Adventures Without “Reservations”…

My first taste of the annual lower Columbia salmon bonanza known as Buoy 10 was over a decade ago and ever since, the challenge of this huge river mouth fishery has captivated a part of my thoughts and, an increasing part of my fishing plans!

After a season of deep downrigger trolling for chinook –which I love by the way- there is something about a savage shallow water strike from a big king on a short length of braid that is violently refreshing and exciting all at the same time!

The average size of these Columbia River fall chinook and coho is impressive, their fight is inspiring and they perform on the dinner table and in the smoker as well as any fish you’ll find up and down the coast. After reading all that it should come as no surprise that finding a way to comfortably and economically spend some time at this world class fishery is definitely my plan. Options for accommodations are limited and can be expensive on the lower Columbia. I’ve tried the Washington side but I prefer Astoria, Oregon.

Is it because Astoria has the only Starbucks on either side of the lower Columbia? I’ll have to take the Fifth Amendment on that inquiry…

Thankfully, our friends at Roy Robinson Chevrolet RV suggested an alternative to booked motels with no boat parking!

That “alternative” came in the form of a Winnebago Journey diesel pusher and once we hooked up to the ESPN Weldcraft “Great White” didn’t look quite as big as it used to…
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Once we got to Astoria, it wasn’t very tough to get the Winnebago Journey “popped out” and set up so it was time to hit the river!aWin Left (Small)We didn’t know it at the time but this year’s Columbia River Chinook run ended up as the 3rd largest since 1938 and they were in a biting mood!

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When we got back to our “Fish Camp”, vacuuming and freezing was a snap as the Winnebago was hooked up to shore power but the on-board generator would have also handled this with ease!

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The fires in Eastern Washington were apparent in this Western Washington morning as the smoke made for a vivid red sunrise.

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The smoky sunrise didn’t slow down the bite and we had a couple days of double-digit hookups.IMG_0160 (Small)

Eric Jorgensen of Roy Robinson Chevy/RV joined us for a couple days of our Astoria Adventure and was rewarded with solid action and BIG CHINOOK!!!

IMG_0138 (Small)I can’t tell you how great it was to come “home” to comfortable furniture, a warm shower and yes, the built-in washer and dryer in the master bath was not too bad either!

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The lasting lesson from this trip was the flexibility that a motorhome can provide you by towing a boat, small vehicle or an ATV to your vacation location. I had never really considered that a confortable, luxurious Motorhome could be a tow vehicle as well but now I know different! If I had not experienced towing my boat to Astoria from Roy Robinson Chevy/RV in Marysville myself, I never would have believed how comfortable and easy it was. The trip itself was a breeze and i did get a kick out of the looks I got when this 80-foot total rig length went cruising by.

See you on the open road!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Coho Know How!

Last season was a tough one for big coho in local waters but hot on the heels of a large pink salmon run is a very solid showing of chunky coho salmon!

With the Edmonds and Everett Coho Derby looming in the coming weeks, let’s brush up on some silver slaying strategies!

The name of the game is getting a box full of chunky chrome coho!

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One look at the forecasts for Puget Sound coho should make you forget all about the end of summer with over 140,000 headed for the Skagit, 31,000 Stillaguamish silvers, the Snohomish chipping in with over 200,000 and the mid & south Sound totaling over 200,000 more! That’s over 570,000 reasons to get fired up for fall fishing and the upcoming culmination of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, The Everett Coho Derby.

Robbie Tobeck hoists two chunky coho that would have been a dandy derby day catch!


In order to get off to a fast fall start on coho, let’s talk technique & tackle. I tend to view saltwater coho angling in light of chinook techniques. After all, we spend winter, spring and summer targeting chinook and only get a crack at coho in the fall so it’s useful to consider chinook techniques as a “baseline”.

Coho are nothing short of metabolic machines and as such, tend to be interested in smaller offerings trolled faster and shallower than their chinook counterparts. We’ve spent a good part of the summer keeping our gear close to the bottom while running familiar bottom contours. No more! Silvers seemingly avoid structure and have an affinity for the shipping lanes out in the middle of the sound.

Where are the “Shipping Lanes” in Puget Sound? Open up your chart or Navionics Ap, look for the pink shaded areas and the yellow navigational buoys in the center.

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One aspect of successful coho fishing that we need to keep in mind is that we should not have to “scratch” for long periods of time between strikes. Don’t keep grinding for hour after hour without action. Slow periods happen even in the best of days but with the numbers of coho available and their aggressive nature, you should be able to change depths, locations, gear, speed or direction and get it done! Don’t be satisfied with a bite or two!
Quick, morning limits are often the case when the silvers come streaming in!


So where do we start our search for silvers?

By looking for Surface activity: Bait jumping, birds working or my personal favorite: tide rips. Generally there is a “dirty side” and a “clean side” of a Puget Sound rip. While trolling, try not to cross the rip and stay on the clean side to minimize gear fouling but don’t feel like you have to “rub” the rip. In other words, if you can clearly see the rip, you’re close enough!

Kevin Gogan and his daughter Hannah were “close enough” to a tide rip for this limit of silvers!


To place numbers on the other concepts, start fishing at first light with a cut plug herring six feet behind a blaze orange trolling “kidney” or mooching sinker fished twenty “strips” deep (a two-foot pull of line off of your reel is known as a strip) and run a downrigger 40 feet deep. Keep your speeds in the 2.5 to 3.5 mph speed range which should result in a 45 degree downrigger wire angle assuming you’re using 12 pound Cannonballs. As the light level increases throughout the day, increase your depths and when you hook up, enter a waypoint into your plotter so you can troll back into the school. Silvers tend to mill around and when you find one, there is sure to be more!

Silver Horde’s “Coho Killer” have been a winning piece of gear for not only coho but chinook as well! 

Coho like a very active presentation so shorten up your leaders to the 26-34 inch range behind Luhr Jensen Coyote Flashers and you’re in business!

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Get out there this late summer and enjoy some of the fastest, wildest salmon fishing of the year! Heck, summer isn’t really over…is it????


Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Setting Your Crab Gear Up For Success!

One of the most underrated aspects of life in the Great Northwest is harvesting and enjoying Dungeness crab with friends and family. This wonderful tasty privilege comes with a responsibility to fish your crab pots in a way that prevents gear loss and a wastage of this valuable aquatic resource. Many pots that folks assume is “stolen” are really just under-weighted pots that merely drift away when a high tide lifts the floats. The currents in our tidal bodies of water are quite strong and if your crab gear is not right where you left it, its quite often simply lost crab gear that keeps fishing until the required cotton rot cord latch rots and the pot opens up.

That said, here’s one way to set your gear up for successful crabbing and make sure it’s right where you put it when you return to pick it and bring the crab home for dinner!

Let’s start with the “raw materials” namely an SMI three entry tunnel pot with built in bait tube, floats, 100′ of leaded line and a 12 pound downrigger ball.

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Why a downrigger ball and what do you do with it? Great question! Most if not all sport pots are intended to have weight added to fish effectively. Simply zip-tie the ball to the center of the pot and you’re in business!

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Now it’s time to make your “bomb-proof” line attachment to the pot. I start with a strong edge where the pot mesh is double strength and throw a clove hitch.

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Lock the clove hitch with the “boater’s friend” aka the bowline…

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…and lock the bowline with the “Yosomite finish” which is simply tucking the tail of the bowline around the loop and back along the main line.

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Add your combination of floats (I use the required red and white and add a second float to allow quick identification) Marked one float with the length of line and finish with a bowline end loop. Store the whole works inside the pot and you’re set!

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Every afternoon in Puget Sound should look like this!



And every evening dinner should look like this!



We have a wonderful crabbing opportunity and resource and it’s up to us to fish responsibly and not lose our crab gear to minimize waste. Keep a copy of the WDFW fishing regs in your boat, measure and record each keeper and you will not end up in an episode of Nat Geo’s Rugged Justice!!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Engle”field” Of Dreams

I cannot really recall the first time I heard of the magnificent fishing in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) but I’m certain that I was a very young angler that was quite impressionable. However, the reverent tones that this incredible location inspired among the anglers that I deeply respected left a mark, a lifetime itch that had yet to be scratched.

My anticipation of this West Coast Resorts Englefield Bay trip was at a fever-pitch since on this Father’s Day weekend I was bringing my son Matthew and former Seattle Seahawk Dave Wyman was bringing his son Jake. Add that to the fact that several 710 ESPN listeners were coming along, none of us had ever been to Haida Gwaii and I’m sure you can understand our excitement!

So now, after returning from West Coast Resorts Englefield Bay, I found myself in unfamiliar territory for a blabbermouth. I’m sincerely at a loss for words. But let me say this: From the time we boarded the chartered 737 in Vancouver, BC to the time the final helicopter landed at Sandspit, every single aspect of the trip was beyond my expectations.

Our chartered 737 landed at Sandspit on Moresby Island and we hopped on our helicopters.



One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth must be Haida Gwaii and the view from the choppers was beyond words.



Landing on the floating lodge’s heli pad we could not wait to get inside the resort…

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…and what a wonderful, comfortable place it is! We didn’t even have to pack our luggage into our rooms as our bags were waiting for us as we walked in!



Dave Wyman and his son Jake were in the room next door and we caught them looking out the window at the West Coast Resort fleet of boats.

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Jake Wyman, Dave and our guide “Yeti” head out from the lodge on Father’s Day afternoon for their first Haida Gwaii fishing experiece.



My son Matthew and I followed Yeti out to Denham Shoals in one of the fine lodge boats and were lucky enough to bump into a real tyee chinook that was exactly 31 pounds!



The tradition at Englefield Bay is that the angler who lands a tyee gets to sound the gong and Matt has no problem making a little noise over his first Haida Gwaii tyee!

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The next morning, Wyman and I headed out on a flat, calm, sunny ocean and landed right on top of a scorching chinook bite!

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It’s not too often that you catch the biggest king of your life twice in one day but that’s exactly what Dave Wyman did and the fishing spark within him became a flame!

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If you’ve ever had a greedy lingcod grab on to a smaller fish and not spit it out  at the boat, then you understand the look on Dave Wyman’s face. If he wasn’t hooked on the non-stop Haida Gwaii action before, he certainly is now!

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You can only catch your first chinook once in your life and it was a very special moment to be on hand for Jake Wyman’s king salmon number one! Proud father Dave Wyman is in the boat in the background in this shot.

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Our final day at West Englefield dawns and Wyman is behind the wheel, ready for another day off the Haida Gwaii coast! 

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Fortunately, he didn’t have long to wait for a chunky chinook and Wyman’s largest chinook is now a respectable 26 pounds!

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The cheerful, friendly crew at the dock meets us to grab the fish out of the boat for cleaning, processing, vacuum packing and freezing…

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…and the next time you see your catch is at baggage claim at the airport!!!

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Start to finish, top to bottom, I really cannot say enough about the guides, staff and support personnel at Englefield Bay. The level of hospitality and service that we experienced can only be described as West Coast Resorts style!!

Let me ask you a question and the answer need only require that you be honest with yourself: When is the last time you visited a place that you truly did not want to leave?

The Queen Charlotte Islands now known as Haida Gwaii have been scratched from the bucket list but will never fade from my memory.

Neither will my desire to return there.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle



Sitka 2015: Adjustments

Every year of our annual sojourn to southeast Alaska, I seek a pattern, a clue or a theme to the location and distribution of fish that may lead to an understanding or “edge”, eventually guiding us to a successful season. We’ve all read -with varying degrees of interest and concern- of the changes in sea surface temperatures in the northeastern Pacific Ocean and little did I know when I boarded the plane to Sitka that the ocean temperatures would play a pivotal role in our approach to this world-class fishery.

Most seasons the predominant chinook forage base in the Sitka area is sand lance, commonly known an “needlefish”. Sand lance are a preferred salmonid food item as they are usually abundant, readily preyed upon by chinook, very rich in oil, easily digested due to their delicate structure and can be packed away by an adult chinook like a belly full of spaghetti!!!

Chinook are so fond of sandlance that a large abundance will virtually stop a migration, making these chinook vulnerable to vertical techniques such as mooching and jigging. The problem this season was that the nutrient-poor warm water had in all probability, reduced local zooplankton (euphausiids and copepod) levels, causing the sand lance population to take a downturn. Sand lance do not roam far from their home sand, so are very dependent upon local conditions and poor food availability can quickly lead to a sand lance population crash.

Herring on the other hand are more mobile and opportunistic feeders and therefore have a better ability to adapt to a changing or re-located food base. The preceding paragraph was the longest possible way of stating that herring was the one and only food item found in the chinook we encountered and since the chinook were not all “ganged up” on a sandlance patch, mooching chinook was not the most effective technique.

What was the most effective technique for us?

Why trolling with downriggers of course!

Greg Copeland of KING 5 and my old buddy Phil Michelsen do the downrigger “Dance” with a fiesty, early morning chinook and Sitka 2015 is well underway!

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Phil Michelsen does battle with a big chinook on a misty morning and little would we know….

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 …that this would be the biggest chinook not only of this trip but of the last several years! A beautiful specimen of over 41 pounds! Phil’s grin just says it all!

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Phil and Greg’s last day was a productive, calm and memorable outing and there was alot of work to do after the “photo shoot”!

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Lauren Bivins of Harbor Marine in Everett and my summer “Robbo replacement” co-host John Martinis jumped in for some very solid Sitka success!

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 Lifelong friend Larry Stauffer and I doubled up on a couple chunky chinook that both fell to trolled whole herring. Overall, the average size of the chinook we encountered was larger which was a reverse of a trend of smaller fish over the past several years.

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My biggest halibut of the season was this 70 pounder that we hooked in over 400 feet of water. My Diawa Tanacom 750 electric reel made short work of this flattie!

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 One of Sitka’s signature landmarks, St. Lazarius Island also know as “Bird” Island looks different with every hour of the day. In this afternoon sun it looks spooky…

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…and in the morning sun as the charter fleet runs by it’s merely a milestone along the way. One of the most wonderful things about fish are the places we must go to find them.

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 Brock Huard is in the third season of his Sitka experience and he seems to enjoy it more each and every year. I feel very fortunate to be able to share some of his precious free time in this wonderful place.

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Sitka remains the angling experience of my life and there is something each and every season that stays with me throughout the year. This year it was the ability to make adjustments that stood out. As anglers, we are very good at going to the same places at the same times to use the same gear to catch our fish. However, change one leg of that triangle and we seem to struggle. The ability to observe changing conditions and make adjustments to our game plan is one of the most valuable traits that an angler can possess.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Openin’ day 2015 Top Ten Tips!

If there is a more popular fishing “rite of passage” than the lowland lakes trout opener, I sure don’t know what it is!

The Nelson Clan at Perrygin Lake in Okanogan County a few seasons ago…

I would venture to guess that more “first fish” are caught on this final weekend of April than at any other time of year. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters all descend on the lakes of Washington, three-hundred thousand strong. In preparation of this massive effort, the State of Washington plants these lake with literally millions of rainbow and cutthroat trout which are ready, willing and more than able to provide action as well as dinner or a smoker full of a tasty treat!

To aid in their quest this weekend, I would like to offer the following ten tips for an enjoyable opening day experience!

1. Get legal!

The WDFW licensing cycle for the year runs from April 1 to March 31. In other words, if you are not sure if your license is current… it’s probably not. Which, brings us to the second item on our list:

2. Bring your crew to the store!

If you have a young bunch (and even if you don’t) it’s always worthwhile to bring the crew along to get their licenses, get a copy of the fishing regulations and do a little shopping. “There’s that new Snoopy rod Dad, Can we try this?” Let your fishing gang get a little fired up about their new gear and in all likelihood, your opening day will get a lot easier!

3. Know your fishermen!

What size raingear do they wear? Boots? Warm coats? Can they cast? What’s their favorite snack food? The correct answers to these questions are best found out well in advance of “O” day!

4. Know your gear.

Seriously now, when is the last time you opened your trout box? How old is the line on your reel? If the answer to either of those questions is “I don’t know”… You know what to do!

5. Float your boat

While a boat adds to the complexity of any fishing trip is also adds productivity, mobility, comfort and convenience. In my opinion, more than a fair trade. However, the early dawn of opening morning is a poor time to find out that the batteries are dead, the drain plug is missing, the trailer lights are burned out and the tabs are expired. Just don’t ask me how I found that out…

6. Rig all the rods

Another way to dodge Murphy’s Law is to rig all the rods in the garage the night before…or the night before that! Trust me, it’s a lot easier to tie up under a fluorescent light than a dome light.

7. Scout your location

One of my favorite opening day memories is taking my young son to our chosen opening day lake the day before the opener. The lake was stuffed to the lilly pads with rainbows that were literally jockeying for position to eat the next bug to hit the surface. Watching the surface activity was secondary to scouting out the ramp and available parking. A word to the wise: It’s time well spent!

8. Friday night load up!

Get it all in the rig the night before. If its missing, you still have time to find it or replace it… ’nuff said!

9. Get ‘em up easy…

Set the alarm a little early and let the gang go through a little of their morning routine. Rushing your charges out of the house so they can sit with you in a ramp line is not going to score you any points.

10. Make it fun!

Quick limits are great and are huge braggin’ rights fodder… on the Columbia for springers!…. Nobody is going to stop the presses and roll evening news tape for your stringer full of six inchers. The goal on opening day is to provide your friends and family with an introduction to a sport, a way of life that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives! Let the kids handle the rods and play every one of the fish! Let another kid handle the net, sit back and enjoy the mayhem that ensues!

Opening day is like a fun, fishy Christmas. The more you give, the more you get and what you get from a successful opener you’ll never forget!

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line

710 ESPN Seattle

Options for Securing Your Boat Trailer

Here in Washington state we have a huge problem with scum sucking varmints stealing boats, outboard motors, and marine electronics. Washington regularly ranks in the top 3 nationwide for property crimes and as much as we like to think our boats and cherished marine equipment are safe while they’re on our property they simply aren’t.

Here’s a couple of options for locking up your boat that are worth taking a look at.

The Bolt locking system allows you to match your truck key to the trailer hitch lock. I’m always having to fish around for my trailer lock key and this seems like a simple fix for that.

Here’s how the Bolt lock works:

The Banshee alarm padlock from TH Marine has a vibration-activated alarm built right into the padlock. Reviews of the alarm online says it’s LOUD…emitting at around 110 decibels. When an outboard-stealing douchebag goes to work on your boat in the middle of the night you can bet this padlock will scare them off before they can get too far. You can also deactivate the alarm for traveling.


I’m not sure when our state is going to start putting more cops on the street but until they do it’s up to us to protect our belongings. Are these two options the end-all-be-all for your boat…probably not. They sure as heck will help though.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Recharge Your Electronic Gadgets off the Grid – Brunton Sustain 2

The latest gizmo to catch my eye is the Brunton Sustain 2 portable power pack that allows you to put a charge into your cell phone, gps, or digital camera off the grid. This particular model seems particularly handy for the fisherman or hunter because it’s waterproof and has a durable case.

I cruised thru some of the reviews online and most say it isn’t suitable for charging up your laptop. It works just fine for your smaller devices however and you it’s not like I’m going to pack my laptop into the backcountry anyway.


Brunton Sustain - Portable Recharge PackThe Sustain 2 comes with all the necessary cables and is capable of USB, 12V, 16V, and 19V output. It has a suggested retail price of $299.99 on the Brunton website but I found them priced as low as $165 on

For the angler with a small boat or back country hunting or camping this unit might just be the ticket to keep your electronic gadgets charged up while your off the grid. I’ve been on long hunting trips in the past only to find my digital camera battery completely dead a few days into the trip with no means to charge it. A recharge pack like this could completely alleviate that problem.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Rigging and Fishing Yarnies for Steelhead

It’s March 22nd here in Wet-stern Washington and I’ve been beating this yarnie horse for quite a while now. In the right conditions (low and clear) they flat out get the job done for winter steelhead and they are so, so, so easy to rig up.

I just transferred over all of the Outdoor Line videos to a new page and in doing so realized that we’ve produced three how-to videos on the subject of yarnies.

If you’re interested in how I fish a simple yarnie setup check ‘em out:

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Gear Up for Summer with Lowrance and Simrad Rebates!

Simrad and Lowrance are offering some incredible rebates on marine electronics thru the end of the month. With summer just around the corner now is the time upgrade your electronics with these great deals. This rebate offer only lasts until the end of March…so ya better get on it!




Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle