Chinook Salmon are by far the most popular salmon species of the Pacific Coast. They can tip the scales at thirty to forty pounds, their fillets are undeniably the tastiest, and once they are hooked they put up a major battle at the end of your line. Coastal anglers in Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California have made the Chinook the most sought after catch. That is why we all spend so much time searching for the perfect lures.
Best Saltwater Fishing Lures for Chinook Salmon
I’ve put together a list of what I think are the best Chinook Salmon lures for fishing in saltwater areas, hoping that it will help you land your next trophy. Most of these are best used trolling with downriggers. If you are headed out after Chinook in any saltwater area and don’t have the luxury of trolling, scroll down and check out Puget Pounder jigs and Cut-Plug Herring Mooching setup.
McOmie’s Custom Glow Spoon
McOmie’s Custom Glow Spoons were designed by a group of serious ocean salmon fishermen on the Oregon Coast. To this day, they are all made in Oregon and top the list as my favorite salmon trolling spoon. What I like about this lure are the really vibrant glow paint patterns on the front, but they are still chrome-backed for added flash. A small plastic hoochie squid skirt adorns the Gamakatsu Siwash Hooks that come standard on all McOmie’s, and adds to the size of the profile and attractiveness of this lure.
We mostly use the 2-5/8″ and 3-1/4″ in my home waters of Puget Sound, but the 3-7/8″ are a great lure if you are targeting big ocean feeding Chinook, or in areas where the size of the bait is larger and want to match that.
These are mostly fished behind an 11″ Flasher like a Pro-Troll, with 30″ to 42″ leader ovf 25 pound to 40 pound test. I prefer P-Line Fluorocarbon, but you can use mono like Maxima Ultragreen if preferred.
Midway up British Columbia’s Vancouver Island is the small fishing hamlet of Gold River. It is the jumping off point for most of Nootka Sound, but also claims fame of being home to one of the oldest and most familiar tackle companies in Canada. Tomic Lures makes and paints their plugs right there in Gold River and ships them to anglers all across the continent. These plugs are synonimous with Chinook Salmon fishing, and happen to be one of my top choices when I’m looking to strictly target Chinook.
In my opinion, the Tomic Plug is the best lure if you are looking to target Chinook Salmon in deep water. I often troll for Chinook in depths from 150′ to 250′ and have found that not only are Tomics fairly foul-proof at these extreme depths, but smaller juvenile “shaker” Chinook and other salmon species tend not to be interested in these large profile lures. This is a big lure that catches big fish.
Tomic Plugs in 4″ to 6″ catch Chinook in pretty much every corner of the Pacific Coast and Great Lakes. They are not fished with a flasher. Instead, I run a 40″ leader of 40 pound Fluorocarbon to a Samplo Ball-Bearing Swivel which is attached to my mainline. The erratic side-to-side action of the Tomic is unbeatable.
Gold Star Octopus Hoochie
The plastic hoochie skirt is one of the most universal salmon fishing lures we have, and the Gold Star Octopus Hoochie is a proven Chinook Salmon catcher. Whether you want to make life easy and go with Seattle Fishing Co’s pre-tied rigs or get the Gold Star 5-Pack and tie your own, they have a very wide selection of colors to choose from. Fish them “naked” or with a twinkle insert and always behind an 11″ Flasher.
When I’m using these for Chinook, I will tie them on 40 pound Fluorocarbon leader at 30″ to 42″ length behind the flasher. Placing a salted herring strip on the top hook can add to the attractiveness of this awesome Chinook Salmon lure.
Silver Horde Kingfisher Spoon
Silver Horde Kingfisher Spoons are responsible for a ton of my Chinook Salmon catch here in Washington State. The paint patterns that the guys at Silver Horde offer are perfect for Chinook, and there are too many productive colors to name here, but Lemon Lime, Irish Flash, Irish Cream, Cookies & Cream, Herring Aide, Army Truck, and White Lightning are a few of my personal favorites.
Like the McOmie’s, I will always fish these behind an 11″ Flasher using 30″ to 42″ of 25 pound to 40 pound Fluorocarbon leader material.
Silver Horde Coho Killer Spoon
The Coho Killer Spoon is beloved by anglers in Puget Sound and the nearby Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands. I know this is also a great lure for other areas based on what I know about salmon feeding behavior. Chinook Salmon tend to feed on Herring everywhere, however the Sand Lance (Candlefish) is another Pacific Coast forage fish that is very important to the salmon’s diet. It is a slender baitfish that lives half-buried in the gravel, and in some areas it is the predomenant food source for Chinook Salmon. The Coho Killer Spoon just happens to be the same profile and roughly the same size as the Candlefish. So in the spirit of “matching-the-hatch” that flyfishermen love to do, we use these smaller spoons throughout Washington State and catch plenty of Chinook Salmon with them. Anglers in British Columbia and Southwest Alaska also use these and produce bigtime with them.
Rig these behind an 11″ Flasher with 30″ to 48″ of 25 pound to 40 pound test Fluorocarbon leader material and run your troll gear as close to the gravel bottom as possible.
Best Chinook Salmon Jigs
Otori Puget Pounder Jig
Some lures are designed to be universal and do a halfway decent job of catching many species. The Puget Pounder Jig was specifically designed to jig for Chinook Salmon. The vertical jigging technique requires a lure that is slender enough to drop fast and stay deep into the zone where Chinook live, but also have a flutter action when the lure is lowered. The Puget Pounder happens to be the best lure for this job. Available in 1.5 ounce to 4.5 ounce and several very good Chinook catching colors. The stocked hooks should probably be replaced, and I prefer to remove and run a pre-tied leader of double 3/0 or 4/0 and a bead as shown below. You can also replace the stock hook with a Gamakatsu Big River Open Eye Hook in 3/0 to 5/0.
My Favorite Saltwater Trolling Flies for Chinook Salmon
Silver Horde Ace Hi Fly
The Ace Hi Fly is one of the best trolling lures for Chinook throughout their range. Back home here in Washington, we use them for their versatility. Not only do their size match the size of the baitfish that Chinook feed on in our waters, but the flies’ super-vibrant flash attracts attention from Pink Salmon and Coho Salmon as well.
Like the Gold Star Octopus Hoochie, I always run these behind an 11″ Flasher, usually 30″ to 42″ of 25 pound to 40 pound Fluorocarbon leader material. We rig with a double octopus hook leader, usually 3/0 or 4/0. Place a salted herring strip on the upper hook of your double hook trolling leader for a little added bonus.
Grand Slam Bucktail Fly
The Grand Slam Bucktail is another Washington invention that is used throughout Alaska and British Columbia all the way down the Pacific Coast. It’s a fuller bodied lure than an Ace Hi Fly and sometimes that is what the Chinook prefer. Most of the bait size that we see are perfectly matched by the Grand Slam Herring and Needlefish 4″ sizes, but if the bait is micro-sized, then downsize to the Grand Slam Bucktail Mini 3″.
Rig these the same way as an Ace Hi Fly and Octopus Hoochie behind a flasher.
Salmon Flashers for Saltwater Trolling
Pro-Troll Lighted Flasher
Pro-Troll’s patented lighted flashers have changed my salmon trolling game. When I’m fishing in the low light of dawn, or trolling flashers deeper than 100′, I find that the water-activated blinking light definitely helps with my catch rates. Pro Troll has hand-picked the most effective flasher colors to offer in a lighted version, so you have some great options to choose from.
When I’m pulling a flasher out of the water for a change, I’ll wipe dry the connector leads on either end of the light to kill the lights and save the battery life. They do have an impressive lifespan, and when you do finally where it out, a replacement light is available so you don’t need to replace the entire board.
Pro-Troll HotChip Flasher
Pro-Troll’s HotChip Flasher is the standard fare for salmon trolling. The most popular 11″ version is available in all the popular salmon colors, and offers the perfect action for Chinook. If you want the simplicity of a traditional flasher, the HotChip is for you.
Best Bait Setups for Chinook Salmon in Saltwater
Krippled Anchovy Helmet
Anchovies and Herring make for the best Chinook Salmon bait options. When trolling these, you should consider placing them in a Krippled Bait Helmet to extend the trolling life of your baits. Krippled Bait Helmets come in an Anchovy size, which is perfect for smaller herring and anchovy, and Herring size which I use for herring that is 5″ and larger.
Rig these with a Gamakatsu Herring Leader in 25 pound to 30 pound and troll them 36″ to 46″ behind an 11″ Flasher.
Cut Plug Herring
The standard mooching rig and a cut plug herring is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to fishing for Chinook Salmon. You can motor mooch the setup, drift mooch or flatline troll it behind the boat. Use a 2 ounce to 5 ounce Mooching Sinker and a 4′ to 5′ Herring Leader to the bait.