Updated: Jan 24, 2020
Many people are unaware that the Kamloops area isn't just where one simply fishes for trout. There are many great local opportunities we plan to share here at kamloopstrout.net and with a Chinook salmon opening in the forecast for this upcoming weekend, we thought it would be well worth sharing just a little bit about the great experience to be had. Many would be surprised to hear that the Kamloops area has exceptional Salmon fishing opportunities available each year, with a very strong and healthy run of salmon that return home to spawn each year in various tributaries such as the Adams and Shuswap rivers. Typically in most years the Kamloops local salmon angling opportunities will open from early/mid August to mid/late September. We will see Chinook (or "Springs" as many call them, "Kings" to the Americans) return each year, dominant Sockeye returns every four years as well as Pink salmon every odd year. Chinook salmon are the largest and strongest of the five sub-species of Pacific Salmon and while some would argue with me on this one, I personally feel they are the very best salmon species to pursue on Rod and Reel. The Kamloops area run of Chinooks average sizes between 13-18 pounds and while not as common, fish more than double those sizes will also enter our local waters. These magnificent powerhouses will push the boundaries of our equipment and can provide an angling experience second to none! While we spend a great deal of time pursuing salmon on the west coast each year, it sure is nice to be able to go catch these brutes so close to home!
There is common misconception among many anglers that salmon this far upriver are too far into their spawning mode to provide any decent table fare or that the fish are too tired to put up any sort of decent fight. Oh how wrong they are! Many Chinook will travel in excess of above and beyond 50+ kilometers a day and can make it as far as Kamlooops from the Ocean in less than a week, some exceptions of which are said to be able to travel that distance just a matter of a few days! We have personally seen Kamloops area salmon so bright and chrome they appear almost as if they came right out of the salt! No I am not kidding, and we have also hooked into fish that have spooled us down river never to even get a glimpse of what was on the other end of our line! WHAT A THRILL! Yes, many salmon will color up, lose their scales and burn off much of their body fat content during their journey to spawn and the closer to spawning their flesh will degrade making the meat less suitable for eating. Often people are just so excited they caught something they will disregard the condition the fish is in. I have seen people retain half dead fish, not just here but in the lower mainland as well and often hear "that'll smoke up nice". No...no it won't, sorry but a Bradley or Big Chief smoker isn't a magic box that miraculously restores and rejuvenates deteriorated meat into what it once was. Like anything, use your better judgement in what is acceptable for you. I will say this, we have taken many colored up spawners home in times past and noticed little difference in quality of meat compared to the ones we have caught right out of the ocean, however I won't argue that ocean fresh is best and if it's black put it back!
So how do we catch one? Well this all depends on a great variety of factors which would take a great deal of time and writing to explain all the different methods used on various pieces of local water. You can troll for them in Kamloops or Little Shuswap Lake much like you would in the ocean with down riggers, flashers and your choice of lure, hoochie or plug. Or you can anchor down in the South Thompson river or fish from shore by means of float fishing, casting, jigging, plunking/bar fishing etc etc. The various options and methods are limitless. Chinook are very aggressive fish that will strike at almost anything on the right day. Typically when down on the lower mainland rivers we do a great majority of our salmon fishing via float fishing using centerpin reels as it is hands down the most effective technique there and 1:1 gear ratio can't be beat but up here in the Loops we stick to what works best here as the entire river system is very different in depth structure and in many instances just a whole other ball game altogether. The most productive river method around Kamloops we have found is swinging large FST spoons/lures through the narrow sections, holding points and travel lanes of the river in the lower water column on spinning or level-wind rod and reel set ups. It's something the locals have done here for many years. It is very simple and very effective and requires little skill or knowledge with the exception of locating attainable fish. If the fish aren't there or far and few between the fishing will be painfully slow. When the bulk of the run is here generally later in September the action can be quite solid and getting a limit of two fish per day can sometimes happen very quickly. We have done it all from Spey fly fishing, to Float Fishing Roe, to Bar Fishing Spin N' Glows or Hoochies etc etc and while all methods will no doubt produce fish nothing has provided the results we look for quite like Swinging large lightweight spoons like the FST's. The Chinooks go out of their way to chase and attack these lures and hit them like an out of control freight train! And no matter your skill level, if you can use a spinning rod, I see no reason why if you try this set up with a little patience and a bit of leg work you can't get out there and go hook yourself a Chinook Salmon! Even the Kids are doing it!
Check Out below... at just 8 years old in 2017 the Kid reels in a Kamloops Spring just shy of 15lbs! I managed to record most of it on the cell phone! Not her first rodeo!
This set up consist of a 5O pound minimum breaking strength braided main line, tie this to a 3 way swivel rated for a minimum of 50lbs, 2-3oz Lead weight and a 30"-36" leader of 20-25lb Monofilament. Simply cast out across river, upstream ever so slightly and let the lure bounce/sweep it's way through the bottom until your line is pointed downstream, reel back in and repeat. Watching the water closely for rolling fish will often give you a clear indication of where the salmon are frequenting or traveling. Typically the Springs will hook themselves but be ready for a quick hookset as you could potentially lose one waiting for the fish to do all the work. Sometimes they will grab the FST as it flutters down to the bottom or on the retrieve, so always be ready!
If you are at all familiar with the controversial technique of "Flossing" (developed for Fraser River Sockeye Salmon) sometimes erroneously called "bottom bouncing". This set up we share here is very similar, it is essentially a "Bottom Bouncing" technique, no different than those used by devoted Steelhead anglers for decades with pencil lead or split shots in surgical tubing, HOWEVER, I can say with the absolute utmost certainty, fish are NOT "flossed". We are NOT flossing, Fish are NOT foul hooked or "snagged" except for in extremely rare cases as it can happen fishing in any given way, I strongly suggest leaders should NEVER exceed 36" inches as it is not needed and to prevent such occurrences. Chinooks WILL bite these lures and can often be seen chasing the lures in the clear water on a sunny day and will sometimes strike at them more than once. By-catch rates are virtually non-existent. Both the Sockeye and Pink Salmon share the same water and seem to see these big obnoxious lures fluttering through the water and will move out of their way to avoid them. While I am sure it's possible I have never witnessed another sub-species of salmon caught on this set up even when their presence is extremely high. Much like bar fishing “Spin n’ Glows” on the Fraser River is a selective means of fishing, so is this method.
Last but not least be respectful of other anglers. Don't crowd people, NEVER cast over another persons line, if you do this you're bound to tangle up with another angler and not all are always friendly people! Please pick up your trash and others trash as well, leaving the banks garbage free, be kind and courteous to all but above all KNOW YOUR REGULATIONS. There is no excuse, it is your responsibility to check before you head out and do your due diligence. Buy the appropriate licenses, know the fishing boundaries etc etc. All rivers and streams in BC are BARBLESS HOOKS ONLY. And please NEVER drag a fish out of water, onto the rocks or sand or pick up by the gills unless it will be part of your legal daily/monthly quota. You can check for local Region 3 openings, closures and limits here—> https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/fresh-douce/region3-eng.html
On a final note, it has been brought to my attention some people might confuse the Kamoops area run of salmon with those affected by the 2019 Big Bar landslide run of salmon. Please be aware that the slide does not affect this particular run of salmon. Those fish that are effected by the Big Bar landslide north of Lilloet will never come through the Kamloops area, it is an entirely different migration route and run of salmon. We would be outraged if those stocks of concern were opened to fishing.
Now have fun out there!