Salmon snagging is not like other forms of fishing. I was introduced to it as an adult, and to me fishing is the art of deception, of all those careful and clever tricks to convince a fish to bite. Fishing is fancy lures, artfully designed to mimic a tasty insect, or endless patience (it’s possible that better fishermen might require less patience).
This isn’t to say that snagging doesn’t require skill, as it does, but it’s a very different process. It is also not generally allowed. Our District Fishing Regulations note that “All waters are closed to snagging of game and non-game fish, except as otherwise noted under District Exceptions”. A closer read provides details for the very specific where and when that snagging is permitted.
Salmon snagging is not about getting the fish to bite. Instead it involves snagging any part of the fish on the hook and then reeling the fish in. The Kokanee salmon, for which snagging is allowed (seasonally) were introduced to Flathead lake in 1914. They’re now common throughout the western portion of our state.
Most salmon spend a majority of their life in the ocean before returning to spawn in their home stream. While Kokanee salmon do not spend any time in the ocean, they do still journey to reproduce. They either travel up streams or to the lake shoreline to spawn.
At the end of their four year life cycle, towards the end of the year (November-December), the salmon travel in order to spawn. When adult salmon begin their journey to spawn, they stop eating. As they aren’t biting at this stage, snagging is a more effective method for catching them during their spawning runs. After they spawn, the adult salmon die.
Salmon snagging is only permitted in certain locations, at certain times. Limits on salmon vary by location, so be sure to check the regional fishing regulations.