Catch More Kokanee with these Useful Tips

Kokanee are one of the best eating fish to catch-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With temperatures finally starting to warm up it’s time to pull the boat out of winter storage and rig the rods for kokanee!

These tasty landlocked Sockeye are already starting to fill stringers on many Eastern Washington lakes and Southwest Washington reservoirs. Here are a few tips that have put a lot of Kokanee in my boat over the years.

Specialty rods that are limber will increase landed fish-Jason Brooks

Fishing rods need to be specific to this fishery. A 7 ½ foot rod with an ultra-light action is needed to help keep the fish hooked. Kokanee have exceptionally soft mouths and a fast-action rod will usually pull the hook free. Not only should you use lightweight rods, but also spool the reel with 8 or 10-pound test monofilament which will stretch and helps land more fish. The 8 foot Daiwa DXSK802L Kokanee trolling rod is an excellent choice for a this and so is it’s little brother the 7’6″ DXSK762L.

Dodgers and mini-squids are a top producing combo-Jason Brooks

Dodgers and lures need to be “teamed up” for the day’s fishing. The Double D dodger by Mack’s lure along with a Cha Cha mini-squid is a top Kokanee set-up. When using the 9 inch dodger shorten the leader to 8-12 inches to impart some whipping action on the fly or squid behind it. For the smaller 4 inch dodgers I like to pair them up with a Double Whammy wedding ring spinner and a longer leader of 24 inches. Both of these set-ups are designed to be used at slow speed, around 1 mph, which is about perfect for early season Kokanee fishing. Later in the year kick up your speeds to 1.5 mph and switch to a Sling Blade style dodger.

Shoepeg Corn  with added scents tipped on any lure increases bites-Jason Brooks

Corn is a must! White Shoepeg corn for some reason is an absolute must for Kokanee fishing. Corn naturally has a lot of oil in it and attracts Kokanee. To increase your bites substantially though soak your corn overnight in Pro-Cure bait oils along with some Wizard Kokanee Killer Korn Magic which toughens the corn and adds bite stimulates.

Kokanee are sensitive to sunlight, fish deep on bright days-Jason Brooks

Kokanee are very light sensitive. On bright sunny days you will find the fish at deeper depths and it is easier to locate fish during the early morning hours before the direct sunlight hits the water. On cloudy days the fish will be closer to the surface. Downriggers help keep your gear at the right depth once you find the fish.

New from Brad’s is the Kokanee Cut Plug-Jason Brooks

Try something new! Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear have come out with a smaller “Kokanee” cut plug. Just like the bigger versions, they are a hinged plug that allows you to fill the cavity with scents and come rigged with tandem red hooks. You can also get a two pack of un-rigged plugs. The one thing that these baits allow you to do is fish different speeds as they work well from the slower early-season fishing to the faster speeds that work better when the water warms up. These plugs can be fished bare or trailing 36 inches behind a dodger or in-line flasher.

Lake Chelan and Lake Roosevelt are already on fire for Kokanee and it won’t be long before the some of the top lakes in Western Washington start heating up for Kokes. It’s been a long winter and I’m pretty excited to get out there and test out some new Kokanee gear that’s been piling up on my fishing work bench!

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line – Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

5 Quick Tips for Trophy Steelhead

Rob Endsley with a Trophy Steelhead

by Jason Brooks

Big wild steelhead are starting to show in our Northwest rivers. This means it’s time to go fishing folks. Here are five quick tips to make your trip better.

Use bigger gear to fight bigger fish-Jason Brooks

  1. Upsize your gear – Once you set the hook and realize you have a big steelhead it’s nice to know you can handle that fish and fight it to the bank. Use heavier mainlines and leaders as well as a stout rod. This helps you land the fish as well as release a fish that isn’t exhausted.

Pink worms are very effective for big fish-Jason Brooks

  1. Forget the Bait –  Instead of using bait which tends to cause higher mortality, switch to other tactics such as spoons, plugs, spinners, rubber worms and beads.

Scents attract fish as well as cover unwanted smells-Jason Brooks

  1. Use Scent – Bait gets swallowed but scent attracts fish to your gear and helps cover any unwanted smells. Apply Pro-Cure Super Gel to leaders, weights, and swivels and soak yarnies in Pro-Cure bait oils. Yarnies can be just as effective as bait and wild steelhead won’t swallow them.

Bobber dogging is an great way to increase your catch rate-Jason Brooks

  1. Learn to Bobberdog – This technique allows you to fish all different kinds of water without making adjustments. It is simple, you’ll lose less gear, and it’s highly effective. Hawken Fishing makes an entire line of Aero Floats designed specifically for bobber-dogging. Spend some time learning this technique and you’ll be able to easily target trophy steelhead holding water. 

Ted Schuman admires a trophy steelhead about to be released-Jason Brooks

  1. Take a Camera – Big fish are in our rivers and if you land that “fish of a lifetime” then take the time to snap a few photographs to preserve the memories. Remember to keep the fish in the water until the camera is ready.

Jason Brooks – Outdoor Line Blogger
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Next Hunting Season Starts Now

Kyle Hurst with his Idaho Mule Deer-Jason Brooks

Kyle Hurst with his Idaho Mule Deer-Jason Brooks

Tips for Becoming a Successful Deer Hunter

by Jason Brooks

With most deer season’s winding down and and folks updating their social media sites with “success” photos some might find themselves asking, “How are certain people so successful and other’s only find a buck, any buck, every few years?”. I am often asked this same question and what it comes down to is lifestyle. Those that live to hunt also hunt to live. Making eating venison a priority in their life. Ryan Lampers, of Ray’s Baits, is one of these guys, and so is his family. Ryan is a very successful hunter and he explained on The Outdoor Line radio show a few weeks ago that the primary reason he is so successful is because hunting is a lifestyle. Lampers lives, eats, and breaths hunting.

A Montana Late Season Sunset-Rob Endsley

A Montana Late Season Sunset-Rob Endsley

Rob Endsley and I were talking about hunting and how it drives the way we live. Both of us agreeing that preparing for next year’s deer season starts the day after this year’s season ends. Endsley spends a lot of time scouring maps and a lot of time on Google Earth. Pouring over data, success rates, public lands, and access to public lands is what successful game plans are all about. This leads him to new hunting grounds and a higher success rate than the “average Joe”. A willingness to hunt new places, and even other states, will force your to learn new areas, migration routes, herd management, and deer behavior. All of this leads to becoming a better hunter.

Scouting, and learning new areas lead to successful hunts-Jason Brooks

Scouting, and learning new areas lead to successful hunts-Jason Brooks

My main hunting partners, Chad and Kyle Hurst, also subscribe to the “hunter’s lifestyle” and make wild game a staple in their diet. Kyle is one of those hunters I describe as a “machine”. A guy who puts physical fitness as well as dietary essentials as a main focus of how he lives. It showed this past fall when we flew into Idaho’s backcountry. Kyle hiked nearly 39 miles in five days and packed meat on three of those days. The last evening of our trip he heard about a hot springs three miles upriver, which he jogged to.

Kyle Hurst with a high country buck-Jason Brooks

Kyle Hurst with a high country buck-Kyle Hurst

Luckily, we don’t have to be in “super-human” physical shape like Kyle or Ryan, though it does help immensely. Back to how Rob and I prepare for our hunts. By expanding your hunting areas and knowledge you increase your chances at success. Of course I prefer to hunt from my deer camp in my home state of Washington, and I have taken some nice bucks over the years there, but on an average day in Washington I might see three or four bucks. In Idaho I see around ten to fifteen a day. Even then, the “caliber” of bucks is no comparison. In Idaho I passed up bucks until the last afternoon, always looking for “Mr. Big”, and let go several four points that were in the 140-150 inch class. In Washington I rarely pass up any legal buck.

Chad Hurst packing out an Idaho buck he killed 5 miles from camp-Jason Brooks

Chad Hurst packing out an Idaho buck he killed 5 miles from camp-Jason Brooks

This brings us to the measure of “success”. I talk to a lot of hunters, some who brag about their big bucks, as they should, but also frown on those that take barely legal bucks. Then there are the hunters who draw a doe permit and get stoked at filling the freezer. The measure of success is an individual decision. Personally, I still get excited to get a doe with my muzzleloader or bow as much as shooting a buck with my rifle.

Adam Brooks with his first deer, a muley doe, and a successful hunt-Jason Brooks

Adam Brooks with his first deer, a muley doe, and a successful hunt-Jason Brooks

In Idaho this year I wanted a “monster” buck but on the last afternoon of my hunt I ended up taking one of the smallest legal bucks I found on my entire trip. I was thankful for the deer, as I wanted the meat more than the antlers. Plus, I was able to hunt the entire week, given an opportunity at any moment to find my “buck of a lifetime” and enjoying the week in the mountains. This was a total success and at any time I could have shot the buck of a lifetime.

When we got home both Chad and Kyle took their four point racks and put them into the pile in their garage again reminding me that it is the hunt that drives them and their hunt-to-live, live-to-hunt lifestyle.

Most big game seasons are coming to an end right now, but next season is just beginning. Make a pact with yourself to do your homework and up your game between now and next fall. Spend some time studying maps, Google Earth, game department data, and online forums. Become overly proficient with your bow, muzzleloader, or rifle and get yourself in shape. If you’re a weekend warrior then make those weekends count!

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer 

The Washington Tuna Classic 2016

Tuna fishing is a little like getting bit by a tick: It gets under your skin and you hope you don’t get the “disease”…

If it weren’t for my former on-air partner, Seattle Seahawk Pro-Bowler Robbie Tobeck and SaltPatrol.com’s John Keizer, my tuna condition would likely have not progressed from acute through chronic to terminal. However, my condition has now degenerated to advanced bait tank installations and after running my Weldcraft for the first time out of Westport over the Grays Harbor Bar I’ve now been observed by my wife ordering extra rod holders and cedar plugs on line. Terminal dude…Terminal.

Like others that suffer from a debilitating condition, it’s often helpful to seek comfort in the company of others with a similar affliction. So it should come as no surprise that a support group meeting should be in order. In this case the “support group” is known as the Washington Tuna Classic where nearly 70 angling teams seek to feed their addiction and feed others by donating all fish caught in this event to Northwest Harvest and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Preparing for a tuna run is a bit of an undertaking with fuel, ice and live anchovies and getting ready for a tuna tourney adds quite a bit to the equation. Regardless, the successful offshore run starts with a pile of preparation the evening before.

The evening before the Washington Tuna Classic the boat is in the harbor, fueled, iced and in tuna mode!

Dusk (Small)

After we pick up our load of live bait, we wait on the starting line for our check-in with Washington Tuna Classic Tournament Control and we’re underway!

5 (Small)

35 miles offshore, we drop the outriggers get  the gear down and get to searching for birds and jumpers.

TunaModeF (Small)

Having the bait tank in the middle of the deck is a huge advantage and allows a quick conversion from trolling to a vertical presentation with live bait and jigs!

TunaModeA (Small)

We managed to convert one of our trolling bites to a bait stop, ending up with five tuna on board. Heading into the weigh-in dock, it sounded like the entire fleet experienced tough fishing conditions and an even tougher tuna bite!

WeighIn (2) (Small)

Our five albacore put us on the board and we were hoping for a top ten finish among the 70 angling teams competing in this event! Left to right, Team Evinrude is Robbie Tobeck, John Keizer, myself and Donald Auman.

WeighIn (1) (Small)

At the Award Ceremony, MC’d very expertly by Kevin Lanier, the leaderboard was revealed and Team Evinrude ended up with a 9th place finish with our five fish bag of 103.70 pounds!

KOTC (Small)

The 2016 Washington Tuna Classic Champs are team Reel Broke with a total of 127.38 pounds of tuna!

1TeamReel Broke (Small)

Of course, no WTC podium would be complete without Mark Coleman’s Team All Rivers & Saltwater Charters and they finished a strong second with 125.5 pounds!

2ARSC (Small)

A big thanks to Mitch King and all of the volunteers that make the Washington Tuna Classic the great event that it has become! 

Also, if it weren’t for John Keizer, Robbie Tobeck and Donald Auman we would not have enjoyed the success we experienced during this event. It was the first time that I had run my boat offshore for tuna and I’m fairly certain it won’t be the last.

The only way to ensure that you won’t get infected by the tuna disease is to stay inland and not venture out into the warm, cobalt blue water, far beyond…

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

Buoy 10!

Jason Humbly of Pro-Cure with a Buoy 10 King

Jason Humbly of Pro-Cure with a Buoy 10 King

Good bait and perseverance will pay off when it comes to salmon fishing, especially Buoy 10 fishing. It all started the night before our trip as Jason Hambly put a few empty jars into the kitchen sink. He then stuffed them with herring and poured in some rock salt. There was no need for any tap water, frowned upon anyways due to chlorine and fluoride treatments, but instead he filled the jars with Pro-Cure’s Brine ‘n Bite Complete. One jar had Chartreuse-the other three with Natural-but in one of those he added a few droppers of Anise Oil.

Plug Cut Herring cured in Pro-Cure Brine 'n Bite Natural

Plug Cut Herring cured in Pro-Cure Brine ‘n Bite Natural

After a night in the cure it was time to fish. The morning was rough, both in water conditions and in fishing. First heading to the Washington side after launching in Astoria, Oregon we began our troll. Yakima Bait Company’s “Big Al’s Fish Flash” trailing a 16-ounce dropper that we kept close to the sandy bottom. Behind the in-line flasher were those Brine ‘n Bite Complete cured herring-plug cut by Hambly-and rigged on tandem 3/0 hooks.

Early morning calm at Buoy 10

Early morning calm at Buoy 10

The morning was cloudy and the winds calmed for a bit as the tide went slack. For just a little while it was nice out, and calm. But still very few fish being caught. So we motored over to the Oregon side.

Waves and wind kicked up with the tide change while passing cargo ships

Waves and wind kicked up with the tide change while passing cargo ships

Passing anchored cargo ships we started picking up a few bites. My son Ryan got the first fish of the day, a small Chinook but it was perfect for him to reel in.

Ryan Brooks with the first Chinook of the day

Ryan Brooks with the first Chinook of the day

Next up was Dave Dunsterville, a friend from Vancouver, British Columbia. But his fish was a small Tule and back into the Columbia it went.

A small Tule that was tossed back into the Columbia

A small Tule that was tossed back into the Columbia

After a few hours Hambly switched to the Anise scented herring and hooked a giant Chinook. He fought it hard to the boat as Dave was able to get the net under it.

Jason Humbly with a nice Up  River Bright Chinook that fell for Anise Oil infused into the plug cut herring

Jason Humbly with a nice Up River Bright Chinook that fell for Anise Oil infused into the plug cut herring

A couple passes later and finally it was my time to fight a Buoy 10 Chinook, this one also couldn’t resist the Anise in Brine ‘n Bite Natural.

The author and his son with a Buoy 10 Chinook of his own

The author and his son with a Buoy 10 Chinook of his own

We fished for 10 hours and all of our fish came on the second tide change of the day. Most of the other boats had already left the fishing grounds several hours before we even hooked our first fish. Even at the end of the day our herring was still firm and bright. By changing up colors, scents and adding a few additional scents we found what combination was wanted by the fish on this tough conditions day. Good brined bait and perseverance pays off, especially at Buoy 10 where you can be rewarded with a huge Upriver Bright Chinook like Hambly’s.

Having several scents along and good brined herring that last in the turbulent waters of  Buoy 10 leads to success

Having several scents along and good brined herring that last in the turbulent waters of Buoy 10 leads to success

Destination Villa del Palmar at Loreto, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

The Baja Peninsula of Mexico is home to Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, Swordfish, Roosterfish, Grouper, Cabrera and many other species that anglers often include on their ultimate fishing “bucket list” but the Dorado with its deep blue and bright green colors, unique rounded head and long dorsal fin is what drew me to Loreto, a small town of the Baja region. I was invited with a few other writers to attend the very first Villa del Palmar Resort’s Dorado tournament held on July 1st and 2nd.

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

My first impression of Loreto was the very small airport only an hour and a half flight from Los Angeles, California. Stepping off of the Boeing 737 and onto the tarmac there is no breezeway but instead a short stroll into the one gateway airport. This area of Mexico welcomes Americans and I noticed that a lot of the other passengers were families mostly comprised of grandparents, mom’s and dad’s and kids.

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

A thirty-minute shuttle ride through the hot desert along the bays and coves of the Sea of Cortez in the shadows of steep volcanic mountains led us to Villa del Palmar resort on Danzante bay. Waters that are turquois blue with red and orange rock outcroppings and of course tall green cactus. The resort owns thousands of acres of the surrounding area and includes a world class golf course.

Manta Ray's jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Manta Ray’s jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Upon arrival I met with Alejandro Watson and Ignacio Gomez, who I later ended up talking with about our families and learning we have a lot in common. We were also introduced to Zayra our hostess and hospitality guide. A quick tour of the grounds, with its multiple swimming pools, hot tub, three world class restaurants, and a large white sandy beach. The resort also offers a full service spa, two tennis courts, a mini-market for those forgotten items and an arcade for the teenagers. I again noticed that this resort was not a party atmosphere like those resorts in Cabo San Lucas or other Baja destinations. Alejandro and Ignacio make sure Villa del Palmar is a family place, where you can bring the kids and let them play on the beach or check out one of the mountain bikes while you go fishing.

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

The following morning, I was again on the shuttle to the Port of Escondido where I met the crew of the 34 foot “Mad Dash” a cruiser that we would be fishing from once the Dorado tournament began. Sure I was hoping to catch a Dorado myself, but my “job” was to cover the tournament and experience everything Villa del Palmar at Loreto has to offer.

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The first thing I noticed was how calm the waters were around the local Islands in the Sea of Cortez. It wasn’t until we hit the open ocean that we encountered some rollers and minor winds waves.

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Our Captain informed us that the water temperatures were still a little cold for the Dorado and they were just starting to show up, so after we trolled for a bit we headed for a waypoint on his GPS plotter for some bottom fishing. Soon we were into Grouper and Cabrera, both of which are excellent eating fish and the resort will cook for your dinner if you want to bring the catch back with you. Before we knew it we had to head to port to cover the action on the returning boats of the tournament.

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

When we got back to port I met up with Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com and he had an adventure to tell. A day of Roosterfish, Striped Marlin and a Hammerhead Shark! He was fishing in one of the “Panga’s” a small boat that resembles a Salty. A few other boats showed up and a couple of Dorado were caught, a good start to the tournament.

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Day two found me hanging around the Villa del Palmar resort. After a round of golf and a late breakfast at the club house I headed for Danzante Bay in a kayak. I met up with Joe Andrews who was visiting the resort with his family. He said that he has been coming here for a few years and always packs a rod. Using a simple slip weight system and some shrimp he talked one of the cooks out of at the mornings breakfast he said he has landed over 100 Trigger fish in the past two days right in front of the resort. Later that night I met Rene Olinger who moved to Loreto and started Baja Peninsula Adventures  (http://www.bajapeninsulatours.com) which rents Hobie fishing kayaks in town and offers tours as well as fishing.

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Loreto, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula is a destination for the angler, or for a family with an angler that wants it all. Villa del Palmar resort ( http://www.villadelpalmarloreto.com ) offers hiking trails, mountain biking, golf, snorkeling, wine and tequila tasting, fishing packages, and most of all relaxing on the beach or by the pool with world class food and very big and clean rooms and a few condo units with a kitchen. If you have ever thought of a Baja adventure but were a little hesitant I highly recommend looking at Villa del Palmar and also take a shuttle into town and allow Rene to show you around and take a kayak out into the calm waters.

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

Chelan Falls Summer Kings

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks

Chelan Falls Summer Kings-by Jason Brooks

Summer is heating up and as July keeps rolling along the Chinook keep climbing the fish ladders at the dams along the Columbia River. That is until they hit the cold water being spilled from Lake Chelan. A fairly new fishery for Upper Columbia summer Chinook are fish returning to the net pens located at the base of the outfall from the power plant where water is flushed from a large pipe and a trickle from the Chelan gorge into the warm waters of the Columbia. This area is known as the Chelan Falls fishery.

Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks

Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks

Early morning is without doubt prime time. The summer sun shines very bright here and it seems to turn the bite off along with the heat that goes along with it causing anglers to want to head to the local swimming hole instead of the fishing hole.

Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks

Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks

Most fish are caught in pre-dawn hours until the sun hits the water around 7:00 in the morning. This is a shallow water fishery with the bottom being around 25 to 30 feet and covered in milfoil. This means the downriggers are set at 15 feet and some elect to use a drop weight system with 4 ounce cannonballs.

Flat-lining plugs such as Brad's Killer Fish 14's in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks

Flat-lining plugs such as Brad’s Killer Fish 14’s in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks

A standard trolling set up at Chelan Falls is a Mack’s Double D Dodger in silver and green, a 36” to 48” leader of Izorline 30 pound XXX trailing a Brad’s Superbait or Super Cut Plug. Popular colors are Hot Tamale or Lava, but another “new” color that is producing this summer is Rotten Banana in the mini-cut plug. Stuff the baits with canned tuna or herring and soak them heavily with Pro-Cure Super Gel in Anise Bloody Tuna. Since this is a shallow water troll and you are allowed to fish two poles with the endorsement it is beneficial to throw an extra rod out flatling a Brad’s Killer Fish size 14 in the Rotten Banana color.

Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo

Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo

Launch at the County PUD park located just past the Chelan Falls Bridge and then motor back over to the mouth of the Chelan River, trolling the western shoreline all the way back up to the bridge. Make sure to stay a bit out in the channel otherwise you will foul your gear in the milfoil along the shoreline. If you want to learn this fishery there are two premier guides that fish it, Shane Magnuson (509-264-7684 or www.uppercolumbiaguide.com) of Upper Columbia Guide Service who lives in Leavenworth and Brad Wagner (509-670-3095 or www.fishwenatchee.com) of Bobber Down Guide Service out of Wenatchee. Since they live in the area they know this fishery well. In fact I was out trying my best this past weekend and witnessed Shane land 5 fish before 7:00 AM on Saturday. Then I got a message from Brad who let me know that his boat caught 6 Chinook before 6:00 AM today. The key to both guides in that they are on the water early. There is plenty of room to fish and it doesn’t get too crowded.

5 Tips for Catching Trophy Steelhead

 By Jason Brooks

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

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

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

Go where the big fish are.

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

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Leave the bait at home.

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

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

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Knotless nets and fish stay in the water.

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

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

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

Bring a camera!

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

Girth Squared x Length/775

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

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

Upsize your gear.

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

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

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

Good luck and go find that steelhead of a lifetime!

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer

Engle”field” Of Dreams

I cannot really recall the first time I heard of the magnificent fishing in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) but I’m certain that I was a very young angler that was quite impressionable. However, the reverent tones that this incredible location inspired among the anglers that I deeply respected left a mark, a lifetime itch that had yet to be scratched.

My anticipation of this West Coast Resorts Englefield Bay trip was at a fever-pitch since on this Father’s Day weekend I was bringing my son Matthew and former Seattle Seahawk Dave Wyman was bringing his son Jake. Add that to the fact that several 710 ESPN listeners were coming along, none of us had ever been to Haida Gwaii and I’m sure you can understand our excitement!

So now, after returning from West Coast Resorts Englefield Bay, I found myself in unfamiliar territory for a blabbermouth. I’m sincerely at a loss for words. But let me say this: From the time we boarded the chartered 737 in Vancouver, BC to the time the final helicopter landed at Sandspit, every single aspect of the trip was beyond my expectations.

Our chartered 737 landed at Sandspit on Moresby Island and we hopped on our helicopters.

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One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places on earth must be Haida Gwaii and the view from the choppers was beyond words.

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Landing on the floating lodge’s heli pad we could not wait to get inside the resort…

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…and what a wonderful, comfortable place it is! We didn’t even have to pack our luggage into our rooms as our bags were waiting for us as we walked in!

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Dave Wyman and his son Jake were in the room next door and we caught them looking out the window at the West Coast Resort fleet of boats.

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Jake Wyman, Dave and our guide “Yeti” head out from the lodge on Father’s Day afternoon for their first Haida Gwaii fishing experiece.

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My son Matthew and I followed Yeti out to Denham Shoals in one of the fine lodge boats and were lucky enough to bump into a real tyee chinook that was exactly 31 pounds!

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The tradition at Englefield Bay is that the angler who lands a tyee gets to sound the gong and Matt has no problem making a little noise over his first Haida Gwaii tyee!

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The next morning, Wyman and I headed out on a flat, calm, sunny ocean and landed right on top of a scorching chinook bite!

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It’s not too often that you catch the biggest king of your life twice in one day but that’s exactly what Dave Wyman did and the fishing spark within him became a flame!

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If you’ve ever had a greedy lingcod grab on to a smaller fish and not spit it out  at the boat, then you understand the look on Dave Wyman’s face. If he wasn’t hooked on the non-stop Haida Gwaii action before, he certainly is now!

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You can only catch your first chinook once in your life and it was a very special moment to be on hand for Jake Wyman’s king salmon number one! Proud father Dave Wyman is in the boat in the background in this shot.

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Our final day at West Englefield dawns and Wyman is behind the wheel, ready for another day off the Haida Gwaii coast! 

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Fortunately, he didn’t have long to wait for a chunky chinook and Wyman’s largest chinook is now a respectable 26 pounds!

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The cheerful, friendly crew at the dock meets us to grab the fish out of the boat for cleaning, processing, vacuum packing and freezing…

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…and the next time you see your catch is at baggage claim at the airport!!!

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Start to finish, top to bottom, I really cannot say enough about the guides, staff and support personnel at Englefield Bay. The level of hospitality and service that we experienced can only be described as West Coast Resorts style!!

Let me ask you a question and the answer need only require that you be honest with yourself: When is the last time you visited a place that you truly did not want to leave?

The Queen Charlotte Islands now known as Haida Gwaii have been scratched from the bucket list but will never fade from my memory.

Neither will my desire to return there.

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