Salmonoids versus Humanoids?

Home 2011 Events Tips and Trix Capt. John's Log Members Only

The title kinda sounds like a page from H. G. Wells "War of the Worlds" or something straight out of the WWF World Tag Team Title Match right?  Well, not really but there's an intense battle fought every time you leave the dock, or go stomping down to the river.  Especially, if you plan on being successful in your pursuit of Salmon.  Keep in mind, it's just as easy to be successful as unproductive, because the static cost is the same.   Now, that you've spent the family fortune on you fishing rig, here's some "inside stuff" you might find to be helpful.

The Reel  Truth

The first problem, and it's a massive one is that nobody know exactly how your targeted species vision receptors work, or how the fish see color.  And until somebody invents a translating program that understands fishese, nobody will know either.  Beware of so called "experts" in this field, because in my 32 years of chasing salmon I never met a reel one, only blowhards, that are pretenders to the crown.

So, let's start with the truth in what I do know about these fish in simple terms (those are the only ones I understand).  Fish have eyes on the sides of their head, and do not see straight ahead......fact!  This reason accounts for most of the missed or poorly hooked fish that generate false releases, or fish that fall of the hook, halfway to the cooler.  Not to mention, foul hooked fish that has managed to get the treble in the top of the head, or even worse a King that has been hooked in the exhaust pipe (anus).   Talk about screaming line off the reel?   A butt hooked 25 pound King can smoke off an effortless 100 yards with ease, let alone trying to pull him 400 feet backwards to the boat.

Fish no matter how large they become, they still refer to a predator prey relationship.  All fish start off as small insignificant creatures, with many other larger fish willing to write their obituary with one fell swooping bite.  So hence, the Salmon are a prey specie for things like seals, killer whales and numerous other beings of the deep.  Say there's no seals or whales in the Great Lakes?  Your right, however, our fresh water Salmon were transplanted here from places where there predators do exist...the Pacific Ocean.

Salmon Point of View

Now, put yourself in a Salmonoids place and you'll see a vaulting task ahead of you, mainly how can you feed yourself, with no arms and eyeballs on the side of your head where your ears are.  Add in the low light conditions, like swimming around in the dark, trying to grab a meal..  How do they accomplish this goal of feeding themselves?  Also, a Salmon's mouth is not designed for slash and tear tactics like a Great White, They don't even have noticeable teeth until the last few weeks of life.  What they use is 3 senses, when looking for some chow that are listed below: 
(1.)  Sight or movement
(2.)  Feel, their lateral line is one continuous feeling machine
(3.)  Smell or olfactory senses, this is often overlooked factor  

(1.) Sight: fish have moveable eyes and can swivel them to focus on things.  I seen this personally every time I unhook a fish for a charter guest.  Fish hold their distance then turn on the prey with a slight turn of their head.  I seen this in the river when fishing for Steelhead in either clear water or shallow water while nesting on the redds many times.  Getting a little more in depth on the sight thing have you ever seen a tightly schooled bunch of fish that all seem to move as unit on underwater TV footage?  
Also, let me  add, we as humans have 3 color receptors, being red, blue and green.  Fish can have up to 9 color receptors, depending on the specie. 

(2.)  Fish feel? I know this for a fact!  I know because I've missed fish with the net and brushed them, only to see a spent 30 pounder to get a new lease on life and peel 20 yards off the reel in a rapid fashion with me apologizing to the rod person.  Fish feel movement and that's why the Dodgers and  Bechhold Rotating Flasher was so effective the last Salmon Season.  That large chunk of metal or plastic churning up the water caught their attention and in turn I caught them.

(3.)  Fish can smell?  Yes, and probably a lot better than they'll ever get credit for.  Their olfactory sense can detect parts per million and aids this and anadromous (means comes from the sea to spawn) specie back to it's parenting gravel bed.  I'm reel spooky about foreign odors, things like hands the have just finished eating a greasy donut or the gasoline
pump don't help your case when trying to fill your fish box........reel fact!

Some interesting conjecture on my part is that a Salmon follows the bait from a likely striking distance then shifts into high gear on the attack mode hoping to catch a mouthful of groceries, or uses a hit it on first sight.  Lake Trout are probably the best followers, I've seen as many as 5 of them accompany a hooked buddy up to the boat.

The baits we use for Salmon fishing are relatively straightforward for the fish to figure out, going in a constant direction at the same speed compared to a single alewife that can dart, dive and dodge to survive an attack from any bearing.   One more thing that comes to mind, is that a Chinook or King Salmon starts off as a egg about the size of a pea and in 5 years or less it can attain the phenomenal weight exceeding 30 pounds in fresh water and 90 pounds in salt water.  They don't grow this fast by being fussy about striking out at likely food sources.  As I often said to my charter guests, they're an easy fish to catch but a hard fish to locate due to the constant migration patterns.

Do not copy, print-out or reproduce material of any kind from this site 
without expressed written permission from 

MichiganSportsman Copyrightę1999-2009

Article completed in 2001
by Capt. John King