Fish Blades for Early Potholes Walleye

Potholes Reservoir is currently locked up with more ice than the lakes seen in quite a few years. It’s been awful chilly in Eastern Washington since early December and that bout of cold weather continues to this day. So why are we talking about walleye then?

The second the ice comes off Washington’s Potholes Reservoir and the boat launches are finally useable again you’ll find a group of hardcore anglers hitting the reservoir in search of walleye. It could be another month or so before that happens but when it does it pays to be ready.

One of those anglers is longtime walleye guide Shelby Ross of PotholesFishing.com. Shelby lives on Potholes Reservoir and has guided for walleye and waterfowl on the lake for years.

When the ice burns off and you’re itchin’ to hit the lake here’s a few tips from the master himself that will put some early season walleye in your frying pan this spring.

Find the Bait, Find the Walleye

There’s no shortage of drop-off’s and humps in Potholes Reservoir and Shelby will hit as many as twenty of them in a day until he finds one loaded up with bait. He targets humps and ledges in 25 to 50 feet of water until he finds one that’s holding a bunch of bait. If the sonar screen looks promising he’ll toss a marker bouy out and keep cruising to see if there’s anything else in the vicinity.

Some of the areas that he’ll scope out first are the rock shelves around Goose Island, the north shoreline just west of Linn Coulee and the deep humps near the mouth of Crab Creek. These are all staging areas for the spawn and walleye are usually feeding in these areas in the months and weeks leading up to the spawn.

Once he’s got a good handle on exactly where the bait is he’ll stop the boat and start casting blade baits into the shallow water and work them out into deeper water. He say’s he’ll know instantly how good it is if they start catching perch right away. Find the perch and you’ve found the walleye.

The technique is somewhat simple to master but of course it does have it’s nuances. Shelby uses 1/2 ounce blades eighty percent of the time and has a few 3/8 and 3/4 ounce blades on board if he needs to switch up. If the walleye are just rattling the blades and they are missing a lot of hookups he’ll switch to a lighter 3/8 ounce blade first to give the lure a little slower fall. That usually produces a more aggressive strike and if that doesn’t work he’ll try the 3/4 ounce blade.

Position the boat on the deep end of the drop off and cast the blades up onto the shallow end of the ledge or hump. The lure should fall into about 25 to 30 feet of water. Once they hit the bottom start working them down the face of the ledge. He likes to work the jig up about a foot and then let it fall back to the bottom with the strikes always occurring on the drop. If you feel anything subtle or different about the action of the blade set the hook!

Make Your Own Blade Baits

Snagging up on the bottom is inevitable with this technique, so bring plenty of blades with you. Shelby spends some time in the winter months making up his own blade baits to cut the cost down a bit. He buys 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 ounce nickel plated blades from Jann’s Netcraft and then adds the prism tape and hooks to finish them. His favorite prism tape colors are chartreuse, red, and silver and on any given day one can be hotter than the other.

He prefers to run Mustad split shank treble hooks on his blades because they greatly reduce the number of tangles. Blade baits with split rings are a tangle waiting to happen. Mustad split shank trebles are extremely sharp and they are easy to install on the blades.

Rig up for Success

Shelby likes a spinning rod in the eight foot range with a fast action. The sensitive tip allows him to feel the action of the blade and the backbone slams the hook home when a walleye picks up the blade. They can be surprisingly subtle and a sensitive rod tip definitely helps feel the bite.

He uses a Daiwa Excelor 2500 series reel spooled with 10 pound Power Pro braid. 10 pound Power Pro has the diameter of 2 pound test monofilament and it’s great for casting blade baits a country mile. The extremely small diameter line allows his guests to feel the action of the blade and contact with the bottom in water as deep as 50 to 60 feet.

He’ll attach a barrel swivel to the end of the braid and then he runs a bumper of six inches of 15 pound fluorocarbon between the swivel and the blade bait. The short section of flourocarbon is easy to cast, reduces tangles, and has some abrasion resistance against the blade bait and treble hooks.

Walleye don’t fair well when they’re caught out of deep water and it’s usually not possible to “high grade” fish when they’re caught in excess of twenty feet of water. If you land on the walleye in deep water keep your limit and head for the barn.

This has been one of the coldest winters in Eastern Washington in nearly a decade and Potholes has been locked up with ice since mid-December. When the ice finally comes off the lake though you can bet there will be walleye willing to jump all over a blade bait. Give some of Shelby’s tips a try and with any luck you’ll go home with some fresh walleye.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Let’s Go Ice Fishing!

Grandpa Al Brooks with Adam and Ryan enjoying a day ice fishing on Roses Lake-Jason Brooks

Let’s Go Ice Fishing!

by Jason Brooks

The recent cold temperatures have thickened the ice and a winter pastime is creating memories once again. Ice fishing is going strong in Eastern Washington with the trout bite being consistent on Roses Lake near the tiny town of Manson. Those that prefer to catch a mess of perch are doing really well on Moses Lake and don’t forget Fish Lake near Leavenworth.

Ryan Brooks waits for a bite through the ice-Jason Brooks

The fishing is fairly simple, just chop or auger a hole in the ice and drop your baits down towards the bottom where the water temperatures are a little warmer. Look for areas where other anglers have found previous success, as shown on the ice with places where fish have flopped around and froze, or by watching anglers on the ice.

A rainbow trout coming through the ice-Jason Brooks

Ice fishing is one of those activities that is more of a novelty than a “must catch a limit” fishery. Have fun out on the ice but realize that it is cold, windy, and if you take the kids along they might not want to sit out there for very long. To make it more comfortable I like to take a lawn chair and a piece of carpet. The carpet makes it so you won’t be sliding around all the time and it really helps keep your feet warm.

Just enough freshly frozen trout for dinner-Jason Brooks

For gear, a standard, light action Daiwa trout rod works well, but so do those tiny “ice fishing” rods you find in the mid-west. They are very sensitive as the bite is light with the cold waters. Spool the small reel with 6 pound Platinum Izorline monofilament. When trout fishing it is best to use a leader with the weight tied at the bottom and the hook tied off of the leader between the weight and the swivel. I prefer to use a 1/4 ounce bell weight and size 10 bait holder hooks. Common baits are powerbait, single salmon eggs, or my favorite-salad shrimp cured overnight in Pro-Cure’s “Shrimp and Prawn” cure. For perch, jigging is the way to go, and it also works great for trout fishing too. Use a small jig, like a 1/8 ounce or smaller Mack’s Lure Glo-Getter that is UV enhanced. Tip the jig with a piece of worm, shrimp, or maggots. I also use a lot of scent when ice fishing no matter the type of fish as this attracts the lethargic fish and turns on a bite. Try Anise and Garlic scents as they seem to work really well ice fishing.

Adam Brooks and our Vizsla Lucy use carpet to keep their feet warm on the ice-Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks – Outdoor Line Blogger

Lamper’s Essential Backcountry Hunting Gear List

When it comes to getting geared up for a big game hunt in the backcountry there are few people that know this drill better than Ryan Lampers. For most of the year he can be found running the family business, Ray’s Baits, in Granite Falls, Washington. Ray’s Baits delivers  night crawlers, herring, sardines, anchovies, salmon eggs, and sand shrimp to retailers and fishing guides all over the Pacific Northwest.

What you may not know, however, is that this quiet and unassuming cat might be one
of the most prolific big game hunters in the Pacific Northwest. Lamper’s stock and trade is the pursuit of trophy elk and deer on public ground deep in the backcountry of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Lampers is a public ground success story that’s come from an insane amount of work and years of trudging around in the backcountry putting as much stress on himself and his gear as is humanly possible.

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Ryan and his hunting partner Joey Pyburn spend weeks in the high country every fall in search of trophy elk and deer and they seldom see a soul. Lamper’s tells me he hasn’t seen another hunter in four years. Why? Because there are few people that go where they go. And doing that, my friends, takes and immense amount of work and some of the finest gear in the world. Ryan’s tested every piece of lightweight backcountry camping and hiking gear you can imagine and thru his decades-long research he’s kind enough to share some of his favorite gear items here on the Outdoor Line.

Shelter – MSR Hubba One Man Tent

The MSR Hubba one man tent weighs under three pounds packed and it’s small enough to fit into a deer bed on the side of a mountain. These incredibly lightweight tents are a breeze to set up anywhere and the footprint is so compact Lampers can hunker down for the night just about anywhere.  msr_tent_elk_web

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Here’s a video that highlights just how quickly the MSR Hubba lightweight backpacking tent can be assembled.

Cooking-Jet Boil Minimo

Ryan prefers the Jet Boil Minimo because of it offers the most finite valve control of any upright canister system on the market. He can slowly simmer soup over a small flame or blast the heat to quickly boil up water for a freeze dried meal or a hot drink.The Minimo weighs just under a pound and will boil 16 ounces of water in 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

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Drinking Water – Steripen

With a SteriPen there’s no need to pack a cumbersome and space-consuming filter pump. The SteriPen uses UV light to zap 99.9% of the organisms that live in water. The outdoor models will purify one liter of water in 90 seconds and last up to 8,000 treatments.

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Backpack – Exo Mountain Gear K2 5500 

The EXO Mountain Gear K2 5500 pack comes with a titanium frame and weighs an astonishing 5 pounds, 4 ounces. The EXO has pockets galore for stashing all the necessities for a long backcountry hunt and long side pockets for guns, spotting scopes, tent poles, and hydration bladders. This pack also has an expandable 2500 cubic inch load shelf for hauling meat and 14 compression straps to secure loads to the pack. It can be expanded to 7,000 cubic inches for packing into the backcountry and compressed down to 3,500 cubic inches for day hunts. Ryan’s hauled loads to 140 pounds on the EXO K2 5500 and says it’s the most comfortable and durable pack he’s ever owned.

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Head Lamp – Black Diamond Storm

Ryan’s number one backcountry headlamp is the Black Diamond Storm. He likes it for it’s brightness and most importantly it’s longevity. With a fresh set of batteries this head lamp will last for an entire week in the backcountry. Sure, he brings an extra set of batteries along but they rarely get used.

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Trekking Poles – Black Diamond

When laden with a heavy load of backcountry gear and venison a set of trekking poles is an essential item to provide stability and safety. Black Diamond trekking poles come with two Flicklocks for adjustability and when they’re not needed they can collapse and be stored in the long side pocket of the EXO Mountain Gear K2 5500 pack. Lampers highly recommends picking up a set of rubber Tech Tips for any hunting trip into the backcountry. Using the rubber tips eliminates the noise the poles make while hiking in rocky terrain.

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Traction – Kahtoola Micro Spike

Carrying heavy loads on steep and sometimes wet or frozen alpine slopes can be dangerous work. Lamper’s always has a set of Kahtoola Micro Spike’s stashed in his pack for traversing steep areas in the backcountry. Micro Spike’s are easily slipped over hunting boots and pack down nicely.

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I’ll be catching up with Ryan again soon to get another gear list going. We’ll talk rifles, slings, game bags, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and whatever else comes up. The one thing we won’t talk about, however, is where in the backcountry you need to be. That’s gonna be up to you.

If you want to catch up with Ryan Lampers I recommend hitting him up on Facebook (Ryan Lampers), Instagram (sthealthyhunter), or on his newly-launched website huntharvesthealth.com.

Thanks for stopping by and remember…next hunting season starts now!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Smoked Salmon – A Simple and Delicious Recipe

Smoking salmon can be as easy or difficult as you make it. By using the highest quality salmon, however, you can produce a very high quality smoked fish product using even the most basic recipe and ingredients. Don’t be fooled into thinking the spawned out old boot that you just caught on the river is “good enough for the smoker”, as the quality of the fish you put in the smoker will be exactly what you get out of it.

Below is a simple yet delicious smoked salmon recipe that I use to smoke all my fish.

Preparing the Fish
After filleting the fish decide whether you want to leave the fish in whole fillets or single serving size pieces. I chunk my fillets into a size appropriate to serve several people, so we can pull it out of the freezer as we need it.

The pin bones can easily be removed from the fillet with a set of needle nose pliers or pin bone pliers. Pine bone pliers can be purchased online at Amazon.com or at most Metropolitan markets located in the Seattle area. At the end of the drying process the pin bones protrude from the flesh making them a little easier to pull out of the fish.

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There are literally hundreds of different recipes for smoking salmon, most of which turn out a great tasting product in the end. This is a very simple recipe that I picked up years ago from a friend that produces some of the best smoked salmon I’ve ever eaten.

Ingredients
-1 Cup Brown Sugar (dark brown sugar works great, too!)
-1 Cup Coarse Kosher Salt
-1 Cup White Sugar
-3 Quarts of Water

Combine the above ingredients in a plastic container or non-metallic mixing bowl. To make the ingredients dissolve more readily I use hot tap water and then allow the mixture to cool completely before adding the fish to it. Also, be sure the salt you use for the brine is non-iodized. Iodized salt produces a metallic taste in the fish. For large quantities of salmon I place the brine and fish in a 5 gallon bucket and place it in a cooler full of ice overnight.

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Kosher salt is highly refined which makes it dissolve quickly and absorb more readily into the fish. Because of how it’s refined it’s also a lot less “salty” than other forms of salt. Depending upon your taste you can also add garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon pepper, cracked black pepper, Worstershire Sauce, and just about anything else you can imagine to this recipe. I prefer to keep the brine simple and then add either cracked pepper or jalapeño slices to the fish at the end of the brining process.

Now that the brine is dissolved and ready place the salmon in the brine meat-side down and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. For a large load of salmon I’ll place it in a clean 5 gallon bucket that will then go in a cooler full of ice where it stays overnight.

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Aside from the brine, the next step in this process is probably the most important in assuring your fish turns out great.

After removing the fish from the brine place it on the smoker racks and allow it to air dry until the surface is tacky-dry. If you spray a little non-stick on your smoker racks the fish will come off the racks nicely when it’s done smoking. During the drying period a glaze, also known as a pellicle, will form on the surface of the fish trapping the brine and fish oils within the meat. A fan can be used to speed up this process.

The Smoker
There are several commercially produced smokers on the market that work great for smoking fish. You’ll find smokers that use propane as a heat source and others that use an electric element to burn the chips and heat the unit. The smoker I use is an electric Masterbuilt with digital-controlled heat and time settings.

If I’m smoking smaller salmon like silvers I’ll cold smoke the fish at 110 degrees for two hours and then finish it at 170 degrees for two more hours. For larger pieces of king salmon the cold smoke time will stay the same but I’ll jack up the cooking time to closer to three hours or more until the fish is finished.

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For safety reasons, you should always plan on placing the smoker a safe distance from anything combustible and don’t plan on smoking fish on your wooden deck.

Alder, apple, and cherry chips are all sold commercially by companies like Brinkman and Little Chief. Alder is definitely my first choice when it comes to smoking fish.

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Smoking the Fish
Since the fish is already on the racks all you have to do now is slide the fish in your Masterbuilt smoker and turn the smoker on. For a load of silver salmon I’ll set the smoker at 110 degrees for two hours and I’ll add one tray of alder chips during that time. Once the cold-smoke process is complete I’ll crank the smoker up to 170 degrees for two more hours and by the end of this time the salmon is usually cooked to perfection. If you want a little drier fish you can extend the cooking time. For king salmon I keep the cold smoke time the same but extend the cooking process to three or even four hours depending on how thick the fillets are.

I just started adding jalapeño pepper slices to my salmon and absolutely the flavor and spice it brings to the fish. If you like a little heat I recommend giving this a try…it is AWESOME!

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Packaging the Smoked Fish

If you want to store your smoked fish in the freezer you’ll want to use a vacuum sealer like a Food Saver to package the fish. After the fish is sealed be sure to write the date and the species of fish on the package.

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Once you’ve mastered this process, however, you’ll find that the fish rarely even makes it to the freezer!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle