A Story About the Fishiest Dude I Know

BY JOHN WHITLATCH. It all started with an unexpected phone call about 18 yrs ago. I had just graduated from high school and was struggling to become a professional fishing guide. The summer days were growing long and warm when my neighbor and long time family friend Randy Bovy called. He wanted to take his son, Kyle on his first fishing trip. He had a plan, and like I said I was trying to guide but lacking the solid client list I have today, I had plenty of time on my hands. Randy wanted to drive 8 hrs north of our home in Palmer, Alaska to just outside the tiny town of Tok near the Canadian border and take young Kyle Northern Pike fishing. Did I mention Kyle was 3?

Randy was loaded, ready to roll and in less than an hour I found myself searching for a place to shove my quiver of rods and bag of tackle in his 1990 Toyota pickup. There was already an inflatable Zodiac, outboard motor, tent and various camping equipment under the canopy of that little truck but with a little effort we made some room for my gear as well. Climbing in up front I quickly realized that we were fully loaded. Kyle was riding the jump seat in the back of the little super cab, I was riding shotgun, playing DJ, and Randy was driving.  Only 8 hours until I could get out stretch my legs and crawl into an even more cramped rubber boat with a 3 year old and treble hooks. This is going to be fun! The drive actually went very smoothly. We got to show Kyle his very first bear between his frequent naps, and we arrived at the deserted lake to a beautiful sunny morning.

Now if you are a big guy like me and get a little stove up after 8 full hours in the seat of a little Toyota pickup, I got a cure for ya. Upon reaching your destination, jump right out and spend two hrs pumping up an inflatable boat and mounting the motor. Then rig up a full quiver of rods and pack it all down a 100 foot bank through Alaska’s thick brush to the lakes edge. If you’re not loosened back up and stretched out yet, make sure you have a stubborn, aging outboard with some old fuel to give your shoulder a good workout too. Oh and do it all with an anxious 3 year old wondering how much longer this is going to take.

Croaking frogs, bath toys, and the luck of babes.

We had allowed Kyle to pick a lure at the tackle shop the night before so of course he wanted to use his new frog lure first. The frog in question was not particularly special in appearance, in fact it really looked like a piece of junk. Its uniqueness wasn’t apparent until it hit the water, upon which time it would let out a loud audible “rrrriiiiiibet”. I got to admit Randy and I both found it as amusing as Kyle at first before it became annoying in both the sound it made, and the obscene number of fish Kyle was catching. He was kicking our tails!

I blamed getting out fished that first day on Kyle of course. Randy allowing me that courtesy, decided that Kyle was his excuse as well. My reason was that I was distracted and too busy dodging Kyle’s massive, treble hook laden, obnoxious frog all day to really get serious about fishing. Randy agreed and proclaimed that he was too busy coaching Kyle and making sure he would not hook me or the rubber boat to really fish himself. We agreed that all things considered we really didn’t get out fished by young Kyle after all and turned in for the night.

Day two came early. It was apparent that inflating the boat and packing it down that brushy bank really didn’t stretch my back out enough after all. I woke up sore and stiff. Sleeping in a tent on the rough ground seemed to affect Randy and me more than it did Kyle. He was ready to go; Randy and I were trying to stretch out breakfast a bit.

Once we got on the water, Kyle pretty much started out right where he left off, only maybe his luck had gotten even better. It got so good in fact, that two things dawned on me that morning. One, Kyle hadn’t lost that lure in the brush yet, and two, it was almost completely destroyed beyond repair from these large, toothy Pike. Shortly afterward it finally came completely apart. The green rubber and plastic body had been left presumably in the gut of that last monster and there was nothing left but some wire and a mangled hook that used to be a 2/0 treble. To fully appreciate this turn of events, I feel I should tell you some of the other things that had transpired in that first day and a half.

While Kyle had been catching fish after monster fish, his dad and I had been making excuses for ourselves while losing almost all of the gear we had brought. We had cast them in the brush or got almost all of them snagged in the sunken logs that lined the banks. That’s right, we found ourselves with an almost astonishingly attentive 3 year old Kyle wanting another lure and not having one available. This kid had been fishing for two days without losing interest or really fussing about at all. Luckily Randy had brought along a few toys for Kyle to play with just in case. One of those little toys just happened to be Kyle’s favorite bath toy. That bath toy was a wind up, floating shark. Once wound up you could drop this thing in the water and watch its articulated tail splash back and forth, making it swim. Randy and I thought this could be amusing, so I naturally tied up a 30 lb mono leader with a treble stinger and connected it to the toy with some rubber bands.

That little shark toy didn’t last long but it seemingly turned these Pike into wild Tarpon. The strikes were vicious, like I had never witnessed before. They were flying out of the water on the take, gills flared and shaking wildly before landing with a splash and all we could here were Kyle’s excited giggles. When that shark finally fell apart, Randy and I conceded to Kyle’s superior skills and just sat back and watched the young phenom do his thing with our last two Rapala plugs. For two days no matter how close or far away we drifted from the brush lined bank, Kyle would just wind up and heave his lure as hard as he could always landing within inches of it. Just beginners luck I suppose.

Kyle is a college baseball player now. Last week with a short break in his summer schedule he returned home to Alaska and naturally rang me up. I took Randy and Kyle fishing once again on the Kenai River for King Salmon. About 30 minutes into it Randy’s rod went down and after a short fight the big King came to the surface and with a violent head shake managed to dislodge Randy’s K-16 Kwikfish from his face. As always Kyle was eager to offer his dad a little friendly advice and remind him how he never loses them. He was right, he never does. It wasn’t long after that when Kyle’s rod suddenly got pinned flat along the gunnels. He picked the rod out of the holder with astonishing speed and made a perfect hook set. Not too high, not too hard, just perfect, like you read about. Twenty five minutes later Kyle was releasing yet another trophy fish, with me and his dad watching in admiration.

As that big chrome hen swam from his grasp and disappeared into the shadows of the Kenai, Kyle turned to me and said simply, “100%”.

Since Kyle’s first fishing trip, he has fished with me multiple times every summer. It’s been 18 years now, long enough to have seen some really good fishing along with the really bad days as well. He may have fished with me more than anyone else I know. Certainly he has in fact. Now he explained to me that he is 100% fishing with me. Since that very first time as a 3 year old he has never failed to catch a fish from my boat.

That is why young Kyle has not only grown into one helluva good fisherman; he is without exception the fishiest dude I know. His dad coincidently is 100% as well, having never caught a fish with me in the past 18 years. He’s come close, hooking more than his share, but somehow something always goes wrong. That is fishing though, sometimes you can’t explain it. There’s no telling how much longer this amazing run will last, but for now if you see me with an unusually large grin on my face in the morning Randy and Kyle are probably on their way to fish with me again…

John Whitlatch
Professional Guide/Owner
Reel Adventures

Time To Go Tuna Fishing!!

We talk on the show all the time about the tuna highway, targeting the warm water, and fishing the edges of the chlorophyll.  If your just listening to the show then you might not have any idea what we are talking about or where you can start looking for this type of information.  Hopefully this blog will clear that up for you and as always, if you do have additional questions, you can leave a question or comment at the end.

The first thing that tuna addicts like myself start looking for is the formation of what’s called the tuna highway.  As you can see on this chart below, albacore tuna that NW anglers target migrate the open ocean between the west coast of the US and Japan.  They arrive on our shores by following the flow of warm water currents to our shores.

While you might look at a sea surface temperature chart  and see the warm water off our coast due to runout from the Columbia and other river systems, the albacore don’t show up until that warm water connects to the warm water south of here.  Once that happens, we have what’s known as the tuna highway and it’s just a matter of time before the albacore show.

In the above example you can see the push of the warm water off the NW coast but it still hasn’t connected to the warmer water off the entral California coast.  In the example below, you can see a solid line of warm water all the way up. Once you see this, it’s time to start looking for a specific spot to target in you area.

Albacore prefer temperatures ranging from 58 to 64 degrees.  With this in mind, many people look for temp breaks, areas where the temp suddenly jumps, before deploying their gear and starting their troll.  The chart below shows the SST’s off the coast of Washington in a little more detail, keeping in mind that adult albacore also prefer depths of  at least 1,250 feet, look for good edges and  temperature breaks of a degree or more as places to start your search.

Once you an area with good temps targeted, the next thing you need to do is look at a chlorophyll chart.  Chlorophyll is a good indication of the amount of plankton, which is essentially the amount of food in the water in a given area.  If you can find a spot that has good concentrations of chlorophyll to match your temps then you have found an area where bait and fish should be concentrated.  You can often see a distinct line of blue and green water, if you do, target this area by trolling in and out and along the edges.

Websites like NOAA, Terrafin, and Ripcharts provide these SSTand Chlorophyll charts and a  special thanks to Terrafin for allowing the use of these charts in this blog.  Now go out and catch some TUNA!

“Hawg Questing” the San Juan Islands!

It's been said by wiser men that I that "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity".

Well, the Marine Area 7/ San Juan Island opener is surely an opportunity and all the fishing we've been doing up north definitely counts as preparation.

Bolstered by our experience in southeast Alaska and the reports coming from Nootka and points south, the chinook are coming. Large in both size and numbers, this year's chinook fisheries are expected to be epic and in my mind, the Area 7 opener couldn't come fast enough!

The summer chinook fisheries around Puget Sound are easily my favorite time of the year and on the various openers, I will usually be found somewhere on the water.  This time however, my on-air pard Robbie Tobeck was not about to be left behind. Despite his  tough "Tuna Tyrant" exterior, Robbie Tobeck is really a "salmon softie" and was as fired up for this trip as I was!

Fortunately our "Anacortes connection" Jay Field had offered up a slip at Skyline Marina and we were set! Jay treated us to dinner and drinks at his restaurant Village Pizza which ajoins the Wheelhouse Bar and it was off to bed, bracing for that 0300 alarm…Brutal!

Running up Rosario Strait we quickly checked out Thatcher Pass and Tide Point but the chinook were stacked in and on the snap at Obstruction Pass.

Jay Field aboard his 26' Osprey "Dash One" drew first blood with this fine 22 pounder and the San Juan chinook season was quickly in full swing!


We came right back with this 21 pound chromer that grabbed a Silver Horde Kingfisher Lite 3.5 "Yellowtail" fished 44" behind a Q-Cove Jim's Breakaway "Green Dragon" flasher.


Tobeck, ever the competitor,  filled our limit with this dandy 25 pounder that inhaled a cut plug!

 News of the scorching action in the Islands quickly spread and soon, my phone rang.
 "Nelly, Glenn Hall here. I'm going to be up your way and I heard that there might be a fish or two in your neighborhood."
"Well, you've got that right Glenn," I'm sure he could hear me grinning through the phone. "Can I assume that this will be an official visit with cameras rolling?"
"Yes Nelly, you assume correctly…"

With the Northwest Salmon Derby Series in town in the form of the Bellingham Salmon Derby, The San Juan Islands were being worked over! Now, I have to show up on Sunday, behind a full two days of Derby anglers and produce a "Quest-worthy" fishing trip.

Fortunately, there were enough chinook to go around, Here, Glenn Hall hoists the first fish of the day while Rob Hyatt mans the HD camera.  


Rob got out from behind the camera long enough to grab a rod! Here's a dandy white king that has a date with the smoker!


Ray Gombisky broke his San Juan cherry with this fine chinook and ended up with a boat limit!


Day two of the shoot resulted in five hookups and these three chinook in the box. Left to right, Bill Boyce of Fetha Styx, Glenn Hall and Wade Peterson who runs a little place called "Cowgirls Inc." in Seattle.

Our local chinook fisheries are off to a great start and it's shaping up to be a season for the books. Don't miss out… Go limit out!


Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

July brings expanded crab season and king salmon fishery!

By Tony Floor, Director of Sportfishing Affairs, NMTA

Yep, the calendar never lies. July is here and it represents the kickoff to so much to do and so little time to do it.

If you take the time to Google the word, July, you’ll learn a number of things. For many, it suggests the 4th of July, 2011 version is a big day, celebrating the US of A’s 235th birthday.

But you will also learn, that the Puget Sound Dungeness summer crab season opens (yum-yum) on July 1st, along with the San Juan Islands and Strait of Juan de Fuca king salmon fishery. Dungeness crab along with fresh grilled king salmon. Somebody help me.

From my perspective, this is the most important Dungeness crab summer season in the history of sport crabbing in Washington. The story rewinds back to June of 2005, when sport crabbing enthusiasts, asked Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to please review the allocation split between sport and commercial crabbers. That split, or crab harvest, has been about two-thirds commercial and one-third sport. Currently, there are about 250 commercial crab fishing licenses in Puget Sound, and 235,000 sport crab license holders. Throw in the ocean commercial Dungeness crab catch and the results suggest that the sport crab fishery takes about ten percent of the total Washington catch. Sounds perfectly out of balance to me.

After years of deliberation on this contentious issue, the Commission voted last October to change the allocation to a new 55/45 split, favoring the commercial industry. The commercials did not like this change, slightly reducing their catch for the purpose of increasing our take, and filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court, asking the judge to impose a temporary restraining order that would stop the implementation of the new allocation which was set to begin on yes, July 1st. The judge ruled in favor of the Commission’s decision and here we go with a five-day at week (Thursdays through Mondays) crab season until Labor Day in early September. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear crab pots splashing into Puget Sound from Olympia to Port Townsend and Deception Pass south. The San Juan Islands will open for their season in mid-July, as the result of a latter molt by male crab.

As I sat through that historic and electrically charged Commission meeting last October, there was concern expressed by commissioners, along with commercial crab representatives, that the sport fishery’s violation of the crab fishing rules was too high and we should not be rewarded with more crab as the result of a greater allocation. Representatives such as myself, vowed to work with Fish and Wildlife shellfish biologists to turn up the volume to help educate crabbers of knowing the rules before launching their crab gear in Puget Sound.

We, at the Northwest Marine Trade Association began our outreach for crab education at last January’s Seattle Boat Show, creating a crab education center, and increased the number of free crab fishing seminars during the Show. There were more crab fishing seminars than any other fishing seminars during the Show. It was a huge success.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been on the road, preaching like a Baptist minister, accompanied by Rich Childers, policy lead for Puget Sound crab management at the Department, to sit down with newspaper reporters from Bellingham to Olympia, urging them to write about the importance of knowing before you go, as the Commission will be briefed at the end of the year, about our ability to comply with the rules. The number one violation is failure to record the crab catch, by individual crabbers, during the process of bringing crab aboard. They must be recorded immediately. In other words, if a WDFW enforcement boat approaches you in the act of crabbing, and let’s say there are 10 crab in a couple of buckets that have just been caught……then there needs to be 10 crab recorded on crab record cards (the limit is 5 male Dungeness crab per person, measuring at least 6 ¼ inches across the back of the crab).

WDFW enforcement statistics suggest, it is not the people who crab often who violate the rules, but to the contrary, it appears to be crabbers who go occasionally, and as a result, don’t know the requirements. The solution, you guessed it, is to go as often as you can! I accept the assignment.

The 1st of July is also, as stated earlier, the kickoff to king salmon fishing (hatchery kings only) throughout the Strait of Juan de Fuca until August 15th. I have spent considerable time in my life, especially in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, learning about intercepting these incredible salmon from Sekiu west to Pillar Point, Freshwater Bay and Ediz Hook at Port Angeles. Historical records show, that it was Chet Guasta, from the Bremerton area who boated the current Washington State king salmon record of a 70 pounder in the Sekiu area back in the mid 60’s. This year’s king salmon show will produce highlight films again this summer, as Puget Sound salmon hatchery bound mature chinook salmon, migrate east down the Strait of Juan de Fuca highway before entering Puget Sound at Port Townsend. Can you imagine hooking and landing a 70-pounder here in Washington? I’ve caught hundreds of them, every night, in my dreams.

And if the Strait of Juan de Fuca summer king salmon fishery does not float your boat, then you might consider chasing kings in the San Juan Islands. Eagle Bluff, Obstruction Pass, Tide Point, Pointer Rock in the eastern portion of the Islands will produce king salmon on the opener. Or, on to the western San Juans, at Eagle Point, Pile Point and Smugglers Cove, just off the kelp beds, I know there is a 71 pounder chasing baitfish with my name on it.

Finally, in terms of fishing options, the highly popular hatchery only Puget Sound king salmon fishery opens from Port Townsend to south Puget Sound on July 16th. Participation in this fishery has been huge and the catches have been good to great. Mid-Channel Bank, Possession Bar, Point No Point, Kingston, and Jefferson Head are recognized hot spots for these kings.

The table is not only set, dinner is served. Tonight’s menu features fresh melt-in-your-mouth king salmon, oozing with Omega-3’s accompanied by chilled jumbo Dungeness crab on the side. And yes, a swig of a favorite grape juice triggering a migration of my eyeballs rolling east, to the back of my head. It’s showtime in the great Pacific Northwest. And you thought all those fireworks were about a state birthday! See you on the water.

Algae Removal Made Easy

I hauled my Alaskan charter boat, the Polar Bear, out of the water today for the 100 hour service on the Yamaha outboards and while it's out of the water I'll give the hull a good cleaning to exorcise any hitchhikers that have attached themselves to the bottom. One of those hitchhikers is algae and it can be a pain the rear to remove.

I thought I'd share a little trick that makes it easier to remove the algae growth on the bottom of any boat. Take an old spray bottle and add approximately one cup of bleach to the bottle and fill it the rest of the way with water. Roughly one part bleach to four parts water is fine and an even thinner mix will work. In this case I used an old 409 bottle, but any old spray bottle will get the job done for this task.

Spray the algae and any other growth down with the bleach mixture and within seconds it kills the algae and weakens it's hold on the hull. Wait about ten to fifteen minutes and then hit it with the pressure washer and the algae comes off easily. I've been doing this for about ten years now to clean the hull on various charter boats and it works like a champ. Every time I've forgotten to zap the algae with bleach I've kicked myself, as it takes twice as long to blow the growth off with the pressure washer. 

Here's a couple of photos that show one month worth of algae and barnacle growth on the hull of the boat. Left untreated this algae can grow into an underwater forest in just a couple of weeks. Best to get it while the gettin's good!

These photos were taken less than a minute after the bleach is applied. Notice the difference!

I then sprayed the hull with the pressure washer and the algae blasted off easily. Oila! I've got a clean hull and the Polar Bear is good to go for another month of fishing charters here in Southeast Alaska.

From Las Craigas, Alaska…good fishing to you!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle