When tourist salmon anglers think of B.C., they often dream of the west coast and its luxurious lodges, unspoiled wilderness and world-class salmon fishing. This ocean paradise is supplied with seemingly endless numbers of migrating salmon. Most anglers have a tendency to overlook this very basic fact; a major portion of these migrating salmon stocks are bound for the Fraser River, and thence homeward to the streams and rivers of their birth.
Migrating salmon off B.C.'s west coast are by necessity, feeders. The acid content in their bodies, from this feed, is extremely high and if caught and left uncleaned for a short period of time will belly-burn or deteriorate from these acids.
This however, is not the case with fish caught in the Fraser Valley. Salmon, once in freshwater, no longer feed on their traditional foods of herring, anchovies, needlefish, and small shrimp. Interestingly, a few local anglers and guides fishing the Fraser River have discovered that returning salmon do feed on food indigenous to the Fraser System. Identification and presentation, is a key factor of angling success.
Above Mission, B.C., the Fraser River is particularly fast, narrow and shallow. This forces salmon to travel via the deeper sections of the channels. The salmon confined to these smaller spaces, greatly increase the angler's odds of fish passing his gear, and eventually a hook-up, if the presentation is correct. Anglers should consider that the majority of these fish have been previously targeted by sport and commercial ocean fisheries; they have seen it all and are not easily fooled.
There are exceptions to the rule, but in general, inexperienced anglers fishing here will have little success.
Timing is also a key element to successful Fraser River salmon fishing, and fortunately the fish cooperate with recurring regularity. It isn't a matter of, if the fish will return, it's when.
The first salmon of the year to begin their journey homeward are the magnificent chinook (spring or king) salmon. The springs will start to enter the Fraser River in March, and will usually peak in June, about the same time the river crests with spring run-off. Although it can vary from year to year, depending on the snow pack and weather conditions, it's approximately the third week of June. The spring salmon will average 20 pounds, and can exceed 60 pounds, they are also highly prized for their firm-red meat and delicate flavor. These returning salmon are in the prime-of-life, the fat and oil contents in their bodies are at a peak, in order to sustain the fish on their long river journey, some of them traveling up to 1,500 kilometers.
Favorite lures for the fighting spring salmon are chrome and green, solid green, or chrome and orange Spin'N Glo's, size #0 or #2, fished close to, or right on the bottom. A good point to remember, is that these early spring chinook have a tendency to travel with their bellies rubbing bottom. The salmon's visibility is minimal (sometimes a foot or less) in murky water. The key is to keep our offering in the strike zone, where it will do the most good. In other words, right in the salmon's eyes.
Last modified on March 18, 1998
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