Welcome to episode #7 of the Deadly White Jig Fishing Challenge. In this episode, I’m back on Kodiak Island, Alaska, fishing the Deadly White Jig on the delicious and powerful sockeye salmon.
Sockeye salmon are a relatively small, but prolific species of Pacific salmon, measuring 18 to 31 inches in length and weighing 4 to 15 pounds. After spending one to four years out in the ocean, sockeye salmon return home from the sea to their river spawning grounds. During the spawning process, their bodies eventually turn a brilliant red color, which is why sockeyes are commonly referred to simply as “reds.” Sockeyes have a rich, delicious, nutritious, dark-colored flesh, which makes them one of the most sought after of the five Pacific salmon species by both commercial and recreational fisherman. This is also the reason that reds are one of the most economically important species of salmon in Alaska
In Alaska, sockeyes typically return to spawn in June and July in freshwater rivers of various sizes that contain one or more lakes. Sockeyes feed heavily on tiny zooplankton, and very small crustaceans and fish, which is one of the reasons that they typically don’t go after and actively bite on large spinners, lures, and flies that are popular for other species of salmon. In fact, many fishermen mistakenly believe that reds simply won’t “bite” at all, which is why the most common method of catching them is by a controlled method of snagging known as flossing, which is legal, as long as the fish is hooked in the mouth. However, while reds usually don’t go after lures or flies in the aggressive manner that a silver or king salmon would, they will…very subtlety…bite on small flies and lures, if they’re presented correctly, which makes the Deadly White Jig perfect for catching sockeyes.
Again, reds typically aren’t aggressive biters, but don’t let their rather shy nature fool you. When hooked, sockeyes are incredibly powerful, explosive fish which often leap out of the water and make long, seemingly unstoppable runs. In order to fight such a mighty fish, I’m using an 8 wt fly rod, 12 lb fluorocarbon tippet, and my standard, small-sized Deadly White Jig. As I mentioned, reds will bite on a fly, if it’s presented correctly, which means getting it right in front of their face and essentially provoking them to take a whack at it, if for nothing else, to simply get it out of their way. To do this, I use either a sinking tip line or some split shot to get the fly down to where the sockeyes are, as they tend to hold close to the bottom of the river or in deep pools and cut banks. You may have to make many, many casts in order to get a sockeye to actually bite, instead of simply snagging them like many do, but with a little patience and perseverance, they will succumb to the temptation and eventually take a nibble of a fly such as the Deadly White Jig! Check out the video below to see all the action…