The San Juan’s Are “On” for Blackmouth

Look what Ryan Bennett of Reel Deal Guide Service found in the Rosario Strait a few days back…a 25 pound blackmouth! Ryan swears it was an early spring Chinook, but whichever way you cut it this fish and several other 20 plus pound blackmouth taken in the San Juan's this past week make it the place to be right now. He reports hitting four to as many as 8 fish a day trolling cut plug herring off the downriggers "right on the deck" in some of his favorite haunts. Bennett reports an average weight of 12 to 15 pounds this week in the San Juans and plenty of candlefish to keep them around for a while.

All Aboard with Lost Coast Excursions!

For the second year in a row I had the opportunity to fish in Panama aboard the Lost Coast Explorer.  For a solid week we fished the famous Hannibal Banks in Coiba National Park.  It is by far the most remote place that I have ever been and fishing with Lost Coast Excursions is the experience of a lifetime. While the marlin fishing wasn't red hot while we were there, it is the variety that keeps me wanting to come back year after year.  Our group caught 22 different species of fish during the week and I'm not sure we even made a dent when it comes to catching the full variety of fish in the area. 

Back in July I came out with my bucket list of fish that I wanted to catch, http://blog.theoutdoorline.com/post/2009/06/23/Bucket-List.aspx and trips like this will certainly help.  I was able to scratch off #9 on the list with this big cubera snapper.

 

After that was accomplished it was on to to my first billfish for the trip.  One of the nice thing about the Pacific side of Central America is that the sailfish are huge and this one was no different.

At one point we were all excited to find a tree floating in the middle of nowhere.  Usually you can find any number of fish hanging out under floating debries and this tree was no different.  Unfortunatley, when we got a little closer we noticed a gill net tangled in the tree.  The net was holding two dead birds so we gave up on the fishing and our 1st mate Cody jumped in to cut it loose. 

After disposing of the net it was back to fishing.  One of the things that stands out from the week was all of the Dorado that were swimming around.  At times we were literally sight casting to them with poppers and jigs.  Catching dorado up to 35 lbs with medium weight spinning outfits is an absolute blast that has to be experienced.  At one point I casted a jig to one dorado only to see another go airborne three times before crashing my jig when it hit the water.  After setting the hook with a new Mustad treble assist hook the fish went airborne again and put on a show.

After getting another dorado to the boat I tried to gaff it myself as our captain and mate were helping others on the boat who were hooked-up.  As you can see below our 1st mate had to get wet to when things didn't work out as planned.

 

Beside the fun of fishing with Robbo in Panama for the second time, my buddy Del Stephens, aka "Tuna Dog" joined the party and did not dissappoint.  Del brought  along his Fish Trap swimbaits and caught dorado, skipjack, bonita, and yellowfin one after another. 

 

 

Del even caught two bonita at once with this Diawa jig.

For me, destination fishing is one of lifes great rewards.  If you haven't experienced wide open blue water fishing then you need to.  There is no better opportunity to do this than The Outdoor Line Billfish Tournament in Costa Rica in March of 2011.  If you have experienced this type of fishing then surely you can't wait to do it again.  Go to our trip section of www.theoutdoorline.com and sign up now.  The first 30 people to sign up get a Lowrance Out & back handheld GPS.  Don't delay, the best boats will be gone soon.

 

It’s…SHOWTIME!!!

Love it, hate it, look forward to it or surprised to see it come each and every January, The Western Washington Sportsman Show and Seattle Boat Show are HERE!

Personally, I enjoy the shows and even though they involve a bit more work for me, there is still something I learn each and every year!

These annual "Pearls of Wisdom" are something I actually look for!

The "Pearls" may come in the form of a new product or an improvement to an old favorite piece of gear but my favorites and the ones that stick with me are the technique innovations.

You know what I'm talking about!

That different way of doing your job as a fisherman or hunter that fits into your way of doing business like a key into a lock!

Like a hand into a glove!

Like a… well, you get the picture…

This show season, I'm doing seminars at both shows…. As if you didn't get enough of my ramblings every Saturday morning…

Western Washington Sportsman Show January 27-31 at the Western Washington Fairgrounds in Puyallup

Indoor Steelhead River

Wednesday,  Jan 27 6pm    Thursday, Jan 28 2pm    Saturday, Jan 30 11am     Sunday, Jan 31,  1:30pm

Seattle Boat Show (Quest Field Event Center)

Fishing Stage in North Concourse

Saturday,  Jan 30 4pm  Dirty Downrigger Tricks
Monday,  Feb 1st  4pm Columbia River Spring Chinook
Monday,  Feb 1st  6pm Skagit River King Salmon
Tuesday,  Feb 2nd 3pm Triple Threat: Mooch, Jig &Troll
Tuesday,  Feb 2nd  5pm Dirty Downrigger Tricks
Thursday Feb 4th  5pm Skagit River King Salmon
Thursday,  Feb 4th 7pm Triple Threat: Mooch, Jig &Troll
Friday, Feb 5th 4pm Dirty Downrigger Tricks
Saturday,  Feb 6th 3pm Triple Threat: Mooch, Jig &Troll

See you at the shows and here's hoping you find some "Pearls" of your own this show season!!!

 

 

Panama Fishing Report

Mike Wasch looked at me in disbelief as we sloshed our way toward Cebaco Island in Panama a little over two weeks ago. Our group had travelled a full day prior to this one, took a four hour bus ride from Panama City to the little port town of Puerto Mutis where we met the sport boats, and now heavy winds were steadily tossing 5 gallon buckets of green water into our yaps. "It takes a little work to get to the edge of the earth," was my short response as I shut my mouth before another greener hit me in the chops. Mike gurgled something and from his facial expression I'm pretty sure it was a chuckle.

It wasn't long before we were loading our luggage onto the Lost Coast Explorer and sportfishing tackle was being slammed together for our first afternoon of saltwater fishing adventure in Panama. Some of us were salty veterans to this adventure and understood what lay ahead in the coming days, but several of the newbies had no idea what was in store for them. 

We tossed poppers at the rocks around Cebaco and outside of some near misses from snapper and jacks the action was slow. Our plan was to meet the Lost Coast Explorer at the ranger station on Isla de Coiba approximately 20 miles away for our evening anchorage, so we dumped the gear in the water and began the troll toward our rendesvous point. 3 dorado, 4 yellowfin tuna, and a sailfish later we were at the mothership. Week one was off to a great start!

Blake and Mike with one of the football yellowfin we grabbed on day one. Mike's 14 weight proved handy with the baitfish pattern, a combo that took several more yellowfin and dorado on the trip. 

Dorado were literally everywhere throughout our first week in Panama and we hammered them on trolled lures, flies, poppers, and jigs. Average size was 15 to 25 pounds and several were in the 35 pound range.

This little pink and white chugger was a hot lure on the shotgun rod for two straight weeks. It took multiple dorado, yellowfin tuna, and sailfish.

Oregon Tuna Classic organizer Del Stephens with a 30 pound dorado he nailed on week two.

With a 100 feet of visibility this 175 pound yellowfin looked like a bonita circling up from the depths. Steve Maris's back was damned sure that this was no bonita!

Steve and the Wasch's with one helluva lot of sushimi back at the mothership. The big cow took a live bonita slow trolled on a diver on Hannibal Bank.

Vanessa coerced a worn-out Steve into throwing poppers along the Jicaron shoreline that evening and look what he found. A huge Cubera engulfed his Williamson popper and augered it's way around the rocky reef before Steve could land it after dark. The Legend lives!

With steady winds making Hannibal Bank somewhat unpleasant during week one we spent a lot of time chasing inshore species like the big blue jack Mike is holding in this pic. We used the bait and switch technique to lure jacks, roosterfish, and snapper within fly casting range. I would cast a huge popper into every nook and cranny along the rocky shoreline and when the fish would charge the huge surface lure I'd keep it going just fast enough to keep it out of their reach. Once they got within casting range the boys would zap them with baitfish patterns on 12 weight fly rods. I had roosterfish up to 60 pounds chasing my popper and while we didn't land many of the big roosters, the exhiliration of the whole scene was over the top!

Skydive instructor turned fishing sicko! Vanessa had never caught a saltwater fish before this trip. Here she is with a beatiful roosterfish she hammered on a surface popper near Coiba.

Fresh sushimi and as much dorado as you care to eat back at the mothership every night.

Even though we go to Panama for the roughly 30 some species of gamefish that can be caught there, it's really the marlin fishing gets the blood boiling. Dave Bergeron hooked into this 400 plus black near Isla Montousa on week two and I managed to get one decent picture of this explosive fish as it greyhounded towards the boat, covering 200 to 300 yards in a matter of seconds. It took both Dave and good friend Chuck Girtz, both from the Gig Harbor PSA club, 3 hours to land this black marlin on standup gear. Nice work guys!

Chuck takes a quick cerveza break during the grueling battle.

Deckhand Mayo leaders the fish and goes for the bill. Check black marlin off the bucket list!

Off she goes!

Del and Dom with one of the football yellowfin we were finding around Jicaron. We hooked a lot of these fish on trolled gear and Williamson jigs.

Jeff Norwood with yet another yellowfin football.

Skipjack tuna were mixed in amonst the yellowfin schools for both weeks. Here's Venessa with a scrappy skipjack. 

This dorado definitely took the cake! It jumped over ten feet in the air multiple times on Kents 40 plus year old spinning tackle after hitting a small Buzz Bomb that he brought along. Good stuff!

When the fish aren't biting it's time to tak it all in. Steve ordered up a couple porpoise with his Vitamin D.

Perhaps the best seat in the house, I jump into the "tower" on the lookout for tuna. The Costa blue mirror Triple Tail 580's were a blessing on this trip.

A sushimi feeding frenzy takes place on deck after a long day of fishing.

A 20 ounce steak of seared yellowfin tuna from week one aboard the Lost Coast Explorer.

One more sunset and a little more Vitamin D. Time to bring this trip to a close and head back to sunny Washington.

Here are a couple of other fishing reports that have been posted on chat boards from this trip:

Piscatorial Pursuits 1

Piscatorial Pursuits 2

Bloody Decks

I'm busy crunching thru all the video footage and will post some video links to The Outdoor Line Video page just as soon as they are finished.

After two weeks in paradise I'm already counting down the days to our Costa Rica trip in March of this year to pre-fish another destination. The Outdoor Line is hosting a trip similar to this one in 2011 in Costa Rica, only this time at the 5 star Los Suenos Resort near some of Costa Rica's most productive bluewater fishing grounds. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS

Steelies on the Sky!!!

It's been one of "those" years for local steelhead anglers.

The hatchery fish were late and spring runoff -thanks to El Nino- is early.

Fortunately so are the wild steelhead! After taking something of a year "off" last year, pulling a no-show on many Puget Sound streams, reports of solid numbers of wild fish are more the rule rather than the exception.

After years of guiding up and down Western Washington, it's a rare treat to get an invitation to fish in somebody else's boat. So, when my friend Derek Anderson of Screamin' Reels Guide Service gave me a call, it was a no brainer!
Derek had a feeling that the wild steelies were sneaking into the Sky a bit early,  and after the last high water the Skykomish was dropping, clearing, perfect! We hooked up with my good friend Larry Stauffer and the plan was set!

Larry climbs into Derek's custom sled, there are no other boats in sight and the river looked "Steelhead green".

As we left the ramp I looked up river and thought I saw something roll, sure enough, a seal! Here we were, in the middle Skykomish and a seal was chasing steelhead.

"Well,  he didn't swim up here for the exercise." Derek said, "There's probably a few fish around."

I didn't like seeing them either but in a bass-ackwards way, it was something of a good sign.

Leaving the seal in our wake, Derek twists the throttle and we head for a "Marine Mammal Free" stretch of river.  

Free drifting from the sled was the technique of the day and Derek is a master practitioner of the art. From the jet sled, free drifting or boondogging is simple in description but the subtleties of this technique take years to master. The biggest challenge is for the boat operator as he needs to read the water in order to position the sled in the drift to give the anglers their best opportunity. Make no mistake, the guy on the tiller handle can make or break your day on the river!

Derek was out to make our day and Larry's day was made by the fight put up by our first fish of the day!  

 
Larry and Derek pose with this dandy hen, a wild chromer still sportin' sea lice! 

We had to cover a bit of water to hook up again but it was well worth the wait!  This jumbo hen grabbed our gear and gave us a ride back up river!  

We have a rare set of conditions on our area rivers right now. The calendar says "January" but the thermometer says "April". The wild steelies are agreeing with the thermometer but don't wait! Early closures loom on both the Snohomish and Skagit systems.  Time is short so tilt the odds in your favor and give Derek Anderson of Screamin Reels a call. He will point you in the right direction and like me,  you might just find out how his guide service got it's name!

Rivers wrecked? Enjoy the Blackmouth Bonanza!

Winter weather… What a pain. 

The media has all kinds of weather buzz words:

“We’re ramping up the showers and ramping up the temperatures which will ramp up the snow levels which in turn will…. Wait for it… Ramp up the river levels!

My least favorite weather buzz word?… besides “ramp”… Pineapple express. We’re talking five inches of rain on the Washington coast and several more inches in the central Cascades on top of a vast amount of snow…

That’s gonna leave a mark….A high water mark!
  
So what’s a guy to do? Go blackmouth fishing! We are so incredibly fortunate to have Puget Sound as a playground, giving us options when our rivers start blowing chunks.

Here’s a shot of a dandy we boated shortly after the winter chinook season opened. I threw the yardstick in just in case you needed to be reminded what a 30’’ blackmouth looks like.

Blackmouth or immature chinook salmon are eager biters, wonderful on the table and a whole lot of fun to catch. There are however, a few tricks to the trade.

First and foremost blackmouth are ravenous, actively feeding chinook. You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating: find the bait and you’ll find the fish. 

Educated guesses to what’s on the dinner table in the winter season include but are not limited to: herring in the 4” range, candlefish emerging from sandy bottoms, squid (which are in turn, feeding on shrimp) and one of the most unknown & underrated items on the blackmouth buffet…the pile perch or poggie. So, how do you “match the hatch” when the blackies are grinding on poggies?

Spoons Brother… Spoons! Here’s a shot of the gut contents of the aforementioned 30-inchers and poggies were on his plate. While the color of the spoons is always a matter of discussion and personal preference…. 

…Take a look at the other side of these spoons and the uncanny similarity of the backside of these spoons to the appearance of the baitfish.


Rig your Silver Horde Kingfishers 42” behind your Q-Cove Breakaway and as long as the Cannon balls are bouncing along the bottom you’re fishing the right depth. Keep your troll speeds up around 2 knots give or take a ¼ knot and if the downrigger wire is at a 40-45 degree angle you look good to get bit!

Oh, and watch out for drift out there… The rivers are doing a little house cleaning right now and Puget Sound will be looking a little chunky. Fortunately, so are the blackmouth!

Orca Population Increasing Without San Juan Closure!!!

Whale watching groups, recreational fisherman, kayak groups, and even commercial fisherman have all been united this past summer by NOAA's proposed fishing closure on the west side of San Juan Island.  The consensus has been that this closure is not needed and will adversely effect the local economies, reduce job opportunities, and decrease social opportunities for user groups.  This plan has clearly been pushed forward by radical groups that would like nothing more than to keep you from fishing.

We have stated many times on the show that the population trend for the Southern Resident Puget Sound Orca population is on the rise since the mid 90's.  Our guess was that this was do to an increase in food available for these awesome creatures.  Well the good news is that according to a report from the Center for Whale Research this orca population increased by two in 2009 and another baby was born just after the new year.  The center also acknowledges that this is due to an increase in food supply.  This leads me to the question of: Why does the Center for Whale Research support NOAA's proposals when recreational fishing has been taking place on the west side of San Juan Island during this increase in population?

Recreational fisherman and whale watching groups all have a vested interest in the orca population and seeing it as a healthy and thriving population.  No user group appreciates nature and the outdoors and all that it has to offer more than sportsmen.  Recreational fisherman all have a great respect and appreciation for these magnificent animals.  Our activities do nothing to harm these wonderful creatures and managemnet decisions should not be made using junk science and opinion!

 

Panama’s Greatest Hits

I blast outa he'aaah for Panama early tomorrow morning for two weeks of adventure in some of the best bluewater fishing grounds on the planet. Whether it's offshore or inshore gamefish species, Panama has it all! We stay on a mothership near Isla de Coiba 40 miles off Panama's Pacific coast that plants us within a short boat ride of these epic fishing grounds every single day. There's thirty plus gamefish species to catch in these waters and every year we rack up about half of them, with a few new twists on every trip. Most of the fish are released, of course, but there's plenty of fresh yellowfin tuna, dorado, and snapper on board the ship for din-din every night to re-energize the gang for the next days adventure. 

Here's a few pics from previous years adventures and I'm sure there will be plenty more when I get back in two weeks!

While the variety of species is nice it's really the marlin that make your heart palpitate. Hooking and fighting the most prized gamefish in the world is something that never leaves you. This magnificant 600 plus pound black marlin towed us around for 4 hours on 30 pound standup gear two years ago. Our captain deployed three 50 pound rigs and a 30 pound boat road for sailfish. Which rig does this black decide to hammer? The 30 pound rig! 

They grow the sailfish big in Panama and Costa Rica. Hannibal Bank and Montousa Island are great places to tie into a prize-fighter like this.

This is a very remote area and we fish off of small center console boats. No fighting chairs here folks…strap on a belt and hang on! Steve Maris lays into a big Pacific sail in this photo.

In 2009 The Outdoor Line's Robbie Tobeck landed his first blue marlin ever with me in Panama. He'll be along with us in Panama again this year and I'm sure will check a few more fish off the bucket list.

2009 was a tough year for dorado in Panama, but by god the ones that were there were HUGE! Steve Maris and Captain Chris below with a 60 pound dorado that slammed a sailfish lure on the troll.

We always find enough 20 to 40 pound yellowfin tuna around to keep the crew in the sushimi at night. Jim "Bucket" Heins with a typical January yellowfin he nailed casting a popper last year.

The offshore fishing isn't always a slam dunk and thankfully there's plenty of inshore options where folks can hope to hook into a roosterfish or other inshore gamefish species.

Tough to beat the jack crevalle for speed and power. This big jack slammed a popper pitched into the whitewash around a big rock off Coiba several years ago.

A quick photo of two complete monstrosity Cubera snapper from several years ago.  

Another big Cubera that ex pro surfer Gabby hammered off Montousa Island.

Tuna aren't the only fish that will hammer the iron. Amberjack love it too!

 

It’s Official! New world Record Bass Caught in Japan!!

One of the longest standing, most sought after world records has officially been tied.  This ruling came down today from the IGFA six months after the fish was caught by Manabu Kurita in Japan's Lake Biwa.  Manabu Kurita's fish weighed 22 lbs 4 oz and was almost 1 ounce heavier than the 1932 fish caught by George Perry in Ga.  Unfortunately for Manabu, the record was ruled a tie due to an IGFA stipulation stating that any record fish weighing under 25 pounds must be surpassed by at least two ounces.

Kurita has undergone intense scrutiny for the last six months regarding his record catch.  Accusations of the fish being caught in an off-limits area were unfounded and Jurita passed an IGFA administered polygraph exam.  It's good for him that he did as many experts feel this fish will be worth over $1,000,000. 

Manabu Kurita

Courtesy of IGFA