The Four Cornerstones of Winter Chinook Success!

It’s 0640 Saturday morning, we’re between segments on the Radio Show and Rob Endsley’s pen is just flying across his show sheet.

“Well, if you don’t write it, I will…now what is the fourth blackmouth point?” Rob says.

Some of the best “stuff” happens in between segments while the microphones are off and Robbo and I are rippin’ each other but good. However, often the “fertilizer” that flies both ways feeds an idea or concept that leads to an important or instructive point that is “blog-worthy” or, in this case, four points that boil down a whole bunch of winter chinook wisdom into an easy to remember approach.

Cornerstone One: Fish Deep

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After a late summer and fall of easy coho fishing, it’s very tempting to take a laid back approach to winter chinook or “blackmouth” fishing and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Coho or silvers are most often found suspended over deep water while Puget Sound winter chinook are almost always found near structure in a depth band of approximately 80-250 feet of water but generally within 10 feet of the bottom.

While you can enjoy success on silvers without paying strict attention to your boats course or depth, to consistently hook chinook, you have to keep a close eye on both! Despite the fact that I use Cannon’s Bottom Digi-Troll 10’s in Bottom Track mode, to keep your gear within 10 feet of the bottom you must follow the bottom contour –or areas of near equal depth- while at the same time constantly adjusting the depth of the downrigger ball to remain in the strike zone.

Cornerstone Two: Fish Small

HiFly7In the winter we typically find less bait and baitfish individual sizes are at their smallest. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “match the hatch” and that is definitely the best game plan here. Fortunately there are a lot of tackle options that fill the bill. Silver Horde has the Coho Killer, Needlefish Ace-Hi fly and Kingfisher Lite spoons from size 2.0-3.5. With those three items alone you have the ability to mimic bait sizes from 1.5 to nearly four inches! The word “opportunistic” has been used to describe the dietary habits of immature chinook and while they will feed on a wide variety of species, often the best approach is to start small and gather all available information to get dialed in from there.

Cornerstone Three: Fish Fast

evinrudeThe fact of the matter is that in wintertime, there are less baitfish available and fewer fish chasing them than in the summer months and that puts you into a “search mode”. The most effective way to search is to cover water quickly and there is no better way than downrigger trolling to do just that.

However, there is more to fishing fast than just leaning on the throttle. Keeping an eye on current direction and velocity is a great approach to speed up and enhance your fishing efficiency. Chinook tend to face into the current so that feed can be washed into their view and you’ll cover more territory by “riding the tide” as well. Even though your Lowrance or Simrad GPS chartplotter displays a digital speed over ground, the best way to keep track of your speed through the water is to continually monitor the downrigger wire angle and relate that angle to the speed you observe on the GPS display. You’ll find that wire angle increasing when “bucking” or trolling into a tide and that may be an indication that it’s time to change trolling direction!

Cornerstone Four: Fish Near Feed

BairSchoolWinter chinook or “blackmouth” are also refered to as feeder chinook and brother, you had better believe that “findin’ and grindin’” is what they’re all about. When you’re a little fish in a big body of water, one of your best defenses against becoming someone else’s snack is getting bigger so that you fit in less predators mouths. Therefore, fast growth becomes a reproductive and survival advantage to a young chinook and the only way to achieve that growth is to find groceries. So, in turn the smart winter chinook angler needs to find the feed to find the fish and this is where your fishfinder is your very best friend! Learning to correctly operate your sounder, fine tune it’s adjustments and interpret the display will result in a full fishbox. At times, you’ll see larger arcs surrounding a bait ball and that my friend is where you want to stay for a while.

When you consider that there is someplace in Puget Sound to fish for and catch quality chinook all winter long you’ve got to admit that we’re very fortunate indeed to live here! Compared to the Great Lakes that freeze solid and coastal waters that are continually lashed by winter gales, the blackmouth fishery in Puget Sound begins to look very inviting and I hope to see you on the water this winter!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Setting Up My New Deer Rifle – Savage 7mm-08

I’m always looking for an excuse to purchase new toys to satisfy my hunting and fishing fix and this time it just so happened that I “needed” a new low-recoil rifle. I needed one because of a recent hunt for Sitka blacktails in Southeast Alaska and a daughter that just turned two. She seems a little young for a rifle but with the rapidly rising cost of guns and ammo in the U.S. I pitched it to my wife as a solid investment. With any luck our daughter will be hunting with me in the next ten years, or so, and she sure as heck won’t be shouldering my .300 Winnie or my shoulder-thumping Belgium Browning 30.06. It took some convincing but my wife finally bit on my sales pitch.

After a ton of research I settled on the 7mm-08 because the load offers a wide range of ammunition choices and it resides in the lower end of the recoil charts. It’s a veritable cream-puff compared to the bigger magnums. My good friend Jay Field purchased a 7mm-08 a few years back and simply loves it for blacktail hunting in Western Washington and short-range mule deer or whitetail hunts in Eastern Washington.

You can find 7mm-08 ammo from 100 grain all the up to 175 grain which provides a lot more opportunity to hunt big game larger than just deer. Black bears and elk are definitely not out of the picture with the 7mm 08.

I was so happy with the last Savage I purchased I just went ahead and ordered a second one from Sportco in Fife, Washington. For optics I went with a Leupold VX-2 in 3X9 with a Boone and Crockett reticle. This rifle will be used mostly for shots less than 300 yards, so I didn’t see the need to purchase a jacked-up scope for it.

I dropped the gun off with Don Davis and Steve Turner from Snake River Hunting Club and they set the whole sha-bango up for me while I was in Alaska running saltwater charters for the summer.

The first thing Don did was to take the rifle and scope to Northwest Hydroprint in Montesano, Washington to have them apply a camo pattern called “Swamp Hide” to them. After pouring over all the camo patterns on their website I figured this one would fit-in best in the blacktail woods.

After the camo was applied Don mounted the Leupold scope and it was ready for the range.

Factory barrels come with microscopic burrs than can effect the accuracy of the rifle. The first thing Steve does to remove those burrs is to run JB Bore Paste thru the barrel to remove the burrs and polish the barrel. It’s called lapping the barrel and this task should be performed on any new rifle. After every pass with bore paste Steve follows it up with Montana Extreme solvent until he gets a clean patch.

Then the barrel break-in starts. Steve fires a single shot and cleans the barrel with Montana Extreme solvent after every shot for ten shots. He then fires 3 shot groups, cleaning in between each set of shots until he reaches 20 or so. After that the rifle is ready to be sighted-in.

Steve Turner from Snake River Hunting Club breaking in Rob Endsley's new Savage 7mm-08 Another handy product that Steve uses is a bore guide from Midway USA. Bore guides come in a variety of caliber groups and they make sliding the rod into the barrel much easier. Plus, they eliminate any damage that may occur as your banging the cleaning rod against the receiving end of the barrel.  hand_lapping2Here’s the bore guide from Midway USA

hand_lapping After Steve was done conditioning the bore he left the rifle with me for the final sight-in. He already had the rifle hitting the paper and dialing it in from there was a snap. After many years of using sand bags to stabilize my rifle at the range I finally broke down and purchased a Caldwell “Lead Sled”. These platforms make is SO EASY to dial your rifle exactly where you want it and keep it there. lead_sledAfter that it was just a matter of finding a Sitka blacktail and making the shot. As it turned out finding a Sitka blacktail during the pre-rut was no easy task. Sitka’s go into a pre-rut funk the third week of September where they simply vanish from the face of the earth. Low and behold I finally found a buck and my new Savage 7mm-08 performed beautifully.

Rob Endsley with his first Sitka blacktail taken with a Savage 7mm-08 with Federal 140 grain Barnes X ammunitionIf you’re wading thru a mountain of info on small caliber deer rifles I urge you to take another look at the 7mm-08. The 7mm-08 is an excellent caliber for shots under 300 yards and it might allow you to hunt a few different species of game than just deer.

I’m very happy with how this rifle turned out and I can’t wait for the day when I can share the experience of deer hunting with our daughter!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Luhr Jensen Releases New Kwikfish Colors

The rivers are nothing more than a trickle here in Western Washington right now so why would I be blabbing about three new Kwikfish colors from Luhr Jensen? Because one of these days the skies will open up and the rivers they will rise. And when they do you’ll wish you had these plugs in your quiver of Kwiky’s.

These are very simple color patterns that have already been proven salmon crushers over the years. The cerise/chartreuse combo is a take on the old famous “Chicken Little” plug that’s caught bazillions of salmon, the green/chartreuse combo is an anytime-anywhere winner, and I’m particularly fond of the blue/chartreuse combo for the coastal rivers. Kings and coho annihilate this plug in steelhead green water on the coast!

2015 Luhr Jensen Kwikfish colors 2015_kwikfish2Once a tackle shop is out of a particular Kwikfish it may take weeks to get it re-stocked. Right now is when you want to pick up plugs that are on your wish list because when the rains come, well, the rush is on and most of the pegs holding the schwanky fish-killing colors are gone. Pick’em up now and thank me later!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Cogburn’s New Hunting Fat Bike

I just got back from a week long hunting trip in Southeast Alaska with Mike and Dory Schoby who were filming Mike’s new hunting show Border to Border. Mike had a couple of totally bitchin’ Cogburn mountain bikes strapped to his camp trailer.

I promptly yanked one off the trailer and jumped aboard the fat bike to check it out. They come with mondo tires that provide traction and a comfortable ride and you can mount any number of items onto the bike. Mike’s bike was tricked out with Cogburn’s gun/bow rack, a big storage pouch in the center, and large water bottles mounted on the forward forks.

Check out this awesome video that showcases all the features of the Cogburn hunting bike…

With a base price of $2100 the price tag might be a little steep for most, but if you want the ultimate hunting bike this might just be it. Hats off to the folks at Cogburn for building such a well-thought-out bike exclusively for hunters!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Buoy Ten: Big Forecast, Big Effort and Big Fish!

The annual gathering known as Buoy 10 at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River is a special event every year but this year’s forecast of 1.6 million chinook and nearly a million coho added even more anticipation and participation!

Evidence of the “participation” aspect of this year’s Buoy Ten fishery was evident at ol’ red number 10 itself as we witnessed the crowd amass on the boundary on the very first flood tide of our trip.

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Brandon Robichaux has not seen a crowd like this since, well, we were here last year!aBrB10

 

 

 

After getting to Astoria and getting gear in the water shortly after noon we didn’t feel too bad about ending up going two for three with an upriver bright and a nice coho!

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King 5 News Anchor Greg Copeland joined us for a day on the ocean and we hooked over 30 coho and several chinook on a flat, calm ocean!

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Our best day resulted in Phil Michelsen (left) nailing a beautiful 35 pounder, yours truly with a 30, a nice coho and Greg Copeland limiting with a 20 pound chinook and a coho too!

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Here is a video that John Martinis and I shot that details the techniques we utilized in the Buoy 10 fishery:

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The fact that Labor Day is fast upon us is no reason to stop thinking about a trip down to one of the best salmon fisheries on the coast! In fact, fishing pressure drops so much after the three-day weekend that you’ve practically got the place to yourself…well, you will have to share the place with several thousand chinook and coho!

 

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Sitka 2014 Great White: NORTH!

This year’s edition of The Outdoor Line’s annual Sitka trip was a very special one. We had some Alaska “first-timers”, (I was going to say “Greenhorns” but…) some of our wives made the trip for the first time in several years and 2014 marked the Alaskan arrival of the 710 ESPN flagship, the Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King.

The trip began back in late May with the barge trip from Seattle to Sitka. It’s a bit freaky seeing your boat and truck sail away but it’s a gas to fly into Sitka and find your ride safe and sound thanks to Alaska Marine Lines!aBarge

 

 

We were very fortunate to arrive in time for some flat, sunny weather and a solid chinook bite. Jack Reyes mugs for the camera on the first fish of the trip. Little did we know that the bite would remain…but the nice weather would not.aJack#1

 

Team Outdoor Line’s Brandon Robichaux can’t help but grin on his first day in Alaska..and his first Alaskan chinook!aBrando

 

Phil Michelsen handles a hot king and finds that the Daiwa DXS Series Rods and Saltist reels are more than a match for a big Alaskan chinook!aPhil

 

I even get into the act and all my work getting Great White ready for this trip comes to fruition!aDayone Nelly

 

710 ESPN’s Michael Grey of the “Wyman, Mike & Moore” show experienced Alaska for the first time and his very first Alaskan chinook turns out to be a very memorable experience!aMGglass

 

My summer on air partner John Martinis joined us in Sitka for the first time and I believe that it won ‘t be his last appearance on this trip!AJohnM

 

In between weather systems we managed to refine our halibut anchoring techniques. Here, Phil Michelsen, Michael Grey and John Martinis admire out day’s catch with chinook to 26 and halibut to 100lbs!aPMJbut

Speaking of refining techniques, Pro Cure’s Brine & Bite has  forever changed the way I handle my herring. With one jar of Brine & Bite powder, you can cure up to 8 trays of bait that stand up to some trolling, mooching and shine like nothing I’ve ever fished before!ABrine&b

 

My dear friend Larry Stauffer and his wife Dana enjoyed a consistent chinook bite and we enjoyed having our wives join us for a few days of Alaskan angling!aL&D

 

My wonderful wife Kathy handles this hot king and I can’t begin to describe how special it was to have her join me on this trip!AK

 

Kathy and Dana share a laugh and a special moment after this double on mid-20 lb chinook!

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Larry, Dana, Kathy & I with our days catch. We’ll be remembering this trip in pictures -and barbeques- for months to come!aLDK

ESPN’s Brock Huard joined us for his second season in Sitka and his passion for fishing and ability to learn is amazing to watch! I’m pretty sure he is as hard-bitten as I am with southeast Alaska!ABrockNelly

While it’s nothing short of wonderful to share this time in Alaska with family and friends, we’re working on a bit of a promotion that may allow us to host a listener on this trip next year so stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile, we’re working on sharing what we’ve learned in Alaska about chinook salmon fishing right here. Want technique tips? Stand by! We’re going to deliver some tips that will deliver more fish in your box this season!

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Searching For Early Chinook Run Indications?

With a damp, dreary Memorial Day weekend in progress, it’s time to look north for the first indications of our actual chinook returns.

So why do we look north and what are we looking for? GREAT QUESTION!!! To answer that question, let’s have a quick review of what the University of Washington School of Fisheries catalogs as FISH 450: Salmonid Behavior and Life History.

As our juvenile chinook leave Puget Sound they “turn right” or head north to the rich oceanic pasture known as the Gulf of Alaska. Then, as they mature they eventually make their way back to the coast…and, bump right into Southeast Alaska!

So, it’s no secret that the tremendous salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, northern British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver Island are, to a great extent, driven by salmonid production in Oregon, the Columbia River, coastal Washington and Puget Sound. Therefore, if you are looking at a real indication of what our actual returns are looking like, Southeast Alaska is the place to look!

After a winter of going blind pouring over forecasts, pictures of actual, huge summer chinook is indeed a sight for sore eyes! Our good friend Derek Floyd of Reel Class Charters in Sitka, Alaska has been providing ample evidence of what looks like a great summer salmon season here in the Pacific Northwest!

Here’s Derek with a fine 39 pound specimen which fell prey to a trolling/mooching technique he has described during his past interviews on The Outdoor Line.

Other reports from coastal chinook fisheries have been extremely positive with the Washington coastal commercial troll fishery catching it’s quota in near record time, the west coast of Vancouver Island’s Nootka Sound Resort and the Queen Charlotte Islands beginning to percolate as well!

 

Still not convinced??? Check out Sherry Diehl’s 48.4 pound hog which is currently on top of the Sitka Salmon Derby leaderboard. 

Sherry Diehl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sitka Salmon Derby is a two-weekend event that ends this coming weekend (May 31 & June 1) and according to Derby officials, both the numbers of fish entered and average size of the chinook are up significantly from last year. In 2012, a 44 pounder took top honors in the event. This year?….a 40 pounder may fall outside the top ten.

Other significant -and unquestionably positive reports come from Rob Endsley of Prince of Wales Sportfishing. His contacts in Craig, Alaska (approximately 150 miles south of Sitka) have also reported chinook to the mid 40 pound range!

Keep in mind that this season marks the highest chinook Abundance Index since the Pacific Salmon Treaty mandated a coastal management plan for our chinook runs.

The reason for the high abundance index? Near record runs headed for the Columbia, the highest forecast of hatchery chinook bound for Puget Sound in recent memory and a bumper crop of Canadian chinook as well.

With reports like this I hope you can see what I’m seeing… One heck of a summer season!

Sharpen the hooks boys…sharpen the hooks!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

“Chirp” Your Sonar with Lowrance Sonarhub

I’ve seen Lowrance’s new Sonarhub in action on Nelly’s boat and on the Salt Patrol boat and the Chirped sonar images are ridiculous. This new technology allows you to actually see the fish feeding in dense schools of baitfish and it clarifies the sonar images immensely. The next time you see the Salt Patrol boat at an event take a look at some of John’s sonar images and I guarantee they’ll blow you away.

Here’s a press bulletin from Lowrance about the new product release that explains the new Sonarhub in detail:

Lowrance Sonar Hub -The Outdoor LineRob  Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

Special Hunt Worksheet Available

Every year I have a helluva time keeping all my special hunt applications for Washington sorted out. With the deadline coming up here on May 22nd the time to work on your special hunt units was actually a couple of months ago. If you’re like me, however, you’ll be getting things organized and submitted between now and May 22nd.

Luckily, Steve Turner from Snake River Hunting Club just zapped me the worksheet that he made up for their yearly submissions for special hunts here in Washington State.

Click on the images below to get the larger, printable .PDF version of this worksheet.

Washington Special Hunt Work Sheet - Snake River Hunting Club special_hunts2_webSteve Turner from Snake River Hunting Club is available for questions via email at snakeriverhuntin@aol.com. Steve Turner and Don Davis were the guys that set up my .300 Win Mag last summer and they’ll be setting up a 7mm 08 that I just ordered. These guys live, eat, and breath guns, hunting, and special draws. Give them a shout for more info!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Opening Day 2014 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 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

www.theoutdoorline.com