One of my favorite things to do in the fall is to fish for Chum Salmon on the rivers near my home. These brutish salmon have the aggression and strength to make a day of fishing both easy and exciting. I don’t consider them great table fare, but there is nothing wrong with a day of catch and release! Chum Salmon push up into our Washington and Oregon rivers in October, November and December every year and are so much fun to catch! Here are a few of my favorite Chum Salmon lures that I would recommend to anyone heading out this fall. I’ve also written a short piece How To Catch Chum Salmon
Best Chum Salmon Fishing Lure Colors
- Dark Pink
Float Fishing Lures for Chum Salmon
Fishing with a float (bobber) and jig can be very effective for Chum Salmon. You will often find Chum holding in river currents that are too soft to effectively drift fish, but running a prawn-tipped jig under a bobber can produce amazing results!
Aerojig Hackle Series
My jig box is loaded with these things! Aerojig Hackle series jigs are one of my go-to jigs for Steelhead fishing, but I’ve seen them work extremely well for Chum Salmon when the water is low and clear. When I find myself fishing on a day when the Chum seem to be less aggressive, I will downsize my jig to a smaller profile Aerojig Hackle Series.
Aerojig Marabou Series
Aerojig Marabou’s seem to have that larger profile that I like when fishing Chum in dirty water. Stick with the purples, pinks and chartreuses.
Yakima Maxi Jig
Maxi Jigs are one of my favorite store-bought jigs for Steelhead fishing, so naturally I always have a few in my jig box. They are available in a few really great Chum catching colors. They are a little more expensive than other jigs on the market, but they are tied on a super high quality Owner jig hook.
Beau Mac Jig
I really like Beau Mac Jigs because they are fairly inexpensive, you can find them anywhere, and I’ve personally caught quite a few fish on them. Chum Salmon cannot resist them!
I prefer to tie my own jigs for salmon and steelhead, and a hand-tied Rabbit Fur Jig is a deadly lure for Chum Salmon fishing. Rabbit fur is extremely durable. So if you end up having an exceptional day of fishing, you will not have ruined many jigs.
Marabou Chum Jigs are a great option for catching Chum Salmon, a simple jig is easy to tie and inexpensive. Marabou is a finer material than Rabbit fur, but it offers better movement in the water. I honestly don’t have a preference while targeting Chum Salmon, and have caught plenty of fish on both.
Fishing Plugs for Chum Salmon
If you fish out of a drift boat or sled, back-trolling or anchor fishing with plugs can work well for Chum, especially when the river flows are moderate to high. Here are a few of my best plugs and a few tips to get you started.
Kwikfish are an absolute go-to lure choice when fishing from a boat. Whether anchored or back trolling, these diving plugs have the rattle and wiggle that Chum cannot resist. Add a sardine fillet wrap to the underside and you’ll knock em dead!
Yakima Baits Maglip
Yakima Bait Company designed the Maglip Plug several years ago, since then this deep diving plug has been a popular choice for Chum fishing. Maglips are available in several sizes and countless colors that look like true Chum Salmon killers!
- Low and clear water: K13 Kwikfish or Maglip 3.5
- Prime water conditions: K13 or K14 Kwikfish or Maglip 4.5
- High and dirty water: K15 Kwikfish or Maglip 5.5
Chum Kwikfish Fishing Tips
Scents: Various scents can be used to make your plugs even more alluring to Chum. Soak your wraps prior to fishing. My favorites are Sardine, Anchovy, Shrimp/Krill.
Dyes & Cures: Coloring up your wraps with bait dyes or cures can add a little attraction to your offering.
Storage: Keep all pre-wrapped plugs that are not currently in use in a container/cooler. Keeping Sardine wraps cool is extremely important… salmon don’t like stinky bait!
Drift Fishing Lures for Chum Salmon
Drift fishing is the age old method of river fishing, here in the Pacific Northwest. Chum Salmon can be caught easily by drift fishing, and the equipment is simple to set-up and inexpensive!
Corky and Yarn Rig
This classic Northwest drift combination will produce strikes in most Chum Salmon fishing scenarios. I will typically use a larger presentation for Chums, so a Size 10 or Size 8 Corky with a few tufts of yarn in various colors.
Corky Cluster and Yarn Rig
The Corky Cluster is a new addition for Yakima Bait Company. This fishy looking drift bobber is composed of the same material and same finishes as the ever popular Corky but is shaped like a small salmon roe cluster. Very similar to Okie Drifters in shape, one of the most timeless steelhead lures ever made.
Spin Glo and Sand Shrimp Rig
While a standard drift rig (corky/yarn, cheater/yarn, corky cluster/yarn) is usually all that is needed to tempt a Chum Salmon into striking, the flash of a Spin Glo and the smell of fresh Sand Shrimp will induce strikes from fish that aren’t as aggressive. Sand Shrimp are one of the top baits for Chum Salmon, so if you can find some for your next trip, pick up a couple dozen!
Cheater and Yarn Rig
Beau Mac Cheaters come in a variety of great Chum fishing colors. Like the Corky/Yarn setup, I prefer a larger presentation.
Plunking Lures for Chum Salmon
I like to be active when I am out fishing, most days. But sometimes it’s nice to have a small beach fire going, surrounded with a few camp chairs, a barbeque and hang out with friends. Plunking allows you to relax and enjoy yourself but still have some gear fishing.
Spin Glo and Sand Shrimp Rig
Sand Shrimp are a very delicate bait; they are only stay fresh for a few days after they are dug. Travelling Chum cannot resist chomping down on a flashy Spin Glo/Sand Shrimp combo that has been plunked in the travelling lane.
Spin Glo and Prawn Rig
Similar to Sand Shrimp, raw Prawns can make an excellent bait for plunking. Whether you decide to try cured or uncured Prawns, they are a proven bait for Chum Salmon. The great thing about using Prawns instead of Sand Shrimp is the fact that they are easy to find (every supermarket carries frozen 16-21 count shrimp), they keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them, and they are deadly effective!
Chum Salmon Plunking Tips
Plunking for Chum Salmon is an easy method and doesn’t require constant casting and retrieving. Do your best to locate the river current in front of you where you think the fish are holding, that’s obviously where you want to place your plunking gear! Use enough weight to anchor your plunking rig in the current, this can require 1 ounce up to a 6 ounce pyramid sinker, depending on the current. Check your setup every 15 to 20 minutes to ensure you still have a bait and that there are no leaves collected on your line. Tie your leader to a ball bearing swivel to avoid line twist. Make sure you have either fresh Prawn or live Sand Shrimp to bait your plunking rig with.
Chum Salmon love the flavor of a Sardine fillet. I usually only use Sardines to wrap Kwikfish or Maglips, but tipping a jig with a small chunk of Sardine isn’t a bad idea either.
Traditionally one of the most sought after baits for Chum Salmon. Fresh Sand Shrimp can be difficult to find, and make sure that what you are purchasing is fresh. Sand Shrimp will be dug on day 1, packed on day 2, and sent to the tackle store on day 3. Once you purchase Sand Shrimp, they will last for another 3 or 4 days. When buying Sand Shrimp, I always open the container and look to see how alive they are (don’t shake the container, it will knock a day off their life!) and then smell the container to see if they have started to turn. Bring a cooler and ice pack to the tackle store with you to ensure they keep chilled and alive.
Prawns are currently the go to bait for Chum Salmon. Purchase 1 pound of frozen Shrimp/Prawns from your local supermarket and you’ve got enough bait for all of Chum Salmon fishing season. Cured prawns work well for Steelhead too!
Chum Salmon are a great catch & release opportunity
Chum Salmon are a fun fish to target, as they are usually aggressive and always hard fighting! I don’t consider Chum to be very good table fare, but some would disagree with me. Whether you plan on keeping a nice one for your smoker, barbeque, or are like me and just enjoy the fun of catching them, it’s worth planning a day on the river chasing these river tigers!