Salmon runs yo-yo in Craig!

Last weeks salmon bite was absolutely wide open with great action on both silvers and king salmon.  In three days of fishing we landed around 25 kings, 40 plus silvers, and god only knows how many chicken halibut.  King salmon were biting at 120 feet, 60 feet, 25 feet, and as the guys were lifting their weights out of the water and checking their bait to make sure it was still spinning.  "Looks good…WHOA!"  W.F.O. baby!  With great action to the north and south of Craig we've got high expectations for great action here again soon. 

Then, as if to say "that's enough" Mother Nature comes wallowing in with one helluva storm that sent the entire charter fleet into the islands several days ago.  20 plus foot swells and strong gales sent us in early one day and we fished the next day in a 15 foot swell and a lovely wind chop.  My crew comprised of Dave Vedder, Bob Reed, and the Grabowski brothers toughed it out and fished hard for a handful of kings and some silver salmon over the course of three days.  We made a stop at a place we call "Semi" yesterday and hooked a mess of halibut in less than 10 minutes, then went back to the salmon grind, eventually finding some willing silvers and a king at Roller Bay at the end of the day.  The storm took a mess of king and silver salmon and flushed them off to parts unknown.  More fish showed up out there today, though, so I'm sure we'll be back on step here shortly.  Local resident Bill Russell put a friend of his into a 54.5 pound Chinook today and I heard of two others over 40 pounds caught today.  Not wide open action, but those that put the time in caught some nice king salmon. 

Lady Luck!  I've been a fishing guide and charter captain for going on 15 years and one thing I can say for certain is that women flat out catch more fish than us know-it-all guys.  They listen, they're patient, and they really don't give a damn!  When a woman shows up it's pretty much an automatic that they're going to put on a clinic and Danielle was no exception.  Between naps she bagged an 80 pound halibut and a 37 pound king salmon on Capt. Kims boat.  Thank you for not letting us down Danielle!

Sorry for the lack of pictures ya'all.  My computer went down about a week ago and I'm hoping to have it up and running again soon.  Michael Parker from the infamous Piscatorial Pursuits fishing forum was kind enough to transfer all the data from my old lap top to a new one that's on it's way to him as I write this.  Many thanks to Parker for the help! 

Capt. Rob Endsley

www.princeofwalessportfishing.com

 

 

Twenty Days: Ten Openers!!!

It started Saturday June 27 with the Neah bay and LaPush lid lifters in Marine Areas 3 & 4. We talked to John Keizer on air, on the opener and he had no less than three strikes in the nine minutes we spoke with him!


Early word is that the coho are thick, almost bothersome and the chinook, running deeper are willing biters if you can get past the silvers!

Sunday, June 28 was the starting gun for MA’s 1 & 2, namely Ilwaco and Westport. It was one of those rare days that halibut and salmon were open on the same day!!!

July one: Where do I start??? Let’s just start at the Straits of Juan de Fuca and head inland:  

The San Juans have just been cranking out the shrimp and lings and halibut all spring. Now, it’s time to give those critters a break and break out the ‘riggers and cutplugs…. It’s the Island Opener!!!


The break of dawn on 7/1 brings with it the MA 7 starting gun. With a killer set of salmon tides the ‘juans should get off to a fast start. I’ll let you know. I’ll BE THERE!

The Puget Sound shrimp season was short, sweet, solid and a great indication of the increased productivity in the Sound.


 Guess what day crabbing opens up in the Sound? You've got it, July one!

Wednesday through Saturday (7/1 thru 9/7) and the entire Labor Day weekend, it’s a Dungeness drill in Marine Areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 & 11.
Make sure you check your gear pre-season and label your buoys clearly. I’ve found that it’s easier to do this in the driveway than on the bay!

Elliott Bay's "bubble fishery" burst last year but I've got a strong suspicion that we're in for a smokin' summer on the bay! Pass this July third opener up at your own risk!

 Local fisheries such as EB are huge since they allow you to hit the water close to home and in many cases before and after work!

July ninth is near and dear to my heart as it’s my daughter Sophia’s birthday.

This year it’s also the Skagit River chinook opener!

What kind of bribery is it gonna cost me to fish this opener???

 How expensive are top-of-the-line graphite tennis racket frames
and what the heck is a “Juicy Handbag” anyway???

 Whatever it takes, it will be well worth it to participate in this historic (first time in 16 years) fishery! The Skagit is your best shot at a wall-hanger king. We saw chinook to 39 lbs in Sitka this year. We will see a bigger one in the Skagit. The fishery is open noon Thursdays through Sundays which plays nicely into the hand of the venerable weekend salmon warrior!

July 16 slams the pedal to the metal with the MA 9 & 10 selective chinook fisheries…The words “full swing” come to mind with a daily salmon fishery that’s open until August 31!
 

The every-day opportunity of this fishery allows families to plan and participate. Here's a shot of my family and I "paticipating" in last years Area 9 chinook season.

We have a long list of people to thank for our increased fishing opportunities beginning with the WDFW, the Wildlife Commission, and Governor Gregiore.
 Industry professionals who hold the decision makers “feet to the selective fishery fire” include but are not limited to:


Master Marine’s Larry Carpenter who takes up a lot of room at the negotiating table.


All Star Charters “Professor of Puget Sound” Gary Krein who tirelessly battles for sportfishing seasons.

The CCA or Coastal Conservation Association and Fish Northwest: Lobbying organizations who have united sport fishermen so we now can speak with a unified voice that cannot be ignored.

Get out there this summer and stay tuned to ESPN 710’s The Outdoor line. We’ll keep you in the loop on the seasons salmon success!!!

Bucket List

I have always been the type of person to set goals and to have lists of things that I wanted

to accomplish.  Whenever I have thrown myself in to something I have gone all in.  Fishing

for me has been no different.  Anyone that has seen the inside of my garage would agree with

me.  That's the only way for me, all or nothing, jumping in with both feet, whatever you want

to call it.  I can't do things without setting goals or making lists of things that I want to

do. 

 

That of course leads me to my "bucket list" for fishing.  Things that I want to accomplish or

fish that I want to catch during my fishing "career".  Some have been checked off already and

some have not but here goes:

 

1.   1,000 lb Marlin as well as catching every species of billfish,  I might retire if I ever get a grander.

      So far I have caught quite a few Stripe Marlin, a Blue Marlin, and my share of Sailfish.  I still have

      some work cut out for me on this one.

 

Robbo snapped this picture of an estimated 450 lb Blue that I caught in Panama

 

 2.  70 lb Roosterfish, this is the fish that I consider to be pound for pound the best fighter in the ocean.

After the fight that this 35 lber gave I can't imagine a 70 lber 

 

 3.  200 lb Tarpon, I will be in Florida in July, will this be my chance?  The chance to do battle with a 6ft Silver King

      will be a dream come true.

4.   150 lb Tuna, I don't care if it is a Bluefin Tuna or a Yellowfin Tuna, I just want one.  A  

      50lb Albie would be nice as well. 

5.   30 lb King Salmon, got that one with Nelly up in Sitka so now it's a 50lb king.

 

 Not the 36 but another one to make Nelly feel good

 

6.   20 lb Silver, call me crazy but I want this one more than the big king.

7.   Goliath Grouper, I have caught plenty of other grouper species but trying to get a big
      goliath up off the bottom is a challenge that I haven't met yet.

8.   100 lb Halibut, I know, those aren't the good ones to eat but everyone sure does like to   

      take pictures with them and I am jealous so add it to the list.

9.   50 lb Cubera Snapper, I tried like heck in Panama but everyone else got one.  Oh well, that

      gives me a reason to go down there and try again.

 10. 60 lb Dorado, I got a 50 pounder in Costa Rica and it put on a show.  One of my favorite   

       battles to date.

 

This 50 Lb Dorado was close but I need 10 more pounds

 

This is my current top ten but I could go on and on.  I didn't mention Wahoo, King Mackeral,

a big yellow, Lingcod , various Shark species or monster Peacock Bass.  There are so many

 others as well.  What's your bucket list?  Call us up on the show and tell us or post a reply

to this blog.


  

 

 

 

 

Great fishing continues in Southeast Alaska!

King salmon fishing continues to be decent here in Craig and the silver numbers continue to build here.  The begginning of last week we were seeing 6 to 10 cohos a day and now the numbers are double that and we've had two full boat limits hit our dock the last two days.  The two biggest kings to hit our dock this week are a 36 pounder by Paul Becker of Victoria, BC and a 34 pounder by Dan Shaw of Chimacum, WA.  I'd post some pics of these great fish, but my camera went kapute a few days ago and erased all the pics off of my disk.  Moisture and technology just don't mix!

The bay we're fishing is absolutely loaded with bait and with that come the whales.  A couple of days ago we had two big humpback whales come up next to the boat as we were landing a king salmon in the ocean.  Best part is that Dave Allan got it all on video! 

Halibut fishing remains strong for chicken halibut and we've been hammering the salmon program so hard all day that none of us have spent much time poking around looking for big halibut.  Yesterday we limited the boat on chicken halibut in less than ten minutes and then went back to salmon fishing…fast action!  The new pipe jigs dad made up for me this summer have been lights out.  Two pounds of copper and lead with a 12/0 Mustad treble and a hoochie skirt over the hook.  Ling cod, yelloweye, and halibut can't leave'em alone! 

A couple of pics courtesy of Kevin Kent, who just departed on this mornings float plane out of Craig.

Kevin with a typical 18 pound feeder king

A great days catch for mid June!

Rob Endsley

WWW.PRINCEOFWALESSPORTFISHING.COM

 

Smoking Salmon Simplified!!!

If there is a food that is more uniquely “Northwest” than smoked salmon I don’t know what it is… But, I would like to find out!

I love salmon, I grew up eating it, it’s good for you and If you give me the choice of a USDA Prime Rib Eye steak or an alder barbequed salmon; it’s salmon every day and twice on Sunday!

There is something primal about the relationship between salmon and smoke. Native Americans have used smoking as a method of preserving their fish and meats since the dawn of time and in the interim, all modern man has been able to do is refine the ancient process.  For the fisherman that is just getting in to smoking, I would offer the same advice that I give to new anglers: find one or two techniques, stick with them for consistent success and pay attention to details.

My process is a “wet brine” method and must be followed EXACTLY for good results. This is a tried and true method that works every time but you cannot skip a step and expect success. The process takes about three days: one to brine, one to air dry and one to smoke.

Have you ever heard the old saying “Beware the man with one gun, for he surely knows how to use it”? Well, I’m the guy with one smoking recipe and brother… well, just give this one a try and you won’t be disappointed!

First, the recipe:

2 gallons warm fresh water
4 cups brown sugar
2 cups pure (non-iodized or pickling & canning) salt
2 heaping Tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
6 whole Bay leaves crumbled
1 Tablespoon Garlic powder (Optional)
(For smaller batches just reduce ingredients proportionally)
Brining time: Depends on the thickness of the fish and desired taste. This is a reduced salt recipe that will not ruin fish if left in the brine for a longer period of time. For average adult chinook 15-18 hours will be fine. For coho, sockeye or pinks, 12 hours should do the job.

For the purpose of this process we’ll assume you have a “box and hot plate” type of electric smoker utilizing dried alder chips or chunks. With these smokers, typically you do not have temperature control but you can control the quantity of smoke. I use a minimum of three “pans” of chips. Keep in mind that warmer days are better for smoking and that the smoker does not and should not be smoking constantly. Usually 8-12 hours in the smoker gets the job done depending on your tastes.

I use warm (not hot) water since the ingredients will dissolve more easily and completely than trying to make this brine in cold water. In addition, if you are smoking frozen fish you can use very warm water and allow the fish to thaw in the brine. After a couple of hours, don’t forget to remove the frozen fish to cut proper smoking sized pieces. Then return the smoking chunks to the brine for the remainder of the brine time.

Never, ever use a metal container for brining fish! The result will be a “tinny” or metallic taste that many folks find unpalatable. I use food or chemical grade 5-gallon plastic buckets. Plastic buckets have the added advantage of coming with tight-fitting lids. When the brine is complete, it takes up about half the room in the bucket and you can add fish to bring the level up to almost the top of the bucket if you have a big batch!

So now you have all the ingredients and “raw materials” together and we’re ready to start the process.

Before I even touch the fish, I make the brine up in the bucket and it looks like this:

If we’re working with frozen salmon, we make a warmer brine, allow the fish to thaw enough to cut, take it out of the brine, remove the ribs and cut chunks from back to belly about 1 ½ to 2 inches wide.  Return these processed chunks to the brine for the remainder of the brine time.

When you get to the tail you are left with a large, flat piece.

Split the tail laterally so you retain a uniform size to your smoking chunks which results in consistent salt content and drying times.  

When you’re done with the tail it should look about like this.

In my opinion, the next two steps are the MOST CRITICAL and if ignored are often responsible for the dreaded “Bad Batch”!!!
After your brine time, remove the fish and feel the new firm texture. Water has been removed from the flesh, replaced by salt.  Now the critical step:

RINSE ALL THE BRINE OFF THE FISH! Under running tap water completely and thoroughly wash off the brine.  

Once rinsed, Air dry the fish without smoking for 18-24 hours depending upon humidity and air flow. If you are in a hurry you can speed the process a bit by placing a fan nearby to provide air flow but not too close, we’re not making jerky here! What happens during the air dry is a tremendous amount of flavor development.

In the brine we introduce salt and in the rinse we “freshen” or remove salt from the surface. During the air dry, salinity evens out throughout the fish and oil starts coming to the surface. To a large degree, this prevents the unsightly white “protein puddles” or ”curds” from forming on your fish and results in the deep red color we all enjoy!

You will know when the air drying process is done when a tacky glaze or “pellicle” forms over the surface of the fish.  

When it’s done it should look like this and you get to taste it first before anybody else knows it’s done!

Good luck with your smoking efforts, remember to not skip any steps and I’m confident you’ll enjoy consistent success with this method. Just remember: Once you smoke it and people start getting a whiff, it won’t be around for long so be sure to hide a little smokers stash!!!

 

Here come the kings!

Each and every day we're seeing an improvement in the king salmon action here in Craig.  The key to success lately has been the "stick and stay" program and we've been sticking to a deep troll lane off of Baker Island that has been producing king salmon all day long.  We're mooching in anywhere from 200 to 240 feet of water and the bites are occurring anywhere from 30 feet deep to right on the bottom.  Paul's big 36 pound hawg was caught just off the bottom today in 210 feet of water and shortly after landing that one we doubled up on king salmon in the low 20's at 80 feet.  The beauty of mooching is that we can cover it all!

The silver salmon are also making an excellent early showing and with this many fish around now I can only imagine how the fishing will be in July.  Our cohos have been running anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds and I've heard of a couple of bigger fish already.  A nice bonus to the king salmon this time of year!

Trust me…I know how hard it can be to not set the hook immediately when a fish grabs your bait on the drop.  Click the reel into gear and reel, reel, reel like son of a gun until the line comes tight…then reel, reel, reel some more to get it even tighter…then set the hook once the fish is already on and peeling line.  Sounds easy doesn't it!  Fish that hit a mooched bait on the drop are the hottest fish in the ocean, yet they can be the toughest fish to hook because the insulation usually melts off the wires and the fuses blow the second the bait goes "thunk" and the brain says "SET THE HOOK DUMMY!" 

Paul's arms are about tuckered out after the fight on this 36 pound king salmon.  At one point the line counter read 360 feet…that's when we decided to chase it : )

The doctors, Barry, Bruce, Bon, and Paul with an early limit of 16 to 36 pound king salmon on a glassy Pacific Ocean.  Lot's of fun with these guys! 

 

Rob Endsley

Craig, Alaska Salmon and Halibut Charters

WWW.PRINCEOFWALESSPORTFISHING.COM

 

Sitka 09: Chinook return to Southeast AK in force!

Our first year fishing Sitka was 1993. In the seventeen years of this annual adventure for my group of friends, expectations vary year to year. However, after the brutal 2008 Southeast Alaska chinook season we didn’t know what to think about Sitka salmon fishing in 2009.


   Sure, we saw the oceanic productivity indications, the cooling “positive phase” of northern coastal waters and the all important CAI or “Chinook Abundance Index”. Alaska Department of Fish and Game issues the CAI every spring and it amounts to a single-digit forecast of sorts or more correctly, an index of “relative abundance” by which commercial harvest (80% of harvest) and sports fishing (20% of harvest) is managed. In the very tough 2008 the CAI was 1.07 and in 2009 the number is 1.33.


  So, approaching this fishery let’s just say we were “cautiously optimistic”.


   We arrived in town to reports of solid but not hot chinook fishing and after getting the boat in the water we were greeted by abundant baitfish, working birds and jumping salmon… Always a good sign…
   From our first day in town to the last, chinook fishing was indeed solid to smokin’…depending on you point of view.

Phil Michelsen and Jack Reyes with a pair of chrome Sitka slabs.

Sitka's signature landmark makes a stunning backdrop…when it's not socked in by the clouds!!! The weather in Sitka was SPECTACULAR during this trip!

Robbie Tobeck joined us for a day and posted a 2-1 win-loss record including his career largest king of 35 pounds.

Good friends (left to right) Larry Stauffer, Clay Griffith and Dave Heiser having a ball with a triple on chinook!

Larry Stauffer and I with our career largest Sitka halibut of 128 pounds!

  All in all it was ten wonderful days of  trolling, mooching, jigging and anchor fishing that had one very significant, lingering effect: Raising your fishing “I.Q.” By this I mean “Instinct Quotient”. When you spend ten consecutive days on the water, the benefits to you as a fisherman outweigh all other considerations.

  The “edge” of a fishing guide or charter skipper is experience, knowledge and confidence. When you can consistently put all three of these mental components into your fishing you are well on your way to becoming an effective angler. Consistently effective angling will result in more fish landed in your boat which will lead to more experience and yes,…you’ve got it: It’s the salmon snowball effect!


   The 2009 salmon season looks bright and if our Sitka experience is any indication… You’ll be seeing your own “salmon snowball effect” very soon! 

Hammer time in Craig!

The list of chores is finally winding down and we're spending more time on the water in Craig.  Today we peeled away from the charter fleet and did our own thing, finding hungry king and silver salmon away from the rest of the boats.  With plenty of kings to the north in Sitka things should really start heating up here soon!

Jim "Bucket" Heins with a 30 plus pound "karma" king that he released today.  This one goes back in the water to make for some good fishing on the Polar Bear the rest of the summer.  Calm seas, lots of fish, and a helluva good crew here in town right now.  When he's not fishing Jim is Mr. Fix It, going to town on ice machines, boat electonics, door locks, and whatever else might pop up. 

Stam poses with a fat chrome king salmon amidst a fast bite offshore today.  Usually we wash the blood off these fish before pics, but this one was a "hurry up and take my pic so I can get back in the water" fish.  Good stuff!

 

Today on "The Dumbest Catch", greenhorn Stam temps his fate with a phat dungeness crab in Craig, Alaska!

Adjusting Your Gameplan

With summer salmon season right in front of us here in Puget Sound, it is time to think

strategy.  Mooching, jigging, trolling, herring, hootchies, flashers, dodgers, flies, cut

plugs vs helmets, what do I do?  Where do I start?  Well just like in the NFL, it starts

with putting together a game plan.  Just don't be afraid to make some sideline adjustments

along the way.

I start off every day on the water with a game plan.  It's not enough to know just where you

are headed and what you are fishing for and then throwing the same old gear out there.  You

have to ask yourself what types of strategies have been successful there in the past?  Is it

a trolling or mooching area?  Do I use herring or hootchies?  What time does the tide change

and where do I want to fish on the flood and/or the ebb?  I also like to have a fresh report

before I head out as well. 

I use all of this information that I gather to formulate my game plan.  However, as with any game plan,

use it as a guide.  Be flexible, be willing to "mid-stream adjust"

as we used to say in football.  You have idea when you head out on the water of what you would

like to do but what if your buddy calls with a report of a hot bite going on?  Don't be

stubborn, get over there and get in on the action.  This happened to me a few years ago at

the Roche Harbor derby.  I had planned on fishing an area and then heading down the west

side of Orcas where I had caught a few nice kings before.  Well I did just as I had planned

and fished the girl scout camp for awhile before heading down the west side of the island. 

About 30 minutes later John Keizer of Salt Patrol called to tell me to get back because a

hot bite was going on.  It didn't take long for me to abandon my game plan and get back up

there and it's a good ting I did, we had a fish on within five minutes of arrivng.

 

 

 Sometimes using a different strategy than you originally planned pays off big!

 

Signs of life above or below the water can cause me to adjust my game plan as well. I might

be wanting to fish a certain area or use a certain strategy but what I see when I am out on

the water can change that.  If I see birds actively feeding I am going to get my butt over

there asap.  If the birds are feeding on a school of baitfish above the water, guess what's

feeding on that school below? On one recent trip we spotted some birds actively feeding

quite a ways off from the normal spot where everyone trolls.  We decided to head on over

even though it was out of the way and not part of our game plan.  We were rewarded with a

double hook up.

While birds are a great sign of life from above, using your electronics is a great way to

put you on fish by looking at what's below.  If you are working an area that should be

holding fish but you aren't seeing anything on your fish finder, it is time to do some

scouting.  Electronics can be a game plan changer by giving us the ability to see what's

below us in the water.  Once again, if your game plan called for fishing a certain point or

area, don't just drag gear through the water.  Use your electronice to do some looking

around, you can often find the fish nearby. Once you have found what you are looking for it

might lead to a change in strategy.  I was fishing with my business partner Paul a couple of

years ago and had been trolling al afternoon with nothing to show for it.  When we finally

found what might have been the biggest bait ball I have ever seen, we decided to put away

the trolling gear and drop some jigs down.  On the first drop, not 10ft below the boat was a

nice chrome brite chinook.  Our willingness to change it up a little and use a strategy that

fit the situation the best was rewarded.

Next time you head out for a day on the water, make sure you have a game plan. Just

remember, those sideline adjustments might be the difference between winning and losing.