During years with strong Fraser salmon runs mid August usually marks the period when anglers flock towards Little Shushwap Lake in the Thompson region to try their luck for Chinook Salmon.
Little Shuswap Lake (aka Little Shu) is a small lake located near the town of Chase within the Thompson River basin of the southern BC Interior. The lake is a transition on where the eastern Shuswap area meets the western Thompson area. Little River connects Shuswap Lake to Little Shuswap Lake, which is the main water source for the South Thompson River that begins at the southwest end of Little Shu. The lake is approximately 7.8kms long and averages 2.5kms in width.
Little Shu is the first deep pocket of water approx. 33kms up river from Kamloops Lake that provides an excellent staging point for migrating salmon. The salmon tend to fill the pool and dwell here until they are ready for their next stage of their spawning journey. This is why this lake is such a popular area for anglers as it can yield incredible fishing results.
It is important to note that Shuswap Lake (the big lake Northeast) is closed to salmon fishing. The main reason for this is because we don’t really know what stock of salmon we are catching when we reel one in. There are certain stocks that reside and then migrate out of Shuswap Lake such as the Eagle River salmon that are threaten, which need to be protected. DFO biologists have confirmed through genetic testing and fish tagging that the time of year that we are targeting Salmon in the Little Shu, we are fishing South Thompson Salmon stocks that are at no risk during big return years. This fishery is closely managed by Department of Fisheries along with a sport fishing advisory group that make collaborative educated decisions on how to best manage these fish stocks. So in other words, if the fishery is open to angling you can have the peace of mind knowing that the salmon aren’t at risk from angling pressure! So don’t let the “salmon snobs” of the world try to tell you not to fish this fishery because we are risking our stocks. Yes the fish may be a bit coloured up due to their spawning process but I can reassure you that the condition of these salmon still make incredible table fare! The meat is very firm and cuts beautifully!
Access to Little Shu is very easy via a boat launch located at the Chase Lions RV Park & Campground. One safety item to note at the boat launch is that there are some underwater hazards up stream of the launch. These are old pillars from a tore down structure that are just subsurface and can do damage to boats. See the below pictures of the boat launch for a reference on where these hazards are. Tackle Setup
Your traditional salmon trolling gear works great in Little Shuswap Lake but lets review a couple popular setups which seem to produce consistent results. If you are in the Shuswap area and need to purchase tackle, I highly recommend stopping in at Westside Stores in Salmon Arm as they have one of the largest selections of salmon gear in the BC Interior! The team there will also share all the recent fishing reports and will recommend what lures are hot!
Attractors: The use of flashers or dodger will help you get the salmon’s attention and come to check out your gear. Attractors provide 3 primary functions for your overall presentation. 1) They create displacement in the water that the fish can feel and hear 2) They create a visual attraction that gets the salmon’s attention to come and inspect your lure. I’m a true believer that the visual attraction of the dodger or flasher also mimics another fish chasing a bait which ignites the salmon’s competitive nature to strike the lure 3) If you are using a lure with no action such as a Hoochie the dodger or flasher transfers action to the lure which will also excite the fish to strike!
The attractors I recommend to have in your tackle are the Highliner Flashers from Gibbs-Delta Tackle in UV patterns such as moon jelly, chartreuse and white glow. Proven salmon dodgers are the Mack’s Lure 7.6” Double D Dodgers in Silver and 9” UV coloured Sling Blades.Leader Lengths: Just like any other type of fishing when using attractors the same methods apply. If the lure you are using doesn’t have it’s own action like a Hoochie then you need to tie it closer to the attractor to create action. For the standard 11” flasher a leader between 28” to 32” seems to produce. For 7”-9” dodgers leaders between 18” to a max of 24” is ideal. Adjust your leader lengths throughout the day to find the pattern that works best. Remember the faster you troll the more action the attractors will transfer to the lure.
If you are using a lure such as a spoon, wiggle hoochie or plug then extend your leader far enough back that the action from the attractor doesn’t interrupt the lures action. Common lengths are 48” to 60” for flashers and 32” to 36” behind the larger dodgers.
You can also connect your attractors to just your downrigger cable a few feet below your fishing line and lure; this is called a false flasher. Be sure that the flasher has enough room to complete an entire roll without hanging up on your fishing line. Also, make sure that the lure isn’t too far behind the attractor, no more than 6 feet of distance from the attractor to the lure. This method is only to be used with lures that have their own actions such as plugs, spoons and wiggle hoochies. The main benefit of this false flasher system is that you get to fight the fish and not the weight and drag of the attractor!
Common leader material is a 30lbs Mono “Maxima” or Fluorocarbon; it really comes down to personal preference. Like any other freshwater salmon fishing the fish don’t seem to be too leader shy.
Lures: It’s a good idea to have a variety of different types of lures as well as profiles and colours. Through my experience what worked one day doesn’t always work the next, like any other type of fishing you need to narrow down what the fish want. Proven lures for Little Shuswap are Hoochies in glow, green, army truck, pinks and purples. Adding large smile blades in front of the hoochies when running dodgers will give that extra bit of attraction to really encourage a strike. To name a few common spoons are Coyotes, FSTs and Skinny G’s. Wooden 4” plugs such as Fishinator Plugs are extremely productive in this fishery! Fishinator Lures are designed and handmade in the Shuswap region so you can be confident they are tuned perfectly for these waters. All your lures should be equipped with a single hook sized 4/0 to 5/0.
Rod/Reels & Fishing Line: The Chinook in this fishery will average between 14 to 17lbs, but there is a good chance you can hook into a 25lbs+ fish. With this in mind it’s a good idea to have a rod and reel with a smooth drag system that can handle fish of this statue. A rod with line weight rated 15-25lbs with medium heavy action is best. The reel you’ll want something with a max drag of 22lbs or greater. Equip your reels with fishing line from 30lbs mono or 50lbs braid.Trolling Speeds & Tactics: Once you get on Little Shu you will quickly realize that the lake is one big bowl with a distinct deep pool in the middle. Anglers will be doing laps around the deep section of the lake so it’s recommended to “go with the flow”! Don’t troll in different directions than the crowd because there’re usually be numerous boats on the water each day during this salmon opening. Majority of the salmon will be found in the deepest pocket of water suspended from just off the bottom up to 40 feet, really just trust your sonar!
Trolling speeds will vary from 1.7mph to 2.5mph, depending on the presentation you are using. We find slower speeds between 1.7mph to 2mph to be more productive when using flashers or dodgers with hoochies. When using only reaction lures such as plugs and spoons our speeds are a bit faster between 2.2mph to 2.5mph as it creates more action. It’s not as much about the speed as it is the action of your lure. Before letting your gear out look at your lure in the water while traveling your desired speed. Is the lure creating good action that will entice a strike? Trolling a plug at 2.4mph provides way more action than trolling it at 1.7mph. Now flashers or dodger with hoochies on the other hand can be trolled at a variety of speeds but it comes down to what the fish wants. Do they want a quick whip or darting action or a slower sluggish movement from the lure? The only way to find out is to adjust your trolling speed so it changes the action of your lure until you start to get strikes. Using sporadic speed bursts when trolling will also entice the salmon to bite!Before heading out fishing ALWAYS check the most recent fishing regulations, including the DFO Non-Tidal Salmon Regulations as they can change day to day.
Now that you are equipped with the basic knowledge on how to pursue Chinook salmon in Little Shuswap Lake, the best way to learn more is to go give it a try! Or better yet, hire a local fishing guide who has extensive experience and knowledge of this fishery. We highly recommend our good friend and fellow KingFisher Boats Pro Staff Team Member, Jason Bellows from Bucktail Adventures! If anyone can get you on fish, it’s Jason!
Little Shuswap is a true gem within the Thompson Region and we are privileged to have it on our backyard …so enjoy!