Foul Hooked; On South Dakota Salmon


Living in South Dakota I've gotten to experience a fishing opportunity that isn't available in most states, which is snagging Chinook Salmon.

It was about 6 years ago that I started targeting salmon. Every October, they spawn on Lake Oahe, bringing them in close enough to reach from shore. However, I quickly learned, they are very hard if not impossible to get to take a lure during spawn.

Year after year, I would throw lures from dusk til dawn and strike out. That was until 2 years ago, I started exploring new areas to search for them. I found several areas where I could visibly see the fish, but still couldn't get them to take a lure. I ended up taking up bowfishing last fall just to target them. I wasn't a very great shot, but after countless failures, I ended up getting 3 with the bow. I also learned a lot of information that helped me this year when the SDGF&P legalized snagging for spawning salmon.

I had been dwelling all year that there was an unrestricted category for salmon with a bow, and that one of the salmon I got last year, would have taken the state record, which weighed 18lbs 10oz, beating the state record which was set at 17lbs 6oz.

I was extremely anxious for October to arrive this year after finding out snagging fell into that same unrestricted category. I scouted several areas waiting for them to show, checking some of my normal areas, as well as some of the popular areas. I found a few fish, but wasn't able to hook up with any.

Then I got a great tip from my buddy Peter, who had spotted some in a back bay. I immediately took off work, covered my next 2 shifts and hit the road. The spot was great, nice pushed in bay where I could get some good shots off with the bow, and pulls with the treble. I used the bow mainly, but it became quickly apparent that I should just stick to the fishing rod.

The first day came with a nice learning curve. I had learned the previous year that their eyesite is amazing in and out of the water. The smallest movement or sound and they would jet back to deeper water. After spooking several in a row casting to close, I started to lead them.

Throwing out 15 to 20 feet in front of them and 20 to 30 feet past them. This would allow me to reel up and drop to the bottom in front of them then wait for them to cross. It had to be timed well or they would still see the line and turn away last second.

I was able to hook up with several after learning that trick. Another problem was keeping them on the hook. Needless to say, they are not happy when hooked in the side, they take off like a rocket tearing line off the reel. I started releasing the drag for 20 to 30 secs after hooking them, and it seemed to sink that treble in better.

I got several solid fish the next few trips, but not the one I was looking for.

The following week, I had one perfect day where there was no wind and sunshine all day. I wasn't able to sleep, so I picked up my buddy Lee and we took off about 3am, arriving just as the sun came up. We were each able to hook up on a few smaller guys, but no good. Then I saw a huge shadow pushing towards the back of the bay.

I quickly got a cast out and just happened to get lucky enough to make it a good one. I set the hook and she took off screaming immediately taking 50 yards of line. They are extremely hard to control when they get some diving room, so I found myself having to run her down and cut angles off to keep her from getting down too deep.

For at least an hour we played this game, where I'd get her all the way to shore and she would take off and tear 50 yards from me again. Finally, I got a good spot picked out on the shore and wore her down enough for Lee to make an awesome tail grab on her, while standing in knee deep mud.

I was pretty ecstatic, as I knew right away she was a record breaker! Unfortunately, I don't typically carry a scale, so we hauled her off to a local butcher shop to get her weighed on a certified scale, 22 lbs 3 oz!

I live for that adrenaline rush of putting a good fish on the shore, and although it didn't come with the usual techniques used to target game fish, it was a very unique and challenging experience. I can't wait to get out there and do it again next October!

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