27th Annual Big One Derby - August 4-7, 2011 on Lake Coeur d'Alene

Hook A Chinook

     By Benita Galland AKA Green Flashers

Even on the best of days, boating a chinook on Coeur d’Alene Lake is a challenge. The Lake Coeur d'Alene Anglers Association has been exerting quite an effort to help new anglers learn how to be successful. Over the year, there have been several seminars presented by LCAA club members at Mark’s Marine, Black Sheep, Fins & Feathers and Cabela’s. More seminars are planned for dates close to the Big One Derby. There will be a seminar at Black Sheep Sporting Goods store on July 21st. Tobler’s Marina and Fins & Feathers will host a clinic on July 28th. Information on those dates and places is available at www.lcaaidaho.com. If you can’t attend one of the upcoming seminars, I hope that this article will be of some help.

Catching a chinook takes more than just the right lure. It takes a combination of the right lure, speed, leader length, dodger/flasher, depth and good luck. Luck is a very major player! Lets take a look at some of these others in isolation.

Lures that are successful.


These come in various types. The streamer fly, with hair tied to the hook shank, and tube flies are the popular type trolled on Lake Coeur d'Alene. Both work equally well. Color is important. Try flies that have colors in dark to light combination (i.e. a darker color with one or two lighter colors). Flies with one or more of these colors often work well: black, white, green, chartreuse, blue, pink, purple, brown. Sometimes a solid color works. Flies are trolled behind a flasher or dodger taken to various depths ranging from 30 to 90 feet by a downrigger. In the spring, they are trolled close to the serface. Refer to Don Houk’s “Rule of Thumb” for leader length and trolling speeds.

Frisky Jenny is a popular brand of fly used on Coeur d’Alene Lake. They are meticulously tied by a local fisher-lady, Susan Houk, and are proven to be successful lures. You can purchase her flies at Black Sheep, Fins & Feathers, Cabela’s, Walmart and most sporting goods stores. Chat with the guys at Black Sheep or Fins & Feathers about the best assortment to have in your tackle box. Frisky Jenny also makes a Fly Enhancer which is not only good for providing scent to the lure but also cleans the hairs and enhances the lure’s performance.

Frisky Jenny a standard fly has buck tail hair tied to the first hook with second hook trailing. “Therapy” is a combo of purple, orange and white.

Tube Fly Therapy
Frisky Jenny tube fly. The hook/leader set up is threaded through the hollow, tube head of the fly. “Heather” is a combination of black, brown and pink.

Squid Therapy
Regular sized and mini squids (hoochies) are both popular with Lake Coeur d’Alene anglers.
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Hoochies (plastic squid)

These guys come in various sizes from large to mini. Color is important. Try hoochies that have one or two of the following colors in some sort of combination: black, white, green, chartreuse, silver, blue, pink, purple, white. At times, a glow squid works better than those that don’t glow, but not always. Sometimes a solid color is the meal choice of the day. Some anglers stuff two hoochies together concocting some very creative combinations. Usually, a double hook set up is rigged through the nose of the regular sized hoochie. The trailing hook can be a single or a treble hook. Hoochies are trolled behind a flasher or dodger behind a downrigger at depths ranging from 30 to 70 feet. Refer to Don Houk’s “Rule of Thumb” for leader length.


Many of the fishermen and ladies use bait successfully all year. A few anglers use plug cut herring. That technique is a bit tricky and takes practice to perfect the roll or spin desired. Check out the Salmon University on the web for a good video lesson on how to cut, cure, and rig herring. Pro Cure makes a device to set your herring in for cutting to get a perfect consistent cut. I suggest you get that. Most of the people pulling herring on the lake use herring helmets. You just insert the whole herring into the helmet. Helmets come in all sorts of colors and usually the water color dictates the best helmet. Green, glow green, and the UV seem to be a reliable color. This technique too takes some practice to learn how to rig your hooks in order to achieve the desired roll or spin. The chinook are very temperamental; some days they prefer a tight roll and on other days they want more of a gentle looping roll. You can troll herring with a flasher or a dodger. Make sure you have a long leader if you use either of those as an attractor. Refer to Don Houk’s “Rule of Thumb.”

Brad’s Super Bait & Cut Plug Super Bait

Super Bait and the Super Bait Cut Plug is relatively new to Lake CdA. They are very hot lures on the Pacific Coast, Columbia River, and other chinook fishing spots all over the country. They are quickly gaining popularity here due to the catch success factor. These lures have a spinning action much similar to the herring helmet idea. They can be rigged in a variety of ways IE using one or two single hook setups or treble hooks. These lures are hinged at the head and open up so you can pack them with herring, tuna or other smelly fishy stuff. You can troll these lures with or without a flasher or dodger. If you use a flasher in front of them experiment with lengths between 36 and 50 inches.

Color is important, and Super Bait comes in a vast variety of colors, glow, and UV. Select the lure that resemble the fish that the salmon feed on, or hot colors that attract a strike. Spawning fish don’t usually feed. Sometimes during the spawning season the fish are just plain grumpy and strike out of anger, not hunger. So, it helps to annoy them. Wouldn’t it make you a wee bit agitated if you knew you were going up river and not coming back?

Scent...the smelly stuff

Most fishermen believe that scenting your lure is helpful in attracting a strike. It seems like there are as many special scents and smelly products as fishermen. Everyone seems to have their favorite! The potions that seem to be the most popular are herring oil, shrimp oil, garlic, anise, and sardine oil. I am partial to the Pro Cure Anise and Herring scents in the gel or oil form. One thing that I am sure of is fish do not like the smell of tobacco products, suntan lotions, gas etc. So, if you touch any such product (or a banana) make sure to wash in a scentless soap and then rub herring or shrimp oil on your hands before you handle a lure. Put a little herring oil behind your ears too. It is an attractant!

Trolling Speed

Speed is a very important variable. It is one of the main dictators of your lure’s action. The best trolling speed seems to be between 1.3 mph and 1.8 mph, depending on the size of your flasher or dodger and leader length. Sometimes adjusting your speed by one tenth of a knot or mph will trigger a strike. Refer to Don Houk’s “Rule of Thumb” included in this article. The fish seem to change their speed preference depending on water temperature or how they feel in the morning when they wake up. Experiment a little with speed changes in the suggested range.


I use 15# - 20# Maxima Ultra Green line with 20# leader. Test and leader length are major dictators of the action of your lure. Refer to Don Houk’s “Rule of Thumb.” Notice that there is a range of suggested leader lengths. Experiment a bit with those lengths. The key is the correct combination of speed and leader length. Once you find the right combination for your specific lure, half the battle is over. Check your leader often for frays and nicks. When you catch a fish, log the details of lure, leader, water temp, time of day, speed, weather etc.


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