Spring Chinook are highly prized no matter how hard it is to catch them-Jason Brooks
by Jason Brooks
With record high water and water clarity the color of mud it’s been hard to get excited about spring Chinook fishing. That is until you realize that it’s already mid-April and the fish are in the river. Regardless of the water conditions this is our chance to catch the worlds best eating salmon before they head to their natal streams. The main Columbia and most of its tributaries are flowing high this spring but here are some tips on how to fish for Springers while we can.
Double up on in-line flasher’s like Big Al’s from YBC attracts fish in muddy water-Jason Brooks
Double up! Its no secret that trolling Big Al’s Fish Flash with a trailing herring is a top producer for springers. With low visibility use two of the in-line flashers to create even more flash. Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait Company explained that the fish are attracted to the flashing of the rotating flashers so in very low visibility waters he will put two of them end to end to create even more flash.
Brined and Dyed baits with UV finish on a shorter leader will catch more fish-Jason Brooks
In low visibility water the double flashers draw the fish and if you use the standard 48 inch leader the fish simply won’t see the bait. Instead shorten the leaders to 24-30 inches.
Ultraviolet light is radiated from the “electromagnetic spectrum” of light that “glows”. You and I can’t see it but the fish can. Many lures come with UV enhancements and on dark days using lures, flashers, and bait dyes with UV can attract fish. In high water this can make a bite turn on. Use cures such as Pro-Cure’s Brine-n-Bite Complete with UV on your herring and UV dyes such as Bad Azz bait dye don’t hurt either.
High water means fish will be on the move so trolling can be more productive for suspended fish-Jason Brooks
Trolling in high water can put you in front of more fish, as the fish are on the move and can be scattered. During normal flows it’s common to sit on anchor for the outgoing tide and on smaller rivers anchoring on seams and current breaks can work well. With the extreme high water we have right now, however, the fish are on the move and trolling can produce more fish than “sitting on the hook”. Keep in mind that the fish are not always right on the bottom and in slack waters they’ll suspend so it’s a good idea to stagger the rods at different depths while trolling.
Regardless if a storm is coming or a sunny day is forecasts, get out and fish!-Jason Brooks
Get out and fish! Regardless of tides, high water, rain, wind, or any other excuse that you’re using to stay home, the Spring Chinook season is very short so get out and wet a line!
Buzz Ramsey is no stranger to springer fishing on the Columbia River and regardless of the conditions you’ll find him out there on the river on a daily basis trying new color patterns and techniques. All the hard work paid off with this nice springer for Shirley Sanchotena on a recent outing.
Shirley Sanchotena and Buzz Ramsey are all smiles with Shirley’s Springer caught during high water that bit a herring on a short leader trailing two Big Al’s Fish Flash-Jason Brooks
Jason Brooks The Outdoor Line Blogger 710 ESPN Seattle
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!
Winter blackmouth season is upon us here in Puget Sound and it’s time to talk about a few lethal rigs to catch these immature king salmon. In the winter months the bait size in Puget Sound is generally a lot smaller than during the summer months and “matching the hatch” can be critical to getting them to snap. Small herring, sand lance, and hooligans make up the bulk of the baitfish in the sound during the winter blackmouth season.
Green Crush/Ace Hi Needlefish Combo
This is a go-to rig anytime there’s candlefish around. I’m a big fan of Luhr Jensen’s “Green Crush” and “Blue Crush” flashers because they have UV on one side and full glow on the other. No matter what the lighting conditions these flashers will give you some “pop” down below in the blackmouth zone. The “Blue Crush” works just as well as the “Green Crush” for me. Pick a winner!
Any time I’m fishing Ace Hi’s or hoochie’s I run a minimum of 50 pound fluorocarbon leader. Flourocarbon is a lot stiffer than monofilament and the combination of that stiffness and the heavier line transmits a lot of action from the flasher back to the Ace Hi. The short 30 inch leader helps with that also. These lures don’t impart their own action so you’ve got to get them shake’n and bake’n with the flasher. Don’t worry about spooking fish with the heavier leader. If the flasher doesn’t spook ’em, the leader sure as heck isn’t going to.
I tie two 3/0 Mustad Ultrapoint hooks back-to-back and very close together for this rig. Next I’ll run four Silver Horde glow beads as spacers to push the hooks toward the back of the Ace Hi “Needlefish”. I like these particular beads because they’re football shaped and it’s takes fewer of them to get the job done. Plus they glow for days.
The best needlefish colors I’ve found so far have been green splatterback and blue splatterback. The chartreuse, purple, black, and white Ace Hi “Needlefish” patterns work great also though. And if you ever get into a situation where there’s squid around run the orange splatterback pattern. I’ve terrorized the kings on that pattern when they’re gorging on squid!
Blue Crush/Coho Killer Combo
Tom Nelson and I refer to the Coho Killer spoon as the “fish detector”. Like the needlefish pattern mentioned above the Coho Killer is also an excellent candlefish imitation and it imitates small winter herring too. Don’t let the name fool you though. This spoon will flat-out murder the blackmouth in the winter months and summer Chinook will hammer this spoon also.
I run a longer 42 inch, 30 pound monofilament leader for this rig because the spoon has it’s own action and doesn’t need any help from the flasher. The flasher brings ’em in for a look and the action of the spoon seals the deal. Monofilament is much more limber than fluorocarbon and lets the spoon dance around freely behind the flasher.
Like most lures the Coho Killer works pretty good right out of the package. A few minor tweaks to this nasty little lure will turn it into a freak show down on the bottom though. The first thing you want to do is accentuate the bends in the lure. By increasing the lures two bends the Coho Killer turns into a blur at trolling speeds and this tweak also makes it switch direction every so often.
Next you’ll want to remove the hook from the tail of the Coho Killer and add a split ring to the rear hook ring. Then add a swivel and a 2/0 Mustad Open Eye Siwash hook to the split ring. This setup allows a hooked salmon to twist and turn when it’s hooked without applying a bunch of torque to the back of the spoon. These spoons are exceptionally lightweight and the addition of the swivel reduces the chance of seriously damaging the spoon every time a fish is hooked.
The top Coho Killer colors for winter blackmouth are Irish Cream, Cookies and Cream, White Lightning, Mexican Flag, and the green, blue, and purple splatter back patterns. The glow and UV patterns work best in the winter months when blackmouth are hugging the bottom in deep water and the chrome plated patterns seem to work better in the summer when salmon are suspended.
Coyote Flasher/Kingfisher Lite Spoon
This is the same rig as above but with a Kingfisher Lite spoon. As I mentioned earlier both the “Green Crush” and “Blue Crush” flashers work excellent as attractors. Run blue on one downrigger and green on the other and see which one is performing better. I started running blue quite a few years ago after noticing that everyone else was running traditional green. Guess what? It worked!
The smaller 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 Kingfisher Lite spoons do a great job of matching the size of small herring and hooligans in the winter months in Puget Sound. Small herring abound in the sound itself and hooligans can be plentiful in the San Juan Islands in the winter time. Hooligans are small smelt that are between 2 and 4 inches long in the winter and blackmouth love them.
The Kingfisher Lite spoons that seem to get bit the most are Cookies and Cream, Irish Cream, Mexican Flag, Kitchen Sink, Herring Aid, Resurrection, and Yellowtail. Yellowtail doesn’t look remotely like anything you’d find in Puget Sound but the blackmouth don’t seem to care. That’s definitely one of our top spoons for blackmouth year-in, year out. Nelly’s got a couple of these spoons on his boat that have little to no paint left on them.
The Kingfisher Lite spoon also swims a little better by accentuating the bends. Here’s a video from Tom Nelson that shows how to give a little bend to these great spoons to make them fish better.
The Attraction of Scent
John Martinis caught this 16 pound blackmouth on Possession Bar on November 1st, 2016. A 3 inch “Herring Aid” spoon did the trick!
I like to add Pro Cure herring gel to all these lures to help seal the deal. If I’m putting scent on a flasher I will always apply it to the bottom end of the flasher on the glow side. There’s no sense in dulling down the shiny side of the flasher with a bunch of gel. Herring scent is the name-of-the-game in most situations unless I’m trolling around rocky structure that might hold shrimp. In that case I’ll go with a shrimp-based scent like Pro Cure Shrimp/Krill or Shrimp/Anise. Another scent that works great is Pro Cure’s Bloody Tuna Anise. On occasion I’ll cut a small herring strip and add it to the top hook of my Ace Hi Fly just to make it a little more enticing.
A Note on Shakers
These three rigs will catch blackmouth throughout the sound and in some situations that can include undersize blackmouth. If you continue encountering these small blackmouth either leave the area or switch to bigger gear. 4 inch spoons, whole herring, and at times 4 and 5 inch plugs will greatly reduce the number of shaker encounters. Not only are we responsible for taking care of the resource but you’re not fishing effectively if you’re towing around a small shaker on your gear all day.
Fish any of these rigs near the bottom where there’s bait and blackmouth around and you’ll catch fish. These are all time-tested rigs that have filled plenty of punch cards for both myself and Tom “Nelly” Nelson.
Good luck to you this winter blackmouth season and don’t be afraid to share your fish pics and stories with us over on the Outdoor Line forums. And if you’ve got any tips or additions to any of this I’m all ears!
Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks
Chelan Falls Summer Kings-by Jason Brooks
Summer is heating up and as July keeps rolling along the Chinook keep climbing the fish ladders at the dams along the Columbia River. That is until they hit the cold water being spilled from Lake Chelan. A fairly new fishery for Upper Columbia summer Chinook are fish returning to the net pens located at the base of the outfall from the power plant where water is flushed from a large pipe and a trickle from the Chelan gorge into the warm waters of the Columbia. This area is known as the Chelan Falls fishery.
Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks
Early morning is without doubt prime time. The summer sun shines very bright here and it seems to turn the bite off along with the heat that goes along with it causing anglers to want to head to the local swimming hole instead of the fishing hole.
Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks
Most fish are caught in pre-dawn hours until the sun hits the water around 7:00 in the morning. This is a shallow water fishery with the bottom being around 25 to 30 feet and covered in milfoil. This means the downriggers are set at 15 feet and some elect to use a drop weight system with 4 ounce cannonballs.
Flat-lining plugs such as Brad’s Killer Fish 14’s in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks
A standard trolling set up at Chelan Falls is a Mack’s Double D Dodger in silver and green, a 36” to 48” leader of Izorline 30 pound XXX trailing a Brad’s Superbait or Super Cut Plug. Popular colors are Hot Tamale or Lava, but another “new” color that is producing this summer is Rotten Banana in the mini-cut plug. Stuff the baits with canned tuna or herring and soak them heavily with Pro-Cure Super Gel in Anise Bloody Tuna. Since this is a shallow water troll and you are allowed to fish two poles with the endorsement it is beneficial to throw an extra rod out flatling a Brad’s Killer Fish size 14 in the Rotten Banana color.
Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo
Launch at the County PUD park located just past the Chelan Falls Bridge and then motor back over to the mouth of the Chelan River, trolling the western shoreline all the way back up to the bridge. Make sure to stay a bit out in the channel otherwise you will foul your gear in the milfoil along the shoreline. If you want to learn this fishery there are two premier guides that fish it, Shane Magnuson (509-264-7684 or www.uppercolumbiaguide.com) of Upper Columbia Guide Service who lives in Leavenworth and Brad Wagner (509-670-3095 or www.fishwenatchee.com) of Bobber Down Guide Service out of Wenatchee. Since they live in the area they know this fishery well. In fact I was out trying my best this past weekend and witnessed Shane land 5 fish before 7:00 AM on Saturday. Then I got a message from Brad who let me know that his boat caught 6 Chinook before 6:00 AM today. The key to both guides in that they are on the water early. There is plenty of room to fish and it doesn’t get too crowded.
I cannot really recall the first time I heard of the magnificent fishing in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) but I’m certain that I was a very young angler that was quite impressionable. However, the reverent tones that this incredible location inspired among the anglers that I deeply respected left a mark, a lifetime itch that had yet to be scratched.
My anticipation of this West Coast Resorts Englefield Bay trip was at a fever-pitch since on this Father’s Day weekend I was bringing my son Matthew and former Seattle Seahawk Dave Wyman was bringing his son Jake. Add that to the fact that several 710 ESPN listeners were coming along, none of us had ever been to Haida Gwaii and I’m sure you can understand our excitement!
So now, after returning from West Coast Resorts Englefield Bay, I found myself in unfamiliar territory for a blabbermouth. I’m sincerely at a loss for words. But let me say this: From the time we boarded the chartered 737 in Vancouver, BC to the time the final helicopter landed at Sandspit, every single aspect of the trip was beyond my expectations.
Our chartered 737 landed at Sandspit on Moresby Island and we hopped on our helicopters.
One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth must be Haida Gwaii and the view from the choppers was beyond words.
Landing on the floating lodge’s heli pad we could not wait to get inside the resort…
…and what a wonderful, comfortable place it is! We didn’t even have to pack our luggage into our rooms as our bags were waiting for us as we walked in!
Dave Wyman and his son Jake were in the room next door and we caught them looking out the window at the West Coast Resort fleet of boats.
Jake Wyman, Dave and our guide “Yeti” head out from the lodge on Father’s Day afternoon for their first Haida Gwaii fishing experiece.
My son Matthew and I followed Yeti out to Denham Shoals in one of the fine lodge boats and were lucky enough to bump into a real tyee chinook that was exactly 31 pounds!
The tradition at Englefield Bay is that the angler who lands a tyee gets to sound the gong and Matt has no problem making a little noise over his first Haida Gwaii tyee!
The next morning, Wyman and I headed out on a flat, calm, sunny ocean and landed right on top of a scorching chinook bite!
It’s not too often that you catch the biggest king of your life twice in one day but that’s exactly what Dave Wyman did and the fishing spark within him became a flame!
If you’ve ever had a greedy lingcod grab on to a smaller fish and not spit it out at the boat, then you understand the look on Dave Wyman’s face. If he wasn’t hooked on the non-stop Haida Gwaii action before, he certainly is now!
You can only catch your first chinook once in your life and it was a very special moment to be on hand for Jake Wyman’s king salmon number one! Proud father Dave Wyman is in the boat in the background in this shot.
Our final day at West Englefield dawns and Wyman is behind the wheel, ready for another day off the Haida Gwaii coast!
Fortunately, he didn’t have long to wait for a chunky chinook and Wyman’s largest chinook is now a respectable 26 pounds!
The cheerful, friendly crew at the dock meets us to grab the fish out of the boat for cleaning, processing, vacuum packing and freezing…
…and the next time you see your catch is at baggage claim at the airport!!!
Start to finish, top to bottom, I really cannot say enough about the guides, staff and support personnel at Englefield Bay. The level of hospitality and service that we experienced can only be described as West Coast Resorts style!!
Let me ask you a question and the answer need only require that you be honest with yourself: When is the last time you visited a place that you truly did not want to leave?
The Queen Charlotte Islands now known as Haida Gwaii have been scratched from the bucket list but will never fade from my memory.
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!
2015 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)
This is a mixed selected stock chinook forecast to say the least. Generally these stocks are slightly down with respect to 2014 partially due to changes in the run modeling but also due to unfavorable oceanic conditions. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish,Cedar and Sammamish wild chinook which will probably be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. However, the Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast as well which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season and an uptick in wild chinook south Sound stocks is certainly cause for optimism.
. The Silver Story! 2015 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)
S Sound Hatch 188.8 186.4 173.3 162.9 150.9 172.7 180.2
Hood Wild 48.6 33.2 77.5 73.4 36.8 47.6 61.4
Hood Hatch 52.0 51.2 72.1 62.6 68.6 82.7 108.4
Key stocks tot 338.6k 320.8k 916.0k 628.6k 783.2k 869.2k 891.5k
Is this the “new normal”? Ever since the 2011 coho run we’ve been experiencing some absolutely solid coho fishing. The increase in Hood Canal and South Puget Sound stocks alone have me thinking that 2015 will not see many anglers stray far from Puget Sound come September! In fact, the overall feeling among fisheries managers is that barring a repeat of the warm water “blob” of 2014 off the west coast of Vancouver Island, that we should see much improved coho action with some larger “hooknose” entering the catch!
If all this is not enough to get -and keep you- fired up, how about a Frasier River sockeye forecast that’s estimated at 6.8 MILLION with another 345,000 headed for the Columbia! Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 164,595 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives to 46,200 bright, red reasons to be encouraged compared to the 2014 forecast of only 35,377 Baker River reds.
Let’s not forget our odd, little odd year visitors the pink salmon! How about 6.7 MILLION pinks headed for Puget Sound. Add another 14,500,000 -that’s 14.5 MILLION headed to the Fraser and the humpy “horde” will number about 21 million in the Straits of Juan de Fuca!
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!!!
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!!
Daiwa’s Josh Leach fights a frisky blackmouth as Brandon Robichaux looks on.
Our Saturday morning action was steady and we managed to get a few fat blackmouth into the fishbox!
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!
Josh Leach and Brandon Robichaux hoist our Saturday catch and Team Outdoor Line is on the board in the Bayside Marine Salmon Derby!
Saturday’s leaderboard had a 14 on top of the heap with over 70 fish weighed in which is pretty solid winter chinook action!
After the scale closed at noon on Sunday, the Bayside Marine “buffet” was open and chinook donated by derby anglers is on the menu!
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.
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!
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!
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
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
In 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
The 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
Winter 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!
The rivers are nothing more than a trickle here in Western Washington right now so why would I be blabbing about three new Kwikfish colors from Luhr Jensen? Because one of these days the skies will open up and the rivers they will rise. And when they do you’ll wish you had these plugs in your quiver of Kwiky’s.
These are very simple color patterns that have already been proven salmon crushers over the years. The cerise/chartreuse combo is a take on the old famous “Chicken Little” plug that’s caught bazillions of salmon, the green/chartreuse combo is an anytime-anywhere winner, and I’m particularly fond of the blue/chartreuse combo for the coastal rivers. Kings and coho annihilate this plug in steelhead green water on the coast!
Once a tackle shop is out of a particular Kwikfish it may take weeks to get it re-stocked. Right now is when you want to pick up plugs that are on your wish list because when the rains come, well, the rush is on and most of the pegs holding the schwanky fish-killing colors are gone. Pick’em up now and thank me later!
This year’s edition of The Outdoor Line’s annual Sitka trip was a very special one. We had some Alaska “first-timers”, (I was going to say “Greenhorns” but…) some of our wives made the trip for the first time in several years and 2014 marked the Alaskan arrival of the 710 ESPN flagship, the Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King.
The trip began back in late May with the barge trip from Seattle to Sitka. It’s a bit freaky seeing your boat and truck sail away but it’s a gas to fly into Sitka and find your ride safe and sound thanks to Alaska Marine Lines!
We were very fortunate to arrive in time for some flat, sunny weather and a solid chinook bite. Jack Reyes mugs for the camera on the first fish of the trip. Little did we know that the bite would remain…but the nice weather would not.
Team Outdoor Line’s Brandon Robichaux can’t help but grin on his first day in Alaska..and his first Alaskan chinook!
Phil Michelsen handles a hot king and finds that the Daiwa DXS Series Rods and Saltist reels are more than a match for a big Alaskan chinook!
I even get into the act and all my work getting Great White ready for this trip comes to fruition!
710 ESPN’s Michael Grey of the “Wyman, Mike & Moore” show experienced Alaska for the first time and his very first Alaskan chinook turns out to be a very memorable experience!
My summer on air partner John Martinis joined us in Sitka for the first time and I believe that it won ‘t be his last appearance on this trip!
In between weather systems we managed to refine our halibut anchoring techniques. Here, Phil Michelsen, Michael Grey and John Martinis admire out day’s catch with chinook to 26 and halibut to 100lbs!
Speaking of refining techniques, Pro Cure’s Brine & Bite has forever changed the way I handle my herring. With one jar of Brine & Bite powder, you can cure up to 8 trays of bait that stand up to some trolling, mooching and shine like nothing I’ve ever fished before!
My dear friend Larry Stauffer and his wife Dana enjoyed a consistent chinook bite and we enjoyed having our wives join us for a few days of Alaskan angling!
My wonderful wife Kathy handles this hot king and I can’t begin to describe how special it was to have her join me on this trip!
Kathy and Dana share a laugh and a special moment after this double on mid-20 lb chinook!
Larry, Dana, Kathy & I with our days catch. We’ll be remembering this trip in pictures -and barbeques- for months to come!
ESPN’s Brock Huard joined us for his second season in Sitka and his passion for fishing and ability to learn is amazing to watch! I’m pretty sure he is as hard-bitten as I am with southeast Alaska!
While it’s nothing short of wonderful to share this time in Alaska with family and friends, we’re working on a bit of a promotion that may allow us to host a listener on this trip next year so stay tuned for that!
Meanwhile, we’re working on sharing what we’ve learned in Alaska about chinook salmon fishing right here. Want technique tips? Stand by! We’re going to deliver some tips that will deliver more fish in your box this season!