Low Water Springer Problems: Coon Shrimp is the Answer
By Tyler Comeau
Low water spring Chinook seasons often call for smaller baits that give an angler the upper hand in the warmer, clearer flows. Eggs, trolled herring, and salmon plugs (FlatFish, Kwikfish) may be the standard fare on a springer angler’s menu of offerings, but the ever effective coon shrimp should not be overlooked.
Jim Milanowski, the owner and maker of Looney Coonies, has been using his popular coon shrimp, which are typically thought of as steelhead bait, and putting them to the test with springers. The results? Nothing short of exceptional.
No one will argue with the versatility of coon shrimp. Those who have been fishing them know they’re quickly becoming a staple of spring salmon anglers. Effective on anchor, backtrolled, fished under bobbers, rigged on a wire with a 3.5 Colorado blade, and even fished naked behind 360 flashers, the coon shrimp offers excellent scent and color contrast. If there are a lot smelt in the river, a coon shrimp becomes even more effective as it is giving the fish something completely different.
While prawn spinners are a longtime favorite of springer anglers, coon shrimp offer advantages over their crustacean cousins. Instead of the standard dry cure that you find with store-bought prawns, coon shrimp are typically liquid cured offering better scent while being less mealy. Plus, you can use your coonies for multiple fisheries, including steelhead fishing giving you more bang for the buck.
When fishing coon shrimp in a spinner style setup, Milanowski likes to straighten the shrimp with a wire and use two hooks. Bigger shrimp and the heavier water mean bigger hooks in size 1/0 and 1 being preferred. Softer water and smaller shrimp get size 2 hooks with Milanowski noting that hook size is critical to your presentation. And what about spin? Milanowski says that’s a personal preference with many folks liking their shrimp to spin while he likes his coonies to stay straight.
Coon shrimp are gaining popularity among anglers across the region. The Willamette, lower Columbia, and even anglers upriver are catching onto the benefits that coonies offer. But the best part of fishing coon shrimp is the simple fact that fish annihilate them leaving many to wonder if the drive by herring bite is a thing of the past.