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Klondike Kid

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THREADING THE NEEDLE!
A Trolling Technique for Saltwater Kings and Silvers!

Scott Miller could be considered more than just an adept angler in Alaska's salt and fresh waters. I've picked up many "fishing secrets" through numerous casual conversations with him while standing in front of the walls of fishing tackle at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing Store. The selection they offer covers every imaginable species Alaska has to offer and they even have hooks for thousand pound salmon sharks if you need them. The Miller family owns and operates the store and has just expanded into a huge new building jammed with all the goodies you could ask for. And I wouldn't be surprised if Scott and his brother Brian and father Paul have tried just about every piece of tackle they sell. These guys take their limited off time serious and when they go fishing, if the fish aren't biting they start digging through the tackle box to experiment with sometimes unorthodox rigs. That can occasionally lead to new methods for catching fish when traditional approaches are providing empty stringers and fish boxes.

But I digress....let's get back to talking saltwater trolling for kings and silvers. Its one of Alaska's most popular fisheries starting at the southern tip of the Panhandle and extending north throughout southcentral's coastal communities all the way to the last community on the Aleutian Chain. Alaska waters are home to all five species of Pacific salmon and there is nothing finer for the table than a fish right out of the saltwater.

Catching salmon in saltwater is not too difficult but it does require more expertise than just launching your boat and dragging a bait behind you. Knowing where to fish, what depth to offer your bait or lure, what type of bait or lure to use, and what speed to troll are the critical elements of this sport. If you miss on any one of them you may go home empty-handed. So having a variety of ways to fish will improve your odds of cracking the Da Vinci code for that particular day.

It was one of those days last year when the Millers were out king trolling in Cook Inlet and literally ran out of all their favorite tackle that had been producing fish. They suspected a "renegade" shark was in the area taking their fish and the tackle with it. So it turned into one of those "what do we have to lose" days and out came the tackle box. Knowing that sand lance, aka needlefish, are the king salmon's most abundant food source, it was time to try a new jig that was begging to be given a chance to show off. Its name was the Grim Reefer and in many ways was similar to the Point Wilson Dart that many Alaskan saltwater anglers use for a variety of bottomfish and salmon.


The GRIM REEFER

The DART

The Real Deal - Sand Lance, Needlefish, Candlefish

The Grim Reefer is also different in a number of ways. It is noticeably wider from top to bottom than its counterpart. This provides the jig with more surface area to flutter on the down drop compared to the Dart. Action and flash are the two factors that prompt a fish to strike. We just covered that first factor. The other notable difference is the coloration. The Grim Reefer models use a Hyper-Vis™ painting process which may be likened to the powder coating you see on many metal items. In this case the jig's surface is covered in a two color glitter "enamel" to simulate the darker back and lighter under belly of needlefish. A prismatic eye completes the optical enticement. The glitter and flash from the surface of the Grim Reefer provides significant improvement in the visibility of this lure, especially at depth or under low light conditions. And lastly, the lure is a "weight backward" design which provides more weight at the rear of the jig than the front end. The advantage is as the lure flutters on the drop, it "falls away" from the line thereby reducing the chance the hook may tangle in the line.

But what about trolling? How does a jig fit into this scenario? Back to the story - Scott rigged up one of these 2 1/4 ounce Blue/Silver Grim Reefers behind a coyote flasher and began trolling it. Because the lure is made of lead he had to increase the boat speed to give it more horizontal action and prevent it from "hanging" behind the flasher. The rest is history as they say. The Millers have caught kings, silvers and pinks with this rig in areas such as Pogie Point, Bluff Point, and Anchor Point. It has even made a good flat line lure for a surface rod not using the downriggers.

Scott's Sytem:
  1. Bend a slight curve in the Grim Reefer
  2. Use 20-25 pound mainline
  3. Use 10-12 pound downrigger weight
  4. Use your line release of choice
  5. 11" x 3 3/4" Luhr-Jensen Coyote Flasher
  6. 24 inches - 25 pound Fluorocarbon between flasher and Grim Reefer
  7. Use 2 1/4 or 1 1/5 oz. Grim Reefer - Silver/blue & others with silver
  8. Remove treble hook and add split ring and 3/0 Siwash hook.
  9. Add a split ring to the nose of the Grim Reefer for line attachment.
  10. Use a Palomar Knot to tie to the lure.
  11. Drop downrigger to about 20 feet for beach trolling, 60 feet for open water.
  12. Troll at about 3 1/2 MPH (Note: This is WATER speed and not speed over ground as GPS units report. Use your boat speedometer or troll meter to set your boat speed rather than using your GPS speed.)

Scott has used a 2 1/4 oz. Grim Reefer (silver/blue) but thinks all the colors will work well under different light and water conditions because they all flash so great in low light. He thinks the 1 1/5 oz. Grim Reefer should also work great and would probably allow a slower trolling speed if desired.

If baitfish show on the finder, troll five feet below bait.

Scott likes the Coyote Flasher in Silver/Chartreuse and Silver/Red but others with silver should also work. If there is a lot of grass or kelp collecting on the line, add an additional swivel a couple feet in front of the Coyote Flasher to act as a grass catcher.

King and silver salmon each prefer to strike lures or baits at specific trolling speeds. Silver salmon are voracious feeders who attack baitfish schools at speeds that rival barracuda. You should troll faster for silvers than for kings.

You can find the Grim Reefer jig at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware Store and other fine sporting goods stores. Keep your hooks sharp. And good luck!

Klondike Kid


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