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Popper Fishing for Salmon – 5 Tips

Posted on September 11 2014

Popper Fishing for Silver Salmon at Alaska West
Deneki guest, Chris Jordan with some popper proof. Photo: Kyle Shea

We may be winding down towards the end of the season at our Alaska operations, but chances are if you live near a river that is inhabited by silver salmon, the cohos are still pushing! We’re fortunate to live on a river that has an extremely productive silver salmon fishery (from late July through early September), and by far our favorite way to target them is on poppers! Yep, most likely the same style of flies used on your local bass pond.

Although not usually as productive as streamers, under the right conditions popper fishing for cohos can actually be surprisingly fast paced. Besides, any time you get a front row seat of a chrome bright, 12 pound salmon slamming a surface fly out of nothing but pure aggression, it’s pretty darned cool.

Interested in chucking some poppers for salmon? Here are 5 tips to help increase your chances.

  1. Fish the popper first! Popper fishing can be tough under conditions that are anything but perfect. Make the popper your first fly of the day in order to target the most aggressive fish first. Once things slow down, then try the streamer, but not before giving the popper a chance!
  2. The Retrieve. The standard popper retrieve should consist of stripping the fly using short quick strips. The goal is to fish the fly as quickly as possible while still creating that ‘popping’ sound followed by a trail of bubbles behind the fly. We don’t mean strip as fast as you can, but rather aim to ‘pop’ the fly as many times as possible throughout the retrieve. Make the fish make a decision!
  3. Get the follow? Stop the fly! Most of the time, there is no denying when a silver is following your fly. The wake can usually be seen from across the pool! If you see the wakes, try slowing your fly down, or better yet, stop your fly in order to give the fish a chance to catch up. Often times, silvers will lose interest if forced to chase the fly over long distances. Once he catches up to the fly, slow it down and let him eat it!
  4. Fishing ‘popper’ water. Fishing poppers successfully is very ‘water dependent.’ Good popper water usually consists of slow, lazy, shallow water, most often found off of the main river. Fish it!
  5. Fish Bright Fish. Bright silver salmon, fresh from the ocean are typically more aggressive than those who have begun their spawning transition. Fishing water closer to the salt will likely yield more hookups on poppers. Find the bright fish and put a popper in front of them.

More on Poppers for Salmon


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