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

By Tom Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Englefield Again: Provin’ it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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!!

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

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

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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!

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

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

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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!

aWinner 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Four Cornerstones of Winter Chinook Success!

It’s 0640 Saturday morning, we’re between segments on the Radio Show and Rob Endsley’s pen is just flying across his show sheet.

“Well, if you don’t write it, I will…now what is the fourth blackmouth point?” Rob says.

Some of the best “stuff” happens in between segments while the microphones are off and Robbo and I are rippin’ each other but good. However, often the “fertilizer” that flies both ways feeds an idea or concept that leads to an important or instructive point that is “blog-worthy” or, in this case, four points that boil down a whole bunch of winter chinook wisdom into an easy to remember approach.

Cornerstone One: Fish Deep

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After a late summer and fall of easy coho fishing, it’s very tempting to take a laid back approach to winter chinook or “blackmouth” fishing and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Coho or silvers are most often found suspended over deep water while Puget Sound winter chinook are almost always found near structure in a depth band of approximately 80-250 feet of water but generally within 10 feet of the bottom.

While you can enjoy success on silvers without paying strict attention to your boats course or depth, to consistently hook chinook, you have to keep a close eye on both! Despite the fact that I use Cannon’s Bottom Digi-Troll 10’s in Bottom Track mode, to keep your gear within 10 feet of the bottom you must follow the bottom contour –or areas of near equal depth- while at the same time constantly adjusting the depth of the downrigger ball to remain in the strike zone.

Cornerstone Two: Fish Small

HiFly7In the winter we typically find less bait and baitfish individual sizes are at their smallest. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “match the hatch” and that is definitely the best game plan here. Fortunately there are a lot of tackle options that fill the bill. Silver Horde has the Coho Killer, Needlefish Ace-Hi fly and Kingfisher Lite spoons from size 2.0-3.5. With those three items alone you have the ability to mimic bait sizes from 1.5 to nearly four inches! The word “opportunistic” has been used to describe the dietary habits of immature chinook and while they will feed on a wide variety of species, often the best approach is to start small and gather all available information to get dialed in from there.

Cornerstone Three: Fish Fast

evinrudeThe fact of the matter is that in wintertime, there are less baitfish available and fewer fish chasing them than in the summer months and that puts you into a “search mode”. The most effective way to search is to cover water quickly and there is no better way than downrigger trolling to do just that.

However, there is more to fishing fast than just leaning on the throttle. Keeping an eye on current direction and velocity is a great approach to speed up and enhance your fishing efficiency. Chinook tend to face into the current so that feed can be washed into their view and you’ll cover more territory by “riding the tide” as well. Even though your Lowrance or Simrad GPS chartplotter displays a digital speed over ground, the best way to keep track of your speed through the water is to continually monitor the downrigger wire angle and relate that angle to the speed you observe on the GPS display. You’ll find that wire angle increasing when “bucking” or trolling into a tide and that may be an indication that it’s time to change trolling direction!

Cornerstone Four: Fish Near Feed

BairSchoolWinter chinook or “blackmouth” are also refered to as feeder chinook and brother, you had better believe that “findin’ and grindin’” is what they’re all about. When you’re a little fish in a big body of water, one of your best defenses against becoming someone else’s snack is getting bigger so that you fit in less predators mouths. Therefore, fast growth becomes a reproductive and survival advantage to a young chinook and the only way to achieve that growth is to find groceries. So, in turn the smart winter chinook angler needs to find the feed to find the fish and this is where your fishfinder is your very best friend! Learning to correctly operate your sounder, fine tune it’s adjustments and interpret the display will result in a full fishbox. At times, you’ll see larger arcs surrounding a bait ball and that my friend is where you want to stay for a while.

When you consider that there is someplace in Puget Sound to fish for and catch quality chinook all winter long you’ve got to admit that we’re very fortunate indeed to live here! Compared to the Great Lakes that freeze solid and coastal waters that are continually lashed by winter gales, the blackmouth fishery in Puget Sound begins to look very inviting and I hope to see you on the water this winter!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

The 2014 Salmon Forecasts!!!

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

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

2014 Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

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

Skagit summer       23.4      13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3

Stillaguamish          1.0        1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6

Snohomish Wild      8.4        9.9         7.4          2.8          3.6          5.2
Snohomish Hatch   4.9         5.6         5.1         3.9           6.8          5.4
Tulalip Bay              4.0         3.4         3.5        5.9          10.9          4.7

S Puget Wild          17.2      12.7        8.9          8.9           5.2          4.8
S Puget Hatch        93.0      97.4      118.6       95.8       101.9       101.4

Hood Canal Wild     2.5      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5

Hood Canal Hatch  40.1     42.6         38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6

Key Stock totals 255,600  253,100  278,900  266,500  288,600  304,300!!!

This is a very significant selected stock chinook forecast to say the least! Easily the highest number we’ve seen for over a decade.  We can be fairly safe in the assumption that chinook seasons may be similar to last year. Generally these particular stocks stable with respect to 2013, while the Skagit,is up sharply and the Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast as well which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season. The number that really stands out to me is that 22% increase in Hood Canal hatchery chinook… North area 9 should be smokin’ again come July!
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The Silver Story! 2014 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)

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

Skagit Wild             33.4          95.9             138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4

Skagit Hatch          11.7            9.5               16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8

Stilly Wild               13.4           25.9              66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4

Stilly hatch              0.0              5.4                0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1

Snohomish W         67.0           99.4            180.0         109.0     163.8        150

Snohomish H          53.6           24.5              80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1

S Sound Wild          53.6          25.3              98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8

S Sound Hatch        188.8       186.4            173.3         162.9     150.9        172.7

Hood Wild                48.6          33.2              77.5           73.4       36.8         47.6

Hood Hatch              52.0          51.2              72.1           62.6       68.6         82.7

Key stocks Total   338,600   320,800      916,000   628,600     783,200   869,800

 

Is this the “new normal”? Ever since the 2011 coho run we’ve been experiencing some absolutely world class coho fishing. The increase in south Puget Sound stocks alone have me thinking that 2014 will not see many anglers stray far from Puget Sound come September! In fact, the overall feeling among fisheries managers is one of optimism bone of increasing oceanic salmonid survival.

If all this is not enough to get -and keep you- fired up, how about a Frasier River sockeye forecast that’s conservatively estimated at 24.3 MILLION with another 345,000 headed for the Columbia! Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 166,000 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives to 35,377 bright, red reasons to be encouraged!

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

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

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

Looking Back On An Awesome August!

The word “awesome” has become a bit overused these days but I’m having a tough time coming up with words to describe a month that included the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, Puget Sound,the San Juan Islands and a couple of days fishing with our heroic wounded servicemen.

The first major local offshore event of August is the Washington Tuna Classic (WTC) which benefits the Wounded Warrior Foundation. Always wanting to get a jump on the competition, noted “Tuna Tyrant”, former Seattle Seahawk Robbie Tobeck invited me along to host a couple of Wounded Warriors on a WTC scouting trip.

Game face already in place, Tobeck reluctantly pauses for a shot with our guest angler, Wounded Warrior veterans, Chad and Anthony. 

 

Game face part two: Want to get yelled at by a Mike Holmgren coached NFL veteran lineman? Stop fishing during a hot tuna bite long enough to take a picture…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chad, Robbie, myself and Anthony with our days catch and August is off to a great start!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second weekend in August brought the inaugural Salmon For Soldiers at Bayside Marine which was, honestly, one of the most positive fishing events that I’ve even had the honor of participating in. Nearly 70 boat owners from across western Washington hosted 300 servicemen & women for a day of fishing and fellowship.

Randy Shelton (left) was the driving force behind Salmon for Soldiers, while Rob Endsley and I helped with promotion and other support efforts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bayside Marine generously hosted the event, providing the food and beverages to the several hundred anglers, veterans and care-givers in attendance.

 

Immediately …and I do mean seconds… after Salmon for Soldiers, we hit the road for Astoria, Oregon and the legendary Buoy 10 salmon fishery. Here, the sun sets on the Columbia River at Longview , bringing a very busy Saturday to a welcome end.

 

With a huge forecast of upriver bright chinook on tap, double-digits hookup mornings were the norm and nets were flying everywhere!

 

For the past few years, our largest chinook of the season has come from Buoy 10 and this year was no exception. Here, Phil Michelsen is all smiles with this chrome upriver bright 34 pounder!

 

Local, late August chinook opportunity leads us to look north and west. Here, two San Juan angling legends Larry Carpenter and John Martinis jump on board Big Red for a morning on the west side of San Juan Island.

 

We had a very productive morning and the in the fishbox was a mixed bag of chinook, hatchery coho and, yes,,, pink salmon!

 

For the rest of the month, Puget Sound will be “in the pink” with a little silver mixed in for good measure. I’m pleased that Congressman Rick Larsen has taken an interest in the health of our salmon runs and the fishing industry as well. Left to right, Chris Beard, Tim Beard and Rick Larsen with a morning’s mess of pinks!

 

I really dread Labor Day weekend…It’s symbolic end of the summer season but as we all know, as one door closes, another one opens! September brings a whole new set of opportunities and challenges

Oh, yeah… Hunting and football seasons too…

Maybe September isn’t so bad after all…

Tom Nelson                                                                                                                             710 ESPN Seattle                                                                                                                   www.theoutdoorline.com

The Inaugural Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament!

It’s not often you get to participate in an event “first” in the fishing world…

Add the fact that the “first” in question is the newest stop on the prestigious Northwest Salmon Derby Series with a new tournament format and it’s no wonder why over 100 anglers and ten teams stepped up to compete in the 2013 Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament!

All the other Northwest Salmon Derby Series (NWSDS) events have a “derby” format in which the largest fish wins the grand prize. Tournaments, on the other hand combine the anglers daily bag for two days and an angler must produce consistent catches to win the event. Some anglers argue that a “derby” is more a matter of luck while a tournament allows skill and strategy to figure more prominently in the winning equation. Either way,The Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament brought out the best anglers in the area and demanded the best from these seasoned salmon fishing veterans.

At the end of Day one, Team Outdoor Line had some ground to make up. Our top angler weighed in a two fish limit of 23.4 pounds and was in the hunt but had some serious ground to make up!

Fortunately, Brock Huard of 710 ESPN  stepped in for day two of the tournament and holds 15.6 pounds of Team Outdoor Line’s effort and we’re on the board early on the final day!

 

 

Brandon Robichaux does a great job with our second fish of the day and that ground we had to make up looks a lot more manageable! 

 

 

Team Outdoorline’s three fish bag of 41.7 pounds was a day-two Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament best and it would be a very tight…and very interesting weigh in!

 

The other teams look on as Brandon Robichaux brings his limit to the scale and there’s no doubt that this tournament is going to come down to ounces!

 

Lauren Bivins of Harbor Marine (left) and Brock Huard share a laugh after the scale closes at noon on Sunday.

 

The hay is in the barn and Lauren Bivins steps to the microphone to announce the winners and the suspense is palatable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In third place with a two day, four fish bag of 54.5 pounds is Corey Thrasher. The Outdoor Line sponsored the $500 3rd place prize and I get to hand Corey the big, fake check!

 

 

Second place and $1000 sponsored by Bayside Marine goes to Rob Byrd for his two-day total of 56.6 pounds. Here, Jeff and Annie LaLone of Bayside Marine present Rob his prize.

 

Nick Kester’s Team All Star posted the best boat team weigh at 75.1 lbs and took home $1000 cash! Rob Hyatt flashes the cash and Team All Star is proud of their efforts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Team Outdoor Line, left to right Walt Hylback, Brandon Robichaux and yours truly hoist the grand prize $5000 check and more importantly, the title of 2013 Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament Champs! Brandon’s two-day, four fish bag came in at 57.4 pounds.

The Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook season in July  is something I look forward to all year long. You can add the Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament to one of the reasons that I love this time of year and the beautiful, wonderful Puget Sound that we all call home. See you here next year!

Tom Nelson                                                                                                                       710 ESPN Seattle                                                                                                             www.theoutdoorline.com                                                                                                 

 

 

Marine Area 9? Fishin’ just FINE!!!

It’s hard to find the words to describe what awaited anglers at Midchannel Bank on the 2013 Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook opener…

With reports from the earlier opening areas -namely Sekiu, Port Angeles and the San Juans ranging from solid to white hot, I know I wasn’t the only eager angler tossing and turning on the eve of the opener! I couldn’t get to the boat fast enough, due in part to the fact that I had to hustle my wife Kathy and son Matthew out of the house at 0400… Not an easy task in anyone’s household I’m sure…

The only thing tempering my enthusiasm for the opener -coming on the largest hatchery chinook forecast in over a decade- was a goofy, mild flood morning tide. Some anglers couldn’t wait until daylight and ventured out in the dark, hoping to catch an early fish on the quickly fading pre-dawn ebb. For the most part, the early anglers could have slept in an hour because the mid-morning flood brought with it something that I can only refer to as Midchannel Mayhem!!!

 

After landing only half of our opening double, the bite was so rapid, we could only get one downrigger in the water at a time! Bailey the black lab licks her chops at what will soon become her favorite…smoked salmon skins!!!

 

Now with three in the box and my back turned to my wife’s downrigger, I heard line just peeling from the Daiwa Saltist 30..

.”What the heck dear?” Kathy screams, “…the rod was bent while it was in the ‘rigger and then it just doubled over!!!”

“That’s a big fish Kath,” I said as I slowed the boat and cleared the gear… “Let’s take our time with that one”…

We did take our time but I was a little impatient with the net and tapped this king on the tail, which led to a scolding from my wife but the smile on her face holding this 26 pounder says it all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kathy and our son Matthew -who also is our Producer/Board Operator on The Outdoor Line Radio Program on 710 ESPN Seattle- hold up the last two fish of the day. We’re limited and headed home by 0850hrs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was feeling pretty good about our day…until the phone rang… It was my friend Nick Kester of All Star Charters: “Hey Nelly, can you come by and get a boat picture! We’ve got our TEN KINGS and we’re all done!

Wow…so that’s what a ten chinook morning on Puget Sound looks like…

 

Back at the dock, the wife and I stop for a quick pic before the work begins…

You can’t clean fish on the waterfront without attracting a few spectators… Here, Bailey the black lab has a word with the friendly neighborhood harbor seal.

 

All of our kings were full of candlefish which appear to be bigger on Midchannel Bank than in years past. Four inch spoons and squid are not too big this season!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be back out in the morning and we’ll keep The Outdoor Line’s Fishing Report Page fresh and up to date!

See you on the water!!!

Tom Nelson                                                                                                                             710 ESPN Seattle                                                                                                                   www.theoutdoorline.com                                                                                          

 

Sitka 2013: Huskies vs. Cougars!

Our annual Sitka “sojourn” took on a decidedly competitive theme this year.

Why?…Well, when you have a Husky and a Cougar on the boat, despite the fact they were Seattle Seahawk teammates… you’re going to have issues but, ..we’ll get back to that later.

Fortunately, catching fish would not be an issue this time. After over 20 years of experiencing the southeast Alaskan salmon stronghold that is Sitka, I am more than familiar with the annual variation in run timing and strength. So,I started to scratch my head a little bit when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) issued their Chinook Abundance Index (CAI) for 2013 and it was a slightly low number (1.20). The cautious, conservative abundance estimate indicated some concern with northern British Columbia chinook survival but given strong forecasts to Washington and the Columbia river, I was betting on good action and, for once, I bet correctly!

The “competitors” on this trip would be my friend, former co-host of The Outdoor Line Washington State University and Seattle Seahawk center Robbie Tobeck and none other than ESPN’s  Brock Huard, University of Washington & Seattle Seahawk QB and now host of the Brock and Danny show on 710 ESPN Seattle. Brock’s busy career has kept him in the lower 48 and this would be his first trip to Alaska. He would not be disappointed.

First up on the rod was the “cantankerous Cougar” Robbie Tobeck. He is all smiles with this jumbo yelloweye rockfish.

Tobeck’s  career best 90 pound halibut didn’t hurt his feelings and took a little bit of the sting out of our annual Puget Sound halibut skunkings…

Robbie had to conduct some business in town after our morning bottomfish outing so after we got the fish cleaned and processed, we barely had time to pick up Brock and his friend Jamie Waltier from the airport for the afternoon salmon trip.

Brock had spent his morning broadcasting the “Brock and Danny Show” from the Seahawks minicamp where he interviewed Assistant Head Coach Tom Cable. When Brock mentioned to Cable that he was leaving directly for an Alaskan fishing trip,,,well,.. let’s just say that rabid fisherman and Snohomish, Washington native Tom Cable shifted the focus of the interview from free agents to fishing!

Brock Huard wasted no time getting his first Alaskan chinook on board! Despite a gusty first afternoon, he toughed it out and boated this chrome king.

Brock’s busy schedule allowed him only one salmon trip last year and it was a tough outing. So, when his first king hit, he was something way “north” of excited. In fact, this professional speaker, broadcaster and college football color commentator/analyst completely lost the ability to speak and spun the handle on my Daiwa Saltist faster than I thought humanly possible! Let’s just say that I’m glad we didn’t start him out on a single-action mooching reel…

With day one in the books, my good friend Derek Floyd of Reel Class Charters agreed to take us fishing on his day off. Here, Derek tells Brock’s friend Jamie Waltier what to expect aboard his 30 foot charter boat, the  “Angler”.

Holy smokes! Is that Brock playing a chinook with a single action reel? Absolutely! He is coachable after all!

Tobeck quickly got into the act as well. This 25 pounder got him all fired up and he started to realize that salmon are as least as feisty as his beloved tuna.

Brock Huard’s development as a salmon angler advanced from downrigger trolling with a levelwind to mooching with a single action reel and quickly progressed to successfully netting fish! Here Brock’s buddy Jamie is relieved to hoist the results of Brock’s first Alaska net job!

The biggest fish of the day aboard Derek Floyd’s boat was this fine 27 pounder. Counting coho, a couple chums and chinook, Derek got us into 40 salmon, displaying nothing short of a mastery of this fishery.

On our final day in Sitka, we wanted to get out after halibut just once more. Fresh from his successful netting experience, Brock wanted to give harpooning halibut a try. Here, “coach” Tobeck offers some advice.

Unfortunately, Huard could not overcome his coaching and failed to drive the harpoon through the halibut. Instead, this fish looked like he had just emerged from a tattoo and body piercing studio…

Fortunately, Brock’s prowess with a rod exceeds his, well, lack thereof with the harpoon. Here, Tom Nelson and Brock are all smiles with this 135 pound halibut.

Two long-time Puyallup friends with personal bests: Brock Huard (left) with his first-ever tyee (31 pounds) and Jamie Waltier with a fine mid-20’s chinook. Sitka’s scenic landmark volcano Mt. Edgecumbe looms in the background.

Our last day in Sitka was marked by unbelievable weather, Brock’s largest halibut, chinook and a salmon bite that had to be experienced to be believed. Here, the happy crew gets a chance to grin for the camera with the day’s catch.

Great trip, great weather, great friends and the fish cooperated every day. What more can a guy ask for? Summer fishing is off to a big, red hot start!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

De-mystifying Cannon Downrigger’s Bottom Track Feature

Somehow, the three words “looking forward to” this summer’s salmon season just doesn’t cut it…

Obviously this feeling is shared among a few members of our Forums as I’ve been getting a bit of verbal “heat” over the lack of a new downrigger tech blog. So, as a clear indication that I’m responsive to abuse (just ask Robbo), here is the requested –and promised- ‘rigger tech blog.

One of the recurring questions that we see on our Forums concerns the bottom tracking function of the Cannon Digi-Troll 10. Basically the DT 10 has a digital Depthsounder built right in to the downrigger and all you have to do is add a Cannon transom-mount transducer to unlock this powerful feature.

Now you must set three parameters: Maximum depth you wish to track, “Blowback” or the extra amount of cable you wish to pay out in addition to the digital depth and “Sensitivity” which is the amount that you allow depth to change before the downrigger will react. I usually set “Max Depth” to 225 ft. and “Sensitivity” to 3ft. Your “Blowback” setting will change with your fishing depth, speed and current conditions.

Rob Endsley and I have a video on the use of the Bottom Track feature and it should clear up any questions you may have.

A commonly asked bottom track question –and one that has likely occurred to you- is “what happens to my line tension when the downrigger automatically changes depth? Great question! Well, through my years of using bottom track, I’ve learned a few tricks to the trade.

One of the best tricks is the use of heavy-tension Offshore Red Releases when bottom tracking.

The Offshore Reds are a double spring pinch style release that will pull line off your reel as the downrigger automatically drops the ball in all but the highest drag settings.

On the other side of the equation when you troll into shallower water the ‘rigger will automatically raise the ball and so you’ll have a larger belly in your line which you should “tend” or crank up. If you don’t remove the slack, you’ll still hook fish but probably not with the high landing percentages you are used to.

When you consider how much effort you put in to fishing close to the bottom with a standard electric downrigger, constantly lowering and raising the weight while managing the line on your reel, it’s easy to see that Cannon’s bottom tracking feature is a huge labor-saving, fish catching advantage!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle