found offshore, if cooler water can be found near shore, you can catch them.
Catching salmon offshore requires anglers to pay particular attention to details like temperature, timing, and location. None of that is new to anglers, but all of it is essential to catching salmon from shore. Here’s some of the information you need to know.
Water Temperature Preferences
Each species of salmon has a tolerable temperature range and temperature sweet spot or optimal water temperature. If you can find those areas and reach them from shore, you may find and be able to catch salmon there.
Finding those temperature ranges is not just a question of surface temperature, but layers of temperature.
Lakes generally have a warm surface layer called the epilimnion, where the temperature ranges from 62 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Below the epilimnion is the thermocline, a narrow band that may range from 5 to 15 feet in depth.
In the thermocline, the water temperature decreases rapidly. Below the thermocline, you’ll find the coldest water area called the hypolimnion, with temperatures ranging from 39 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit.
Determining the temperature of the water and its layers are as simple as using a temperature probe — basically a thermometer on a pole or cable.
Here, as a general rule are the preferred temperature ranges and optimum temperatures for three species of salmon, according to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation:
|Species||Preferred Temperature (F)||Optimum Temperature (F)|
When and where to fish for salmon from shore
Immediately before the beginning of spawning season —roughly early summer — is the ideal time to try to catch salmon from shore. At that point in the season, salmon will begin gathering at the mouths of streams and rivers as they anticipate migration up those streams and rivers to spawn.
Piers that provide access to deep water near the mouth of streams and rivers in the early summer will be ideal spots for catching salmon from shore (the pier counts!).
Additionally, fast-moving and deep rivers with cold waters may give you opportunities for catching salmon from the shore as well as migration begins.
Keep in mind, though, that during migration, the salmon generally feed very little. Prior to migration and while gathering to migrate, then continue to feed and will take bait more eagerly than during migration itself.
As for the time of day, you’ll have most luck fishing for salmon from shore in the early morning or late evening before or after spawning periods.
Keeping in mind that salmon prefer cooler waters, they typically head for deeper and cooler waters beyond the reach of the shore in the heat of the day.
Techniques for Catching Salmon From Shore
This isn’t a post on “how to catch salmon,” but one productive method for catching salmon from shore is drift fishing. In drift fishing, the angler attaches a weight to a 12 to 36″ dropper line, which is attached to a snap swivel then attached to the mainline.
The angler threads beads on to the mainline and a swivel to its end. A four to six-foot lead is attached to the swivel, and the lure or hook is tied up to the end of the leader.
Cast that entire rig upstream and let it drift with the current and bump along the waterbed while coming downstream.
Drift fishing can happen from shore or from an anchored boat. In both cases, the principal and goal are the same. You want to bounce the bait along the bottom of the water every foot or so at roughly the same speed as the current.
Too much weight in your rig will slow down the bait relative to the current, while not enough weight will send the bait drifting too quickly. Both results run contrary to the goal of getting a salmon to pick that bait up off the floor with its mouth.
Strategically, plan to try to cover the entire river or stream bed in multiple casts and drifts until you get a strike — from the closest to the farthest shore.
A variation on drifting called plunking involves the same type of gear, again cast from shore or from shore or a boat into a presumed gathering area or migration path.
The set up is left in place until a salmon takes the bait or you gather it up and move on. Commonly, active lures like kwikfish, winged bobbers, spoons, and spinners are used while plunking in a current.
Keep in mind that there may be regulations in your jurisdiction regarding fishing for salmon from shore, including regarding seasons, bait, lures and hook (including regarding things like beads and use of eggs). Know and follow those rules.
Salmon will take both natural baits (herring, smelt, fresh eggs, and alewives, for example) and artificial lures (large, bright spoons, yarn jigs, and marabou).
Good old fashioned bobbing coupled with flies like a looper bug (made of materials like marabou, flashabou, dubbin, and rubber legs) can be another productive technique for catching salmon from shore.
Attach your casting bobber to your line roughly two to four feet from the tip of your line, and add a fly or looper bug. For knots, you’ve got choices, including a clinch knot or no-slip mono loop knot.
Don’t wait for that bobber to be submerged entirely before reacting with a shot at setting the hook.
Bobbing is an option particularly in slow or still water like you may find in tidewater at slack tide or in a large eddy. The depth of your bobber will depend on water depth, water conditions, and light levels.
Early in the morning, when fish may be suspended near the bottom of the water, you’d set your bobber for roughly the depth where you think the fish may be hanging.
Other flies that have been identified as the best for catching salmon in streams and rivers include:
black and white dolly llama,
- Mr. Hankey, Sculpin Leech,
- Hopscotch Sculpin,
- Bunny Leach, Leech,
- Black S’s,
- Black Fish Skull Sculpin,
- Moal Rhoid Flesh Leech,
- Flesh Fly,
- and Morrish Mouse.
Some lures that have been identified as the best for catching salmon in streams and rivers include Mepps Alaska Spinners with Single Hooks, Wicked Lures Salmon Bait, and Blue Fox Pixee Salmon Spoon.