Well, Are We Ready?

BY JEFF LUND. Are we standing on top of a grassy hill, fishing rods, hunting rifles, mountain bikes, ab-rollers, recycling bins and piggy banks raised above our collective heads, calling out “Freedom” like William Wallace, ready to attack the new year like “warrior poets”?

Hope so.

By this time next year we will surely be fulfilled in ways we only dreamed about, or thought only applied to Chuck Norris and The Most Interesting Man in the World. Yes, thanks to promises we’ll make this weekend, in twelve short months we’ll all look back on our old stagnant lives and wonder how we survived – like trying to talk to girls before Facebook or getting them to like you before Axe products.

Since 2011 has essentially ended I have tabulated the numbers and calculated a somewhat ambiguous fishing plan, or resolution, that allows for wiggle room this coming year.

I can’t say that it is a clear-cut “I want to fish more in 2012”, because liking something is no excuse to abandon financial prudence, but I do want to broaden my range a bit after looking back on my fishing log.

I fished nine fewer days in 2011 (74) than 2010 (83). If ‘the ocean’ can count as a body of water like that ditch in a field Barnes and I fished for carp, I fished 16 pieces of water in 2011. I didn’t differentiate between the middle and north fork of the Stanislaus though they are separate rivers, they do have the same name and some days I hit one or more rivers.

The most frequented water was the Thorne River in Alaska. I spent at least a part of 19 days on its shores and wading in its current. The Klawock (Alaska) and Stanislaus (California) rivers were close behind at 14 apiece. Rounding out the significantly visited flows were the Upper Sacramento River and Neck Lake back home. I saw each of those ten days last year. I spent a few days here and there on the rest including striper fishing with my fly rod on the San Joaquin in which I caught a trophy-sized old wash cloth.

It certainly does seem like I fished a lot, but at the same time, I always feel like I am not fishing. Sadly there are a ton of rivers to which I say, “never fished it”, even though it is reasonably close. I want to fix that this year. Not so I can brag to others, but so I can get that feeling when I slowly sink my boots into water surrounded by nature I have not seen.

As Donald Miller wrote, “If you don’t get to a beautiful place every couple years, you get to thinking everything is urban, as though when God made creation He just made some medium-sized buildings, a bowling alley and a burger place.”

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

Tobeck’s Christmas Crab

Ever since former Seattle Seahawk and WSU Cougar lineman Robbie Tobeck stepped away from The Outdoor Line, I've had to listen to the "Cantankerous Cougar's" complaints:

"Boy, I never hear from you anymore,… We haven't been out fishing since I left the show"… etc,etc… you get the drift.

So, after hearing fairly solid crabbing and blackmouth reports, I made a plan to hook up with Robbie and his sons Mason and Madden for a little winter saltwater fun.

Obviously, Robbie missed the cold weather memo and showed up in shorts and his "Farmer Brown" boots. Winter crabbing in shorts…only Tobeck…


Fortunately Robbie sons Mason and Madden were aboard to help me haul the crab gear. Here Robbie takes the hook while "Mace" handles the pot line.


Mason had never seen a female dungeness packing her eggs… "What's that???" he asked.


"That," I replied, "is one of the reasons that WDFW's crab management has been so successful." In Washington State, it has been illegal to retain female crab for years. In my opinion, that has been one of the wisest wildlife decisions in State history.


It wasn't all females… There were some real dandy, large males in the bunch and there will be crab on the Christmas dinner table this year… for the first time in nearly 20 years!


Robbie got a little tired watching Mason do all the work on deck so he snuck up in the bow to snuggle with his youngest son Madden.


While the crab gear was soaking, we ran up to Elger Bay and all we could find was shakers and lots of baitfish! Here, Robbie brings a sub-legal close enough for a clean release.

Very quietly, there has been a solid December blackmouth bite going on right outside of Everett and the water has been flat calm for the whole month!

Winter crab season ends on December 31 but winter chinook season in Marine Area 8-1 & 8-2 runs through April 2012.

To all of our friends and listeners, thanks for a wonderful 2011 and we'll see you next year!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Rigging a Slip Float for Low Water Winter Steelhead

We're in the middle of our second La Nina winter in a row here in Washington and the weather maelstrom that many of the meteorologists predicted, well, it hasn't materialized yet. Knock on wood!

This has been the driest December on record and that's dropped many of the cricks in Western Washington to near summer lows, which means you've got to switch tactics a little to tickle the fancy of a winter steelhead and get them to bite. One of the deadliest techniques for bagging these low water steelhead is fishing with a jig and a slip float.
Rob Endsley from the Outdoor Line radio show on 710 ESPN Seattle with a dime bright Bogachiel River steelhead caught on a jig with Bill Meyer from Anglers Guide Service in Forks, Washington

I like to use a 9'6" to 10'6" light drift or spinning rod that has a slow action to cushion my 8 or 10 pound test Seaguar flourocarbon leader. For mainline I like to run 10 to 12 pound monofilament and if you like to run braided line tie in an eight to ten foot bumper of monofilament onto the business end of the braid. That bumper of mono allows small slip floats to slide up and down the line more easily. 

In the winter months you can get away with a 1/2 to 3/4 ounce slip float and there are many excellent brands out there. Steelhead Stalker, Cleardrift, Thill, and Danielson all make great slip floats for low water winter steelhead fishing. I use a lot of the Danielson's because they are easy on my pocket book, but in reeeeeally low water it's tough to beat the Cleardrift slip float. At seven bucks apiece they are spendy, but well worth it if you need to be super sneaky. In summer months you may need to use a much smaller float and you can tweak your setup accordingly.

You're going to add a bobber stop to the mainline above the slip float and then slide on a small bead to keep the knot from passing thru the center of the float. I like the knot-style bobber stops because I can see them and know when my knot is right down on the float, meaning my jig is down there it needs to be. Below the slip float use either split shot or egg sinkers to weight down the float and keep your jig in the hammer zone, then tie in a small swivel between the mainline and leader. 

Attach two to three feet of 8 or 10 pound test Seaguar flourocarbon leader to the swivel and finish it all off with a 1/8th to 1/4 ounce jig. For steelhead I never fish a jig larger than 1/4 ounce and I rarely go below an 1/8th ounce jig in the winter months, although a 1/6th ounce jig will sometimes produce when nothing else does. Just ask Ryan, who bagged his limit of steelhead on the Skykomish River last weekend on a 1/16th ounce jig while listening to the Outdoor Line on his cell phone. Here's his report in the Outdoor Line Fishing Reports Forum. Nice work man!

The key to this whole floatfishing set up is to have just enough weight so that roughly 3/4 of the float is underwater. Set your jig so that it's within a foot, or so, of the bottom and for the ultimate presentation hold back on the float slightly as it's drifting thru juicy steelhead holding water. The water on the bottom of the river is actually slower than it is on the surface and this keeps your jig below the float where it needs to be. 

A great jig color to start with is pink and white, but other kick ass colors include pink/purple, the Nightmare pattern, red/black, peach/white, cerise/chartruese, and cerise.  

Lastly, tip your jig with a small piece of prawn meat for the ultimate hammer time action. Steelhead will hit a jig without it, but when things get tough a little prawn meat will coax'em into biting. The 50 to 60 count prawns you find at your local grocery store work great for this. 

If you're into the whole video thang check out one of the Outdoor Line videos that I posted a couple weeks back describing how to rig up a float for winter steelheading. Here's that video and there's a whole lot more where that came from on the Outdoor Line Video Page

You're now ready to hit one of our super low rivers and schwack-out some dime bright winter steelhead. This is definitely a basic floatfishing rig and this set up can be tweaked any number of ways to suit your needs. You can certainly get a whole lot lighter than this with some of the light rods, lines, and floats on the market nowadays. Don't be afraid to share some of your floatfishing strategies on the Outdoor Line Forums. It's where all the cool kids are hanging out!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle




With memories of last year's San Juan Island (Marine Area 7) smokin' hot blackmouth (winter feeder chinook) opener spinning through my head, I couldn't wait to get up to the Islands for the opener!

Add the fact that I'm going to have my pard' Robbo Endsley and Island guru Jay Field on board Big Red to compete in the second annual Resurrection Derby and I had a sleepless night leading up to the event.

Early on the morning of December first, we met at Jay's place in the Skyline Marina/community, all hands jumped in the truck to launch at Washington Park and scout for blackmouth all the way out to Friday Harbor, headquarters of the 2011 Resurrection Derby. Kevin Kline of Friday Harbor has worked his butt off launching this event, a reprisal or "resurrection" of the classic winter Rosario Derby which sadly went the way of several of our salmon fishing traditions.

While Jay Field and I looked for salmon, Robbo couldn't help glassing the island hillsides for the blacktail deer that are so abundant in the San Juans! Seriously, I'm impressed that Robbo keeps an eye on everything at all times. Somehow, he can watch rod tips, the water, other boats, the electronics and look for deer…all at once!


We had to work hard for our chances at fish but we managed to have a rare double header right at noon on Saturday. Robbo expertly bagged Jay Field's fish then swung around and bagged mine… Hmmm, looks like he had done that before…


Once it was all said and done on Saturday, the leaderboard was finalized and there were some "usual suspects" posting some impressive catches!


The "Reverend Captain" Jay Field at work: Jay served as Master of Ceremonies for the award presentation at the Friday Harbor Yacht Club. This room held one impressive quorum of serious salmon fishing talent!


Speaking of talent, San Juan Island legend "Uncle Pete" Nelson and Rob Endsley take a moment to mug for the camera.


Team "Big Kahuna", winners of the inaugural Resurrection Derby last year, posted a very strong showing taking Total Boat Weight honors and a check for $1000!


The first fish to hit the scales was also the biggest at 22.34 lbs, caught by Walt Vanwingerden and his Grandson Tommy of Bellingham. This blackmouth eclipsed last years winner by over 2 lbs. Derby Chairman Kevin Kline and Jay Field hand over the "BIG FAKE CHECK" for 10 grand! Not bad for a weekend of fishing!


After the Derby Banquet, the whole gang headed to Herb's in Friday Harbor and that's when things started to get a bit blurry…


The San Juan Islands are open from now right through April 30th. Talk about a wonderful window of opportunity! There will be solid fishing all winter and an opportunity to learn one of the most scenic and productive areas on the coast. For me, that was the biggest thing I will take home from my Resurrection Derby experience: I had three days on the water to learn from two dear friends who also just happen to be two of the most experienced guys in this neck of the woods.

I learned a ton about the Islands this weekend and I figured out something else: I have a lot more to learn about the wonderful place called the San Juan Islands!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle