Power mooching is one of the best and most impressive methods of fishing for salmon in the remote regions. Best in the sense of effective, particularly for chinook and secondarily coho. Impressive in the sense that boat handling skills are key to fishing success.
While bait supplies can be a problem, once you have whole herring, it’s best to cut them in a blunt 30-degree angle, when thawing out – both cross section and length wise – behind the gills for chinook and a 45-degree cut on both dimensions on a shorter plug for coho; they prefer faster action and will actively speed up to whack the bait. You stick your bait knife into the belly cavity, twirl it in a circle and draw out the stomach and other organs, leaving a neat hole and unripped-skin-side that helps spiral the bait.
Typically, we use pre-rigged 6-foot leaders with two Octopus-style, kerbed hooks – from 3-0 to 6-0. Both hooks are tied to the leader (leading hook first, leaving a foot to tie on the trailing hook) with sliding knots (also known as a ‘guide’s wrap, and nailless nail knot). Here is a link to tying instructions: https://www.google.ca/search?q=nailless+nail+knot&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gws_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=RiysWa-POcOE0wL5tZ2ACQ. Distance between leading hook bend and eye of trailing hook should be less than three inches.
The leading hook is inserted into the high, or meat side of the cut on the plug, and attached to the plug in one of two ways: the simple way is to insert the point all the way through and then up out of the dorsal or near-dorsal surface, leaving most of the hook ahead of the plug; the more classy, harder way, is to draw the leading hook out the hole in the dorsal surface; then you draw the hook down the left side of the plug as you look from head to tail and insert the point. The hook is pulled right through and then neatly, the eye is buried back in the hole you have made and the shaft pushed in forward, so that the only hook showing is the bend and point at right angles to the flank.
The trailing hook is passed down further on the right side of the plug, the point inserted and the hook rotated so that it, too, comes out of the flank. Then the eye is pushed back into the hole and pushed forward so that only the point and bend show at right angles to the flank.
Alternatively, one can do the simple leading hook set up, and leave the trailing hook trailing, not attached to the plug. In either case, that max three inches of leader between hooks will leave the trailer a short distance from the plug’s tail end, rather than farther.
Each plug as rigged is attached to a ball-bearing swivel on the leader that attaches to a ball bearing end snap on the mainline. This prevents line winding up on itself into a glumph. And a weight from four ounces to a pound is attached from eight to 25 feet above the mainline snap.
Each plug is then scrutinized at the side of the boat at trolling speed to make sure it spirals, with the tail end following the ‘head’ through the spiral, not swinging in a circle with a greater/lesser diameter on the tail end compared with the head end.
Then, two stern or two bow lines are lowered to depth and power mooching begins. The boat is put into gear and the lines rise from 90 degrees straight down to 45 degrees at which point the engine is taken out of gear. As the boat slows, the lines pass down to 90 degrees again, and then the boat is put back into gear. And repeat. It is some impressive to watch a dozen boats in the out-back, following on a pass, grinding a hotspot tight to a rock. You put your boat into gear when the person in front of you does, and when they take it out of gear, you do the same, too.
It’s a ballet of move, slide, move, slide. When a fish bites, the boats work to open a space and that boat moves offshore to play the fish, leaving everyone else fishing. When the fish is in the boat, that boat is allowed to rejoin the ‘circle’ of boats once again.
The high art of the method is shown when underwater structure requires great handing skills. With the double aluminum hull open boats often used in remote areas, two rods in the bow and two rods in the stern, it takes lots of skill to keep all four rods fishing properly, without tangling and off the bottom.
In spots where the bottom structure changes direction, or even presents a dead end, the boat handler is keeping everything fishing at all times – 45 to 90 degrees and so on – even when required to reverse out of a dead-end structure, then swinging the boat to follow the previously covered, or new structure once backed out.
When you reverse in a turn, the bow end swings the most. When you move forward in a turn, it is the stern end that swings most. When you might have 40 feet out, but the structure may come to, say 25 feet, it takes lots of skill to keep the boat and rods working and not hanging up. It also takes lots of skill and quick movement, once you have a fish on, to clear the other rods.
Part of the reason this is a remote technique is that there are more fish in the out-back areas, thus boats don’t grind a rock all day, doing the ‘stick and stay and make it pay’ thing for when the bite comes on.
Places close by that come to mind are the back side of Otter Point on the ebb (although there can be too many boats that don’t understand the power mooching pattern, to allow such a practice), inside the bay structure of Beechy Head, and the dead-end chute off the Chinese cemetery in Victoria. There are more spots, of course, but I leave you to find those.