“Went Springer Fishing”, just couldn’t keep the Trout off.

“Went Springer Fishing”, just couldn’t keep the Trout off…

Sometimes you just have to say the heck with the boat dealio and revert back to a much less involved, relaxing kind of day. I love these kinds of spring days.  The ones where you call up a fishing buddy and say, “hey, let’s go bank fish for some Springer’s”.
Now let’s face it, there are a couple of rivers I make it a point to steer clear of.  The Cowlitz is one on my list, however of the few on my list that I avoid, MothA’ Cow is one that I will spend just a few days on per year.

So here we go, heading south to go bank fish the Cowlitz for Springer’s. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that hanging out at the Cowlitz is such a bad thing, I just really enjoy fisheries on a bit of a smaller scale. I also enjoy fisheries where I spend an entire day in my drift boat. There are the periodic summer trips I will take down the Cowlitz, in my RivTech. I will spend a ten hour day, pulling bait divers with Coon-Shrimp and having good success. The water level is also at 4500 cfs, or lower and I actually enjoy that.
This however is not that time and the Cow is at 11,000 to 12,000 cfs; give or take, every few days. I have done it and it is doable, but lets get back to my original statement. My intent was to simply “revert back to a much less involved and relaxing kind of day.  Truth be told, I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to row. So, bank fishing seemed like a pretty good plan.

Started the morning off with the go to set up for the stretch we were fishing. Egg and Shrimp cocktails suspended under a float would be the ticket. This produced a couple take-downs, unfortunately nothing stuck.  We continued to offer-up our Pautzke Fire Cure eggs and sand shrimp for a few hours with no success. Finally a guy way up river hooked a fish, the first one of the morning, “awe yes, there is a chance”. About a half hour later, still nothing. OK, time for a change. I re-rigged, got rid of the suspended rig and went to my old stand-by, stick lead and float drifting presentation.

The stick lead and float drifting, did in fact within the first five minutes produce a take down, some head shakes and then off, “Doh, friggin Springer’s”. After presenting good bait through the drift repeatedly for a better part of the morning I needed a change. So back to the tuck I went, dug into the Ol’ cooler and pulled out a jar of my Coon-Shrimp.
Back at the drift, still rigged to Float Drift, I loaded up a Coon Shrimp and let it fly. As it worked its way through the drift, float down, come back, nothing there, bait gone…   OK re-bait, flip it into the seam, fifteen feet into the drift, and float down. Chrome bright, lots’a power and taking off. Of course I’m thinking Springer.  After a great fight, I work the fish back up river and yes sir, that there is a nice bright hen.

Yep, sure-nuph, Steelhead when your Springer fishing.

That’s ok, the Springer bite seemed a little slow this morning, so for now this will do.  Now the guys with me are changing up and all three of us are fishing Coon-Shrimp. A few more hook ups and a few more lost.  Then I’m able to land another, kind of a dark buck so back he goes.

The bite basically shut off and now even the Steelies didn’t want bait, so time for a change. I figure, let’s try some jigs.  Well, jigs for the next couple hours seemed to be the ticket. We proceeded to hook a few, land a few and lose a few.

This of course didn’t go unnoticed. With no fish action, pretty much up and down the river a few more guys started migrating our way. Why not, it’s the Cowlitz right?
Our morning basically started out like this. Just me, Steve and Mark (aka the Kokanee Dominator).

After a few more of these brought to hand……

Our day started to look more like this.

You don’t even want to know how crowed it got after a few more fish.

Then the questions started, what are ya using? How deep are your fishing? Mind if I step in? All the while I’m thinking Cowlitz, Cowlitz, Cowlitz, why is it I keep this on my low list of priorities to fish?

Actually it wasn’t that bad, All the guys where very nice, only one guy brought a net, so we used his services repeatedly.  Everyone got along great and believe it or not cast in order.  It was a great afternoon, we ended up going six for eleven, as once they get to the fast water, they be hard to turn, Ha..

As we were cleaning our fish a few guys came over to ask some particulars. I helped them with a few minor details to improve their chances. A few guys actually hooked up while we were still there.  Driving home, I thought, should I have told them about the home-made Krill Paste I was putting on my jig-head. Awe what the heck, they can read all about it on the Pautzke’s web page and make some to have for next time.

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Selecting the Right Bobber

With opening day of trout season just a few days away there’s going to be a lot, and I mean a LOT of bobbers flying off the shelves of local tackle shops this week. Like most items these days there are quite a few different styles of bobbers out there and where does the beginner start?

Case in point. I’m kicking around one of my favorite tackle shops the other day and I ran into two guys foraging thru the floats wondering which ones to purchase for opening day. They look somewhat dismayed at the array of bobbers in front of them and I just couldn’t help myself. I stopped and quickly showed them the different styles of floats, handed them the ones they needed, and went about my bidness.

It didn’t take long for the crusty old gears in my cranium to say…”hey, that’s a pretty easy blog.” So, here’s a quick rundown of the different float styles and where you might use them.

Sliding or “Slip” FloatBeau Mac slip float
Just as the name implies this type of float actually slides up and down the main line and requires a bobber-stop above it to adjust the depth. Sliding floats allow an angler to fish much deeper water than could normally be fished with a fixed float.

The bobber stop can be adjusted to just about any depth desired and can be reeled onto the spool when a fish is hooked. These floats come in many shapes and sizes and it’s important to select the correct size float for the amount of weight that will be under it. Use a small float with too much weight and it’ll be underwater fast. Sliding floats are very popular with salmon and steelhead fisherman.

Fixed Float
The most commonly used fixed float clips onto the main line and is best used for shallow water. These floats are usually red and white and have spring loaded clips on each end. Thousands of these floats are sold every year on opening day of trout season because they are inexpensive and easy to use.
Fishing bobber

Adjusting this style of float requires removing it from the mainline and re-attaching it to adjust the depth. Fixed floats work excellent under the right conditions and are very simple to use. These bobbers usually break easily, however, and can freeze in cold weather, making them difficult to use in extreme winter conditions.

Another fixed-style bobber that’s used frequently by salmon and steelhead fisherman is a Dink float. These floats are made of closed cell foam and the line wraps around the float to hold it in place.

There are many other styles of stick-type fixed floats that used by crappie, carp, salmon, and steelhead fisherman. It’s simply a matter of deciding how technical the presentation needs to be and then matching it up with the correct fixed float for the job.

Clear FloatsClear fishing float
The “Adjust-a-Bubble” is the most common clear float on the market, but there are several other styles that also work. Clear floats work great for fishing flies and can be filled partially with water to give them additional weight for casting. We used to catch plenty of trout on the I-82 ponds near Ellensburg, Washington using this style of float back in college. By filling the bobber part way with water we could reach a lot further out in the ponds than we ever could with a fly rod.

The Right Size Float
It’s best to adjust the size of the bobber to the fish being targeted and to the size of bait being used. Detecting the subtle bite of a trout, for instance, can be very difficult using a large bobber. It’s generally best to use the smallest bobber possible to float the bait or jig and still keep at least half of the bobber above the surface. The larger the bait being used the larger the bobber.

Saturday’s the big day! Hopefully you have all the split shot, hooks, bait, bobbers, and fishing licenses you’ll need to make it a fun day for the whole darned family. If you have questions please don’t hesitate to post them in the Outdoor Line Fishing Community. You’ll have an answer quickly!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

30 Degrees to Trout Success

30 degrees to “Trout Success”

Team Pautzke hit the road yet once again for another opportunity to get out and fish. This time we would meet up with some sales Reps from a local distributor on the East Coast.
Destination; the rolling mountains of West Virginia. This road trip took us through a number of small towns ie; Durin, Brandywine, Elkins, Franklin etc. Most of these towns are not even found on several maps.   
You cannot travel to W. Virginia and not inquire about moonshine, at least I couldn’t. “How easy is it to find authentic moonshine in West Virginia?” The first guy we had a conversation with at the Fat Boys Pork Palace diner, about Mountaineer Football, was jokingly asked about moonshine. We actually had it in our hands in less than 15 minutes.

It was a simple question, “you fella’s know where a guy might be able to find some authentic moonshine?” “It just may be closer than you boys think”, was the reply from the gentleman sitting in the stained T-shirt, two sizes too small. 

This is actually a photo of John Albrich, taking just a sip of the 110 proof moonshine. His tongue was numb for at least 2 hrs. Who knew that stuff was soooo, strong 

Our first morning out on the local stream was a bit of a challenge. Very similar to most of your trout fishing across the nation, these trout streams are occasionally stocked with Rainbows, Browns, Brook Trout and even a periodic Golden Trout. Most of the streams in W. Virginia receive a good amount of pressure. Trout fishing is a big deal there and a lot of folks do it.

The weather was beautiful as was the country. The temperatures continued to climb and by midday was easily 75 degrees and climbing. We did manage a couple of nice Rainbows in the morning, but as the day wore on, so did the fishing.

We took a break for some lunch and didn’t even hesitate. The 20 minute drive back to the Fat Boys Pork Palace was a no-brainer.

After lunch we decided to go find a couple more streams to spend our afternoon to evening on. It was now 91 degrees and the fishing was not getting any better. The lack of snow this past winter in this part of the country has basically put this entire area in early drought like conditions. The streams are extremely low and clear and some of them have already gone completely dry. This is basically late summer conditions in mid-April.  

The trout fishing was difficult due to the conditions. Very low, very clear and extremely warm and these trout were easily spooked. To do it right you should be dressed in cameo. Your presentation needs to be extremely small. Most of the time, even a single Pautzke egg presented under a float, would force the fish to move from its comfort area. You could see decent numbers of fish in most of the holes. Many of these fish average one to two pounds. These fish had also seen a good amount of pressure the past couple days. With so many factors stacked against us, it was no surprise the trout were not such willing participants.

Day two started out completely different from the moment we hit the outside air at the hotel. You could feel the chill in the air. The chill was a welcomed pleasure. We had, according to our Team Pautzke W. Virginia fishing partners, a half hour drive to the first stop of the day. An hour and forty five minutes later we finally arrived at our destination. W. Virginia time and West Coast time are completely different in more ways than one. Time didn’t matter, what I was looking at when we climb out of the car had me excited about trout fishing. It was forty degrees, partially cloudy skies and water falls with deep pools. Much, deeper and much bigger water then what we had fished the day before.

It didn’t take long for Robert, our W. Virginian local, to hook up. Then Robert hooked another, then another and you get the picture. Robert and Shane had waders on and us Out-O’-Town boys did not. They were on the other side of the pool and had a nice little riffle drift along the gravel bar coming off of the deep pool from the falls. Albrich and I were on the other side at the top of the falls. No matter what depth we set our floats, or bounced bottom, type of bait, or location in the pool, nothing worked. Casting to catch the edge of that nice little seam on the other side still was never just quite right.

Finally, after about an hour, Chris Shaffer said, “I don’t care what you have to do, you guys need to get over there and fish with our guys”. We looked around and the best option we had was to jump a swift moving narrow gap in the large rock formation. No big deal, we make it we are into the fish baby. If we slip and fall we are in the drink. We would be swept over the slick rock formations, ultimately landing in the deep pools below the 10’ to 12’ falls. What could possibly go wrong?

Both Albrich and I were successful in jumping the gap. I’m not saying it was athletic and smooth for both of us, but we both made it. After I picked John up off the ground and we managed to stop the bleeding on his knee, we hiked the trail to get over on the gravel bar were our Team W. Virginia continued to have good success.

It didn’t take long. Pautzke eggs any color, Can O Corn any color, and of course Fire Bait, all worked. The key was presentation and obviously location. The location was a factor as these trout were responding aggressively to your bait as it would move through the drift at natural current speed. We had already proven they didn't want to pursue a bait that lazily was presented suspended in the pool. The type of presentation was also a key factor. We did not hook a single fish with bait suspended on an egg hook under a float. However we had great success in utilizing a Trout Magnet mini jig head. When I say mini I am talking 1/64th oz. You simply would slide two to three Pautzke trout eggs or pieces of corn on the hook and fish it in a horizontal position, 6 ft. under the float. The presentation closely matched a common steelhead technique used at home, ie; the beaded jig. This was the beaded jig on a much smaller scale with the added scent of eggs or corn.

The Color of eggs or corn really didn’t matter as they all worked. We did have the most success with Gold Label red eggs and dark red Can O Corn. The Fire Bait worked well also and again, it really didn’t matter which color. All you had to do was mold a small amount, not a huge glob, around the hook. Fire Bait is a floating trout bait but the weight of the jig head would actually keep it down and offer it at the correct depth.

By midday it had warmed to a balmy 61 degrees, definitely a far cry from 91 on the previous day.
The keys to success on day two; 30 degrees, bigger deeper water, trout feeling protected and comfortable in their environment to be in a feeding mode.

West Virginia does offer some great trout fishing opportunity. As is the case in most river and stream fisheries, conditions will always play a role in how successful your day on the water may be.     

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Opening Day 2012 “Top Ten”

If there is a more popular fishing "rite of passage" than the lowland lakes trout opener, I sure don't know what it is!

The Nelson Clan at Perrygin Lake in Okanogan County a few seasons ago…

I would venture to guess that more "first fish" are caught on this final weekend of April than at any other time of year. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters all descend on the lakes of Washington, three-hundred thousand strong. In preparation of this massive effort, the State of Washington plants these lake with literally millions of rainbow and cutthroat trout which are ready, willing and more than able to provide action as well as dinner or a smoker full of a tasty treat!

To aid in their quest this weekend, I would like to offer the following ten tips for an enjoyable opening day experience!

1. Get legal!

The WDFW licensing cycle for the year runs from April 1 to March 31. In other words, if you are not sure if your license is current… it's probably not. Which, brings us to the second item on our list:

2. Bring your crew to the store!

If you have a young bunch (and even if you don't) it's always worthwhile to bring the crew along to get their licenses, get a copy of the fishing regulations and do a little shopping. "There's that new Snoopy rod Dad, Can we try this?" Let your fishing gang get a little fired up about their new gear and in all likelihood, your opening day will get a lot easier!

3. Know your fishermen!

What size raingear do they wear? Boots? Warm coats? Can they cast? What's their favorite snack food? The correct answers to these questions are best found out well in advance of "O" day!

4. Know your gear.

Seriously now, when is the last time you opened your trout box? How old is the line on your reel? If the answer to either of those questions is "I don't know"… You know what to do!

5. Float your boat

While a boat adds to the complexity of any fishing trip is also adds productivity, mobility, comfort and convenience. In my opinion, more than a fair trade. However, the early dawn of opening morning is a poor time to find out that the batteries are dead, the drain plug is missing, the trailer lights are burned out and the tabs are expired. Just don't ask me how I found that out…

6. Rig all the rods

Another way to dodge Murphy's Law is to rig all the rods in the garage the night before…or the night before that! Trust me, it's a lot easier to tie up under a fluorescent light than a dome light.

7. Scout your location

One of my favorite opening day memories is taking my young son to our chosen opening day lake the day before the opener. The lake was stuffed to the lilly pads with rainbows that were literally jockeying for position to eat the next bug to hit the surface. Watching the surface activity was secondary to scouting out the ramp and available parking. A word to the wise: It's time well spent!

8. Friday night load up!

Get it all in the rig the night before. If its missing, you still have time to find it or replace it… 'nuff said!

9. Get 'em up easy…

Set the alarm a little early and let the gang go through a little of their morning routine. Rushing your charges out of the house so they can sit with you in a ramp line is not going to score you any points.

10. Make it fun!

Quick limits are great and are huge braggin' rights fodder… on the Columbia for springers!…. Nobody is going to stop the presses and roll evening news tape for your stringer full of six inchers. The goal on opening day is to provide your friends and family with an introduction to a sport, a way of life that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives! Let the kids handle the rods and play every one of the fish! Let another kid handle the net, sit back and enjoy the mayhem that ensues!

Opening day is like a fishy Christmas. The more you give, the more you get and what you get from a successful opener you'll never forget!

Sunshine and Springers

Sunshine and Springers

About a half hour ago, my wife Sheri proclaims as she walked through her kitchen, "this house smells like fish". Yes honey, yes it does. It's that damn Chinook, I can't help it, if it's a Fall fish or Spring Chinook, there is that distinctive smell. I guess all things considered, that's a good thing.

Last night while on the phone with my good buddy Darren Hoberg,  Co-Owner and Guide for Team Great NW Rivers Guide Service,
www.greatnwriversguideservice.com the discussion was Cowlitz for steelies or back to the Big-C for Springer's. In Darren's words, they are starting to show. So that was that and I would be getting up at 03:00hrs. so myself and the Kokanee Dominator could meet Darren at the Willow Grove boat ramp on the Big C. 

So here we go, the weather forecast was favorable, the tide was perfect and it was a short twenty minute ride to the location at which we would spend our day on "Da Hook".

The day starts out with the sun coming up and showing me once again, the added bonus of a day spent on the water. For all of those who never get a chance to be outdoors and enjoy what nature has to offer, I feel sorry for you. Once in a while, you just need to stop and take it all in.

And sometimes it's the little things you notice when you're out fishing and just happen to have the camera. It can be something as simple as boat light reflection, go figure.

OK, enough of the fluff, let's get right to it. 

So you wanna go Springer fishing. If you are not on the troll and get settled in on "Da Hook", this is how your day starts.  

Then it's simply a waiting game. Waiting for the tide to push fish in. Waiting for fish to show and then hopefully waiting for the fish that show to be willing participants in this game of hook and retention.

Well, the fish did in fact show.

Actually throughout the morning, we had a lot of consistent activity on the Lowrance screen. With three rods deployed, surely we would have some willing participants. The rigging of choice, plugs of course. Meat wrapped plugs on a four oz. sinker/dropper with about a four ft. leader. The choice of plugs, that was easy. For Darren, Kwik Fish, for me, Mag Lips. I was also using some meat wrapped on my plug that I decided to try for the first time. This wrapped bait had been soaked in Pautzke's chartreuse Fire Brine, then cut to size and wrapped on plugs. I'll do a complete blog next week on how to create fantastic UV, on your bait wraps for your plugs when fishing dirty water. Oh, that's right; I failed to mention the dirty water. I would say with full sun up and light penetration we had a solid two feet of vis. So UV, you bet.

Finally, about an hour into the morning an aggressive take-down on the UV Mag Lip with meat. An aggressive take however, a non-stick. Ok, at least it's a start and we have a good number of fish swimming by it would be nice to hook a few.

One thing worth mentioning; when you have fish on the move and you know they are there, this is not the time to be lazy with your offering in the water. Switching out your selection about every 20 minutes or so with a fresh wrap of meat is advised. Strong scent and oils, in the dirty water accompanied by the action of a good UV plug can make all the difference in having a successful day.

Case-in-point; a fresh meat wrap on the plug that was hammered 30 minutes prior and not more then 5 minutes in the water, produced an aggressive take down which resulted in that whole retention thing I mentioned earlier.


Not a monster, but a hatchery fish, non-the-less.

So the patience and persistence pays off. The sun was up, the water was calm and we were kept awake by the periodic visitor, giving us an impressive tug-down on our offerings. Five in all, however, we were only fortunate enough to have one stick solid enough to bring to the net.

Let me spell it out for ya, yes the hooks were sharp, no we didn't have premature-rod-jaculation, yes the rod tip was buried in the water at the time of hook set. What could it possibly be??? I'll tell you exactly what it was, "A beautiful day of Springer Fishing"  

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Gearing Up For Halibut

The days are ticking away until I head north to begin yet another charter season in Southeast Alaska and low and behold my phone has been ringing to do some last minute seminars here in Washington before I zip outa here. I am adverse to doing seminars these days because of my crazy-busy schedule, but when guys like Ron Garner, Jay Field, and John Keizer call I simply can't say no. Those guys are studs and head up some of the finest Puget Sound Anglers clubs in the state. It's an honor to speak at these clubs! 

In advance of my string of halibut seminars I figured I had better post a blog for some reference material and it's a good review for me also. With halibut season just around the corner here’s a few rigging tips that have put a lot of halibut in my boats over the years.

Circle Hooks
Circle hooks work great for halibut because once they’re set in the halibut’s mouth they simply don’t come out. A second advantage is that fish are much easier to release with a circle hook because the hook nearly always ends up in the corner of the halibut’s mouth and not inside the mouth or even worse, down the halibuts throat.

Getting a solid hook set with a circle hook is easy, don’t set the hook. That’s right…DO NOT SET THE HOOK! Let a halibut munch on the bait until the rod is pulling down steadily and then start reeling slowly. The majority of the time the hook will embed in the corner of the halibut’s mouth as it swims away against the pressure.

If for some reason the fish drops the bait after you’ve reeled up slightly, open up the bail on the reel and drop the bait back to the bottom again immediately. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the same fish pounce on the bait the second it was dropped back to the bottom.

Keep these hooks as sharp as possible! It surprises me how many people will drop last year’s rusty circle hook overboard expecting to catch fish. Old hooks will still work as long as a hook file is taken to them to hone the point and remove the rust from the hook, but without a touch up they are nearly worthless. It’s no surprise that a sharp, smooth hook will penetrate and slide into a halibut’s jaw more easily than a rusty, dull hook.

A 16/0 Mustad circle hook gets the most use on my boat when we’re targeting chicken halibut. On the rare occasion that one of our customers wants to target Barnie barndoor halibut I’ll run 22/0 circle hooks and use salmon heads for bait, using as much of the salmon guts as possible to lay down a scent trail.

I like to offset my circle hooks about an 1/8th of an inch, or so. Adding an offset improves the hook-up ratio quite a bit. There’s a reason why many offshore billfish tournaments don’t allow offset circle hooks…because they work.

Here's a circle hook rigged with a giant hoochie skirt and a Mustad Sure Strike Capsule that's worked great for me the last couple of years! 

When I have to rig up a J-Hook rig I go with 8/0 to 10/0 Mustad hooks and as you can tell I'm a fan of plastics, so it usually has some sort of hoochie rigged up in front of the hooks. For fishing halibut in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca I highly recommend a rig like this because you might be fishing for one to several bites a day. There's no sense in using a circle hook only to have a halibut pick up your bait, miss the hook, and never bite again. If you're in areas with a lot of halibut, however, and you need to release quite a few halibut in a days fishing do not use J-hooks. Reserve J-hooks for times when every bite counts!


Scents for Halibut
Halibut live on the deep, dark ocean floor and rely heavily upon their sniffers to lead them to a meal and providing a scent trail can draw fish in from a long ways away. Jigs and bait rigs should all be packed with scent for this very reason. Tipping jigs with bait strips, Berkley Gulp, and adding scent gel all works great to lay down a scent trail. 

Bait rigs add plenty of scent on their own, but soaking baits in additional scent creates a high-octane scent bomb. A scent that been a winner for me for me in Southeast Alaska is Pautzke’s Nectar. Nectar is the runoff from the egg curing process at the Pautzke factory  and is loaded with fish attracting scent.  I will soak our salmon belly strips or bottomfish belly strips in this scent overnight in a Zip Loc bag. These baits lay a plume of scent on the bottom that draws both halibut and lingcod in quickly.

Other great scents to use are herring gel, krill, sturgeon feast, anise, and shrimp/anise. If I see a lot of bait near the bottom I’ll generally go with herring gel and if I’m fishing in and around rocky pinnacles I’ll add some shrimp scent. 

When we're fishing with jigs in Alaska I will always, always tip them with some sort of bait. Salmon belly strips work the best, but herring fillets and fish skin soaked in Pautzke's Nectar are also proven fish catching baits. The scent from bait greatly improves the amount of hookups you'll get jigging!

Glow-in-the-dark white grubs and giant glow-in-the-dark hoochie’s have been my go-to plastics for years. These plastics aren’t just for jigging either. They also work great on a bait rig.

Delta Tackle, Berkley, and Zak's Tackle all make excellent plastics for bottomfishing. The 8” Berkley Gulp grub is standard on most charter boats in Alaska and the Canadians catch a ton of halibut trolling them off downriggers on the offshore banks. Apparently halibut like stale gym socks because that’s exactly what one of these grubs smells like. Whatever the case…they really work!

The benefit to adding a hoochie to a bait rig is that the rig will still attract fish when the bait is partially pulled off the hook. When you’re fishing a quarter mile below the ocean’s surface the last thing you want to do is reel up every time a fish takes a swipe at your bait. That giant hoochie skirt might just give you a few more minutes of bottom time.

The hoochie rig works in just about any color, but I’ve seen the best results from pink/white, green/white, and plain white hoochies in glow in the dark.  Rig these hoochies with a handful of Corkies, large beads, or a Mustad Sure Strike capsule above the hook as a spacer and you’ve got a halibut rig that will be lethal on the ocean floor. 

Today’s braided lines are so advanced it doesn’t make any sense to not have them on your halibut reels. The advantage that these lines offer is greatly reduced diameter and added sensitivity, which allows an angler to drop halibut gear straight to the bottom with less drag, and to actually feel the bottom when the weight or jig hits it. Feeling the bottom is especially advantageous when fishing rocky, jig-grabbing structure. 

All of my reels have 100 pound Dacron backing on them and they are topped off with 250 to 300 yards of 100 pound Trilene Big Game super braid. The heavy backing provides enough bulk on the spool to fill part of the spool before the super braid is added. Use a uni-knot to connect the two lines together while you’re spooling your reel.

I typically fish water that’s between 150 and 400 feet deep in Alaska, but colleagues that fish the Washington coast will often pound water that is 500 to as deep as 800 feet deep. Yikes! For those conditions I recommend dropping down to 50 or 60 pound braid for reduced line drag.

Halibut simply aren’t leader shy!  I know halibut fisherman that use weed-eater twine for leader and believe me, they catch plenty of halibut. I typically use 150 to 200 pound test for my halibut leaders. I can grab the line when halibut hit the surface without worrying about snapping the fish off and my customers can man-handle them as much as possible without a break-off.

A good reel will be your best friend on the halibut grounds. You’ll want to choose a reel with a large handle and the highest gear ratio possible. The fewer revolutions you have to turn the reel to get the fish up from the bottom the better. Halibut fishing is a marathon and can be downright brutal work, so do everything in your power to make it as easy as possible.

My reel of choice in Southeast Alaska is a Penn 340 GT level wind. They fit nicely on my Lamiglas 6080 halibut rods and are tough, usually lasting all summer without failure. 

Halibut Rods
I use the Lamiglas 6080 stand up rods that are rated at 30 to 80 pound for the bulk of our bottomfishing in Southeast Alaska because they have enough horsepower to haul up a big halibut and they are just sensitive enough to feel a jig hitting the bottom. They are fairly heavy rods that are excellent for pounding heaving gear on the bottom and cranking up countless halibut.  

When shopping for a rod be sure to buy one with a base that’s fitted for a fighting belt. Most halibut rods will usually have a cap on the butt of the rod that can be pulled off, exposing a seat that fits into a belt. A belt makes it much easier to lift a heavy halibut from the deeps.  Consider this when shopping for rods. Fighting caps can also be fitted over the end of these rods.

I use stainless three-way corkscrew swivels for all of my bait fishing and a single corkscrew swivel when we’re fishing jigs in Alaska. Before the season begins I’ll make up as many as fifty to a hundred 3 foot shock leaders with 200 pound test by crimping a swivel on one end and a corkscrew swivel on the other. I use these shock leaders whenver we are using jigs. When there’s a break-off jigging I can quickly tie on a shock leader, spin on a new jig, and we’re back in business quickly.

Since I run such heavy leaders with my circle hook/bait rigs I don’t have many problems with line twist or tangles on the bottom and don’t need to run spreader bars. Many of my co-horts will run an additional three foot section of tuna cord with their bait rigs, but I choose to run my braid straight to the three-way corkscrew. I spin the lead onto one leg of the three-way and my bait rig to the other one and down she goes. I can quickly swap out leaders with this setup and when my guests hang up the gear in the rocks I’m not losing a spreader bar "and" a bunch of gear with it..

Harpooning Halibut
My harpoon is about 6 feet long with a smooth flying tip on the end that punctures halibut easily. Most tips will come with a short piece of cable that you connect your bouy line to. Inspect this cable often for wear around the crimps.

I like to use a 10 to 12 foot long bouy line made of either lead line or a nylon line that coils easily. Throwing a mess of yellow poly floating crab line over board with a pissed off halibut on the other end can be just that…a mess.

When I know we have a halibut on the hook that needs harpooning I’ll place the bouy in my deck bucket and coil the line up on top of it. This keeps the line from getting around peoples feet, or even worse, my own feet. A Scottsman’s style bouy that’s about the size of a basketball works fine for this.

The moment of truth! I like to stick halibut thru the gill plates. With a little force it’s fairly easy to push the harpoon tip all the way thru both plates and more often than not I’ll hit a couple of gills on the way thru, which starts the bleeding process.

Sticking them just behind the gill plates is also a good bet. The nice thing about harpooning them in this location is that if you hit the spine it’s Good Night Irene! You’ll want to avoid the belly cavity, as this is the softest tissue in the entire fish and I’ve seen tips pull out of this area. No beuno!

Just remember to hold onto the stick after you push the tip thru the halibut. Many a harpoon stick has been lost overboard by letting go of the stick after a halibut is harpooned. Also, don’t forget to wear gloves to handle the line. I like to wear the long heavy-duty rubber work gloves when I’m handling halibut and bottomfish.

Here's a video one of my customers shot harpooning and shooting a 125 pound halibut off the west side of Prince of Wales Island about five years ago: 

There you have it…a few tips for rigging up for the upcoming halibut season. Hopefully some of this advice will come in handy if you're lucky enough to tie into one of these fine-eating creatures.

If you have any questions about any of this feel free to post them in the Outdoor Line Fishing Forums and either myself or one of the other saltwater anglers on the board will be happy to answer them. Good luck halibut fishing this spring everyone!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


The 2012 Anacortes Salmon Derby!!!

The Anacortes Salmon Derby has become nothing short of a hot ticket!

This springtime stop on the Northwest Salmon Derby Series has sold out in as little as ten days! The 2012 edition took a bit longer: "Well, it was nail-biter…" explains derby Chairman Jay Field "It took 27 days… I blame the weather…"

The weather would figure into the derby fishermen's plans as well with Small Craft Advisory winds forecast for the entire weekend. Fortunately, Saturday dawned flat calm and anglers could fish wherever they pleased!

It's the venue that sets Anacortes apart from most other events as the gang at Cap Sante Boat Haven (www.portofanacortes.com) rolls out the red carpet and a circus tent! The tent acts as a headquarters and is large enough to seat 800 anglers!

First order of business for the weekend-long Anacortes Salmon Derby is getting the boat in the water. A sling launch and moorage is included in the price of your derby ticket!



"Big Red" the 710 ESPN Seattle flagship takes her place alongside of John Keizer's "Salt Patrol" Lowrance boat.


The Anacortes Salmon Derby kicks off Friday night with a "Captains Meeting". At 6pm, the crowd assembles for a few fishing seminars, safety info and a review of the rules.


Once the scale closed at noon on Sunday, the top five fish are displayed and envious onlookers marvel at the size of these plump hatchery chinook!


The final leader board shows Ted Radke's 21.72 slab caught on Saturday morning holding up as the eventual winner.


Island ace Rod Nau shows off his fourth place 21.20 pounder in front of the Derby Series Grand Prize boat.

Anacortes Salmon Derby Chairman, the "Reverend Captain" Jay Field prepares to address the crowd and announce the winners.

A proud and happy Ted Radke and his young son hold the plaque and check for $15,000 and are crowned winners of the 2012 Anacortes Salmon Derby!

I refer to the Anacortes Salmon Derby as the "gem" of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series and it's not just because of the $25,000.00 purse. The San Juan Islands are a world class fishing destination, Cap Sante Marina rolls out the red carpet for anglers and the town of Anacortes opens it arms and welcomes anglers to this event.

For anyone interested in starting a derby, one could do a lot worse than using the Anacortes Salmon Derby as a blueprint!

Tom Nelson

710 ESPN Seattle

The Outdoor Line 6-8 am Saturday