Good times in Las Craigas!

The action on silver salmon is about as good as it gets right now with early morning limits just about every day on coho's from 6 to 13 pounds and multiple hook-ups the norm.  We were finding king salmon on the outside of Noyes Island before the winds came and much of our silver action has been a very short boat ride from town.  With NW winds cranking out a 20 to 25 knot breeze every afternoon all you have to do is find the lee side of an island and it's calm seas and mill pond waters.  Between the fishing and the weather it's about as good as it gets right now!

I'm running a Lowrance HDS 10 for my sonar unit this summer and a Lowrance 113 for my plotter/radar and the combo is working out great.  The big screens allow me to see everything that is going on under the boat at all times.  The HDS allows me to mark bait at cruising speed and I crank the sensitivity to between 90 and 95 percent once we start fishing and we don't miss a thing.  Most of the fish in our waters are actively feeding and all you have to do is stick a bait in their grill and they will usually bite.  Between the Lowrance HDS and the Shimano line counter reels there isn't a lot of guess work.  Today I called out fish at 40, 70, and 130 feet and seconds later the guests aboard had them all hooked up and we had fish going everywhere.  King salmon fishing has gone much the same way. With the last group the HDS picked up two kings sitting ten feet off the bottom and seconds later we had one hooked up and muffed the second fish.  That's pretty darned fun, I don't care who you are!

Eric grabbed this "29" pound king salmon near the ocean several days ago.  Highlighted because we actually stuffed a lead ball in it's stomach in attempt to win the group king salmon pot, but Slice and Dice immediately caught on while he was filleting out the fish and ratted us out.  Darned fish cutters anyways : )   

Casey turns to me and says, "I'm serious! If there's anything I'm doing wrong don't hesitate to tell me."  Capt. Rob follows up with "You set the hook like a girl!"  Seconds later Casey slams the hook into his first king salmon.  Nice work buddy!   

Nine times out of ten women catch more fish and Deb and Sally definitely proved that point again.  Ironically they usually catch more fish because they aren't so anxious to set the hook. 

Pretty sure they don't have these in Georgia!  Deb and the gang stroked out a bunch of these good little eaters every day with us.   

Our guests have enjoyed some amazing whale shows here lately.  I captured this photo of a humpback breaching within sight of town on our way in a few afternoons back.  Nice way to top off a great day of fishing!

Capt. Rob Endsley

Oncorhyncus Gorbuscha: Thy name is “Humpy”

Every two years we are invaded. These pink invaders are unappreciated, looked down upon, insulted and even reviled in some quarters… And yet, they still come. "They", are the "Humpy Horde"…  

There are various salmon supremacist groups (the Anti-Pinkites, Humpy Haters) and even tee-shirts expressing disdain for the species!

Even through all the negativity, the sportfishing community will come out in crowds to catch the odd-year oddity: the pink salmon!

Lately however, there has been a bit of a change in attitude and even an alehouse featuring it’s namesake brand of ale in appreciation of the pink pesca.

Locally, the most anticipated salmon season is the king or chinook openers. This season however, we seem to have a bit of an underperforming run. Elliott Bay is far from effervescent, the Skagit is slow, the Snohomish was stinky and Tulalip Bay has been terrible. Could it be that the lowly humpy could provide a bright spot in an otherwise tough year?
In Puget Sound, if July is chinook month, odd-year Augusts are certainly the months of the humpy.
We debate the humpy on the table: They are great! No, they are nasty!
We debate their run timing: Late July! No, Early August!
Say what you want on those two topics but you cannot argue their willingness to bite nor their tenacity during the fight.

Sometimes, they even bite with their humps!!!


The Puget Sound Total run according to WDFW is an astounding 5,156,390
Will they show? Stay tuned….

Spicy Salmon Sandwiches

Every time I cook fish there is invariably some leftovers that go in the fridge and no matter how well the Zip Loc bag or Tupperware container is sealed it's nearly impossible to keep the fish from drying out. That fresh-from-the-grill taste is only attainable, well, when it's fresh-from-the-grill. With fishery closures up and down the West Coast letting any salmon and halibut go to waste is simply not an option, as if it ever "was" an option.  With this in mind I started monkey-ing around with salmon and halibut melt sandwiches a while back and came up with a combination that could possibly be the best sandwich on this planet…and possibly others.


4 ounces cooked salmon, halibut, or other fish (salmon is my favorite)
1 or 2 diced jalapeno peppers
2 to 3 tablespoons of diced sweet onion
Pepperjack or Swiss cheese
Sourdough bread
Garlic Butter

Build the Sandwiches
Mix the salmon or halibut, mayonnaise, jalapeno peppers, and onion together with a fork like you would a tuna fish sandwich. Put the sandwiches together using either pepper jack or Swiss cheese and spread an ample amount of garlic butter on the outside of the sourdough bread.
Grill the Sandwiches
Light the barbeque and set the heat on it's lowest setting, giving the grill ample time to heat up. Once the grill is heated I'll usually brush the grate with olive oil, being extremely carefulnot to allow too much of the oil to fall on the open flame.  Olive oil flames up pretty good ya know! Place the sandwiches on the grill and close the lid, grilling each side for 5 to 7 minutes and remove them when each side is grilled and the cheese is thoroughly melted.  Every grill heats up differently, so the first time you do this keep a close eye on the sandwiches to keep them from burning and use a metal spatula. Just about any kind of fish works for these sandwiches and they're even good with lightly smoked fish, which adds a ton of flavor! 

Capt. Rob Endsley 

Craig, Alaska Report

I've been sitting here for the last ten minutes trying to come up with something snappy for a title and it just isn't coming to me.  All I could come up with is "Craig, Alaska Report", which will work just fine.  Two months of sleep deprivation and long days on the ocean have pretty much eliminated all the fluff.  Fish, eat, sleep…in that order!

In this business people always ask "how's the fishing?"  My response lately has been "pretty good", which translates to not slow, not white hot, but somewhere in the middle.  "Somewhere in the middle" is darned good by many people standards.  Our guests have been in some white hot coho bites this past week and there have been days where we've had to scratch around to find them, getting limits on most days and close to it on the other days.  There continues to be some enormous king salmon around and if guests want to sacrifice a few silvers to target these fish I'm all for it!  Most of the action lately has been occurring on the north end of Noyes Island at places like the "Tree Hole", Cape Ulitka, St. Joseph Island, and down the outside coast of Noyes.  The inside fishery is starting to pick up, as well, and with an afternoon charter today we plan on scoping many of the areas close to town.

Halibut fishing has remained solid and we've had halibut to 135 pounds this past week and several more in the 90 pound range.  And the "Semi" drift kicks out chicken halibut in short order whenever the need arises.  Dad just hand delivered another case of 16 oz. pipe jigs that will be put to good use here shortly now that we're coming down off these huge tides.  

Jim Murphy joined the Bakersfield gang this year for the first time and walked away with their group halibut jackpot with this 92 pounder.  After buying drinks for the group with the prize money, however, I'm pretty sure he ended up in the red : ) 

Frank Reed, Mr. Perma-Grin, with his 135 pound halibut.


Joe, Frank, "Tuna", and dad with a limit of fat silvers, chicken halibut, and a nice king salmon.  "Tuna" will be sending us some interesting downloads for our Icom radios.  You all thought our scramblers were annoying : )

I'm sure TSA had a field day with this box of pipe jigs

The humpback whales are always here in great numbers and the killer whales have also been here just about every day.  I grabbed this photo close to town a couple of days ago of a humpback doing the tail slap.  This is always a sight to behold as these enormous creatures heave their bodies out of the water.


Capt. Rob Endsley


If you have been listening to the show, then you know that I have been itching to go tuna fishing.  With 60 degree water showing up off our coast in mid June I was sure it was going to be an early year.  Unfortunatley the albacore didn't show as early as the warm water.  With a trip to Florida on the calendar I missed the kickoff to the season.  No worries, I had a trip planned for the weekend following my return.  The only problem was that as the week went on, the swell forecast started to change and as the weekend rolled around Sunday was iffy and Monday was definitley out.  We decided to give it a go on Sunday anyway and boy am I glad we did as we went 21 for 24 on albies.  It made the 60 mi. ride on sporty waters all worth it.

As soon as the show was over last week Nelly assisted me in getting the SalmonHawk on the trailer. The boys and I then loaded the boat and headed to Westport to meet CCA groundfish committee chair Bear Holmes.  Bear helped launch the boat in Westport and get things ready for the trip the next day.  We got going about 5 the next morning.  After a quick stop for some anemic live bait we headed across the bar.  I was immediatley thankful for the wide beam on the SalmonHawk as we were passing many of the boats ging salmon fishing as they were getting tossed around pretty good on the bar.  We then headed on a sw direction towards the 125 line.  As we were approaching the area I wanted to fish the water temps kept rising.  First 57 then 58 and then 59 degrees but then as we crossed the distinct line where green water becomes blue water the temps dropped back down to 57 degrees.  No matter, we were in the blue water so we decided to put out the spread and continue to troll sw. 20 minutes later it was fish on.  We marked the waypoint and continued to pick up fish every time we crossed that point.  First it was Madden with a fish, then Bear and Mason hooked up dropping a swimbait back in the spread.  I didn't have to wait long for my turn because 10 minutes later it was fish on! 

Always have a swimbait ready to drop back after you get a take down.

 At first the fish were small and we were only picking up singles but as the day went on it was doubles, triples, and a quad.  The fish kept getting bigger too!  We had a pretty good system going, Madden slept, Bear drove the boat, and Mason and I worked the rods and cleaned up the blood. 

As you can see there was a mess to clean.

As the day went on, the ocean went from sporty to rough so we called it a day at 21 tuna.  We cleaned up, secured everything, and settled in for a 3 hour ride home.  When we got back to Westport we put the boat back on the trailer, loaded Bear up with his fish and hit the road.  Needless to say, after getting up at 4:30 the previous two mornings I was ready for BED!


Bear, Madden, and Mason with some nice albies.


Tuna processing line.

Monday was spent carking, cleaning (it is amazing the places you can get tuna blood on a boat), canning, and then finally grilling.   All in all it was a great first trip for the year.  I am already itching to go again!


Two Midchannel Mornings: Kicking off the Puget Sound Selective Season!

Was I was fired up about the Puget Sound chinook season? Let’s just say that I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep the night before…
 The 2009 opener was the third edition of our Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook opportunity and the first two openers featured epic chinook action! Flush with radioactive-hot reports from Sekiu and Port Angeles, expectations were high and we were not disappointed.

  Three years is not a lot of time to establish a tradition, but my old University of Washington roomie and former NFL All Pro Smartass Kevin Gogan and I have fished each of these openers together.

There was no keeping him out of the Stabi-Craft for the 2009 edition.

“Gog’s” can be a bit of a handful (and earful) in the boat but with my other friends Walt Hylback and Phil Michelsen we were hopeful we could keep him in check… “We” were wrong.

  More correctly, I was wrong as my friends quickly jumped aboard Gogan’s “Rip Nelly” bandwagon. Seriously, I was having flashbacks to his Sports Illustrated cover shot with some poor dude’s leg in Kevin’s mouth…  Once we arrived at Midchannel I was genuinely hoping that the chinook would shut these guys up! It took a bit of grinding to hook up with the first king of the 09 opener but once we got on them, the action was solid!

Kevin Gogan plays the first fish of the day in the early morning mist as Phil Michelsen looks on in jealousy!

First king of the Area 9 2009 selective chinook opener is a dandy 22 pounder and the pause in the “Skipper abuse” was music to my scorched ears… 


“Big Phil” didn’t have long to wait as chinook number two came quickly upon the heels of the first one!


Phil’s fish was just under 19lbs and everyone is all smiles as the fog has lifted and the bite is ON!!!  


Walt was the last guy on board to hook up but his fish more than made up for tardiness by sheer fight. You can’t help but smile when line is melting from your spool!


Another chunky chinook hits the deck with my new candidate for “Spoon of the Year” in his grill!


Gogan saves the best for last with this 25 pounder that rounded out our morning.


Back at the Bayside Marine cleaning dock, the crew is all smiles with another successful opener in the books!  


Day two got off to a bit of a faster start for us as this king inhaled a Gold Star Coho Killer behind a Jims Breakaway Flasher. Note the flasher with the pin “pulled” at the top of this photo allowing the flasher to slide to the rod tip!  


Back at the 10th Street ramp in Everett, both of our day two fish are checked and scale-sampled as Gogan mulls barbecued salmon recipes.  


Cleaning these chinook on "Big Red's" rigging table unveiled a feast of candlefish in their stomachs. These guys were absolutely stuffed with salmon candy and actively feeding chinook are top-notch on the dinner table as well!  


It’s no wonder that the Coho Killer is such an effective spoon when you compare it to candlefish found in our chinooks stomachs! 


Standing in “Big Red”, Kevin and I show off our day two results. 


The 2009 Puget Sound selective chinook season is off and running. First day counts from the WDFW Fish Checkers at the Everett ramp tallied 61 chinook for 150 boats which is more fish than they saw the entire first week of the 2008 season.

My advice: don’t wait! Get out there now and get in on the most productive chinook season we have! If you’re heading out on Saturday mornings don’t forget to tune us in on 710 ESPN Seattle. We are here to keep you pointed in the right direction! Good Luck!

Slab Kings!

There have been some enormous king salmon hitting the docks here in Craig this past week with several in the mid 50's and at least two over 60 pounds being boated.  That's right…over 60 pounds!  One thing about fishing here in Southeast Alaska is that every time you drop the bait over the side it could be your turn. 

Lady Luck!  Another captain named Lance who works for a lodge here in town trolled by us a few days ago with two women on his boat.  In case you didn't already know this, women catch more fish than men…PERIOD!  Lance and I are talking as we're passing one another and he mentioned how another friend of ours had caught a 65 pounder right next to his boat the day before.  "It always seems to be everyone else's turn," Lance lamented.  I replied with "Yeah, but you have an unfair advantage now with those two ladies on your boat.  Shouldn't be long now Lance." 

You can probably guess how the rest of the story goes.  One of the ladies hooks up on a big king moments later and off they go chasing it into deep water in the middle of the channel.  35 minutes later Lance cruises back in on the kicker motor and gives me that "holy cow" look.  The fish was 46 pounds and it didn't take them long to bag their second king of the day, another big king salmon, and off they went back to the lodge. 

Day 2 went much the same way, with the nice lady bagging a carbon copy Chinook in the mid 40's literally seconds after pulling in and lady number two hammering yet another huge king salmon over 40 pounds on their next pass.  We gave them an "it's not fair" shout across the water and off they went back to the lodge.  We had a great day on my boat, bagging Chinook from 20 to 34 pounds and losing a monster at the side of the boat, but once again the ladies simply get the job done.  Thankfully more women don't fish or there simply wouldn't be anything left!

Silver salmon fishing has stayed fairly consistent here with our boats hitting anywhere from 10 to 24 coho's per day and the king salmon action is what I would call fair.  We've had boats limiting on kings and boats hitting one or two.  It's just a matter of who has the hot rod on what day.  One thing about fishing for king salmon here, however, is that on any given drop of the herring a king salmon of a lifetime can climb on.

I wish I could report on some huge halibut, but we simply haven't been targetting them much, spending most of our time salmon fishing.  The "Semi" drift is literally carpeted with halibut from 15 to 30 pounds and we make a quick stop there at the end of each day to grab guests their halibut.  Ling cod fishing and yelloweye fishing has been excellent, with yelloweye over 25 pounds and a big 55 inch ling hitting our dock this week.   

Tim Linderman with one of the two mid-30's Chinook that he bagged with us the last few days.

Rob Endsley

All’s Well That Ends Well


Well the trip to the middle grounds in the Gulf Of Mexico really paid off.  After suffering through a week of high winds and thunderstorms down in Florida, a quick decision to extend the trip a few days and book a trip to the middle grounds assured me of coming home with a cooler of fish. My dad, brother Derek, myself, and my son Mason were all ready to go and very excited after after a frustrating week. 

My dad, Mason, and my other son Madden had been catching live bait all week so we were stocked and ready to go when we boarded the two Georges on Friday night.  The four of us along with my brother Derek's friend Charlie and 35 other anglers all left aboard the 85ft vessel out of Tarpon Springs a little after 8 pm.  This is one of the trips that I had always wanted to take but had been putting off for one reason or another.  Finally, after pulling the trigger we settled in for what would be a 7 hour boat ride.  At about 3:30 am we finally reached our first stop whick was 107 miles out in the Gulf.  The plan was to hit the furthest spot first and then make stops as we worked our way back home during the day. 

After a frustrating week of rough seas, it was nice to see how flat the water was 100 miles out.

With all of the excitement after the long boat ride, it was more than a little disappointing when the first stop didn't produce much fish.  That's okay because we still had a long day ahead and the captain of the boat didn't waste much time on a spot if it wasn't producing right away and at a steady clip.  I had to laugh quite a few times as the boat slowed to approach spot after spot and all of  the anglers aboard readied the rods so they could be the first one to the bottom.  This laughter quickly stopped when I realized that the first guy down always hooked up immediatley.  It didn't take me long to learn and I found myself racing to be first. 


 Mason wit his first Red Snapper.

While most guys went with either some form of cut bait or live pinfish, I decided to jig most of the day.  My way of thinking was that I would change my  presentation to make it a little different from everyone else.  After boating the first grouper of the day I was thinking that this move on my part just displayed my brilliance but as the day went on I wasn't any more successful than some of the other top producers on the boat and perhaps not as good as some.  The variety of fish that were caught was awesome.  One of the things I love about blue water fishing is the opportunity to catch a variety of fish.  You never know what will hit your line next.  We caught a variety of grouper, our limit of red snapper, aj's, porgies, big mangrove snapper, triggerfish, and a variety of other jacks.  The boat also landed a few tuna, dorado, and plenty of kingfish. 




The fish boxes on the boat were overflowing by the end of the day.

All in all the decision to extend the vacation a cople of days and get my fishing in was a good one.  The last thing you ever want to do is come home with an empty cooler.


My brother Derek and I each display our stringer of fish.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The River: Skagit Chinook ’09 (Part II)

The noon opener on Thursday, July 9 on the Skagit River allowed a guy to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely, carefree, mid-morning drive to the ol’ crick…
   Then the phone rang.
“Is This Tom Nelson?”
“Yup, who’s this?”
“Hi Tom, Matt Markovich of KOMO 4 News here. Are you heading for the Skagit this morning?”
“Uh oh,… I mean… uh, yeah, I am”
“Are you going fishing?”
“Well yes, as a matter of fact.”
“Do you have room in your boat for two more? We would like to do a feature on the first Skagit opener in 16 years.”
“Yeah, but how did you get ahold of me?
“I read your Skagit blog and called ESPN.”

Suddenly, two thoughts fought for frontal position in the quivering mass of vanilla pudding I call a brain:
One, my little, no pressure Skagit opener with my dog and son had just become a mass media event and two, someone at the Eastlake Avenue studios of 710 ESPN Seattle had a massive, possibly terminal wedgie coming…
We set up a meet at Blakes Resort on the lower North Fork and I began  to see my fishing time start to evaporate.

Matt Markovich and his camera gal turned out to be very nice folks. We loaded their gear and as soon as I fired up the Wooldridge Dawg Sled they fired up the camera. We ran from Blakes up to one of my honey holes stopping frequently to chat with,…and film… the inhabitants of every hogline on the crick.

Once we got to drop the anchor and started fishing, the interview began in earnest.  


Talk about cameras in your face! Markovich gets a close-up as he takes his turn running some gear.  


News deadlines are the pits! I’ve got to explain, on camera, why 30 minutes is just not enough time to catch a Skagit king…  


Seriously, Matt and his crew were great to work with, took time to understand the significance of actually GAINING recreational fishing opportunities and got a good feeling for the fishery.  


Friday morning dawned on the first full day of the season and an old Skagit pro Bill Burskens fights his first Skagit king in a decade and a half!  


It’s in the bag! Score one for Bill and his buddy and it’s not even light yet!  


A chrome chunky king is the reward for patiently sitting on the anchor and waiting for the fish to come to you. Bill had to wait approximately 35 seconds…

I’m not even kidding! I was already on the anchor when Bill got there. He hooked the fish and as I was taking the above pictures of him fighting his fish he threw the verbal harpoon:
“I saw you on the news last night Tom, and I thought:  Wow, it would be great to hook a fish and play it as I drifted past you…”

The harpoon found it’s mark… And, Bill got his wish and this fish!  


The “Duck Shack gang” forms their own camouflage hogline.  


Fun in the sun! Note the great anchoring positioning of this hogline: all the sterns are lined up so a hot king is less likely to foul neighboring gear.  

The only problem with the above picture is that there is only one boat with his anchor-float in the water. It’s very important to have the ability to throw your float and drift down river to fight your king. For this reason,  don’t anchor too closely below (downriver from) an existing hogline. Instead, join the line if there’s room. It’s a great way to find the traveling lane, learn new techniques and make new fishin’ buddies!

The Skagit opener was not exactly smokin’ hot and many (myself included) came away empty handed, but keep this in mind:
If you catch the biggest chinook of your life on the Skagit, it’s well worth it! It does not take long to get well on the good, old Skagit River. Good luck and stick with it!!!

4th Quarter Pays Off

Some call it a "pick", some call it a "grind", some call it "decent" and it all means the same thing.  Times like this is when it pays off to know the grounds well and know what areas fish best on what tides.  Oh, and a little luck doesn't hurt either!

We've bounced all over the place this past week grinding up silvers and a few king salmon here and there.  We've had white hot bites and some bites that don't come at all and we just keep on keepin' on.  The silver fishing has definitely been a "pick" lately and when they come you had better be on it because the bite isn't going to last long.  King salmon fishing has been the same way and those that are seeing success are sticking and staying at proven spots and grinding out some really nice king salmon.  With huge tides right now and a big flood in the afternoon the latter part of the day has been paying off better than the morning program at least for kings.  Today the big kings were 42 and 32 aboard my boat and our second boat grabbed a stubby 35 pounder in the same vicinity earlier in the day.

Capt. Kim and I have been hitting a halibut flat we simply call the "Semi".  The action is blazing fast on 15 to 30 pound chicken halibut and most days we can finish up in short order and get right back to salmon fishing.  Plenty of yelloweye and ling cod are also available and we've had limits of both on days when people want to put in the work.  Ask me what I want to do and I'll recommend hammering out a quick limit of halibut so we can get back to salmon fishing.  I dig king salmon…what can I say?

Here's Diana's 42 pound clipped white Chinook caught this afternoon.  She hooked and landed this fish all by herself mooching herring in the ocean.  How awesome is that!  This fish was tagged and we should hear shortly what hatchery it came from.  Any guesses?  

Pats 32 pound king salmon hooked just minutes after Diana landed her slab king

Tony Burgan from Arizona with his 35 pound king salmon

The Georgia boys with a mixed bag.  These guys had me laffing my ass off for three days!

Rob Endsley