If fly fishing is the most poetic method for retrieving fish from water, snagging is its antithesis. It’s barbaric. It’s fish hunting. It’s a lot of fun.
Below the mouth of the short river that drains Neck Lake near Whale Pass, Alaska, anglers my angle their hooks into any available flank or fin of cohos. The Snow Pass coho run here is a terminal run, meaning it is completely supported by hatchery releases, and the fish return to an area that does not provide spawning grounds. It also happens to be the largest run of salmon on Prince of Wales Island. The fish supplement the available catch first the commercial boats in the ocean, then in the fresh water for fishermen with snagging hooks. Those that escape the snaggers, spin-casters and fly fishermen and choose the fish ladder end up at fish markets after being bled, cleaned and shipped in big totes. Option three is the stomach of a black bear, mink, marten, eagle, crow, raven or any other part of the natural cycle.
You think about none of that as the fourth school of 20 silvers pass in front of you to join the other six schools that passed you a couple hours before. You cast just past the fish, reel a few times and yank. If lucky, a fish is on. There is nothing delicate or majestic about it. Some use huge snagging hooks, some 12-pound test and spinners. Some fish for mouth hook-ups with jigs or flies, no matter what the method, the fish still taste the same.