Sockeye salmon are noted as being the best tasting salmon in all of Alaska. They are the number one targeted species for commercial fisherman with their rate of $1.00 or more per pound every year. But, this is not an article on how to catch sockeye salmon with a net. Catching sockeye salmon on a fly is one of the most popular fly-fishing tasks in all of Alaska.
Sockeye salmon spawn in a lake or most spawn above a lake as part of their life cycle. Once the sockeye salmon hit their native spawning river, they usually only stop a few times to rest unlike the other salmon species. These salmon pretty much charge up the river in a migrating stupor that is an amazing sight to see. Just think what it must look like when over a million salmon swim by our shoreline hugging the bank on this migration that lasts weeks. It is truly a sight to see.
Sockeye salmon are plankton feeders in the ocean, so unlike the other 4 salmon species, sockeye salmon are not targeted using herring, shrimp, or squid patterns. These fish will not hit a fly at all unless they are spawning or are in a rare moment of schooling/resting behavior that is extremely rare. The sockeye salmon have to be “flossed” with the leader while they are traveling by in shallow water. This is achieved by swinging the fly line and leader into their traveling line and literally getting the leader to slide right in their mouth. The hook/fly is right there and usually gets them in the opposite side of the mouth you are standing on. For instance, if the fish are moving from your right to your left, and you are on the left bank looking up river, then all the fish will be hooked in the right side of their jaw. This sounds hard, but when you get the right leader dialed in and you can see the fish, you are on your way to a quick limit of 5 sockeye salmon.
This is not snagging, as “snagging” is illegal. This is what I call “artful flossing” of the sockeye. All fish must be hooked in the mouth or they must be returned immediately. Fly color and selection is only important for the angler so he or she can see the fly as it works it’s way through the passing schools.
Once hooked, these sockeye salmon are one of the best fighting salmon in the world for their weight. Chrome bright and full of fight, these sockeye salmon will not disappoint on the river or on the table!