We’ve Seen Forecasts…Now, Let’s See Some Kings!!!

With a damp, dreary Memorial Day weekend in the rear view window, it’s time to look north for the first indications of our actual chinook returns.

So why do we look north and what are we looking for? GREAT QUESTION!!! To answer that question, let’s have a quick review of what the University of Washington School of Fisheries catalogs as FISH 450: Salmonid Behavior and Life History.

As our juvenile chinook leave Puget Sound they “turn right” or head north to the rich oceanic pasture known as the Gulf of Alaska. Then, as they mature they eventually make their way back to the coast…and, bump right into Southeast Alaska!

So, it’s no secret that the tremendous salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, northern British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver Island are, to a great extent, driven by salmonid production in Oregon, the Columbia River, coastal Washington and Puget Sound. Therefore, if you are looking at a real indication of what our actual returns are looking like, Southeast Alaska is the place to look!

After a winter of going blind pouring over forecasts, pictures of actual, huge summer chinook is indeed a sight for sore eyes! Our good friend Derek Floyd of Reel Class Charters in Sitka, Alaska has been providing ample evidence of what looks like a great summer salmon season here in the Pacific Northwest!

Here’s Derek with a fine 39 pound specimen which fell prey to a technique he described during his interview on The Outdoor Line this past Saturday. Here is the podcast

Then, the next day, his fishbox featured a 29 and a 39 pounder!!!

The biggest fish of the week for Reel Class Charters??? How about this chrome 41 pounder! I dare you not to smile hoisting a slab of that size!

Still not convinced??? Check out Bill Vaughn’s 55.5 pound hog which is currently on top of the Sitka Salmon Derby leaderboard. 

The Sitka Salmon Derby is a two-weekend event that ends this coming weekend (June 1 & 2) and according to Derby officials, both the numbers of fish entered and average size of the chinook are up significantly from last year. In 2012, a 44 pounder took top honors in the event. This year?….a 40 pounder may fall outside the top ten.

Other significant -and unquestionably positive reports come from Rob Endsley of Prince of Wales Sportfishing. His contacts in Craig, Alaska (approximately 150 miles south of Sitka) have also reported chinook to the mid 40 pound range!

The Queen Charlotte Islands are also going great guns right now  Larry Carpenter of Master Marine Services in Mt. Vernon tells the following tale

: “After arriving at the lodge the first afternoon with only about 5 hours of fishing 25 anglers brought 17 Chinook salmon to the dock. With the first full day of fishing we had many more Chinooks  plus halibut, ling cod and red snapper  and our first tyee salmon 31lb. The second day brought more bottom fish plus Chinook salmon another tyee 32 lb and for a bonus coho salmon ranging from 6-10lb. Wow! What a treat!!! Some anglers have played up to 12-14 Chinook salmon in a day!” 

With reports like this I hope you can see what I’m seeing… One heck of a summer season!

Sharpen the hooks boys…sharpen the hooks!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

De-mystifying Cannon Downrigger’s Bottom Track Feature

Somehow, the three words “looking forward to” this summer’s salmon season just doesn’t cut it…

Obviously this feeling is shared among a few members of our Forums as I’ve been getting a bit of verbal “heat” over the lack of a new downrigger tech blog. So, as a clear indication that I’m responsive to abuse (just ask Robbo), here is the requested –and promised- ‘rigger tech blog.

One of the recurring questions that we see on our Forums concerns the bottom tracking function of the Cannon Digi-Troll 10. Basically the DT 10 has a digital Depthsounder built right in to the downrigger and all you have to do is add a Cannon transom-mount transducer to unlock this powerful feature.

Now you must set three parameters: Maximum depth you wish to track, “Blowback” or the extra amount of cable you wish to pay out in addition to the digital depth and “Sensitivity” which is the amount that you allow depth to change before the downrigger will react. I usually set “Max Depth” to 225 ft. and “Sensitivity” to 3ft. Your “Blowback” setting will change with your fishing depth, speed and current conditions.

Rob Endsley and I have a video on the use of the Bottom Track feature and it should clear up any questions you may have.

A commonly asked bottom track question –and one that has likely occurred to you- is “what happens to my line tension when the downrigger automatically changes depth? Great question! Well, through my years of using bottom track, I’ve learned a few tricks to the trade.

One of the best tricks is the use of heavy-tension Offshore Red Releases when bottom tracking.

The Offshore Reds are a double spring pinch style release that will pull line off your reel as the downrigger automatically drops the ball in all but the highest drag settings.

On the other side of the equation when you troll into shallower water the ‘rigger will automatically raise the ball and so you’ll have a larger belly in your line which you should “tend” or crank up. If you don’t remove the slack, you’ll still hook fish but probably not with the high landing percentages you are used to.

When you consider how much effort you put in to fishing close to the bottom with a standard electric downrigger, constantly lowering and raising the weight while managing the line on your reel, it’s easy to see that Cannon’s bottom tracking feature is a huge labor-saving, fish catching advantage!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Northwest Outdoor Report

Sol Duc Picking Up for Springers
Bill Myer from Anglers Guide Service in Forks says he’s been hooking a few nice spring Chinook on the Sol Duc river every day and the fishing appears to be picking up. Myer said most of his springers have been in the 8 to 14 pound range, but he’s heard of quite a few spring Chinook over 20 pounds already. He’s been backtrolling cured eggs and cut plug herring to get his bites on the Sol Duc. The Sol Duc springer fishery will continue to produce fish well into the month of June.

Trout Fishing Still Great Despite High Flows on Upper Columbia
Jack Mitchell from the Evening Hatch Guide Service checked in from Black Bear Lodge on the upper Columbia River to say that the trout fishing has remained great despite really high flows the past couple of weeks. The upper Columbia has swelled from 85,000 cfs to over 175,000 cfs recently from snow melt in the upper part of the basin. Mitchell says the fishing has remained great right thru the uptick in flows. He said they’re catching trout over 20 inches on a daily basis on anything from carpenter ant patterns to caddis, baetis, mayflies, and pmd’s. Mitchell says the great fishing will continue thru the month of June when the Green Drake hatch takes off.

Hein Bank Comes to Life on Second Halibut Opener
Kevin John from Holiday Sports in Burlington reported excellent halibut fishing on Hein Bank on the second halibut opener on Thursday of this past week. Kevin and the gang from Holiday Sports had their limit of halibut between 25 and 45 pounds before noon on Thursday. They caught their fish on the south end of Hein Bank in 120 to 180 feet of water. He said the hot baits were squid with a big glow in the dark hoochie and a large squid with a whole herring stuffed inside of it. Anglers should have decent weather on the Strait of Juan de Fuca for today’s halibut opener until the wind kicks up later this afternoon.

Last Razor Dig of the Season
Clam diggers will get one more chance to dig razor clams at Twin Harbors beach near Westport next Friday thru Sunday. Twin Harbors will be the only beach open for digging. WDFW coastal shellfish manager Dan Ayres says this has been the most productive clam digging season in over 20 years on the Washington Coast. Since last October diggers have harvested more than 5 million razor clams. The coast will close after this last clam dig to allow the razor clams to spawn and provide another crop of clams for digging next fall.

Kids Fishing Event on Heart Lake
One of the hottest trout fishing lakes in the region, Heart Lake near Anacortes, will close over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend for a kids fishing event. The event takes place on June 1st and the lake is closed two days prior to allow freshly stocked trout to acclimate. Kids that otherwise might not get a chance to catch a trout get the entire lake to themselves on June 1st. The Kids Fishing event has been held for 20 years on Heart Lake and is sponsored by the City of Anacortes and the Fidalgo/San Juan chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers.

First Copper River Salmon Arrives in Seattle
Alaska Airlines pilots carried a 40 pound Copper River king salmon to waiting chefs at Sea-Tac Airport yesterday. It was the first Copper River king to arrive in Seattle and marks the beginning of the yearly craze for this great eating strain of king salmon. Copper River king salmon are prized for their high fat content and restaurants pay as much as $50 a pound to purchase them for their patrons. The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 contained an additional 24,600 pounds of Copper River king salmon and Alaska Airlines said it would run three more Copper River salmon flights like it on Friday.

Minnesota Lakes Test Positive for Cocaine
Associated Press – Scientists just studied 50 lakes in Minnesota for water quality and found a myriad of manmade chemicals in the lakes – including cocaine, DEET, synthetic estrogen, antibiotics, and antidepressants. The bug repellent DEET was found in 76 percent of the lakes and researchers were shocked to find that 32 percent of the lakes tested positive for cocaine. Cocaine was the third most common chemical found in the lakes and scientists were surprised to find it in some very remote lakes that weren’t close to population centers. Before you head to Minnesota and start snorting lake water understand that you’ll probably drown before you catch a buzz. Scientists say the levels of cocaine in the lakes that tested positive is around several parts per trillion…hardly enough to catch a buzz.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

KIRO’s Upshaw to Join the Outdoor Line on Saturday

We’ll have Ron Upshaw from KIRO’s popular “Ron and Don” show on the Outdoor Line tomorrow morning to chat with us about his recent fishing trip to Louisiana. Ron fished the flats for redfish, black drum, and seatrout by day and then bow-fished for redfish by night. That’s a FULL day of fishing right there!

Ron says, “It was super fun but I started running out of gas at around 1:30 in the morning.”

Bow fishing for redfish sounds like blast!

Here’s a few of the photos from Ron’s trip and he’ll be giving us the fully skinny on his fishing trip on the radio with us in the morning.

A Louisiana fishing trip has always been on my bucket list, so I’m anxious to hear what he has to say about he recent adventure on the show tomorrow. Plus, Nelly will get to learn about something other than his beloved salmon. Blackened redfish…it’s what’s for dinner Nelly!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Luhr Jensen Releases New Flasher Colors for 2013

I just got my grubby little hands on the new Coyote flashers that Luhr Jensen just released for the upcoming 2013 salmon season and they look pretty schnazzy.

I hate to admit it but I’ve kind of grown fond of trolling for Chinook in Southeast Alaska and none of these flashers will be spared in our pursuit of chrome in the early part of the upcoming charter season. These flashers will be beaten in sand, gravel, and rock and thrashed by lingcod, halibut, and salmon. There isn’t a better place on earth to test out new tackle than Southeast Alaska!

Without further ado here’s the new flasher colors from Luhr Jensen:

Black/Double Crush Glow

Frog Racer

Glow/Double UV

White/Blue Bubble and Crush Glow

White/Chartreuse Dew and Crush Glow

If I had to choose three of the new colors when we start fishing in Southeast Alaska in early June I’d probably pick Glow/Double UV, Blue Bubble Boy, and Chartreuse Mountain Dew. Might as well start giving them nicknames right now!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Northwest Outdoor Report

Kokanee Bite Taking off on Lake Samish
Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington says the kokanee bite on Lake Samish has been heating up the last few days. He’s talked to several anglers who have been limits of kokanee up to 17 inches on the lake. The hot rig has been a Sling Blade dodger with a Wedding Ring spinner behind it tipped with shoepeg corn and a pink Berkley maggot. Kevin says the larger fish are being caught 20 to 30 feet deep on the downrigger and the best fishing has been occurring in the middle of the lake directly in front of the boat ramp.

Bass Tourney on Lake Washington This Weekend
The American Bass Association is hosting two tournaments on Lake Washington this weekend with separate tourneys running on both Saturday and Sunday. Larry Williams from ABA expects between 20 and 30 boats to turn out for the event. With the smallmouth bass recently moving up onto their beds he expects fishing to be quite good and thinks it will take a 22 plus pound limit to take top honors in both events. Williams says the best technique for catching smallmouth bass on Lake Washington this time of year is a drop shot rigged with either a Snyper or a Yamamoto bait.

Halibut Opener Most Productive Around Port Angeles
Anglers couldn’t have asked for better weather on the halibut opener last week. Anglers got flat seas, sun burns, and there was some good fishing at least for those in the Port Angeles area. WDFW fish checkers in Port Angeles checked 141 boats with 146 halibut on the opener last Thursday. That’s an average of more than one halibut per boat. Last year the average out of Port Angeles was around .3 halibut per boat. Port Townsend and Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island kicked out a few halibut, as well, while the fishing elsewhere in the eastern Strait and the northern Puget Sound was pretty spotty for halibut. Halibut opens in Neah Bay and LaPush this weekend and anglers are once again getting excellent water to fish for halibut offshore.

Neah Bay Halibut Opener Slower Than Expected
Mike Jamboretz from Jambo’s Sportfishing said they had to fish longer than usual to get their limits of halibut on the Neah Bay opener on Thursday. Jamboretz said the ling cod were so thick on most of 72 Square that it was hard to get to the halibut. He had to move quite a bit to find areas with good halibut numbers and finally found some better fishing on Blue Dot. Most of the fish averaged around 30 pounds and their biggest fish was 45 pounds on the opener. Neah Bay and LaPush are open again today for halibut and Jambo says they’ll have “canoe weather” offshore for fishing again.

Special Hunt Permit Deadline Drawing Near
Hunters should be aware that the deadline for special hunt applications is May 22nd this year. Hunters can apply for special hunts for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey in Washington thru the special hunt process. The drawing for special hunts takes place in late June.

Two Beaches Open for Clamming
Razor clam digging will be open Friday and Saturday on the Long Beach Peninsula and Twin Harbors beach will be open through Tuesday. Copalis and Mocrocks beaches are closed for the season because harvest guidelines have been met on those beaches. Low tide is at 8:12 a.m. today and digging usually starts a couple of hours before the low tide.

Florida Cops Enlist Alligator to Capture Fleeing Criminal
St Petersburg, Florida – A suspect who fled from Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies after a routine traffic stop was attacked by an alligator and later found at a local hospital being treated for puncture wounds to his face, arm, and armpit area. According to the police report the suspect, Bryan Zuniga, ran into the alligator at a nearby water treatment plant where it attacked him. He had no choice but to check himself into the hospital and of course…that’s where the police caught up to Mr. Zuniga and arrested him. If you run from the cops in Florida…you probably don’t want to wander too far off the beaten path.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Summer Steelhead – North Fork Strategies

By Dennis Dickson

As the oldest flyfishing stream in the country, The North Fork of the Stilly is steeped in tradition, known for its wild summer steelhead of Deer Creek. This is a passionate subject for me. Not only was I fortunate enough to fish this river as a youth, my first job out of college was that of a fisheries biologist working back on my home river. I have certainly seen my share of this little wild steelhead, and I am thankful for every one. There is also the hatchery fish that swim these waters.

I am not about to climb on my soapbox and expound the hype-surrounding wild versus hatchery steelhead. Instead, I am going address my remarks to poor Joe who simply doesn’t have the means to spend his time in Russia or British Columbia. He does enjoy a pretty stream with a decent chance at swimming a steelhead. Simply put, if we didn’t have a hatchery program on the Stilly, we wouldn’t have a summer fishery. Period. But I am not here to talk about that. I am going to explain where, when, and how to catch them.

Where: Just for landmarks, I will break up the river into four sections.

Confluence upstream to Deer Creek. This is actually  a two-day float. Deer Creek down to Cisero and Cisero down to Arlington. Migrational Timing: I will catch new 3 salt summer runs as early as April but June is the migrational timing these fish are primarily passing through the lower river. With many of the pools filled in from sediment produced from Deer Creek, these fish do not linger but swim directly for their natal stream, Fortson Creek. Though not quite as aggressive to the fly as a wild fish, they have a tremendous amount of stored energy to last for their year’s stay in fresh water. They are as “hot” as any fish that swims in the Stilly. Rocks are a real premium in the lower river. Pools with any boulders and logs in this section will pull steelhead in like a magnet. Fish the same flies and lines you do for the winter steelhead.

Deer Creek to Cisero has some of the best water. I like to fish this river section anytime Deer Creek allows 2 feet of visibility in the North Fork. The bulk of the Stilly steelhead run 7-12 pound 2 salt summer steelhead. July 4th is the traditional time to start looking for fish in good numbers, but the fishing can be great one day and zero the next. Summer water temperatures are coming up and fish will move to both sinking and floating line techniques. By the way, I have maintained for years that the Deer Creek fish actually prefer surface flies to wets. These lower river fish are not fussy, find the fish and get it in front of him. Bright, dark, big, small, just fish your fly right in the surface or right near the bottom. Mid water presentations are worthless.

Hazel to Deer Creek: I do not believe I have ever caught a wild summer run above Hazel. The first pulse of hatchery fish head directly for Fortson, the mid July two salt fish will start to slow up as they reach the mid river.  By August 1, the hatchery fish are settling into imprinting locations. The first arrivals are very susceptible to the usual techniques. As they start getting fished on heavily, they become more reluctant to come to the surface, then to sinktips.

Hazel to Fortson: Same thing applies here, but the upper river gets pretty skinny and fish work their way up to the few deep prominent pools. Fortson has its own fishery. The angler who would not dream of walking in downstream of another angler in the lower river doesn’t hesitate to do so at Fortson. By the same token, nobody bothers to keep stepping down through the pool either. Advantages of Fortson Hole? Fish. I swear I don’t think there is a week in the year there isn’t a fish or two in Fortson. I won’t mention how many there can be. These poor fish are chased around by legitimate flyfishers all-day and snagged by poachers at night. The Deer Creek flyboys have such a disdain for this fishery, they have a point system set up. For example, A Deer Creek and anywhere downstream fish is worth 5 points, a Fortson fish, only one. You get the idea.

Fishing Strategy: I like to get out and poke around to find few fish here, a pod of fish there. I would rather fish over three rested steelhead then fifty hard hat fish, but I will do that too, if I think its the only game in town.

“Show them something different” The one vulnerability of a summer steelhead is he can be a sucker for a change-up. A story will illustrate the point. One day I was fishing a couple good ole boys from the mid-west. The summer water at French Creek was very low and clear and the steelhead had seen about everything. We were fishing small brown nymphs on floating lines and long leaders. We were having little success. Don decides he has had enough of that, so he says he is headed downstream around the corner. I said we would be down in a few minutes. We finally decided the steelhead in front of us were not going to bite and were just coming around the corner, and here comes Don carrying a grin the size of the steelhead in his hand. He proceeded to tell me the first thing he did was lose his fly and a good portion of his leader to a sunken log. He said he was tired of fishing that little sh##t anyway. I tried not to flinch. He went on to explain he pulls out HIS box of bass flies and ties on a 1/0 black zonker. It was heavily weighted and when it splashed down, this big steelhead was all over it! Needless to say, Don wasn’t fishing any small flies for the rest of that day!

Summer time is a great time to use your trout techniques. The same steelhead that refuses to come to the surface, and is bored to tears dodging another greenbutt skunk on a sinktip, can be a real sucker for a dead drifted dark nymph. (until they have seen all those too.) Do not be afraid to experiment. Sometimes dead drifting a woolly bugger right in front of a steelhead’s nose and strip it away, like you do at Rocky Ford, can be killer!

Fall becomes a transitional time, and many of the Stilly’s hatchery steelhead holding in the lower river, start migrating for home. This October fishery is a great time to fish. If I wasn’t chasing the best rising steelhead in the pacific Northwest on the Grande Ronde River, I would be there, myself.

“Moving fish are taking fish”. Stories are told and retold about hitting the right pool when the fall migration is moving through. My biggest day anytime anywhere (Alaska doesn’t count) was hooking an even 20 steelhead and landing thirteen, on this fall migration.

Summer time is a lovely time to fish and remember not all the fish are at Fortson. Not until the late fall, anyway.

North Fork Stilly School – July 12 or 13, 2013

Dennis Dickson
Dickson’s Flyfishing

Northwest Outdoor Report

Opening Day Catches Good Despite Weather
Despite cool and windy weather in many parts of the state, anglers had a lot of success reeling in large trout on the trout opener last weekend. From creel checks conducted at 98 lakes around the state WDFW estimates that anglers caught an average of 4.6 trout apiece on opening day. The largest trout checked was a 24.5 inch rainbow caught at Vance Creek Pond #2 in Grays Harbor and a 24 inch rainbow was caught at Lincoln Counties Fishtrap Lake.  The top three lakes in the state were Aldrich Lake in Mason County with a 4.7 fish average, Wood Lake in Mason County and Erie Lake in Skamania County tied with a 4.6 trout average, and Martha Lake in Snohomish County had a 4.5 fish average on the trout opener. Good trout fishing should continue on most of the planted lakes for at least another month or more.

Cowlitz Picking up for Springers
Bob Kratzer from Anglers Guide Service is reporting decent fishing for spring Chinook on the Cowlitz River the last few days. Kratzer said he’s been hooking three or four fish a day fishing below the I-5 bridge and that the fishing seems to be improving each and every day. He’s been backtrolling anchovies, plugs, and divers with eggs and shrimp and said on any given day the fish will prefer one over the other. Kratzer recommends using Anise scent and some Pautzke krill powder on the eggs. He says with the Toutle River flowing gin clear the river has been fishing really well all the way down to the confluence with the Columbia.

Port Angeles Tops for Puget Sound Halibut
Bob Aunspach at Swains General Store in Port Angeles said great weather lead to some pretty good halibut fishing on the opener on Thursday. He said fish were caught at the Rockpile, 31-36, Green Point, Freshwater Bay, Whiskey Creek, and the Garbage Dump. Bob said most of the fish he saw were in the 20 to 40 pound range and there was an 86 pounder weighed in by Port Angeles angler Mark Reynolds. Aunspach said horse herring has been the best bait year in, year out for catching halibut in the Port Angeles area. Halibut is open in Port Angeles May 2nd thru the 4th and the next opener is May 16th thru the 18th.

Possession Bar Cranking out Lings
Nick Kester from All Star Charters in Everett limited his boat out quickly on ling cod the first two days of the season in Puget Sound. Kester said it took them about two hours each day to catch their limits of nice ling cod. Kester said live sand dabs were the ticket and he fished them on a 3 ounce sliding cannon ball sinker. He says sand dabs that about the size of your palm are best for catching lings in the Puget Sound and be sure to keep them alive.

Walleye Bite Heating Up on Potholes Reservoir
Mike Meseberg from Mar Don Resort on Potholes Reservoir said he’s looking forward to the upcoming week of warm, sunny weather. They’ve been dealing with strong winds off and on for the past month that’s kept both the fish and the fisherman guessing. Meseberg said one of their guides caught limits of walleye in Linn Coulee earlier this week and a few walleye have also been coming out of Crab Creek and the mouth of Frenchman’s Slough. Mike says the best way to catch them right now is with a spinner and a nightcrawler on the bottom. The Rod Meseberg Walleye Classic is being held at Mar Don Resort this weekend and people from all over the northwest will be hitting the lake. With 80 degree weather forecast for the region this weekend Meseberg thinks the fishing should really pick up for the tournament.

Man Injured After Taping Cartridge to BB Gun
Gainesville Sun – (Darwin Award nominee emerges in Gainesville, Florida) A man who tried to shoot a squirrel for dinner by taping a .40-caliber cartridge to a BB gun was hospitalized with shrapnel wounds after the cartridge exploded. William Daniel Lloyd, age 31, taped the cartridge to the end of the barrel to apparently shoot a squirrel for dinner. When he fired the BB gun it hit the primer on the cartridge and the round went off alright. The cartridge exploded sending shrapnel into Lloyd’s upper arm and lower leg. Since the man was a convicted felon he wasn’t allowed to possess firearms or ammunition. He apparently found the cartridge while looking thru a scrap metal pile and thought it might work for getting some dinner in the form of a squirrel. Lloyd’s injuries weren’t life threatening.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
Washington Fishing and Hunting Reports and Forums