How the Salmon Spawn Works

Salmon Fishing During the Spawn

Safety Check and What's in a Name?
If you're p­lanning to fly fish in a river during the salm­on run, follow the guidelines below.­
  • Use caution and good common sense.
  • Put on a life jacket or a wader belt.
  • Carry a stick to help you keep your balance as you wade over rocks that may be slippery.
  • Wear shoes, boots or waders with spikes.
  • Use polarized sunglasses. They will help you see potential hazards as well as fish.[source: Moore]
Many species of salmon have descriptive nicknames. King salmon is another name for the Chinook, probably because they are the largest Pacific salmon. Coho salmon are nicknamed for their color, silver. So are the sockeye salmon, known as reds. Because of its structure, pink salmon are also called humpback or humpie. Chum salmon during the spawn develop something that looks like dog's teeth; thus, they are also called dog salmon [source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife].­­

Y­ou have two major options f­or salmo­n fishing: spin fishing and fly f­ishing. Let's look at both c­hoices to help you decide which is best for you.

If you plan to spin fish, you'll want an 8- to 9-foot (2.4- to 2.7-meter) me­dium-action graphite rod. This will allow you to keep your line off the water and also help you be aware of strikes. Use a 10-, 12- or 15-pound test line. You need at least 200 yards (182 meters) with a smooth drag on your reel. If you decide to use a leader, use two to four feet of 6- to 10-pound test. If there's clear or low water or heavy fishing pressure, use a light leader [source: Moore].

Anyone who's read the book or seen the film "A River Runs Through It" may have developed a fantasy about fly fishing. If you fit that description, here's the information you need.

­Your rod needs to be about a foot longer than one you'd use to spin fish, so roughly 9 to 10 feet (2.7 to 3 meters). Your line weights will be seven, eight or nine. Use a reel of the best quality you can afford -- fighting salmon can give the reel a beating! Make sure the reel can handle a minimum of 150 yards (137 meters) of 20-pound test backing. Fluorescent backing makes it easier to see where your fish is running, and it allows other anglers to see that you've got a fish on your line. You'll want a smooth disc drag to stop runs and wear out the salmon. Full-floating lines give you better control and work well for casting long distances [source: Moore].

In upper areas of the river, or after fish have been in the river for a few days, use smaller flies. Save large flies for lower sections of the river earlier in the run. Have three to four dozen different flies with you in different patterns and sizes. Choose flies that you can quickly tie because you'll lose a lot during the day.

Rel­ated HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Anchorage Daily News. August 5, 2008. "Floods may have frustrated interior salmon spawning." (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • CBS Evening News. "What Happened to the Wild Salmon?" (Accessed 11/11/08)
  • Evergreen University. "Salmon Spawning Behavior." (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • Five Counties Salmonid Conservation Program. "Basic Salmon Life Cycle." (Accessed 11/11/08)
  • Moore, Paul. "Introduction to Pacific Salmon River Fishing Techniques." (Accessed 11/11/08)
  • Streamnet. "Interactive Salmon Life Cycle." (Accessed 11/11/08)
  • Take Me Fishing. "Sockeye Salmon: Baits and Lures." (Accessed (11/12/08)
  • Take Me Fishing. "Salmon, Sockeye: Fishing Methods." (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Salmon Facts." (Accessed 11/11/08)
  • Washington Tourist. "Journey of the Wild Salmon: Spawning." (Accessed 11/11/08)
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Lake Michigan Trout and Salmon Frequently Asked Questions." (Accessed 11/11/08)