Coho salmon are a popular game fish species in the States bordering Lake Michigan, including Illinois (https://www.ifishillinois.org/species/CHO.php); Michigan (https://bettsguideservice.com/michigan-weekly-dnr-fishing-reports-for-salmon/); Indiana (https://www.lake-link.com/articles/6/silver-run-lake-michigan-coho-migration/); and last but not least, Wisconsin (https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/fishing/documents/species/cohosalmon.pdf).
Coho are a prized species targeted by shore anglers. Catching them from shore is possible because small groups of coho cruise the shoreline within the range of a competent cast. However, there is a low probability of casting a lure or other bait at the right time, range, location, and depth in order to intersect a small roaming school of salmon. This low likelihood of finding fish often results in a sparse yield for anglers using a conventional rod and reel to fish from the shore, or from a pier or jetty.
As a means of increasing their odds of catching coho, Lake Michigan shore anglers have adapted their fishing methodology by using an ingenious rig known as a “power line” or PL.
In a nutshell, the land-based anchor of the PL is a five-gallon plastic bucket filled with water. A hand-held fire-extinguisher-based device is used to launch a weight 500 feet into the Lake. The weight is attached to a really long rubber band. The rubber band is attached to a fishing line which feeds from a spool which is attached to the bucket. Ten hooked leaders are attached at 6-8 foot intervals to the fishing line forward (toward land) of the rubber band.
After firing off the PL, and letting the weight settle, the angler winds in the fishing line. The rubber band stretches. The line is wound-in up to the tenth leader (that which is closest to the weight). Each hook is baited, and the line is allowed to calmly retreat back into the water—pulled by the rubber band. When the PL is set (the rubber band stops pulling), the bell is connected to the line. The hooks are at different depths depending on their distance from shore—all depths are covered with baited hooks.
When a fish is on the line the bell sounds, and then the fish is wound in. The hook is rebaited. Floats and weights are used fore and aft of the leader in order to make all ten hooks sit at the depth at which the fish was caught.
A video illustrating and explaining theory, components, configuration (for travel, fishing, and storage), and use of a PL is provided online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hdliaD5lyM.
This video was produced by the Montrose Harbor Bait Shop. This is no surprise, since Montrose Harbor is the top place to use a PL in Chicago. The pier seen in the photo displayed in the linked video is where the experienced PL anglers set-up. The premier location is the northeast tip of the pier where water is deepest and all moving fish must cross.
BEWARE of the inside of the curved tip of the pier—it is a proven place where people who fall in drown due to strong currents within the inside area of the curved tip.
It is important to emphasize that a unique benefit of using a PL is it informs the angler about the depth at which feeding coho are cruising. Coho are pack animals, and swim at the same depth, so one simply has to adjust the floats and weights such that all hooks are located at the same depth—the depth at which the feeding fish are cruising. My personal record, thus far, using a PL at the Montrose Harbor Pier is three coho at once—more than a handful!
Alternatively, when fishing unfamiliar water, or if it is known that the water being fished features multiple species actively feeding at different levels in the water column, then using a PL without floats or weights attached can produce catches of multiple species on the same line, at the same time.
I’ve wanted to try using this technique (but haven’t had the opportunity) to fish migratory saltwater species such as cobia or corvina. Of course, check with the authority having jurisdiction before fishing to ensure that your methods are permitted by local codes.
For additional information, and/or to obtain equipment, please contact the Montrose Harbor Bait Shop as described in the linked video.
Power-Lining Coho Salmon
Paul R. Yarnold, Ph.D.
December 31, 2020