Also known as silver salmon, coho range in size from 4 – 12 pounds although much larger fish are caught. A very large coho in our area would be close to 20lbs. With mostly silver sides, a dark evenly spotted back and white belly, they are a beautiful fish to look at, particularly when they are in peak form.
These popular game fish cruise into our area in September and can be fished for through November. Coho are found in numerous tributaries in the lower Fraser, but can be actively fished for successfully on the Fraser river itself and the Harrison river, a large tributary that joins the Fraser near Chilliwack, BC. Coho are favored by anglers because of their terrific sportfishing abilities.
They are caught using a number of techniques and when they are fresh, provide spectacular sport on the appropriate tackle. The most common method to catch the local coho is by float fishing the smaller tributaries in the Fraser Valley such as the Chilliwack/Vedder river and the Chehalis river.
Float fishing cured salmon eggs in the slower steady paced runs of these smaller rivers is the most common and effective technique. Other methods such as casting spinners and spoons as well as fly fishing are also very effective. The Chilliwack/Vedder river and Chehalis river are extremely popular to fish due to relatively easy access and excellent hatchery enhanced returns of coho and other salmon species. Because of this, they can become crowded.
We avoid the crowds by fishing the confluences of these rivers at various times – even then, they can still be very busy areas. Fishing the Fraser and Harrison river, both of which are large waterways, can provide excellent coho fishing and get you away from the crowds.
The methods used will vary slightly from the smaller tributaries. In the Fraser, we can often employ the bar fishing technique (ledgering spinning glos), but can also cast spoons and flies in the appropriate places to enjoy success. In the Harrison river, you can fish a variety of water types and again, enjoy excellent coho fishing with spoons, spinners, jigs. Fly fishing for coho on the Harrison is a popular method and there is a significant measure of accomplishment in catching a nice coho using the fly rod. Favored spoons for coho include ⅜ oz “crocodile” in silver, copper or brass. Various color stripes are available on these spoons, but I find that no paint will work, but so will the orange stripe and the black/orange paint combination. Another great spoon is the “coho” in ⅜ oz with similar color schemes as the crocodile. Spoons can also come in a smooth or hammered (dimpled) finish – I find both to be successful. When it comes to spinners, there is no end to which ones will work. As long as you can easily cast it, spinners in silver, brass and copper all have their day. The paint and color combinations in coho spinners seem to be endless – they all work at some time or another. Jigs are also effective and can be fished with such a different retrieve, that they should be fished in every spot when you’ve had no luck with spinners or spoons. The vertical movement allows the jig to stay in the zone a bit longer, and with the movement of the marabou, it seems coho can’t resist.
My favorite method has to be fly fishing. There is so much going on when you fly fish – sometimes the simple act of a great cast provides such satisfaction that catching a fish has suddenly become secondary. A 7 or 8 weight rod is adequate – lighter is possible if you aren’t into the chum. A good reel with a smooth drag is pretty important. I often use a full sink clear line, but you can also use sinking tip lines. A full floating line can also be useful in some instances. There are many flies that work and catch fish at one time or another – egg sucking leech, California neal, various forms of the rolled minnow, Christmas trees in various colors – they all catch fish. My preferred favorite is a simple rolled minnow, gold or silver tinsel body and matching bead head, in sizes 8 to 12. Tied with a 3 foot section of 12 pound fluorocarbon tippet (I prefer Seaguar, every time) and an open loop style knot, this fly accounts for the majority of the coho I catch on the fly. If that doesn’t work, then I will switch it up. But, before I tie on a different fly, I always try a different retrieve. I generally prefer a slow draw of 12 – 14 inches, but you can vary the draw length and speed, not to mention the amount of time after the cast and before the retrieve to vary the depth a bit. I don’t worry too much about depth – coho are fantastic chasers!
Watch your fly or your spoon/spinner right to the rod tip – you won’t believe what is swimming behind, and how often a coho takes right at the surface!
If those don’t work, all I say is, “it isn’t ‘coho’ time”. I tend to enjoy the day out and focus on improving my casting skills. Then, out of the blue, it happens….