NW Bass Lake Washington Qualifer

In years with normal springtime temperatures, the middle of May would represent nonstop action for bass. There is no better time of year to target big bass in shallow water.  It's no wonder that even the average weekend warrior has to feel they have a chance of winning when fishing a bass tourney this time of year.  This however isn't the average year and when conditions are tough like they have been this year, the cream always rises to the top.  That was proven true again this year in the NW Bass Lake Washington Qualifer.  With water temps a month or more behind, and our warmest week of the year leading up to the qualifier, it was anyone's guess where the fish would be located.  Conditions like this are where experience and instinct come into play.  


 Marc Marcantonio and Mike Matkowski.


Anglers battled it out to just minutes before weigh-ins.

Nothing beats a bass boat when it comes to covering water.

Gary Stiles, the man behind NW Bass was our guest on the show this past saturday and when asked about some of the anglers that had the best chance, two of the names he mentioned placed in the top three.  Ron Hobbs Jr. and Marc Marcantionio, both guests in the past on TOL, led the way.  Ron Hobbs was coming off a win the week before in the American Bass tourney on Lake Washington but with changing conditions, he made the call to fish a completely different area than he fished the week before.  Making the call to not even fish an area that had been so good to you the week before took guts but using the instincts that Hobbs Jr and his partner, Mike Wolsky, posses , it was the only call that made sense.  Marc Marcantonio and his partner, Mike Matkowski, used the experience they have to target a few areas that they knew should be holding fish but knowing that cold springtime weather had slowed the fish from moving up on beds to spawn they fished those areas a little differently than they would normally have fished them this time of year.  Their call was the right call as they caught and released over 20 fish.


Ron Hobbs Jr. telling the story of how he and Mike Wolsky came away with the win.

In Hail Mary fashion, 2nd place finisher's Ruffin Hernandez and

Tyler Walcker caught a nice largemouth on the last cast of the day to put

 them in second place.

Marc Marcantonio accepting his plaque and check for third place.

All-in-all, 64 teams fished this years tourney and almost sixteen grand was paid out.  Points were also awarded for teams trying to qualify for this years championship in September.



Cool Spring, Hot Springers!

This year's much anticipated Columbia River spring chinook run has been a mirror image of our "spring" weather: underwhelming at best.

April was a near bust for both the sun and the springers as low water temperatures slowed the early running chinook's accent up the Columbia to a mere crawl. In fact, the sport anglers low catch rates led to not one but two rare extensions of the season.

However, it was not until chinook counts finally exploded with a peak of 15,766 on May 1st that this run appeared to track close to it's forecast of nearly 200,000 spring chinook over Bonneville Dam. When fisheries managers were comfortable with the strength of the run, a re-opener of the spring chinook fishery was announced for May 15th.

Unfortunately, the large snowpack had started to melt and make it's way down the drainages of the upper Columbia, increasing river flows and decreasing visibility. With reports of near flooding conditions above and a sharply rising river, I was not very optimistic about anglers having a realistic chance to catch fish.

I could not have been more wrong!

The May 15th opener was nothing short of wide open chinook fishing! My good friend, top notch Columbia River Guide Eric Linde was quick to call me with a report:

"Better get down here Nelly, it's about as good as it gets and with the dirty water coming, I don't know how long it's going to last!"

I was not going to pass up the opportunity to get another springer on the barbeque!

"If you have an open boat tomorrow, I'll grab Robbie Tobeck and Big Phil we'll hit the road. Just tell me when and where!" With the plan in place we met Eric at Lyons Park outside of Woodland and we were shocked to see how high the Columbia had risen!

Eric Linde dodges drift in the swollen Columbia River as he makes his way to the Lyons Park Launch.


Robbie Tobeck's tennis shoes wouldn't let him get into Eric's sled with dry feet so he donned his infamous "pig farmer boots". Apparently, nobody taught Tobeck about  Xtra-Tuffs at  the "Agricultural Academy" known as WSU… 


We headed upstream to Eric's favorite anchor fishing spot, dropped back the sardine-wrapped Flatfish and had a fish on in less than 5 minutes! Unfortunately, was first to the rod and crackered it off at the net. 


Anchor fishing in the Columbia is a community affair and when other boats anchor next to you the "Hogline" forms and you see a slice of other peoples lives. Here, Scott Salmon feeds his infant son a bottle of formula warmed in the kicker engine's hot water wash basin!  


Eric Linde's lunch system is a bit more sophisticated. His propane barbecue nests in a bow compartment and heat up the beef stroganoff, veggies and garlic bread in short order! 


After lunch of course, is Tobeck's obligatory "fishing cigar" which was only slightly interrupted by a fine, hatchery springer! 


Phil Michelsen, Eric Linde and Robbie Tobeck with our two keepers. We also released two wild chinook and I was robbed of a nice fish by a seal. A great day on the big river! 

We have a great opportunity on the Columbia  and it's only a 90 minute drive from Seattle. This season in particular, with springers remaining open until the "June Hog" fishery of summer, the Columbia will remain open through year's end.

If you are new to this fishery, it does not require a large boat and if you invest in the services of a guide such as Eric Linde for a day you will learn more from that experience that you could in weeks or months on your own.

Get down to the Columbia River and good luck!!!

Washington’s Freshwater Bonefish

Pacific Northwest anglers looking for something new should turn their attention to the carp of Eastern Washington. That’s right, I said CARP! I’ve hooked these things incidentally while fishing for trout and smallies on the Snake River years ago and either got spooled or came close to it every single time. 

Gary Thompson, manager at Reds Fly Shop (509-929-1802) on the Yakima River says, “They’re big, powerful, and damned hard to catch.  I can fish for them within 30Big carp like this one are the ultimate challenge for anglers on Washington's dry east side. (Photo courtesy of Gary Thompson) minutes of my home in Ellensburg on any number of lakes or the Columbia River and I do so every chance I get.” Gary further explained that this is strictly a spot and stalk fishery. Anglers need high sun and clear water to spot fish and when a carp up the fly there’s nothing there to let you know they’ve taken it. You have to see them pick up the fly, and that’s it. 

Wooley buggers, crayfish patterns, deer hair bodied corn kernels, damsel and mayfly nymphs, and John Luke’s Carp Candy series from Spirit River all take carp on the flats. Flies are either fished with a dead drift or a “strip, pause, strip, pause” bonefish style presentation. Gary likes to use fluorocarbon leaders a minimum of 8 pound 3X and larger because of fluorocarbons invisibility and abrasion resistance. 

“Spotting, stalking, and actually hooking one of these fish is a big time challenge and it isn’t a walk in the park by any means. We see fish all the way up to 40 pounds on our local waters. A good friend hooked a carp of about 18 pounds last summer on the Columbia and it took 200 yards of 30 pound backing and just kept on going. Imagine what a 40 pound carp would do?” 

Carp are prolific throughout the Columbia basin, inhabiting the Columbia River from Tri-Cities to Wenatchee, the Snake River, Moses Lake, and many of the small streams and lakes within the basin. Even though they inhabit many different waters throughout the basin Gary prefers the Columbia. “That’s where the big boys live. There’s a ton of habitat for them on the Columbia and that’s where you’ll find those big 30 and 40 pound carp.”

Red’s Fly Shop (509-929-1802) offer’s guided trips for carp during the summer months and has seen more interest in these fish in recent years, mostly from anglers looking for a new challenge. It doesn’t hurt that carp can run a fly reel into it’s backing as quickly as any game fish in the Northwest.   

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

It’s May, Get Outside!

Even though mother nature may not realize it, the calendar does say May and for me, May is when it really gets fun living here in the NW.  Gone are the dark and rainy days of winter spent out on the water in less than desirable conditions. May for me, represents spring time, long days, and opportunity on the water.  Some of the best tasting critters in the water can be harvested in May and I make plans to take full advantage of it every year.  Shrimp, lingcod, and halibut are on every saltwater fisherman's menu this month.  For the freshwater guys, trout, bass, walleye, and flyfishing opportunities heat up. 

Around the Tobeck house, May marks the time when we can walk outside the house and target bass in shallow water.  Unfortunately, this year the weather has been less than stellar and the water hasn't quite warmed enough on the south end of Lake Wa. for the bass to move up shallow in any numbers.  It took me until last night (12th) to catch the first bass of the year from shore. My neighbors must think I am crazy after I let out a yell over that one pounder but around our house that first bass of the year really means something, bragging rights until next year.

Madden with a Lake Wa. smallie caught from the beach.

Another opportunity that I never miss is the shrimp opener in Puget Sound.  I have had years where the boys had baseball games and I had to drop pots, drive to Puyallup for the game and get back just in time to pull my pots before time was up.  It was work, but it was fun work and the rewards for all that work are in my opinion the tastiest morsels God put in the ocean. This year took some planning as well.  Nelly and I had talked about hitting the opener together but wanted to have our pots in the water soaking while we were still on the air.  Problem was, who does Nelly trust to run his boat without him on it?  The answer was Ray Gombiski.  He and his wife Kelly dropped the pots off Camano and met us back at the dock after the show.  We quickly hurried out and starting working our pots.  The shrimp were some of the biggest I had seen come out of Puget Sound and we limited the boat by 1 that afternoon. 


A limit in one pull is cause for celebration.

Bottomfishing is something that I guess was bred into me.  Growing up, my dad always loved to bottomfish and when we went fishing, that's what we did.  Here in the NW, there is no better time to bottomfish than right now.  With limited halibut opportunity to start with, you have to get out while the getting is good and the getting is good right now.  From close to home spots such as Mutiny Bay or the banks off Port Townsend, all the way out to the coast, halibut are being caught and the last few years have been really productive for halibut anglers in all marine areas.  I like to spend my time halibut fishing on the coast.  The richness of life off the coast of Wa. always amazes me.  Not only are the halibut plentiful but the opportunities to catch lincod, rockfish, and other bottomfish are there as well and really make the trip out to the coast pay off.

Ryan Dent with his first Halibut out of Westport.

After flying 40 miles out in the ocean, this bird decided to hitch a ride home.

We took all day to land our halibut but the lings came in a flurry.

If your looking for opportunities to get out and enjoy the outdoors, there is no better time than from right now on through September. Don't let this summer pass you by, get out and enjoy it, cold, windy, and rainy winter will be here before you know it.



What’s in a Boat Name?

BoatUS Releases Annual List of Top Ten Boat Names

ALEXANDRIA, Va., May 10, 2011 – What's in boat name? It's hard to deny taking a guess at the meaning of a name painted across a boat's transom – it can reveal much about the personality of a boat owner. But like the wave tops constantly in motion, the fluid nature of boat names is also often a sign of boater's changing lives.

Have you started fishing? Reel Crazy may be for you. Recently divorced? Alimony says it all. Have kids in school? Tuition says it best.

Regardless of ever-changing lifestyles, marital status, careers or family, choosing a name can be difficult. To help boaters with this task, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) has a list of over 8,500 boat names given by boaters across the country over the last 20 years. The list can be found at BoatUS.com/boatgraphics/names.

The national boat owners group has announced its Annual List of Top Ten Boat Names, which it has tracked since 1991. The list is assembled each year by the BoatUS Boat Graphics service that allows boaters to easily custom design and preview boat names online – without having to pay up front.

The top ten names are:
1.    AquaHolic
2.    Andiamo (Let's go)
3.    The Black Pearl
4.    La Belle Vita (The Beautiful Life)
5.    Mojo
6.    Island Time
7.    Second Wind
8.    No Worries
9.    Serenity
10.    Blue Moon

About BoatUS:
BoatUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States – is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing over half a million members with government representation, programs and money-saving services.  For membership information visit www.BoatUS.com or call 800-395-2628.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Building a Custom Smokehouse

BY RAY GOMBISKI. Smoking fish and game has forever been a pastime of the American sportsman. Smoking can be traced thorough out American history from the Native Americans to George Washington’s home at Mt Vernon. Today, smoking has become a cherished part of the outdoor experience.

The modern smokehouse has made smoking easy and efficient with remote thermometers, gas fired burners, and compressed wood pucks. These modern conveniences have helped many sportsmen become masters of the smokehouse.

In my opinion there are many great meals that the smokehouse has to offer. I personally smoke turkey, beef jerky, pepperoni and, of course, salmon! With so many brines and cures to choose from there is a recipe for almost every pallet.

I started at a very young age in the back yard with an old homemade wooden smoker and a pile of alder wood. I've been fortunate enough over the years to spend time with many friends that smoke which has exposed me to many different techniques. Brines aside, I have found that a quality smoker will make or break your batch. As I mentioned above, present day smokers can definitely help make a great batch.

When it came time to replace my old worn out smoker with a new model I found that I favored to do things much like I had done them growing up. I looked at old refrigerators, new smokers, and even considered building a wood smoker from scratch. After about a year of looking I came across an old tray carrier from the food service industry. With a little creativity and elbow grease I decided to build a hybrid smoker. Modern convenience mixed with some flavor of yesterday.

After selecting the shell I had to make some modifications before it could be used. First, I split the door to allow access to the fire. Then, I built shelves, installed thermometers, added fire bricks to the floor and cut the divider out between the racks. Because my new smoker is made from all metal I felt it important to make the racks out of wood. I felt the wood racks would help it season and retain many of the qualities and flavor of a wood smokehouse. I elected to not use propane as a heat source, but chose to use a more traditional fire of charcoal and green alder cut in 4 inch chunks.  

Once complete, it was time for a test burn. The test would help to season the smokehouse and tell me if I needed to add vents. During my test I was able to keep the smoker between 130 and 140 degrees consistently for 8 hours. If I doubled my fire I could get the temp up to 170 degrees and sustain that temp as long as needed without the use of vents.
Because I smoke over a charcoal/wood combination I feel it's important to mention that the charcoal must be in a coal state before adding the alder. This will keep that charcoal taste off of the meat and allow the Alder to smoke.

Smoke is the key ingredient to a good batch of smoked anything. A good smokehouse contains the smoke in a way that brings a rich flavor to your meal. The homemade smoker was a fun project to put together. I liken the experience to catching a steelhead on a fly I tied.  I enjoy spending time building this smoker and then seeing it work.

With a little creativity and some work a great smoker can be made. I hope that the smoking tradition continues for many years and provides great meals like the smoked salmon pictured below.

Ray Gombiski is frequent contributor to TheOutdoorLine.com and you can find him chasing salmon and steelhead on the North Puget Sound rivers throughout the year.

The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

(Not too far) North to Nootka!

It's not too often that a fishing fanatic like myself gets the opportunity to see the birth of a destination fishing resort. Add the fact that this destination is designed to be affordable, accessible, available to anglers with or without their own boats and it becomes a once-in-a-lifetime event!

When I heard that a group of local businessmen had teamed up to build a new land-based facility and expand a floating lodge, I couldn't wait to get up to Nootka on the west coast of Vancouver Island and have a look for myself.

The new Moutcha Bay Resort and it's floating counterpart The Nootka Sound Resort offer area fisherman a very real, economical and close to home opportunity to expand their salmon, halibut, lingcod, crab and shrimp seasons.

The west coast of Vancouver Island has long been revered as a hot bed of sportsfishing  and the fiords of this island paradise are a dead ringer for southeast Alaska. For the angler on a budget Nootka is without question, Alaska at a discount!

One look at the new Moutcha Bay Resort Lodge under construction and you know that this is a first-class facility all the way! 


The hand-carved main entrance elegantly and respectfully reflects the First Nations heritage of the Nootka Sound area.


From the balcony of the rooms you're treated to a view of Moutcha Bay which is home to loads of prawns, crab and salmon.


Wouldn't your boat look great here? The main resort dock is your gateway to the remainder of Nootka Sound and the floating lodge.


The floating Nootka Sound Resort is without question the most remarkable lodge that I have ever experienced!



From your room at the floating lodge, you're merely steps away from your boat…


…and barely minutes from some of the most productive, beautiful waters that you'll ever have the opportunity to experience!


Lingcod are almost automatic at many locations. This hungry ling inhaled a scampi jig when we were targeting halibut! 


If multiple chinook hookups are your aim, then the "Highway" a few miles offshore will be your target area.


Mike Coombs of Outdoor Emporium mans the Brutus Line Hauler as we pull the prawn traps for the first time of the season.


Prawns? Oh, yeah… As fast as we could get these back to the lodge they found themselves in hot water and were the featured attraction at dinner!

If you're used to flying to Alaska for your destination angling, Nootka Marine Adventures will keep that airfare in your pocket.

Long drive time? Not really, it's an enjoyable drive across the border and a relaxing BC ferry ride from Twassen to Nanaimo. A scenic cruise north through historic Campbell River to Gold River then follows and if you bring your own boat you can launch right there. If you're staying at Moutcha Bay, you can drive there in the family car and begin your all-inclusive fishing trip/vacation immediately!

This summer, why not start a new fishing tradition in a brand new facility! Moutcha Bay Resort and the Nootka Sound Resort offer wilderness luxury on a budget. I don't know of any other location that can make that claim.

See you in Nootka this summer!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle