5 Quick Tips for Trophy Steelhead

Rob Endsley with a Trophy Steelhead

by Jason Brooks

Big wild steelhead are starting to show in our Northwest rivers. This means it’s time to go fishing folks. Here are five quick tips to make your trip better.

Use bigger gear to fight bigger fish-Jason Brooks

  1. Upsize your gear – Once you set the hook and realize you have a big steelhead it’s nice to know you can handle that fish and fight it to the bank. Use heavier mainlines and leaders as well as a stout rod. This helps you land the fish as well as release a fish that isn’t exhausted.

Pink worms are very effective for big fish-Jason Brooks

  1. Forget the Bait –  Instead of using bait which tends to cause higher mortality, switch to other tactics such as spoons, plugs, spinners, rubber worms and beads.

Scents attract fish as well as cover unwanted smells-Jason Brooks

  1. Use Scent – Bait gets swallowed but scent attracts fish to your gear and helps cover any unwanted smells. Apply Pro-Cure Super Gel to leaders, weights, and swivels and soak yarnies in Pro-Cure bait oils. Yarnies can be just as effective as bait and wild steelhead won’t swallow them.

Bobber dogging is an great way to increase your catch rate-Jason Brooks

  1. Learn to Bobberdog – This technique allows you to fish all different kinds of water without making adjustments. It is simple, you’ll lose less gear, and it’s highly effective. Hawken Fishing makes an entire line of Aero Floats designed specifically for bobber-dogging. Spend some time learning this technique and you’ll be able to easily target trophy steelhead holding water. 

Ted Schuman admires a trophy steelhead about to be released-Jason Brooks

  1. Take a Camera – Big fish are in our rivers and if you land that “fish of a lifetime” then take the time to snap a few photographs to preserve the memories. Remember to keep the fish in the water until the camera is ready.

Jason Brooks – Outdoor Line Blogger
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Build an Insulated Box for your Little Chief Smoker

The ability to have fish, fowl, game and even cheese, turn out consistently good in your smoker comes down to a few control measures. I’m not going to waste your time telling you the absolute best wet or dry brine for fish. I am also not going to tell you how fantastic your duck will turn out when wrapped in thick cut bacon…. You can read my smoked duck blog on that one..

I am, however, going to tell you or more importantly show you the importance of temperature control.

I have a Luhr Jensen Little Chief smoker. I’ve had it for years and it does a great job. Back when it was new and when I was smoking fish in the fall and winter I would follow the manufacturers recommendation and use the box it came in as an insulator. The smoker itself is not insulated so the recommendation in cold weather is to place the box over the smoker to help keep some of the heat in.

Once the box wore out, I actually used an old sleeping bag. I did this for a couple years until I finally decided that there had to be a better way.

It always amazes me the idea’s a guy can come up with by simply by walking through a Home Depot or Lowes. There is so much stuff in there it’s just a matter of time until you find everything you need for any project.

Now I was thinking insulation, as in insulating my smoker, when I was walking thru the store. So, I found myself standing in the area of Home Depot that has anything to do with everything in the realm of insulation. I decided to go with structural foundation insulation foam.

To build this insulator box, here is what you will need…
-4 X 8 sheet of one inch thick R. Tech Insulation Foam
-10 ft. of 1 ¼ in. corner molding
-Lock Tight Power Grip multi-purpose adhesive. Make sure it is foam compatible
-Duct-Work aluminum tape (aluminum foil tape)
-Hardware components and grommets

There are several different models of the Little Chief and Big Chief smokers. You need to measure your individual smoker, length and width, to get the accurate measurements. Check if your smoker has handles on the sides or front that you measure the overall width to accommodate for them. When your insulated box is finished, it slides down over the top and it needs to clear the width of the handles.

Cut your four panels using a straight edge with a very sharp fillet knife. I found that when I used a utility knife I had to cut each side of the panel. The utility knife cannot go completely through the one inch thick foam from one side.

The length of your panels should be about 24 inches. The length of your 1 ¼” corner trim should be about 26 inches. The important thing here is that the length of your corner pieces are two inches longer then the panels.

Next you’ll need to take two of your panels and cut a one inch recess along both edges of the panel. Make sure it’s the two panels that are aligned opposite. For example, you should have two panels that are 14. 5 inchs in width and two that are 16 in. Pick a set and make your cuts along each edge. The other set you can leave full dimension. This is so you can glue the panels together and the corner trim will fit evenly.

This is an example of how the corners will fit together, with the recess cut and the corner trim in place.

Once I have the four panels cut and trimmed, it’s time to glue it all together. I put a bead of Lock Tight along the cut-out edge that I made. I also put a thin bead along each side of the corner trim. I put all the pieces together and try to keep it square.

I then wrap the heck out of the box with a heavy string or small diameter rope. I make sure I pull it tight as I continue to wrap and again try to keep it square. The pressure of the string against all four corners will ensure the box holds together tight as the glue drys. I give it at least 24 hrs. to dry. You may need to move it into the house to dry if you are building your box in the fall or winter. The garage may be a bit to cool.

While I have the box wrapped and squared up I measure and cut the top to fit.

The fact that this is styrofoam, I don’t like to leave the edges unprotected. I found that duct-work aluminum foil tape works great for covering all foam exposed edges.

Basically I was able to do the lid with one long strip. You can do it in sections if you prefer.

Next you will also want to do the top edge of your box and the bottom. Again, I tape any exposed foam on the edges.

Next I need to cut a hole in the top for the heat vent. I use a quart jar, narrow neck lid. I make sure the hole that I drill is a bout a ½ inch smaller in diameter then the lid. I want to make sure my vent cover actually covers the hole when I need it to. Also, I need room at the edge to anchor the vent lid.

To make sure I can spin or pivot the vent cover open I use stainless components and plastic grommets.

I drill a hole through the top and reinforce the hole on both sides with some aluminum foil tape. Then, push a plastic grommet in both sides of the top.

I attach the vent cover lid with the stainless screw, nut, and washers. Next I drill a hole and insert a grommet for the thermometer. Depending on the model of smoker you have you can align the thermometer hole with one of the vents in the lid of the smoker. Or if there are no vent slits, you will need to drill a hole in the smoker lid.

If there is a vent, simply open it up a bit with a screwdriver so that your thermometer will fit through the lid. Having the thermometer through the lid and into the actual smoker is key. After-all, this entire project is all about temperature control…

The final two steps are to simply measure your smoker for the location of your pan door on the front and power cord on the back.

Measure and cut out both front and back and reinforce the edges with the foil tape. Again, having no exposed styrofoam makes for a stronger box.

That is pretty much it. This is one of those projects that takes a little time to complete, but it’s so well worth it. You will have an insulation smoker box with temperature control that will last you for years. If you’re like me, sometimes do-it-yourself projects are actually kind of fun.

Good luck and if you decide to build one, make sure you post some pictures on the Outdoor Line forums or over on our Facebook  page.

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Scent: The Key To Successful Crabbing!

One of the greatest things about living near coastal waters is enjoying the world-renowned delicacy that is dungeness crab. However, the tasty crustacean is highly sought-after and those anglers that fish the best bait are, more often than not, the ones who will be enjoying a crab dinner!

Successful crabbing begins with fishing the best available bait in the correct combination.

With any type of bait fishing, establishing a long-lasting scent trail quickly and dependably is a key to success. The bait’s natural lipids, also known as “fats” or “oils” is the most significant element to forming a scent trail as water cannot mix with any type of oil. This resistance to mixing -and therefore diluting- makes oily baits the most desirable and effective for most if not all types of fishing.

Next time you watch The Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”, take a close look at what the professionals bait their pots with: A one-two punch of “broadcast” and “hanging” baits.

The Bering Sea crab fishermen use a combination of ground, frozen herring which quickly spreads a scent (the “broadcast” component) and a whole cod which gives the crab something to eat (the “hanging” component). The “broadcast” portion rings the dinner bell making your gear easier for the crabs to find. The “hanging” portion of the bait keeps the crab in our pots longer. Make no mistake, when there is no bait or scent, crabs will find a way out of your pots!

Lurking in the deepest part of most fishermen’s freezers is undoubtedly some old bait herring, sardines or even salmon eggs which is a bit on the freezer burnt side and no longer suitable for use as effective fishing bait.

Pro Cure to the rescue! The oils and semi-solids in Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant can replace most if not all of what the freezer removed and then some! The trick to making an effective, long-lasting scent trail from old bait is maximizing it’s surface area… which is a fancy way of saying that we’re grinding it up! Grinding the bait serves the dual purpose of getting the oils from within the frozen bait out to the surface and giving the Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant something porous to soak in to.

Get an old hand crank grinder or check out garage sales for an electric food processor and set up your bait “disassembly” station.

We’re turning our bait into a fine grind and adding Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant to the mix, so we have to use something that will keep the mixture from washing away too quickly…

Commercial crabbing bait cups are closed at the bottom and have a vented lid. This configuration allows a controlled release of your broadcast bait and will not spill in your boat before deployment!

Grind your “freezer fodder” into the bait jugs, filling them half to 3/4 full of the ground bait. You want to leave space in the bait jug to allow water to mix within the cup and slowly release the scent trail.

By grinding herring, sardines or even unwanted salmon eggs, you bring fresh oils to the surface providing the best scent trail possible!

After the grinding you can add Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant immediately to the jug, or wait until you are ready to drop the pot in your location of choice!

Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant absorbs into the frozen, ground bait producing a very effective, long-lasting scent trail that will keep bringing crab to your gear long after other’s baits have washed out!

The crab bait “one-two punch” is Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant soaked ground bait and a “hanging bait” of fish scraps or chicken parts which allow the crab a little something to grind on while they wait for you to pull the pot!

The “one-two punch” of a hanging bait (in this case a salmon head in a bait bag) and a bait cup containing Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant soaked ground bait is the best way there is to ensure that you’ll never pull a “zero” pot again!

Here’s the “after” shot of the baited Stearns nesting crab pot above after a several hour soak in a very heavily fished crabbing area in Puget Sound.

Seven keeper male dungeness crab greet us as we open this pot! Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant gives you the effective scent trail you need to keep crab coming to your gear… and then to your dinner table!

Taking the extra effort to prepare your bait a few minutes ahead of your crabbing trip is well worth it! When you consider the time and cost of simply running your boat out to the crab grounds, the cost of bait is small potatoes and the wrong place to try and save a buck. If you try a Pro Cure Crab & Shrimp Attractant spiked bait mixture on your next crabbing trip, I’m willing to guess that you’ll have the same results I’ve enjoyed and several crab dinners that your friends and family will enjoy even more!

Tom Nelson

710  ESPN Seattle


Talkin’ Big Chinook

By Tony Floor

What is it about big salmon?

I mean big salmon in the 25-50 pound class that brings an angler to the pinnicle of happiness.                                                                                                                                                                                                As reported in this column, I’ve invested around a half century chasing chinook and coho salmon                                                                                                                                                                                              in Pacific Northwest waters, not including Vancouver Island and SE Alaska. I have come to the                                                                                                                                                                                         conclusion, as elusive as big fish can be, they are cool.

Part of my job, as the Director of Fishing Affairs for the NW Marine Trade Association is
to manage and execute the NW Salmon Derby Series. There are 16 salmon fishing tournaments
in this year’s 8th annual Derby Series, which means hanging out at events which are founded
upon a contest of catching the largest chinook salmon (predominately fin-clipped hatchery pro-
duced) or in some cases, coho salmon. This awful work task allows me to witness some real
beauties, I’m talking big fish here, and grins synonomous with winning the lottery. For these
anglers, big fish are way cool.

At this time of year, I don’t focus on the chances of catching a very big fish. Afterall,
winter-spring blackmouth traditionally range in the 8-12 pound class, perfect for my barbeque.
A couple of weeks ago, fishing off the west tip of Orcas Island, a big blackmouth buried my rod
tip and the game was on. For this cat, in 34 years of winter-spring blackmouth fishing from
Sekiu to Olympia, I have broken the 20-pound class once, out at Coyote Bank, boating a
21 pounder. My lips did not meet for three weeks.

As I am doing the Tony do-si-do around the back of the boat, from one side to the
other, I am concentrating on the punching, counter-punching as the tug of war ensues. I
began to be thinking about a big wild chinook, bearing an adipose fin, requiring release.
Yet, I am wishing for a release into the cooler. With most big chinook salmon, they tend to
use their heavyweight advantage and stay down. The counterpunch is steady pressure,
constantly aiming the rod tip at the fish and making sure you are on top of the fish, versus
the line angling underneath the boat and the fish being on the other side. So far, so good.
My analogy is similar to a boxing match. The first 12 rounds belong to the fish. The last three
rounds are mine, meaning I increase the pressure as I interpret the fish tiring and coming to
the surface more regularly. Patience is important and remember, never attempt to net a fish
before it’s time. It’s time is defined as the fish being on the surface, and your partner with
the net is ready to drop the net under the fish, entering the net head first for the final play.
Game over.

No adipose fin and welcome aboard. Prepare for a one way trip to Olympia. Back on
the scale on Henry Island, a hefty 27 pounds. My lips havn’t touched since.

Granted, I have been fortunate to hook and land king salmon, during the summer
months of 50, 47, 45 and 40 in nearly a lifetime of saltwater fishing in Washington. All of
those jumbo king salmon came from Willapa Bay in the last 20 years. I can distinctly remember
every one of those big kings resulting in fantastic memories and stories repeated too many
times. But this Orcas Island fish was special, in mid-March and completely unexpected giving
me a new sense of the thrill of salmon fishing at this time of year.

And, it was just a week ago, at the Anacortes Salmon Derby when the top three
winners, each holding their 18-pound and change blackmouths, grinning in the winners
circle out of 1100 anglers. The biggest of the three paid out a cool $15,000. I understand.

On the end of the first day of fishing, I talked with Jennifer Payne from Friday
Harbor, who was distraught over what she thought could have been the winning fish on
the end of her string, only to lose it during the battle at the boat. Sometimes, seeing a big
fish at the boat or at the net, and have the fish successfully cruise away is a suffering similar
to removing a finger with a butter knife. For the angler, and the fish, there will be another
day. And, I hope for Jennifer Payne that the sooner she gets her worm back in the water,
the better the chance of doing business with Mr. Big again.

At this writing, we are only a few weeks away for the announcement of the new
salmon seasons effective May 1, 2011 through April 30, 2012. In discussions with WDFW
salmon biologists, this year may be the year of big chinook. Remember, chinook salmon,
sexually mature at ages three, four and five. Most of Puget Sound king salmon are three
and four year fish, traditionally , with more abundant five year old kings indigenous to
coastal rivers including the Columbia River. My trapline indicates good numbers of big
kings returning to Washington this year, meaning five year olds in the mid-20’s to high
30 pound class. Five year old kings over 40 should not be completely uncommon.

Ever heard of big fishitus? There is no cure but rest assured, it is not fatal. And, it
can be contagious, attacking all degrees of rational thinking. Don’t bother calling the doc,
as there is no known cure. The treatment? Yeah, go fishing and don’t fight the feeling!

Despite this La Nina fall, winter and spring, I am encouraged about spring and
summer fishing options in the months ahead. During this last month of winter-spring
salmon fishing, I’ll be headed back to the Islands and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca
as often as possible, weather permitting. April can produce surprising results.

Next month, I’ll take an in-depth look at our summer salmon fishing options as
I develop my battle plan based on abundance of salmon by area and time. In the meantime,
see you on the water!

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