Defiance Bait Tank Installation

After his Seattle Boat Show tuna seminar, Defiance Marine Pro-staffer Tommy “Cornfed” Donlin stuck his big ‘ol head into my boat which was on display at the show.

“Where are you gonna put your live bait Nelly?”

“How about this transom fishbox? I should be able to make it flow…”

Cornfed shook his head “You put anchovies in that square box and they’re gonna die before you get to the grounds. You’ve got to have a circular flow to keep them swimming, healthy and the tank has to be round so they can’t hit corners and injure themselves.”

Donlin is a well-known pain in the neck but I knew he was right and heck, there are a number of reasons beyond live anchovy fishing for tuna to install a live well. Shrimping, crabbing, live bait fishing for lingcod and even halibut are great reasons to install a tank. Also, let’s not forget the prospect of jigging herring and putting up your own trays of bait or even fishing them fresh!

Defiance Marine’s DNA is saturated with blue water angling and a quality bait tank is as vital to the tuna fisherman as the downrigger is to the salmon angler. Fortunately, Defiance is recognized as the finest bait tank available and not all that hard for the do-it-yourselfer to install!

First off you’ll need to get organized and get your parts list together including a sheet of one-inch Starboard for the mount. Tank water supply is 1″ and required an 1500GPH livewell pump. The drain is 1 1/2″ and you’ll need a shutoff or seacock valve. Thanks to Harbor Marine at the Port of Everett, it’s a one-stop shop!

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This is the very definition of a “measure twice, cut once” project and it’s vital to make a cardboard template of the tank footprint for an accurate installation.

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Once you’ve got your template, lay it on the deck in your desired location and take a good look around, above and most importantly, UNDER the location!

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The best way to look under your chosen location is to pull up the deck floor which, you’ll have to do anyway to run the electrical and plumbing. On my Weldcraft, I had to plan around a deck support but that will add to the strength of the mount.

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With the deck floor section out of the boat, it’s template time and a jigsaw drill to position the deck plate that will allow access for the plumbing to the tank.

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With the hole cut in the template and the deck floor, we need to trim the template to now fit INSIDE the tank as that’s how it’s going to mount to your deck.

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Lay the template on the Starboard and start making a whole pile of white plastic dust! Make sure you’ve got a fairly accurate fit to the inside of the tank bottom!

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Once you’ve cut the Starboard to fit, it’s time to drill and tap 1/4″ x 20 (threads per inch) hardware into the perimeter of the tank. Four or five will do the trick!

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Time to take all your work back to the boat, cut that nice 1 1/2″ drain hole above the waterline, finish it with a SS hose barb through hull. Add the livewell pump to your water pickup, run the hoses forward and through the deck plate.

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Being careful not to kink the hoses, lay the floor plate back down and fasten it back in place.

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To lay flat on the deck, the Starboard mounting board’s center hole has to be larger than the mount ring of the deck plate. Use the existing deck floor bolt pattern to hold down the deck plate and you’ll have to get one-inch longer hardware to reach!

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Lay the tank down to make the plumbing & electrical connections and you’re almost there! Again, take care that excess hose does not kink!

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Stand the tank up, pop in your perimeter hardware and launch the boat! Test the system for leaks and you now have a 50 gallon bait tank installed!!!

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Removing the tank takes all of five minutes and the only way you’ll know it was there is the plastic deck plate and a wet ring where the tank was…

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I didn’t go into great detail on the transom plumbing aspect because each boat is different and let’s just say that climbing into the transom was not pretty…

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This summer with all the North of Falcon “noise” going on, we’re going to have to be a bit more versatile to get our days on the water. My Defiance Marine bait tank is a HUGE step in that direction!

Give them a call and whatever you do, DON”T tell them TOMMY DONLIN sent you!!!

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

 

Runnin’ Skinny with the Evinrude 105 Jet

Kitsap Marina in Port Orchard, Washington recently installed a new Evinrude 105 Jet on my 18 foot custom Waldon river sled and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve enjoyed the hole shot and hook-up of a two stroke jet pump. I’m definitely diggin’ it!

I bought this sled for running the smaller rivers in Washington and for fishing some of the local lakes and perhaps even the Puget Sound once in a while. I’ve been running jet sleds and outboard tillers for over twenty years and this little sled is the best performing sled I’ve ever owned. It’s by no means a big river boat, but on any medium to small sized river it flat out shreds.

Here’s some photos and intel on the new pump as well as my boat specs in case you’re interested in going with a two-stroke Evinrude on your river rig.

My sled is 18 feet long with a 72 inch, 6 degree bottom and 25 inch sides. The Evinrude 105 weighs in at 428 pounds and it’s weight matches up perfectly with my particular sled configuration. River sleds in the 18 to 20 foot range with 74, 78, and 82 inch bottoms would work great with this motor.

If you’re stepping down to a smaller sled or have a 17 or 18 foot sled with a 68 inch bottom I’d take a look at the 90/65 Evinrude Jet. For even smaller sleds they make a sweet little 40 horse factory tiller jet.

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This right here is what makes my sled perform like a Lamborghini. This sled is freaky fast with the Evinrude and it corners like it’s on rails because of the tunnel that Johnny Waldon builds into his sleds. Wooldridge does the same thing and I’m here to tell ya…if you want to run extremely skinny water and corner at planing speeds this is the way to go. This boat rocks the corners, braids, all of it. Waldon is a long time friend of mine from Skagit County and he builds one boat at a time in his shop in Conway. My next and last sled will be a 20 foot Waldon with an 82 inch bottom. If you ask him really nice he might even build a sled for you.

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Every tiller jockey is most interested in the tiller. Evinrude has placed all the essentials like the shifter, kill switch, and trim/tilt right next to the throttle. Twist that throttle and you can get 5,300 to 6,000 rpm’s out this bad boy at full throttle. This isn’t the two stroke you ran twenty years ago!

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And the tiller handle stays up like it’s supposed to when you want to stop and fish. If you’ve ran tillers for very long then you know how much of a pain in the arse it is when your tiller is constantly falling down and in the way.

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I really like this little button that Evinrude added at the base of the tiller. Simply twist this threaded button in or out to adjust the height of the tiller. When I’m standing up most of the day I screw it out to move the tiller handle up and when I’m sitting down mostly I screw it all the way in to drop the handle down.

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Kitsap Marina mounted the oil reservoir in one of my side compartments and as you can see it takes up very little space.

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During the first 5 to 8 hours of run time above 2,500 rpm’s the motor uses twice the oil to break in the cylinders. This is how much oil the engine used in two whole days of river fishing during this period.

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When I’m running this boat it’s hard not to smile just a little. It performs like the sleds used to back in the 80’s and early 90’s when two strokes were the name of the game. Except, those motors were prone to breaking down. If this motor runs anything like guide Phil Stephens 200 Evinrude E-Tec that’s performed flawlessly for several years on his 20 foot North River Scout I’ll be smiling for quite a while. Brad Wagner, Bonner Daniels, and quite a few other top Washington guides are also running E-Tecs now and love them.

The last and best thing about these motors is that there’s no scheduled service for 3 years or 300 hours. If you’ve been missing the torque of a two stroke I highly encourage you to take a look at one of these engines. Check out the rest of the specs on the Evinrude 105 Jet online or call Kitsap Marina and talk to the folks there about them. Kitsap is the largest Evinrude dealer and service center in the entire Pacific Northwest!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Setting Your Crab Gear Up For Success!

One of the most underrated aspects of life in the Great Northwest is harvesting and enjoying Dungeness crab with friends and family. This wonderful tasty privilege comes with a responsibility to fish your crab pots in a way that prevents gear loss and a wastage of this valuable aquatic resource. Many pots that folks assume is “stolen” are really just under-weighted pots that merely drift away when a high tide lifts the floats. The currents in our tidal bodies of water are quite strong and if your crab gear is not right where you left it, its quite often simply lost crab gear that keeps fishing until the required cotton rot cord latch rots and the pot opens up.

That said, here’s one way to set your gear up for successful crabbing and make sure it’s right where you put it when you return to pick it and bring the crab home for dinner!

Let’s start with the “raw materials” namely an SMI three entry tunnel pot with built in bait tube, floats, 100′ of leaded line and a 12 pound downrigger ball.

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Why a downrigger ball and what do you do with it? Great question! Most if not all sport pots are intended to have weight added to fish effectively. Simply zip-tie the ball to the center of the pot and you’re in business!

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Now it’s time to make your “bomb-proof” line attachment to the pot. I start with a strong edge where the pot mesh is double strength and throw a clove hitch.

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Lock the clove hitch with the “boater’s friend” aka the bowline…

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…and lock the bowline with the “Yosomite finish” which is simply tucking the tail of the bowline around the loop and back along the main line.

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Add your combination of floats (I use the required red and white and add a second float to allow quick identification) Marked one float with the length of line and finish with a bowline end loop. Store the whole works inside the pot and you’re set!

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Every afternoon in Puget Sound should look like this!

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And every evening dinner should look like this!

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We have a wonderful crabbing opportunity and resource and it’s up to us to fish responsibly and not lose our crab gear to minimize waste. Keep a copy of the WDFW fishing regs in your boat, measure and record each keeper and you will not end up in an episode of Nat Geo’s Rugged Justice!!

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

Sitka 2015: Adjustments

Every year of our annual sojourn to southeast Alaska, I seek a pattern, a clue or a theme to the location and distribution of fish that may lead to an understanding or “edge”, eventually guiding us to a successful season. We’ve all read -with varying degrees of interest and concern- of the changes in sea surface temperatures in the northeastern Pacific Ocean and little did I know when I boarded the plane to Sitka that the ocean temperatures would play a pivotal role in our approach to this world-class fishery.

Most seasons the predominant chinook forage base in the Sitka area is sand lance, commonly known an “needlefish”. Sand lance are a preferred salmonid food item as they are usually abundant, readily preyed upon by chinook, very rich in oil, easily digested due to their delicate structure and can be packed away by an adult chinook like a belly full of spaghetti!!!

Chinook are so fond of sandlance that a large abundance will virtually stop a migration, making these chinook vulnerable to vertical techniques such as mooching and jigging. The problem this season was that the nutrient-poor warm water had in all probability, reduced local zooplankton (euphausiids and copepod) levels, causing the sand lance population to take a downturn. Sand lance do not roam far from their home sand, so are very dependent upon local conditions and poor food availability can quickly lead to a sand lance population crash.

Herring on the other hand are more mobile and opportunistic feeders and therefore have a better ability to adapt to a changing or re-located food base. The preceding paragraph was the longest possible way of stating that herring was the one and only food item found in the chinook we encountered and since the chinook were not all “ganged up” on a sandlance patch, mooching chinook was not the most effective technique.

What was the most effective technique for us?

Why trolling with downriggers of course!

Greg Copeland of KING 5 and my old buddy Phil Michelsen do the downrigger “Dance” with a fiesty, early morning chinook and Sitka 2015 is well underway!

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Phil Michelsen does battle with a big chinook on a misty morning and little would we know….

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 …that this would be the biggest chinook not only of this trip but of the last several years! A beautiful specimen of over 41 pounds! Phil’s grin just says it all!

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Phil and Greg’s last day was a productive, calm and memorable outing and there was alot of work to do after the “photo shoot”!

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Lauren Bivins of Harbor Marine in Everett and my summer “Robbo replacement” co-host John Martinis jumped in for some very solid Sitka success!

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 Lifelong friend Larry Stauffer and I doubled up on a couple chunky chinook that both fell to trolled whole herring. Overall, the average size of the chinook we encountered was larger which was a reverse of a trend of smaller fish over the past several years.

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My biggest halibut of the season was this 70 pounder that we hooked in over 400 feet of water. My Diawa Tanacom 750 electric reel made short work of this flattie!

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 One of Sitka’s signature landmarks, St. Lazarius Island also know as “Bird” Island looks different with every hour of the day. In this afternoon sun it looks spooky…

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…and in the morning sun as the charter fleet runs by it’s merely a milestone along the way. One of the most wonderful things about fish are the places we must go to find them.

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 Brock Huard is in the third season of his Sitka experience and he seems to enjoy it more each and every year. I feel very fortunate to be able to share some of his precious free time in this wonderful place.

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Sitka remains the angling experience of my life and there is something each and every season that stays with me throughout the year. This year it was the ability to make adjustments that stood out. As anglers, we are very good at going to the same places at the same times to use the same gear to catch our fish. However, change one leg of that triangle and we seem to struggle. The ability to observe changing conditions and make adjustments to our game plan is one of the most valuable traits that an angler can possess.

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

 

The 2015 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!

2015 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

Stock                     2009       2010     2011       2012       2013       2014       2015 
Willapa fall               34.8      31.1       36.8        45.2         27.1        32.4        35.1
Hoh fall                     2.6         3.3        2.9           2.7           3.1          2.5         2.5
Nooksack/Sam        23.0      30.3      37.5         44.0        46.5        43.9       38.5

Skagit summer        23.4      13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3

Stillaguamish wild    1.0        1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5

Snohomish Wild        8.4        9.9         7.4          2.8          3.6          5.2          4.1
Snohomish Hatch     4.9         5.6         5.1         3.9           6.8          5.4         3.2
Tulalip Bay                4.0         3.4         3.5        5.9          10.9          4.7         1.3

S Puget Wild            17.2      12.7        8.9          8.9           5.2          4.8         6.5
S Puget Hatch          93.0      97.4      118.6       95.8       101.9       101.4     91.1

Hood Canal Wild        2.5      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1

Hood Canal Hatch     40.1     42.6         38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9

Stock total:       255.6k    253.1k    278.9k   266.5k      288.6k      304.3k   257.1k   

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.

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The Silver Story! 2015 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)

Stock                   2009         2010            2011          2012        2013        2014       2015
Straits Wild           20.5          8.5              12.3           12.3       14.8          14.5         13.4
Straits Hatch         7.0            7.8              12.7           18.6       15.4         15.3           8.8
Nook/Sam W        7.0            9.6               29.5           25.2      45.4          20.8         28.1
Nook/Sam H       25.5          36.0               45.7           62.8      49.2          61.7         50.8

Skagit Wild          33.4          95.9             138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4       121.4

Skagit Hatch       11.7            9.5               16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8        19.5

Stilly Wild            13.4           25.9              66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4         31.2

Stilly hatch            0.0              5.4                0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1            0

Snohomish W       67.0           99.4            180.0         109.0     163.8         150        151.5

Snohomish H        53.6           24.5              80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1         53.8

S Sound Wild        53.6          25.3              98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8          63.0

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!!!

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

Evinrude E-Tec: The Next Generation!

I’ve been running Evinrudes for well over a decade and honestly thought that the final word, the final step in the evolution of the two-stroke outboard engine was the transition from a carburated Variable Ratio Oiling engine to a fuel injected E-Tec with pinpoint oil injection and incredibly low emissions.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King came with a pair of Evinrude ICON 250 engines and it’s been smooth sailing and very good performance ever since!

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While the performance I received from the 250 ICON’s was very good, I was about to get a lesson in the form of some serious innovation from a company that is not afraid to take a chance in the marketplace.

In June of 2014, Evinrude/BRP revealed a new outboard engine that produces up to 75% fewer total regulated emissions, with 15% better fuel efficiency and 20% more torque than leading four-stroke engines.The Evinrude G2 engines, the next generation of Evinrude E-TEC outboard engines are without question a real game-changer in the marine industry.

Last month, the gang at Bayside Marine repowered the Weldcraft with the E-Tec G2 outboards and just look at that clean rigging on the transom!

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“OK” you say…”So what’s the difference”… GREAT QUESTION!!!

With the old engines my top speed was 44 MPH, and my most efficient cruise speed was 32.3 mph at 4000 RPM with a fuel burn of 21 GPH resulting in an economy of 1.60 MPG.

Compare the above data with the results of a Performance Evaluation conducted earlier this week by Evinrude/BRP Factory engine guru Gary McAllister and the results blew me away! With the same boat, same guys and same props on the new outboards, here are the Evinrude Generation 2 results:

Top speed: 52 MPH!! Best Cruise: 35.2 MPH @ 4000 RPM while only burning 16.3 GPH which gave us a much improved 1.92  MPG... THAT IS A 20% INCREASE IN FUEL ECONOMY!!! Sorry, I’m shouting but  can’t help it!

BRP’s next generation of Evinrude E-TEC engines will be backed by unmatched value with the industry’s best engine warranty, least maintenance and best-in-class fuel efficiency. We’re talking a 5-year engine warranty, 5-year corrosion warranty, and 500 hours with no dealer-scheduled maintenance, allowing for the most time on the water!

The Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboard engine just flat delivers with best-in-class torque, fuel efficiency and lowest total emissions. The new E-TEC G2 engine offers the first and only customizable look, the only clean rigging and fully integrated digital controls. In other words you can now choose the absolute perfect combination of boat and engine by selecting top and front panels, as well as accent colors that match your boat.

Come see the new re-rigged ESPN boat, Great White the Weldcraft at the Seattle Boat Show, January 23 through February 1st at Century Link Event Center in Seattle!

SEE YOU AT THE BOAT SHOW!!!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

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. 

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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!

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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

Buoy Ten: Big Forecast, Big Effort and Big Fish!

The annual gathering known as Buoy 10 at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River is a special event every year but this year’s forecast of 1.6 million chinook and nearly a million coho added even more anticipation and participation!

Evidence of the “participation” aspect of this year’s Buoy Ten fishery was evident at ol’ red number 10 itself as we witnessed the crowd amass on the boundary on the very first flood tide of our trip.

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Brandon Robichaux has not seen a crowd like this since, well, we were here last year!aBrB10

 

 

 

After getting to Astoria and getting gear in the water shortly after noon we didn’t feel too bad about ending up going two for three with an upriver bright and a nice coho!

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King 5 News Anchor Greg Copeland joined us for a day on the ocean and we hooked over 30 coho and several chinook on a flat, calm ocean!

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Our best day resulted in Phil Michelsen (left) nailing a beautiful 35 pounder, yours truly with a 30, a nice coho and Greg Copeland limiting with a 20 pound chinook and a coho too!

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Here is a video that John Martinis and I shot that details the techniques we utilized in the Buoy 10 fishery:

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The fact that Labor Day is fast upon us is no reason to stop thinking about a trip down to one of the best salmon fisheries on the coast! In fact, fishing pressure drops so much after the three-day weekend that you’ve practically got the place to yourself…well, you will have to share the place with several thousand chinook and coho!

 

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Sitka 2014 Great White: NORTH!

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!aBarge

 

 

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.aJack#1

 

Team Outdoor Line’s Brandon Robichaux can’t help but grin on his first day in Alaska..and his first Alaskan chinook!aBrando

 

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!aPhil

 

I even get into the act and all my work getting Great White ready for this trip comes to fruition!aDayone Nelly

 

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!aMGglass

 

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!AJohnM

 

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!aPMJbut

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!ABrine&b

 

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!aL&D

 

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!AK

 

Kathy and Dana share a laugh and a special moment after this double on mid-20 lb chinook!

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Larry, Dana, Kathy & I with our days catch. We’ll be remembering this trip in pictures -and barbeques- for months to come!aLDK

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!ABrockNelly

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!

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle