Coastal bottomfishing season starts soon, plus word on springer and razor clams

The popular of the coastal black rockfish and lingcod sport fishery gets underway on March 10 off some coastal ports, and anglers can expect some blissful spring days on water weather permitting.

The black rockfish population remains healthy in coastal waters, according to Heather Reed, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) coastal fish biologist.

Reed did point out that while black rockfish populations were good in 2017 there was an increase of catch in 2016 and most likely stemmed from the lack of coastal sport salmon fisheries. Charter and private sport anglers rely heavily on bottom-fish especially during the spring when other fisheries are closed.

The coastal sport fishery in 2017 was limited to 632,726 pounds of black rockfish.

The coastal sport fishery opens March 10 through Oct. 20 for bottomfish including lingcod off Ilwaco, Westport and La Push (Marine Catch Areas 1, 2 and 3).

The northern coast off Neah Bay (Area 4) also opens March 10 through Oct. 20 for bottom-fish except the lingcod fishery is open April 16 through Oct. 15.

A spike in the canary rockfish population allowed sport anglers in 2017 to retain one daily off Ilwaco and Westport only for the first time in about 15 years. That one canary daily limit will still be in effect for 2018 as part of an anglers seven rockfish daily limit. Fishing for canary rockfish is still not allowed at La Push and Neah Bay.

Sport anglers may keep all lingcod regardless of their size due to a rise in their population in the ocean. Anglers should also be aware of certain depth restrictions in coastal deep-water lingcod fisheries.

Sport anglers who pursue halibut and bottomfish are now required to carry a descending device onboard their boat in all marine areas, including the coast. Descending devices are used to release rockfish back to the depth and improve their survival when released. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/bottomfish/rockfish/mortality.html.

Word on Lower Columbia spring chinook fishery

Washington and Oregon fishery managers will announce the 2018 Columbia River spring chinook fisheries on Wednesday in Portland, Oregon.

But, word leaked out in Terry Otto’s column in The Columbian (http://www.columbian.com/news/2018/feb/15/spring-chinook-season-comes-into-focus/) last week.

Otto said that “while not official yet it looks as if fishermen will get a 38-day season from the I-5 Bridge to the Bonneville Dam with a single hatchery chinook daily limit. Anglers would get to fish for springers from March 1 through April 7.”

The preliminary dates were pitched at the Columbia River Recreational Advisor Group meeting last week in Clackamas, Oregon.

“I would expect the initial sport fishery seasons will look pretty similar to what was set last year, and it’s hard to draw any scenarios right now,” said a WDFW spokeswoman at the Vancouver WDFW office. “There are so many variables that could affect the success. Some years we see early catches while in other years it’s more of a late-timed return.”

Other options Otto mentioned in his column were keeping the season open until April 1, and then allowing fishing on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a four-day April season. Another option would be no season in March with a 12-day season in April.

Spring chinook fishing is currently open in the Lower Columbia below the I-5 Bridge, and a few have been reported caught in the big river as well as lower-river tributaries like the Cowlitz and Willamette rivers.

For the moment the daily limit is two-fish, and then drops to one hatchery chinook daily on March 1.

The 2018 forecast is 166,700 upriver spring chinook, which is 90 percent of recent 10-year average return. That is compared to 160,400 forecasted in 2017 and an actual return of 115,822, but somewhat down from 2016’s 188,800 and 187,816. In addition, 21,692 jack spring chinook returned in 2017 and was the seventh highest return dating back to 1979.

The WDFW draws up computer model salmon return forecasts – also known as “paper fish” – in December that annually offer anglers a peek into the crystal ball of salmon fishing expectations.

A majority of Columbia River “spring/early summer” are Snake River-bound fish with 107,400 forecasted in 2018, which is nearly twice as many as 2017’s actual return of 51,948 (95,800 was the forecast).

The Willamette River forecast is 53,820 adult and 2,130 jack spring chinook with 19,460 being the allowable catch total. The initial forecast in 2017 was for 40,200 fish (later it was updated to 38,100 fish) although the actual return ended up being 56,163.

Washington’s Lower Columbia tributaries are expecting 5,150 for Cowlitz, 1,450 in Kalama and 3,700 in Lewis rivers.

The largest spring adult chinook return on record was 541,000 (364,600 was the forecast) in 2001, and the worst was 12,792 (12,000) in 1995.

Many are cautious on expectations in 2018 due in large part to warm ocean conditions that have stayed in place since the fall of 2014, but could be waning. The ocean ecosystem was turned upside down in 2015 and 2016 creating very poor outmigration for young salmon survival.

There was some news last year that the situation was on the mend, and the ecosystem was returning in a positive direction. In summer of 2017, the copepod system switched back to a cold water community a sign that it was transitioning to more normal conditions.

The spring chinook fishery creates a fishing frenzy beginning as early as January and February, and builds to a crescendo in late March or early April.

Last year, 63,303 angler trips were taken with 9,047 adult spring hatchery chinook kept and 943 released, plus another 137 steelhead kept and 113 released. That averages out to about one hatchery spring chinook kept for every 6.9 trips.

Fishing on Lower Columbia River was open daily from Buoy 10 to I-5 Bridge from Jan. 1-Feb. 7 in 2017. The fishery then expanded up to Bonneville Dam from March 1-April 10, and April 13-17 and April 20-23.

Spring coastal razor clam digs likely to be slim pickings

Tentative coastal razor clams have been set from March through April, and no other digging dates will occur until then.

“Opportunities are pretty limited until the spring digs occur,” said Dan Ayres, the head WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

Final approval will depend on further marine toxin testing, which Ayres says have remained well below the action level.

The green light will likely be announced a week before each scheduled dig series.

Digs in March occur during evening low tides after 12 p.m. while those in April are during morning low tides until times noted below.

More digging dates could occur later this spring if sufficient clams remain available to harvest.

Dates are: March 2 (minus-0.8 feet at 6:54 p.m.) at Mocrocks; March 3 (0.3 at 7:34 p.m.) at Mocrocks; March 16 (0.2 at 7:03 p.m.) at Copalis and Mocrocks; March 17 (0.2 at 7:36 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; April 19 (-0.9 at 9:46 a.m.) at Mocrocks; April 20 (-0.7 at 10:37 a.m.) at Mocrocks; April 21 (-0.4 at 11:34 a.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 1 p.m.; and April 22 (-0.1 at 12:38 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 2 p.m.

A week-long coastal razor clam dig wrapped up on Feb. 3 with 33,723 diggers hitting the beaches and pulling out 299,848 razor clams.

Ayres said there was a decrease in success, but it had nothing to do with a drop in clam populations.

The most likely scenario was people struggled with darkness and weren’t prepared with lanterns, and also simply related to a lack of experience in digging for clams.

Best area was Copalis where 5,003 diggers had 66,184 clams for 13.2 clams per person (daily limit is 15 clams). That was followed by Twin Harbors where 7,086 diggers had 75,767 clams for 10.7 average. Mocrocks had 9,165 diggers with 71,135 clams for 7.8 average and Long Beach saw 11,470 diggers with 86,761 clams for a 7.6 average.

The season total for 19 days of digging on the coast that began Oct. 6 is 153,126 diggers with 1,721,458 razor clams. Season average per digger is 10.2 at Long Beach (58,541 diggers with 594,211 clams); 12.0 at Twin Harbors (33,928 with 408,165); 12.7 at Copalis (29,794 with 378,017); and 11.4 at Mocrocks (30,862 with 351,407).

IPHC sets halibut catch quotas that are down slightly from 2017, but still better than in recent years

Halibut like this will be hooked this spring in marine fisheries of Washington.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission set the 2018 halibut catch quotas in Portland, Oregon on Friday, and the overall poundage is slightly down from last year.

The total sport catch quota is 225,366 pounds compared to 237,762 pounds in 2017, and 214,110 pounds in 2016, 2015 and 2014.

A breakdown of the 2018 halibut catch quotas are 60,995 pounds for Puget Sound from Sekiu to Port Angeles, which is down from 64,962 in 2017, but up from 57,393 pounds in 2016.

On northern coast off Neah Bay and La Push the sport catch quota is 111,632 pounds down slightly from 115,599 in 2017, but up from 108,030 in 2016.

The south-central coast off Westport is 46,341 pounds (44,341 for primary offshore fishery and 2,000 for near-shore) compared to 50,307 in 2017 and 43,785 in 2016.

The southern coast off the Columbia River at Ilwaco will see a catch quota of 11,682 (11,182 for primary offshore fishery and 500 for near-shore) compared to 12,799 pounds in 2017 and 11,895 in 2016.

The catch quota for the entire West Coast – sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial – is 1.32-million pounds for 2018 down from 1.33-million in 2017, but up from 1.14-million in 2016.

The preliminary halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 only) are May 11 and 13, and May 25 and 27. Other potential dates – depending on harvest totals – are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30.

The Westport near-shore is open first Saturday after the closure of the primary fishery and open daily until the quota is projected to be taken.

The opening date at Ilwaco is May 3 for the all-depth fishery. Fishing will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only, and will close Sept. 30 or until the quota is achieved, whichever comes first. The near-shore season will open May 7, and fishing allowed Mondays through Wednesdays only.

In all areas the daily limit is one halibut with no minimum size limit.

A change in how fishing seasons were structured occurred in 2017 to avoid exceeding catch quotas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and inner-Puget Sound marine waterways.

“The good news was we stayed under our sport allocation, which we haven’t done for several years and that was regarded as a success,” Heather Reed, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said. “The 2017 fishing season was good overall.”

Reed said the average size of halibut at Neah Bay and La Push was 18 pounds; Ilwaco was 14 pounds; Westport was 16 pounds; and Puget Sound was 24 pounds.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will make its final approval on all fishing dates and quotas sometime in March or sooner.

 

Preliminary halibut dates set for 2018, but catch quota will likely be reduced

The preliminary halibut fishing dates for 2018 have been set, but catch quotas won’t be decided until late next month and it’s likely they could be lower than it had been in past seasons.

“The (Pacific Fishery Management Council) adopted the 2018 halibut dates at the (Nov. 28-29) meeting, but still need to be approved by (International Pacific Halibut Commission) in late January and then officially adopted into federal rule sometime after that,” said Heather Reed, the state Fish and Wildlife policy coordinator.

The preliminary halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 only) are May 11 and 13, and May 25 and 27. Other potential dates – depending on harvest totals – are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30.

The Westport near-shore is open first Saturday after the closure of the primary fishery and open daily until the quota is projected to be taken. State fisheries plans to set aside 10 percent of the to be determined catch quota or 2,000 pounds, whichever is less.

The opening date at Ilwaco is May 3 for the all-depth fishery. Fishing will be open Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays only, and will close Sept. 30 or until the quota is achieved, whichever comes first. The near-shore season will open May 7, and fishing allowed Mondays through Wednesdays only.

In all areas the daily limit is one halibut with no minimum size limit.

While the tentative dates are decided, the discussion at the IPHC November meeting found that halibut populations weren’t as strong as they’ve been in previous years.

“There were some pretty strong declines for halibut populations in (Washington, Oregon and California), and (Canada and southeast Alaska),” Reed said. “This means the quota could potentially be down this coming year.”

The entire West Coast catch quota in 2017 for sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial fisheries was 1.33-million pounds compared to 2016’s quota of 1.14-million pounds.

Of that the Washington sport catch quota was 237,762 pounds in 2017, and 214,110 pounds in 2016, 2015 and 2014.

A change in how fishing seasons were structured occurred in 2017 to avoid exceeding catch quotas in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and inner-Puget Sound marine waterways.

“The good news was we stayed under our sport allocation, which we haven’t done for several years and that was regarded as a success,” Reed said. “The 2017 fishing season was good overall.”

Reed said the average size of halibut at Neah Bay and La Push was 18 pounds; Ilwaco was 14 pounds; Westport was 16 pounds; and Puget Sound was 24 pounds.

The IPHC will meet the week of January 22 in Portland, Oregon to set catch quotas from California north to Alaska.

The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.

Celebrates the New Year with coastal razor clam digs and more on horizon

Coastal razor clam diggers can ring in New Year’s Day on some beaches, and more digs have been set in late January to early February.

The next digs are New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (minus-1.2 feet low tide at 5:12 p.m.); and Monday (Jan. 1) at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.7 at 6:02 p.m.). Digging is allowed during low tides after 12 p.m. only.

Other proposed digs are: Jan. 28, (-0.4 at 4:06 p.m.) at Mocrocks; Jan. 29 (1.0 at 4:59 p.m.) at Copalis; Jan. 30 (-1.5 at 5:47 p.m.) at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Jan. 31 (-1.6 at 6:33 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; Feb. 1 (-1.5 at 7:17 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 2 (-1.0 at 8 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Feb. 3 (-0.4 at 8:42 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

Marine toxin levels remain low on all coastal beaches, but protocol will have WDFW staff out taking clam samples, and two clean samples are needed before the digs can be approved.

During the previous digs Dec. 1-4, 26,688 diggers dug 242,674 razor clams.

“It was kind of a mixed bag of clam digging, and the weather didn’t exactly cooperate for the first couple of days (Dec. 1-2),” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

By Dec. 3, everything turned around and it was fairly easy limits – diggers must keep the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition – at three open beaches (Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis) although some still struggled at south-end of Long Beach.

“I was back at Mocrocks (Dec. 4), and it was perfect clam digging conditions,” Ayres said. “The surf was down, but it was cold (36 degrees) with a light northeasterly wind that felt like you were in a cold storage room.”

“The people who came prepared with lanterns did fine,” Ayres said. “Some good diggers managed to get their clams by 5 p.m. before it got dark, but I saw some who struggled especially since they had a tiny headlamp or simply nothing at all.”

Diggers were still finding a mixed bag of razor clam sizes, and one of the keys is if you’re finding small ones in a certain area of the beach don’t be afraid to move to another spot.

A breakdown by beach showed 11,578 diggers at Long Beach Dec. 2-4 had 78,587 clams for 6.8 clam per person average; 6,910 at Twin Harbors Dec. 2-4 had 69,210 for 10.0; 6,583 at Copalis Dec. 1 and Dec. 3 had 79,000 for 12.0; and 5,566 at Mocrocks Dec. 2 and Dec. 4 had 55,518 for 10.0.

The season total for 10 days of digging that began Oct. 6 is 82,774 diggers with 962,647 razor clams. Season average per digger is 10.9 at Long Beach; 11.9 at Twin Harbors; 12.2 at Copalis; and 12.0 at Mocrocks.

“I talked anecdotally with some local community business folks who were thrilled about the turnout, and said customers were coming and spending the night,” Ayres said.

Ayres pointed that state fisheries plan to save as many clams as they can for daylight morning low tide digs in the spring.

Retired state fisheries regional director Bob Everitt may have caught a new state Pacific sanddab record

Ichiro Nakata of Mercer Island holds up a small flounder he caught off Possession Point. Retired state fisheries regional director Bob Everitt has set a possible new state record for a sanddab flounder he caught on July 1 off Jefferson Head.

Something mighty fishy has been happening in Puget Sound, and it deals with one tiny bottom-dwelling sea creature that often gets no respect in the sport-fishing world.

Just a short while ago – on May 25 to be exact – the state record for a Pacific sanddab was set by Juan Valero of Seattle who caught a 1.00 pound fish off Possession Point in northern Puget Sound.

Now it looks like that newly established record could be in jeopardy after recently retired Bob Everitt, the former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director for the Region Four Mill Creek Office, could have broken the record during a fishing outing on July 1.

While unofficial until verified by WDFW, Everitt who spent 33.7 years as a state fisheries employee, was out fishing with Danny Garrett, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, off Jefferson Head where the duo was mooching for resident coho salmon and seeking out Dungeness crab on the opening day in Marine Catch Area 10 (central Puget Sound).

“It was Everitt’s first day of retirement from our department, and he was super excited,” Garrett said. “I’ve never mooched for salmon before so I wanted to try and catch a coho. We had only hooked a couple of (dogfish) sharks and a few sanddabs, and gave it just an hour or two while we soaked our crab pots.”

“We weren’t taking anything too seriously, and it was around 4 p.m. when (Everitt) hooked not just one but two sanddabs on each of his (tandem) hooks,” Garrett said. “After he caught it I told him we should get it weighed because I knew it was bigger (than the previous record) just by looking at it.”

Everitt and Garrett followed all the procedures to make it an official state record (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/records/) by immediately taking it a grocery store that had a certified scale.

“It weighed 1.22 pounds and was 14 inches long, and that would edge out the record fish caught by Valero by .22 pounds,” Garrett said. “(Everitt) has been a fixture with the state agency, and what a great way to kick off his retirement.”

While unofficial until official, the soon-to-be record is being processed by WDFW, and an announcement along with a picture should come to light very soon.

 

 

Destination Villa del Palmar at Loreto, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

The Baja Peninsula of Mexico is home to Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, Swordfish, Roosterfish, Grouper, Cabrera and many other species that anglers often include on their ultimate fishing “bucket list” but the Dorado with its deep blue and bright green colors, unique rounded head and long dorsal fin is what drew me to Loreto, a small town of the Baja region. I was invited with a few other writers to attend the very first Villa del Palmar Resort’s Dorado tournament held on July 1st and 2nd.

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

My first impression of Loreto was the very small airport only an hour and a half flight from Los Angeles, California. Stepping off of the Boeing 737 and onto the tarmac there is no breezeway but instead a short stroll into the one gateway airport. This area of Mexico welcomes Americans and I noticed that a lot of the other passengers were families mostly comprised of grandparents, mom’s and dad’s and kids.

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

A thirty-minute shuttle ride through the hot desert along the bays and coves of the Sea of Cortez in the shadows of steep volcanic mountains led us to Villa del Palmar resort on Danzante bay. Waters that are turquois blue with red and orange rock outcroppings and of course tall green cactus. The resort owns thousands of acres of the surrounding area and includes a world class golf course.

Manta Ray's jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Manta Ray’s jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Upon arrival I met with Alejandro Watson and Ignacio Gomez, who I later ended up talking with about our families and learning we have a lot in common. We were also introduced to Zayra our hostess and hospitality guide. A quick tour of the grounds, with its multiple swimming pools, hot tub, three world class restaurants, and a large white sandy beach. The resort also offers a full service spa, two tennis courts, a mini-market for those forgotten items and an arcade for the teenagers. I again noticed that this resort was not a party atmosphere like those resorts in Cabo San Lucas or other Baja destinations. Alejandro and Ignacio make sure Villa del Palmar is a family place, where you can bring the kids and let them play on the beach or check out one of the mountain bikes while you go fishing.

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

The following morning, I was again on the shuttle to the Port of Escondido where I met the crew of the 34 foot “Mad Dash” a cruiser that we would be fishing from once the Dorado tournament began. Sure I was hoping to catch a Dorado myself, but my “job” was to cover the tournament and experience everything Villa del Palmar at Loreto has to offer.

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The first thing I noticed was how calm the waters were around the local Islands in the Sea of Cortez. It wasn’t until we hit the open ocean that we encountered some rollers and minor winds waves.

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Our Captain informed us that the water temperatures were still a little cold for the Dorado and they were just starting to show up, so after we trolled for a bit we headed for a waypoint on his GPS plotter for some bottom fishing. Soon we were into Grouper and Cabrera, both of which are excellent eating fish and the resort will cook for your dinner if you want to bring the catch back with you. Before we knew it we had to head to port to cover the action on the returning boats of the tournament.

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

When we got back to port I met up with Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com and he had an adventure to tell. A day of Roosterfish, Striped Marlin and a Hammerhead Shark! He was fishing in one of the “Panga’s” a small boat that resembles a Salty. A few other boats showed up and a couple of Dorado were caught, a good start to the tournament.

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Day two found me hanging around the Villa del Palmar resort. After a round of golf and a late breakfast at the club house I headed for Danzante Bay in a kayak. I met up with Joe Andrews who was visiting the resort with his family. He said that he has been coming here for a few years and always packs a rod. Using a simple slip weight system and some shrimp he talked one of the cooks out of at the mornings breakfast he said he has landed over 100 Trigger fish in the past two days right in front of the resort. Later that night I met Rene Olinger who moved to Loreto and started Baja Peninsula Adventures  (http://www.bajapeninsulatours.com) which rents Hobie fishing kayaks in town and offers tours as well as fishing.

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Loreto, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula is a destination for the angler, or for a family with an angler that wants it all. Villa del Palmar resort ( http://www.villadelpalmarloreto.com ) offers hiking trails, mountain biking, golf, snorkeling, wine and tequila tasting, fishing packages, and most of all relaxing on the beach or by the pool with world class food and very big and clean rooms and a few condo units with a kitchen. If you have ever thought of a Baja adventure but were a little hesitant I highly recommend looking at Villa del Palmar and also take a shuttle into town and allow Rene to show you around and take a kayak out into the calm waters.

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

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!

IMG_0339 (Medium)

 

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

The 2014 Bayside Marine Salmon Derby!

The 23rd edition of the Bayside Derby coincided with the Saturday, November one Marine Area 8 & 9 opener which meant that I had to figure out a way to slide out of the final hour of The Outdoor Line Radio Show in order to hit the water by daylight! Fortunately, Daylight Savings Time ran late this year and Robbo agreed to do a remote broadcast from the Port Of Everett so I was only steps away from the boat as Endsley and John Martinis finished the broadcast.

The word “November” conjures up all types of mental images to northwest boaters and fishermen. None of these visions involve flat calm waters and full fish boxes. So when Saturday morning dawned flat and clam, the 200 derby participants had  a very pleasant surprise.

The ESPN “flagship” Great White on Marine Area 9’s Possession Bar Saturday morning. When it comes to winter chinook or “blackmouth” fishing, this is as flat calm as it gets!!

aWHite

 

Daiwa’s Josh Leach fights a frisky blackmouth as Brandon Robichaux looks on.

aTOL (2)

 

 

Our Saturday morning action was steady and we managed to get a few fat blackmouth into the fishbox!

abox

 

 

With bait balls like this attracting birds from above and blackmouth from below, the solid chinook action should continue in Marine Area 9 throughout the month of November!

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Josh Leach and Brandon Robichaux hoist our Saturday catch and Team Outdoor Line is on the board in the Bayside Marine Salmon Derby!

aTOL (1)

 

 

Saturday’s leaderboard had a 14 on top of the heap with over 70 fish weighed in which is pretty solid winter chinook action!

aBoard

 

 

After the scale closed at noon on Sunday, the Bayside Marine “buffet” was open and chinook donated by derby anglers is on the menu!

aBuffet

 

The overall boat weight award (12 blackmouth weighing nearly 100lbs!) went to Team “Dr. Evil” consisting of the “wrecking crew”. Left to right Scott Bumstad, Lance Husby, Derek Floyd and Troy Moe. 

aDrEvil

 

The largest chinook went to Joe Stephensen (left) pictured here with his father Ray. Joe’s winter chinook weighed just over 14 pounds and brought the happy crew $2000.00!

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The winter chinook fishery is now in full swing and it’s shaping up to be a very solid season. Bayside Marine’s Salmon Derby officially kicks off the 2015 Northwest Salmon Derby Series and we’ll see you the next stop which is next month’s Resurrection Derby in Friday Harbor! See you on the water this winter!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Sitka 2014 Great White: NORTH!

This year’s edition of The Outdoor Line’s annual Sitka trip was a very special one. We had some Alaska “first-timers”, (I was going to say “Greenhorns” but…) some of our wives made the trip for the first time in several years and 2014 marked the Alaskan arrival of the 710 ESPN flagship, the Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King.

The trip began back in late May with the barge trip from Seattle to Sitka. It’s a bit freaky seeing your boat and truck sail away but it’s a gas to fly into Sitka and find your ride safe and sound thanks to Alaska Marine Lines!aBarge

 

 

We were very fortunate to arrive in time for some flat, sunny weather and a solid chinook bite. Jack Reyes mugs for the camera on the first fish of the trip. Little did we know that the bite would remain…but the nice weather would not.aJack#1

 

Team Outdoor Line’s Brandon Robichaux can’t help but grin on his first day in Alaska..and his first Alaskan chinook!aBrando

 

Phil Michelsen handles a hot king and finds that the Daiwa DXS Series Rods and Saltist reels are more than a match for a big Alaskan chinook!aPhil

 

I even get into the act and all my work getting Great White ready for this trip comes to fruition!aDayone Nelly

 

710 ESPN’s Michael Grey of the “Wyman, Mike & Moore” show experienced Alaska for the first time and his very first Alaskan chinook turns out to be a very memorable experience!aMGglass

 

My summer on air partner John Martinis joined us in Sitka for the first time and I believe that it won ‘t be his last appearance on this trip!AJohnM

 

In between weather systems we managed to refine our halibut anchoring techniques. Here, Phil Michelsen, Michael Grey and John Martinis admire out day’s catch with chinook to 26 and halibut to 100lbs!aPMJbut

Speaking of refining techniques, Pro Cure’s Brine & Bite has  forever changed the way I handle my herring. With one jar of Brine & Bite powder, you can cure up to 8 trays of bait that stand up to some trolling, mooching and shine like nothing I’ve ever fished before!ABrine&b

 

My dear friend Larry Stauffer and his wife Dana enjoyed a consistent chinook bite and we enjoyed having our wives join us for a few days of Alaskan angling!aL&D

 

My wonderful wife Kathy handles this hot king and I can’t begin to describe how special it was to have her join me on this trip!AK

 

Kathy and Dana share a laugh and a special moment after this double on mid-20 lb chinook!

aK&D

 

Larry, Dana, Kathy & I with our days catch. We’ll be remembering this trip in pictures -and barbeques- for months to come!aLDK

ESPN’s Brock Huard joined us for his second season in Sitka and his passion for fishing and ability to learn is amazing to watch! I’m pretty sure he is as hard-bitten as I am with southeast Alaska!ABrockNelly

While it’s nothing short of wonderful to share this time in Alaska with family and friends, we’re working on a bit of a promotion that may allow us to host a listener on this trip next year so stay tuned for that!

Meanwhile, we’re working on sharing what we’ve learned in Alaska about chinook salmon fishing right here. Want technique tips? Stand by! We’re going to deliver some tips that will deliver more fish in your box this season!

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Anchor System Academics

The ability to quickly, effectively and safely anchor your boat is a fundamental aspect of seamanship that will help you catch more fish, enjoy a restful time on your vessel and most importantly, keep all aboard safe and sound in the event of a grounding or complete power failure.

My main focus for this project was to lay out and mount an anchor roller mount and deck pipe (deck top access to the rope storage locker) that would be easy, convenient and safe for everyone on board. Fortunately, the gang at Harbor Marine in Everett had everything I needed!

Our project boat is the Weldcraft 280 with nothing short of a bulletproof “pulpit”!

aPulpit

 

Our “raw materials” for this project are, top to bottom: Lewmar anchor roller mount, Rocna Fisherman 6kg modified plow anchor and a Perko hinged chain pipe.aRawmaterial

 

The anchor roller mount installation is straightforward, just line it up straight and make sure the anchor’s point, in this case the Rocna chisel tip clears the pulpit support under the roller.aDrill

 

Now it’s time to lay out the chain pipe hole and since this is a fairly significant jig-saw job, it’s definitely a case of “measure twice, cut once”!

aTrace

 

Rest assured, I double-checked the area under the cut to make darn sure that there was no electrical or other “trouble” hiding under the deck!

aHole

 

Marine silicone around the pipe flange guarantees that the only water getting into that anchor locker is coming through the pipe… not around it!

aSilicone

 

Nice, clean, sturdy installation so far, now for some chain on that Rocna Fisherman!

aMount

 

A boat length of 3/8″ Galvanized Proof Coil chain shackled to the Rocna finishes the package…almost… 

aChain

 

While the installation looks bad to the bone, the anchor is a bit tilted and will rock back and forth a bit on the road and the last thing we want is to weigh the anchor on Interstate 5!…So…

aBad

 

Drill baby drill! The Lewmar anchor roller mount has three holes pre-drilled to fit a 5/16″ lock pin. Drill the anchor stock to fit one of the roller mount holes and add a piece of 150lb test mono with crimped loops for a pin keeper…and buy an extra pin just in case!

aPin

Now I’m ready to anchor fish for halibut in the Straits, springers in the Columbia or maybe even to take a little break in the action! These days, we all need a little break…Right?

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

Customizing My Shelton Rockfish Release Device

This past summer the Alaska Department of Fish and Game required all charter fishing vessels in Southeast Alaska to carry a rockfish release mechanism on board at all times. Since I own such a vessel in Craig, Alaska it was apparent I was going to have to change how we do things on the bottomfish grounds. No problemo!

If you’re not familiar with what happens to a rockfish when it comes up from depth they usually suffer from barotrauma, also known as “The Bends”. If they aren’t descended rapidly the chances of a rockfish making it back to the bottom are slim to none.

In several conversations I had with Puget Sound Anglers president Ron Garner last winter he continued to mention the Shelton Fish Descender as a viable option to meet the new standard. They were relatively inexpensive and after checking the SFD’s out online I quickly figured out a way to customize them to make them easier to use.

The online instructions looked simple enough, but I immediately recognized how tangled up the whole mess could get in heavy seas with braided bottomfish lines sweeping under the boat. And, I wouldn’t have much time to get a rockfish hooked up and hauling ass back down to depth before I was off to tend to another rod on deck. On most days there’s little time for tinkering.

This is what I came up with. A 2 pound pipe jig with the SFD descender poured directly into the top of the jig. When Dad was building my pipe jigs last spring I had him pour me a jig with the Shelton Fish Descender poured into the jig.

Since two pounds is only sufficient to sink your average-sized rockfish I added a split ring and a three way spiral swivel to the bottom of the jig so that I could add more weight as needed. The weights that I added to the pipe jig were 2 pound square leads that don’t roll around the side trays when the boat is underway.

Smaller sized yelloweye rockfish, for instance, would usually take around 4 pounds of weight to get them to descend. Larger yelloweye in the 12 to 15 pound range would descend with two additional two pound leads spun onto the swivels making the jig a total of 6 pounds.

In speaking with Garner he told me that yelloweye rockfish larger than that would take 8 pounds or more to get them down. I had small lanyards rigged up just in case I needed more than 6 pounds of total weight, but I never needed them.

Overall the performance of this device was quite sufficient after I got the hang of using it. The key was to hook up the rockfish and send it downward and keep it going in one continuous motion, otherwise the fish would slide off the needle and I would have to retrieve the fish and start over. Having the bail open and ready to roll was crucial to making this work.

After some practice I could rapidly get a rockfish onto the needle and back down to depth in short order. I had a spare halibut rod on board with a large Penn 345 reel attached to it that could handle the heavy weight of this device.

Unless I find a better device for the summer of 2014 I plan on pouring more SFD’s into pipes that weigh 2, 4, and 6 pounds that can quickly be deployed onboard the “Polar Bear”. A small rack of these pipe jig descenders would greatly simplify this task.

If you’ve done some tweeking to your own rockfish descenders to make them more effective I’m all ears. Feel free to share your thoughts with us on the Outdoor Line forums. There’s a great learning environment on the OL forums and the only ones that get lit up are…well…us!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle