Choosing the best hook for Salmon Fishing can be overwhelming, especially when you're staring at a wall of hooks in the big box store and there's no employee in sight to give you some direction.
There are some things that you need to consider before choosing the right salmon hook:
- Water flow
- Size of fish (and type of salmon)
- Size of bait
- Presentation (how you're fishing)
I'll break all of these down and make it really easy to understand.
Let's cut through the clutter....
Big rivers obviously have more water in them (volume) but they don't always have more current. I've fished some really small tributaries in the Pacific Northwest that have a stronger current than some southern rivers, even though the southern rivers had 10 times more flow. The reason this is important is because more current actually allows for a bigger and or heavier wire hook to be used. This is really important because Chinook Salmon (aka Kings) are not only BIG, they're also really hard fighting fish, especially chrome bright springers.
Now, you don't need to understand all the nuances of water flow to pick a hook, you just need to realize the type of river you're fishing. In general, if you're in the PNW you can lean more in the direction of 'heavy current'. If you're in the Great Lakes or on the East Coast, ask yourself this question:
How much weight does it take to get my bait to the bottom of the river? If you usually use 1/2 oz or more you can call it a 'heavy current' river, if you need way less that that, say 1/8 oz will get the job done, this is a 'slack water' river.
Size of Salmon (and type)
When people are talking about Salmon, especially those who don't fish at all, they're usually talking about Chinook Salmon. If you've ever watched Gordon Ramsey demonstrate how to fillet a Salmon on Master Chef or elsewhere you'll notice that it's ALWAYS a Chinook.....ALWAYS!
It might surprise you to then find out that in the Pacific Northwest there are actually 5 different types of Salmon:
Chinook (aka Kings), Coho (aka silvers), Pink's (aka Humpey's), Chum and Sockeye
The rest of this article is going to focus on Chinook Salmon because they make up the bulk of the conversation.
There are two different runs of Chinook; one in the Spring and one in the Fall. These runs overlap a bit and run timing does vary from river to river.
The Spring Chinook (aka Springers) are brighter fish that fight really, really hard! These are the ones that make memories that last a lifetime. Not only do I still remember the first one I saw my dad land (back in '91), I can take you to the exact spot that it was hooked: On the big rocks across the river at Casey Park on the Rogue River, and where it was landed: Just above the swinging bridge. That was 31 years ago. Get my point?
Anyway, back on track....
Fall Chinook aren't as bright but they're BIG! These are the world record Salmon and healthy rivers have 50 pounders in them every year. These are also without a doubt memory making fish as well.
Because these fish are so big and so strong you not only need a good heavy wire hook, you also need a big one that's sticky sharp!
In strong current rivers I typically recommend 2/0 and larger for these fish. It's not uncommon to see guys using 5/0 and 7/0 hooks for them in the fall.
Size of bait
Egg baits and fake salmon eggs of various sizes are typically the most popular choice, especially for those who are fishing the bank. The reason I bring this up for consideration on choosing a hook is because you don't want to have a 10 mm soft bead with a 5/0 hook....that would be way out of proportion.
Check out this salmon egg rig below:
This is one of our Large Hot Red Salmon Egg Clusters with one of our 2/0 Heavy Wire Sickle Hooks. This is a great Salmon Roe Bait imitation that is very effective in the 'heavy current' situations described above. You should have a variety of colors on hand but this setup (which has a sequin between the bait and the hook) is effective.
Some guys will also add roe to the bait loop.
By presentation I mean the method that you're fishing the bait: drift fishing (bouncing the bottom) or float fishing. There are other methods but these two are the most commonly used when it comes to salmon fishing.
The rig above could be fished both ways without any issues.
The main reason for bringing up presentation as it pertains to hook selection for salmon fishing is basically just to point out one important factor:
If you're fishing with a float (aka bobber), even in slack water rivers, you can and should use the heavy wire hooks.
You CAN use them in slack water because the float will keep them from getting hung up on the bottom constantly (which is what would happen without the float).
You SHOULD use them under a float because the weight of the heavier wire hook will actually help keep your presentation down and in front of the fish.
One last thing
There's just one more thing to discuss and that is Hook style!
Now, unless you're fly fishing, most anglers would agree that Octopus style hooks are absolutely necessary here. Octopus style hooks are offset hooks that have a turned up eye. There's a video link down below if you want more info on that.
Within the family of Octopus hooks it is my firm conviction, after 15 years of tinkering with different designs, that the Sickle Hook is by far the superior of the bunch. Keep in mind that a sickle hook is an Octopus hook with a sickle bend in it.
The reason I believe the Sickle Hook to be superior is because of what that 'sickle' bend is able to accomplish.....
Unlike a standard octopus hook, a sickle hook has a unique sickle bend in it (hence the name) that makes it really difficult for the fish to shake loose. Now, don't get me wrong, you can still loose fish with these hooks, it's just that when you bury the hook properly (by getting a good hookset) and keep the line tight, the advantage goes to you and not the fish because that bend makes it difficult for them to shake the hook and get away, unlike a standard octopus which has a smooth / round bend on it.
To me, this is critical. You need every advantage you can get. Go out and hook one of those beasts and you'll soon agree.
It's my opinion that in lower flows you're better off fishing a standard rig under a float rather than dropping down in hook size.
Salmon, especially those big beasts in the PNW, are huge fish. The wider gap that you get with the 2/0 and bigger hooks will help you retain more fish.
So, in summary, I recommend stepping up in hook size from your typical steelhead rigs and also sticking with the heavy wire hooks. No light wire stuff here.
Hooks that are 2/0 and bigger are best.
Sickle Hooks definitely help you to retain more fish.
We have our own line of Sickle Hooks available at prices WAY less than the big box stores offer. We have them in stock and shipping is free.
Grab yours here: