Tranquility on the Salmon River

Jim "Bucket" Heins and I rumbled into Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Ocean Shores, Washington late Saturday afternoon. The resort is only about a two hour drive from my home in Gig Harbor and it's the perfect base camp for fishing junkets to some of the states best coastal salmon and steelhead rivers.  In this case we would be targetting the supreme steelhead waters of the Quinault Indian Reservation. 

Our original intent was to fish the Quinault River, but with January rains punching out Lake Quinault it was going to be a while before this world famous river would become fishable again. We switched gears and called up my buddy Jordan Curley (360-580-4857) for a day on the Salmon River, the next best thing.

Jordan's a Quinault native and guides bank anglers on the sections of the Salmon and Queets Rivers that lie within the reservation. In order to fish on the reservation you have to be with a Quinault guide and Jordan is one of the best. The advantage to using his services is that you get to fish the primo steelhead water around the big hatchery on the Salmon.

During November, December, and early January this area can literally be stupid with steelhead. At the end of January, however, most of the hatchery steelhead run is over and we'd be hoping for a few lingering hatchery steelhead and some scrappy wild fish.

A big bonus to fishing this time of year, at least to me, is that you'll likely have the place to yourself. Outside of a friendly wave from the hatchery manager today we didn't see another soul. I'd rather catch a few steelhead in tranquility than a bunch of them in a crowd.  

The Salmon is an easy river to fish and lends itself well to floatfishing. It's small runs can be easily fished with jigs, bait, and beads. If driftfishing or tossing spoons is your thing, well, that works too. 

Here's Jim checking out the ocean from "steelhead camp". The ocean beach in front of the resort is a great spot to get your limit of razor clams, when it's open of course, and they have a cleaning table with running water outside for cleaning these delicacies.

The resort also has an indoor pool and hot tub for the kiddos. Bring the family and go steelhead fishing in the morning, clamming in the afternoon, and win a bunch of greenbacks at the casino after a huge slab of prime rib in Emily's restaurant at night. Sounds like a good weekend to me!  

Let's go fishing!

At first light Jordan pointed towards one of his favorite holes right below where the hatchery creek pours into the Salmon and Jim pitched a pink worm into the small pocket. One, two, three casts and he was hooked up on a steelhead. All he got was a few headshakes out of the fish though before it spit the hook.

Jim, Jordan, and I fished our way downstream approximately a half mile, fishing many great runs along the way without a bite. Scratching our heads, we switched our gear around a little and started working back upstream. I had been using eggs and Jim had been pitching a pink worm all morning and we both switched over to jigs to re-work the runs again and show'em a lil' something different.

Back up towards the hatchery I hit this chrome little hatchery steelhead on a Maxi Jig from Yakima Bait Company. These jigs have really been fishing well for me this winter. I made no less than two dozen casts in this exact spot first thing in the morning with eggs for nothing, but I guess this one was in the mood for a jig because she jumped all over it.       

We kept fishing our way upstream until we hit the weir where they draw water for the hatchery. Wild fish get around the weir by heading up the channel on the far side, but before they do it's an awful nice spot to hold up for a while and eat jigs.

Jim had made no less than 50 casts in this spot when I walked up behind him and stroked out a small wild steelhead of about 4 pounds. A few casts later I hooked into another 8 pound chrome rocket. Same gear, same jig, same everything. Weird!

Bling, Bling!


Here on the reservation it's ok to take'em out of the water for a quick photo, and that's exactly what I did.  That's got to be my least favorite WDFW rule!

After flogging the weir run to death we fished the run above the weir for a little while and Jordan broke a steelhead off there on one of his beads, but that was it. He's a centerpin guy that only fishes beads for steelhead. It's a pretty slick technique that Ray Gombiski detailed in one of his blogs back in October. 

There was obviously some steelhead below the weir, so I switched back to my egg rig on the way back downstream and immediately missed a fish on my first cast. I rebaited with some Borax'O Fire cured eggs, tossed back in, and WHAMO…this blinger jumped all over it!


Notice the Cheater weight above the Mustad Ultrapoint hook below. I always run a weight like this above my bait when I'm floatfishing to keep it down in the strike zone. If you don't the bait will often ride above the lead and out of the zone. Cheater weights come in many different colors and three different weights. I used to make these by drilling out .30 slinky balls and hand painting them. Let me tell you…this is a much easier way to go!


Jim and I fished our way back downstream to the truck and after a few last casts we called it quits at around 1:00 p.m. If today was a razor clam day we could've easily hit the late afternoon tide and gunned up a mess of those tastey critters. Next winter we're going to plan this a little better and double dip with limits of hatchery steelhead and razor clams in the same day. We'll be back!

If you haven't already seen this…here's my BLOG from our trip with Jordan on the Salmon River last winter. You really owe it to yourself to hit the Salmon River for winter steelhead and if nothing else head for Quinault Beach Resort and Casino for the next razor clam opener. I only briefly mentioned the Quinault River above. If it's in shape anytime from early February through March do whatever you can to get on this river with one of the Quinault guides for a shot at a trophy class wild steelhead. And yes, it's o.k. to use sick leave for this one!

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

 

Hold the Commercials Accountable

If you have listened to the show for very long then you have surely heard me say that mandatory lost net reporting is long overdue.  Well ladies and gentlmen we now have a chance to make it right.  Let me introduce House Bill 1717, this bill would amend RCW 77.12.870.  The RCW as it is currently written encourages lost net reporting but does not require it.  The problem with the bill as it is currently written is that the commercial fishing industry does not report it's lost gear.  There hasn't been a commercial fisher report a lost net since 2005 and in this past year alone there has been 11 newly lost nets found.

Habitat lost to a ghost net.

We have seen complete closures for rockfish in the entire Puget Sound this year as many of our rockfish have been listed as either threatened or endangered.  The major offender to rockfish according to the NMFS Puget Sound Biological Opinion is the ghost or lost net problem.  Over the last 2 years NW Staits Commission has removed almost 3,000 nets from Puget Sound but what good will this effort do if the commercial fishing industry is unwilling to even report future offences?   With this bill, they will be required to report so that a database can be kept to allow easier future removal of harmful derelict gill nets. 

To give you an idea of the damage these nets cause, let's look at a few numbers.  As of May 31, 2010 NW Straits had freed over 438 acres of marine habitat, removed 1,921 derelict crab pots, found 148,931 animals, and found over 215 different species dead in nets.  Some of these included birds mammals and untold species of fish.  There is no way to estimate how many animals these nets have killed over time.

How many fish and crab has this net killed over the years?

I have to thank CCA for taking up this fight as they continue to take bite after bite out of the elephant.  When Bear Holmes and I served on the Puget Sound Rockfish Advisory Board we pushed really hard to get a recomendation to require mandatory reporting as part of the plan.  With this success Bear Holmes continued to push through the CCA GRC and his persistence paid off as CCA took the ball and ran with it.  They worked with Representatives Fitzgibbon, Rolfes, Chandler, Dunshee, Orcutt, Appleton, Van De Wege, and Hinkle to re-write the RCW and introduce House Bill 1717.  A special thanks to those representatives for doing the right thing.

Even though CCA has put the ball on the goal line, we need to be the ones to push it over for a touchdown.  As it stands right now, this bill is in Representative Blake's committee and we need to apply pressure so that this bill get's a hearing.  We're close but we have to finish.  If we don't, then the $4,000,000 in stimulus funds that NW Straits used to start clearing Puget Sound of harmful ghost nets will be wasted.

As a side note, this bill also encourages reporting of both commercial and recreational crab gear.  Let's show these guys how to behave by setting the example if we unfortunately loose a pot.

Federal Premium Produces 25 Millionth Shotgun Shell Benefitting PF

ANOKA, Minn. – January 27, 2011 – Federal Premium® Ammunition recently produced the 25 millionth shotgun shell that gives money directly to Pheasants Forever. PF CEO and President Howard Vincent recognized this milestone at the 2011 SHOT Show by presenting a commemorative plaque to Federal Premium President Ron Johnson. This staggering number of Premium loads has given money directly to PF since the on-box royalty program began in 1998.

Increasing Contributions
Pheasants Forever formed its first chapter in 1983 and Federal Premium has been involved with the organization from the beginning. Over the years PF and Federal Premium have expanded their partnership and contributions to wildlife.

This year Federal introduces an entirely new line that will give money to PF through the on-box royalty program. Prairie Storm™ FS Steel® will hit store shelves in both 12 and 20-gauge options this summer. Every box sold will give money to PF. In the first 10 years of the royalty program Federal made 15 million specially marked pheasant loads. In less than three years since that last milestone, Federal has produced 10 million more.

Proud of the Partnership
"At Federal Premium, conservation is very important to us as a company, and as hunters," said Ammunition Brand Director Rick Stoeckel. "And our partnership with Pheasants Forever has been great. We're happy we've been able to work with and support such a tremendous organization that does so much and gives back in so many ways. The combined success we've shared has been a great story so far, and it will only get better."

"When we say hunters are the nation's leading conservationists, Federal Premium Ammunition takes that to heart," said Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever's National President and CEO, "The number one way we preserve our pheasant hunting tradition in this country is by preserving pheasant habitat, and Federal Premium knows that."

To learn more about Wing-Shok® or Prairie Storm loads that give money directly to PF, or to see the entire Federal lineup, go to www.federalpremium.com.

Cooking is a Fishy Undertaking

When I was eight, I put a filet of salmon in the microwave.

My bewildered parents frantically removed the fish and opened the kitchen windows.

Thus began my adventure in cooking, more precisely articulated using scientific jargon than culinary.

In college I experimented with pasta sauce made from Italian dressing, ketchup and assorted spices I took from the student union. It was every bit as awful as one might imagine – ingredients angrily revolting against palatable cooperation.

In the past few years, my affinity for fresh meals has superseded the ease of frozen or boxed meals. I guess it started when my buddy Justin brought over the head of a 44-pound king salmon. We made a fire in front of my house and hit golf balls into the ocean while the head boiled in a stock pot, then picked and ate the cheeks with our fingers.

We even tried the eye balls. Not bad.

From there I lucked out into a nice recipe for salmon cakes, crab rolls and a few other ways to season and cook fish. I even tried a few different salsas to top halibut tacos, though one batch of a mango chutney thing ate a few layers of my esophagus and stomach lining. I shouldn’t have been too surprised, since I rarely follow recommended amounts of ingredients.

For a guy that isn’t really a Star Wars fan, I sure do use The Force a lot when cooking. Once I worked out the kinks in my mango salsa, and recovered from the first batch by eating soft, neutral foods for 48 hours, I put it on a king salmon flank and loved it.

By the way, fresh salmon is much more versatile than people think. You just can’t think of it as steak, which sounds at least moderately obvious, but some people buy their steroid enhanced, artificially colored slabs, and grill it until it has as much moisture as California has money, then wonder why they don’t like fish.

Anyway, I’ve even got myself a family that invites me over and tries out whatever uncalculated, unmeasured concoction I throw together involving fish.
After a dozen flanks of salmon, cakes and dip I decided to take over smoked salmon chowder.

I’d never made soup before. All of my crock pot experiments involved chili which is neither soup, nor salad. Chili just has to be meaty and spicy. A smoked salmon chowder can absolutely be messed up.

I cubed some potatoes, emptied 32 ounces of vegetable broth and immediately realized that a chowder would need a creamy consistency such as that of a cream of celery or corn soup, and it wasn’t until after it was cooking along with the salmon, that I looked at a few recipes that all called for no more than 16 ounces of a liquid base.

Why did I even bother to look if I didn’t use it?

I do not know.

So three hours in to its low cooking, I added carrots and celery. Upon tasting the mostly cooked taters and smoked salmon I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t terrible, and there was no indication it would cause severe lower digestive rejection.

But before I allowed myself to become to enraptured by my ability to get ingredients to act like a meal, I let the chowder stew.
About a half hour before I took it over for dinner, I added flour.

The hearty stew was surprisingly good. Seconds were spooned from bowls before the coho salmon was even taken from the oven.
I took special pride in my latest take on seafood cuisine, knowing just how far I’ve come.


Jeff Lund
Teacher/Freelance Writer
Manteca, CA

"Its the coming back, the return which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don't know where we've been until we've come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was, because of whom we've become. Which, after all, is why we left." – Bernard Stevens  Northern Exposure

Hookin’ up on the “Hoochie Hook”!

Marine Area 9 opened up on Sunday January 16th and the weather forecast was calling for south winds 10-20kts. Instead of pushing the forecast I decided to stay home and watch the Seahawks playoff game.

In retrospect, it would have been less painful to ride whitecaps in a cartopper.

Monday was a national holiday and I had the family on stand-by, ready to hit the water. Gale warnings….killin me.

Finally, I had a chance to head out Wednesday and the weather was flat calm and sunny and clear. I just wish I could have said the same about the water!

Brown river water clear out to Whidbey Island, completely covering Possession Bar. Check out the downrigger cable disappearing in the first 4 inches of water!

 

My friend Nick Kester of All Star Charters had gear in the water for all of five minutes before his "Secret Weapon" got ripped off the clip!

This chunky blackmouth hit the deck and was well fed despite the fact that we marked very little bait during our afternoon trip.

"Secret Weapon" ? Well, that deserves an explanation. The practice of rigging spoons with swivels and split rings to increase hooking effiency and reduce the leverage the fish can use to throw the hook is just plain smart. Good fishermen have been doing it for years and it also reduces stress on your spoons while the fish thrashes around in the net. Once I get a "hot spoon" I like to keep it fishing and the less it gets bent in a big king's mouth, the longer I can fish it!

We've all been fishing spoons and squid or hoochies for quite some time and thanks to the "Mad Salmon Scientist" Kelly Morrison of Silver Horde we now can fish both at once!

 

While it's not rocket science to put these together, here's a step by step so you can avoid the common mistakes. First, cut the welded ring on the hook end of the Kingfisher spoon.

 

Give the ring a twist and the hook is free!

 

Snip the end of the hoochie to allow a #5 barrel swivel to easily slide through and allow rotation of the swivel.

 

Slide the swivel up the bottom of the hoochie,

 

…and pop the swivels eye out the top of the hoochie. Make sure that you don't cut too large a hole in the hooch since you want it to stay riding high on the swivel.

Open up a #4 split ring and slide it on the spoon which will help keep the ring open to accept the "hoochified" swivel.

 

Grab a 3/0 open eye siwash hook and pinch it on the back end of the swivel and you're good to go… once you pinch the barb of the hook that is…!

 

You can assemble all sorts of color combinations and the hoochie also allows you to use scent like Lunker Lotion with your spoons!

 

Our winter chinook or "Blackmouth" fishery is just getting underway and will be open in Area 9 until April 15. The wind can't blow forever so get out there and good luck!

New Year, New Fish

BY JEFF LUND

I think I am over the New Years Eve thing.

Not that I wanted 2010 to be a Ground Hog year or that I don’t look forward to pinning back the months on the Alaska calendar mom gave me for Christmas, but the spectacle of the thing, the excuse for debauchery before an attempt to recall it all in the form of a resolution that lasts seventeen days, is old.

I’ve been to Times Square during an ordinary day and it was suffocating. To stand there spooning thousands of people that may or may not have control of their bowels isn’t on my bucket list.

I’ve already done and tired with the big night thing.

For the millennium I was in Washington D.C., as a spark ran down the length of the reflecting pool, up the scaffold surrounding the Washington Monument and manifested into a sky-full of choreographed explosions.

I’ve done Las Vegas, Tucson, even Manteca, and can say that none of those moments will be ones I look back upon and say, “my life would not have been the same had I not been there.” If anything, the Vegas trip solidified my desire to never enter its city limits again.

So I missed the ball dropping this year, but didn’t really miss it.

Instead I went to bed early so I could start the year at a place that provides deeper satisfaction, the Stanislaus River.

I’ve been there, and on dozens of West coast rivers since I was young, but I honestly cannot think of a better place to start a new year than wading into a swift, fish-hiding current.

I’ve paid tribute to humanity and the cultural phenomenon that is champagne toasts when the calendar rolls, but paying homage to Nature is downright cathartic. Nature always keeps it promise to be there, be grand and be waiting for whenever I lose track of what’s important or think too highly of myself.

Its good to be reminded of how small I am in the shadows of the Sierra Nevada, Rocky, or Coastal Mountains of Alaska, to get a brief reprieve from shenanigans in favor of purity. Plus, I think the river likes it when I slip and almost face-plant like I did on New Years Day.

It was with this frame of mind that I started 2011 at a spot that resembled a nymphing theme park with its variety of runs, cut banks, and currents varying in intensity.

Pools swirled behind high rocks, and spilled over to join the trail-cutting effort then slide toward the wider, slower parts in the valley. The river was flowing at three times the level of what it was in October when I last fished it with any regularity, displacing fish to areas nearly impossible to fit a dry or drift a nymph. Casting had to be precise and line-mending constant when crossing over currents. The fish were still there amid the churning water, but many spots look fishy just because the water is high.

Had it been another day there might have been frustration, but Saturday the ultimate result was how I started the year, not whether or not the quest was a success.
When things calm down the regular spots will produce and I will be happy. Just as the excitement of the new year will fade into routine that is unique to this segment of 365 days and will never be exactly repeated.

This year I didn’t need an 11,000 pound ball to remind me this year could be great, but maybe next year.


Jeff Lund
Teacher/Freelance Writer
Manteca, CA

"Its the coming back, the return which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don't know where we've been until we've come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was, because of whom we've become. Which, after all, is why we left." – Bernard Stevens  Northern Exposure

Key West Fish On!!

I still can’t believe I did it.  I left a wide open tuna bite to go find some other fish.  That’s how good the fishing was with Capt Ted Lund in Key West, Florida.  My wife, Sonya, has been wanting to get down to Key West during one of our trips to Florida but time and family seemed to always trump a side trip down to the Keys.  This year however we decided to make it a two week trip and get down to the southernmost city in the continental U. S.  The only question I had was, who was I going to fish with?  Luckily I ran across a fishing the keys article in my Florida Sportsman.  Capt Ted was quoted talking about blackfin tuna and the great mixed bag opportunities this time of year.  I gave Capt Ted a call and a month later I was committing what many consider a sin, leaving aggressive, hungry, hard fighting tuna and lots of them.

I would have been more than happy to tug on blackfin tuna all day but I told Capt Ted before we started that we were after a mixed bag of fish.  I never thought that would include tuna, sailfish, kingfish, barracuda, sharks, jacks, snapper, cero mackerel, grouper, and a few shots at tarpon. 

 We met Capt Ted at about 7:30 that morning and then it was off to make bait. Capt Ted said, “In Key West we don’t look for baitballs, we make our own”, boy was I about to find out.   Capt Ted donned a cast net and hopped on the bow of the boat.  I slowly put the boat in gear as we moved forward with Capt Ted giving me directions as we chased schools of pilchards for the livewell.  After about an hour with the livewell darkened with pilchards we were off.

We made what seemed like about a 20 minute run out to 240ft of water where we joined 5 or 6 other boats.  There wasn’t much going on yet but Capt Ted dropped the anchor and started chumming.  It couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes and Sonya was hooked up on her first blackfin tuna.  Sonya landed her fish and not 5 minutes later I was hooked up on my first fish of the day.  By the time I landed mine, we were surrounded by tuna everywhere.  We kept the first five as we had agreed and then started catching and releasing until our arms were burning.  Sonya wanted a rest but I couldn’t stop, that’s when Capt Ted threw out a hookless popper.  Blackfin tuna were all over this thing as it skidded across the top of the water, I was having a blast just watching the tuna explode out of the water knocking the popper in the air.

 I was just about to get another hook baited up when Capt Ted said, “Let’s pull anchor and run to another spot to see if we can catch some kingfish”.  I thought to myself that this is pretty incredible but I would like to battle a few big kings  (not salmon Nelly).  We pulled the anchor and ran in to about 80ft of water.  The program here was no different, we anchored up, started chumming and the fish came.  This time we had sailfish, kingfish, and dorado come into our chum line.  Sonya was first up with a really nice 30lb smoker king and I followed with smaller one.  We did hook into two others that were really big but we didn’t land’em.

Just about the time we started to pull anchor and try another area some sailfish showed up in our chum line and started whacking our pilchards.  We hooked two but couldn’t keep them on the line.  Finally, I saw another one off the back of the boat.  I threw a pilchard just over the top of it.  The sail turned on it, picked it up, and I kept feeding it line, letting the circle hook work into the corner of its mouth.  5, 4, 3, 2, 1, reel down and hooked up, this time for good!  This wasn’t the biggest sail I had ever caught but no doubt it was the liveliest, jumping somewhere between 15 and 20 times.  We finally got it boatside released it and decided to call it a day.  I wonder what day two would bring.

Even though we were in the southernmost town in the continental U. S. it’s still winter and overnight a front moved in bringing with it cooler temps, rain, and some wind.  In keeping with our mixed bag theme we decided to stay a little closer in to shore and try for a few different species.

The day started off just like the day before, we stopped off on the way out to make bait.  After loading up the livewell, we anchored up just outside a conservation area.  After about 20 minutes our target cero mackerel started showing up in our chum line.  Sonya was first on the rod, then me, then a double.  We loaded up on the cero and decided to go do a little bottom fishing.  After a short time the grouper started chewing.  A few gags with some reds mixed in.

An approaching rain cloud pushed us back to some inshore spots.  A few jacks, some mangrove snapper, and some small barracuda made for some great light tackle action.  However, all that great action was quickly forgotten when some huge tarpon started rolling nearby.  Try as we did, we just couldn’t get these guys to take a bait.  This trip was already one for the ages but hooking up with a 6ft tarpon would have been legendary.

After giving up on the tarpon we hit one more spot on the way in.  We started hooking up on quite a few of the same species that we fhad been catching all day when it happened.  Sonya was getting ready to boat another cero mackerel when all of a sudden a big white flash came up from the depths and engulfed her fish.  Blacktip sharks had shown up and I’m here to tell you, they are as game as any fish in the ocean.  Capt Ted quickly rigged up a wire leader, cut up one of the cero and threw out the cut bait.  After just a few minutes, Sonya was hooked up with a big shark. Sonya battled for about 10 minutes before being broken off.  I was up next and the shark wasted no time picking up another bait.  This time the 124lb blacktip battled for 20 to 30 minutes and before we finally got a leader touch.   Sonya followed up with a smaller but no less aggressive blacktip to finish out the day.

  

What a great two days of fishing we had.  Key West will always be on our list of the best places to visit and fish. Sonya and I are already looking forward to our next trip. Check out the video of the trip!! If you want to book your trip to Key West, get in touch with Capt Ted Lund, Freelancer Charters/OverUnder Key West, 305-213-5369, or email at tlund@me.com, ted@overunderadventures.com, or www.freelancercharters.com 

Rosario Pumping Out Blackmouth

 Captain Jay Field with a 14 Pound Rosario Blackmouth

When it shook it's head the rod stroked three to four feet. My 10'6" mooching rod was loaded deep into the cork and the blackmouth precariously hooked to the end of my line had a king salmon-esque feel to it. This wasn't a cookie cutter blackmouth.

I got about two minutes out of that fish before it spit the hook in that classic move that I hate so much. It came to the surface, pointed straight towards me, and started shaking it head back and forth, back and forth, back and ka-puuut…out came the barbless Mustad hook. Pretty sure Captain Jay Field, who had invited me blackmouth fishing for the day, had heard those words uttered before. 

Jay Field owns Dash One Charters in Anacortes, Washington and also happens to be the reverand that hitched Nicole and I back in September. Even though I've only known Jay for a few years he's one of those guys I'm certain I've known for much longer.

The blackmouth fishing has been nothing short of amazing in the San Juan Islands since it opened, so when Jay asked me what I was doing on Saturday it was a no-brainer. We could crash at the in-laws in Anacortes on Friday night who live just up the street from Jay and alleviate my usual blurry-eyed early morning commute to far away fishing grounds. How convenient is that? 

Our first stop on Saturday morning was in Guemes channel right across from Dakota Creek Ship Yard. There had been a good bite in the channel a few days earlier and there were already several boats trolling when we arrived.

We made a few passes there and outside of a 16 pounder that was caught on another boat there really wasn't a whole lot going on.

Next stop…James Island near Thatcher Pass. Mike Lindquist, a.k.a. "The Salmonator" had let us know that he popped a fat mid-teener blackmouth on his first pass in the morning. 

On our second pass at James what I could've sworn was my downrigger ball dragging on the bottom turned out to be a huge winter blackmouth, the one I mentioned earlier, that eventually spat the hook on the surface and left me desheveled. Ya gotta love barbless hooks!

Two passes later we lost a second fish and then within ten minutes the bait and birds all disappeared. Time to move on.

Jay pointed the "Dash One" towards Tide Point on Cypress Island and when we rolled in the bite was in full swing. One boat was hooked up and a nice fellow in a Trophy hollered over that they'd just landed a fish in the 18 to 20 pound range.

We quickly deployed the cut plug herring and it wasn't long before my rod got bit. I quickly dispatched a 23" keeper blackmouth that would eat just fine on the bbq.

Tide Point fishes best in the middle of the ebb and we missed two more fish before the tide started to slack and it was time to jump up to Eagle Bluff, just north of Tide Point, for the beginning of the flood.

The View From the "Dash One" At Tide Point

On our first pass we marked several fish along with some large schools of bait. Jay didn't waste any time and quickly spun the boat to run back over the fish. The move payed off and Jay was hard into a 14 pound blackmouth shortly after marking even more fish on our second pass. We fished another half hour and then called it a great day after going 2 for 6 on tastey blackmouth on cut plug herring in the flat calm and beautiful Rosario Strait. 

Back at the dock we were surprised to find both blackmouth absolutely stuffed with these baitfish. They weren't herring, they weren't anchovies or candlefish. What the heck are they?

 

I'm a huge fan of trolling cut plug herring for blackmouth in the San Juan's and as luck would have it…so is Jay. He took some time on Saturday to explain how he rigs his cut plug herring with a hang back hook in this short video. Enjoy!  

The Rosario Strait has provided some outstanding blackmouth fishing so far this winter and as long as the bait continues to hold in the islands I would expect great fishing for the Roche Harbor Derby in early February. Could we see another Anacortes Derby in late March like last years with nine of the top ten places filled with blackmouth over 20 pounds. I sure hope so!

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

Out with the old, in with 2011! By Tony Floor

BY TONY FLOOR

The calendar doesn’t lie. Without remorse, 2010 is history and hello, like it or not, meet 2011. I sense time is moving faster now and I’m barely hanging on as there is so much to do on and off the water.

It was only a month ago in this writing, I drew the fishing focus of attention to the winter season opening of the San Juan Islands for hatchery-produced chinook. The opener exploded with chinook salmon catches, throughout the Islands as anglers were blown away with the great fishing. I know, as I was there.

A sport fishing group in Friday Harbor, known as the San Juan Islands chapter of Puget Sound Anglers hosted the first ever Resurrection Salmon Derby, Friday and Saturday, December 3rd and 4th. Are you ready for this? Forty-seven boats entered this first time event and landed 120 fin-clipped, hatchery-produced chinook salmon. That is the definition of hot chinook fishing as it means nearly three chinook salmon per boat! And the fish were quality, with a 19-pounder producing a check for $10,000 for Lance Husby's Team Big Kahuna out of Everett's Bayside Marine. I was impressed. That 19-pounder made my 14 ½ pounder look like a trout. That’s okay. I’m betting mine tasted better based on mass passing out with friends and neighbors around my dinner table. I’m also betting it had nothing to do with the grape juice.

Since the opener in the Islands, fishing has remained hot despite blasts of arctic air coming down the Fraser River, and the monsoon conditions of rain and wind called the Pineapple Express courtesy of the south Pacific. Yes, it’s been tough to get on the water, any water during December in Puget Sound, with the exception of a bathtub. I don’t do bathtubs nor have I ever caught a salmon in a bathtub. Enough said.
 

Seattle Boat Show coming up January 21-30

Now, with December behind us including the Christmas holiday season, it’s time to start looking ahead to fishing options the next couple of months. Yes, fishing should remain good in the San Juans if you can find a weather window to go during the month of January. I’m looking for a weather break to get in a few days before the big Seattle Boat Show which begins Friday, January 21st running through Sunday, January 30th. Although you won’t hook very many fish inside the show, it is an outstanding venue to listen and learn from some of the best anglers in Puget Sound. If it turns your wheel, click on http://SeattleBoatShow.com and find the fishing seminars, 60 of them, offering the best from the pros. And, there are four 3-hour fishing seminars on each of the weekend days in the morning. Something to think about in January.

I dig the Seattle Boat Show. For me, it’s my beginning of the New Year, checking out new boats, motors, fishing electronics and product to support my passion – fishing for and catching salmon in Pacific Northwest saltwater environments. Nearly 60,000 people visit the Seattle Boat Show coming from 41 of our 50 states. I’ve rarely missed the Show during the last 35 years and when it’s over, I’m invigorated and renewed, ready to take on the water and get outside. New to the Show this year will be a Dungeness crab education center, helping crab fishers be more successful and becoming better educated about the crabbing rules. At last count, there were around a quarter million Dungeness crab sport fishing licenses sold in our state. I think it’s been discovered and rightly so as it’s a lot of fun and they eat pretty good too.

Following the mid/late January Seattle Boat Show, it’s time for the 7th annual Roche Harbor Salmon Classic. A high-end hatchery-produced chinook salmon tournament in the San Juans. This tournament, at $750 scoots per boat (maximum of four anglers per boat) is capped at 100 boats. At this writing, there are only a couple slots open before it’s sold out, which has been the norm for the last several years. Did I hear you whisper recession? Not when it comes to the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic and the best of the best fishing sticks in the Northwest, hanging out at Roche Harbor. Man, I hate this job.
 

Political wind blowing in Olympia

Finally, on a more sobering note, there is a lot of political wind blowing in Olympia constantly threatening fishing opportunities and our related industry. The Governor has once again called for consolidating the Department of Fish and Wildlife with other natural resource agencies, license fee increases are on the table and expect the Puget Sound commercial crab industry to file suit over the recent allocation shift from the commercial side of the ledger to the sport side. Stay tuned. It never ends.

Welcome to 2011 and another great year to get on the water. I am not one to wait for next week or next month. I am outside living the good life and last time I checked, there was plenty of room to join me. See you on the water.

2011: The Good Ol’ Days Return?

Around these parts, the modern benchmark for a great fishing year was 2001.

In that year, Columbia river springers hit a 25 year high,  Puget sound chinook & coho crowded area streams, pink salmon were "every cast" thick, nearly 300,000 sockeye streamed into Lake Washington and winter steelhead fishing was smokin'. 

Now, ten years later, amid WDFW budget doom & gloom we're getting a peek at the promise of spring in the dead of winter and seeing early signs of a great 2011 salmon season!
The first bone fide forecasts of the 2011 season have just been announced. The Columbia River Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)  produce these numbers and it's good news!  The spring chinook forecast is the sixth largest since 1979 and well above the long-term average! Between the early returning Willamette stock and the upper Columbia component we are looking at over 300,000 springers!

According to NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center, poor ocean conditions during 2003–2006 began to improve during 2007 and greatly improved during 2008.  Also in 2008, NOAA observed the coldest winter sea surface temperatures of the past 12 years (and probably since the 1970s) which resulted in increased coastal upwelling. Upwelling is the process by which cold, nutrient-rich water from the ocean floor is brought to the surface. It's nature's way of "opening up the refrigerator" and bringing the goodies to the coastal "stove".  In other words, when you warm these deep waters and allow the sun's rays to drive photosynthesis, an oceanic food bloom awaits young salmonids, speeding their growth and enhancing survival rates.

The above paragraph was a fancy way of telling you that we can expect a very good Puget Sound chinook season and a much improved coho season from last year… not that it would take much to be an improvement over 2010 Puget Sound coho bust.

One cannot discuss 2011 without recognizing that it's an odd year and that means our odd little salmon, the humpy is on it's way. If you remember 2009's forecast of 7 million Puget Sound pinks then you have a good idea of what 2011 might have in store for us. Recall that the winter of 2009/2010 came and went without a flood and all of those pink salmon eggs stayed in the gravel undisturbed. Don't be the least bit surprised if the "Humpy Horde" forecast of 2011 is in the low to mid teens… Millions that is. Stock up on the pink mini hoochies while you can!

The actual Pacific Fishery Management Council forecasts are still a few months out  but shortly after the numbers are announced, you will hear us on ESPN 710 Seattle's The Outdoor Line uttering the words "North of Falcon".  North of Falcon (NOF) is the salmon season setting process that involves user group input. This is the only opportunity for local anglers to get involved in the process and have a "say" in crafting salmon seasons. There is a wisecrack describing the NOF process that is a favorite of mine. It's said that the truest words are said in jest but this line is no joke: "If you're not at the table… You're ON the table".  Roughly translated: If you don't show up at North of Falcon, you can be sure that commercial fishing interests will be only too happy to carve up your piece of the "salmon pie" and you'll be lucky to find the crumbs that are left over.

2011 will not be a "crummy" season! Get ready, get involved and get out there. Here at the Outdoor Line, we'll be doing our level best to keep you headed in the direction of the latest "Hotspot" Oh, and we'll have a big surprise for you… stay tuned!