Friday, May 1, 2009

Center-pinning for Drop-backs

Capt. Richard Miick and a nice 13 lb. (our biggest of the day) chromer.

From the looks of the title, you'd think this posting was talking some arcane form of English. Well it is, in a way -- you can call it pinheadspeak.

I was introduced to center-pinning last Wednesday, April 22, by Captain Richard Miick, owner of Dream Catcher Charters and Guide Service (315-387-5920).

"Forget about fishing as you know it," advised the captain. "This is a whole new ballgame."

He wasn't kidding. The road to pinheadom isn't an easy one. It took me at least a half hour just to get casting down pat, and I kept tangling the line around me, the rod, throwing it into the trees, you name it, all day long. But Miick is a good, very patient teacher and by the end of the day I had landed two chromers, and joined the fraternity of the ancient order of pinheaders.

Center-pinning is the most effective and primitive way to take river steelhead. The equipment consists of a single action reel without a drag, just a clicker, and no frame around the inside edge of the spool-it's open like an open-face reel. You cast it by holding the spool in place with the pinky on your right hand while simultaneously sweeping the line off to the side of the reel, away from the handle, with your left hand.

Pressure on the exposed spool by the sides of your pinky and ring finger lock it, stopping the line from coming off the reel, as well as acting as your only drag.

The rod is generally 13 ½ feet long but can go a couple feet longer.

The terminal tackle consists of a float, and a set of split shots pinched at six inch intervals down the line. The most successful anglers attach a barrel swivel about four feet below the float, and an 18-inch fluorocarbon leader below that.

Bait is generally an egg sac, a bead or Berkley Powerbait Trout Worm.

Cast or drop the float into the current, preferably in a seam, leave the spool free so the line follows it downstream. When the float submerges, apply pressure on the spool with the pinky, set the hook and the fight is on; unless, of course, you got "waved": a wave blocks your view of the float.

Being well-versed in the art of fishing, I hooked my first steelie, at least a15-pounder, in less than an hour-I had several hits before that but just couldn't get things right. It must'a been a fresh fish because it fought ferociously for 10 minutes before spitting the hook, much to the delight of my aching pinky, and right bicep.

That afternoon, from 2:30 p.m. to around 7:30 p.m., we hooked six fish and landed four ranging from six to nine pounds, all drop-backs.

And that was a poor showing.

That's not my opinion- it's Ricks.

"I took a client out this morning and we hooked about 20, landing a dozen of 'em," claimed the good Capt. "I've seen many days of 25 hook-ups. In fact, I consider it a poor day if we don't connect with fish a couple dozen times."

We went out again Sunday, April 26. It was hot, and I didn't think any fish would be left in the stream. But it was loaded with 'em. We did better than the first day, including a 13-pounder. Miick says they should be in the Salmon River until mid-May.

However, at the end of the month through to mid-August, Skamania and landlocked Atlantic salmon will move in. Miick says the power company's monthly water releases for tubers and kayakers draw great numbers of fresh fish into the whitewater, offering the hottest summer fishing for trophy salmonids in the lower 48 states.

Center-pinning is capturing the hearts of anglers plying the rapids of Great Lakes tributaries. It's a tough system to master and beginners should hire a guide the first time out, or risk frustration and heartache.

For a list of guides or a copy of the Oswego County Fishing and Hunting Guide, visit or call 800-248-4FUN.

Launching at the Altmar Access Site

Captain Miick with one of Wednesday's drop-backs

What a difference a few days make. Launching at the Altmar access site, 80-something degrees - on April 26

Jason "Goose" Kollbaum, a district manager for Best Buy, showing off a steelie taken just below Ellis Cove

Landing a nice drop-back below the Trestle Hole

Sun setting over the Salmon River


Anonymous said...

Awesome article!!!!

Anonymous said...

yes pinnin is the best way to catch ANYthing in the river!! so if anyone would like to go out or learn how to fish this way leave a comment below this , i have nething from 9ft to 15 ft rods all ultra light action. i can put anyone on atleast 5-10 fish a day with all bank fishing and u dont have to pay 200-400 bucks to catch a steelhead, brown, or rainbow, even salmon reports in the river!!! wooo hoooo