I’ve spent plenty of days on the river chasing Chum Salmon, and the purpose of this post is to share the best techniques on how to catch them. Chum are abundant on many rivers in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. These fish gain plenty of spawning aggression as soon as they enter the river, and make them easy to catch when the river conditions are right. They are not as beloved as some of the other, more tasty Salmon species. However, I get a big thrill every time I hook into a big Chum!
How to Catch Chum Salmon in Rivers
Chum Salmon are usually very aggressive once they hit the river. They will travel and hold in slow to moderate currents that are deeper than 4 feet deep. You can target them from the tidewater to miles up the river. Once they transition into spawning mode, and flood into the shallow spawning areas, leave em alone and let them do their thing. The techniques mentioned will give the shore and boat anglers some great options.
Bobber and Jig for Chum Salmon
You’re standing in front of a deep run. The current is moving at a brisk walking speed. Suspend a 1/4 ounce marabou or rabbit fur jig under a bobber and drift it down the seam. Double your success rate by tipping a small chunk of raw prawn on the jig hook.
Twitching Jigs for Chum Salmon
When you stumble upon a deep pool with little to no current, it’s time to twitch jigs. Here in Washington, many of these deep pools will hold Chum as well as Coho and Chinook at the same time. A 1/4 ounce to 3/8 ounce lead-headed marabou or rabbit fur jig is the weapon of choice. Cast it out, and let that jig lift and fall as your retrieve it back to your position.
Pulling Plugs for Chum Salmon
It’s difficult to pull this technique off from the bank, but it is deadly effective from a boat. Kwikfish in K13, K14 or K15, and Maglip 3.5 or 4.0 are my favorites. Make sure to bring some sardine fillets and bait wrapping thread to add some juice! Most plugs come rigged in the package with treble hooks. But I prefer to replace those with single point Siwash hooks to safely and easily release any fish I don’t want to keep.
Drift Fishing for Chum Salmon
There are a number of rivers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska where drift fishing is the method of choice for Chum Salmon. Tie a swivel to the end of your mainline, and snap in just enough sinker to get your offering to tumble on the bottom in the river current. Corky and yarn on a snelled Octopus hook is a great option. I like to add a chunk of raw prawn, and/or scent to the yarn. Sardine, shrimp and anchovy scents are an awesome attractant for Chum Salmon fishing.
Fly Fishing for Chum Salmon
I was spoiled in Alaska, but even down here in the Pacific Northwest fly fishing can be really fun and effective for Chum Salmon. These fish put up one impressive battle. So, a heavier setup is important for a fair fight. Bring your 8 weight to 10 weight fly rod and a reel with a reliable drag system. Swing or strip large flies. I prefer bunny leeches and egg-sucking leeches in Chartreuse, Cerise, or Hot Pink.