MONTANA!

Living in western Washington, you get used to being around people. Lots of people… That’s not a good thing if you’re a rifle hunter,.. bust your butt to get to the ridge top only to find more souls in blaze orange than you do game animals.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my home state but every now and then, it’s good to get out and experience some elbow room. When you consider that Montana’s 140,000 square miles is over twice the land area of Washington, there’s less people in the entire state than there is in greater Seattle, elbow room and plentiful game is what you can expect and on this trip we were far from dissapointed!

One of the biggest hurdles in planning an out-of-state hunt is getting a grasp of exactly where the public land is located and if private land access is your aim, who owns the land? In both these aspects onX maps is a definite asset.

Available as a chip in your GPS or an ap on your phone or tablet, topo, satellite and ownership information layers allow you to dial in the desired information!

Once we got boots on the ground we spent a bunch of time glassing and the right set of binoculars is nothing short of vital! I’m so much more than impressed with the Vortex Viper XD 10×42’s. Very compact, lightweight quality optics that virtually eliminate eye strain, there were times that I was barely aware that I was looking through binos!

Without the bright, crisp clarity that Vortex provides, I may have glossed right over this buck in the brush!

It’s been a number of years (nevermind HOW MANY) since I took a muley buck of this quality and I’ll never be able to express my gratitude to my partner Rob Endsley for bringing me along on this wonderful hunt!

I’m absolutely blown away with the accuracy, performance and downrange punch of the Hornady Superformance 180gr GMX. The round was simply perfect for the job. Quick and clean.

Jim Heins aka “Bucket” was next to fill his tag and his fine buck was with another…

…and Robbo was on the “other buck’s” track… It wasn’t long before I was behind the camera and we’ve got three tags filled!

Having the bucks loaded up in the Can-Am Defender Max sure beats having to bone them up and pack ’em out! The heater in the cab of this six-seater was a very welcome comfort as well!

Once we tagged out, the next day it was time to chase some pheasants and Robbo was the first to hop off his Can-Am Outlander and swap the rifle for the shotgun!

After a season of stomping around western Washington pheasant release sites this fall, the look and tail length of Kirk Hawley’s wild rooster is simply amazing. 

Montana is not a far as you think and there’s no time like right now to start looking into an out-of-state hunt. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has a very user-friendly site that will get you started on the right foot, providing you with planning tools such as: maps, regulations, seasons and application deadlines.

For the western Washington hunter in particular, Montana is the closest of the seven western states and offers deer and elk opportunities that Washingtonians can only dream about. When you’re ready, Montana awaits!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Fall Anglers will be Busy With Kings and Walleye

By Dave Graybill

Fall in North Central Washington is most often the favorite season for anglers in the region.  Our weather cools a bit and it makes it more appealing to be out on the water after the heat of summer.  While the weather is cooling there are a couple of fisheries that heat up in the fall.  The one that draws the most attention is the annual return of fall salmon to the Hanford Reach area of the Columbia River.  The other is the fall walleye bite on our area reservoirs.

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service poses with me with one of the kings we got at Vernita.

Every year the most abundant run of salmon to the Columbia River makes it way to our region.  Over a half million “up river brights” are expected to enter the Columbia this year, and the vast majority are bound for the Hanford Reach and the hatchery at Priest Rapids Dam.  The attraction of fishing for these kings is most apparent at the launch sites near the Vernita Bridge.  A small village of campers, trailers and 5th wheelers appears here every year, as anglers set up camp and commute from all over the state and beyond to chase these prized fish.

The launches a Vernita are rough, but they don’t stop the long lines of boats of all sizes and shapes from putting in here.  From this launch they can run down below the bridge to popular fishing locations above and below Coyote Rapids, the Reactors, and the long runs that are ideal for trolling for kings.  Down stream there is a good concrete ramp at White Bluffs that also offers good access to the king fishing water.  Parking here is more limited than at Vernita and the fishing area is smaller, but it can be very productive.  The kings must pass through White Bluffs on their way to the hatchery at Priest Rapids, so the action starts off here first.

For many years I preferred fishing with herring in the Reach.  That is just how it was done—back bouncing herring.  In recent years Super Baits have taken the main stage for salmon anglers.  Sure, there are times when herring will do the job, but the number of fish taken on Super Baits far outnumbers other methods.

There are two styles of Super Baits.  The original on top and the
Plug Cut on the bottom.

Super Baits are typically trolled behind Pro Troll flashers on downriggers.  I saw a different method being used in 2014 when I was shooting some video of the CCA King of Reach Salmon Derby.  This guy, and he had the reputation of being one of the top, if not the top salmon slayer of the group, was trolling Super Baits, but in a way I had never seen before.  He had them rigged behind a flasher, but instead of using downriggers he was fishing them with lead balls.  He would troll both up stream and down stream and he claimed that the lead ball method put a different action on the Super Baits and were terrifically successful.  He didn’t fish any other way.

Using lead balls for kings isn’t something new.  I have fished with Shane Magnuson many times on the lower Columbia for spring and fall salmon and he used lead balls.  In fact he decided to try them on the upper Columbia River kings starting last year, and now that’s pretty much all he does anymore.  When he fishes for spring salmon, at Drano Lake for example, he uses those triangular Fish Flashes, but for summer runs up here he uses the Pro Troll flashers.  When he fishes Vernita this fall, I will bet he will be running lead balls.  I am presenting this technique as something an angler should have in their bag of tricks.  There will be times that the standard presentations of Super Baits on downriggers, back trolling eggs, pulling plugs or using herring will be the way to go.

If you want to try fishing lead balls, here is how to set up.  I will start at the Super Bait and work my way up.  After you have put a 44- to 48-inch leader on your Super Bait and attached it to your flasher, add a 24-inch leader of 30-pound test with snaps on both ends.  This allows the flasher to do its work below the lead ball.  I rig the next step the same way that Shane does.  I put a split ring between two five- or six-bead roller swivels.  To one end I attach the leader above the flasher.  To the other end I attach my main line with a plug snap with a rubber bead above the knot, and a sliding plug snap, to hold the lead ball.  Now when I attach my lead ball it can slide freely on my line.  The size of the lead ball, whether an eight-, ten- or 12-ouncer, depends on the current.  You will want your flasher rotating above the bottom where you are fishing, and this will take a little practice to judge your depth when trolling lead balls.   Also, remember when you are trolling down stream with the current you will be flying compared to trolling up stream against the current.  The best way to judge your speed is to watch your rod tip and try to maintain a rod pulse once every second.

Here is how a lead ball rig can be rigged.  Lots of swivels for a
spinning Pro Troll Flasher.

It’s really not that hard to rig for fishing with lead balls.  You can have everything ready if whatever you are doing on a particular day just isn’t getting the job done.  It just may change your luck, and once you get comfortable fishing this way it may become your favorite way to hook kings—anywhere on the Columbia.

As for the walleye fishing this fall, I would bet that Banks Lake will continue to be the best place to try your luck.  It wasn’t always producing limit catches this summer, but it was the most consistent of our region’s walleye waters.  Potholes Reservoir should produce walleye this fall, too, but probably not at the same pace as Banks.  It will be very low this fall.  In the early fall crank bait fishing should be effective then trolling bait will become a better way to go.  Walleye on Potholes will be heavier than the Banks Lake fish.

The crank bait fishing on Banks Lake should continue to be good.  I have had very good success this summer fishing cranks and found the Flicker Shad lures in sizes 5 through 9 very effective.  I didn’t start the season fishing crank baits, and don’t think I will end the season using this method.  I started trolling with spinners on worm harnesses or Slow Death Hooks, and I think I will be ending the fall season using these.

Something that I was able to use this past season just recently came on the market yet.  It is from the makers of Dutch Fork Custom Lures that I had been fishing almost exclusively.  I had tremendous success with their ghost blades, especially the Turtle Back in the Blue Tiger color.  They sent me a brand new design to test, and I found it works great.  They call it the Butterfly Blade and it can be fished in worm harnesses and even ahead of a Slow Death Hook.  I tested these revolutionary blades and had great success, and if you are a walleye angler you will want to try them on Banks and Potholes this fall.

This the new Butterfly Blade created by Dutch Fork Custom Lures.
The top shows one rigged on a Slow Death Hook.

The new Butterfly Blades just came available recently.  Dutch Fork is supplying the blades to Northland Tackle and can be purchased in a variety of colors and pre-tied for a variety of fishing styles.  Just log onto www.northlandfishingtackle.com and do a search for Butterfly Blades.  This will send you to the page that has them available.  You can also find the blades on the Dutch Fork Custom Lures page, and tie them up the way you like.  Go to www.dutchforkcustomlures.com and can you look at the colors available through them and order what you want.

It is usually pretty hard to get me to switch from my favored methods of fishing, no matter what species.  When I got the spinners from Dutch Fork I immediately become a believer, particularly in the Turtle Back style.  These new Butterfly Blades are unique and there just isn’t anything else out there like them.  If you are serious about catching walleye you will want to have some in your box.

I know I will start my fall fishing at Banks Lake off the Million Dollar Mile launch.  There will be a point at which this will be less effective.  When that happens I will move up to Barker Canyon and start pulling spinners and Slow Death Hooks on bottom bouncers.  Two years ago we could fish both Banks Lake and Potholes right through the fall and winter.  Last year they froze solid.

I don’t know how long I will be able to fish for walleye on these two reservoirs.  The way I am going through the walleye in my freezer I hope we have a long fall season!

Dave Graybill
Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle
TheOutdoorLine.com

 

The 2017 Salmon Forecasts!

A sure sign of spring after a long winter is the annual arrival of our salmon forecasts and the “North of Falcon” meetings. Interest in the season setting process has never been higher due to last year’s lack of agreement between the State and Tribal co-managers. This delay in agreement virtually closed down all of western Washington’s waterways until nearly Memorial Day and is a situation that no one wants to repeat. Fortunately, our coho have bounced back from the critically low (and very inaccurate) 2016 forecasts. In addition, our chinook numbers are up significantly buoying hope for a good season in 2017!

After watching the numbers for a number of years (never mind how many…) I’ve found that you can “call some shots” by digging into the forecast numbers. The WDFW, DFO Canada and The PFMC (Pacific Fisheries Management Council) work very hard to get their chinook and coho abundance estimates out in a timely manner. These figures take some pouring through to find the real “meat” but don’t worry, I’ve done all the leg work for you right here!

2009-2016 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

Stock                       2010     2011       2012       2013       2014       2015       2016   2017
Willapa fall                31.1       36.8        45.2         27.1        32.4        35.1      39.5   38.5
Hoh fall                      3.3        2.9           2.7           3.1          2.5         2.5          1.8    2.7
Nooksack/Sam         30.3      37.5         44.0        46.5        43.9       38.5        27.9   21.2

Skagit summer        13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3        15.6   16.2

Stillaguamish wild     1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5         0.3     0.4

Snohomish Wild        9.9         7.4          2.8          3.6          5.2          4.1         3.3     3.4
Snohomish Hatch     5.6         5.1         3.9           6.8          5.4         3.2          5.0      4.7
Tulalip Bay               3.4         3.5        5.9          10.9          4.7         1.3          1.4       5.2

S Puget Wild           12.7        8.9          8.9           5.2          4.8         6.5          4.5      4.7
S Puget Hatch         97.4      118.6       95.8       101.9       101.4     91.1        43.1    80.3

Hood Canal Wild      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1         2.3     2.4

Hood Canal Hatch   42.6        38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9       42.7     48.3

Stock total:        253.1k    278.9k   266.5k     288.6k     304.3k   257.1k  187.4k  229.6k

We’re looking at a chinook forecast that thankfully, has bounced back a bit from 2016. The number that jumps out to me is the aggregate of South Puget Sound hatchery stocks coming in at nearly double of last year’s forecast. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish (400 wild chinook) and Issaquah/Cedar/Sammamish (4,670 hatchery and 948 wild) which will most certainly be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. Need another bright spot? The Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season. However, as was the case last year, most of the wrangling & hand wringing will definitely occur over the Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook seasons in July.

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2009-2016 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)

Stock                   2010      2011         2012       2013        2014       2015   2016  2017
Straits Wild           8.5         12.3           12.3       14.8          14.5        3.4      4.7   14.7
Straits Hatch         7.8         12.7           18.6       15.4         15.3         8.8     3.7    11.5
Nook/Sam W        9.6          29.5           25.2      45.4          20.8        28.1    8.9   13.2
Nook/Sam H        36.0         45.7           62.8      49.2          61.7       50.8    28.7  45.6

Skagit Wild          95.9        138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4      121.4   8.9    13.2

Skagit Hatch        9.5          16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8        19.5     4.9     7.5

Stilly Wild            25.9         66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4         31.2    2.7     7.6

Stilly hatch           5.4           0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1            0        0       1.5

Snohomish W       99.4      180.0         109.0     163.8         150       151.5   16.7   107.3

Snohomish H       24.5        80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1         53.8     1.8    51.6

S Sound Wild       25.3        98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8         63.0    9.9    20.2

S Sound Hatch    186.4      173.3         162.9     150.9       172.7      180.2   27.1  102.3

Hood Wild             33.2        77.5           73.4       36.8         47.6        61.4    35.3   93.8

Hood Hatch          51.2         72.1           62.6       68.6         82.7       108.4   83.4   60.7

Key stocks tot  320.8k   916.0k      628.6k    783.2k    869.2k   891.5k   236.7k  550.7k

 

It does not take a PhD in Fisheries Biology to see that we’ve also bounced back on the coho front. In fact, the coho returned large and numerous last year with good spawning conditions and hopefully we’re going to work our way out of the 2015 drought conditions.

Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 77,290 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives 47,000  bright, red reasons to be encouraged about the Baker River reds.

Keep in mind that these numbers are but the “raw material” that the co-managers will use to craft our local seasons and only by attending the North of Falcon meetings can you have an impact on the process. We will keep you posted here but I sincerely look forward to meeting some of you….at the meetings!!!

For a schedule of the North of Falcon meetings near you hit WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Seven Ways To Get Your Salmon Season Off to a Swift Start!

By Tom Nelson

Well, “show season” aka “winter” is fast fading in the rear view mirror and after several full days of seeing the latest and greatest the fishing industry 2017 has to offer, I’ve boiled down the vast array of choices to these top of the line items that will get you off on the right fishy foot this season!

Daiwa Four-Carrier J Braid: A whole lot of anglers who’s opinions I sincerely respect are moving toward a spool of 65lb braid with a 20-foot top shot of 25 lb test mono for their mooching and trolling reels. The Daiwa J Braid in particular has less flexibility and stretch than most braids and more abrasion resistance making it a great choice for salt or river salmon fisheries!

Silver Horde’s Two Face Spoons: Kelly Morrison of SIlver Horde noticed that most of the “hot spoons” that anglers had the pleasure of fishing have had one thing in common: some type of paint finish on the “back” or concave side. Silver Horde has capitalized on this trend by finishing both sides of the very popular -and effective- Kingfisher Lite and Coho Killer series of lightweight trolling spoons.

CANNON Terminator Kit: Are you still carrying around a box of crimps and a pair of specialty pliers that you rarely use for anything else? Here’s the thing: as soon as you crimp your cable, you’ve damaged it and the clock is ticking. Here come the wire frays and then “POP” another expensive ball, release and rigging has just become habitat. With Cannon’s nylon Terminator, the wire is cushioned in the channel of the loom and you’ll enjoy significantly longer wire life, saving you money and fishing time!

Pro-Cure Downrigger Dynamite: There’s little question of the deadly effectiveness of Phil Pirone’s proprietary blend of amino acid bite stimulants which is the backbone of the industry’s leading Brine-n-Bite herring brine. Realizing that artificial trolling lures could benefit from the same chemistry, a mixure of herring, anchovie and sardine was spiked with amino acids and BOOM! You’ve got Downrigger Dynamite. Give it a drag. It will get you bit…

Daiwa LEXA 300 Linecounter: It’s simply about time that someone came up with a line counter that’s out of the way, easy to see and palms like a genuine low-profile reel. Introducing the Daiwa LEXA 300 LC. High speed slick with a butter smooth drag, don’t underestimate the power of it’s oversize gears and 21-pound drag system. As great as this reel is, I can’t wait to see the LEXA 400 LC ’cause it will be the best reel at Buoy Ten this August!

Gamakatsu Big River Open-Eye Siwash Hooks: Now available in a wider variety of sizes, you’ll be able to find these replacement hooks to fit any size spoon, plug or lure you care to rig. Benefitting from Gamakatsu’s magnificent curvature and shape of their popular Octopus hooks, these Big River Siwash are a definite upgrade for the questionable “original equipment” hooks that are all to often furnished with our favorite lures.

SIMRAD NSS 16 evo 3: All I could say was “Wow” when I saw the speed and layout of this behemoth! Processor speed is no longer an issue, nor is screen space as custom splits are a fingertip selection away. In addition to the Simrad DNA of a fully integrated Auto-Pilot, there’s a “Hot Key” that you can program to your favorite function. The screen is the brand new SolarMAX™ HD display technology that delivers exceptional clarity and ultra-wide viewing angles, combined with an all-weather touchscreen and expanded keypad for total control in all conditions.

There’s lots to get your attention this season and there’s no reason to wait! Try out some of this gear now so it will be familiar to you come our busy summer seasons and we’ll see you on the water!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Hippa Island: Helijets, Huge Chinook & Coho!

One of the enduring charms of hunting and fishing, one of the things that keeps you coming back year after year is that every now and then you experience something that is completely unexpected, out of the ordinary and inspiring. Now, if you have a trip that provides you one of the aforementioned experiences each day of the excursion… then you my friend have had the trip of a lifetime. If all this happens in a luxury destination and your wife happens to be with you… Well, before I wear you out with superlatives, let me tell you the story.

Any fishing trip that starts with a smiling spouse in a Helijet is off to a great start and my wife Kathy is already enjoying herself and we haven’t even lifted off yet!

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…and what a flight it would be. British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands are a largely untouched wilderness and the view from WestCoast Resorts Helijet is beyond description so… you’ll have to make do with this shot…

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Once we got to Hippa Island and met the lodge staff and Fishing Instructors, we couldn’t wait to get down to the boats that are all rigged and ready to fish!

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On our first trip from Hippa Island out to the grounds, we were greeted by a group of Risso’s Dolphins. Think of a Harbor (or more correctly Dahl’s) Porpoise on steroids and you’re getting close. I’ve never seen a group of these flying in “formation” like this before and it was a very unexpected treat!

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I’m guessing the same baitfish that attracted those dolphin were the same critters that held these jumbo coho and we caught and released several before we kept these three on our first afternoon.

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Back at the lodge… Ok, back at the bar at the lodge, we can watch the other guests come in while we enjoy a beverage…or two…

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The next morning, we had just got the gear down and BOOM! Kathy was into a big one that took some blistering runs and would not let us see him for a good ten minutes!

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When we did see him, I knew at once that Kathy had her first tyee on and I couldn’t get that slab in the net fast enough!

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Kathy’s first ever tyee pulled the lodge scale down to the 31 pound mark and we both knew that we were in the middle of a very special trip!

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How about a pair of 15 pound coho for a morning bite? The Canadian non-resident possession limit is four chinook and four coho in addition to two halibut, six lings and a pile of rockfish which adds up to a whole bunch of fish to bring home!

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When you add all that fish up multiplied by the 40 guests in the lodge…

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…and get it loaded in the Helijet for the trip back to the airport, it’s one impressive sight!

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Once the morning mist burns off, we lift off the helipad…

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…and are treated to our last look at WestCoast Resorts Hippa Island lodge, fishing instructors and staff who have attended to our every need for the entire trip! Truly a special group of people that enjoy what they do and appreciate the very special place they get to do to work and live.

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When you consider the remote locations of WestCoast Resorts Haida Gwaii operations, the fact that the lodges, specially built on barges spend the winter in the Frasier River and are towed up to Hippa Island and Englefield Bay fully refurbished and re-stocked each spring, you begin to gain a grasp of the scope of this massive annual undertaking. Add to that the fact that each lodge is a stand alone luxury hotel, restaurant, bar and fish processing facility that is only accessable by boat or helicopter and now, hopefully you see what a special place this truly is.

WestCoast Resorts has created a opportunity that only exists for three months a year and will provide you with a four day experience that will provide a feast of seafood and a lifetime of memories. Here’s hoping you’ll consider joining us on our next trip to this piscatorial paradise

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

One week, two tags!

As anyone who has hunted for big game in Washington can attest, filling your deer tag can be challenging. Notching your elk tag in Washington is even harder. Accomplishing both of these tasks in a week? That takes a pile of preparation, a realistic opportunity and to be completely honest, one whale of a lot of luck!

The first stroke of luck came in the form of the Skagit Valley Quality Bull tag that I’ve been applying for since the Bush Administration.. . Once that bit of luck was in pocket, another bolt from the blue was in store as my good friend Steve Stout who lives in the unit also was drawn for the hunt and was as fired up as I to start scouting! This hunt opened on the second weekend of October so my September which is usually spent chasing coho (but we won’t go there..) was spent on glassing, bugling and rifle range time.

Robbo has an unbelievable talent for spotting game and is putting them to use as the misty early arrival of fall envelops the north Cascades. On this day, I was given an opportunity on a magnificent bull and missed. I sincerely believe that a day will never go by for the rest of my life without me thinking of that moment.

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I would hunt for nearly another week before getting another opportunity and this time there would be no miss. This tremendous 6×6  was standing among his harem of cows and fell so quickly after the shot that he simply disappeared and scared the heck out of me until I saw him lying there and WHAT A GREAT FEELING!!!

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Getting that massive bull out was not all that bad thanks to the Can Am Defender Max XT1000 4-seater ATV. The built in front end winch and tilt box worked hand in hand to slide the big ol’ bull right in!

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The antler mass of this elk is quite impressive and most I’ve talked to place this specimen in the 320 inch class. My second Washington State 6×6 and easily the largest of my life.

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After delivering the bull to the butcher and shaking my head over the 487 pounds of hanging weight, my hunting season was already a success by any measure but, I was not done. My black lab Bailey was not-so-patiently waiting for me to finish up big-game so she could terrorize the pheasant release site roosters. So, over to Whidbey Island we go and sure enough the pheasants cooperated!

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Our host on the Whidbey Island hunt was my friend Bob Maschmedt who just happened to pack a couple of slug-ready shotguns and suggested we go looking for an Island Blacktail. It was a GREAT suggestion as the first place we looked, here’s a nice 2×3 that was way more interested in his does than he was in me!

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Bob Maschmedt and I are all smiles as now I’ve filled two tags in the same week and it’s back to the butchers with a fat blacktail buck!

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All told, the butcher got a hefty 607 pounds of venison in the space of one week. Without question, it was the certainly a magnificent big-game season and certainly a strange feeling to be tagged out in mid October but I’m ok with it!

Now it’s back to the drawing board, starting back at “zero” on the elk-tag drawing points but as long as I can buy a tag, I’ll be putting in for WDFW Special Permit hunts and who knows? I guy can get lucky two years in a row…right?…Right???

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

The Washington Tuna Classic 2016

Tuna fishing is a little like getting bit by a tick: It gets under your skin and you hope you don’t get the “disease”…

If it weren’t for my former on-air partner, Seattle Seahawk Pro-Bowler Robbie Tobeck and SaltPatrol.com’s John Keizer, my tuna condition would likely have not progressed from acute through chronic to terminal. However, my condition has now degenerated to advanced bait tank installations and after running my Weldcraft for the first time out of Westport over the Grays Harbor Bar I’ve now been observed by my wife ordering extra rod holders and cedar plugs on line. Terminal dude…Terminal.

Like others that suffer from a debilitating condition, it’s often helpful to seek comfort in the company of others with a similar affliction. So it should come as no surprise that a support group meeting should be in order. In this case the “support group” is known as the Washington Tuna Classic where nearly 70 angling teams seek to feed their addiction and feed others by donating all fish caught in this event to Northwest Harvest and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Preparing for a tuna run is a bit of an undertaking with fuel, ice and live anchovies and getting ready for a tuna tourney adds quite a bit to the equation. Regardless, the successful offshore run starts with a pile of preparation the evening before.

The evening before the Washington Tuna Classic the boat is in the harbor, fueled, iced and in tuna mode!

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After we pick up our load of live bait, we wait on the starting line for our check-in with Washington Tuna Classic Tournament Control and we’re underway!

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35 miles offshore, we drop the outriggers get  the gear down and get to searching for birds and jumpers.

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Having the bait tank in the middle of the deck is a huge advantage and allows a quick conversion from trolling to a vertical presentation with live bait and jigs!

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We managed to convert one of our trolling bites to a bait stop, ending up with five tuna on board. Heading into the weigh-in dock, it sounded like the entire fleet experienced tough fishing conditions and an even tougher tuna bite!

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Our five albacore put us on the board and we were hoping for a top ten finish among the 70 angling teams competing in this event! Left to right, Team Evinrude is Robbie Tobeck, John Keizer, myself and Donald Auman.

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At the Award Ceremony, MC’d very expertly by Kevin Lanier, the leaderboard was revealed and Team Evinrude ended up with a 9th place finish with our five fish bag of 103.70 pounds!

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The 2016 Washington Tuna Classic Champs are team Reel Broke with a total of 127.38 pounds of tuna!

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Of course, no WTC podium would be complete without Mark Coleman’s Team All Rivers & Saltwater Charters and they finished a strong second with 125.5 pounds!

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A big thanks to Mitch King and all of the volunteers that make the Washington Tuna Classic the great event that it has become! 

Also, if it weren’t for John Keizer, Robbie Tobeck and Donald Auman we would not have enjoyed the success we experienced during this event. It was the first time that I had run my boat offshore for tuna and I’m fairly certain it won’t be the last.

The only way to ensure that you won’t get infected by the tuna disease is to stay inland and not venture out into the warm, cobalt blue water, far beyond…

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Englefield Again: Provin’ it!

After our unbelievable first trip to WestCoast Resorts Englefield Bay last year, my son Matt and I could not wait to get back up there. In fact, we were so fired up about our amazing experience that we put a 710 ESPN Listener trip together so we could share the Englefield experience with listeners and friends.

In fact, we’re announcing a second chance trip in late August

Did the trip live up to expectations? Without a doubt it did! Most anglers on the trip had their best chinook days ever in both numbers and size! Bottomfish? How about two ling cod per day with no size restrictions and six in possession! Couple that with two halibut and a pile of rockfish and you are talking new home freezer time!

The WestCoast Resorts Englefield equation for success is solid. Place a floating lodge alone in a remote location accessible only by boat and helicopter.

Oh, the helicopters…C’mon now, aren’t you the least bit intrigued by a fishing trip that begins and ends with a heliopter ride?

Or, more correctly a Helijet which we boarded in Sandspit after our chartered 737 flight from Vancouver, BC.IMG_0880

 

As the lodge comes into view we’re just stunned by the remoteness and beauty of the luxurious, floating lodge at Englefield Bay.IMG_0521 (Medium)

 

Once we’re on the docks the level of organization and experience of the WestCoast Resorts operation is readily apparent. Every boat  is clean, identically rigged and READY!IMG_0536 (Medium)

 

 

The info board is updated daily and hooks you up with weather, tides and hot spots. No secrets here! Since the only boats in the area are from the lodge and fish are plentiful, info is shared freely.IMG_0889

 

After the brief lodge orientation, we jump into our gear and we’re off fishing before noon on our first day!IMG_9100 (Medium)

 

And just how good is the midday chinook bite at Englefield Bay? Well, we only kept three that first day so wouldn’t burn through our four chinook per angler possession limit but we had a double-digit king bite the first afternoon! Simply stated the most smokin’ hot chinook bite I had seen all season which included a three-week stint running my boat in Sitka, Alaska.IMG_0325 (Medium)

 

The next morning, I went out with Chef Patrick Fagan of Bait2Plate.com and my summer on air pard John Martinis. We absolutely STUFFED the fishbox with ling cod, yelloweye, black rockfish and chinook!John&Patrick 

 

The next day? Well, halibut was on the itinerary and we were again very successful but here is the thing that you need to know: Once you’re back at the lodge, the dock staff label, weigh, process and vacuum pack your fish while you relax in the lounge!

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Our final morning, we had our possession limits of bottomfish in the lodge freezer so we got to concentrate on chinook and again, the bite was simply epic! Matt Nelson and John Martinis are working a double which started out as a triple but someone had to take the picture…IMG_0471 (Medium)

 

After the fishing was done, I couldn’t help but take a few pics on the way in to the lodge. The beauty of Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands is well known but this untouched tide pool with a small stream entering it would be an even more fascinating sight in the fall with a few salmon sneaking in when the bears came to feed!IMG_0496 (Medium)

 

The anglers that came along on our Listener trip were very successful and while the fish you take home is not the only way to measure an adventure such as this, it’s interesting to note that the 44 anglers boxed catch weighed over 4500 pounds!IMG_0895

 

The helicopter flight out of the lodge was accompanied with a stitch of sadness but also a feeling of satisfaction for a trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.IMG_0553 (Medium)

 

Back at Sandspit Airport, we literally walked off the Helijet and walked right on to the jet to Vancouver where we landed before noon and headed back home over the border.IMG_0623 (Medium)

 

We all played “Horse” on the basketball court when we were kids and after that last shot that hung that “E” on you, the ball was flipped back to your opponent with a defiant “prove it”,

That’s what this trip to Englefield Bay meant to me. After an unbelievable first trip last year highlighted by a tyee for my son and a memorable Father’s Day for all.

WestCoast Resorts has repeated that feat, essentially “proving it” and now Englefield Bay is permanently carved in stone in my annual angling itinerary and I hope you’ll consider making it part of yours.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Defiance Bait Tank Installation

After his Seattle Boat Show tuna seminar, Defiance Marine Pro-staffer Tommy “Cornfed” Donlin stuck his big ‘ol head into my boat which was on display at the show.

“Where are you gonna put your live bait Nelly?”

“How about this transom fishbox? I should be able to make it flow…”

Cornfed shook his head “You put anchovies in that square box and they’re gonna die before you get to the grounds. You’ve got to have a circular flow to keep them swimming, healthy and the tank has to be round so they can’t hit corners and injure themselves.”

Donlin is a well-known pain in the neck but I knew he was right and heck, there are a number of reasons beyond live anchovy fishing for tuna to install a live well. Shrimping, crabbing, live bait fishing for lingcod and even halibut are great reasons to install a tank. Also, let’s not forget the prospect of jigging herring and putting up your own trays of bait or even fishing them fresh!

Defiance Marine’s DNA is saturated with blue water angling and a quality bait tank is as vital to the tuna fisherman as the downrigger is to the salmon angler. Fortunately, Defiance is recognized as the finest bait tank available and not all that hard for the do-it-yourselfer to install!

First off you’ll need to get organized and get your parts list together including a sheet of one-inch Starboard for the mount. Tank water supply is 1″ and required an 1500GPH livewell pump. The drain is 1 1/2″ and you’ll need a shutoff or seacock valve. Thanks to Harbor Marine at the Port of Everett, it’s a one-stop shop!

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This is the very definition of a “measure twice, cut once” project and it’s vital to make a cardboard template of the tank footprint for an accurate installation.

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Once you’ve got your template, lay it on the deck in your desired location and take a good look around, above and most importantly, UNDER the location!

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The best way to look under your chosen location is to pull up the deck floor which, you’ll have to do anyway to run the electrical and plumbing. On my Weldcraft, I had to plan around a deck support but that will add to the strength of the mount.

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With the deck floor section out of the boat, it’s template time and a jigsaw drill to position the deck plate that will allow access for the plumbing to the tank.

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With the hole cut in the template and the deck floor, we need to trim the template to now fit INSIDE the tank as that’s how it’s going to mount to your deck.

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Lay the template on the Starboard and start making a whole pile of white plastic dust! Make sure you’ve got a fairly accurate fit to the inside of the tank bottom!

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Once you’ve cut the Starboard to fit, it’s time to drill and tap 1/4″ x 20 (threads per inch) hardware into the perimeter of the tank. Four or five will do the trick!

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Time to take all your work back to the boat, cut that nice 1 1/2″ drain hole above the waterline, finish it with a SS hose barb through hull. Add the livewell pump to your water pickup, run the hoses forward and through the deck plate.

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Being careful not to kink the hoses, lay the floor plate back down and fasten it back in place.

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To lay flat on the deck, the Starboard mounting board’s center hole has to be larger than the mount ring of the deck plate. Use the existing deck floor bolt pattern to hold down the deck plate and you’ll have to get one-inch longer hardware to reach!

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Lay the tank down to make the plumbing & electrical connections and you’re almost there! Again, take care that excess hose does not kink!

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Stand the tank up, pop in your perimeter hardware and launch the boat! Test the system for leaks and you now have a 50 gallon bait tank installed!!!

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Removing the tank takes all of five minutes and the only way you’ll know it was there is the plastic deck plate and a wet ring where the tank was…

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I didn’t go into great detail on the transom plumbing aspect because each boat is different and let’s just say that climbing into the transom was not pretty…

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This summer with all the North of Falcon “noise” going on, we’re going to have to be a bit more versatile to get our days on the water. My Defiance Marine bait tank is a HUGE step in that direction!

Give them a call and whatever you do, DON”T tell them TOMMY DONLIN sent you!!!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

 

The 2016 Salmon Forecasts!

A sure sign of spring after a long winter is the annual arrival of our salmon forecasts and the “North of Falcon” meetings. I await the salmon forecast numbers like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. Hello, my name is Tom and I am a “salmon sicko”.

After watching the numbers for a number of years (never mind how many…) I’ve found that you can “call some shots” by digging into the forecast numbers. The WDFW, DFO Canada and The PFMC (Pacific Fisheries Management Council) work very hard to get their chinook and coho abundance estimates out in a timely manner. These figures take some pouring through to find the real “meat” but don’t worry, I’ve done all the leg work for you right here!

2009-2016 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

Stock                     2009       2010     2011       2012       2013       2014       2015       2016
Willapa fall               34.8      31.1       36.8        45.2         27.1        32.4        35.1       39.5
Hoh fall                     2.6         3.3        2.9           2.7           3.1          2.5         2.5          1.8
Nooksack/Sam        23.0      30.3      37.5         44.0        46.5        43.9       38.5        27.9

Skagit summer        23.4      13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3        15.6

Stillaguamish wild    1.0        1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5          0.3

Snohomish Wild        8.4        9.9         7.4          2.8          3.6          5.2          4.1          3.3
Snohomish Hatch     4.9         5.6         5.1         3.9           6.8          5.4         3.2          5.0
Tulalip Bay                4.0         3.4         3.5        5.9          10.9          4.7         1.3          1.4

S Puget Wild            17.2      12.7        8.9          8.9           5.2          4.8         6.5          4.5
S Puget Hatch          93.0      97.4      118.6       95.8       101.9       101.4     91.1        43.1

Hood Canal Wild        2.5      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1         2.3

Hood Canal Hatch     40.1     42.6         38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9       42.7

Stock total:       255.6k    253.1k    278.9k   266.5k      288.6k      304.3k   257.1k    187.4k

We’re looking at a chinook forecast that’s down to say the least. The number that jumps out to me is the aggregate of South Puget Sound hatchery stocks coming in as less than half of last year’s forecast. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish (299 wild chinook) and Issaquah/Cedar/Sammamish (3,500 hatchery and 1,100 wild) which will most certainly be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. The lone bright spot? The Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season. However, as was the case last year, most of the wrangling & hand wringing will definitely occur over the Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook seasons in July.

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2009-2016 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)

Stock                   2009         2010            2011          2012        2013        2014       2015       
Straits Wild           20.5          8.5              12.3           12.3       14.8          14.5         13.4
Straits Hatch         7.0            7.8              12.7           18.6       15.4         15.3           8.8
Nook/Sam W        7.0            9.6               29.5           25.2      45.4          20.8         28.1
Nook/Sam H       25.5          36.0               45.7           62.8      49.2          61.7         50.8

Skagit Wild          33.4          95.9             138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4       121.4

Skagit Hatch       11.7            9.5               16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8        19.5

Stilly Wild            13.4           25.9              66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4         31.2

Stilly hatch            0.0              5.4                0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1            0

Snohomish W       67.0           99.4            180.0         109.0     163.8         150        151.5

Snohomish H        53.6           24.5              80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1         53.8

S Sound Wild        53.6          25.3              98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8          63.0

S Sound Hatch   188.8       186.4            173.3         162.9     150.9       172.7         180.2

Hood Wild            48.6          33.2              77.5           73.4       36.8         47.6           61.4

Hood Hatch        52.0          51.2              72.1           62.6       68.6         82.7          108.4

Key stocks tot  338.6k    320.8k        916.0k       628.6k     783.2k    869.2k       891.5k

Stock                   2016                
Straits Wild           4.7                                                                                                      Straits Hatch        3.7
Nook/Sam W        8.9
Nook/Sam H        28.7

Skagit Wild            8.9

Skagit Hatch         4.9

Stilly Wild              2.7

Stilly hatch             0.0

Snohomish W       16.7

Snohomish H        1.8

S Sound Wild         9.9

S Sound Hatch     27.1

Hood Wild            35.3

Hood Hatch         83.4

Key stocks tot    236.7   

It does not take a PhD in Fisheries Biology to see that we’ve got some major issues on the coho front. We could break this down stock by stock but with such a widespread reduction in coho abundance one may guess that the culprit may indeed be what each stock has in common, namely the Pacific Ocean. We all heard of and lamented the “blob” or warm water mass that established itself in the “non-winter” of 2015 and persisted through the strengthening phase of the current ENSO event commonly known as “El Nino” The good news is that El Nino is rapidly weakening and has dispersed the “blob”. The bad news is that the damage has already been done to this year’s coho stocks. The Skagit posts the lowest forecast of it’s storied history and the Snohomish system -a perennial bright spot- is barely 10% of the 2015 forecast. Definitely cause for concern.

However, I do take some solace in the “over achievement” of this season’s winter steelhead returns and the seemingly early and abundant beginning to the Columbia River spring chinook run. While this reason for optimism is anecdotal at best, the fact remains steelhead smolt which outmigrated through the same unfavorable oceanic conditions somehow found forage sufficient to survive in good numbers.

Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 119,125 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives 55,054  bright, red reasons to be encouraged compared to the 2015 forecast of only 45,000 Baker River reds.

Keep in mind that these numbers are but the “raw material” that the co-managers will use to craft our local seasons and only by attending the North of Falcon meetings can you have an impact on the process. We will keep you posted here but I sincerely look forward to meeting some of you….at the meetings!!!

For a schedule of the North of Falcon meetings near you hit WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com