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
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

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

www.theoutdoorline.com

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.

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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 Amazon.com.

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!

CLICK ON THE IMAGES BELOW TO GET THE FULL REBATE COUPON

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2015_Lowrance_Rebate

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

The 2015 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!

2015 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

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

Skagit summer        23.4      13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3

Stillaguamish wild    1.0        1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5

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

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

Hood Canal Wild        2.5      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1

Hood Canal Hatch     40.1     42.6         38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9

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

This is a mixed selected stock chinook forecast to say the least. Generally these stocks are slightly down with respect to 2014 partially due to changes in the run modeling but also due to unfavorable oceanic conditions. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish,Cedar and Sammamish wild chinook which will probably be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. However, the Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast as well which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season and an uptick in wild chinook south Sound stocks is certainly cause for optimism.

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The Silver Story! 2015 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

 

Is this the “new normal”? Ever since the 2011 coho run we’ve been experiencing some absolutely solid coho fishing. The increase in Hood Canal and South Puget Sound stocks alone have me thinking that 2015 will not see many anglers stray far from Puget Sound come September! In fact, the overall feeling among fisheries managers is that barring a repeat of the warm water “blob” of 2014 off the west coast of Vancouver Island, that we should see much improved coho action with some larger “hooknose” entering the catch!

If all this is not enough to get -and keep you- fired up, how about a Frasier River sockeye forecast that’s estimated at 6.8 MILLION with another 345,000 headed for the Columbia! Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 164,595 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives to 46,200  bright, red reasons to be encouraged compared to the 2014 forecast of only 35,377 Baker River reds.

Let’s not forget our odd, little odd year visitors the pink salmon! How about 6.7 MILLION pinks headed for Puget Sound. Add another 14,500,000 -that’s 14.5 MILLION headed to the Fraser and the humpy “horde” will number about 21 million in the Straits of Juan de Fuca!

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

Evinrude E-Tec: The Next Generation!

I’ve been running Evinrudes for well over a decade and honestly thought that the final word, the final step in the evolution of the two-stroke outboard engine was the transition from a carburated Variable Ratio Oiling engine to a fuel injected E-Tec with pinpoint oil injection and incredibly low emissions.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King came with a pair of Evinrude ICON 250 engines and it’s been smooth sailing and very good performance ever since!

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While the performance I received from the 250 ICON’s was very good, I was about to get a lesson in the form of some serious innovation from a company that is not afraid to take a chance in the marketplace.

In June of 2014, Evinrude/BRP revealed a new outboard engine that produces up to 75% fewer total regulated emissions, with 15% better fuel efficiency and 20% more torque than leading four-stroke engines.The Evinrude G2 engines, the next generation of Evinrude E-TEC outboard engines are without question a real game-changer in the marine industry.

Last month, the gang at Bayside Marine repowered the Weldcraft with the E-Tec G2 outboards and just look at that clean rigging on the transom!

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“OK” you say…”So what’s the difference”… GREAT QUESTION!!!

With the old engines my top speed was 44 MPH, and my most efficient cruise speed was 32.3 mph at 4000 RPM with a fuel burn of 21 GPH resulting in an economy of 1.60 MPG.

Compare the above data with the results of a Performance Evaluation conducted earlier this week by Evinrude/BRP Factory engine guru Gary McAllister and the results blew me away! With the same boat, same guys and same props on the new outboards, here are the Evinrude Generation 2 results:

Top speed: 52 MPH!! Best Cruise: 35.2 MPH @ 4000 RPM while only burning 16.3 GPH which gave us a much improved 1.92  MPG... THAT IS A 20% INCREASE IN FUEL ECONOMY!!! Sorry, I’m shouting but  can’t help it!

BRP’s next generation of Evinrude E-TEC engines will be backed by unmatched value with the industry’s best engine warranty, least maintenance and best-in-class fuel efficiency. We’re talking a 5-year engine warranty, 5-year corrosion warranty, and 500 hours with no dealer-scheduled maintenance, allowing for the most time on the water!

The Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboard engine just flat delivers with best-in-class torque, fuel efficiency and lowest total emissions. The new E-TEC G2 engine offers the first and only customizable look, the only clean rigging and fully integrated digital controls. In other words you can now choose the absolute perfect combination of boat and engine by selecting top and front panels, as well as accent colors that match your boat.

Come see the new re-rigged ESPN boat, Great White the Weldcraft at the Seattle Boat Show, January 23 through February 1st at Century Link Event Center in Seattle!

SEE YOU AT THE BOAT SHOW!!!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Give the Gift of Bobblehead this Christmas

In case your wondering what to get the fisherman in your family for Christmas, well, here it is!!!

Their very own custom fisherman bobblehead. All you have to do is submit a photo of him or her and ElyBobblehead will custom sculpt a head in their likeness.

Custom Bobble Head

Custom bobblehead’s run $79. Jump on this link to order yours today:

Custom Fisherman Bobblehead

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Montana Mule Deer “Matriculation”…

Anytime one ventures outdoors in search of fish or game and returns without learning anything, it is an opportunity lost indeed. One of my favorite aspects of this wonderful lifestyle we call hunting and fishing is the fact that no one can possibly “know it all” and as such, every single one of us can add to our knowledge base literally every day afield. That’s a long-winded way of explaining my use of the word “matriculation” in the title of this post as I learned much on this hunt that will allow me to become a better deer hunter.

The planning of this hunt began in March when we applied for non-resident deer tags and then we had to wait until the November rut to make the 12+ hour drive to our Montana area. It was a uniquely challenging and fun hunt on many fronts from the minus 20 degree temperatures, the unfamiliar landscape, my first hunt using the Outlander 450L Max ATV and Lord willing, it will not be my last!

Mule deer or “muleys” as they are known to most hunters, get their name from an pronounced set of ears that are well suited to picking up any -and every- noise within a wide radius.

abigbuckThe first morning of our hunt we were “greeted” with temperatures in the minus 20 degree range and a breathtaking snowy landscape. We unloaded the 4-wheelers and got to it!

aOulanderSnVintage Montana: The landscape is littered with abandoned artifacts of days gone by. In this case, a loosely assembled pile of wood that was once someone’s boat!

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One of the most fun and unique aspects of this hunt was the use of our Outlander ATV’s. We were able to reach remote areas and once we hopped off our energy was intact to fully devote to the hunt! Our Triton ATV trailer made loading and unloading the ATV’s a snap and towed like a dream!

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The trailer made long hauls on mountain passes and gravel roads look easy…until you looked at our license plate that is…

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The State of Montana does a great job of opening up blocks of private land known as BMA’s or Block Management Areas. Here Robbo signs in at the registration box allowing us to hunt the area.

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Glassing, glassing and more glassing. Learning to pick an area apart and find an ear, antler tip, tail or patch of hair is an invaluable skill to a mule deer hunter. Patience and persistence is the key…and hand warmers…Brrrr…

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Robbo and his beautiful mulie buck taken on the final day of our hunt. Robbo passed up more bucks than I could keep track of and his patience and discipline were rewarded when he spotted and stalked this dandy deer!

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Although I wasn’t able to fill my tag this time around, I learned more by hunting hard each day of this trip than I would of otherwise. Learning what to look for and where to look is a huge part of the mule deer equation and seeing numbers of Montana mule deer each day is a great way to learn to spot deer when few are around. I’m looking forward to next hunting season to test what I learned on this hunt and to answer the challenge of becoming a better hunter!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle