Salmon Trolling 101 — Complete 2023 Guide

Salmon is a popular fish species among anglers and fly fishermen. This is because salmon represents a complete package as they always put up a good fight, as well as being incredibly delicious as food fish.

Salmon can also be found in many fisheries around the world and can be fished using different techniques. One of the best techniques to catch salmon is trolling.

In this article, we will discuss what salmon trolling is, and highlight everything that you need to know about trolling for salmon.

salmon trolling
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What is Salmon Trolling? 

For rookie anglers who have no experience of salmon trolling, it is important to break down what trolling for salmon really is. Trolling is a fishing technique that involves using a moving boat to catch fish.

Lures or baits are hooked to the moving boat, giving them the appearance of moving prey as the boat drags them through the water. This setup tricks the salmon into going after the moving bait, allowing you to make your catch once the salmon bites. 

Trolling for salmon makes your fishing more enjoyable and increases your chances of making good catch. With salmon trolling, you can fish with multiple lines at once. This enables you to target different depths of the water all at the same time.

By doing this, you are primed to have a boat full of salmon at the end of the day. Not only does salmon trolling allow you to fish at different depths, you can also use different types of lures and bait fish.

Mixing up your bait ensures that you can attract more fish. The versatility that salmon trolling offers anglers makes it the best technique for salmon fishing.

Fishing Gear For Salmon Trolling 

Just like with every fishing technique, using the right fishing gear is key to having a successful salmon trolling outing.

Your salmon trolling gear includes fly rods, reels, lures, and baits, leader as well as flashers. 

Rods, Reels and Leaders

The number of fly rods that you use depends on the amount of rod holders that are installed on your boat. Most anglers use between two and six rods when trolling for salmon.

It is best to use designated trolling rods for salmon trolling, as they are designed to meet the demands of this technique. There are two main qualities that your trolling rods should have. A salmon trolling rod should be long with the ideal length between 8 to 12 feet long.

The length of the rod provides flexibility which ensures that the salmon gets hooked, once they bites the lure. A long rod also gives you more leverage, if you need to fight a strong salmon. The second quality that a trolling rod should have is a soft tip.

The tip of your salmon trolling rod should be soft and flexible, in order for the salmon to get hooked without the lure getting out of their mouth as the boat moves.

Since you are fishing with multiple lines at once, you can mix up your trolling rods. From medium-heavy to medium-light and heavy, as well as medium to fast action rods are options to choose from. 

Choose a trolling reel, as they work best with salmon trolling rods. Your trolling reel should be a size 300 or more.

Braided lines of 40 to 50 lb are ideal for salmon trolling, provided you pair them with leaders. Leaders function as shock absorbers, therefore it is essential to use effective ones.

Go for leaders that are between 20 to 30 lb made of fluorocarbon or monofilament. 

Lures and Baits

You can troll using a range of baits and lures since you are fishing with multiple fishing lines. You want your baits to produce flash and vibration, as this is what calls the attention of the salmon.

The best live bait choices are minnows, herring, and shrimp. If you are looking to use starter lures, then you can choose from salmon spinners, spoons, plugs, and hoochies. 

Additional Fishing Accessories

Flashers and downriggers are fishing accessories that will aid your salmon trolling. Flashers refer to a long metal or plastic piece that is used to entice salmon while trolling.

Flashers are usually attached in front of bait or lure, in order to attract the salmon to it. Flashers are designed to resemble aquatic creatures.

This thereby leads the salmon to think that another fish is feeding on the bait, thereby prompting them to go after it.

The flash and vibration that are emitted by flashers are effective in attracting salmon that are stationed far away.

Downriggers are useful for lowering your lure to desired depth to attract salmon. Trolling for salmon offers you accuracy and flexibility.

You can get your lures to the correct depth that you want, allowing you to reach parts of the water that you cannot fish ordinarily. 

Basics of Salmon Trolling

Once you have gotten your gear ready, the next thing to do is to start trolling. Speed and direction are two aspects of salmon trolling that you must get right.

The trolling speed should be determined by the water body that you are fishing in. The goal is to make your bait look as realistic as possible. The ideal trolling speed for salmon fishing is between 1.5 to 3.5 mph. Make sure to always check on your bait to get the right trolling speed.

If it is barely moving, then you might need to speed things up. If the bait is moving too wildly, then it is important to slow it down. As mentioned earlier, the goal is to make your bait look natural. 

Choosing the direction to troll is dependent on the fishery. Factors like wind direction, fishing current, and light penetration determine the best direction to go trolling for salmon.

Always consider these factors before setting up your trolling gear.

Best Locations for Salmon Trolling

Salmon is a fish species that is available in abundance in different areas of the world. Some of the popular locations for salmon trolling include the Pacific Northwest.

In the Pacific Northwest, you can check out Oregon’s Buoy 10, the Willamette River, and Columbia River.

Great lakes such as Lakes Michigan are home to salmon. You can also find salmon in Canada, Russia, the UK as well as Sweden. 

Tips for Salmon Trolling 

Now that you have all the information that you need on salmon trolling, it is left to highlight useful tips to use out there.

  • Fish With An Experienced Guide:  If you are a rookie angler, it might be best to fish with an experienced guide until you learn the ropes. This saves you the cost and stress of setting up your own boat. By doing this, you will be ready to troll on your own in no time.
  • Respect Fish Limits: It is important that you respect the limit laws of the area where you are fishing. In locations around the west coast, the number of salmon has been on a steady decline. 

In addition, it is important to bleed your salmon after landing them in order to preserve their flavor. 


Salmon trolling is an exciting and effective technique for fishing salmon. It also requires little practice for you to get it right. With salmon trolling, you stand a high chance of having a great amount of salmon to consume at the end of the day.

All you need to do is ensure to set up with the right fishing tackle. Also, respect the fishing limits and take only what you need. 

Daniel O’Neill
Fishing Expert
Daniel specializes in fly, predator, and saltwater angling. He has practiced angling from a young age, quickly developing his knowledge of fishing fundamentals. His angling journey began in Ireland, primarily targeting rainbow trout on a fly rod. His passion for angling grew extensively as he ventured into other forms of fishing. He primarily targets freshwater and saltwater destinations in Ireland and the UK. His favorite catch to date was a 7lb / 3.6KG thick-lipped mullet from the Northern Irish coast—a prized fish to target on a fly rod. He is now the owner of DON Angling, a business that intends to inform and educate anglers on the best techniques, methods, and etiquette available.
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Articles » Saltwater Fishing » Salmon Trolling 101 — Complete 2023 Guide