Spring Chinook are highly prized no matter how hard it is to catch them-Jason Brooks
by Jason Brooks
With record high water and water clarity the color of mud it’s been hard to get excited about spring Chinook fishing. That is until you realize that it’s already mid-April and the fish are in the river. Regardless of the water conditions this is our chance to catch the worlds best eating salmon before they head to their natal streams. The main Columbia and most of its tributaries are flowing high this spring but here are some tips on how to fish for Springers while we can.
Double up on in-line flasher’s like Big Al’s from YBC attracts fish in muddy water-Jason Brooks
Double up! Its no secret that trolling Big Al’s Fish Flash with a trailing herring is a top producer for springers. With low visibility use two of the in-line flashers to create even more flash. Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait Company explained that the fish are attracted to the flashing of the rotating flashers so in very low visibility waters he will put two of them end to end to create even more flash.
Brined and Dyed baits with UV finish on a shorter leader will catch more fish-Jason Brooks
In low visibility water the double flashers draw the fish and if you use the standard 48 inch leader the fish simply won’t see the bait. Instead shorten the leaders to 24-30 inches.
Ultraviolet light is radiated from the “electromagnetic spectrum” of light that “glows”. You and I can’t see it but the fish can. Many lures come with UV enhancements and on dark days using lures, flashers, and bait dyes with UV can attract fish. In high water this can make a bite turn on. Use cures such as Pro-Cure’s Brine-n-Bite Complete with UV on your herring and UV dyes such as Bad Azz bait dye don’t hurt either.
High water means fish will be on the move so trolling can be more productive for suspended fish-Jason Brooks
Trolling in high water can put you in front of more fish, as the fish are on the move and can be scattered. During normal flows it’s common to sit on anchor for the outgoing tide and on smaller rivers anchoring on seams and current breaks can work well. With the extreme high water we have right now, however, the fish are on the move and trolling can produce more fish than “sitting on the hook”. Keep in mind that the fish are not always right on the bottom and in slack waters they’ll suspend so it’s a good idea to stagger the rods at different depths while trolling.
Regardless if a storm is coming or a sunny day is forecasts, get out and fish!-Jason Brooks
Get out and fish! Regardless of tides, high water, rain, wind, or any other excuse that you’re using to stay home, the Spring Chinook season is very short so get out and wet a line!
Buzz Ramsey is no stranger to springer fishing on the Columbia River and regardless of the conditions you’ll find him out there on the river on a daily basis trying new color patterns and techniques. All the hard work paid off with this nice springer for Shirley Sanchotena on a recent outing.
Shirley Sanchotena and Buzz Ramsey are all smiles with Shirley’s Springer caught during high water that bit a herring on a short leader trailing two Big Al’s Fish Flash-Jason Brooks
Jason Brooks The Outdoor Line Blogger 710 ESPN Seattle
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)
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.
. 2009-2016 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)
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!!!
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!
Smoking salmon can be as easy or difficult as you make it. By using the highest quality salmon, however, you can produce a very high quality smoked fish product using even the most basic recipe and ingredients. Don’t be fooled into thinking the spawned out old boot that you just caught on the river is “good enough for the smoker”, as the quality of the fish you put in the smoker will be exactly what you get out of it.
Below is a simple yet delicious smoked salmon recipe that I use to smoke all my fish.
Preparing the Fish
After filleting the fish decide whether you want to leave the fish in whole fillets or single serving size pieces. I chunk my fillets into a size appropriate to serve several people, so we can pull it out of the freezer as we need it.
The pin bones can easily be removed from the fillet with a set of needle nose pliers or pin bone pliers. Pine bone pliers can be purchased online at Amazon.com or at most Metropolitan markets located in the Seattle area. At the end of the drying process the pin bones protrude from the flesh making them a little easier to pull out of the fish.
There are literally hundreds of different recipes for smoking salmon, most of which turn out a great tasting product in the end. This is a very simple recipe that I picked up years ago from a friend that produces some of the best smoked salmon I’ve ever eaten.
-1 Cup Brown Sugar (dark brown sugar works great, too!)
-1 Cup Coarse Kosher Salt
-1 Cup White Sugar
-3 Quarts of Water
Combine the above ingredients in a plastic container or non-metallic mixing bowl. To make the ingredients dissolve more readily I use hot tap water and then allow the mixture to cool completely before adding the fish to it. Also, be sure the salt you use for the brine is non-iodized. Iodized salt produces a metallic taste in the fish. For large quantities of salmon I place the brine and fish in a 5 gallon bucket and place it in a cooler full of ice overnight.
Kosher salt is highly refined which makes it dissolve quickly and absorb more readily into the fish. Because of how it’s refined it’s also a lot less “salty” than other forms of salt. Depending upon your taste you can also add garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon pepper, cracked black pepper, Worstershire Sauce, and just about anything else you can imagine to this recipe. I prefer to keep the brine simple and then add either cracked pepper or jalapeño slices to the fish at the end of the brining process.
Now that the brine is dissolved and ready place the salmon in the brine meat-side down and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. For a large load of salmon I’ll place it in a clean 5 gallon bucket that will then go in a cooler full of ice where it stays overnight.
Aside from the brine, the next step in this process is probably the most important in assuring your fish turns out great.
After removing the fish from the brine place it on the smoker racks and allow it to air dry until the surface is tacky-dry. If you spray a little non-stick on your smoker racks the fish will come off the racks nicely when it’s done smoking. During the drying period a glaze, also known as a pellicle, will form on the surface of the fish trapping the brine and fish oils within the meat. A fan can be used to speed up this process.
There are several commercially produced smokers on the market that work great for smoking fish. You’ll find smokers that use propane as a heat source and others that use an electric element to burn the chips and heat the unit. The smoker I use is an electric Masterbuilt with digital-controlled heat and time settings.
If I’m smoking smaller salmon like silvers I’ll cold smoke the fish at 110 degrees for two hours and then finish it at 170 degrees for two more hours. For larger pieces of king salmon the cold smoke time will stay the same but I’ll jack up the cooking time to closer to three hours or more until the fish is finished.
For safety reasons, you should always plan on placing the smoker a safe distance from anything combustible and don’t plan on smoking fish on your wooden deck.
Alder, apple, and cherry chips are all sold commercially by companies like Brinkman and Little Chief. Alder is definitely my first choice when it comes to smoking fish.
Smoking the Fish
Since the fish is already on the racks all you have to do now is slide the fish in your Masterbuilt smoker and turn the smoker on. For a load of silver salmon I’ll set the smoker at 110 degrees for two hours and I’ll add one tray of alder chips during that time. Once the cold-smoke process is complete I’ll crank the smoker up to 170 degrees for two more hours and by the end of this time the salmon is usually cooked to perfection. If you want a little drier fish you can extend the cooking time. For king salmon I keep the cold smoke time the same but extend the cooking process to three or even four hours depending on how thick the fillets are.
I just started adding jalapeño pepper slices to my salmon and absolutely the flavor and spice it brings to the fish. If you like a little heat I recommend giving this a try…it is AWESOME!
Packaging the Smoked Fish
If you want to store your smoked fish in the freezer you’ll want to use a vacuum sealer like a Food Saver to package the fish. After the fish is sealed be sure to write the date and the species of fish on the package.
Once you’ve mastered this process, however, you’ll find that the fish rarely even makes it to the freezer!
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!
…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…
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!
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!
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.
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…
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 himfor a good ten minutes!
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!
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!
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!
When you add all that fish up multiplied by the 40 guests in the lodge…
…and get it loaded in the Helijet for the trip back to the airport, it’s one impressive sight!
Once the morning mist burns off, we lift off the helipad…
…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.
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
Winter blackmouth season is upon us here in Puget Sound and it’s time to talk about a few lethal rigs to catch these immature king salmon. In the winter months the bait size in Puget Sound is generally a lot smaller than during the summer months and “matching the hatch” can be critical to getting them to snap. Small herring, sand lance, and hooligans make up the bulk of the baitfish in the sound during the winter blackmouth season.
Green Crush/Ace Hi Needlefish Combo
This is a go-to rig anytime there’s candlefish around. I’m a big fan of Luhr Jensen’s “Green Crush” and “Blue Crush” flashers because they have UV on one side and full glow on the other. No matter what the lighting conditions these flashers will give you some “pop” down below in the blackmouth zone. The “Blue Crush” works just as well as the “Green Crush” for me. Pick a winner!
Any time I’m fishing Ace Hi’s or hoochie’s I run a minimum of 50 pound fluorocarbon leader. Flourocarbon is a lot stiffer than monofilament and the combination of that stiffness and the heavier line transmits a lot of action from the flasher back to the Ace Hi. The short 30 inch leader helps with that also. These lures don’t impart their own action so you’ve got to get them shake’n and bake’n with the flasher. Don’t worry about spooking fish with the heavier leader. If the flasher doesn’t spook ’em, the leader sure as heck isn’t going to.
I tie two 3/0 Mustad Ultrapoint hooks back-to-back and very close together for this rig. Next I’ll run four Silver Horde glow beads as spacers to push the hooks toward the back of the Ace Hi “Needlefish”. I like these particular beads because they’re football shaped and it’s takes fewer of them to get the job done. Plus they glow for days.
The best needlefish colors I’ve found so far have been green splatterback and blue splatterback. The chartreuse, purple, black, and white Ace Hi “Needlefish” patterns work great also though. And if you ever get into a situation where there’s squid around run the orange splatterback pattern. I’ve terrorized the kings on that pattern when they’re gorging on squid!
Blue Crush/Coho Killer Combo
Tom Nelson and I refer to the Coho Killer spoon as the “fish detector”. Like the needlefish pattern mentioned above the Coho Killer is also an excellent candlefish imitation and it imitates small winter herring too. Don’t let the name fool you though. This spoon will flat-out murder the blackmouth in the winter months and summer Chinook will hammer this spoon also.
I run a longer 42 inch, 30 pound monofilament leader for this rig because the spoon has it’s own action and doesn’t need any help from the flasher. The flasher brings ’em in for a look and the action of the spoon seals the deal. Monofilament is much more limber than fluorocarbon and lets the spoon dance around freely behind the flasher.
Like most lures the Coho Killer works pretty good right out of the package. A few minor tweaks to this nasty little lure will turn it into a freak show down on the bottom though. The first thing you want to do is accentuate the bends in the lure. By increasing the lures two bends the Coho Killer turns into a blur at trolling speeds and this tweak also makes it switch direction every so often.
Next you’ll want to remove the hook from the tail of the Coho Killer and add a split ring to the rear hook ring. Then add a swivel and a 2/0 Mustad Open Eye Siwash hook to the split ring. This setup allows a hooked salmon to twist and turn when it’s hooked without applying a bunch of torque to the back of the spoon. These spoons are exceptionally lightweight and the addition of the swivel reduces the chance of seriously damaging the spoon every time a fish is hooked.
The top Coho Killer colors for winter blackmouth are Irish Cream, Cookies and Cream, White Lightning, Mexican Flag, and the green, blue, and purple splatter back patterns. The glow and UV patterns work best in the winter months when blackmouth are hugging the bottom in deep water and the chrome plated patterns seem to work better in the summer when salmon are suspended.
Coyote Flasher/Kingfisher Lite Spoon
This is the same rig as above but with a Kingfisher Lite spoon. As I mentioned earlier both the “Green Crush” and “Blue Crush” flashers work excellent as attractors. Run blue on one downrigger and green on the other and see which one is performing better. I started running blue quite a few years ago after noticing that everyone else was running traditional green. Guess what? It worked!
The smaller 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 Kingfisher Lite spoons do a great job of matching the size of small herring and hooligans in the winter months in Puget Sound. Small herring abound in the sound itself and hooligans can be plentiful in the San Juan Islands in the winter time. Hooligans are small smelt that are between 2 and 4 inches long in the winter and blackmouth love them.
The Kingfisher Lite spoons that seem to get bit the most are Cookies and Cream, Irish Cream, Mexican Flag, Kitchen Sink, Herring Aid, Resurrection, and Yellowtail. Yellowtail doesn’t look remotely like anything you’d find in Puget Sound but the blackmouth don’t seem to care. That’s definitely one of our top spoons for blackmouth year-in, year out. Nelly’s got a couple of these spoons on his boat that have little to no paint left on them.
The Kingfisher Lite spoon also swims a little better by accentuating the bends. Here’s a video from Tom Nelson that shows how to give a little bend to these great spoons to make them fish better.
The Attraction of Scent
John Martinis caught this 16 pound blackmouth on Possession Bar on November 1st, 2016. A 3 inch “Herring Aid” spoon did the trick!
I like to add Pro Cure herring gel to all these lures to help seal the deal. If I’m putting scent on a flasher I will always apply it to the bottom end of the flasher on the glow side. There’s no sense in dulling down the shiny side of the flasher with a bunch of gel. Herring scent is the name-of-the-game in most situations unless I’m trolling around rocky structure that might hold shrimp. In that case I’ll go with a shrimp-based scent like Pro Cure Shrimp/Krill or Shrimp/Anise. Another scent that works great is Pro Cure’s Bloody Tuna Anise. On occasion I’ll cut a small herring strip and add it to the top hook of my Ace Hi Fly just to make it a little more enticing.
A Note on Shakers
These three rigs will catch blackmouth throughout the sound and in some situations that can include undersize blackmouth. If you continue encountering these small blackmouth either leave the area or switch to bigger gear. 4 inch spoons, whole herring, and at times 4 and 5 inch plugs will greatly reduce the number of shaker encounters. Not only are we responsible for taking care of the resource but you’re not fishing effectively if you’re towing around a small shaker on your gear all day.
Fish any of these rigs near the bottom where there’s bait and blackmouth around and you’ll catch fish. These are all time-tested rigs that have filled plenty of punch cards for both myself and Tom “Nelly” Nelson.
Good luck to you this winter blackmouth season and don’t be afraid to share your fish pics and stories with us over on the Outdoor Line forums. And if you’ve got any tips or additions to any of this I’m all ears!
Our good friend Carmen Macdonald at Luhr Jensen just produced a great video describing how to properly rig and use a Jet Diver. These divers are widely used in salmon and steelhead fisheries throughout the northwest, the Kenai River, and Alaska’s Nushagak River. If you’re serious about salmon and steelhead fishing you’ll at some point need to use one of these great divers.
Good bait and perseverance will pay off when it comes to salmon fishing, especially Buoy 10 fishing. It all started the night before our trip as Jason Hambly put a few empty jars into the kitchen sink. He then stuffed them with herring and poured in some rock salt. There was no need for any tap water, frowned upon anyways due to chlorine and fluoride treatments, but instead he filled the jars with Pro-Cure’s Brine ‘n Bite Complete. One jar had Chartreuse-the other three with Natural-but in one of those he added a few droppers of Anise Oil.
Plug Cut Herring cured in Pro-Cure Brine ‘n Bite Natural
After a night in the cure it was time to fish. The morning was rough, both in water conditions and in fishing. First heading to the Washington side after launching in Astoria, Oregon we began our troll. Yakima Bait Company’s “Big Al’s Fish Flash” trailing a 16-ounce dropper that we kept close to the sandy bottom. Behind the in-line flasher were those Brine ‘n Bite Complete cured herring-plug cut by Hambly-and rigged on tandem 3/0 hooks.
Early morning calm at Buoy 10
The morning was cloudy and the winds calmed for a bit as the tide went slack. For just a little while it was nice out, and calm. But still very few fish being caught. So we motored over to the Oregon side.
Waves and wind kicked up with the tide change while passing cargo ships
Passing anchored cargo ships we started picking up a few bites. My son Ryan got the first fish of the day, a small Chinook but it was perfect for him to reel in.
Ryan Brooks with the first Chinook of the day
Next up was Dave Dunsterville, a friend from Vancouver, British Columbia. But his fish was a small Tule and back into the Columbia it went.
A small Tule that was tossed back into the Columbia
After a few hours Hambly switched to the Anise scented herring and hooked a giant Chinook. He fought it hard to the boat as Dave was able to get the net under it.
Jason Humbly with a nice Up River Bright Chinook that fell for Anise Oil infused into the plug cut herring
A couple passes later and finally it was my time to fight a Buoy 10 Chinook, this one also couldn’t resist the Anise in Brine ‘n Bite Natural.
The author and his son with a Buoy 10 Chinook of his own
We fished for 10 hours and all of our fish came on the second tide change of the day. Most of the other boats had already left the fishing grounds several hours before we even hooked our first fish. Even at the end of the day our herring was still firm and bright. By changing up colors, scents and adding a few additional scents we found what combination was wanted by the fish on this tough conditions day. Good brined bait and perseverance pays off, especially at Buoy 10 where you can be rewarded with a huge Upriver Bright Chinook like Hambly’s.
Having several scents along and good brined herring that last in the turbulent waters of Buoy 10 leads to success
Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks
Chelan Falls Summer Kings-by Jason Brooks
Summer is heating up and as July keeps rolling along the Chinook keep climbing the fish ladders at the dams along the Columbia River. That is until they hit the cold water being spilled from Lake Chelan. A fairly new fishery for Upper Columbia summer Chinook are fish returning to the net pens located at the base of the outfall from the power plant where water is flushed from a large pipe and a trickle from the Chelan gorge into the warm waters of the Columbia. This area is known as the Chelan Falls fishery.
Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks
Early morning is without doubt prime time. The summer sun shines very bright here and it seems to turn the bite off along with the heat that goes along with it causing anglers to want to head to the local swimming hole instead of the fishing hole.
Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks
Most fish are caught in pre-dawn hours until the sun hits the water around 7:00 in the morning. This is a shallow water fishery with the bottom being around 25 to 30 feet and covered in milfoil. This means the downriggers are set at 15 feet and some elect to use a drop weight system with 4 ounce cannonballs.
Flat-lining plugs such as Brad’s Killer Fish 14’s in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks
A standard trolling set up at Chelan Falls is a Mack’s Double D Dodger in silver and green, a 36” to 48” leader of Izorline 30 pound XXX trailing a Brad’s Superbait or Super Cut Plug. Popular colors are Hot Tamale or Lava, but another “new” color that is producing this summer is Rotten Banana in the mini-cut plug. Stuff the baits with canned tuna or herring and soak them heavily with Pro-Cure Super Gel in Anise Bloody Tuna. Since this is a shallow water troll and you are allowed to fish two poles with the endorsement it is beneficial to throw an extra rod out flatling a Brad’s Killer Fish size 14 in the Rotten Banana color.
Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo
Launch at the County PUD park located just past the Chelan Falls Bridge and then motor back over to the mouth of the Chelan River, trolling the western shoreline all the way back up to the bridge. Make sure to stay a bit out in the channel otherwise you will foul your gear in the milfoil along the shoreline. If you want to learn this fishery there are two premier guides that fish it, Shane Magnuson (509-264-7684 or www.uppercolumbiaguide.com) of Upper Columbia Guide Service who lives in Leavenworth and Brad Wagner (509-670-3095 or www.fishwenatchee.com) of Bobber Down Guide Service out of Wenatchee. Since they live in the area they know this fishery well. In fact I was out trying my best this past weekend and witnessed Shane land 5 fish before 7:00 AM on Saturday. Then I got a message from Brad who let me know that his boat caught 6 Chinook before 6:00 AM today. The key to both guides in that they are on the water early. There is plenty of room to fish and it doesn’t get too crowded.
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.
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.
As the lodge comes into view we’re just stunned by the remoteness and beauty of the luxurious, floating lodge at Englefield Bay.
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!
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.
After the brief lodge orientation, we jump into our gear and we’re off fishing before noon on our first day!
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.
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!
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!
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…
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.