Salmon Fishing Gear List: Essential Items for a Trip

Having the RIGHT gear is vital to success in any salmon trip. We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive gear list for salmon fishing

The excitement that comes with preparing for a salmon fishing trip is hard to replicate. The thought of getting into the wilderness, seeing wildlife, and landing some of the world’s most unique fish is what outdoor adventuring is all about. Salmon fishing is a challenge and having the proper gear can make or break the trip. Throughout the article, we’ll tell you everything you need from fishing equipment to clothing.

Fly Fishing Gear for Salmon

Salmon Fishing Gear List Flies
Fly fishing gear for salmon includes a specialized fly rod, reel, line, and accessories such as waders and polarized sunglasses, designed for the size of the fish and water conditions.

Fly fishing for salmon requires a bit more than a traditional trout fishing setup. Depending on where you’re fishing and the type of salmon you’re targeting, you’ll need a variety of different pieces of fishing gear. Salmon can be anywhere from 3 pounds to 45 or 50 pounds depending on the subspecies.

Rod

Many salmon anglers have several fly fishing rods. If you’re going after king salmon, chinook salmon, or chum salmon, you’re going to want to fish with somewhere between 8-weight to 10-weight 9′ fast action rods.

Some anglers will use a spey rod and others will use an 8-weight switch rod. The most important thing to prioritize is power. You want enough power to make longer casts and large mends and have enough power to fight the fish. A fast action rod gives you the casting and mending power and the 8-weight to 10-weight gives you the power to fight the giants.

If you’re going after pink salmon or sockeye salmon, you don’t necessarily need an 8-weight. A 6-weight or 7-weight 9′ fast action rod would do the trick. The smaller salmon species aren’t going to necessarily test your rod strength, but the weather and water conditions may require a bit more power.

Reel

Salmon Fishing Gear List Fly Reel
When selecting a reel for salmon fishing, it is crucial to match it to the weight of your rod, use a large arbor reel that can hold more lines, and have a strong drag system to manage the pressure of reeling in large salmon.

Whatever reel you choose, make sure it matches well with the weight of your rod. For example, if you’re using a 9-weight rod, you want to be using a 9-weight reel. An improperly balanced rod and reel setup can make casting a bit more of a challenge.

It’s also important to make sure you’re using a large arbor reel. Large arbor reels are able to hold more lines, so you don’t have to worry if you tie into a massive salmon that runs a long way. Finally, make sure your reel has a strong drag system. You want to apply a decent amount of pressure to salmon when you hook into them.

Line

For your fly fishing line, you’ll want to match it to the weight of your rod and reel. If you have a 9-weight rod and reel, use a 9-weight line. Depending on the depth of the water, you’ll want either a floating or sink-tip line. If it’s shallow, use a floating, and if it’s deep use a sink-tip.

Leader Size

For your leader, you’ll want a 0x salmon leader and a good brand of tippet. Some anglers will use a wire tippet as well because of the strength of salmon as well as their teeth.

Fly Types

For good flies for salmon, stick with streamers and nymphs. Egg patterns, hairwings, tube flies, deceiver patterns, and anything bright and flashy will do the trick. They’re reaction strikers.

Drift Fishing Gear for Salmon

Salmon Fishing Gear List Spinning Combo
To effectively drift fish for salmon, anglers typically use a medium to long spinning or baitcasting rod, reel, bait or lures, and other equipment such as sinkers and swivels to present the bait at the desired depth and location in the water column.

Drift fishing for salmon is a bit different than fly fishing, so you’ll need some different gear to make sure you’re better able to land them.

Rod

You’ll want a 10 to 12-foot drift rod that’s able to hold somewhere between a 15 and 30-pound line. These rods allow you to get the line high out of the water and let your drift rig lead the way. You want your egg sack or egg pattern to be at the forefront.

Reel

Some anglers use a spinning reel and others use a baitcasting reel. Depending on your preference, there isn’t necessarily a right answer. Both will work! Make sure it’s somewhere around a 4000-size reel.

Float/Bobber

A typical bobber will do the job when you’re float fishing for salmon. Many bait shops will sell pre-setup drift rigs for salmon. If you want to make your own, use a size #15-30 Dacron and a uni-knot.

Terminal Tackle

The other things you’ll need for drift fishing include a medium size clip swivel, a slinky weight, an octopus hook, a floating bead, and some sort of colored yarn to put down near your egg.

General Gear List for Salmon Fishing

Salmon can also be caught on lures (more info here) cast on either spinning or baitfishing combos.

Regardless of the style of fishing you’re doing, you’re going to need a few other pieces of equipment to ensure your time on the water is successful.

Net

Salmon are known to go on long runs, so having a large net is extremely helpful. It’s not uncommon to get the salmon right up to your feet and they take off all over again. A large net is going to prevent you from losing fish near the shore or boat.

Wet Weather Gear

Salmon Fishing Gear List Wet Weather Gear
When salmon fishing, a general gear list includes a rod, reel, line, hooks, bait or lures, waders, polarized sunglasses, and accessories such as pliers and a net, with equipment choices tailored to the size of the fish and water conditions.

Generally, areas with salmon are commonly wet environments. Be sure to have a high-quality rain jacket that’s going to keep you dry through your day of fishing.

Waders

Waders are another necessity. A set of high-quality chest waders are going to allow you to get in the water and get yourself in on the action if necessary.

Wading Boots

Get a nice pair of wading boots with rubber bottoms and studs or cleats. Water that holds salmon is generally fast-moving and challenging, so the more grip you can have, the better.

Sunglasses

Having a good pair of sunglasses for fishing is a must, both to protect your eyes and to see in the water in the case of polarized sunglasses (recommended).

Extra Gear for Salmon Species

Salmon Fishing Gear List Waders
Wading gear including chest waders and good quality wading boots with decent grip is a must for salmon fishing

Knowing the proper line size needed for your salmon fishing experience is vital to know as you’re preparing your gear.

Sockeye Salmon

When you’re fishing for sockeye salmon, make sure you are using a size 20-25 pound test. Also, be prepared to do some flossing to land these fish.

Chum Salmon

Chum salmon can easily grow into the double digits, so be sure to have a 20-30 pound test for those especially strong fish.

Atlantic Salmon

You’ll need a 10-20 pound test when fishing for Atlantic Salmon. They have sharp teeth, so the stronger line can prevent any snaps.

King Salmon

King Salmon is the largest of the salmon species (see here for the world records for the various salmon species), so you want a 25-35 pound test to handle their strong runs.

Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon are also quite strong, so a line between 15-30 pounds is going to be exactly what you need.

Pink Salmon

Pink salmon are some of the smallest salmon you’ll find, so stick with a 10-15 pound test to ensure you don’t lose any.

Salmon Fishing Tips

Peak salmon fishing occurs when the salmon return from the ocean to their native rivers to spawn. Different species spawn at different times and the exact spawning times are governed by weather, water temperature and other factos (more info here on salmon spawning times).

Taking Salmon Home to Eat

If you are lucky – or skilful enough – to land some salmon on your trip, by all means take a fish or two for the table as long as that is permitted within the local fishing rules and limits of the area in which you are fishing. Be sure to get the applicable fishing license for the state you are fishing in and respect good fishing etiquette.

Salmon are great to eat and can be eaten raw, grilled, fried or cooked in any number of ways.

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Danny Mooers is a passionate fly fishing and angling writer from Arizona. Danny loves sharing his passion for fly fishing for trout and other species through his work for Tackle Village.
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