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Carmen Macdonald

A passion for fishing and hunting grew into a career that's included Alaskan guide, media sales, writer and the politics of outdoor recreation. My company, Vaunt Marketing, represents industry-leading brands in the US and Canadian markets.

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September 25, 2014

Welcome to Hover Fishing

by Carmen Macdonald

It's pretty certain that last year you probably heard the term "hover fishing" or "boat bobbering." It's not a new technique, but one that went through a mini-explosion on the Columbia River last year. And one year later, technique-specific rods have hit the market.
If the concept of hover fishing is completely foreign, here's the quick outline. Off the mouths of rivers like the White Salmon, Klickitat and Deschutes, kings will stack up and hold briefly on their journey upriver. Fishing from a boat, schools of fish are located on the graph. The boat is positioned up-current of the fish and gear is deployed. The boat operator backs every so slightly into the current. as necessary (the rigged out guys use electric motors) to maintain the lines exactly vertical beneath the boat as the boat drifts downriver. A pass is made and the boat returns to the top end to do it all over.

Okuma continues to demonstrate their commitment to Northwest fisheries with all-new technique-specific Hover Rods.

Sounds simple right? Well, it can be simple, but it can also be extremely difficult.

The gear in this fishery (that I've used, yours may be different) is shorter light-tipped rods, 50-pound TUF-Line, 2-ounce weight at your swivel, 3-foot leader and a #2 hook loaded with a small bait of eggs. You drop the weight to the bottom then come up 2 to 4 cranks or so, depending on where the fish are holding. That puts your bait a foot or two or three off the bottom.

As the boat drifts, my first expectation was that I would feel a bite, or at least see some good indication on the rod tip. A good solid bite is the exception rather than the rule. More often-much more often-fish will simply mouth the bait. It's not much of a bite, rather a hard look or maybe a slight lean (seriously!). If you do nothing, the bait is rejected in an instant and the fish is gone.

Hence the new technique-specific rods. Cruising through Fisherman's Marine & Outdoor, I caught sight of new Okuma SST Hover Rods I'd never seen before.

The rods are built with purpose. The quick specs are 7'10" in length, magnum action for 10- to 25-pound line. It's not a muscle rod, it's a feel rod. A super light tip gives way quickly to a powerful butt section. For the purposes of Hover Fishing, it's all about the length and the tip.
The shorter length allows you to get a downward angle on the rod as you fish it and sets you up for the hookset. When fishing, the tip is literally inches above the water, held very still. The key to the fishing is recognizing the bite- and that's where the tip comes in. Don't look for a sharp grab. Instead look for that tip to lean, ever so slightly towards the water. When it happens, set the hook.

Couple thoughts about hooksets. The first time I fished this technique, the frustration level was high as I was absolutely schooled by people far more dialed-in on the technique. When I did get one, it was only by virtue of clean-livin' that I didn't break the rod...I was, let's say, overzealous. With TUF-Line and a 2/0 hook, fishing a completely straight line to the fish, you do not need to "cross their eyes". A sharp, short snap will do the job quite nicely and you'll save yourself the broken rod. Without care, you will high-stick and break your rod when there's no need to.

The season for hover fishing is now, today, this weekend. And with liberal limits above Bonneville Dam, it's a great time to get involved. The model number on the Okuma SST Hover Rod is the SST-C-7101. Talk to the guys at Fisherman's, they'll get you dialed in.

Comments (8)

The Sailor wrote 3 years ago

New hardly,just a new term for snagging. If you want to promote a rod, run an ad.

Carmen Macdonald wrote 3 years ago

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I'll go with you on the new part, the technique has been around for a long time, but it did have a break out year last year where it became really prominent.
The snagging call is totally unjustified. I've done this quite enough over the years and seen plenty enough fish come over the side of the boat- none of which were snagged. Re-read the rigging. A 2/0 is about completely covered by a quarter-size bait of eggs. There's hardly any exposed hook for snagging. Hook placement is almost always the same, front half of the top jaw, with most of those hooked right out on the point of the beak.
I don't understand the bitterness, but you're completely wrong.

The Sailor wrote 3 years ago

You may be one in a hundred then. I have witnessed this "technique" in many places. These guys must be really good, because they are getting dozens of bites according to their rodmanship, jerking at the slightest contact.

Carmen Macdonald wrote 3 years ago

Maybe give it a try before calling people snaggers. I'm good friends with a lot of people that regularly fish this technique and none of them are snaggers in any way, shape or form.
Not sure if John Garret is still guiding off the mouth of the Klickitat, but that would be a great place to start if he is.

flopearedmule wrote 3 years ago

Well I for one do not call it snagging. I call it right on. I have too been learning this technique and what I have found are a couple of things to add. Get good eggs that milk. Drop the weight to the bottom. Then lift up about 6 inches to a foot and let it hit the bottom again and repeat as you hover. Continually milking those eggs. I have about 2 feet of free line at the reel. Once the fish takes the eggs, they tend to swim off with it then you know you have one because the line will start to go. Once it has taken all the line set the hook. I learned this technique on the kasilof and works in these areas as well.

John Doe wrote 3 years ago

Nice write up Carmen! We had very good success last year hover fishing and it was exactly how you describe it. My only problem last year was finding the right rod. Mostly I was using my 7' MdHvy walleye rods (very sensitive) which would have been perfect if the rod butt was longer for fighting fish. This new SST is looking like it could be money!!

xstreme357 wrote 3 years ago

How is hover fishing even similar to snagging?! That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!! Well done Carmen, Sailor...maybe it's time to take another cruise?

Big TULE wrote 3 years ago

The snaggers are the ones throwing the eggs away at the end of the day. Ive never met a snagger that used eggs.

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