Catch More Springers in High Water!

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

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

Green Sinkers’n Cut Plug Herring

All that dad and I brought with us blackmouth fishing on Puget Sound today were our mooching rods, some sinkers, and a couple dozen fresh herring from Narrows Marina.

Reports of rock solid winter blackmouth fishing in Area 10 have been trickling in to the Outdoor Line for the last couple of weeks and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I knew that if fishing was that good I could get’em to bite a cut plug herring served up old-school style.

Yesterday I bolted on my new Lowrance HDS 7 Touch to the sled and hollered at dad to make a couple of lunchs…we were going mooching.

State of the art electronics make a world of difference when you’re mooching for salmon. I know this first hand, as the Lowrance gear I have on my charter boat in Alaska has put a lot, and I mean a lot of fish in the boat. You can spend a lot of time straining empty water or you can fish the high percentage areas that are full of bait and fish.

Part of using a good sonar is understanding what you’re looking at though. There’s a salmon center stage in the photo below and another one on the right side of the screen, right on the bottom, chowing down on bait. I was licking my chops when I saw this.

Dad and I dropped our baits into this mess and were immediately rewarded with a double header. A double header on mooched cut plug herring…we were laughing!

Dad was fishing with an orange kidney sinker, a standard in Southeast Alaska, and I was using a green 4 ouncer. His rod went cold immediately after the first hookup while my green weight just kept getting bit.

We gave it a while just to make sure it was the lead and sho’nuf, it was his orange lead. For some reason these fish weren’t digging the orange, so I switched dad over to a green 4 ouncer and he was on a fish almost immediately.

By the time we went thru two dozen herring we had landed three nice keeper blackmouth, released half a dozen shakers, and missed quite a few more bites. Dad even took home a nice, fat sole to fry up for dinner tonight.

How did we find these blackmouth? Basically, I would putter around on the kicker motor until we found a large school of bait and then we would stop and work our baits up and down close to the bottom around the bait. This is when having great electronics gives you the ultimate edge.

One key point to mooching is to always keep some line angle and keep working your baits. We were constantly dropping our baits to the bottom and reeling them back up 15 to 20 feet, right in the blackmouth zone. The bites came both on the drop and reeling up. The Lamiglas Salmon Moocher rods that I use telegraph everything. You can detect a bite from even the smallest shaker.

I tied up some 7 foot leaders with 15 pound Maxima Ultragreen and two 3/0 fine wire Mustad hooks that are soooo perfect for mooching. Flourocarbon would also work great for this. In the winter I would keep it light and keep it limber though. Frozen herring will work, but fresh herring from Narrows Marina is da bomb and it works a LOT better.

Blackmouth fishing has been outstanding on Puget Sound this winter and one would expect Area 9 to be quite productive when it opens up on January 16th.

There’s a lot more productive ways to catch blackmouth, but anytime I can get them mooching I’m a happy man. If you’ve got a spot that you suspect has some blackmouth I recommend you give this technique a try. I know you’ll like it!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

The Secret To The Sound

Add Green To Your Diet!
By Chris Shaffer | 08/05/2012
Those of us fortunate to know Pautzke pro staffer and Outdoor Line co-host Duane Inglin on a personal level know nothing excites him more than being in “The Bait Lab” which has taken over a portion of his garage.

Knowing this, it was no surprise the Inglin arrived almost 30 minutes late to pick me up at the new Sea-Tac car rental facility two weeks ago.

“Sorry Shaf, I was doing some mixing. We are running herring in the morning and this bait is going to be awesome,” he told me, while opening the cooler and lifting a Ziploc bag filled with what looked like antifreeze.

I’m accustomed to seeing Inglin show me wild color combinations and wasn’t surprised to see this, even though we didn’t sell a green Nectar or Fire Brine. It’d been a year since we last made green Kokanee Fuel and I figured Inglin again had his measuring cups and Tupperware out. His drive to remain a leading Mixologist continues to burn.

“Do you see this green?” he asked me. “You like that, huh?”

Inglin had made the green herring and anchovies to be drug in the Puget Sound the following morning when we met Inglin’s co-host and saltwater guru Tom Nelson. The herring and anchovies were brought to imitate candlefish, the salmon’s main food source right now in The Sound, Nelson said.

“I don’t care what you are running in regards to hardware, it’s never going to be as effective as bait,” Nelson told me.

While lures remain common having a good looking bait is tough to beat.

“Anchovy are a soft belly bait and they like to blow out so a lot of guys don’t run them, but we brine them up with the Pautzke’s Fire Brine, which does a real nice job at firming them up, plus it has the UV properties, which is real important when you get those baits down,” Inglin added. “We’ve also done the same with red label herring.”

Inglin later revealed he mixed chartreuse and blue Fire Brine to achieve the perfect green.

“The key to successful bait trolling is having a tough and dependable herring down there and Fire Brine does that,” noted Nelson.

 

It proved to be our recipe to success that day.

And, it could be yours, too.

Editor’s Note: Co-hosts Duane Inglin and Tom Nelson can be heard on The Outdoor Line Saturday mornings on ESPN Radio 710 in Seattle. This week, Inglin’s newest Fire Blog will explain how to make your own green herring/anchovy.

Dual Colored Herring

Every year there is a lot of effort put into creating new and innovative color/attractants. At times I think these are more for the fishermen then they are for the fish. That being said, with creativity and innovation comes new and exciting opportunities.

How many options are currently on the market just in flashers alone?  Plus we know that more ideas are in dude’s heads right now just waiting to hit the market. Guys who are going to make their mark in the industry with the “Go To”, have to have or absolutely the very best flasher ever created.

The reality is most of them work to some degree. Without question, some of them will outperform the others. Then there are a few which definitely stand out amongst the many, choices.

As fishermen we are always trying to find that upper hand. We will spend money, experiment, have our systems dialed, only to come back next season retooled and excited about the change. I’m not advocating that we discard everything we have done in the past, but perhaps think about  fishing one or two rigs with a slight change to see how it matches up to the tried-and-proven. 

Bait options are no different.  Changes in color and or scent are the norm. Now a day’s, if guys don’t want the hassle of mixing and blending salts, sugars, scents etc. Pautzke’s has made the ability to brine herring almost a no brainer.  

To get a very good quality herring with color, you simply follow a few basic rules. I like to keep my herring in Pautzke’s Fire Brine, at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours. Then I will put them in the bait fridge overnight, for another 8 to 12 hours then they’re done.  Now you have great color and firmness which makes for durable baits that will fish very well. By the way, if you were hoping for some UV on your herring, it’s also in the brine, so you won’t need to add any.



 
Now let’s take it one step further. We’ve already recognized the advantages of multi-colored flashers.  How about creating baits that have the ability to flash two colors instead of just one? Weather they are plugged cut, or placed in a helmet, every rotation/ roll gives off dual color attraction.
It’s obvious that if we take herring or anchovies and simply soak one side in Fire Brine, it’s not going to cure the whole herring.


 
To make sure my herring or anchovies are completely cured, I pre-soak them in the Natural Fire Brine first. This where I also add my Fire Power krill powder or any other scents I may choose.  I give them a good eight hour soak time at room or garage temperature. I want to make sure the herring are completely cured before moving on. The first couple hours I will I move the gallon zip lock around gently every fifteen minutes or so, to mix up the brine and krill powder and stir the herring a bit.


 
Once I have them cured to the firmness that I like, it’s time to add color to one side. Now I do have the option of leaving the herring in the natural brine for up to twenty hours or so. It’s not going to ruin the bait. I always do a minimum of eight and will leave them overnight if I don’t have time for the second step until the next day.

Now for the color; I find it’s easiest to lay the herring or anchovies in a tray first, then slowly pour in just enough colored Fire Brine to just start covering the top of the back or bottom of the tail.


 
Once I have poured in enough Fire Brine I will then cover the containers with lids. By covering with lids, I ensure that the moister stays in and on top of the exposed skin. If I leave the containers uncovered, the exposed herring may begin to dry on the exposed side.

To make sure I have a really strong color transfer, I will again let the herring soak for another 6 to 8 hours. This allows time for the color to really absorb into that side of the meat. 

If I am trying to create bait that has a natural shiner on one side and the other side colored up,  I am done. These baits are ready to fish. I will take them out of the brine and place them in a bait container or if I plan to freeze them back on the Styrofoam tray. More on that in a little bit.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Creating baits with color on one side is easy. Now let’s get both sides colored up, with yes; two different colors.


 
I basically take the baits out of the shallow tray. At this point I have created some herring and anchovies that are all naturally colored, some are natural one side and chartreuse on the other and some are natural one side and blue on the other.

The two photos above now show some of the herring getting a second color on the other side. You can see the photo on top, has a tray with the blue sided herring up and soaking in chartreuse. The tray below that is with the chartreuse side up, soaking in the blue. The photo on the bottom shows all colors under a black light. Notice how dark the blue herring is. It almost appears as dark shadows in the tray of chartreuse while the chartreuse herring glow in a vat of black.  “Confused Yet”??

Something else you will notice in this photo. At the very top, I have placed some of the finished herring and anchovies back on the Styrofoam trays. Under normal light you can see which ones are natural, blue or chartreuse. Keep in mind some of these are completely natural and the ones showing color are natural on the other side. Now compare them in the photo on the bottom. These are obviously the same trays however, under black light conditions some of the baits disappear.



 
This is another photo to simply show up close two sided herring under normal light conditions and then once again, under a black light. You can imagine that as these baits are fished and rigged properly the roll of the bait will give off a constant state of flash as they transition from dark to light. Again, this can be accomplished with any color combo. I believe a combination of red and chartreuse would be a definite winner. The red and chartreuse flasher has proven its ability time and time again. Also one other point, the red and chartreuse are the strongest UV colors of Fire Brine. Shhhh, Keep that one to yourself and try not to tell anyone.

Here are the finished baits. Some all natural, some natural one side and chartreuse on the other and the labor intensive baits of blue on one side and chartreuse on the other.


 
These are obviously not baits that you simply cure the night before you intend to fish. You need to plan ahead and give yourself a couple days to complete this bait preparation. It’s that whole 10% who are out there catching 90% of the fish. It comes down to preparation and trying something a little different.

I had mentioned before about freezing. Yes believe it or not, you can refreeze herring. I keep the trays that I purchase them on, just for that reason. I plan to fish these baits in a couple weeks, but wanted to get them done. So now that they are cured, I will place them in the freezer for a day. When they are frozen solid, I will slip them into a vacuum freezer bag and put the vacuum to’em. They will easily last for several months. I usually won’t keep them that long. I will cure up my baits a week or two ahead of time if I need to, freeze them and then plan on fishing them. Usually I cure my herring and anchovies just a few days before I fish them and they always fish very well. 

Give dual-color herring or anchovies a try. It just may be the difference for success on any given day.

Duane Inglin
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Cool Spring, Hot Springers!

This year's much anticipated Columbia River spring chinook run has been a mirror image of our "spring" weather: underwhelming at best.

April was a near bust for both the sun and the springers as low water temperatures slowed the early running chinook's accent up the Columbia to a mere crawl. In fact, the sport anglers low catch rates led to not one but two rare extensions of the season.

However, it was not until chinook counts finally exploded with a peak of 15,766 on May 1st that this run appeared to track close to it's forecast of nearly 200,000 spring chinook over Bonneville Dam. When fisheries managers were comfortable with the strength of the run, a re-opener of the spring chinook fishery was announced for May 15th.

Unfortunately, the large snowpack had started to melt and make it's way down the drainages of the upper Columbia, increasing river flows and decreasing visibility. With reports of near flooding conditions above and a sharply rising river, I was not very optimistic about anglers having a realistic chance to catch fish.

I could not have been more wrong!

The May 15th opener was nothing short of wide open chinook fishing! My good friend, top notch Columbia River Guide Eric Linde was quick to call me with a report:

"Better get down here Nelly, it's about as good as it gets and with the dirty water coming, I don't know how long it's going to last!"

I was not going to pass up the opportunity to get another springer on the barbeque!

"If you have an open boat tomorrow, I'll grab Robbie Tobeck and Big Phil we'll hit the road. Just tell me when and where!" With the plan in place we met Eric at Lyons Park outside of Woodland and we were shocked to see how high the Columbia had risen!

Eric Linde dodges drift in the swollen Columbia River as he makes his way to the Lyons Park Launch.

 

Robbie Tobeck's tennis shoes wouldn't let him get into Eric's sled with dry feet so he donned his infamous "pig farmer boots". Apparently, nobody taught Tobeck about  Xtra-Tuffs at  the "Agricultural Academy" known as WSU… 

 

We headed upstream to Eric's favorite anchor fishing spot, dropped back the sardine-wrapped Flatfish and had a fish on in less than 5 minutes! Unfortunately, was first to the rod and crackered it off at the net. 

 

Anchor fishing in the Columbia is a community affair and when other boats anchor next to you the "Hogline" forms and you see a slice of other peoples lives. Here, Scott Salmon feeds his infant son a bottle of formula warmed in the kicker engine's hot water wash basin!  

 

Eric Linde's lunch system is a bit more sophisticated. His propane barbecue nests in a bow compartment and heat up the beef stroganoff, veggies and garlic bread in short order! 

 

After lunch of course, is Tobeck's obligatory "fishing cigar" which was only slightly interrupted by a fine, hatchery springer! 

 

Phil Michelsen, Eric Linde and Robbie Tobeck with our two keepers. We also released two wild chinook and I was robbed of a nice fish by a seal. A great day on the big river! 

We have a great opportunity on the Columbia  and it's only a 90 minute drive from Seattle. This season in particular, with springers remaining open until the "June Hog" fishery of summer, the Columbia will remain open through year's end.

If you are new to this fishery, it does not require a large boat and if you invest in the services of a guide such as Eric Linde for a day you will learn more from that experience that you could in weeks or months on your own.

Get down to the Columbia River and good luck!!!

March Madness

March.

Schizophrenic as an ax murderer with a side job as an ER Doctor.

One day you’re basking in spring-like temps, flat calm waters and the next you’re trying to catch your hat before it blows off your head as the wind knocks foam off of the whitecaps.
So, when we saw a window in the weather, we headed for the banks. Buoyed by a glowing report from Tony Floor (and maybe a waypoint or two) it was Coyote bank or bust!

We launched at Cornet Bay just inside of  Deception Pass and ran west for 35 minutes in a small surface chop to find four other boats on Coyote. The US/Canada border splits Coyote Bank and I was surprised to find that only one of the boats were trolling like us. The rest of the boats were anchored on the Canadian side halibut fishing! What’s more, they were boats from the US which had purchased Canadian licenses. The ability to get that Canadian non-resident license is a nice option for Americans who want to start their halibut seasons early!

We made our first Pass on Coyote Bank and were quickly rewarded when my friend Eric Fagan boated this fat blackmouth!

Every drop we were greeted by a bite but as far as keeper chinook were concerned we were done with the one! Juvenile lingcod, kelp greenling and shakers were the best we could muster as the banks are nothing short of a nursery for the young, rapidly growing residents of the Straits of  Juan de Fuca.

As we left the banks that sunny Sunday, the south wind started to pick up and we knew if we wanted to fish later this week, it would have to be in the rivers.
March can be more than a little unpredictable weather-wise but there is one thing you can count on: Columbia springers. Well, maybe “count on” is a little optimistic for the second week in March but the thought of a springer on the barbeque drives a man to do crazy things!

While we were lucky on the banks to get bit on our first pass, it was not until our last pass on the Columbia that we finally got our fish but it was the right one!

Phil Michelsen admires his first Columbia River springer of the year but he would only be taking half of it home! I was ready to wrestle a filet away from Phil but he generously offered me half!

The month of March offers many angling challenges but very few opportunities to take advantage of them. Here’s hoping you get a weather window and get lucky, Even if it is only for one fish!

A new Downrigger “Spin” on Herring!

With chinook fisheries opening up in Puget Sound, out on the coast and going strong in British Columbia and Alaska, a technique refresher is definitely in order.

Known as the "remote" or "dummy flasher" rig, this downrigger setup is a great way to reap all the fish attraction benefits of a flasher while enjoying the fight of the fish without the drag of having a flasher directly on the line!

The most important aspect of successfully deploying this rig is getting the action right on your herring. Krippled Lures of British Columbia has complete rigging instructions on their very informative website!

Note that the monofilament lines to the release and flasher are 150lb test! This is a vital aspect to this technique. If you attempt to use lighter line on your flasher, I hope you have a big tackle budget! The speeds at which your Cannon Downrigger will pull the flasher through the water will pop 50 pound test with ease. When you consider bottom contact and the associated abrasion…Brother, just get some 150 lb leader material and size A9 crimps and you're in business.

You'll also notice a longer release drop and a halibut clip riding the wire. This is a specialized release necessary for this system. You can build them yourself using the aforementioned 150 lb mono. Often these longer releases are available on store shelves but the "homemade" variety with high quality stainless halibut clips are the way to go. Use the length of your downrigger boom as a rough guideline for the length of your releases as you want the release drop at least as long as your boom. Longer release drops are much easier to reach, rig and help you to better see strikes as well! 

To deploy this rig, snap the flasher on your cannon ball and lower it five feet. Snap on the release assembly, clip in the Krippled Herring rig and drop to the depth desired. Repeat until you have reached your limit!

When retrieving the rig, the halibut clip will often slide to the ball, so you can bring the flasher and release on board to avoid fouling your fish! Good luck and enjoy flasher-free fishing!!!

 

Brine Your Way to Salmon Success!

With saltwater salmon fishing firing up along the West Coast now is a good time to talk about herring brines.  Brining herring before fishing it helps to toughen it up and can produce a more vibrant and shiny herring that catch more fish.  If your herring is soft and mushy it will either fall off the hook on its own or the first whack from a fish will take it right off the hook.  If your bait is tough enough to take a few wallops from a salmon before it commits to the bait the odds of hooking that fish go up substantially.

John Posey from Lamiglas Rods hooked this 48 lb Chinook with me after it played with his bait for almost a minute.  Had the bait fallen off on the first smack from this fish I’m sure the result wouldn’t have been the same!

Here’s a simple brine that I use to brine between 12 and 20 cases of herring each and every summer in Southeast Alaska.  We burn thru a ton of bait in our Alaska charter operation and since we buy the highest quality bait possible all we need to do is toughen it up a bit before fishing it.  The herring will begin toughening up within about an hour of adding them to this brine and I usually cut up between 4 and 6 dozen baits first thing in the morning before we leave the dock and add them to this brine, adding more bait as the day goes on.  This solution is good for about ten to twelve dozen herring before a new solution will need to be mixed.  I keep a large plastic jar with a water tight screw-on lid full of Canning and Pickling salt, so that the salt stays dry and doesn’t clump from getting wet.

Simple Bait Brine:

One gallon sea water
-No oil slicks, scum, or pollutants
-Take clean sea water from outside the harbor
Two cups non iodized salt (canning and pickling salt)
-Rock salt works, but it doesn’t dissolve as fast as granulated salt
Add two tablespoons of garlic, anise, or Pautzke’s Liquid Krill if desired

This is a more advanced brine that works great for low quality baits that have been thawed and refrozen several times or for baits that are going to be trolled.  This brine will keep ten to twelve dozen herring cured for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Advanced Bait Brine:

2 ½ gallons of water
3 tablespoons Mrs Stewarts Liquid Bluing
4 cups non iodized salt (canning/pickling)
1 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons of pure anise or garlic
UV Liquid and/or Pautzke Liquid Krill

70% of the salmon that come back to Puget Sound are from hatchery origin.  The primary protein source in hatchery fish food, and in the ocean, is krill and many hatchery pellets also contain anise.  Something to think about when you’re targetting Puget Sound salmon or any salmon for that matter!

Rob Endsley