Gut bombing?

-- Last Updated: Feb-26-07 9:32 AM EST --

Anyone know of a method called gut-bombing, used in Canada for salmon?

One bactrolls on fish holding in current. Bait is salmon roe. Claims are the salmon swallow the bait into the gut, then the caught salmon if female is gutted and stripped for roe for more bait.

I keep hearing conflicting reports about the practice, with some of the criticism seeming to be PETA-type screeds around inhumane practices.

I ask because I'm writing for a kayaking mag a story about kayak fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks in advance,


– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 10:11 AM EST –

Once salmon enter the river system, they dont eat. Strikes are reflexive and sometimes defensive as they will srike at creatures that eat their eggs. I use Gibbs Minnows and jig. Jigging is not a long sweep but a very short stroke of no more than a few inches. I tie directly to the lure and string an orange 5mm bead on the line. One theory I have heard is that salmon pick up roe to redeposit not eat. Once roe is harvested, it has to be cured so it is not usually used right away. When using roe, I have usually hooked salmon in the jaw.

Haven’t heard of it until
And even now I wish that I hadn’t. Doesn’t sound like something I’d want to do. If it’s legal, I guess it’s OK. Nevertheless, it doesn’t sound like it’s sporting or humane. And it sounds wasteful. If you’re going to kill your catch, being wasteful isn’t cool in my book.

Here’s hoping you don’t get to expand the practitioners of that concept by reporting it in your article. Also, here’s hoping that you find sporting means to write about and promote in your article. In my opinion, it’ll be a better article for it.

  • Big D

Would you be fishing strictly in freshwater upstream during the spawn, or downwater on the ocean as they approach?

gut bombing
Hi Big D;

I brought up gut bombing because my editor emailed me a link about the practice with an implied request I not advocate it as a way to fish.

The backtrolling with bait seems pretty much standard drift fishing. What’s bad is the claimed practice of stripping salmon for roe to use as bait…

What I’m trying to do is figure out whether the practice is truly widespread in Canada or whether the story was written as part of a hatchet job meant to disparage salmon fishermen and their interests.

Personally I hate using bait: too many deep hook sets down the throat, stench and herring oil in the kayak, the hassle of having to freeze unused bait.

So I guess the short question is, who fishes for salmon in the Pacific Northwest in the salt, and how do you do it? I.e., depths, baits, rigs, rods, etc.


– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 8:01 PM EST –

Trolling or drifting live bait with circle hooks. The circle hooks will catch the fish in the corner of the jaw the majority of the time. I have never used roe in salt. Stripping and wasting a fish is usually illegal. Cured roe is a common bait in fresh but it also makes good caviar.
Keep in mind a spawning salmon is a dying salmon. Salmon are harvested to eat and not utilizing the roe would be wasteful.

I guess the real question is are these
salmon on their final life run to deposit eggs? If so, and the catch limit is within legal limits, while not something I would want to do, it appears to be a reasonable way to catch fish. The question in my state would concern using game fish or any part of a game fish for bait. That’s not allowed, thankfully. But, there are other states that allow any legally caught fish to be used as bait. Don’t know the regulations in the particular part of Canada this practice is being carried out.

It’s the yanking inside out
That’s what bothers me. I don’t mind using bait. I don’t usually myself, but using live or cut bait is a long-standing practice.

It’s the yanking the fish inside out, presumably while still alive, only to get access to the roe that bothers me. Also, it’s unclear whether the roe would then be used as bait to catch more fish (which seems an odd thing to catch game fish and kill them only to catch more game fish, seems like a step could be eliminated from that procedure) or eaten. Shad roe is eaten in my neck of the woods.

I don’t mind keeping and killing game fish within legal limits so long as they are used for food or rarely as a trophy. I much prefer catch and release, but don’t see much point to that in a salmon run when the fish are going to die anyway.

It’s the cruelty that bothers me. Return the fish unharmed, or kill the fish humanely, use the flesh for food, and if it’s a female fish harvesting the roe for additional bait or food isn’t a problem to me. It’s the inhumane killing (same thing as saying disrespect for the resource and the game animal) and the waste of the flesh in the practice you described that is not becoming of a sportsman.

Thanks for clearing up your intention. I was pretty surprised to hear it at first, but more comfortable now that you’ve explained it.

  • Big D

salmon pictures

– Last Updated: Feb-27-07 8:08 AM EST –

Thanks for the insights and thoughts, guys.

By the way, have any of you got any good salmon pictures, preferably of high resolution and that show the countryside or waterway as a background? Something more than the usual grab-and-grin, in other words, with the pic's focus as much on the fish as on the proud fisherman. If the photo includes a kayak or a portion of one, that would be great.

I'm short on photos for the story, and either I or the magazine will pay for them to accompany the story. You'll get a byline and a link to your email or website or blog or whatever.

If you're interested and can help, email me at adambolonsky at yahoo dot com.

Mixed answer
I salmon fish in B.C. rivers and have fished several US states for them, including Alaska, where we backtrtolled among other methods. I’ve never seen a salmon swallow a hook into the stomach that I recall, even when I’ve used tiny candlefish drifted for bait in saltwater and caught plenty of salmon on them. I’ve seen salmon up to 72 lbs. caught with roe, and never seen one swallow it deep, though the mouth and throat are plenty large enough. I’ve never heard of gut bombing, though that is proof of nothing.

Second, and seperate issue is killing female salmon just to take the roe. It is a dispicable practice IMO and yes, I have seen it done plenty of times. A beautiful huge salmon, bright silver and fresh from the saltwater, prime eating stage, with belly split open, eggs taken and the rest left to rot.

The roe is best for bait well before they get near spawning, when the fish is excellent table fare. The immature eggs are a bit smaller, tight together in a roe sac, and stick together when cut into clumps to cure and use for bait. Later, when ready to spawn, each egg rolls out individually and they won’t stick together for curing in bait clumps.

I think it is illegal to kill salmon only to get more roe for bait, not sure.

If the fisherman releases the female gently, she will live a few more deays or weeks, and produce thousand of eggs and some new slamon. Killing her for the roe is like killing a pregnant cow buffalo for the tongue. It wastes the meat, ends the reproduction cycle. I’ve no problem if the fisherman takes the roe and barbecues the delicious salmon, just can’t condone the contemptous waste of such a fine fish.

Not this Canadian

– Last Updated: Mar-02-07 8:48 PM EST –

Well all I can say that I have been fishing for close to 30 years and have never heard of this practise nor witnessed anything like it.

One thing though.... 15 to 20 years ago illegal acts (and this sounds illegal if I read our laws right) were much more common. I am happy to say that it has been some time since I have seen anything other than just the occasional minor infraction. 'Gut Bombing' was likely something that was done years ago.... it may still be practised by some but it must be extremly rare if it is happening.

Where I live it is illegal to take any sportfish not for human consumption.


They only spawn once
Jerlfletcher, not sure if I understood your comment or maybe I’m mixed up. The final run of life to lay eggs is the only one for salmon. Yes, the fish is going to die anyway, but if left alone or released, it won’t die until it reproduces. Steelhead may survive to make more than one spawning run, and a few make mulitple runs, but not salmon. They go to sea as trout-like minnows, grow up, and come back to their birth river to reproduce and die. One round trip. Killing the fish at any point before it lays eggs means that it never reproduces, never replaces itself with even a single offspring in the system.

When millions of salmon return to a huge river system, killing one usually isn’t a big deal, though I’m against wasting the meat. With runs declining in most areas, I think we need to have more reason to kill the fish than just to get more bait.

Thanks, Jer
Something is quirky with either my computer or the site, but I finally got the extra posts deleted. It would not give me an edit option, which I had used in the past. But because you affirmed the way to delete them I kept trying different things, and hitting the refresh button several times suddenly added the edit option. Anway, got them deleted. Thanks. I’d given up on finding the edit feature.

I’ve been fighting a severe head cold so went to bed early, woke up in the middle of the night, natch. You need to come up and fish salmon with me when the sockeye run is heavy. Silver rockets that taste mighty fine.

The cost of getting there is a bit too
steep. As for quirky computers, I’ve three, all over 4 years old, all with some very weird quirks not seen in most.


– Last Updated: Mar-03-07 9:49 AM EST –

Here's the link my editor sent me about gut-bombing.

If you guys have any comments, it would be great. Just trying to do due diligence before I write my story.

Frankly I don't know how objective and balanced the story my editor sent me is.

Also I'm confused as to how much of the story applies only to Washington State and how much to Canada, as the story seems to reference Canadian First Nations tribes.

On the one hand the science of examining cannery records seems legit. On the other, the mention of a practice no fisherman here recognizes seems to have a hidden agenda meant to put down fishermen.

So, for what it's worth, here's the article I received:

SKEENA ANGLER - a sea kayaking blog

Hachet job article

– Last Updated: Mar-03-07 6:54 PM EST –

I'd be wary of the editor's purpose also. The article in the Terrace newspaper mixes some solid researched facts with inflamatory nonsense.

The writer sounds extremely biased against at least this kind of fishing, yet also sounds ignorant of fishing. I.e. Cutting off the line and leaving the hook in place, which he condemns as barbaric, is the method the B.C. Fishing Reulations book recommends for deeply hooked fish.

Also, if you WERE going to try to hook a salmon belly deep, you would use a small hook not a large one. That would be true to get any fish to swallow a bait. He's snidely against using bait, but that's an old yawn that gets more humorouus treatment nowadays than serious fight. Humorist Pat mcManus has some great bits on baits vs purist lure fishermen. And fishing from a moving boat in a stream is unethical????? Did the guy ever hear of trolling?

Something is bogus here.

FWIW, if you or your editor want a white hot fishing issue, on the Fraser River the eye bulging topic is flossing salmon. That is one of several terms for the fishing technique of deliberately drifting or bouncing a long leader near the bottom through schools of fish in order to snag them in the mouth area. Once the leader goes into the mouth of an upstream facing fish, it slides along till the hook at the end reaches the fish's mouth, and usually hooks the fish on the outside of his gumline on the side away from the fisherman. THAT subject is volcanic among salmon fishermen in British Columbia. Over 99% of sockeye caught in rivers on fishing rods are caught this way, whether in Alaska or Canada. The problem is, no one has ever come up with a way to catch silty or glacial river sockeye on hook and line by another method. Banning it would have the practical equivalent of closing most major stream fishing for the abundant and tasty fish. They will bite in clear water, but the Fraser is like fishing in a chocolate milkshake.

Check out

The folks are the ones to ask about gutbombing. In one quick search on that site, the word did not retrieve anything, which makes me all the more suspicious. Yet if you as much as put the word "Flossing" in a post title, you will start a war.

Don't know how much time you have but I'd check this out some more. Gutbombing, as described in the Skeena article, will simply erode your credibility with salmon fishermen while making them mad at you. If you are going to oppose something, and I oppose some of the practices the Skeena article describes, then you have to get the facts straight or readers dismiss your entire case, including the legitimate parts. I'm impressed that you are trying to get the facts straight.

Guide never heard of gut-bombing
At a big Sportsman’s Show yesterday I asked a samon fishing guide from B.C. if he had ever heard of gut-bombing. He looked puzzled and said, “No.” I described it and he just shook his head and said it sounded like people who didn’t know much about salmon fishing. It could be that he just hasn’t heard of it, he said.

Thanks again for the insights

– Last Updated: Mar-05-07 8:48 AM EST –

Thanks, Okanagan.

I put my query here because even on first glance the article set off some warnings. It had the sound and tone of someone who, although they don't fish, seizes some dramatic facts and twists them to make a backwards point.

To describe "backtrolling" as something ugly and unfair and barbaric simply struck me as woefully uninformed, sort of like someone condemning a hunter for gutting his deer.

The flossing angle is more what I'm looking for, and I'll check the forum you mention.

The mag I write for has a conservationist's slant to be sure, and they're just now experimenting with having me write a regular piece on kayak fishing.

I fish a lot here on the east coast and am also in the rather awkward position of being a sea kayaker who fishes.

Sea kayakers are by and large (note, "by and large") a group who'd rather buy their fish than catch them, and are a much different group than SOT fishermen. So as I write for this tricky audience I've got to inform even while I don't offend. Best way to do that is to get my facts straight, and present facts as facts pure and simple.

That said, anyone here have experience working salmon not upriver but more in bays and on the ocean? - an East coast-based kayaking blog

Have kayak fished for salmon in salt wat

– Last Updated: Mar-05-07 3:27 PM EST –

Good luck on the writing gig.

I fish a SINK, a Sun Velocity, which is a hybrid sea kayak with some white water ability. I've caught a few salmon in salt water with it, and a lot of kelp fish and bottom fish. My best salmon caught in salt from the yak was a 16 lb. Chinook, that pulled me around easily. I caught it in the edge of a kelp bed in the Straits of Juan de Fuca, west of Port Angeles in Washington State.

That was an unusual day in that Chinook salmon were "crashing" bait on the surface in the kelp beds. They would charge up and through small schools of candlefish, slashing the surface for 20 feet sometimes with their back showing. I used a one ounce Dungeness Stinger, a metal jig that looks like a baitfish.

I would cast to where a fish was slashing through bait, because they often reverse course to gobble up the injured or stunned baitfish in their wake.

When the salmon are not chasing bait on the surface, which is most of the time, I jig for them verticaly. I let the kayak drift with the tide or wind, with jig just off the bottom. Very effective. I've also trolled but don't care for that technique myself, partly because it is more trouble to do well.

I've got a few pictures of kayak and salmon on a disk but have not been able to find them. Will let you take a look to see if any would work if I come up with them. Good luck.

Added later: FWIW, I don't have any personal ethical problem with flossing sockeye salmon in big rivers like the Fraser. Whether the fish is hooked a quarter inch inside the mouth or outside doesn't change the fight nor the table fare. The practice can be abused, as can worms or flies for that matter. Those are lynching word to some at :-)

okanagan: email?

– Last Updated: Mar-06-07 9:00 AM EST –

Hi Okanagan,
can you get in touch with me via email? I'd like to quote you in my story and to ask you a few other questions about how you rig.


my email:
adambolonsky at yahoo dot com