Written by Bob Melrose.
How sharp are you? Whoa, not talking about you losing it, talking about losing fish. The single, most important, thing you can do to having more success in landing fish is to have sticky sharp hooks. Yet, many anglers forget this critical bit of advice. Over the years, we have had many anglers say they had hooked but not held onto fish. When asked if the hooks were sharp or had been sharpened, a glazed, but familiar look comes over them. Without that sharp hook, you may make many passing acquaintances but no lasting friendships. In order for that hook to penetrate a fishes hard mouth, that hook needs to be sticky sharp. Sticky means grabbing, and not sliding, on an inclined fingernail. Sharp hooks are necessary for any fishing but especially so when it comes to Salmon or Steelhead. If the fish so much as sniffs your offering you want him/her hooked. Those hooks should also be checked and touched up every time you touch bottom. Many anglers do not take the time to do this. In fact, the majority of anglers do not own a hook sharpener.
Most hooks that come on the various lures are not sticky sharp and need to be touched up, or replaced, with the excellent Gamakatsu, or another of the premium hooks available. In BC we must use single hook only so we can replace the trebles or inferior single hooks with the open eye Gamakatsu hook. These hooks have an open eye, so are easy to attach to the split ring. A WARNING here: Gamakatsu's are very high tempered and if you close that open eye quickly, you may crack the hook. Close slowly to avoid breakage.
When using the Octopus or beak type hooks look at the size of the eye to see if the split ring will fit through the eye. Hooks are available with different sized eyes appropriate for the application. Our laws also demand barbless, and if your hooks are barbed you can squeeze those barbs down SLOWLY, to avoid breakage. Most of the hooks can also be purchased in the Barbless version.
There are many hook sharpeners available at your speciality retailer. The most common is the Luhr Jensen Hook File in various sizes and with or without a handle. They are good but harder to finesse a hook if it needs just a minor touch up. The diamond sharpener by EZE-LAP are good in that they are pen-like and clip on your pocket. Pull out the sharpener, reverse it, and the round, diamond encrusted rod has a groove for aligning the hook. They work well and don't remove near as much material as the LJ Hook File.
The best one I have found is the DR. SLICK diamond paddle. One side of the paddle is fine, and a medium on the reverse side. It is very easy to use and finesse even small flies. Clipped onto a retractor it is always available and should be used often.
Hook sharpening should be done towards the point, at three different, equal angles for best results. Test for sharpness on your fingernail.
If you want to "Hook and Hold" keep those hooks sharp.
Most of our salmon fishing for Spring/Chinook Salmon is now winding down or closed. Many anglers enjoy the great fighting qualities of the next biggest of the Pacific Salmon, the Chum. Chum are much maligned as "Dog Salmon" (for their canine teeth in spawning phase, and for there "only good for dog food" misnomer). However, with proper care they are good table fare.
Chum Salmon are short river travellers and deteriorate quickly on entering fresh water. Fresh Chum should be cleaned and iced immediately after catching for best eating or smoking. Many anglers have the salmon sitting in the water for hours on a hot day and then complain that the fish are soft or terrible. In fact some cynical recipes for Chum tell you to cook the Chum on a cedar plank and then eat the plank. Like I say they get a bum chum rap.
Chum have a low oil content and smoke up well as many First Nations folk will tell you. Best cold smoked or made into Salmon Candy. Chum Chowder is a great soup and many Chum recipes can be found on the net by people who take the time to get the best results. The most important thing is to use only the freshest fish that are cleaned and iced immediately.
They will readily take flies and this is becoming the most popular way to fish for them. A #8-10 weight rod is needed as they can reach the mid 30's in size(15-kg). They will also take spoons and Spin-N-Glos.