Look to the Upper Columbia For Summer Salmon Action

Shane Magnuson helps me show off a dandy king I landed fishing with him at Chelan Falls. (Dave Graybill Photo)

By Dave Graybill

No other season attracts more anglers to the upper Columbia River than when the summer-run and sockeye salmon seasons open on July 1st every year. While most salmon seasons are announced by Emergency Regulations on the upper Columbia, the summer-run salmon earned a permanent listing in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet over a decade ago. This is the time of the year anglers can count on visiting Central Washington and expect to find excellent numbers of Chinook salmon to fill their coolers.

The first place that salmon anglers focus their attention is above Priest Rapids Dam. There are a couple of spots that some anglers will troll in the early season, such as right above the dam and off the mouth of Crab Creek near Schwana. The biggest crowd will be found right below Wanapum Dam. Here boats circle around in what is known as the “Toilet Bowl” where hordes of early-arriving kings stack up before entering the fish ladder and moving on up river. Anglers also encounter returning sockeye salmon, and they can be seen surfacing in waves along the face of the rip rap bank. It is not unusual for sockeye to be taken on gear intended for kings.

Most of the boats will be trolling Super Baits behind flashers below Wanapum. Some will fish lighter sockeye gear on a couple of rods after the morning bite has slowed. The fishing will be good here starting July 1st and for many weeks, until the bulk of the early-returning Chinook and sockeye have passed on to the upper river. There is a much-improved staging and parking area right below Wanapum. Still there can be a very long line of boats waiting to launch before daylight on opening day. There is also a very good launch on the opposite shore, on Huntzinger Road below the dam. When running up to Wanapum, take special care and watch for shallow, rocky reefs. There is a small area on the west side of the river where boats will troll for salmon just above Wanapum Dam, and a few will even fish the east side of the river below the Vantage Bridge. This is near the junction for the road to Mattawa. There is a launch in the town of Vantage, and at the State Park on the west side of the river below the Vantage Bridge.

The next major fishing locations for summer-runs and sockeye are on the Columbia at Wenatchee. There are good areas to find Chinook scattered “between the bridges” on either side of the river here. There is excellent access to the river via improved launches. One is at the base of Orondo Street, and is free of charge. Another is at Confluence State Park, where a Discovery Pass and launch fee is required. Walla Walla Point, below the mouth of the Wenatchee River, is one of the best-known fishing spots for Chinook. Sockeye and Chinook are also taken below Rocky Reach Dam. When the fish are really pouring through this area and over Rocky Reach Dam there are many kings and sockeye taken above Rocky Reach. Anglers launch at Lincoln Rock State Park (Discovery Pass and launch fee required), which is on the Douglas County or east side of the river, and run over to troll the west shore along the highway to Entiat and Chelan. In recent years the fishing for Chinook has been very good for summer-run salmon off the mouth of the Entiat River.

I struggle to hold up one of the two kings that Shane Magnuson and I landed at Chelan Falls. (Dave Graybill Photo)

Rapidly becoming a favorite of salmon anglers, particularly in the early season, is Chelan Falls. Located just below the Beebe Bridge, with PUD parks with free launches on both sides of the river, this spot is loaded with kings. Success has been very good here in recent years, and there is lots of good water for trolling Super Baits behind flashers on downriggers or with lead balls. One of the reasons that Chelan Falls has become popular is the high ratio of hatchery origin fish in catches. This is due to the net pen releases of smolt in the Chelan River channel. Another benefit of fishing this area is that it is about a 15- to 20-minute run up to Wells Dam. When sockeye are returning in good numbers, the fishing is very good, particularly in the big eddy on the north side of the river right below the dam.

Wells Dam is an excellent place to fish for kings. Anglers will troll off the bar below the dam and the big eddy on the opposite side of the river also produces very good catches of salmon. There is an excellent launch accessed from the highway that leads to Pateros. Some sockeye are taken above the dam and fishing for Chinook is very good when big numbers of fish are crossing over Wells Dam.

The crown jewel of salmon fishing on the upper river is the Brewster Pool, where the Okanogan River enters the Columbia. The Okanogan is a shallow, slow moving river and in the summer it gets very warm. When it enters the Columbia it creates a “thermal barrier” that keeps the salmon from moving up into the Okanogan. Kings continue to move up into the Brewster Pool from the lower river and stack up in the colder water of the Pool. Thousands of fish are milling around in this area, and are easy prey to anglers. Sockeye also prefer this colder water and join the kings in their wait for temperatures to drop in the Okanogan before they make their way up the river and on to their spawning grounds in British Columbia.

I love this shot of an angler scooping a nice king from the water at Chelan Falls. (Dave Graybill Photo)

This thermal barrier is one of the reasons that the Brewster Salmon Derby, which takes place the first weekend in August every year, is so popular. The success rate for anglers that participate in this derby is the best for salmon derbies anywhere. To learn all about the derby, visit www.brewstersalmonderby.com.

Something that salmon anglers should know that makes this particular season special on the upper Columbia is that it is the first return of four-year old Chinook salmon that were released from the Colville Tribal Fish Hatchery at Bridgeport. These will add to the numbers of fish available to anglers in the Brewster Pool and on up the river where they meet their final barrier on the Columbia River, Chief Joseph Dam. Summer-run Chinook season is a selective fishery, with barbless hooks required and wild fish must be released. Not only will the fish returning to the Colville Hatchery add to the numbers of fish in the Brewster Pool, they are all adipose fin clipped, keepers. The opportunity for catching a king and keeping it is significantly higher this year in the Brewster Pool and the river up to Chief Joseph Dam. There is the potential for a rule change affecting the Brewster Pool that may make fishing here even more attractive to anglers. Watch the department’s web site for this change.

The techniques that are used throughout the Columbia River, in all of the locations I have mentioned don’t vary much. There are some that stick to the tried and true plug cut herring, and those that really know how to properly cut and prepare herring have success. By far the most popular method being used at this time for catching kings is with the Super Bait. Some use the old, banana-shaped style and more and more anglers are using the newer plug cut version. Super Baits come in wide variety of colors, but some of the more popular are the Hot Tamale, Lemon Lime and Rotten Banana. There are others that work very well, so have a good selection when you hit the water. The advent of the Super Bait made it possible for anglers that had no experience with herring to become successful salmon anglers, and has increased the sport catch on the upper Columbia considerably.

Super Baits are designed to open on a hinge and are stuffed with tuna fish. The lure has vents on the sides to allow the scent of the tuna to leech out. Anglers prefer oil-packed tuna and then apply scent and mix it. There are a variety of scents available and one of the most popular in our area is made by Northwest Bait and Scent. These are based on the formula originally developed by my brother Rick Graybill many years ago. There are a number of scents that can be mixed, even in combination with others to create an irresistible attractant to salmon.

These are trolled behind a flasher, and most anglers are using the ones made by Pro-Toll. The fin on the bottom end of the flasher allows the flasher to turn at even an slow speed and it also gives a consistent action to the flasher. It is recommended that at least a 42-inch leader be used from the flasher to the bait. This set up can be trolled on downriggers or with lead balls. When trolling with flashers behind downriggers, put the flasher 12 to 15 feet behind the ball. Trolling speed will vary with river current, but flashers with Super Baits can be trolled over 2.0 mph. Many anglers like to see a one second throb on the rod when trolling flashers. Most anglers prefer rods of 10 ½ feet with large capacity-line, counter reels for consistent placement of baits behind the boat.

When targeting sockeye, anglers scale down their tackle. Lighter rods and reels and lines are all used. A typical sockeye set up is a small dodger and short leader to double hooks which are closely tied together. Bait is allowed on the Columbia and jarred shrimp are very popular. On the Brewster Pool it is typical to start the day at 20 feet deep and drop down as the day brightens. Many place their dodgers just 10 to 20 feet behind the downrigger ball. Trolling sockeye set ups on lead balls is becoming popular, too.

I have produced several videos on both Chinook and sockeye fishing on the upper Columbia. I would suggest that you visit my web site at www.fishingmagician.com and go to the Fishing TV Page. By going to the archives and looking for videos posted in June and July you will find many devoted to salmon fishing. You can also do a search at www.youtubedavegraybill and find all the videos I have produced.

I am really looking forward to this year’s salmon season on the upper Columbia. Although other seasons have been disappointing on the river, this one could be outstanding for those who fish above Priest Rapids Dam.

Dave Graybill
Outdoor Line Blogger – North Central Washington
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Tributary Springer’s

April and May means it's time to fish the tributaries for Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

April and May means it’s time to fish the tributaries for Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

By Jason Brooks

Spring Chinook are undoubtedly one of the most sought after fish for the barbecue. Here is a quick rundown of some of the best Washington river’s for April and May Chinook.

#1. The Mighty Cowlitz

With 25,100 Spring Chinook expected to return to the Cowlitz River as well as a chance to double up with some late winter or early summer steelhead, this is easily number one. Back troll wrapped plugs below the I-5 launch down to the confluence of the Toutle, boondog eggs and sand shrimp anywhere from Blue Creek to Toledo. And for the bank anglers, the combat zone at Barrier Dam floating Wizard Cured eggs.

Columbia River Gorge Tributaries are always productive-Jason Brooks

Columbia River Gorge Tributaries are always productive-Jason Brooks

#2. Drano Lake

This impoundment of the Columbia in the windy gorge along highway 14 is expected back 9,800 fish. Though that’s roughly half of last year’s run this is still a yearly top producer. Boat anglers who dare the combat conditions at the highway 14 bridge will hover cured prawns until pushed aside by other boats. The trollers in the lake pull wrapped Mag Lip 4.5 plugs and the “old school” bright orange Mag Wart still produced for the bank anglers that cast and retrieve from the shoreline.

Ted Schuman with a Springer! -Jason Brooks

Ted Schuman with a Springer! -Jason Brooks

#3. Wind River

A few miles from the Bridge of God’s the Wind River dumps into the Columbia. This deadline fishery targets both the 6,500 fish cruising towards the Wind itself as well as other fish heading up the Columbia and stop to rest in the calm waters. Just like the name suggest, this fishery can become Windy and watch the water conditions. Here pulling Mag Lip 4.5’s or Mag Warts on a dropper to keep them close to the boat is the most popular technique. There is some bank access for anglers who like to pitch spoons, spinners and Mag Warts.

Fresh Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

Fresh Spring Chinook-Jason Brooks

#4. The Quaint Kalama

A smaller river in Southwest Washington that is hoping to get back the predicted 4,900 fish, which is an improvement over the 3,100 predicted last year. This river is for the drift boat and pontoon angler and offers solitude compared to the previous three mentioned fisheries. Blue Fox Vibrax spinners in sizes 4 and 5 as well as float fishing big gobs of eggs are popular.

Wrapped Plugs are a top producer for tributary Springer's -Jason Brooks

Wrapped Plugs are a top producer for tributary Springer’s -Jason Brooks

#5. Icicle River at Leavenworth

This river is not open yet, and we really won’t know much about the season, if or when it will open until WDFW makes its decision later this month or even early May. This is typically a May fishery and with the snow runoff the river isn’t usually in shape until then anyway. But when this river opens this is a “must do” trip just for the scenery and for the warm eastern Washington sunshine while fighting a Springer. Back bouncing eggs or wrapped K-14 plugs in the few deep holes of this very short float is what catches fish.

Brooks Top Three Winter Steelhead Scents

By Jason Brooks


Winter steelhead is one of the most popular fisheries in the northwest, mostly because we start catching them around Thanksgiving and continue clear into springtime. It is the longest run timing of any or our anadromous fisheries and gives anglers the most opportunity at catching fish. With just about every type of technique available from pulling plugs, throwing spinners and spoons, drifting yarnies, and float fishing jigs, eggs, sand shrimp, pink worms, and let’s not forget the “old school” technique of driftfishing they all have one thing in common in that you can add scents to make them more effective. I apply scents to every technique I use, and here are my top three producing scents for winter steelhead.

#1. Anise/Krill

The combination of sweet anise and the baseline food source for steelhead in the ocean, krill, is a killer combo. Steelhead love sugar and have a “sweet tooth” just ask any die hard steelheader what their “secret” egg cure ingredient is and you will learn it’s a sugar based cure. In fact, before Bad Azz bait dyes came along the standby was raspberry or strawberry Jell-O, again a sweetened color dye. Then adding krill into the mix only makes this one even more productive.

Pro Cure Steelhead and Salmon Scents

#2 Sand Shrimp

This is almost a “no brainer” with little need for explanation. Sand shrimp are a popular steelhead bait and of course a scent that uses real sand shrimp, like Pro-Cure’s Super Gel, can turn your spoon, plug, or jig into a fish killer. Steelhead love sand shrimp, plain and simple. And don’t forget Pro-Cure makes a water soluble oil with sand shrimp. When I cure my eggs I heavily drench them before I add my powdered egg cure, let them sit for a few hours and then cure up my eggs. It creates yet another perfect combo bait.


#3 Anise Bloody Tuna

Fairly new to the market is a scent that you would think only a salmon would love, but steelhead love it too. I can’t fathom why they like this one but I can tell you it flat out works. Again, the anise just plain catches steelhead and the bloody tuna is a potent oil that triggers the predator instinct in fish.This is a great scent for yarnies as it slowly dissipates into the water and when a fish grabs hold of it they don’t let go.


Jason Brooks, Northwest Outdoor Writer

5 Tips for Catching Trophy Steelhead

 By Jason Brooks


With longer days and warmer weather the winter steelheader knows this is the time of year for big fish to arrive in our rivers. Those that might have not caught a truly large steelhead will learn a few lessons as soon as they hook the fish. Unfortunately this is not the time to learn those lessons. And if you have caught that magical fish of a lifetime then you might want to remember these lessons as well before you head back to the river.

The author about to release a wild steelhead, keeping it in the water at all times-Jason Brooks

The author about to release a wild steelhead, keeping it in the water at all times-Jason Brooks

Go where the big fish are.

By doing a little research or hiring a reputable guide you can find a handful of rivers that produce big steelhead. Don’t think you can just head to any old steelhead stream and catch a giant fish, even if rumors abound that a twenty pound fish came out of “hatchery brat creek”. Wild fish need wild places so head to a remote section of the Olympic Peninsula with a handful of river maps in your tackle box.

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Leave the bait at home.

This time of year and the rivers you will target should have a run of big wild fish which means we need to protect them. By using techniques that don’t require bait you are more likely to not mortally hook one of these majestic fish. But by all means use scents when it’s legal to do so!

It might seem strange to not use bait but use scents, however it’s how you use the scent that makes the difference. I rub Pro-Cure Super Gel’s on my leaders as well as smear it on my plugs and spoons and soak my slinkies in Pro-Cure bait oils. The idea of using scents is to have it disperse downstream of your presentation so the fish is anticipating something coming and also entice the strike.

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Knotless nets and fish stay in the water.

This is almost a no brainer with Washington’s regulations though I still see the green or blue nylon knotted nets in drift boats. Those nets literally rip the slime off of the fish which compromises the fish’s ability to fight off bacteria and infections. Along with using a soft knotless net you should keep the fish in the water at all times. Sure I see the photos of one fin in the water to “keep legal” but really the head of the fish or at least the gills plate should remain in the water. And be careful of hand placement as putting pressure under the pectoral fins can compress the steelheads heart.

Use a knotless net when practicing catch and release-Jason Brooks

Use a knotless net when practicing catch and release-Jason Brooks

Bring a camera!

A real camera, not your cell phone. You finally land a fish of a lifetime and it’s now time to preserve that memory or even use the photos to make a replica mount of the fish. Take a lot of photos from all sorts of perspectives, including close up shots and use a “fill flash” to lighten shadows of ball caps. Along with the camera make sure to take measurements of your fish so you can do the math calculations on just how big your fish really was. Here’s a formula that’s been developed by biologists to determine the weight of a wild steelhead:

Girth Squared x Length/775

Use a camera to capture the fish and angler to share the memories-Jason Brooks

Use a camera to capture the fish and angler to share the memories-Jason Brooks

Upsize your gear.

If you are still using 8 or 10 pound test leaders and 12 pound mainline you will really wish you weren’t the second you realize you have a monster steelhead up and running. Truly big fish are not as leader shy as some hatchery brats. And big fish means big gear. As soon as we get a warm spring day I switch all of my mainline to either 15 pound monofilament or 20 to 30 pound braid. My leaders are at least 12 pound test and a buddy of mine uses 20 pound test when we fish a certain river on the coast known for log jams and huge fish. I also trade my lightweight side drifting rod for my fall salmon rod. I keep a finger on my line to help feel the bite but I want the backbone of the medium to medium heavy action rod to turn that big fish away from the logs and rocks and hopefully force it in to the bank. Plus the sooner you can land a big fish the sooner you can let it rest and get it back into the stream. Fighting a steelhead to near exhaustion is no different than bonking it on the head with a stick.

Use the right gear and bring in the fish before it reaches exhaustion-Jason Brooks

Use the right gear and bring in the fish before it reaches exhaustion-Jason Brooks

Good luck and go find that steelhead of a lifetime!

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer

Rigging and Fishing Yarnies for Steelhead

It’s March 22nd here in Wet-stern Washington and I’ve been beating this yarnie horse for quite a while now. In the right conditions (low and clear) they flat out get the job done for winter steelhead and they are so, so, so easy to rig up.

I just transferred over all of the Outdoor Line videos to a new page and in doing so realized that we’ve produced three how-to videos on the subject of yarnies.

If you’re interested in how I fish a simple yarnie setup check ’em out:

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Winter Steelhead: Sight vs. Smell

Steve with a winter steelhead caught on a yarnie. Photo by Rob EndsleyAn interesting question came up on my Facebook page the other day that’s often talked about amongst us steelhead fanatics. What’s the most important factor in getting a winter steelhead to strike…sight or smell?

I would say without a doubt that sight, and more importantly presentation, is the biggest factor in getting a winter steelhead to take a swipe at a lure.

Lets talk about presentation first. Whether your chucking spoons, pitching drift gear, floatfishing jigs, flyfishing, backtrolling plugs, hucking pink worms, or slinging bait most winter steelhead are going to want your offering brought in low-and-slow. Flyfishing guide Dennis Dickson has been preaching about this for years and after catching a couple of thousand steelhead myself I fully agree with him.

Now that you’ve got the presentation down the next step in the process of hammering winter steelhead is sight. Winter runs are attracted to brighter colors like pink, orange, peach, cerise, and red to name a few. If you only had a few colors in your vest I’d start with a combination of these colors and go from there. In certain water conditions purples and blacks have their place too, especially for the fly guys.

I guided the spring catch and release fishery for steelhead on the Skagit River system for around 18 years and I can tell you first hand that you don’t need bait or scent to catch steelhead. Don’t get me wrong…bait works great but it isn’t always necessary.That was an incredible fishery in it’s day and it forced me to be adept at catching steelhead using only artificials. If Washington ever went artificials-only for steelhead I wouldn’t miss a beat.

Having said that I will tell you that bait and scents are a great closer though. Steelhead are attracted to baits like sandshrimp, eggs, and coon shrimp at first because of their color. They have a color in their natural or cured state that sucks’em right in.

Once they get a mouthful of any one of these baits we all know what usually happens next…they eat them. It’s the sight of the bait that attracts them at first though and adding a little yarn or a colorful Corkie or Cheater makes this offering even more attractive to a steelhead. Bring’em in with the color and then close the deal with the bait.

Adding scents like sandshrimp, shrimp/anise, or krill to jigs, drift gear, and even plugs can have the same effect. The scent closes the deal once a winter steelhead swings by for a closer look. If I’m adding a gel type scent to a jig I’ll add it to the head only so as not to hamper the jigs movement in the water. Pro Cure has a great line of water-soluble scents that work great on jigs and they don’t matte down the jigs feathers.

If I’m adding scent to a plug, which is rare, I’ll add it to the bill only and not the body of the plug. Part of the plugs attractiveness to a steelhead is it’s metallic shine and scent can definitely diminish that and make the plug less effective. A perfectly clean plug backtrolled at just the right speed, in the right location, will draw just as many strikes as one with scent, however.

Skagit River wild steelhead caught on a swung fly. Photo by Rob EndsleyIf you’re swinging spoons or flyfishing stay away from the scents altogether. Spoons, like plugs, work because of the flash they create and they have a very large zone of attraction.

And, of course, adding scents to a fly isn’t cool at all…leave that one alone and pay your dues. Find the right water type and bring either one of these offerings in low-and-slow and you’ll catch steelhead.

There’s your order of importance for catching winter steelhead. Sight, presentation, and then scent, if need be, to close the dealio. At least that’s how I see it.

Thanks again for stopping by and don’t be afraid to share your steelheading stories over on the Outdoor Line forums. I fish for winter steelhead as much as I can over the course of the season, but on days I can’t fish I’m happy to live vicariously thru others. Good luck to you out there and I hope this was helpful!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle





Bling Out Your Twitching Jigs with Polar Chenille

I’ve always liked to have a handful of twitching jigs in my box tied up with Flashabou. The smaller 1/4 ounce jigs have been a favorite of mine in low and clear water for years and lately I’ve found that larger jigs tied with some bling will also hammer the cohos in the fall.

The only hitch in that giddy-up that I’ve had is figuring out an easier way to build up the body of the jig without burning through a ton of material. Flashabou is a little spendy and it doesn’t take long to burn thru an entire package of it on half a dozen jigs.

Cruising the aisles of Sportco in Fife the other day I found my solution…Polar Chenille made by Hareline Dubbin. I’m sure it’s been right there under my nose this whole time. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in while!


Here’s a few blingers that I tied up in short order last night.

A closer look at Polar Chenille on a 3/8 ounce blinged out twitcher.

What to look for at either Sportco/Outdoor Emporium or your favorite local tackle shop. If you see something that looks like purple hedgehog in a plastic package…that’s it!!!

Check out the long fibers on this stuff. Lots of movement, lots of action, lots of UV!

There will come a time this fall when the water conditions are just right for these jigs to make an appearance. When that time comes I know that these blingers will hammer out some chrome coho!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Four Techniques for Schwacking Chum Salmon

Rob Endsley of the Outdoor Line with a huge Skagit River chum salmon caught on a twitched jig

I was talking to guide Phil Stephens of Mystical Legends Guide Service last week about how the fishing had been recently on the Humptulips River and he exclaimed, "There's plenty of kings and silvers in there but you can't get past the infestation of chums to get to them!" Eeek…tough duty Phil!

I'm still chuckling about his comment, as I know what its like to have every single piece of tackle in the boat thrashed to pieces by these gory critters. What they lack in sexiness, however, they more than make up for with fighting ability.  

Chum dawgy's usually start to trickle into the rivers in Western Washington around late October and by the middle of November many rivers, as Phil would say, become "infested" with them. While the North Puget Sound chum runs have been down considerably in recent years that's still a great place to tear up some tackle on these fish. The Nisqually, the Chehalis system rivers, the Humptulips, and the rivers of the Hood Canal all provide excellent chum fishing. 

As with any other fish species there's a handful of techniques that consistently puts fish on the bank. Here's my top four techniques for targetting chum salmon after they enter the rivers of Western Washington:

Curtis Meyers of BC Fly Fishing Charters with a Chehalis River chum salmon

Backtrolling Kwiky's is by far the most lethal technique for schwacking chums. The plugs that reign supreme in this category are the "Funky Chicken" 3132 and the Silver/Cerise/Purple model 0745. Wrap these plugs with a sardine fillet and they will get tatered all day long. There are several sizes to choose from, but I prefer the K-15 because it's easy to tune with a large sardine fillet and they'll dive as deep as 15 feet flat-lined. Don't be surprised if you catch a Chinook, silver, or even an early winter run steelhead doing this!

Chums simply go goony-goo-goo for a large pink or cerise jig under a float. Fish jigs for chums the same way you would for steelhead except you'll want to use a jig with a much larger profile for chums. I like to use rabbit zonker strips and marabou in my jigs so that they have a lot of action underwater. They will definitely hit a naked jig, but tip the jig with some prawn meat or an 18 count shrimp tail and hang on. The advantage of using this technique for chums is that you also limit the number of foul hooked fish.

Twitching Jigs
Chums will pounce on a twitched jig with authority. The best jig colors for chums are pink, cerise, and purple and marabou jigs work better on the Puget Sound rivers and hoochie jigs dominate the action on the coastal rivers. If you're not familiar with this technique here's a great VIDEO with Forks area guide Bob Kratzer on how to twitch jigs for fall salmon. 

Chums hold over deeper gravel bars and in a lot of the steelhead travel lanes making them super accessible to fly fisherman. A good day of landing scrappy chums on the fly can be a total blast! My favorite way to fish chums on the bug rod is to use a floating line with a strike indicator and a heavily weighted pink, cerise, or purple zonker strip or marabou fly. This presents the fly in a way that reduces the amount of foul hooked fish. If chums are holed up in a deep back eddy a sinking tip with a purple/pink egg sucking leach is another great way to approach them. Cast the leach into the pool, let it sink a few feet, and then strip it back to the rod with short, sharp strips. We caught a lot of smoking hot chums doing this in my guiding days.

You'll notice that I left drift fishing off this list. I did that because the number of foul hooked fish using this technique usually out-weighs the number of legit hookups. Sure, there are days when chums will pound a corky and yarn, but the majority of the time you'll end up dragging them in the by the tail and that just ain't cool.

Chum fishing just got really hot in the last week on a few west side rivers, as was evidenced by my conversation with Phil, and the action will continue to be good well into early December. Take a turn at landing some chum salmon this fall and don't be afraid to post your photos and fishing reports over on the Outdoor Line forums. Ciao…for now!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

“Selective” Summer (So far…)

One of my favorite regional salmon fishing opportunities is our local summer chinook season.
The Marine Area 9 & 10 selective harvest opportunity dates back to 2007 when, after several years of closures, the north central Sound again got to fish for summer kings.

“I hope anglers remember how we got here”  states Tony Floor, Director of Sportfishing affairs of the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

“This fishery would never have been a reality without the momentum provided by Congressman Norm Dicks, the advent of mass marking of hatchery fish and WDFW’s support of selective fishing” says Floor.
Saturday, July 16, 2011 rang in the opener of the 5th year of our selective chinook season and while the catch rates are not quite what we’ve seen the past few years the average size of the fish has been quite respectable.
I dashed out of the studio and headed straight to Possession Bar where we released two wild fish before Phil Michelsen put this mid-20’s king in the box!


Our largest of the season (so far) is my son Matthew’s 31 pound chromer which absolutely crushed a Silver Horde Ace Hi plug.


The second weekend of the season was marked by the inaugural Salmon Smackdown tournament which was won by Capt. John Keizer’s Team Lowrance. Here, boats jockey for position for the “shotgun” start near Jefferson Head.


Team Outdoor Line took third in the Smackdown behind Jim Fahey’s “Team Eight Balls”. Here, Tournament Sponsor Ken Pinnell on the right presents the “big fake check” to Tom Nelson and his son Matt on the left.


Midchannel Bank became the “go-to” location during the end of July and Tom was joined by his friend Walt Hylback for a good day on the water during a trip in which the largest fish of the day got away!


Nelly hoists a pair of kings aboard the Evinrude powered Stabicraft “ESPN Boat” also known as “Big Red”.


The key to chinook success this season has been to keep the information network active as the best fishing has rarely been in the same place for very long. On our Saturday morning radio show we do our best to keep our listeners in the loop!

While Silver Horde Coho Killer spoons have been the ticket out at Midchannel where candlefish are present, at Point No Point and Possession Bar herring are much more prevalent and larger spoons and plugs have been more productive. Larger terminal gear also have the benefit of keeping the dogfish sharks at bay.
We still have the remainder of August to target chinook but the “humpies” or pink salmon are hot on their heels so don’t miss out…Go limit out! Good luck and see you out on the water!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle


Fun, Sun and Fish in Florida!

One of the great things about fishing is that there is something for virtually everyone.  Nelly has his annual trip to Sitka and I have Florida.  One of the things that I love about fishing in Florida is the variety that it offers.  In two and a half days of fishing this past week, we caught 16 different kinds of fish and had shots at a few others. 

As with any fishing trip, timing is everything.  The fish have to be around and the weather has to co-operate so you can get to them.  Over the past couple of years, my timing hasn't been that good on my trips to Florida but this year has been a different story.  We've had great weather on or trips and the fishing has been incredible!  This trip was no different, we had flat calm seas and quick limits of grouper.  

Normally we try to anchor over a spot and chum the fish to us but with the seas being so calm we decided to drift and cover some water. By the time I got the boat stopped and said lines in, my dad was already pulling in a keeper sized red grouper. Mason and Sonya quickly followed and I hadn't even wet a line.  We marked our spot with a buoy and kept drifting over and around it for the next three hours as we sorted through one just short red after another before we got our limit.  We were using finger mullet, squid, sardines, jigs and swimbaits and all were equally successful.


While we were grouper fishing we couldn't help but notice all of the life out on the water, schools of bonita and small dorado were everywhere.  We decided to find out if there were any blackfin, bigger dorado or kingfish mixed in as well.  We did a little running and gunning after schools of fish busting the water.  Mason and Madden were on the bow tossing swimbaits and jigs into the feeding schools and pulling out bonita.  It wasn't what we wanted for the table but it sure did make for some nice bloody bait to use for shark fishing later in the week.

Day two was a carbon copy of the first day only we had my brother Jonathan on the boat as Sonya elected to stay home.  We went out to the same general area and before I could get a line wet fish were coming over the side.  We made pretty quick limits of red grouper and threw back some really nice gag grouper (closed season). Mason hooked up with a nice 37 inch cobia to top off the morning. 


After having seen all the life the day before, we made sure we came ready to do some trolling.  My brother Jonathan had just installed our new Cannon downriggers on the boat and I needed to show him how to use them.  Downriggers are just starting to become really popular in Florida and Cannon dominates the market. We rigged the downrigger rod with a spoon and dropped it down to about 20ft.  On the other side we had a plug with a small tuna feather on the shotgun rod.  It didn't take long and we had our first takedown on the downrigger.  Jonathan brought the spanish mackeral boatside for a "gentlemen's release". As he was putting the spoon back down a big kingfish hits and blisters Jon's thumb before he could get the bail flipped.  The birdsnest that ensued was one of the finest peices of work I've ever seen, no saving that line.  We trolled for short while longer and had a few more hits before Jonathan landed a final bonita.

With two great days offshore, we decided to stay close and fish for sharks off Anclote Key.   We made the 5 minute run and dropped anchor.  We were fishing a deep channel and hoping for a big shark while keeping our eye out for any tarpon that might be within casting distance.  We saw a tarpon in the distance tearing up some bait but we couldn't get that shallow with our boat. We decided to go to a differentspot where we had great success before.

This time the sharks showed up, first it was an 8ft hammerhead that decided to take a look at the boat after breaking us off.  I was up next and knew I had a nice one on when all of a sudden the shark goes airborn putting on a show like he thought he was a marlin.  Unfortunately, a minute later the line snapped and I had nothing to show for it.  We did manage to land a few sharks but the ones landed were on the small side.  The plan had been to just fish the first few hours of the morning outgoing tide and then head back to the house.  Mason had talked his grandpa into some BBQ and if there is anything we Tobeck's like as much as fishing, it's a good BBQ.