Spring Coho Action
Written by Keith Shisler - Educated Angler Field Staff   
Saturday, 31 March 2007 17:50

When the big lake completely thaws and the water begins to warm, you’ll find me eagerly awaiting the arrival of the hungry spring Coho.  I fish southeastern Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan waters and mid to late April brings the first of these scrappy critters to our shores. I will be in my boat looking for them, waiting to be there with my welcoming mat as the first ones arrive.

I’ll tell you a little about how I fish for them in a small boat. I am in no way saying that I know the only way to catch Coho, and my methods may not be the best ones for you, but hopefully something here will be useful.

Image My primary setup for Coho is the 00 “red”, actually orange, Luhr Jensen dodger with peanut flies, which are flies tied directly onto a size 2 or 4 treble hook. There are other baits I use as well, Brad’s Thin Fish is another good choice; get some of the red ones with black squiggles. Some guys use Rapala floaters in size 9 or Reef Runner Rip Shads too. The bait I run most often along with the dodgers and peanuts are smallish trolling spoons.

I have found that a rather fast speed often works best once the surface temperature hits the low 50s. I routinely run 2.8 to 3.0 mph SOG on the GPS when targeting Coho. Many guys think this is too fast but it works for me and the fish seem to like it.

I will generally run 2 or 4 Dipsy Divers with the dodger/peanut fly combos. A rigger set just below the prop wash with either a dodger and fly or a Thin Fish. A deeper rigger with a regular sized spoon in lemon ice at around 35 or 40 feet, and if I have enough hands aboard or if running only 2 divers with three fishermen aboard I will fill the rest of the spread with inline planer boards with dodger fly combos. 

The divers will be between 20 and 45 feet of line on the line counter set on 3 if only 2 are used and 1 ½ and 3 on each side if 4 divers are used. I like my leaders from diver to dodger to be around 10 feet long, you must use a rod at least the same length as the leader however in order to net the fish on a small boat. If your diver rods aren’t that long make the leaders shorter.

The rigger that I run near the prop wash is often a hot setup as the Coho aren’t skittish or boat shy at this time of year. Actually sometimes it seems they are attracted to the noise of the prop. The board rods will be run anywhere from as little as 20 feet behind the board to 100 feet behind it with 5/8 oz sinkers, either rubber core or inline bead chain types.

Coho are very often packed into tight schools. If you find a good group of them, say if you get 2 bites in quick succession you should mark the spot on your GPS. You can do this either by looking at your track line or mark a waypoint. Don’t be afraid to spin right around on them there may be quite a distance to the next “pod” of fish. I have limited out many times circling through an area the size of a city block picking up singles, doubles, and triples on each pass. Quicker turns often mean that I will fish without board rods and only using divers and riggers, and if I find a nice bunch of fish I will often pull the board rods if they are out so I can turn quickly.  

If you like fast action and fish flopping all over the place then spring Coho fishing is for you! Not to mention that they are quite possibly the best tasting salmon in the lake.

 
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