the Tailout July 2020 - Page 8

TIPS & TAILOUTS Salmon Mooching Cali-Style EGG WEIGHTS AND CIRCLE HOOKS MAKE IT EASY FOR SALTWATER ANGLERS Californians have mooched with circle hooks for years and the technique has become a fine tuned art form. When the regulations changed I was running charter boats full time and mooching for salmon was our bread and butter. It took some time to beat the learning curve, but the key to success was an open mind, a fleet of charter boats, and 25 passengers per day to help fine tune the rig. The rig I have found to be most productive and successful for salmon mooching with circle hooks is relatively simple. Start with a fine wire circle hook that is thin in diameter, sharp and easy to set into the fish. A 6- to 8-foot leader in 15-pound test works best. The use of egg weights is a unique and controversial part of the rig. The mainline used can be 30-pound braid or 15- to 20-pound mono. A 7- to 9-foot rod with slow action works best. A sufficient reel used for saltwater with a smooth drag and an end bearing that can adjust for a stiff free spool setting is good. Personally, I like to use the Eagle Claw 197L hooks, but Gamakatsu and Owner also make good circle hooks for mooching. The key with hook choice is a thin wire hook; the hook set cannot be too dramatic so a subtle hook set must get the hook to penetrate. When the bait is threaded I like to start at the eye and come out 1 inch before the tail along the lateral line of the bait. After the bait is threaded the hook eye should rest just inside the eye socket of the bait. I use two dental rubber bands to prevent the gills from flaring open and they pinch the head tight to open the gap of the hook. The leader is then halfhitched around the bait’s tail twice. These suggestions are key to the success of this technique. The weight I prefer is a round “egg weight” ranging from 2 to 8 ounces. The weight of course depends on the depth of the fish and speed of the drift. There are many reasons why I like the egg weight. For starters it slides on the line compared to a fixed weight and prevents spit baits. It doesn’t tangle with the other lines and it rolls over other lines like a ball bearing. When battling a fish, and the net comes out it will not get tangled in the net as your fishing partner takes a stab at the fish in rough windy conditions. It takes only a minute to cut off and retie a new weight on when it’s time to increase or decrease weight sizes. If you cannot tell, yes I don’t like the plastic sliding sleeve weights. The plastic sleeves tangle and catch debris in the water and hang up on jelly fish. Try the egg weights you will enjoy them so much you may find they work for all species and techniques that require lead. The mooching rod and reel is a personal choice and I think most salmon fishermen may have their own opinion. I will recommend a long, parabolic slow action rod. If I had my pick it would be fiberglass rod that is 9 feet long and rated from 12 to 20 pounds. The reel should have a smooth drag and the free spool option should be adjustable to mooch in free spool with the end bearing tight enough to hold your weight. A soft clicker is important if you soak your bait in free spool. Bait of choice in these parts is a large juicy anchovy. Herring works well also and holds up in adverse conditions a bit stronger than an anchovy. In this area salmon seem to prefer anchovies but take both baits. If you are into scents, then juice the bait up. I do believe fresh anchovy, sardine or herring oils increase strikes; and the strike tends to be more aggressive with scented bait. In areas where circle hooks are not required consider trying the egg weight and threading your bait the way I outlined. I think you’ll like the results. MIKE BAXTER 6 SALMON THE TAILOUT & STEELHEAD JOURNAL 38