Coho Salmon Fishing 201

I feel it coming on, it seems to happen every year about this time....it's a bad case of Coho fever!!!  Those little silvers start occupying my thoughts as the days get longer, because Coho season is right around the corner.  For me that means weekend trips to Kenosha beginning in late April or early May. 

Last year the Coho fishing was literally off the hook.  Incredible amounts of these little guys showed up in late April and good numbers stuck around through the end of May. You'll see lots written about small stick baits for Coho's.  Stick baits have a time and place for Coho's, (baits like Brads Thin Fins) and that's during March and early April in the extreme southern part of Lake Michigan. 

By the time Coho's make it to the IL/WI state line in late April or early May, nothing beats a 6" Luhr Jensen Orange Dodger or 6" Dreamweaver Coho Dodger paired with a Peanut or Mini fly 16-18" behind.  Last year was the first year I ran the Dreamweaver Coho Dodger and I was thoroughly impressed.  They caught fish as well or better then my old staple Jensen Dodger.

Let me run through my typical day.  I generally launch the boat right around day break. There is no need to be on the water before first light.  Coho's really start snapping once the suns rays have a chance to warm the surface water.  Out of Kenosha I head south towards the state line.  Generally speaking late April/Early May you'll find most of your Coho's in shallow water right on the surface.  You can catch Coho's from 40fow to right up on the beach in less then 10fow.  About mid-May we almost always do better out deep in 170-200fow, keep in mind this will change daily on your way out look for surface temp breaks as they are a great indication of where fish will be. 

Never spend more then an hour or so in one particular area or depth range without getting bit.  If you have the right gear out Coho's will bite, they are not shy.  Catching 20+ fish in less then 2 hours is the name of the game.  That said keep moving until you find the fish.  Once fish are located mark them on your GPS and keep working that area, it really pays to work a spot. Keep the speed between 2.0 and 2.6mph, if the dodgers spin out no big deal doesn't seem to matter most days, just pay attention on your turns if you get bites wheather they are on the slow or fast side of the boat and adjust from there.  I use my riggers to target spring Kings, but they catch Coho more often then not. 

To target the Kings I generally run a light regular size spoon on one of my riggers and a 8" flasher and King fly on the other.  Keep your riggers spaced apart and work the water column where you are seeing marks.  Last year we caught piles of Coho's and a few bonus Kings on the riggers down 70-130ft.

I'm going to give you a quick run down of how I like to use my own Poseidon Peanut and Mini Flies in my spread.  All of the flies in the Poseidon line were designed for a reason.  There is not one out there that was not made to fulfill a specific purpose.  Each peanut fly is hand tied on a #2 Owner 2x Strong Treble, and each Mini Fly uses the same #2 Owner 2x Strong Treble tied with two beads on 50# Suffix Superior Line.  You will not find a fly using this high quality of components anywhere.  That said the strength is in the pattern of the fly, not the hook.

During the first part of the Coho run you'll be best served running Peanut flies behind your orange dodgers.  I like a 16-18" leader tied from the head of the fly to the end of the surgeon's knot.  Early in the season Coho's are very surface orientated and nothing beats darker patterns on overcast or foggy days.  I think the darker patterns resemble small bugs on the surface and this gets the Coho's going.  The darker patterns standout against the sky even in low light. 

My early season overcast peanut line up looks something like this in no particular order: Mardi Gras, Black and Blue, Al, Sidewinder, Boxelder, Smurf and Black Ant.  If it's sunny, peanuts like the Spartan, AquanautSuperNova, Silver Aqua, Northern Lights and Firefly get the nod.

As the season progresses and Cohos become more scattered in the water column, aquas, greens, blues and golds take over.  I like the Blue Green and Gold, Green n Gold, Blue n Gold , Firefly, Sidewinder, when the fish are less the 10ft deep.  Peanuts like Aquanaut, MKE Minnow, Silver Aqua and Steelie Stomper are best when the fish are 10-40ft down. If the fish are deeper then 40ft I'm going to run a Mini fly instead of a peanut for additional bulk. 

By the third week in May Mini flies are taking up about 30% of my spread.  These 2" Mini's are great on Coho's and bonus Rainbows.  My best mid May Minis are MKE Minnow, Blue Green Gold, and Green n Gold.  I run the minis behind orange dodgers just like the peanuts. 

By June, if I'm running Coho Dodgers I'll only run mini's since Steelhead are very fond of them and show up in good numbers in early June.  The forage and the Cohos are growing up and the larger Mini fly is irresistible.  Great Mini's to run when both Cohos and Rainbows are on the menu are Steelie Stomper, Confetti, and Blue/Silver Two Tone Mini.  As it get's closer to mid-June most of the small dodgers are replaced with larger 8" flashers, but if I'm running a small orange dodger good chance it has a Steelie Stomper Mini trailing 18" behind.  Nothing in my opinion beats a 00 Orange Dodger and Steelie Stomper Mini when targeting Rainbows.  This may seem radical, but I'll put that combo up against any of the best steelhead spoons out there.  Try it on a 2 color leadcore on your outside board, and I'm sure you'll be impressed.

If you use the above program then limit catches of delicious Coho's are in your future this spring!


If you would you like more information on catch feisty Coho’s, check out some other Poseidon blogs.

Coho Salmon Fishing 101

Kenosha Coho's

Coho Alert


  • blake

    Hey do you have any advice for someone shore fishing for these guys from early to late May?

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