Fish Blades for Early Potholes Walleye

Potholes Reservoir is currently locked up with more ice than the lakes seen in quite a few years. It’s been awful chilly in Eastern Washington since early December and that bout of cold weather continues to this day. So why are we talking about walleye then?

The second the ice comes off Washington’s Potholes Reservoir and the boat launches are finally useable again you’ll find a group of hardcore anglers hitting the reservoir in search of walleye. It could be another month or so before that happens but when it does it pays to be ready.

One of those anglers is longtime walleye guide Shelby Ross of PotholesFishing.com. Shelby lives on Potholes Reservoir and has guided for walleye and waterfowl on the lake for years.

When the ice burns off and you’re itchin’ to hit the lake here’s a few tips from the master himself that will put some early season walleye in your frying pan this spring.

Find the Bait, Find the Walleye

There’s no shortage of drop-off’s and humps in Potholes Reservoir and Shelby will hit as many as twenty of them in a day until he finds one loaded up with bait. He targets humps and ledges in 25 to 50 feet of water until he finds one that’s holding a bunch of bait. If the sonar screen looks promising he’ll toss a marker bouy out and keep cruising to see if there’s anything else in the vicinity.

Some of the areas that he’ll scope out first are the rock shelves around Goose Island, the north shoreline just west of Linn Coulee and the deep humps near the mouth of Crab Creek. These are all staging areas for the spawn and walleye are usually feeding in these areas in the months and weeks leading up to the spawn.

Once he’s got a good handle on exactly where the bait is he’ll stop the boat and start casting blade baits into the shallow water and work them out into deeper water. He say’s he’ll know instantly how good it is if they start catching perch right away. Find the perch and you’ve found the walleye.

The technique is somewhat simple to master but of course it does have it’s nuances. Shelby uses 1/2 ounce blades eighty percent of the time and has a few 3/8 and 3/4 ounce blades on board if he needs to switch up. If the walleye are just rattling the blades and they are missing a lot of hookups he’ll switch to a lighter 3/8 ounce blade first to give the lure a little slower fall. That usually produces a more aggressive strike and if that doesn’t work he’ll try the 3/4 ounce blade.

Position the boat on the deep end of the drop off and cast the blades up onto the shallow end of the ledge or hump. The lure should fall into about 25 to 30 feet of water. Once they hit the bottom start working them down the face of the ledge. He likes to work the jig up about a foot and then let it fall back to the bottom with the strikes always occurring on the drop. If you feel anything subtle or different about the action of the blade set the hook!

Make Your Own Blade Baits

Snagging up on the bottom is inevitable with this technique, so bring plenty of blades with you. Shelby spends some time in the winter months making up his own blade baits to cut the cost down a bit. He buys 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 ounce nickel plated blades from Jann’s Netcraft and then adds the prism tape and hooks to finish them. His favorite prism tape colors are chartreuse, red, and silver and on any given day one can be hotter than the other.

He prefers to run Mustad split shank treble hooks on his blades because they greatly reduce the number of tangles. Blade baits with split rings are a tangle waiting to happen. Mustad split shank trebles are extremely sharp and they are easy to install on the blades.

Rig up for Success

Shelby likes a spinning rod in the eight foot range with a fast action. The sensitive tip allows him to feel the action of the blade and the backbone slams the hook home when a walleye picks up the blade. They can be surprisingly subtle and a sensitive rod tip definitely helps feel the bite.

He uses a Daiwa Excelor 2500 series reel spooled with 10 pound Power Pro braid. 10 pound Power Pro has the diameter of 2 pound test monofilament and it’s great for casting blade baits a country mile. The extremely small diameter line allows his guests to feel the action of the blade and contact with the bottom in water as deep as 50 to 60 feet.

He’ll attach a barrel swivel to the end of the braid and then he runs a bumper of six inches of 15 pound fluorocarbon between the swivel and the blade bait. The short section of flourocarbon is easy to cast, reduces tangles, and has some abrasion resistance against the blade bait and treble hooks.

Walleye don’t fair well when they’re caught out of deep water and it’s usually not possible to “high grade” fish when they’re caught in excess of twenty feet of water. If you land on the walleye in deep water keep your limit and head for the barn.

This has been one of the coldest winters in Eastern Washington in nearly a decade and Potholes has been locked up with ice since mid-December. When the ice finally comes off the lake though you can bet there will be walleye willing to jump all over a blade bait. Give some of Shelby’s tips a try and with any luck you’ll go home with some fresh walleye.

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Lamper’s Essential Backcountry Hunting Gear List

When it comes to getting geared up for a big game hunt in the backcountry there are few people that know this drill better than Ryan Lampers. For most of the year he can be found running the family business, Ray’s Baits, in Granite Falls, Washington. Ray’s Baits delivers  night crawlers, herring, sardines, anchovies, salmon eggs, and sand shrimp to retailers and fishing guides all over the Pacific Northwest.

What you may not know, however, is that this quiet and unassuming cat might be one of the most prolific big game hunters in the region. Lamper’s stock and trade is the pursuit of trophy elk and deer on public ground deep in the backcountry of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Lampers is a public ground success story that’s come from an insane amount of work and years of trudging around in the backcountry putting as much stress on himself and his gear as is humanly possible.

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Ryan and his hunting partner Joey Pyburn spend weeks in the high country every fall in search of trophy elk and deer and they seldom see a soul. Lamper’s tells me he hasn’t seen another hunter in four years. Why? Because there are few people that go where they go. And doing that, my friends, takes and immense amount of work and some of the finest gear in the world. Ryan’s tested every piece of lightweight backcountry camping and hiking gear you can imagine and thru his decades-long research he’s kind enough to share some of his favorite gear items here on the Outdoor Line.

Shelter – MSR Hubba One Man Tent

The MSR Hubba one man tent weighs under three pounds packed and it’s small enough to fit into a deer bed on the side of a mountain. These incredibly lightweight tents are a breeze to set up anywhere and the footprint is so compact Lampers can hunker down for the night just about anywhere.  msr_tent_elk_web

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Here’s a video that highlights just how quickly the MSR Hubba lightweight backpacking tent can be assembled.

Cooking-Jet Boil Minimo

Ryan prefers the Jet Boil Minimo because of it offers the most finite valve control of any upright canister system on the market. He can slowly simmer soup over a small flame or blast the heat to quickly boil up water for a freeze dried meal or a hot drink.The Minimo weighs just under a pound and will boil 16 ounces of water in 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

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Drinking Water – Steripen

With a SteriPen there’s no need to pack a cumbersome and space-consuming filter pump. The SteriPen uses UV light to zap 99.9% of the organisms that live in water. The outdoor models will purify one liter of water in 90 seconds and last up to 8,000 treatments.

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Backpack – Exo Mountain Gear K2 5500 

The EXO Mountain Gear K2 5500 pack comes with a titanium frame and weighs an astonishing 5 pounds, 4 ounces. The EXO has pockets galore for stashing all the necessities for a long backcountry hunt and long side pockets for guns, spotting scopes, tent poles, and hydration bladders. This pack also has an expandable 2500 cubic inch load shelf for hauling meat and 14 compression straps to secure loads to the pack. It can be expanded to 7,000 cubic inches for packing into the backcountry and compressed down to 3,500 cubic inches for day hunts. Ryan’s hauled loads to 140 pounds on the EXO K2 5500 and says it’s the most comfortable and durable pack he’s ever owned.

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Head Lamp – Black Diamond Storm

Ryan’s number one backcountry headlamp is the Black Diamond Storm. He likes it for it’s brightness and most importantly it’s longevity. With a fresh set of batteries this head lamp will last for an entire week in the backcountry. Sure, he brings an extra set of batteries along but they rarely get used.

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Trekking Poles – Black Diamond

When laden with a heavy load of backcountry gear and venison a set of trekking poles is an essential item to provide stability and safety. Black Diamond trekking poles come with two Flicklocks for adjustability and when they’re not needed they can collapse and be stored in the long side pocket of the EXO Mountain Gear K2 5500 pack. Lampers highly recommends picking up a set of rubber Tech Tips for any hunting trip into the backcountry. Using the rubber tips eliminates the noise the poles make while hiking in rocky terrain.

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Traction – Kahtoola Micro Spike

Carrying heavy loads on steep and sometimes wet or frozen alpine slopes can be dangerous work. Lamper’s always has a set of Kahtoola Micro Spike’s stashed in his pack for traversing steep areas in the backcountry. Micro Spike’s are easily slipped over hunting boots and pack down nicely.

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I’ll be catching up with Ryan again soon to get another gear list going. We’ll talk rifles, slings, game bags, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and whatever else comes up. The one thing we won’t talk about, however, is where in the backcountry you need to be. That’s gonna be up to you.

If you want to catch up with Ryan Lampers I recommend hitting him up on Facebook (Ryan Lampers), Instagram (sthealthyhunter), or on his newly-launched website huntharvesthealth.com.

Thanks for stopping by and remember…next hunting season starts now!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Smoked Salmon – A Simple and Delicious Recipe

Smoking salmon can be as easy or difficult as you make it. By using the highest quality salmon, however, you can produce a very high quality smoked fish product using even the most basic recipe and ingredients. Don’t be fooled into thinking the spawned out old boot that you just caught on the river is “good enough for the smoker”, as the quality of the fish you put in the smoker will be exactly what you get out of it.

Below is a simple yet delicious smoked salmon recipe that I use to smoke all my fish.

Preparing the Fish
After filleting the fish decide whether you want to leave the fish in whole fillets or single serving size pieces. I chunk my fillets into a size appropriate to serve several people, so we can pull it out of the freezer as we need it.

The pin bones can easily be removed from the fillet with a set of needle nose pliers or pin bone pliers. Pine bone pliers can be purchased online at Amazon.com or at most Metropolitan markets located in the Seattle area. At the end of the drying process the pin bones protrude from the flesh making them a little easier to pull out of the fish.

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There are literally hundreds of different recipes for smoking salmon, most of which turn out a great tasting product in the end. This is a very simple recipe that I picked up years ago from a friend that produces some of the best smoked salmon I’ve ever eaten.

Ingredients
-1 Cup Brown Sugar (dark brown sugar works great, too!)
-1 Cup Coarse Kosher Salt
-1 Cup White Sugar
-3 Quarts of Water

Combine the above ingredients in a plastic container or non-metallic mixing bowl. To make the ingredients dissolve more readily I use hot tap water and then allow the mixture to cool completely before adding the fish to it. Also, be sure the salt you use for the brine is non-iodized. Iodized salt produces a metallic taste in the fish. For large quantities of salmon I place the brine and fish in a 5 gallon bucket and place it in a cooler full of ice overnight.

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Kosher salt is highly refined which makes it dissolve quickly and absorb more readily into the fish. Because of how it’s refined it’s also a lot less “salty” than other forms of salt. Depending upon your taste you can also add garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon pepper, cracked black pepper, Worstershire Sauce, and just about anything else you can imagine to this recipe. I prefer to keep the brine simple and then add either cracked pepper or jalapeño slices to the fish at the end of the brining process.

Now that the brine is dissolved and ready place the salmon in the brine meat-side down and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. For a large load of salmon I’ll place it in a clean 5 gallon bucket that will then go in a cooler full of ice where it stays overnight.

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Aside from the brine, the next step in this process is probably the most important in assuring your fish turns out great.

After removing the fish from the brine place it on the smoker racks and allow it to air dry until the surface is tacky-dry. If you spray a little non-stick on your smoker racks the fish will come off the racks nicely when it’s done smoking. During the drying period a glaze, also known as a pellicle, will form on the surface of the fish trapping the brine and fish oils within the meat. A fan can be used to speed up this process.

The Smoker
There are several commercially produced smokers on the market that work great for smoking fish. You’ll find smokers that use propane as a heat source and others that use an electric element to burn the chips and heat the unit. The smoker I use is an electric Masterbuilt with digital-controlled heat and time settings.

If I’m smoking smaller salmon like silvers I’ll cold smoke the fish at 110 degrees for two hours and then finish it at 170 degrees for two more hours. For larger pieces of king salmon the cold smoke time will stay the same but I’ll jack up the cooking time to closer to three hours or more until the fish is finished.

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For safety reasons, you should always plan on placing the smoker a safe distance from anything combustible and don’t plan on smoking fish on your wooden deck.

Alder, apple, and cherry chips are all sold commercially by companies like Brinkman and Little Chief. Alder is definitely my first choice when it comes to smoking fish.

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Smoking the Fish
Since the fish is already on the racks all you have to do now is slide the fish in your Masterbuilt smoker and turn the smoker on. For a load of silver salmon I’ll set the smoker at 110 degrees for two hours and I’ll add one tray of alder chips during that time. Once the cold-smoke process is complete I’ll crank the smoker up to 170 degrees for two more hours and by the end of this time the salmon is usually cooked to perfection. If you want a little drier fish you can extend the cooking time. For king salmon I keep the cold smoke time the same but extend the cooking process to three or even four hours depending on how thick the fillets are.

I just started adding jalapeño pepper slices to my salmon and absolutely the flavor and spice it brings to the fish. If you like a little heat I recommend giving this a try…it is AWESOME!

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Packaging the Smoked Fish

If you want to store your smoked fish in the freezer you’ll want to use a vacuum sealer like a Food Saver to package the fish. After the fish is sealed be sure to write the date and the species of fish on the package.

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Once you’ve mastered this process, however, you’ll find that the fish rarely even makes it to the freezer!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Try this Ram Mount for Field Photos

I find myself hunting solo quite a bit and I’m always looking for a new gizmo to help capture the moment. Ram Mount’s manufactures a slick X-Grip to hold a cell phone and a one inch ball adapter that will screw directly into a camera tripod, or in my case, the tripod from my Vortex spotting scope.

The camera on the new iPhone 7 comes with a timer feature that makes it easy to set this up for a big game photo in the field. When I’m hunting I nearly always have this spotting scope and tripod with me and if I don’t then I’m packing a small tripod that fits easily in my pack.

Field Photos with a Ram Mount

I brought it along on a recent field trip with our oldest daughter and it worked great. When your not using this X Grip in the field it can be used in your truck or boat to keep your phone right where you need it. This X Grip will eventually be mounted on the dash of my charter boat in Alaska to keep my phone from rolling around on the dash of the boat.

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If this Ram Mount doesn’t work for you the’ve got around 5,000 configurations of mounts for your phone, tablet, marine electronics, etc.. I’ve got another Ram Mount in my jet boat that holds a Lowrance HDS 7. When I don’t need the Lowrance unit I can take the mount and unit off the boat entirely or swing it out of the way. It can be adjusted infinitely for viewing anywhere on the boat.

I’m not aware of any other mounting system that offers so much flexibility. The mount in my jet boat has been in the rain for three years now and it still looks like it came right out of the box.

If you’re interested in picking up a Ram Mount for yourself or for someone else for Christmas they’ve got a special 10% off offer for Outdoor Line listeners that’s going on thru the end of December. Click on the link below to get your discount:

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Thanks for stopping by and good luck on your next outdoor adventure!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Daddy Daycare with Can Am, Camp Chef, and Grilled Cheese!

Yesterday I picked up our oldest daughter Ava from school with the Can Am Outlander 6 x 6 in tow and fully loaded with all the fixin’s for an quick afternoon adventure into the woods of the Kitsap Peninsula.

The mission at hand was to teach her five things about the outdoors – pine cones, fir trees, ferns, salal, and some interesting rocks. The bridge between adventure and learning would be a fun ride on this beast-of-a-machine Outlander 6 x 6 along with grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cider off our new Camp Chef Rainier Campers Combo stove.

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Shortly after launching the Can Am mothership we were blasting thru huge mud puddles in search of a nice spot for a picnic. It’s essentially been pouring rain non-stop here for the last couple of weeks and there was no shortage of water on the trails and roads where we were riding.

ava_6x6_webAfter finding a spot to hunker down for a bit I had the pre-made grilled cheese sandwiches (her fave!) on the stove in short order. I bought this stove because it comes with the griddle which makes it nice for cooking grilled cheese, pancakes, bacon, etc.. It’s a great piece of equipment for making adventures afield fun for the kids!

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Ava’s no stranger to this stove. We use it quite a bit at home for “camping” on our back deck and it now resides permanently in my river sled. Packing it along in this ATV was a no-brainer!

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It took all of five to ten minutes to whip up the samiches and warm up some cider in the coffee pot. One advantage to this stove is that I don’t have to cart along an extra frying pan. The griddle can also be replaced by a grill for cooking burgers, steaks, and hot dogs and it all packs nicely in a carrying case.

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Thankfully Mother Nature gave us a rare sunny afternoon here in the Pacific Northwest to blast outside for this quick adventure. After a grilled cheese sammy and a few shots of hot cider Ava was all fired up to learn a few things about the outdoors.

I have to reset myself sometimes to look at the small things in nature instead of searching for big game, big fish, and big everything. For a four-and-a-half year old that can be kind of daunting. This was the perfect opportunity to do that!

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After jumping up and down in a few mud puddles and horsing around a bit we spent some time looking at the different plants that grow in our area. It’s winter and there’s not many bugs or frogs around, so today plants were the go-to item and of course a couple of interesting rocks.

We talked about how pine cones become fir trees, checked out some ferns and salal brush, and looked at a bunch of rocks until we found some interesting ones. One, in particular, looked like a dinosaur tooth. It took a grand total of fifteen minutes to scope out a few items in Mother Nature’s treasure chest, just the right amount of time for a four and a half year old’s attention span.

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This morning at breakfast Ava was sitting at the table telling us how the pine cones fall to the ground and become fir trees. I figure I only have around nine more years with her until I become her idiot dad that knows nothing. That may not be far from the truth, but at least for now we can have some fun together. I’d say this adventure was a successful one!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle   

Three Top Gear Combo’s for Puget Sound Winter Blackmouth

By Rob Endsley

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.Luhr Jensen Coyote "Green Crush" Flasher - Ace Hi Fly Combo

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.

Ace Hi "Needlefish" Rigged with 3/0 Mustad Ultrapoint Hooks - Photo by Rob Endsley

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!

San Juan Islands Blackmouth with a "Blue Crush" flasher - Photo by Rob Endsley

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.

Coyote Flasher and Coho Killer Combo - Figure by Rob Endsley

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.

Adding Custom Bends to a Coho Killer - photo by Rob Endsley

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.

Coho Killer Spoon - photo by Rob Endsley

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.

Coho Killer spoon with small herring - photo by Rob Endsley

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.

Coyote Flasher/Kingfisher spoon combo - photo by Rob Endsley

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 with a 16 pound blackmouth caught opening day 2016 on Possession Bar - Photo by Les Jacober

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!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Two Hunting Products That Have Helped Me Tag Out

By Rob Endsley

Here’s a couple of outstanding products that have helped my hunting tremendously the last few years:

KUIU Binocular Harness

A few years ago I started shopping around for a new binocular harness that was durable, easy to use, lightweight, and compact. I found that with KUIU’s binocular harness. I live in Washington State and most of my hunting occurs in the west where we don’t think twice about scrambling up mountains and ridges after big game.

As advertised this bino harness fits tight to my chest and does a fairly good job of keeping the rain off my binoculars. If it’s really coming down sideways I’ll pull the rain cover over the harness. Most of the time I don’t need to do that though. If you hunt here in Washington you’ll spend quite a few days in the rain.

Here’s a quick video from Jason Hairston of KUIU that shows how the binocular harness works:

Primos Trigger Stick

I originally purchased the Primos Bi-pod Trigger Stick and had great luck with it. On a particularly windy day a few years back in the blacktail woods, however, I couldn’t hold the crosshairs steady for a standing shot at a buck around 150 yards away. The wind was howling and even with the rifle resting firmly on the bipod the crosshairs were waving all over the place. The second I returned home I jumped on the Primos website and found that they had just released a new tripod version of their Trigger Stick.

I immediately purchased the Jim Shockey Tall Tripod and it’s helped put several deer in our freezer now. Here’s a quick video that shows how it works and there are plenty more videos on YouTube for this product.

The only drawbacks I’ve found with the tripod version is that it’s a little heavier to lug around and if you’re in a stalking situation be sure to keep the rubber strap around the bottom of the legs. If they catch on the brush and then come back together quickly they make a clanging noise thats no bueno. Keeping the strap cinched tightly around the legs alleviates that problem. Because of the added weight I probably wouldn’t take it with me on extreme hunts into the backcountry when shaving pounds and even ounces off a pack is critical. It’s always along on day hunts or hunts where I’m using an ATV for transportation though.

Other than those two minor details the trigger stick has worked flawlessly for me. I’ve hunted with it in -25 below zero temperatures in Montana and driving rain in Washington and it’s worked every time. Learn how to operate this piece of equipment and I promise you it will help you make those difficult shots in the field a lot more do-able.

Thanks for checking in and good hunting to you!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Blacktail Success – Reading the Sign

By Rob Endsley

Blacktails will drive you to madness!

For starters they live in the dense jungle known as the Pacific Northwest rainforest. Chest-high salal brush, re-prod, salmonberry’s, alder thickets, and some of the deepest, darkest pockets of timber you can imagine is what you’ll find in blacktail country. And you can expect rain and lots of it. The rain is punishing at times.

One minute they are right there in broad daylight and half a second later they are gone, never to be seen again. A study printed in Northwest Sportsman magazine several years ago concluded that lowland blacktails in Western Washington live in about a two square Kilometer area. They don’t migrate long distances and they know every stick, stump, bush, rock, and brush-tunnel in their environment.

I start every season by tromping around the open country of Okanogan County in Eastern Washington hoping to spot a big buck from a mile away and then move in for the shot. When that doesn’t happen, and it usually doesn’t, I head home to Gig Harbor and mentally prepare myself for hunting jungle blacktails on the Olympic Peninsula.

That mental preparation is what helped me this year. It kept from from quitting and saying to heck with blacktails.

On day one of my blacktail mis-adventure it was a balmy 61 degrees and I didn’t see a single deer. What I did see though were rubs, a lot of rubs, and fresh tracks and sign everywhere. That led me to believe they were still nocturnal. It was October 24th and I knew that my best chance wasn’t until the end of the general season on Halloween or perhaps the late hunt the third week of November.

I had focused my attention on some of the more open clear cuts on day one so I shifted to the re-prod on day two, thinking the deer might be opting for a little more cover. That hunch turned up three does and a bunch more sign. Since I seemed to be onto something I checked a rather large clearcut that was around seven or eight years old and full or re-prod. My brief scouting mission into that cut turned up a bunch of rubs that were less than a day old. It was mid day and temp’s were again around 60 degrees so I headed home.

On day three I awoke to pounding rain on the roof of our home. This is one of the many reasons why blacktail hunting is so brutal here in Western Washington. You can plan on your binoculars and scope being fogged up and covered in rain drops non-stop all day long and even with the finest rain gear you’ll be soaking wet. On this particular morning it was coming down in sheets. I’m not gonna lie, dragging myself out of the sack was tough that morning.

I made my way to the edge of the clearcut with the fresh rubs around twenty minutes before shooting light and sat atop a large mound that overlooked a good portion of the cut. It was POURING down rain. I turned off my headlamp and sat in the darkness wondering what the hell I was doing there.

As it began to get light I started glassing the reprod for signs of life. I keep my binocs holstered in a  KUIU binocular harness that helps to keep them dry a little, but I was still having to use a paper towel that I stuffed in a pocket before I left the house on the lenses.

After twenty to thirty minutes or so I decided to move to another mound in the cut that overlooked a series of draws. That’s where the freshest rubs were the day before and I was hoping maybe the decreased light level from the black dinge overhead would keep that buck out in the open a few minutes longer.

Slowly creeping up to that mound I noticed two white spots in the salal brush in the distance on the other side of a draw. I skipped the binoculars entirely and quickly set up my Primos Trigger Stickknowing darn well that I might have two seconds to get a shot if it was indeed a buck.

I popped the scope covers off and settled the rifle into the notch on the stick and quickly determined that it was a decent blacktail buck in the salal brush. The white spots were the tip of his nose and his throat patch.

I had merely peeked my head over the edge of the mound and he was already onto me. Without time to range the animal I cranked my Leupold up to it’s full magnification, settled the crosshairs just behind his shoulder, took a breath to gather myself, and slowly and evenly squeezed the Accutrigger.

My .300 Winnie barked and the muzzle break was so full of water that it looked like I had just fired a shot from a muzzleloader. A massive cloud of steam completely blocked my sight from the buck. I caught a glimpse of him struggling to make his way to the timber and then he was gone. Pulling out my range finder I quickly determined where he was standing was only 127 yards away. I knew the shot was right on the money and I also knew that finding a blacktail in chest high salal brush and timber in the pouring down rain was going to be a challenge. I’ve taken a lot of deer over the years and here I was trembling over a blacktail that would never make any record book.

I made my way to where the buck went into the brush and started walking a grid back and forth in the salal and huckleberries. The rain cranked up another notch and I was nearly drowning. After around fifteen minutes of working a back-and-forth grid I could see his rump underneath some brush ahead of me. The shot had hit him exactly where I aimed and he’d still managed to travel around 40 yards before falling to the 165 grain Barnes X.Washington Blacktail - Rob Endsley - The Outdoor Line

It was a nice, mature 2 x 3 that wouldn’t make any magazine covers but I didn’t care. These lowland blacktails are as challenging a critter to hunt as you’ll find here in the west and the countless days I’ve spent studying them had payed off once again.

I put my tag on him, field dressed him, and slogged my way back to the Can Am 6 x 6 parked over a mile away. Lifestyles Can-Am in Mount Vernon, Washington loaned me this rig for the hunting season. The general manager there told me “this ATV will take you places you shouldn’t be”. He was right. It’s six wheel drive, has a 700 pound dump bed, and 1,000 cc’s to power up and over just about anything that stands in it’s way. It’s simply a killer rig for hunting!rob_2016_5_web

Take Away’s from This Hunt:

Reading the Sign

I used the first two days as more of a scouting mission. The sight of fresh rubs and tracks everywhere led me to believe there were plenty of blacktails in the area but they were feeding and moving at night. This is classic blacktail behavior and the odds of seeing some animals would get better as the season approached Halloween and the rut started to heat up. If it didn’t happen before then I could count on something on the late hunt in November when sixty percent of the blacktails are harvested in Washington.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Hunting mule deer in open country means you’ll probably see some animals every day and sometimes a lot of animals. Even if you can’t get close enough for a shot at least you know they are there. With blacktail hunting I’d say that at least half the time you won’t see a darned thing. It’s all about the sign though. If you can find fresh rubs, tracks, and droppings and can stick around until the rut starts to heat up you’ll have a much greater chance of success. Don’t get me wrong. I get as discouraged and frustrated as anyone. I know how these critters operate though and that’s what keeps me going back. If you’re patient and keep working the sign eventually you’ll get an opportunity.

The blacktail I took this year wasn’t in the rut yet and I had him butchered into boneless steaks and hamburger that our family will enjoy for the next year. If you tag out with a nice buck this year don’t hesitate to post a quick photo on the Outdoor Line forums.

Thanks for checking in and good hunting to you!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle 

It’s Here – Daiwa Lexa Line Counter!

By Rob Endsley

lexa_line_counter

Daiwa’s new Lexa 300 line counter is a compact powerhouse that will put plenty of salmon, steelhead, and tuna in the boat here in the Pacific Northwest. With the Lexa’s buttery smooth Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag anglers can finesse a big steelhead or walleye on light line or slam the breaks on a running Chinook or albacore. It also makes it a great all around reel for Pacific Northwest guides that make the seasonal switch from salmon and steelhead to walleye.

With 22 pounds of drag you can do just about anything with this reel. Saltwater salmon, ling cod, and tuna suddenly become fair game with this low profile reel.

The Lexa 300 line counter holds 240 pounds of 40 pound braid and is equipped with a  braid-ready spool with cutouts for tying off braid. No more wrapping electrical tape around the spool or backing with monofilament to keep the braid from spinning on the spool.

Most line counters are built with trolling in mind but this one also has Magforce cast control which makes casting a breeze. This makes for quick redeployment of the gear when the bite is on.

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The line counter on the Lexa 300 is centered and the numbers are easy to read. The reel also comes with Daiwa’s “Swept Handle” that places the paddle closer to the rod.

Daiwa also has plans for a Lexa 400 line counter slated for release next year. That reel will very likely end up as mooching reel on my charter boat in Southeast Alaska.

The other nice thing about the new Lexa line counter is that you can find it in both left and right handed versions and two gear ratios, 5.5:1 and 6.3:1.

As of this blog very limited supplies of the new Lexa 300 line counter have been shipped to retailers and you won’t even find it on Daiwa’s website. They will retail at around $199 and expect to see them in stores sometime in early November. Definitely worth the wait!

Rob Endsley
The Outdoor Line
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.

tunnel

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.

tiller

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