If you get onboard a salmon fishing charter in Ketchikan, Alaska, you’ll encounter a variety of items necessary to ensuring your safety, comfort and your chance of catching some Salmon.

One of these items is attached to the rail or the “gunwales” on the back of the boat. You may be scratching your head wondering what this contraption is and its purpose for your trip. Known as a downrigger, this instrument plays a vital role in getting bait down to where the fish are and keeping it there.

When trolling for fish, a lure or bait will not stay at the bottom or your desired depth. As the boat moves along, the lure will rise to the surface and away from the salmon.

The downrigger consists of a spool of cable with a heavy lead weight attached to the end. For Salmon fishing, this weight is usually 10 pounds. Also, these weights come in a variety of shapes.

When you attach the line from your rod to the downrigger cable, you will be able to lower the bait to the exact water level you want it to be. A downrigger can be manual or electric.

Continue reading for a brief description on how this basic yet intriguing system works to help you keep your bait at the right level and attract Coho or other types of Salmon.

Downriggers revolutionized all types of fishing by giving the angler more control over how far down his bait goes

Trolling is a popular method for fishing for Salmon off the coast of Ketchikan, Alaska. This method consists of moving the boat forward while the lure or bait is let off the back. As the bait moves through the water, the fish will be attracted to its scent, sound, movement or a combination of all three.

As we explained earlier, a lure by itself will not stay at one depth. As the boat moves forward, the lure will gradually rise to the water’s surface.

A downrigger solves this dilemma by attaching the line/lure to a weighted line of cable.

To attach the line/lure to the downrigger cable, the angler first lets out about 10 to 20 feet of line off his fishing reel into the water behind the boat as it is moving forward. This “leader” ensures the lure is well behind the downrigger cable.


Next, the angler will attach his fishing line to the downrigger cable using a release or downrigger clip.

With the lure attached and in the water, the angler then lets the cable out to the desired depth. Once there, they will turn the spool off on their reel and set the rod into the holder on the downrigger.

As the boat moves along, the pole will be bent due to the tension from the weight and the force from the lure moving through the water.

As the bait continues trolling through the water, Salmon will be drawn to it provided it’s moving in a way similar to their common baitfish

Besides allowing the angler to set the depth for his bait, a downrigger also helps the bait to move through the water in a natural way. If a fish sees a lure that’s swimming funny, they will not know something isn’t right and not bite.

However, when they do chomp down on that lure and start to run with it, the fishing line and downrigger cable will separate. Strangely enough, the fishing pole will no longer be bent. Also, many novice anglers mistakenly believe you reel the downrigger ball and fish up at the same time.

Once you have a good hookup and the fishing line is separated from the downrigger cable, the rest is up to you.

After you’ve landed that nice Coho Salmon and ready to start all over or call it quits for the day, you will need to reel in the downrigger cable and weight. A fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska will either have a manual or electric downrigger.

Manual downriggers are nice since they never break provided the owner keeps the parts lubricated.

However, if you’re pulling that cable in from deeper water, an electric downrigger will come in handy. It can get tiring pretty quickly to crank a handle with a 10 pound lead weight attached to it through the water.

So when you’re on a fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska and you see two or three of these contraptions on the back of the boat, you will now know the vital role it plays in helping you bring home some Salmon.

Oasis Alaska Charters have state-of-the-art fishing boats equipped with all of the necessary gear for ensuring your safety, comfort and enjoyment catching Salmon off the coast of Ketchikan, Alaska. We invite you to visit http://www.oasisalaskacharters.com/ to learn more or to check availability today!