Crabbing 101

July 1st marks an exciting time for all people that enjoy the outdoors here in the State of Washington.  Not only is it the start of what might be a long 4th of July weekend for some but it is also the opener for recreational crabbing in Marine areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, 11, and 12.  Without a doubt, Dungeness crab is the tastiest crab of all and if this year is anything like last year, we will have an abundance for harvest. Crabbing is one outdoor happening that is enjoyed by  everyone, from casual sailboaters to hardcore fisherman, crabbing for dungees is one thing we all love.

For most fisherman, the rules for crabbing are understood and we as recreational anglers do our best to abide by them.  However, there are some that either don't know or don't care and abuse what is a good thing for all of us. After reading a press release from WDFW today regarding stepped up enforcement for recreational crabbing, I was reminded of a story.  I was staying up on Orcas Island a few years back having some fun of my own fishing and crabbing when a boat that obviously wasn't a rec angler pulled in with their days haul of crab.  After looking at a huge cooler stuffed full of over the limit, undersized, male and female crab, it was all that I could do to contain myself. If I had to do it all over again, I would have said something to educate them on what they were doing and then if they didn't comply with the law, I would have reported them. With that being said and with the knowledge that there will be stepped-up enforcement, let's take some time now to make sure a great day out on the water stays that way.

First off, the daily catch limit for Dungeness crab in Puget Sound is five males in hard shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6 1/4 inches.  To determine whether a crab is a male or female, simply turn the crab over and look at the abdomen.  A wide abdomen is a female and a narrow one is a male.  The difference is easy to see and remember, all females must be returned safely to the water.  Harvesting crab in soft-shell condition is also illegal.  You can easily determine whether or not a crab is in soft-shell condition by pinching the center of the large section of the first walking leg.  Also, if a crab seems light for it's size, it's likely soft-shell.

Make sure you measure your crab before keeping.

There are many different methods of harvesting crab.  Crab pots, ring nets, dip nets, and even using a crab rake while wading in shallow water can all be very effective.  For most however, crab pots seem to be the way to go.  Even with the use of crab pots, there are a few things that we should remember to stay on the good side of the law.  First off, each crab pot should be weighted and must be marked with a red and white buoy.  All buoys must be legibly and permanently marked with the user's first and last name and address.  Buoy lines must also be weighted and I recommend spending a little extra on leaded line.  Buoys should be visible on the surface at all times and may not be tended from a vessel at night.  As far as the crab pot itself, it must have two escape rings of at least 4 1/4 inches in inside diameter and the pot lid must be secured by untreated cotton cord or other natural fiber no larger than thread size 120 or 1/8 inch.  This will enable crabs to escape derelict pots.

 

Typical crab pot with red and white buoy.

Most people crab in water that is 20-50 feet deep.  I have been finding success in recent years however in water up to 150 feet.  Often times it is just a matter of where you are crabbing.  For bait, I have found turkey legs to be way more effective that chicken for some reason.  If you are going to use chicken or turkey I do recommend soaking them in some sort of crab scent.  Using a leftover carcass from a salmon can also be effective but my absolute favorite is albacore tuna.  We have soaked albacore carcasses next to all other baits and the oil and smell of the tuna outdoes them every time.  Soak time can vary but I recommend checking your pots regularly.

Preparing crab is also very easy.  Season some boiling water and you are in business.  If you are cooking a whole crab it can take up to 20 minutes to cook but if you clean your crab by splitting down the abdomen and pulling apart from the middle, it only takes about 12 minutes and comes out much cleaner.

Keep your crab fresh until cooking.

Lastly, don't forget to record your catch on your catch record card as soon as the crab are harvested.  For more information, watch this video provided by WDFW.

 

Our San Juan Islands: A World Apart

Washington’s San Juan Islands are a Pacific Northwest for Private-Boat Anglers

By Doug Olander

In the middle of the gaping strait that separates Washington State from Canada’s Vancouver Island sit some of the country’s most boater-friendly and perennially popular islands. If one were to grade Washington’s beloved San Juan Islands on accessibility, facilities, ease of use and quality of fishing, the report card would have to show straight A’s.

For private boaters, the San Juans is a northwest nirvana — a world apart, yet one that begins only a few miles west of the closest jumping-off point on the Washington mainland, Anacortes. Launch ramps and sling hoists allow boaters ready access from the mainland though trailer boaters also have the option to launch their boat right in the islands, coming in on one of the state’s regularly scheduled ferries.

Given the popularity of these islands, an angler knowing no better might assume they’d get fished out. In fact, thanks in large part to years of aggressive hatchery rearing of salmon by the Washington State Department of Fisheries, catch success overall has remained phenomenally high.

Salmon Success Story

“Some of the best chinook fishing we’ve had in 25 years” — that’s the way Larry Carpenter at Master Marine in Mt. Vernon, Washington (www.mastermarine.com), sizes up opportunities in the islands. A hardcore salmon-fishing enthusiast himself who’s worked in the industry locally for decades, Carpenter has the sort of perspective that makes him appreciate just how good fishing has become.

Without hatchery fish, salmon seasons would be woefully short to protect populations of wild strains that biologists judge are on the ropes for various reasons, habitat degradation often high among them. But annual infusions of 60 million fin-clipped chinook ensure an abundance of salmon from (and eventually bound for) hatcheries; these fish allow anglers to catch chinook most of the year — all but November, May and June.

At a glance, anglers can see whether a salmon retains its adipose fin (meaning it’s a wild fish and must be released much of the year) or not (indicating a fin-clipped hatchery fish, ready for the net). The state’s longstanding regulation allowing only barbless hooks keeps release mortality of wild fish at low levels. 

July and August offer plenty of shots at trophy sized chinook. (During prime months of July and August, both wild and hatchery chinook may be kept.) But for the fastest fishing, hit the islands in winter. From December into early spring, fishing is outstanding for blackmouth (the local term for chinook that have not gone to sea to return three or four years later, in the fall, to spawn). These “local” chinook run a respectable 8 or 10 pounds to 20 or more.

Winter fishing demands warm clothing, but winter visitors will find no crowds to contend with, and some days prove delightfully calm. Also, with so many steep slopes and pockmarked shorelines, anglers can find lee places even on blustery days.

Flourishing Facilities

Full-service marinas and waterside resorts abound. Among the larger such operations, Carpenter mentions Deer Harbor and Rosario resorts on Orcas Island (www.deerharbor.com and www.rosarioresort.com), Roche Harbor Resort (www.rocheharbor.com), as well as many facilities at Friday Harbor (www.fridayharbor.com) —“the big city of the San Juans”) on San Juan Island and Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island (www.lopezisland.com). Smuggler’s Villa Resort (www.smuggler.com) midway on northern Orcas is less well known but offers a nifty hideaway for small boaters. Ditto, says Carpenter, for Snug Harbor (www.snugresort) on the west side of San Juan.

Those who prefer to live aboard can tie up at a marina or to one of the many anchoring buoys. Also, the state offers 16 great boat-in parks with camping — find them all, with detailed information, at www.parks.wa.gov; under “Find a Park,” click on “Regional park maps” and then on the San Juan Islands inset.

While small boaters generally do just fine in these waters, Carpenter does remind readers to “keep in mind the tides.” Depending upon tide and time of year, tidal flow can vary as much as 12 feet or more between low and high. Check out a tide chart before you plan to put a boat in or come back out on a launch ramp. Also be cautious when a heavy ebb or flood tide builds up against a wind going the other way, as nasty rip lines can develop.

For more, general, information, go to www.visitsanjuans.com.

 

Stripes and Spots

By John Whitlatch. Two words cross my mind on daily basis, stripes and spots.  These unmistakable markings make Rainbow Trout revered by sport fishermen around the world. Like your trusty and loyal Labrador retriever is consumed by a tennis ball, I am consumed by visions of shimmering chrome Rainbows breaking the surface and doing back flips as my fly line comes tight on opening day.
 

In winter months I find myself counting down the days Alaska’s legendary Kenai River Rainbow season opens once again. Tossing and turning through one sleeplessJohn 
Whitlatch with a trophy Kenai River rainbow trout night each day getting worse and worse.  I find that the sun filled days of King Salmon fishing distract me. My nights, however, get longer than ever before as season comes just around the corner.  Unfortunately this years King season is a little different. A closure on the Kenai Kings has left me sitting in my yard staring at my boats with nowhere to go and nothing to keep from dreaming of the strips & spots.

Knowing that the Trout season is almost here I begin tying up gear…lots of gear!

Trout gear on the Kenai is far from ordinary. When people ask me how to fish Trout on the Kenai I usually answer by saying “this river is simple in its complexity”.  It’s very simple for even the most novice fisherman to be successful on the Kenai fishing for Trout. In my opinion it is one of the last best kept secrets the Trout fishing world has to offer. There are hoards of people that descend on the Kenai every summer to chase the mighty Salmon. Most of these people don’t care or don’t realize that monster Rainbows prowl these same waters. While it is easy to be successful and have 50-100 fish days every day, you had better be dialed in if you want to catch monster Trout. These complex big Trout are educated, very educated. Only the right drift, at the right speed, with the perfect rig will fool the largest Trout. All five species of Pacific Salmon return to spawn in the Kenai River. Chinook, Silvers, Sockeye, and a hand full of Chum return every year depositing eggs and flesh in the river system. Every other year Pink salmon return to provide an entirely different food source for the monster native Rainbows. When the Salmon arrive the add many variables to the river including; spawn timing, egg size, egg color, and egg locations. The Salmon food source can be just on element of the Trout formula. Combining the food source with water depth, clarity, and temperature can make an intimidating combination.  As with any worth while endeavor, and with a little perseverance, the Kenai will reward the dedicated fisherman with a trophy Rainbow of legendary status. I make a living at getting the big fish to make mistakes. Here are the basics for the simple hand to get you started.

Fly fishing is the preferred method for Trout fishing the Kenai. Fly fishing may not be the most effective way to fish the Kenai but it is a time honored tradition amongst trout fisherman and still the most popular here on the Kenai. I prefer a 10’ 7 wt. Wright and McGill rod to tame these fish, even from a boat. They are big and strong, anything less and you are likely to end of with a hand full of toothpicks that used to be your 6 wt. I rig them with an 8 wt. Rio Steel Header line and cut the last 10 ft off of it. Cutting the end off will help with the large indicator and unique cast we use here while fishing from a boat. From my fly line I tie on a 10 in. 20 lb. monofilament section with a large Frog Hair strike indicator. Then I use 9’-10’ of 12 lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader. At the end of the leader I like to tie about a 20 inch tippet with either 8lb or 6lb Seaguar fluorocarbon.  Finally at the end my line my fly of choice for the day with a couple of split shot at the knot from the leader to tippet.  With this setup any angler can be catching fish in a jiffy.

For those of you who do not fly fish, there is an alternative, float fishing. Some years ago I took some “old school” technology and made it a Kenai River Trout slaying machine. The float rod has really gained popularity the last few years with many professional guides. I use the 11’ 6” Wright and McGill float rods and their Sabolos 2500 reels spooled with 20lb. Power Pro braid. Rigging is simple. Tie a nail knot on your line with a piece of 30lb mono for a float stop. Slide on a Drennan slip float or a balsa float of your choice onto your line. Then attach your swivel below that. Place (2) 3/0 split shot on the braid above the swivel to help the line feed through the slip float. From there I use about 4’ of 12lb. Seaguar fluorocarbon.  Next I add 20” of 6 or 8lb Seaguar tippet again.  Then I attach 1 or 2 small split shot above this knot to get your fly down and you are fishing. Cast upstream and hold your rod high to keep your line off the water. Leave your bail open with your hand over the spool. Let the line feed out with the current keeping a natural drift until your float goes down.  When the float is down flip your bail closed and SET THE HOOK HARD!  

The next method and perhaps the most deadly method is Center-Pinning. My better half appropriately dubbed it a bike with no brakes. Like the float rod the Center-Pin rod is very long.  Center-Pins range from 11-15’ in length with a reel that resembles a fly reel but with no drag. The drag is done all by hand, “mono e mono”. I spool my center-pin reels with straight 12lb Suffix high visible orange line. The Suffix line is Hydrophobic, meaning it floats and is highly resistant to twist. It’s by far the best line I have found for the center-pin. I rig it with a fixed float on the Kenai. With the extra length of the rod and the style of casting there is no need for a slider. I prefer a 5.5 gram Raven float. Below the float I tie a micro swivel and about 8 ft of 10 lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon for my shot line. I space out small shot along the length of this section of line to get my whole line sinking evenly and naturally along its length. Then another micro swivel with my 20 inches of 8 lb Seaguar tippet attached and my favorite fly or bead at the end. Fishing the Center-Pin is the same process as the float rod. Cast up stream and let the line roll off the free spooling reel until the float goes down. With a drag free, natural drift, Center-pining is unmatched and translates into more fish.

I won’t spend much time on the last two methods employed on the Kenai except to say this. If you are lacking skill you may pull plugs or drag shrimp for these fish and be successful as well. I recommend avoiding treble hooks and shrimp due to their high motility rates.  These fish are truly special trophies, something I hold dear to my heart, and there is no quicker way to scar them or kill them than hooking them on a plug with bait and treble hooks.

Trout season on the Kenai officially opened on June 11th. It didn’t disappoint with some magnum rainbow hungry after just getting over the recent spawn making unusual mistakes. So it’s back to the grind now, guiding tourists chasing the mighty Kenai King Salmon for another month and a half until the trout season really ramps up in August. The fall is when these fish really grow to enormous proportions feeding on salmon spawn and rotting carcasses all summer. So while I dearly love salmon fishing stripes & spots are always in the back of my mind.  I know these magnificent Rainbows, the Kenai’s secret treasure are waiting and they will be ready for battle when king season closes at 12:01 a.m. August 1st.  Until then I will be dreaming of a 35 incher to do back flips for me this fall.

John Whitlatch
Reel Adventures
www.kenaireeladventures.com
907.252.7335

    

 

Mustad Surestrike Scent Capsule

I've ran magnum hoochies on some of my meat rigs for halibut fishing for a number of years and they work great. The problem with these big hoochies is that they are big enough to totally cover the hook, so spacers in the form of big, glow-in-the-dark Corky's are necessary to put some distance between the hoochie and the hook. When I saw Mustad's Surestrike capsule for the first time this past spring, however, I knew I had the ultimate spacer for this purpose. 

The Surestrike scent capsule is designed to hold a lot of your favorite scent, which on the halibut grounds can mean the difference between quick limits and bouncing around all day to find enough biters to fill the box. 

I've been adding a mixture of herring oil and Pautzke's Nectar to the capsule pictured below and then setting the opening so the scent trickles out slowly over the course of a drift. I just began using the Surestrike capsules a couple of weeks ago and I'm happy with the results thus far. What I like about them is that they are tough as nails and will hold up to the abuse we put on our gear here in Alaska. They come in 2", 3", and 4" inch, with the latter being my favorite for bottomfishing. 

Here's what the hoochie rig and the Surestrike capsule look like before they head to the ocean floor. Add a chunk of salmon belly meat and fill the capsule with your favorite scent and it's hammer time baby! 

Here's how the capsules work. 


Rob Endsley

www.princeofwalessportfishing.com

Fishing with the Prince of Wales

I can already hear it.  Of course he's going to say something nice about fishing with Robbo up in Craig, Alaska.  After all, Robbo's his buddy, fellow blogger, and co-host on The Outdoor Line.   Well yea, all true, but the truth of the matter is that Robbo has it dialed!!

I have fished with Robbo enough to know what a great fisherman he is but this experience of actually going up there and entertaining some clients in Craig was different.  I wasn't just heading out and fishing with the guys, I was buying an adventure and counting on it to be a good time and that is exactly what I got.

My business partner Paul, father-in-law Rick, and Wayne and Lloyd Coogan with Coogan Construction in Juneau, Ak. joined me for the trip.  We all met up at the airport in Ketchikan to grab a float plane to Craig.  After arriving in Craig, we met Robbo at the hotel where he had us already checked in and then it was off to the "Man Town" for a couple of cold ones and fresh crab.  Fishing had been good out on the ocean the last week but for the time I was there we had a big swell forecast combined with a 30 knot north wind. 

Robbo's 28ft North River handles the rough stuff like a champ.

The first day we were met with a cold rain and heavy wind that kept us off the ocean where the fishing had been hot.  No worries, Robbo knows the area well and had already picked out a few spots to hit that were tucked in and out of the way of the rough stuff.  Lloyd had the hot stick and boated the first king of the trip.  After a few more minutes, he was on another fish and handed off the rod to my father-in-law Rick who settled in for what ended up being a long fight after initially getting the fish close and then watching it rip off 250 feet of line.  Paul got in on the action as well going one for two while Wayne and myself were pulling in the bottomfish.  After battling through rough, wet conditions we decided to head on in and call it a day.

Rick and Lloyd with two nice first day kings.

On day two, we woke up to sunny skies and a calmer ocean.  Robbo took us out to where the fishing had been hot the previous week.  We got into a hot bite early with Paul landing a nice king, Lloyd boating a coho, and easy limits of halibut for the boat.  Paul then followed that up with a very nice slot sized ling.  After, the bite shut down it was time to do a little scouting and we ended up day two where we started day one.  I got into the salmon action by landing a coho that was followed by Lloyd with another king. The fish had been scattered after the storm that blew through but we were sure we had picked the right captain after hearing that most boats in the fleet had blanked the last two days.  That evening we decided to stay at the man cave, grill out some of our fresh king salmon, and have a premium cigar.  Life is good.

Wayne having some fun with one of his black sea bass. 

Day three had the best forecast of the three days and that was the day we had chosen to go offshore and do some real meat fishing.  Unfortunately, when we woke up mother nature had a different idea.  We still had the bright sunny skies but the north winds had picked up and were blowing up to 40 knots.  We had made the decision the night before to get up early and be the first to a spot where we figured other boats would be.  With our fingers crossed that the weather would hold for just a little while so we could get to pineapple rock we haeded off.  After a bumpy ride out we were finally at the point of no return when Robbo decided for safety's sake to turn back around and find calm waters.  Disappointed but undeterred we started fishing and soon Wayne had a nice king in the boat.  I could tell that not getting out to pineapple rock was really disappointing to Robbo as he kept peeking out around the rocks to see if it was calming down at all.  After boating close to our limit of halibut, it was all that Robbo could handle.  The water looked calmer so we reeled'em in and gave it another go.  I have to admit, on our way out I didn't see how we were going to successfully be able to fish but I guess that's why I am the customer.  After arriving, we were joined by a couple of other boats that were taking advantage of the little window we had.  Shortly after arriving and limiting our halibut, Paul hooked in to a fiesty king that took us for a ride in very rough water.  After a hard fought battle, we boated and weighed a nice 29lber.  After some hi-fives and congrats it was back to fishing.  Another 20 minutes went by when I hooked a fish about 22ft under the boat.  After a head shake or two line started peeling off the reel and I knew I has a big king on.  As the battle raged on, I started taking some heat from Rick for taking so long to land the fish. Soon it was apparent that Paul and I had hooked similar fish but who's was biggest?  The other guys talked it up while Paul and I both kept quiet while hoping we had the big fish.  The fish weighed in at 30lbs and my trip was complete. 

Paul with a beefy 29lber followed by my 30.

Robbo has a great deal going on up there in Craig.  It was first class, organized, and an adventure all in one.  With the scenery that is SE Alaska, world class fishing, and a top notch guide like Endsley, a couple of days on the water with Prince of Wales Sportfishing is something that should be on everyone's bucket list.  No wonder Robbo has so many repeat customers.  Thanks for a great 3 days.

 

Where else can you get this kind of scenery?

Sitka 2010 Part II

The second half of our Sitka adventure featured some new faces, new places and a couple complete surprises!

After the weekend storm that left us looking for inside areas to fish, the "deck had been shuffled" with regard to the migrating chinooks distribution along South East Alaska's coastline. Our challenge was to again locate fish without taking a beating from the still formidable but receding ocean swell.

The rare June gale that blew through Sitka produced winds to 45kts and 21 foot combined seas all but brought fishing to a standstill. Those bold enough to venture out were forced into a now crowded, protected north end of  Kruzof Island known as the Shark hole. Not the wide open, plenty-of-elbow-room fishery that we had hoped for.

Some charter operators discounted the forecast and took their clients out into open areas, only to find conditions too rough to fish and a storm that was just getting cranked up. The ride home for some of these unlucky anglers were far from comfortable and a bit scary, as some were asked to put on their life jackets as guides fled the following seas which were threatening to swamp their vessels. I mention this not to chastise the charter fishermen in question but to point out the even the professionals make bad calls regarding the weather. Remember that no fish is worth losing your vessel…or worse!

Some guys have all the luck: Seattle Fire Lieutenant  Dave Busz hopped off his cruise ship where he was training the crew in fire fighting tactics, jumped in with us and caught his first Alaskan chinook and halibut! We even dropped him off at the dock in time to catch his sailing!  

The state of the downrigging art: Ambassadeur 7000i HSN riding a Fetha Styx 1064 aboard a Cannon Digitrol IV customized with a velcro mount for a TR-1 remote auto-pilot. Just stand aft of the rigger, place your hand on the remote, and the rod touches your wrist. You can steer the boat, control the downrigger and feel a bite while keeping your eyes forward to watch your sounder and boat traffic. In other words: "Dialed in!"  

"Team Grunden" scores! Larry Stauffer and yours truly with a pair of cookie cutter kings. If your cookie cutter stamps out 25 pounders that is…  

Clay Griffith couldn't wait for this halibut to settle down before weighing it! He always did like a challenge! When it stopped fighting, the scale read 60 pounds. A perfect eating size 'butt anywhere!  

One of the most interesting aspects of handling so many king salmon is getting treated to the full spectrum of all the coastal stocks colorations. Check out this king with almost Atlantic Salmon-like spots on his cheek!  

If you look in the left background you'll see a sealion with a look of disbelief on his ugly mug. I hooked a nice king that was putting up a good fight when a sealion surfaced next to the boat, looked me in the eye and dived toward my king… You can guess what happened next…  

Sure enough, the overgrown waterdog has my king and he is swimming toward Sealion Rocks! Fortunately my friends and I had seen this drill before and were not going to give up without a fight! It took all hands on board running the boat to stay on top of him, dropping seal bombs to force him to drop the fish and finally to net the unfortunate chinook but we emerged victorious!

The finger in this shot indicates where the sealion grabbed my king and the rest of the fish was intact! Talk about luck…and, teamwork!!!  

According to my friend Larry Stauffer, your angling career is not complete until you catch a fish that weighs as much as you do! Here's Larry with his career halibut to date: Larry weighs 155, the halibut comes in at 157 pounds!  

Dave Heiser, Clay Griffith and myself with our final days catch, four nice kings and a keeper lingcod.  

Sitka 2010 is in the books and was another great experience shared with good friends in a good, solid boat in one of the most wonderful places on the planet: Southeast Alaska!

Reading the Ocean

Eric Vanhofwegen with a chrome Southeast Alaska chinook he caught underneath a flock of diving birds.

Bird Activity
Weren’t they a band back in the 60’s?  And now they eat fish, go figure. Watching bird behavior on the saltwater can be a good indicator of what’s going on below the surface. The most obvious of the birds is the seagull, a bird that no fish should ever trust. If fish or diving birds happen to push a bait ball to the surface you can bet it won’t be long before the gulls are taking advantage of the opportunity to prey on the bait.

When gulls are working bait on the surface the best approach is to circle the area the birds are working and avoid driving right thru the middle of the bait. Motoring thru the middle of the bait will usually send it below the surface and then it’s anybody’s guess which direction the bait will go. For the best results it’s generally best to fish around the edge of the bait or cast into it.

Diving birds are also an indicator of bait, but they are not always as obvious as the seagull. Diving birds come in an assortment of colors and shapes and they all have one thing in common, they dive, sometimes very deep, to feast on baitfish such as herring, sardines, anchovies, and candlefish. If these birds are diving under the surface repeatedly chances are there is a bait ball directly under them that could have some fish around it. 

Lord knows how diving ducks communicate with each other, but they always seem to know when their bird buddies half a mile away have found a bait ball to munch on. Take note when a flock of sea birds picks up and flies to another area and keep an eye on the birds they are joining up with to see if there is any indication of bait. Where there’s bait, there’s usually fish.

Last year we were fishing a fairly large bay in Southeast Alaska and while we were getting a bite here and there, the fish really weren’t there in great numbers like they were the day before. As we ran into the bay, however, I noticed a very large concentration of diving birds, perhaps five to six hundred, diving in the deep water at the entrance to the bay.

After hooking a couple of coho in the area that we normally fish I motored off towards the concentration of diving birds and immediately recognized what all the fuss was about. The sonar was lit up like a Christmas tree, with massive balls of bait surrounded by feeding coho and Chinook. We dropped four cut plug herring over the side and immediately tripled up on tail walking coho. The bite continued for two more hours and we ended up with a box full of coho and released four beautiful king salmon. Had it not been for the birds the whole feeding frenzy below the surface may have gone unnoticed.

In the bluewater it’s the frigate bird that the fish needn’t trust, as it’s a dead giveaway that baitfish are nearby. One captain in the Bahama’s, who’s name I can’t remember, always says, “Find me a frigate bird and I’ll find you a fish.” This has been true on nearly every bluewater trip I’ve ever been on and the captains that work the bluewater are constantly on the watch for these large birds.  

Rob Endsley

Prince of Wales Sportfishing



Sitka 2010: Great fishing, weather permitting…

The annual pilgrimage to Southeast Alaska is an event that my friends and I look forward to each and every year. You never know what you're going to get on the fish or weather front and this season held many surprises on both accounts!


Our first day was sunny and flat calm. Our 28' Stabicraft "Big Red" AKA "The ESPN Boat" awaits it's crew for our run to the grounds.

Running to the outside waters was the first call and it proved to be a good one too as Gary Mitchell hoists his first Sitka king of the season.  

Jack Reyes and I quickly followed up with a double and Sitka 2010 is quickly in full swing!  

I have to admit, the Fetha Styx 1065 is the finest salmon rod I have ever used. There has got to be a very good reason for me to EVER use less than a 10 1/2 foot rod for salmon again!  

On our second day "Big Phil" Michelsen put this fine 70lb halibut on board. This dandy ate an entire salmon head…whole!…The halibut I mean….not Phil…  

The weather really changed when my second group of buddies showed up but we managed to get out and while the weather could not be described as "flat" it was still workable. With a Gale forecast looming we were going to work hard to reach the productive outside waters of Kruzof Island.

Three downriggers out and three fish on!!! Left to right, Larry Stauffer, Jim Woods and Dave Heiser enjoy three kings all running different directions!  

Jim Woods with the biggest king of the trip (so far) with this fat chinook pushing 30 lbs!  

Usually, I wait until the end of the trip to lay down a blog but with the winds gusting to 45mph and seas to 20 feet… we are taking something of a break from fishing… When it lays down, we will be back out and you might just see "Sitka Part Two" Stay tuned…

Alive and Well in Craig, Alaska

It's been a whirlwind since I left Washington on May 24th for my annual journey to Southeast Alaska where I run saltwater charters for the summer. The drive north this year was easy and thankfully uneventful. I did run into some wildlife along the way, including this good sized black bear that was grazing in a meadow along the freeway. After they come out of hybernation the bears load up on grass to get their intestinal tract working again. 

In Houston, BC you'll find the largest spey rod in the world. If and when a 200 pound steelhead ever shows up in the Skeena system these folks will be ready.


Most of the rivers in northern BC were fairly high as warm temperatures were quickly melting snow off the surrounding mountains. This picture is on the Bulkley River at Mauricetown rapids.

After approximately 20 hours of drive I'm at the Alaska Marine Highway terminal in Prince Rupert, where I'll depart first thing in the morning the next day for Ketchikan and then finally over to Prince of Wales Island on another ferry.

After a week of hard work installing a bunch of new Lowrance electronics and getting the dock ready our first day on the water was outstanding with sunny skies and a greeting from a humpback whale playing offshore.

King salmon fishing has been phenomenal here and it didn't take us long to find the fish. We got into a good bunch of fish between 18 and 25 pounds the first morning. Pictured here in Scott Sypher with a beauty of a king salmon.

Steve Maris, Jim Heins, Mike Parker, and Scott Sypher with the days limit of king salmon. All these fish were caught mooching cut plug herring…no trolling here!

I had a hunch one of the ocean "freeway" spots would have fish in it and low and behold…it did! I think we hooked four king salmon on our first pass before things busted wide open. After several passes here and quite a few fish we moved on to scout out some other areas.

We've got a very difficult Marine Forecast here the next few days with 22 foot seas tonight and strong Westerly's. The seas calm down to 12 feet early in the week and hopefully the good folks at NOAA over-forecasted this one and we can get back out on the ocean ASAP where the big numbers of kings are hanging out. I'll report back again in a few days.

Rob Endsley

www.princeofwalessportfishing.com

Commercials and Tribes Continue to Harvest All Year Long

I've always heard stories about what the fishing used to be like in Puget Sound.  Plenty of salmon to be caught, true cod and rockfish were plentiful, and prized dungeness crab were able to be harvested recreationally all year long.  Whatever happened to the good ole days?  Well I think I have an answer, continued commercial harvest methods that are unsustainable.  These methods are a plight on our resource and the State of Washington refuses to do anything about it.  Not only does the state refuse to pass laws and make rules to change or eleminate commercial harvest in Puget Sound, they don't even make it mandatory to mark and report lost nets and traps.  These lost nets and traps continue to kill for years on end and do unimaginable damage to our resource.

Fortunately, we do have a hero, there is actually some of the stimulus money doing some good.  The Northwest Straits Commission was granted 4.5 million dollars over an 18 month period to remove derelict gear from the bottom of the Puget Sound.  To date, 2,835 nets have been removed, over 438 acres of habitat have been restored, and 1,921 derelict crab pots have been removed.  Unfortunately, they now estimate that there are 25% more nets and untold amounts of crab gear remain on the bottom.  Oh, did I mention that we are only talking about 100 feet of water or less?  How many nets do you think are below 100ft?     

At this point, 148,931 animals, 43 marine mammals, 756 birds, thousands of live and dead fish and over 215 different species have been found.  I can't imagine how many they have killed over the years.  How long will this continue?  I have to push down barbs on hooks, deal with limited or no harvest and short seasons all because of indiscriminate harvest methods that commercial and tribal fisherman continue to use.  How can we ever recover some of the threatened or endangered species when this is taking place?  I am tired of the recreational fisherman getting the blame for the situation we find ourselves in, it's time we defend ourselves and make our voice heard LOUDER THAN EVER!!!!!!