Coho Salmon are not native to lakes. While they are born in fresh water, they leave for the ocean and do not return until they are ready to spawn, and when they are done spawning, they die.

Living in freshwater

So how do we find Coho Salmon in the Great lakes? And, how are they doing so well without stocking programs regularly topping up their numbers?

Unlike other fish species, Coho Salmon can adapt quite successfully to a freshwater only habitat providing that there is enough food, the lake habitat matches the habitat that they prefer, they have clean clear rivers that they can spawn in and the water is deep enough to provide that 53°F temperature below the thermocline that they like so much.

Going Deep to find Coho Salmon

Since Coho Salmon prefer 53°F degrees, they can be found anywhere from the shallows to very deep down in the lakes, going as deep as 250 feet in some cases. And, seeing how the great lakes can easily go down as deep as 1330 feet, they have all the cold water they require.

However, it makes it a little difficult trying to find them. But, as we have written before, with a bit of research or a few dollars, this is easy enough to overcome.

Tools to find Coho Salmon

Dual Beam sonar devices and down riggers help anglers catch fish much easier than without, but these tools do not make for a successful outing alone.

A fishing charter often guarantees fish or your trip is free. Captains are able to do this because they know the lake. They know the migrations of bait fish and the depth at which Coho Salmon and other fish species can be found. They have learned this over many years of fishing and trial and error. They have also learned it from talking to other anglers and reading up on forums.

Researching Forums

However, booking a charter costs money and is not something that most anglers will do every time they go out. We recommend bring a charter experience as it is a lot of fun. They really do take care of the hard work.

However, you can do this too. Log into local forums for fishing the Great Lakes and post questions and read responses to questions posted by other anglers and you will learn the bait fish movements and where Coho Salmon can be found. You will also learn what depth they can be found and understand lake temperature churning too.

Lake Fishing Tips

Use a fish finder and down rigger when fishing on the lake and going deep. Also, when deep, use spinners and spoons and other lures that reflect light and cause vibrations. Dual beam sonars are also a great aid at finding schools of Coho Salmon.

When fishing in shallow water, usually in the late fall, winter and early spring, use live baits such as smelts and alewife. Minnows also work.