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 1100GPH 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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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!!!

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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…

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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

Brooks Top Three Winter Steelhead Scents

By Jason Brooks

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Winter steelhead is one of the most popular fisheries in the northwest, mostly because we start catching them around Thanksgiving and continue clear into springtime. It is the longest run timing of any or our anadromous fisheries and gives anglers the most opportunity at catching fish. With just about every type of technique available from pulling plugs, throwing spinners and spoons, drifting yarnies, and float fishing jigs, eggs, sand shrimp, pink worms, and let’s not forget the “old school” technique of driftfishing they all have one thing in common in that you can add scents to make them more effective. I apply scents to every technique I use, and here are my top three producing scents for winter steelhead.

#1. Anise/Krill

The combination of sweet anise and the baseline food source for steelhead in the ocean, krill, is a killer combo. Steelhead love sugar and have a “sweet tooth” just ask any die hard steelheader what their “secret” egg cure ingredient is and you will learn it’s a sugar based cure. In fact, before Bad Azz bait dyes came along the standby was raspberry or strawberry Jell-O, again a sweetened color dye. Then adding krill into the mix only makes this one even more productive.

Pro Cure Steelhead and Salmon Scents

#2 Sand Shrimp

This is almost a “no brainer” with little need for explanation. Sand shrimp are a popular steelhead bait and of course a scent that uses real sand shrimp, like Pro-Cure’s Super Gel, can turn your spoon, plug, or jig into a fish killer. Steelhead love sand shrimp, plain and simple. And don’t forget Pro-Cure makes a water soluble oil with sand shrimp. When I cure my eggs I heavily drench them before I add my powdered egg cure, let them sit for a few hours and then cure up my eggs. It creates yet another perfect combo bait.

sand_shrimp

#3 Anise Bloody Tuna

Fairly new to the market is a scent that you would think only a salmon would love, but steelhead love it too. I can’t fathom why they like this one but I can tell you it flat out works. Again, the anise just plain catches steelhead and the bloody tuna is a potent oil that triggers the predator instinct in fish.This is a great scent for yarnies as it slowly dissipates into the water and when a fish grabs hold of it they don’t let go.

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Jason Brooks, Northwest Outdoor Writer

River Cooking with a Camp Chef Stryker Series Stove

Today I had the pleasure of taking northwest outdoor writer Jason Brooks and his son Ryan steelhead fishing on a local river. It’s February here in Washington and we are in the middle of the wettest winter in history. Today it would clear up just long enough for us to think it was a good idea to stay out longer before another deluge would settle in.

After hooking a couple steelhead we decided to pull over for lunch during a very brief clearing and Jason pulls out this completely awesome little Camp Chef Stryker series stove. While I ate my uneventful peanut butter sandwich and venison pepperoni sticks Jason quickly boiled up some water and added it to a Mountain House freeze dried meal. It took exactly TWO MINUTES for the water to boil with this stove!

Oila! Ryan and he dove into their warm lunch on this cold and wet Pacific Northwest day. I wasn’t envious one bit.

Camp Chef Stryker Stove

The entire stove including the fuel canister fit right back into the small pot and it tucks away nicely in a dry bag or storage compartment in the boat. It even has it’s own ignitor so you don’t have to worry about packing a lighter or matches.

Camp Chef also makes a propane model but like me Jason is a hardcore hunter and wanted the compact butane model for his high country hunting trips.

The exact model of this one is the Camp Chef Mountain Series Stryker 100 Isobutane Stove.

 

Camp Chef Stryker Series Stoves

 

They retail for around $65 to $70 and you can bet I’ll be ordering one soon. This is just the ticket for tricking our two kiddos into fishing with me again, and again, and again!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

 

5 Tips for Catching Trophy Steelhead

 By Jason Brooks

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With longer days and warmer weather the winter steelheader knows this is the time of year for big fish to arrive in our rivers. Those that might have not caught a truly large steelhead will learn a few lessons as soon as they hook the fish. Unfortunately this is not the time to learn those lessons. And if you have caught that magical fish of a lifetime then you might want to remember these lessons as well before you head back to the river.

The author about to release a wild steelhead, keeping it in the water at all times-Jason Brooks

The author about to release a wild steelhead, keeping it in the water at all times-Jason Brooks

Go where the big fish are.

By doing a little research or hiring a reputable guide you can find a handful of rivers that produce big steelhead. Don’t think you can just head to any old steelhead stream and catch a giant fish, even if rumors abound that a twenty pound fish came out of “hatchery brat creek”. Wild fish need wild places so head to a remote section of the Olympic Peninsula with a handful of river maps in your tackle box.

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Leave the bait at home.

This time of year and the rivers you will target should have a run of big wild fish which means we need to protect them. By using techniques that don’t require bait you are more likely to not mortally hook one of these majestic fish. But by all means use scents when it’s legal to do so!

It might seem strange to not use bait but use scents, however it’s how you use the scent that makes the difference. I rub Pro-Cure Super Gel’s on my leaders as well as smear it on my plugs and spoons and soak my slinkies in Pro-Cure bait oils. The idea of using scents is to have it disperse downstream of your presentation so the fish is anticipating something coming and also entice the strike.

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Knotless nets and fish stay in the water.

This is almost a no brainer with Washington’s regulations though I still see the green or blue nylon knotted nets in drift boats. Those nets literally rip the slime off of the fish which compromises the fish’s ability to fight off bacteria and infections. Along with using a soft knotless net you should keep the fish in the water at all times. Sure I see the photos of one fin in the water to “keep legal” but really the head of the fish or at least the gills plate should remain in the water. And be careful of hand placement as putting pressure under the pectoral fins can compress the steelheads heart.

Use a knotless net when practicing catch and release-Jason Brooks

Use a knotless net when practicing catch and release-Jason Brooks

Bring a camera!

A real camera, not your cell phone. You finally land a fish of a lifetime and it’s now time to preserve that memory or even use the photos to make a replica mount of the fish. Take a lot of photos from all sorts of perspectives, including close up shots and use a “fill flash” to lighten shadows of ball caps. Along with the camera make sure to take measurements of your fish so you can do the math calculations on just how big your fish really was. Here’s a formula that’s been developed by biologists to determine the weight of a wild steelhead:

Girth Squared x Length/775

Use a camera to capture the fish and angler to share the memories-Jason Brooks

Use a camera to capture the fish and angler to share the memories-Jason Brooks

Upsize your gear.

If you are still using 8 or 10 pound test leaders and 12 pound mainline you will really wish you weren’t the second you realize you have a monster steelhead up and running. Truly big fish are not as leader shy as some hatchery brats. And big fish means big gear. As soon as we get a warm spring day I switch all of my mainline to either 15 pound monofilament or 20 to 30 pound braid. My leaders are at least 12 pound test and a buddy of mine uses 20 pound test when we fish a certain river on the coast known for log jams and huge fish. I also trade my lightweight side drifting rod for my fall salmon rod. I keep a finger on my line to help feel the bite but I want the backbone of the medium to medium heavy action rod to turn that big fish away from the logs and rocks and hopefully force it in to the bank. Plus the sooner you can land a big fish the sooner you can let it rest and get it back into the stream. Fighting a steelhead to near exhaustion is no different than bonking it on the head with a stick.

Use the right gear and bring in the fish before it reaches exhaustion-Jason Brooks

Use the right gear and bring in the fish before it reaches exhaustion-Jason Brooks

Good luck and go find that steelhead of a lifetime!

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer

Keys to Successful Bank Steelheading

Bank angling for winter steelhead, a Northwest Tradition

by Jason Brooks

Bank bound anglers often feel they are at a hindrance to those floating buy in drift boats or having the wake of a jet sled slap the shores as they zoom by. But just because one is on foot doesn’t mean they are at a disadvantage as long as the bank angler utilizes some basic knowledge and prepares for the day of fishing. Here are a few keys to becoming a more successful bank bound steelheader.

Hooking and fighting a fish from shore can be very fun and productive

Hooking and fighting a fish from shore can be very fun and productive

Know the river and the land that surrounds it. With the internet and Google Earth as well as many other mapping systems like Hunt by “onXmaps”. A little research before you head to the water will benefit the angler on foot. Access points to some secret holes or runs can be found by simply clicking through the county auditor’s website and learning which bank areas are open to the public and who might own the private lands to ask for permission. River’s change course each winter with the heavy rains but Google earth will show you the bends and long straights with a tail out.

After you have done a search and found several access points to a river you want to fish, it’s time to put the boots on the ground. Take an entire day to explore the river and check out all potential access points and areas to fish. The first time you visit a river it should be to explore. Even if you find that secret run or deep slot, fish it for an hour and then make yourself move on and keep looking around. You will thank yourself the next time you drive to the river and find a person in your best spot and then not have to go try and find a new one as you will already know where to go.

Fishing the bank is very rewarding

Fishing the bank is very rewarding

Once you learn a river or two or three…you get the idea, then it’s time to get smart about your gear. When I bank fish, and yes, I still like the ease of hiking into a river and fishing instead of fighting the lines at the boat ramps. I usually take two rods, both are the same though. The idea is to have a back-up rod and reel outfit in case your primary one breaks, it happens, as my car door is notorious for eating rods in the parking lot. My “go to” steelhead outfit is a 9 ½ foot medium to light action spinning rod with a 3000 series reel spooled with 20 pound braid. This set-up allows me to fish multiple ways and a variety of water conditions.

Hooking a fish from the bank, nothing feels better

Hooking a fish from the bank, nothing feels better

The tackle box is where you can really get into trouble when it comes to bank angling. You need to pack just the right gear and right amount and carry it all throughout the day. This is where using a universal rod and reel like the one mentioned above really pays off. I will pack six spoons, three in ½ ounce and three in ¾ ounce so I can adjust to water speed. Since I am fishing braid I also bring along four adjustable ½ ounce floats, six or more jigs, a dozen “yarnie” pre-tied drift fishing leaders, another dozen leaders just plain, some pink worms and a few bare jig heads. I am not a big bait fishing fan when bound to the bank as you then need carry the bait and keep it fresh, but I do carry scents, such as Pro-Cure Super Gel in Anise, Sandshrimp, and Salmon Egg. By using the yarnies with scent I am essentially using a standard bait drift fish rigging. Don’t forget the swivels and weights, I prefer slinkies in various shot amounts depending on the water conditions. All of this goes into a backpack and takes up little room and is lightweight.

Grant Blinn with a shore caught steelhead about to be released

Grant Blinn with a shore caught steelhead about to be released

With the above mentioned rod and reel, and gear I can fish several methods and all water conditions. From throwing spoons, drift fishing yarnies and pink worms to float fishing jigs and “whacky” rigged worms and even a spoon under a float in a boulder garden, as well as bobber-dog a long run. I have stood at the top of a seam and bobber-dogged until my line on my spool was down to the last wrap. Now that it working the water!

The author, Jason Brooks, with his son Ryan and two winter steelhead on the bank

The author, Jason Brooks, with his son Ryan and two winter steelhead on the bank

Strap on the boots, check the river levels and head for the bank. By preparing and being armed with knowledge of the river you will be more successful. Just don’t smile too much as the boats go by, knowing they have to fight the lines at the launch.

Jason Brooks
Northwest Outdoor Writer

The Versatile Drift Boat

by Jason Brooks

If you ask me what is the most versatile watercraft to pursuit salmon and steelhead I would have to say it’s the drift boat. With its distinctive up curved ends and flat bottom designed and built to float in skinny northwest rivers it also handles bigger waters such as mainstream rivers, estuaries, and bays. Add in the fact that they are extremely economical with very little maintenance and it’s no wonder that their popularity is making a huge comeback.

A drift boat is a great way to enjoy a relaxing  day of fishing -Jason Brooks

A drift boat is a great way to enjoy a relaxing day of fishing -Jason Brooks

It all started on the McKenzie River in Oregon, or at least that is the legend of where the drift boat originated. In fact some people still call them McKenzie drifters, or just plain McKenzie boats. First made of wood the early boats proved to be useful for getting down a river. If you hit a rock or damaged the hull you could patch it with some basic hand tools, back when most people actually still used hand tools and made a lot of their own boats. Nowadays with modern fabrications the wooden boat is all but gone, though you can still find them for sale on Craigslist. They are more for nostalgia as wood boats are a bit heavier and tend to not row as easy. So the modern argument for this old design is fiberglass or metal when it comes to hull materials.

Aluminum boats are thought to be "cold" -Jason Brooks

Aluminum boats are thought to be “cold” -Jason Brooks

I see it posted several times on internet forums, usually around the time the Outdoor Trade Shows or Boat Shows start up. Someone will get the itch to buy a drift boat and ask fellow fishers what they should get, a “glass” or metal boat. I sit back and read the replies from the internet experts until I can’t take it anymore and chime in my opinion. I start by saying that if the person who is thinking about buying a drift boat has never rowed one to first take a guided trip. It is well worth the money to see if you really want to invest in one of these boats. This usually leads to my next bit of advice, take it or leave it, but I think anyone who wants to get into their first drift boat should buy a used one. Now, before the advertisers of this site get too mad, I am only advocating this for the first time buyer, as soon enough the person will want to upgrade and look to have a boat manufacturer make a custom boat for them.

The fiberglass boat can be lighter than aluminum -Jason Brooks

The fiberglass boat can be lighter than aluminum -Jason Brooks

Here is my reasons why you should consider used for your first drift boat and why a guided trip is a must prior to the purchase. If you have patience and look at sale sites for any length of time you will find those ads by people who offer up a practically new boat for half the cost. Ones where the person decided to get a drift boat and spent the money only to float a river and find out that rowing can be harder than it looks. Either it scared them to have no control over the fact you have to go down the river, or they were too sore to care to row ever again. Also, drift boats hold up pretty well, even boats that have some road rash or a few dents float just fine. You can find really good deals on boats that are 10 years old or older, and really the design of the boat hasn’t changed in 50 years so age isn’t much of a factor. The main difference between a new boat and a used one are options. When buying used you are stuck with what the previous owner purchased. This can work in your favor as a bare bones boat is lighter and easier to row than one that has lots of bells and whistles.

New boats are nice and once you own a drift boat and become proficient at rowing one you will get the itch to order your own boat. This is mostly because each person is slightly different when it comes to fishing styles. I like to drift fish and float eggs under a bobber, but another buddy of mine likes pulling plugs and throwing hardware. So for me multiple rod holders, bait trays, motor mount, and other accessories are a must. For the guy who likes to pull plugs you want it set up with pole holders, a heater for those cold days where the front passengers are just sitting idle watching the rod tips thump.

Heaters make for a comfortable day when it's cold -Jason Brooks

Heaters make for a comfortable day when it’s cold -Jason Brooks

This brings us back to the argument of “glass” versus metal. I really don’t have a preference but I do own a metal boat and one of my buddies owns a fiberglass boat. Both are great boats and ironically my boat actually floats higher in the water than his does. Most think that the material matters, and to some degree it does, but so does design. His is a 16 foot by 48 inch bottom. Mine is a 16 foot by 54 inch bottom. That extra width at the bottom of the boat is what allows mine to float or draft higher and slip through in shallower waters and makes it react to rowing a bit quicker. His is “warmer” as my metal boat becomes an ice bucket during those early spring steelhead trips.

Being able to row around debris and in skinny water make the drift boat versatile -Jason Brooks

Being able to row around debris and in skinny water make the drift boat versatile -Jason Brooks

Okay, if you just read all of this and are scratching your head at what the heck I am talking about; “how it rows, reacts faster, floats higher”. Here is what drift boaters are talking about. The boat is designed to float with very little displacement, or otherwise known to float high in the water by its flat bottom design. With the stern and bow raised is allows the water to push the boat up as the water flows underneath. As you row backwards you pull the boat up and away from where the bow is pointed. If the boat is heavy or narrow and sits lower in the water there is more drag or resistance and you need to row harder, either faster or by digging you oars deeper into the water. Fiberglass boats are slick and have less coefficient of friction on the bottom because of the materials they are made from. Fiberglass that is coated with a gel coat has very little resistance in the water, where metal boats have tiny grooves or pores which tend to cause more friction in the water. To overcome this metal boat owners put a coating on the bottom of the boat and with new Kevlar materials these coatings can stand up to a few years of use. But they must be up kept, one of the downfalls of a metal boat. Fiberglass boats do wear out and can have soft spots or leaks from hitting rocks or gouges from sliding over gravel bars.

Drift boats require very little maintenance -Jason Brooks

Drift boats require very little maintenance -Jason Brooks

All drift boats have some basic maintenance requirements, but not many. This is another bonus for owning one these boats. If you put a motor on one you must also license it. Keep the motor off and stay away from Federal or navigable waters defined by the Coast Guard and there is no need to license it in Washington (check your local laws). With the motor you can easily fish close to shore in bays and estuaries and also motor up the deep holes and slot in rivers to float them again. But one of my favorite reasons to own this versatile boat is that it is quiet and allows you to really pay attention to fishing and relax while floating down a river.

Jason Brooks
Northwest Outdoor Writer