One of the key elements to fishing Alaska salmon is choosing proper bait and bait presentation. While this sounds simple, the process can be complex and, if done right, can yield huge rewards.

What to Use as Bait:

At Doc Warner’s, we use herring as bait. Salmon swim through schools of herring, flicking their tails in an attempt to injure or knock their prey unconscious. Herring should be baited to imitate the appearance of an injured fish. Watch this video to help you prepare hering cut strips and then read some of our additional tips for salmon baiting.

Hooking Bait:

Hook the bait at the front end. The bait should trail in the water and not fold over on itself. The hooks can go the same direction or opposite directions. Salmon are not scared at the sight of a hook; they will even bite an empty hook.

Improving Your Odds: Scent Tracks, Dodgers, and Flashers

Another strategy for catching salmon is a scent track. Without it, your catch rate can drop significantly. Recently, we have seen a dramatic increase in the sale of artificial scent tracks such as fluorescent scent tracks. The salmon seem to like these, so we have a number of them at the lodge. Begin by cutting the herring into pieces slightly thicker than French fries (1/2 inch – 1 inch long and 3/8 inch wide). Apply the scent according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Dodgers and flashers can also help improve your odds. These devices move along in the water, reflecting light, creating an image that imitates a salmon that is moving quickly back and forth to catch prey. This attracts other salmon because they will think there is something to eat nearby.

Fishing Flashers

Fresh Bait is Best

Even with all of the fancy imitations, the best bait is fresh bait. Not only is the scent much stronger, the quality of fish and the appearance of scales are much more effective in catching salmon.

Due to regulations, we do not provide fresh bait. However, fresh bait is easy to find near Doc Warner’s lodge; we suggest catching your own. Keep the bait alive as long as possible. Keep the herring in a bucket of water or place them on top of your frozen bait. Either method will help keep the bait fresh for a longer period of time.

Mark Warner
Mark H. Warner was raised in Juneau and he has been fishing the waters of Alaska for more than 30 years. He grew up working with his father developing Doc Warner’s from its earliest days. After getting his Ph.D. in Mechanical engineering, he went to work in the industry where he later completed an Executive MBA. Then in 2010, his father, Doc, offered Mark and his wife, Kristina, the opportunity to move back to Alaska and operate the lodge full-time. Today, Mark has over 25 years of experience with Doc Warner’s. His knowledge and experience teaching people about self-guided fishing in Alaska are now used to create lasting memories for Doc Warner’s guests.