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

Seven Ways To Get Your Salmon Season Off to a Swift Start!

By Tom Nelson

Well, “show season” aka “winter” is fast fading in the rear view mirror and after several full days of seeing the latest and greatest the fishing industry 2017 has to offer, I’ve boiled down the vast array of choices to these top of the line items that will get you off on the right fishy foot this season!

Daiwa Four-Carrier J Braid: A whole lot of anglers who’s opinions I sincerely respect are moving toward a spool of 65lb braid with a 20-foot top shot of 25 lb test mono for their mooching and trolling reels. The Daiwa J Braid in particular has less flexibility and stretch than most braids and more abrasion resistance making it a great choice for salt or river salmon fisheries!

Silver Horde’s Two Face Spoons: Kelly Morrison of SIlver Horde noticed that most of the “hot spoons” that anglers had the pleasure of fishing have had one thing in common: some type of paint finish on the “back” or concave side. Silver Horde has capitalized on this trend by finishing both sides of the very popular -and effective- Kingfisher Lite and Coho Killer series of lightweight trolling spoons.

CANNON Terminator Kit: Are you still carrying around a box of crimps and a pair of specialty pliers that you rarely use for anything else? Here’s the thing: as soon as you crimp your cable, you’ve damaged it and the clock is ticking. Here come the wire frays and then “POP” another expensive ball, release and rigging has just become habitat. With Cannon’s nylon Terminator, the wire is cushioned in the channel of the loom and you’ll enjoy significantly longer wire life, saving you money and fishing time!

Pro-Cure Downrigger Dynamite: There’s little question of the deadly effectiveness of Phil Pirone’s proprietary blend of amino acid bite stimulants which is the backbone of the industry’s leading Brine-n-Bite herring brine. Realizing that artificial trolling lures could benefit from the same chemistry, a mixure of herring, anchovie and sardine was spiked with amino acids and BOOM! You’ve got Downrigger Dynamite. Give it a drag. It will get you bit…

Daiwa LEXA 300 Linecounter: It’s simply about time that someone came up with a line counter that’s out of the way, easy to see and palms like a genuine low-profile reel. Introducing the Daiwa LEXA 300 LC. High speed slick with a butter smooth drag, don’t underestimate the power of it’s oversize gears and 21-pound drag system. As great as this reel is, I can’t wait to see the LEXA 400 LC ’cause it will be the best reel at Buoy Ten this August!

Gamakatsu Big River Open-Eye Siwash Hooks: Now available in a wider variety of sizes, you’ll be able to find these replacement hooks to fit any size spoon, plug or lure you care to rig. Benefitting from Gamakatsu’s magnificent curvature and shape of their popular Octopus hooks, these Big River Siwash are a definite upgrade for the questionable “original equipment” hooks that are all to often furnished with our favorite lures.

SIMRAD NSS 16 evo 3: All I could say was “Wow” when I saw the speed and layout of this behemoth! Processor speed is no longer an issue, nor is screen space as custom splits are a fingertip selection away. In addition to the Simrad DNA of a fully integrated Auto-Pilot, there’s a “Hot Key” that you can program to your favorite function. The screen is the brand new SolarMAX™ HD display technology that delivers exceptional clarity and ultra-wide viewing angles, combined with an all-weather touchscreen and expanded keypad for total control in all conditions.

There’s lots to get your attention this season and there’s no reason to wait! Try out some of this gear now so it will be familiar to you come our busy summer seasons and we’ll see you on the water!

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

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

Luhr Jensen Tech Tip – Using the Jet Diver

Our good friend Carmen Macdonald at Luhr Jensen just produced a great video describing how to properly rig and use a Jet Diver. These divers are widely used in salmon and steelhead fisheries throughout the northwest, the Kenai River, and Alaska’s Nushagak River. If you’re serious about salmon and steelhead fishing you’ll at some point need to use one of these great divers.

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

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

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!

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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!

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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

Defiance Bait Tank Installation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coho Know How!

Last season was a tough one for big coho in local waters but hot on the heels of a large pink salmon run is a very solid showing of chunky coho salmon!

With the Edmonds and Everett Coho Derby looming in the coming weeks, let’s brush up on some silver slaying strategies!

The name of the game is getting a box full of chunky chrome coho!

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One look at the forecasts for Puget Sound coho should make you forget all about the end of summer with over 140,000 headed for the Skagit, 31,000 Stillaguamish silvers, the Snohomish chipping in with over 200,000 and the mid & south Sound totaling over 200,000 more! That’s over 570,000 reasons to get fired up for fall fishing and the upcoming culmination of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, The Everett Coho Derby.

Robbie Tobeck hoists two chunky coho that would have been a dandy derby day catch!

 

In order to get off to a fast fall start on coho, let’s talk technique & tackle. I tend to view saltwater coho angling in light of chinook techniques. After all, we spend winter, spring and summer targeting chinook and only get a crack at coho in the fall so it’s useful to consider chinook techniques as a “baseline”.

Coho are nothing short of metabolic machines and as such, tend to be interested in smaller offerings trolled faster and shallower than their chinook counterparts. We’ve spent a good part of the summer keeping our gear close to the bottom while running familiar bottom contours. No more! Silvers seemingly avoid structure and have an affinity for the shipping lanes out in the middle of the sound.

Where are the “Shipping Lanes” in Puget Sound? Open up your chart or Navionics Ap, look for the pink shaded areas and the yellow navigational buoys in the center.

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One aspect of successful coho fishing that we need to keep in mind is that we should not have to “scratch” for long periods of time between strikes. Don’t keep grinding for hour after hour without action. Slow periods happen even in the best of days but with the numbers of coho available and their aggressive nature, you should be able to change depths, locations, gear, speed or direction and get it done! Don’t be satisfied with a bite or two!
Quick, morning limits are often the case when the silvers come streaming in!

 

So where do we start our search for silvers?

By looking for Surface activity: Bait jumping, birds working or my personal favorite: tide rips. Generally there is a “dirty side” and a “clean side” of a Puget Sound rip. While trolling, try not to cross the rip and stay on the clean side to minimize gear fouling but don’t feel like you have to “rub” the rip. In other words, if you can clearly see the rip, you’re close enough!

Kevin Gogan and his daughter Hannah were “close enough” to a tide rip for this limit of silvers!

 

To place numbers on the other concepts, start fishing at first light with a cut plug herring six feet behind a blaze orange trolling “kidney” or mooching sinker fished twenty “strips” deep (a two-foot pull of line off of your reel is known as a strip) and run a downrigger 40 feet deep. Keep your speeds in the 2.5 to 3.5 mph speed range which should result in a 45 degree downrigger wire angle assuming you’re using 12 pound Cannonballs. As the light level increases throughout the day, increase your depths and when you hook up, enter a waypoint into your plotter so you can troll back into the school. Silvers tend to mill around and when you find one, there is sure to be more!

Silver Horde’s “Coho Killer” have been a winning piece of gear for not only coho but chinook as well! 

Coho like a very active presentation so shorten up your leaders to the 26-34 inch range behind Luhr Jensen Coyote Flashers and you’re in business!

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Get out there this late summer and enjoy some of the fastest, wildest salmon fishing of the year! Heck, summer isn’t really over…is it????

 

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

Sitka 2015: Adjustments

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

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

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

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

What was the most effective technique for us?

Why trolling with downriggers of course!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The 2015 Salmon Forecasts!

A sure sign of spring after a long winter is the annual arrival of our salmon forecasts and the “North of Falcon” meetings. I await the salmon forecast numbers like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. Hello, my name is Tom and I am a “salmon sicko”.

After watching the numbers for a number of years (never mind how many…) I’ve found that you can “call some shots” by digging into the forecast numbers. The WDFW, DFO Canada and The PFMC (Pacific Fisheries Management Council) work very hard to get their chinook and coho abundance estimates out in a timely manner. These figures take some pouring through to find the real “meat” but don’t worry, I’ve done all the leg work for you right here!

2015 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

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

Skagit summer        23.4      13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3

Stillaguamish wild    1.0        1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5

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

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

Hood Canal Wild        2.5      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1

Hood Canal Hatch     40.1     42.6         38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9

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

This is a mixed selected stock chinook forecast to say the least. Generally these stocks are slightly down with respect to 2014 partially due to changes in the run modeling but also due to unfavorable oceanic conditions. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish,Cedar and Sammamish wild chinook which will probably be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. However, the Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast as well which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season and an uptick in wild chinook south Sound stocks is certainly cause for optimism.

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

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

Skagit Wild          33.4          95.9             138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4       121.4

Skagit Hatch       11.7            9.5               16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8        19.5

Stilly Wild            13.4           25.9              66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4         31.2

Stilly hatch            0.0              5.4                0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1            0

Snohomish W       67.0           99.4            180.0         109.0     163.8         150        151.5

Snohomish H        53.6           24.5              80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1         53.8

S Sound Wild        53.6          25.3              98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8          63.0

S Sound Hatch   188.8       186.4            173.3         162.9     150.9       172.7         180.2

Hood Wild            48.6          33.2              77.5           73.4       36.8         47.6           61.4

Hood Hatch        52.0          51.2              72.1           62.6       68.6         82.7          108.4

Key stocks tot  338.6k    320.8k        916.0k       628.6k     783.2k    869.2k       891.5k

 

Is this the “new normal”? Ever since the 2011 coho run we’ve been experiencing some absolutely solid coho fishing. The increase in Hood Canal and South Puget Sound stocks alone have me thinking that 2015 will not see many anglers stray far from Puget Sound come September! In fact, the overall feeling among fisheries managers is that barring a repeat of the warm water “blob” of 2014 off the west coast of Vancouver Island, that we should see much improved coho action with some larger “hooknose” entering the catch!

If all this is not enough to get -and keep you- fired up, how about a Frasier River sockeye forecast that’s estimated at 6.8 MILLION with another 345,000 headed for the Columbia! Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 164,595 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives to 46,200  bright, red reasons to be encouraged compared to the 2014 forecast of only 35,377 Baker River reds.

Let’s not forget our odd, little odd year visitors the pink salmon! How about 6.7 MILLION pinks headed for Puget Sound. Add another 14,500,000 -that’s 14.5 MILLION headed to the Fraser and the humpy “horde” will number about 21 million in the Straits of Juan de Fuca!

Keep in mind that these numbers are but the “raw material” that the co-managers will use to craft our local seasons and only by attending the North of Falcon meetings can you have an impact on the process. We will keep you posted here but I sincerely look forward to meeting some of you….at the meetings!!!

For a schedule of the North of Falcon meetings near you hit WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

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