There is something exhilarating about seeing your fishing line release from the downrigger and your pole tip flip up toward the sky. It means you have a salmon on the line and it’s time to reel it in.

The Process

  1. Put the boat into neutral, grab your pole, and start reeling. If the fish wants to run, let it run. This will only make it tired. Don’t fight too much or you run the risk of losing your catch. Pull other lines from the water to keep them from getting tangled.
  2. Move toward the front of the boat and reel the salmon close to one side of the boat. As it gets tired, the fish will lie down on its side to take a rest.


  1. The person with the net will move to the back of the boat on the side closest to the salmon.
  2. Place the net into the water keeping it flush against the side of the boat with the pole facing straight up in a vertical position.
  3. The person with the fishing pole will slowly drag the salmon in front of the net.
  4. The person with the net then gently scoops under the fish. It is most important to get the head of the fish into the net. The body will follow.
  5. Break the surface of the water with the net. Once the fish is in the net, lift the handle of the net upward still keeping the net itself flat against the side of the boat. This will make it impossible for the fish to escape the net.


  1. Use your other hand to grab the net and slowly pull it into your boat.
  2. Determine the species of the salmon. Be sure to identify the species before doing anything else.
  3. If you are keeping the fish, grab your bat and aim for the bridge of the nose directly between the eyes. It won’t take a big hit for salmon. Most of the time one hit will immediately kill the fish.
  4. Remove the hooks out of the mouth. Be careful! Hooks in fingers are one of the more common injuries in fishing.
  5. Take the fish to the fish well and tear the gills to start bleeding it out. With salmon, it is important to slit through 5 or 6 gills.
  6. Put your line back in the water to catch another one. Keep track of the number of each species you catch to make sure you stay within your daily limits.

Be Careful with the Net

When lifting the net with a caught salmon, remember to not lift rapidly or what some people call “pitch forking”. This is when the person with the net lifts rapidly by treating the net like a lever and pulling the handle of the net downward causing the net and fish to be lifted quickly out of the water. That tends to break the yoke of the net. And since our guests are responsible for broken equipment, that can be costly.

Very important detail: The fish goes in the net.
Very important detail: The fish goes in the net.

Repeating step #7 above, once the fish is in the net, lift the handle of the net upward still keeping the net itself flat against the side of the boat. This will make it impossible for the fish to escape the net.

The Death Twitch

On occasion Salmon do have a “death twitch”. This is important to remember when removing the hooks out of the salmon’s mouth. Our salmon lines will have two hooks, one is usually in the mouth and the other tends to get caught in the net. If the fish flips while you are removing the hooks, it is very possible that one of the hooks will go into you. To avoid this, get a good grasp on the head of the fish, usually by grabbing the gill plates from above and squeezing to hold the fish while you work on removing the hooks. Some people use pliers to remove the hooks.

A Secret of Fishing Salmon


Rule of Thumb: Get the line back in the water before dealing with the fish.

Once you have a tired salmon on the line that seems like it is going to stay on one side of the boat and right before you net the salmon, those on the other side of the boat should put their lines in the water down to a depth of 25-35 ft. As the fish is fighting, it will attract other fish to the scene to see what is going on. They think a feeding frenzy is happening.

My personal record is 7 salmon without putting the boat back into gear.

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.