Float Fishing for Salmon and Steelhead

This technique can be used with marabou jigs, steelhead jigs, salmon jigs, pink steelhead worms, eggs, shrimp, or any other bait or lure you prefer.

The steelhead and salmon jig, pink worm, or bait setup can be rigged using the same basic float and weight setup. Some anglers prefer inline sinker weights, egg sinkers, rubber core sinkers, etc.. but you can also punch a hole in a piece of pencil lead or lead alternative and attach it to a clip swivel.  Also, using a sliding float is helpful because you can adjust the depth that you are fishing with very easily. It also helps with casting ease and accuracy.
A definite must for float fishing is a floating braided line which helps immensely with float fishing and will allow the angler a drag-free drift by always being able to see and manage the line on the surface. Also, a longer rod can be useful when picking the line up off the surface. Most prefer to use a baitcasting setup with a 10+ foot long rod however spinning outfits work well and many anglers prefer them. The baitcaster reel allows you to free spool line out easily to help extend your drift while a spinning outfit can help make line management a breeze.

There are several ways to rig a pink worm. You can put one on a lead head jig or use a standard octopus hook and thread your leader through the body of the worm. This can be accomplished using a hollow threading needle or a regular sewing needle. Simply stick the hollow needle through ¾ of the worms body starting at the tail, then thread your leader through the needle. Remove the needle and you are ready to fish. If using a sewing needle just put your leader through the eye and thread it through ¾ of the worms body starting at the tail.

If fishing a marabou steelhead or salmon jig you will just need to tie it on to the end of your leader. Occasionally an add on like the end of a pink worm or a cured prawn can help add a little extra action to a jig.

Jig float diagram w inline weight

Jig float diagram w inline weight

You will need:

  • Float. Make sure you use the correct size for the weight, including jig head, you are using. They are labeled on the package for the correct weight application. Float stops and beads are usually included in the package.
  • Medium size clip swivel. (use barrel swivel if using inline weight).
  • Weight. Inline weight or pencil lead punched with a hole. Lead alternative or lead free weights are encouraged.
  • Marabou steelhead and salmon jig or jig head with a 4” or 6” pink worm.
  • Floating braided fishing line. Any braided line will work assuming that it isn’t designed to sink.

Rigging steps:

  1. Slide your float stop onto your line. Adjust the float stop as necessary so that your lure is near the bottom throughout your drift.
  2. Slide your stopper bead onto your line.
  3. Slide your float onto your main line with the colored part facing up.
  4. Tie on your clip swivel. If using an inline weight simply tie it in place.
  5. Attach your weight.
  6. Tie your leader directly to the clip swivel. Leader length can vary between 2-4 feet. It is recommended to use a leader that is lighter in strength than your main line. That way if you snag on the bottom you will only lose your lure and not your weight and float as well.
  7. Tie your marabou jig or pink worm to your leader.

To fish this setup look for slower water with back eddies, seam edges, riffles, pocket water, and more. Adjust your stopper for your sliding float so that your lure is close to the bottom. If your float is dragging or going underwater it usually means that you have too much line out. Bring your stopper closer in until you get a clean drift with your float standing straight upright in the water.  This is where the floating line comes in handy. If a bend creates in your line causing drag on the float it will decrease the effectiveness of the lure. You may need to mend your line, or pick it up off the water with your rod tip to get a drag free drift. You need to stay in close contact with your float and not let too much excess line out because when your float goes under the water it’s time to set the hook!