The Washington Tuna Classic 2016

Tuna fishing is a little like getting bit by a tick: It gets under your skin and you hope you don’t get the “disease”…

If it weren’t for my former on-air partner, Seattle Seahawk Pro-Bowler Robbie Tobeck and SaltPatrol.com’s John Keizer, my tuna condition would likely have not progressed from acute through chronic to terminal. However, my condition has now degenerated to advanced bait tank installations and after running my Weldcraft for the first time out of Westport over the Grays Harbor Bar I’ve now been observed by my wife ordering extra rod holders and cedar plugs on line. Terminal dude…Terminal.

Like others that suffer from a debilitating condition, it’s often helpful to seek comfort in the company of others with a similar affliction. So it should come as no surprise that a support group meeting should be in order. In this case the “support group” is known as the Washington Tuna Classic where nearly 70 angling teams seek to feed their addiction and feed others by donating all fish caught in this event to Northwest Harvest and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Preparing for a tuna run is a bit of an undertaking with fuel, ice and live anchovies and getting ready for a tuna tourney adds quite a bit to the equation. Regardless, the successful offshore run starts with a pile of preparation the evening before.

The evening before the Washington Tuna Classic the boat is in the harbor, fueled, iced and in tuna mode!

Dusk (Small)

 

 

After we pick up our load of live bait, we wait on the starting line for our check-in with Washington Tuna Classic Tournament Control and we’re underway!

5 (Small)

 

 

35 miles offshore, we drop the outriggers get  the gear down and get to searching for birds and jumpers.

TunaModeF (Small)

 

Having the bait tank in the middle of the deck is a huge advantage and allows a quick conversion from trolling to a vertical presentation with live bait and jigs!

TunaModeA (Small)

 

We managed to convert one of our trolling bites to a bait stop, ending up with five tuna on board. Heading into the weigh-in dock, it sounded like the entire fleet experienced tough fishing conditions and an even tougher tuna bite!

WeighIn (2) (Small)

 

Our five albacore put us on the board and we were hoping for a top ten finish among the 70 angling teams competing in this event! Left to right, Team Evinrude is Robbie Tobeck, John Keizer, myself and Donald Auman.

WeighIn (1) (Small)

 

At the Award Ceremony, MC’d very expertly by Kevin Lanier, the leaderboard was revealed and Team Evinrude ended up with a 9th place finish with our five fish bag of 103.70 pounds!

KOTC (Small)

 

The 2016 Washington Tuna Classic Champs are team Reel Broke with a total of 127.38 pounds of tuna!

1TeamReel Broke (Small)

 

Of course, no WTC podium would be complete without Mark Coleman’s Team All Rivers & Saltwater Charters and they finished a strong second with 125.5 pounds!

2ARSC (Small)

A big thanks to Mitch King and all of the volunteers that make the Washington Tuna Classic the great event that it has become! 

Also, if it weren’t for John Keizer, Robbie Tobeck and Donald Auman we would not have enjoyed the success we experienced during this event. It was the first time that I had run my boat offshore for tuna and I’m fairly certain it won’t be the last.

The only way to ensure that you won’t get infected by the tuna disease is to stay inland and not venture out into the warm, cobalt blue water, for beyond…

211738-130758484421136-Kevin-Hollins_origin

 

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Buoy 10!

Jason Humbly of Pro-Cure with a Buoy 10 King

Jason Humbly of Pro-Cure with a Buoy 10 King

Good bait and perseverance will pay off when it comes to salmon fishing, especially Buoy 10 fishing. It all started the night before our trip as Jason Hambly put a few empty jars into the kitchen sink. He then stuffed them with herring and poured in some rock salt. There was no need for any tap water, frowned upon anyways due to chlorine and fluoride treatments, but instead he filled the jars with Pro-Cure’s Brine ‘n Bite Complete. One jar had Chartreuse-the other three with Natural-but in one of those he added a few droppers of Anise Oil.

Plug Cut Herring cured in Pro-Cure Brine 'n Bite Natural

Plug Cut Herring cured in Pro-Cure Brine ‘n Bite Natural

After a night in the cure it was time to fish. The morning was rough, both in water conditions and in fishing. First heading to the Washington side after launching in Astoria, Oregon we began our troll. Yakima Bait Company’s “Big Al’s Fish Flash” trailing a 16-ounce dropper that we kept close to the sandy bottom. Behind the in-line flasher were those Brine ‘n Bite Complete cured herring-plug cut by Hambly-and rigged on tandem 3/0 hooks.

Early morning calm at Buoy 10

Early morning calm at Buoy 10

The morning was cloudy and the winds calmed for a bit as the tide went slack. For just a little while it was nice out, and calm. But still very few fish being caught. So we motored over to the Oregon side.

Waves and wind kicked up with the tide change while passing cargo ships

Waves and wind kicked up with the tide change while passing cargo ships

Passing anchored cargo ships we started picking up a few bites. My son Ryan got the first fish of the day, a small Chinook but it was perfect for him to reel in.

Ryan Brooks with the first Chinook of the day

Ryan Brooks with the first Chinook of the day

Next up was Dave Dunsterville, a friend from Vancouver, British Columbia. But his fish was a small Tule and back into the Columbia it went.

A small Tule that was tossed back into the Columbia

A small Tule that was tossed back into the Columbia

After a few hours Hambly switched to the Anise scented herring and hooked a giant Chinook. He fought it hard to the boat as Dave was able to get the net under it.

Jason Humbly with a nice Up  River Bright Chinook that fell for Anise Oil infused into the plug cut herring

Jason Humbly with a nice Up River Bright Chinook that fell for Anise Oil infused into the plug cut herring

A couple passes later and finally it was my time to fight a Buoy 10 Chinook, this one also couldn’t resist the Anise in Brine ‘n Bite Natural.

The author and his son with a Buoy 10 Chinook of his own

The author and his son with a Buoy 10 Chinook of his own

We fished for 10 hours and all of our fish came on the second tide change of the day. Most of the other boats had already left the fishing grounds several hours before we even hooked our first fish. Even at the end of the day our herring was still firm and bright. By changing up colors, scents and adding a few additional scents we found what combination was wanted by the fish on this tough conditions day. Good brined bait and perseverance pays off, especially at Buoy 10 where you can be rewarded with a huge Upriver Bright Chinook like Hambly’s.

Having several scents along and good brined herring that last in the turbulent waters of  Buoy 10 leads to success

Having several scents along and good brined herring that last in the turbulent waters of Buoy 10 leads to success

Destination Villa del Palmar at Loreto, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

The Baja Peninsula of Mexico is home to Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, Swordfish, Roosterfish, Grouper, Cabrera and many other species that anglers often include on their ultimate fishing “bucket list” but the Dorado with its deep blue and bright green colors, unique rounded head and long dorsal fin is what drew me to Loreto, a small town of the Baja region. I was invited with a few other writers to attend the very first Villa del Palmar Resort’s Dorado tournament held on July 1st and 2nd.

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

My first impression of Loreto was the very small airport only an hour and a half flight from Los Angeles, California. Stepping off of the Boeing 737 and onto the tarmac there is no breezeway but instead a short stroll into the one gateway airport. This area of Mexico welcomes Americans and I noticed that a lot of the other passengers were families mostly comprised of grandparents, mom’s and dad’s and kids.

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

A thirty-minute shuttle ride through the hot desert along the bays and coves of the Sea of Cortez in the shadows of steep volcanic mountains led us to Villa del Palmar resort on Danzante bay. Waters that are turquois blue with red and orange rock outcroppings and of course tall green cactus. The resort owns thousands of acres of the surrounding area and includes a world class golf course.

Manta Ray's jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Manta Ray’s jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Upon arrival I met with Alejandro Watson and Ignacio Gomez, who I later ended up talking with about our families and learning we have a lot in common. We were also introduced to Zayra our hostess and hospitality guide. A quick tour of the grounds, with its multiple swimming pools, hot tub, three world class restaurants, and a large white sandy beach. The resort also offers a full service spa, two tennis courts, a mini-market for those forgotten items and an arcade for the teenagers. I again noticed that this resort was not a party atmosphere like those resorts in Cabo San Lucas or other Baja destinations. Alejandro and Ignacio make sure Villa del Palmar is a family place, where you can bring the kids and let them play on the beach or check out one of the mountain bikes while you go fishing.

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

The following morning, I was again on the shuttle to the Port of Escondido where I met the crew of the 34 foot “Mad Dash” a cruiser that we would be fishing from once the Dorado tournament began. Sure I was hoping to catch a Dorado myself, but my “job” was to cover the tournament and experience everything Villa del Palmar at Loreto has to offer.

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The first thing I noticed was how calm the waters were around the local Islands in the Sea of Cortez. It wasn’t until we hit the open ocean that we encountered some rollers and minor winds waves.

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Our Captain informed us that the water temperatures were still a little cold for the Dorado and they were just starting to show up, so after we trolled for a bit we headed for a waypoint on his GPS plotter for some bottom fishing. Soon we were into Grouper and Cabrera, both of which are excellent eating fish and the resort will cook for your dinner if you want to bring the catch back with you. Before we knew it we had to head to port to cover the action on the returning boats of the tournament.

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

When we got back to port I met up with Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com and he had an adventure to tell. A day of Roosterfish, Striped Marlin and a Hammerhead Shark! He was fishing in one of the “Panga’s” a small boat that resembles a Salty. A few other boats showed up and a couple of Dorado were caught, a good start to the tournament.

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Day two found me hanging around the Villa del Palmar resort. After a round of golf and a late breakfast at the club house I headed for Danzante Bay in a kayak. I met up with Joe Andrews who was visiting the resort with his family. He said that he has been coming here for a few years and always packs a rod. Using a simple slip weight system and some shrimp he talked one of the cooks out of at the mornings breakfast he said he has landed over 100 Trigger fish in the past two days right in front of the resort. Later that night I met Rene Olinger who moved to Loreto and started Baja Peninsula Adventures  (http://www.bajapeninsulatours.com) which rents Hobie fishing kayaks in town and offers tours as well as fishing.

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Loreto, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula is a destination for the angler, or for a family with an angler that wants it all. Villa del Palmar resort ( http://www.villadelpalmarloreto.com ) offers hiking trails, mountain biking, golf, snorkeling, wine and tequila tasting, fishing packages, and most of all relaxing on the beach or by the pool with world class food and very big and clean rooms and a few condo units with a kitchen. If you have ever thought of a Baja adventure but were a little hesitant I highly recommend looking at Villa del Palmar and also take a shuttle into town and allow Rene to show you around and take a kayak out into the calm waters.

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

Chelan Falls Summer Kings

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks

Chelan Falls Summer Kings-by Jason Brooks

Summer is heating up and as July keeps rolling along the Chinook keep climbing the fish ladders at the dams along the Columbia River. That is until they hit the cold water being spilled from Lake Chelan. A fairly new fishery for Upper Columbia summer Chinook are fish returning to the net pens located at the base of the outfall from the power plant where water is flushed from a large pipe and a trickle from the Chelan gorge into the warm waters of the Columbia. This area is known as the Chelan Falls fishery.

Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks

Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks

Early morning is without doubt prime time. The summer sun shines very bright here and it seems to turn the bite off along with the heat that goes along with it causing anglers to want to head to the local swimming hole instead of the fishing hole.

Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks

Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks

Most fish are caught in pre-dawn hours until the sun hits the water around 7:00 in the morning. This is a shallow water fishery with the bottom being around 25 to 30 feet and covered in milfoil. This means the downriggers are set at 15 feet and some elect to use a drop weight system with 4 ounce cannonballs.

Flat-lining plugs such as Brad's Killer Fish 14's in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks

Flat-lining plugs such as Brad’s Killer Fish 14′s in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks

A standard trolling set up at Chelan Falls is a Mack’s Double D Dodger in silver and green, a 36” to 48” leader of Izorline 30 pound XXX trailing a Brad’s Superbait or Super Cut Plug. Popular colors are Hot Tamale or Lava, but another “new” color that is producing this summer is Rotten Banana in the mini-cut plug. Stuff the baits with canned tuna or herring and soak them heavily with Pro-Cure Super Gel in Anise Bloody Tuna. Since this is a shallow water troll and you are allowed to fish two poles with the endorsement it is beneficial to throw an extra rod out flatling a Brad’s Killer Fish size 14 in the Rotten Banana color.

Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo

Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo

Launch at the County PUD park located just past the Chelan Falls Bridge and then motor back over to the mouth of the Chelan River, trolling the western shoreline all the way back up to the bridge. Make sure to stay a bit out in the channel otherwise you will foul your gear in the milfoil along the shoreline. If you want to learn this fishery there are two premier guides that fish it, Shane Magnuson (509-264-7684 or www.uppercolumbiaguide.com) of Upper Columbia Guide Service who lives in Leavenworth and Brad Wagner (509-670-3095 or www.fishwenatchee.com) of Bobber Down Guide Service out of Wenatchee. Since they live in the area they know this fishery well. In fact I was out trying my best this past weekend and witnessed Shane land 5 fish before 7:00 AM on Saturday. Then I got a message from Brad who let me know that his boat caught 6 Chinook before 6:00 AM today. The key to both guides in that they are on the water early. There is plenty of room to fish and it doesn’t get too crowded.

Englefield Again: Provin’ it!

After our unbelievable first trip to WestCoast Resorts Englefield Bay last year, my son Matt and I could not wait to get back up there. In fact, we were so fired up about our amazing experience that we put a 710 ESPN Listener trip together so we could share the Englefield experience with listeners and friends.

In fact, we’re announcing a second chance trip in late August

Did the trip live up to expectations? Without a doubt it did! Most anglers on the trip had their best chinook days ever in both numbers and size! Bottomfish? How about two ling cod per day with no size restrictions and six in possession! Couple that with two halibut and a pile of rockfish and you are talking new home freezer time!

The WestCoast Resorts Englefield equation for success is solid. Place a floating lodge alone in a remote location accessible only by boat and helicopter.

Oh, the helicopters…C’mon now, aren’t you the least bit intrigued by a fishing trip that begins and ends with a heliopter ride?

Or, more correctly a Helijet which we boarded in Sandspit after our chartered 737 flight from Vancouver, BC.IMG_0880

 

As the lodge comes into view we’re just stunned by the remoteness and beauty of the luxurious, floating lodge at Englefield Bay.IMG_0521 (Medium)

 

Once we’re on the docks the level of organization and experience of the WestCoast Resorts operation is readily apparent. Every boat  is clean, identically rigged and READY!IMG_0536 (Medium)

 

 

The info board is updated daily and hooks you up with weather, tides and hot spots. No secrets here! Since the only boats in the area are from the lodge and fish are plentiful, info is shared freely.IMG_0889

 

After the brief lodge orientation, we jump into our gear and we’re off fishing before noon on our first day!IMG_9100 (Medium)

 

And just how good is the midday chinook bite at Englefield Bay? Well, we only kept three that first day so wouldn’t burn through our four chinook per angler possession limit but we had a double-digit king bite the first afternoon! Simply stated the most smokin’ hot chinook bite I had seen all season which included a three-week stint running my boat in Sitka, Alaska.IMG_0325 (Medium)

 

The next morning, I went out with Chef Patrick Fagan of Bait2Plate.com and my summer on air pard John Martinis. We absolutely STUFFED the fishbox with ling cod, yelloweye, black rockfish and chinook!John&Patrick 

 

The next day? Well, halibut was on the itinerary and we were again very successful but here is the thing that you need to know: Once you’re back at the lodge, the dock staff label, weigh, process and vacuum pack your fish while you relax in the lounge!

IMG_0339 (Medium)

 

Our final morning, we had our possession limits of bottomfish in the lodge freezer so we got to concentrate on chinook and again, the bite was simply epic! Matt Nelson and John Martinis are working a double which started out as a triple but someone had to take the picture…IMG_0471 (Medium)

 

After the fishing was done, I couldn’t help but take a few pics on the way in to the lodge. The beauty of Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands is well known but this untouched tide pool with a small stream entering it would be an even more fascinating sight in the fall with a few salmon sneaking in when the bears came to feed!IMG_0496 (Medium)

 

The anglers that came along on our Listener trip were very successful and while the fish you take home is not the only way to measure an adventure such as this, it’s interesting to note that the 44 anglers boxed catch weighed over 4500 pounds!IMG_0895

 

The helicopter flight out of the lodge was accompanied with a stitch of sadness but also a feeling of satisfaction for a trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.IMG_0553 (Medium)

 

Back at Sandspit Airport, we literally walked off the Helijet and walked right on to the jet to Vancouver where we landed before noon and headed back home over the border.IMG_0623 (Medium)

 

We all played “Horse” on the basketball court when we were kids and after that last shot that hung that “E” on you, the ball was flipped back to your opponent with a defiant “prove it”,

That’s what this trip to Englefield Bay meant to me. After an unbelievable first trip last year highlighted by a tyee for my son and a memorable Father’s Day for all.

WestCoast Resorts has repeated that feat, essentially “proving it” and now Englefield Bay is permanently carved in stone in my annual angling itinerary and I hope you’ll consider making it part of yours.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Defiance Bait Tank Installation

After his Seattle Boat Show tuna seminar, Defiance Marine Pro-staffer Tommy “Cornfed” Donlin stuck his big ‘ol head into my boat which was on display at the show.

“Where are you gonna put your live bait Nelly?”

“How about this transom fishbox? I should be able to make it flow…”

Cornfed shook his head “You put anchovies in that square box and they’re gonna die before you get to the grounds. You’ve got to have a circular flow to keep them swimming, healthy and the tank has to be round so they can’t hit corners and injure themselves.”

Donlin is a well-known pain in the neck but I knew he was right and heck, there are a number of reasons beyond live anchovy fishing for tuna to install a live well. Shrimping, crabbing, live bait fishing for lingcod and even halibut are great reasons to install a tank. Also, let’s not forget the prospect of jigging herring and putting up your own trays of bait or even fishing them fresh!

Defiance Marine’s DNA is saturated with blue water angling and a quality bait tank is as vital to the tuna fisherman as the downrigger is to the salmon angler. Fortunately, Defiance is recognized as the finest bait tank available and not all that hard for the do-it-yourselfer to install!

First off you’ll need to get organized and get your parts list together including a sheet of one-inch Starboard for the mount. Tank water supply is 1″ and required an 1500GPH livewell pump. The drain is 1 1/2″ and you’ll need a shutoff or seacock valve. Thanks to Harbor Marine at the Port of Everett, it’s a one-stop shop!

IMG_9812 (Small)

 

This is the very definition of a “measure twice, cut once” project and it’s vital to make a cardboard template of the tank footprint for an accurate installation.

IMG_9818 (Small)

 

Once you’ve got your template, lay it on the deck in your desired location and take a good look around, above and most importantly, UNDER the location!

IMG_9822 (Small)

 

The best way to look under your chosen location is to pull up the deck floor which, you’ll have to do anyway to run the electrical and plumbing. On my Weldcraft, I had to plan around a deck support but that will add to the strength of the mount.

IMG_9823 (Small)

 

With the deck floor section out of the boat, it’s template time and a jigsaw drill to position the deck plate that will allow access for the plumbing to the tank.

IMG_9824 (Small)

 

With the hole cut in the template and the deck floor, we need to trim the template to now fit INSIDE the tank as that’s how it’s going to mount to your deck.

IMG_9827 (Small)

 

Lay the template on the Starboard and start making a whole pile of white plastic dust! Make sure you’ve got a fairly accurate fit to the inside of the tank bottom!

IMG_9829 (Small)

 

Once you’ve cut the Starboard to fit, it’s time to drill and tap 1/4″ x 20 (threads per inch) hardware into the perimeter of the tank. Four or five will do the trick!

IMG_9832 (Small)

 

Time to take all your work back to the boat, cut that nice 1 1/2″ drain hole above the waterline, finish it with a SS hose barb through hull. Add the livewell pump to your water pickup, run the hoses forward and through the deck plate.

IMG_9833 (Small)

 

Being careful not to kink the hoses, lay the floor plate back down and fasten it back in place.

IMG_9834 (Small)

 

To lay flat on the deck, the Starboard mounting board’s center hole has to be larger than the mount ring of the deck plate. Use the existing deck floor bolt pattern to hold down the deck plate and you’ll have to get one-inch longer hardware to reach!

IMG_9835 (Small)

Lay the tank down to make the plumbing & electrical connections and you’re almost there! Again, take care that excess hose does not kink!

IMG_9836 (Small)

 

Stand the tank up, pop in your perimeter hardware and launch the boat! Test the system for leaks and you now have a 50 gallon bait tank installed!!!

IMG_0704 (Small)

 

Removing the tank takes all of five minutes and the only way you’ll know it was there is the plastic deck plate and a wet ring where the tank was…

IMG_0714 (Small)

 

I didn’t go into great detail on the transom plumbing aspect because each boat is different and let’s just say that climbing into the transom was not pretty…

IMG_0703 (Small)

This summer with all the North of Falcon “noise” going on, we’re going to have to be a bit more versatile to get our days on the water. My Defiance Marine bait tank is a HUGE step in that direction!

Give them a call and whatever you do, DON”T tell them TOMMY DONLIN sent you!!!

 

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

Spring Trout Tips

Ryan Brooks with an opening day rainbow -Jason Brooks

Ryan Brooks with an opening day rainbow -Jason Brooks

Spring trout fishing brings back a lot of memories for most of us as this is where we learned to fish. Getting up an hour before the sunrise and heading to our local lake to fish for the planter rainbows, filling our stringers and having fried trout for dinner. Today this tradition is still going strong and creating memories for generations of anglers. To increase your catching here are a few reminders and pointers.

 

A feisty rainbow makes it fun -Jason Brooks

A feisty rainbow makes it fun -Jason Brooks

1. Know where the fish are

By first checking the fish plantings for your local lakes at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ you will have a better idea of how many and when the trout were planted. The “when” is the most important as it takes a few weeks for the fish to acclimate to the lake after being raised in holding ponds at the hatchery. Trout typically stay near the surface when recently planted and as the days go by they slowly make their way to a more comfortable thermocline and adjust to finding the food sources the lake offers. If the lake was recently planted, fish near the surface, if it’s been over a month deeper.

 

Pro-Cure jars of single salmon eggs with UV are a great trout bait -Jason Brooks

Pro-Cure jars of single salmon eggs with UV are a great trout bait -Jason Brooks

2. Baits

It seems Powerbait by Berkley has almost “dummied” the angler as that’s all we use. But it wasn’t too long ago that we used salmon eggs and did just as well. Since the trout are near the surface after planting try using a slip float and go back to salmon eggs, as Powerbait floats and is hard to fish under a bobber. Pro-Cure makes jars of salmon eggs with added scent as well as being UV enhanced, I don’t know any other salmon egg on the market that does the same thing right out of the jar! Also try nightcrawlers, small pieces of prawns or cooked salad shrimp. I always douse my baits with scents to give them that extra advantage.

 

The Super Duper by Luhr Jensen is one of the author's favorite trout lures -Jason Brooks

The Super Duper by Luhr Jensen is one of the author’s favorite trout lures -Jason Brooks

3. Trolling lures

Speed is key when trolling. Slow is the name of the game for spring fishing, no matter if it’s for rainbows or kokanee. The slower you can troll and still keep your gear near the surface the more fish you will catch. My top lures are gold or silver 1 ¼” Super Duper’s by Luhr Jensen, black ¼ ounce Roostertail’s by Yakima Bait Company, and Double Whammy Wedding Ring Spinners by Mack’s Lure. In fact the Wedding Ring has probably caught more trout than any other lure when tipped with a piece of nightcrawler.

 

The whooly bugger, Mack's Smile Blade Fly, and Chironomids are productive flies for trout -Jason Brooks

The whooly bugger, Mack’s Smile Blade Fly, and Chironomids are productive flies for trout -Jason Brooks

4. Fly Fishing

Casting and slowly stripping in a fly or trolling them; using flies in the right water conditions and the right time of day is a lot of fun and very effective. This time of year it’s a wet fly game unless you get a really warm day and just at dusk and start to see fish rising. My main flies are the Mack’s Lure Smile Blade Fly (a whooly bugger with a small smile blade at the eye of the hook), Carey Specials, and Chironomid’s.

 

Adding scents attract fish and also cover any unwanted smells you put onto your baits or lures -Jason Brooks

Adding scents attract fish and also cover any unwanted smells you put onto your baits or lures -Jason Brooks

5. Scents

When bait fishing, trolling lures, or even fly fishing and I am planning on keeping the trout for the frying pan or smoker I always use extra scents. The main reason why I put on scents is to attract more fish to my hook. Especially when bait fishing as it will draw in a lot more fish and increases your catch rate. For trolling it creates a scent trail and I will often do a figure eight pattern with my boat as the fish will be attracted to the area of the lake I just trolled through. The other reason to use scents is to help mask any other scents you put onto your gear. You just touched a lot of stuff while getting your boat in the water and it can repeal fish away from your hook if they smell it. Pro-Cure’s Super Gel’s stick to your bait or lure and cover any unwanted scents.

Tributary Springer’s

April and May means it's time to fish the tributaries for Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

April and May means it’s time to fish the tributaries for Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

By Jason Brooks

Spring Chinook are undoubtedly one of the most sought after fish for the barbecue. Here is a quick rundown of some of the best Washington river’s for April and May Chinook.

#1. The Mighty Cowlitz

With 25,100 Spring Chinook expected to return to the Cowlitz River as well as a chance to double up with some late winter or early summer steelhead, this is easily number one. Back troll wrapped plugs below the I-5 launch down to the confluence of the Toutle, boondog eggs and sand shrimp anywhere from Blue Creek to Toledo. And for the bank anglers, the combat zone at Barrier Dam floating Wizard Cured eggs.

Columbia River Gorge Tributaries are always productive-Jason Brooks

Columbia River Gorge Tributaries are always productive-Jason Brooks

#2. Drano Lake

This impoundment of the Columbia in the windy gorge along highway 14 is expected back 9,800 fish. Though that’s roughly half of last year’s run this is still a yearly top producer. Boat anglers who dare the combat conditions at the highway 14 bridge will hover cured prawns until pushed aside by other boats. The trollers in the lake pull wrapped Mag Lip 4.5 plugs and the “old school” bright orange Mag Wart still produced for the bank anglers that cast and retrieve from the shoreline.

Ted Schuman with a Springer! -Jason Brooks

Ted Schuman with a Springer! -Jason Brooks

#3. Wind River

A few miles from the Bridge of God’s the Wind River dumps into the Columbia. This deadline fishery targets both the 6,500 fish cruising towards the Wind itself as well as other fish heading up the Columbia and stop to rest in the calm waters. Just like the name suggest, this fishery can become Windy and watch the water conditions. Here pulling Mag Lip 4.5’s or Mag Warts on a dropper to keep them close to the boat is the most popular technique. There is some bank access for anglers who like to pitch spoons, spinners and Mag Warts.

Fresh Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

Fresh Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

#4. The Quaint Kalama

A smaller river in Southwest Washington that is hoping to get back the predicted 4,900 fish, which is an improvement over the 3,100 predicted last year. This river is for the drift boat and pontoon angler and offers solitude compared to the previous three mentioned fisheries. Blue Fox Vibrax spinners in sizes 4 and 5 as well as float fishing big gobs of eggs are popular.

Wrapped Plugs are a top producer for tributary Springer's -Jason Brooks

Wrapped Plugs are a top producer for tributary Springer’s -Jason Brooks

#5. Icicle River at Leavenworth

This river is not open yet, and we really won’t know much about the season, if or when it will open until WDFW makes its decision later this month or even early May. This is typically a May fishery and with the snow runoff the river isn’t usually in shape until then anyway. But when this river opens this is a “must do” trip just for the scenery and for the warm eastern Washington sunshine while fighting a Springer. Back bouncing eggs or wrapped K-14 plugs in the few deep holes of this very short float is what catches fish.

Runnin’ Skinny with the Evinrude 105 Jet

Kitsap Marina in Port Orchard, Washington recently installed a new Evinrude 105 Jet on my 18 foot custom Waldon river sled and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve enjoyed the hole shot and hook-up of a two stroke jet pump. I’m definitely diggin’ it!

I bought this sled for running the smaller rivers in Washington and for fishing some of the local lakes and perhaps even the Puget Sound once in a while. I’ve been running jet sleds and outboard tillers for over twenty years and this little sled is the best performing sled I’ve ever owned. It’s by no means a big river boat, but on any medium to small sized river it flat out shreds.

Here’s some photos and intel on the new pump as well as my boat specs in case you’re interested in going with a two-stroke Evinrude on your river rig.

My sled is 18 feet long with a 72 inch, 6 degree bottom and 25 inch sides. The Evinrude 105 weighs in at 428 pounds and it’s weight matches up perfectly with my particular sled configuration. River sleds in the 18 to 20 foot range with 74, 78, and 82 inch bottoms would work great with this motor.

If you’re stepping down to a smaller sled or have a 17 or 18 foot sled with a 68 inch bottom I’d take a look at the 90/65 Evinrude Jet. For even smaller sleds they make a sweet little 40 horse factory tiller jet.

sled_evinrude2

This right here is what makes my sled perform like a Lamborghini. This sled is freaky fast with the Evinrude and it corners like it’s on rails because of the tunnel that Johnny Waldon builds into his sleds. Wooldridge does the same thing and I’m here to tell ya…if you want to run extremely skinny water and corner at planing speeds this is the way to go. This boat rocks the corners, braids, all of it. Waldon is a long time friend of mine from Skagit County and he builds one boat at a time in his shop in Conway. My next and last sled will be a 20 foot Waldon with an 82 inch bottom. If you ask him really nice he might even build a sled for you.

tunnel

Every tiller jockey is most interested in the tiller. Evinrude has placed all the essentials like the shifter, kill switch, and trim/tilt right next to the throttle. Twist that throttle and you can get 5,300 to 6,000 rpm’s out this bad boy at full throttle. This isn’t the two stroke you ran twenty years ago!

tiller3

And the tiller handle stays up like it’s supposed to when you want to stop and fish. If you’ve ran tillers for very long then you know how much of a pain in the arse it is when your tiller is constantly falling down and in the way.

tiller2

I really like this little button that Evinrude added at the base of the tiller. Simply twist this threaded button in or out to adjust the height of the tiller. When I’m standing up most of the day I screw it out to move the tiller handle up and when I’m sitting down mostly I screw it all the way in to drop the handle down.

tiller

Kitsap Marina mounted the oil reservoir in one of my side compartments and as you can see it takes up very little space.

oil_tank2

During the first 5 to 8 hours of run time above 2,500 rpm’s the motor uses twice the oil to break in the cylinders. This is how much oil the engine used in two whole days of river fishing during this period.

oil_tank

When I’m running this boat it’s hard not to smile just a little. It performs like the sleds used to back in the 80′s and early 90′s when two strokes were the name of the game. Except, those motors were prone to breaking down. If this motor runs anything like guide Phil Stephens 200 Evinrude E-Tec that’s performed flawlessly for several years on his 20 foot North River Scout I’ll be smiling for quite a while. Brad Wagner, Bonner Daniels, and quite a few other top Washington guides are also running E-Tecs now and love them.

The last and best thing about these motors is that there’s no scheduled service for 3 years or 300 hours. If you’ve been missing the torque of a two stroke I highly encourage you to take a look at one of these engines. Check out the rest of the specs on the Evinrude 105 Jet online or call Kitsap Marina and talk to the folks there about them. Kitsap is the largest Evinrude dealer and service center in the entire Pacific Northwest!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

The 2016 Salmon Forecasts!

A sure sign of spring after a long winter is the annual arrival of our salmon forecasts and the “North of Falcon” meetings. I await the salmon forecast numbers like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. Hello, my name is Tom and I am a “salmon sicko”.

After watching the numbers for a number of years (never mind how many…) I’ve found that you can “call some shots” by digging into the forecast numbers. The WDFW, DFO Canada and The PFMC (Pacific Fisheries Management Council) work very hard to get their chinook and coho abundance estimates out in a timely manner. These figures take some pouring through to find the real “meat” but don’t worry, I’ve done all the leg work for you right here!

2009-2016 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

Stock                     2009       2010     2011       2012       2013       2014       2015       2016
Willapa fall               34.8      31.1       36.8        45.2         27.1        32.4        35.1       39.5
Hoh fall                     2.6         3.3        2.9           2.7           3.1          2.5         2.5          1.8
Nooksack/Sam        23.0      30.3      37.5         44.0        46.5        43.9       38.5        27.9

Skagit summer        23.4      13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3        15.6

Stillaguamish wild    1.0        1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5          0.3

Snohomish Wild        8.4        9.9         7.4          2.8          3.6          5.2          4.1          3.3
Snohomish Hatch     4.9         5.6         5.1         3.9           6.8          5.4         3.2          5.0
Tulalip Bay                4.0         3.4         3.5        5.9          10.9          4.7         1.3          1.4

S Puget Wild            17.2      12.7        8.9          8.9           5.2          4.8         6.5          4.5
S Puget Hatch          93.0      97.4      118.6       95.8       101.9       101.4     91.1        43.1

Hood Canal Wild        2.5      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1         2.3

Hood Canal Hatch     40.1     42.6         38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9       42.7

Stock total:       255.6k    253.1k    278.9k   266.5k      288.6k      304.3k   257.1k    187.4k

We’re looking at a chinook forecast that’s down to say the least. The number that jumps out to me is the aggregate of South Puget Sound hatchery stocks coming in as less than half of last year’s forecast. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish (299 wild chinook) and Issaquah/Cedar/Sammamish (3,500 hatchery and 1,100 wild) which will most certainly be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. The lone bright spot? The Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season. However, as was the case last year, most of the wrangling & hand wringing will definitely occur over the Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook seasons in July.

.
2009-2016 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)

Stock                   2009         2010            2011          2012        2013        2014       2015       
Straits Wild           20.5          8.5              12.3           12.3       14.8          14.5         13.4
Straits Hatch         7.0            7.8              12.7           18.6       15.4         15.3           8.8
Nook/Sam W        7.0            9.6               29.5           25.2      45.4          20.8         28.1
Nook/Sam H       25.5          36.0               45.7           62.8      49.2          61.7         50.8

Skagit Wild          33.4          95.9             138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4       121.4

Skagit Hatch       11.7            9.5               16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8        19.5

Stilly Wild            13.4           25.9              66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4         31.2

Stilly hatch            0.0              5.4                0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1            0

Snohomish W       67.0           99.4            180.0         109.0     163.8         150        151.5

Snohomish H        53.6           24.5              80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1         53.8

S Sound Wild        53.6          25.3              98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8          63.0

S Sound Hatch   188.8       186.4            173.3         162.9     150.9       172.7         180.2

Hood Wild            48.6          33.2              77.5           73.4       36.8         47.6           61.4

Hood Hatch        52.0          51.2              72.1           62.6       68.6         82.7          108.4

Key stocks tot  338.6k    320.8k        916.0k       628.6k     783.2k    869.2k       891.5k

Stock                   2016                
Straits Wild           4.7                                                                                                      Straits Hatch        3.7
Nook/Sam W        8.9
Nook/Sam H        28.7

Skagit Wild            8.9

Skagit Hatch         4.9

Stilly Wild              2.7

Stilly hatch             0.0

Snohomish W       16.7

Snohomish H        1.8

S Sound Wild         9.9

S Sound Hatch     27.1

Hood Wild            35.3

Hood Hatch         83.4

Key stocks tot    236.7   

It does not take a PhD in Fisheries Biology to see that we’ve got some major issues on the coho front. We could break this down stock by stock but with such a widespread reduction in coho abundance one may guess that the culprit may indeed be what each stock has in common, namely the Pacific Ocean. We all heard of and lamented the “blob” or warm water mass that established itself in the “non-winter” of 2015 and persisted through the strengthening phase of the current ENSO event commonly known as “El Nino” The good news is that El Nino is rapidly weakening and has dispersed the “blob”. The bad news is that the damage has already been done to this year’s coho stocks. The Skagit posts the lowest forecast of it’s storied history and the Snohomish system -a perennial bright spot- is barely 10% of the 2015 forecast. Definitely cause for concern.

However, I do take some solace in the “over achievement” of this season’s winter steelhead returns and the seemingly early and abundant beginning to the Columbia River spring chinook run. While this reason for optimism is anecdotal at best, the fact remains steelhead smolt which outmigrated through the same unfavorable oceanic conditions somehow found forage sufficient to survive in good numbers.

Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 119,125 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives 55,054  bright, red reasons to be encouraged compared to the 2015 forecast of only 45,000 Baker River reds.

Keep in mind that these numbers are but the “raw material” that the co-managers will use to craft our local seasons and only by attending the North of Falcon meetings can you have an impact on the process. We will keep you posted here but I sincerely look forward to meeting some of you….at the meetings!!!

For a schedule of the North of Falcon meetings near you hit WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com