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David Johnson

Guiding in the NW and Alaska for 19 years, Degree in Fisheries, long time ifish guide

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March 16, 2016

My Christmas Island Adventure

by David Johnson

Three weeks ago I returned from an amazing bucket-list trip to Christmas Island. And almost every night since I've been back on the island in my dreams. It won't let go of me.

We were fishing for GT. GT stands for Giant Trevally, but you could also say that when you hooked into one it was like being hooked onto the back end of a Mustang GT in a street race. And the one thing about me and bucket lists trips is usually I go to them more than once. I can't wait for the next trip because with every time we go we get more and more dialed in on rigging, lures and locating fish.

There are two Christmas Islands in the World, one is in the Indian Ocean and you may have seen it on TV, it's the one with the millions of land crabs that take over the island.

The Christmas Island we went to, also known as Kiribati (pronounced Kiri-bass), is part of The Line Islands in Micronesia and sits within 200 miles of the equator south of Hawaii. It is one of the poorest countries in the word and absolutely in the middle of nowhere with virtually no phones, internet, TV or electricity. But some of the nicest, friendliest people. It is a fishing destination and nothing else. In other words, paradise.

The accommodations were simple and had air conditioning. The foods were a mix of western and island. I ate at least some raw fish every single day, some as sashimi appetizers before dinner and some fish was just sun dried on the roof of the boat while we were fishing.

The island's waters team with countless bonefish, trevally, tuna, trigger fish, wahoo and reef fish. Most people go for fly fishing. Our mission was to figure out and promote gear fishing for these salt water species.

As I mentioned, catching GT was high on my bucket list and that was achieved! We caught smaller, 5 to 20 pound GT on GLoomis steelhead gear and we caught trophy fish from 30 to 100 pounds on big game gear. Shimano Ocea Plugger rods and Twin Power Reels proved perfect for landing these top predators in a timely manner.

Guide Johnny and me with my first GT

Julia caught the biggest GT of the trip. Our guides estimated it at 100 pounds

We used Maxima Fluorocarbon and Braid 8 and let me tell you how impressed we all were with these lines. There is NOTHING in the northwest that can compare with how much abuse these toothy, high octane fish and the coral environment they live in dishes out. If you tied one of these fish tail to tail with a salmon or steelhead they would turn them inside out. The only defense these fish have against predators is to swim fast, and swim fast is what they do!

For small game we had our reels spooled with 20# Braid 8 and used a top shot/leader of either 20 or 30 pound Maxim fluorocarbon. On our GT and off-shore reels we used 80# Braid 8 and added a top-shot of 100# Ultra Green. We were so blown away with how these fish would run across the reef and the line would come back with hardly a scratch. It was WOW.

The smaller Orca plugs by Shimano got the most action

These little rubber shrimp worked for reef fish and triggers and if you added a bonefish fly on a dropper above them you could also catch bonefish.

The guides are awesome people. They spoke English and were invaluable for spotting fish. They would say, "Bonefish, 10 o'clock, cast 30 feet! Strip, strip, strip, stop, strip, FISH ON!"

The sunsets were spectacular every night on our private beach.

Water temperatures were in the upper 70's and the air temps in the 80's. Because of the intense equatorial sun reflecting of the water we kept all our skin covered.

There are several fishing options available while visiting the island.

There are the flats fishing that it's famous for but we also did shore/reef fishing and there is world class blue water fishing.

Flats fishing is spot and stalk mostly for bones and triggers.

Trigger Fish

Brian with an average bonefish

We had un-common rough seas while I was there so we only got off-shore once.

After a few strikes while trolling for wahoo we moved locations and found tuna and birds.

Nothing like hook to hand sashimi

Four tuna later the school moved on so we switched over to some bottom fishing and filled a cooler of groceries for our guides and released a few GT that we jigged up.

This is what they called a sweat lips, they were excellent table fair. We caught them on the reef and while bottom fishing

Several in my crew stayed on for a second week and were joined by more Oregonians and they did a little more off-shore fishing where they caught wahoo, sailfish and quite a few more tuna including two yellowfin over 200 pounds.

The day we spent fishing the surf and reef from shore was a day of variety. Each of us caught over 40 fish each.

I caught 12 species here, including triggers, trevally, bonefish, snappers and grouper. I even had a GT try and eat one of the bonefish I caught. That was exciting! I stopped reeling and tried to get him to stick around while my guide ran for the GT rod up the beach but it was gone by the time we could get a cast in.

Surgeon Fish

"Fun size" GT

My guide Moy with a Blue Trevally


"Red Snapper" from the surf

I'm already planning for a trip there next year, if you want to join us let me know and I'll get you the details. I think there is going to be room for a couple more people. We will be going in the mid-February to March time frame. The cost of the trip is comparable to or cheaper than going to Western Alaska. Airfare was about $1,000 from Hawaii and the lodge, guides and food was about $2,500. And since your connecting flight is Hawaii you could add on a little stay before or after your trip too.

January 29, 2016

Steelhead Hacks and Tricks

by David Johnson

Steelhead Hacks and tricks

Wow! Steelhead fishing this year has been "Off the Hook" all up and down the Oregon and Washington coasts and inland too. The early returning steelies were in the best numbers I've seen in a long time and now the brood stock fish are starting to show in great numbers too. When we can actually get clear water between all this record rains it's been game on!

We've been limiting on over 80% of our trips and there have been some nice big ones too.

As we are getting into our peak steelhead season I thought I would share in this blog n this blog a few things that will help out in little ways.

In steelhead fishing I don't like the idea of leaving a lot of lead on the river bottom if I can help so when I side drift or drift fish I usually use slinkies since they hang up so much less than pencil lead. But when it comes to float fishing I want my gear to get down fast so I stick to the old steelhead rule that says, "Nothing cuts water like lead and monofilament."

And when float fishing we don't get our lead hung up very often at all because our gear is hanging straight down from the float instead of being drug sideways like it would be with side drifting or drift fishing.

When I use pencil lead it's for float fishing and since the lead is hanging down it rarely hangs up. In fact on most days we can use the same piece of lead all day as long as it doesn't get cast into a tree.

If you want a good way to cut pencil lead without closing the hole pick up at toe nail clipper for dogs. It works great.

I have been taking a small piece of line and looping it and crimping the lead to make pre made sinkers that I can just clip onto my 3-way swivel.

When to use and when not to use fluorocarbon: Of course floro is nearly invisible under water so you have that going for you but in a lot of our fisheries that isn't too important unless we have ultra-clear conditions. But one other important property fluorocarbon has is its density. It sinks. So when I want my stuff to get down faster I tie on fluorocarbon.

I like fluorocarbon when I'm fishing from the top down, that means that most any time I'm float fishing with light gear.

If I am fishing from the bottom up (drift fishing or side drifting) I prefer mono, mono doesn't sink as fast. Maxima Ultra green is my preferred monofilament.

Ten pound usually as low as I go for winter steelhead and a lot of the time I'm using 12 or even 15 for floro.

Mark the dates on your bottles of scent so you can keep track of when they are getting old. If they are made from natural bait they can spoil and if they are of a synthetic nature sometimes they're scent can fade. Also, make sure you keep them out of sun light and keep them cool. I store my bottles of scent in the bait fridge when I'm not using them and I keep them in the cooler on the boat.

Too often I see bottles of scent in other guy's boats that are all sun faded and look 100 years old.

Under low/clear water conditions, especially if fishing pressure is heavy, don't overlook micro jigs like the 1/16 and 1/32 oz. Maxi Jig. You might think it's too small but believe me they will take these tiny jigs.

While fishing I like to pre cut my eggs and layer them between paper towels inside of a kids pencil box. It makes for easy access and closes up to keep the rain off the bait or keep the east wind from drying them out. This is also a good time to add scent if you want to.

Under most conditions my favorite eggs are bright red, the exception is in the clearest of conditions (and sometimes even in the clearest conditions too, that's why I'll carry several colors and cures) and I like orange and natural eggs in the very clear water.

I used to use those little fish pills with my eggs for color and floatation but they just added one more step to baiting up and I didn't like leaving Styrofoam pieces along the river so I started tying small yarnies to provide color and floatation to my eggs.

Want a good way to keep your leaders nice? Pre tie them and wrap them on pool noodles from the dollar store and then vacuum pack. You can make what color and leader you used and you can re-use the bags.

If the water is muddy and you just have to get out, go plunk a spin glow and shrimp or eggs in the mouth of a clear water tributary where fish will pull into.

I hope some of these things will help you out, there are a lot of fish out there, go catch some when the water is in shape.

Give me a call if you would like to book a steelhead trip. I only have a couple days left open in late March and in mid April, my personal favorite time to fish steelhead. 503-201-4292

December 30, 2015

I finally wrapped up fall chinook season

by David Johnson

It was one heck of a fall chinook season! After a great Astoria season we moved down the coast in mid-September and continued to catch piles of fish. I enjoy the fall fishery a lot more than busy and crowded Astoria. The techniques are more hands on, the fish are better quality and for the most part everyone went home with more fish than they did in Astoria (2 fish limits on chinook)

From the bays, rivers, tidewaters and the ocean we caught fish and lots of them. The majority of our fish we caught were on herring or eggs. No matter what the location we fished in we limited the boat ¾ of the time.

We caught hundreds of fish, I actually haven't sat down and made a tally from this fall but I'm sure it was my best fall. Last year was only 10 fish shy of the best and we caught a lot more limits this year.

I had several families' book memorable trips

And it's always great to be part of a "1st Salmon"

We had about half a dozen people get their first salmon on my boat this fall.

Shawn, one of my clients that fishes with me and her husband a lot wanted to get her daughter into a salmon so she brought her on one of the ladies trips.

Mission accomplished

Tesha doesn't get out too often with me in the fall because she hunts and I get so booked up there aren't many open days to get her out but she did go twice. Once with me and another couple and another time on one of our "You Fish Like a Girl Adventures"

These ladies trips are some of my favorite and we will definitely be doing more of them in 2016. Probably once a month April-October.

I teamed up with my friend Drake for a few very productive group trips.

If you have a large group you would like to get out with us book early so we can make sure to get you in.

We actually hooked doubles almost every day, or at least every other day. And we had three triples.

Tripling up sure helps limit the boat out quick.

Our coastal fall chinook season runs September through December with great fishing all the time, we just have to move around and adjust our game plan. This December was a little bit of a bust but during the very small windows we were given we did well on combo steelhead and salmon trips.

Of course next fall is a long way off and we are going to have some great winter steelhead (there has been a lot of steelhead around so far this winter), spring chinook(the predictions for 2016 are up and it looks like we'll have some great water conditions), Columbia R summer chinook(same as springers- the #'s are up and snow pack looks good) and another outstanding Astoria season between now and then but you are not going to want to miss out next fall, book several months early.

December 11, 2015

The Twitch

by David Johnson

The Twitch

I've known about twitching jigs for coho salmon for quite some time now. I dabbled with it but didn't really put a ton of effort into it until last fall. I HAD A BLAST! It brought back childhood memories of fishing bass and panfish except that when you feel that subtle tick, grab or pressure on the end of the line and set the hook it's not some little fish at the end of you line but a mean, hard fighting salmon.

Believe it or not I've been using twitching jigs for coho more than I've been using eggs. And if you know me that says a lot.

Twitching jigs is especially effective on silvers and chums but I have caught all species of salmon except sockeye (I haven't twitched jigs anyplace with sockeye but I'm sure they'll take them too)

I've also been surprised by steelhead and cutthroat while twitching.

Fish just have a hard time resisting a bouncing, fluttering, pulsating marabou and rabbit fur jig.

There are a lot of different brands of twitching jigs out there. I've had the best luck with twitching jigs from Dinger Jigs. In fact I've fished them side by side with others and they out fished the hands down.

I've also successfully twitched the large salmon jigs meant for fishing under floats but the rabbit fur tail on the twitchers.

But the twitching jigs work the best, that tail drives them crazy!

Hoochie skirts pushed over a jig head as well as pink worms and grubs also will work for twitching.

I use the twitching jig two different ways, one is cast it out and twitch the rod tip up six to eight inches and drop the tip while reeling in the slack. This can be done by casting across current and letting it swing as if drift fishing and twitching as it goes. However I find it more effective in slower water and in back eddies.

The second way I've done really well is to vertical jig it from the boat, from on top of a log jam or above a cut bank.

The bite usually isn't a very hard bite, normally it is more of a light grab, a tick or some pressure. Much like bass fishing. A sensitive rod makes a big difference for this kind of fishing. I've been using the GLoomis 930 twitching rod. I love that rod. It's sensitive with enough power for landing chinook.

For line I've been using 30# Maxima Braid 8. In dirty water I've been tying directly to the jig. This has been really nice for getting my jig back from snags when fishing in brushy areas. Now one of my to rules is never just bend a hook back into shape and keep fishing, replace it. More than one fish has been lost because a re-bent hook has straightened out. But in this instance I do re-bend my jig hook and keep on fishing because there is a pretty good chance you are going to snag up and loose that jig soon anyway. I use a palomar knot when going straight to my jig with braid.

When the water is clear I've been tying on a small barrel swivel and about thirty inches of 15# Maxima fluorocarbon.

Give twitching a try, it is fun, especially if you have a warm water fishing background.

October 13, 2015

You Fish Like a Girl Adventures

by David Johnson

I am so spoiled and blessed. We have caught so many fish this fall and had so many fun days.

Two of the best trips we had this fall have been "You Fish Like a Girl Adventures" These were guided all women trips hosted by My wife Tesha or my good friends Kristin and Sara and guided by me or my friend Drake.

Our first trip was scheduled in late August in Astoria but wouldn't you know it, after 5 months of no rain we were hit with a late August storm and had to cancel on account of Gale winds so we had to move the date later into September.

Randi got her first ever salmon, so fun!

Tesha did an awesome job hosting and deck handing this trip and all the ladies limited out.

Then following Sunday we had our scheduled September Adventure. Two boats, mine and Drake, 10 women, great weather, lots of fish and tons of laughs and fun. It was an amazing trip.

You Fish Like a Girl Adventures is an opportunity offered by David Johnson's Guide Service for women to join other women on a non-intimidating, fun filled fishing trip that they can enjoy the beautiful outdoors with no stress and pressure.

I coined the saying, "You Fish Like a Girl" a few years ago when I wrote an article for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine with that title.

I started the article saying, "If anyone ever says you fish like a girl take it as a compliment."

That is because it is a well-known fact by avid anglers and fishing guides that women are both "lucky" at fishing and that they pick up the fishing skills very quickly. Many times they just need to be given a chance.

We want to give ladies an opportunity to get out on the water to have a great time, catch some fish and feel comfortable while doing it.

Teamed up with guides that are patient and professional, Tesha, Sara and Kristin offer instruction and assistance to woman of any skill level.

Next year we will be offering day trips at least once a month April through October as well as some evening half day trips on the Willamette for springers. We will also plan some clamming and crabbing trips.

Stay tuned.

This fall in that one week period the only two crews that did the best at learning the skills shown (how to feel the lead hit bottom, keeping it away from sea gulls, not reeling all the way to the rod tip, rod management when a fish is hooked) were those two groups of women. I wish all my crews fished like girls….

September 23, 2015

Astoria-My Take

by David Johnson

Astoria-My Take

My take on Astoria. There are so many good things and some bad.

Millions of salmon move through the lower Columbia River. And there are thousands and thousands of fish caught. There are so many fish anyone can be a hero. Skilled anglers limit their boats and even the most inexperienced angler can catch a salmon or two. Who wouldn't want to fish here?

August in Astoria is a great gateway fishery were anglers at any age or skill level can catch their first salmon. If there are beginners, family members, out of town guests and those who have never caught a salmon, this is the place to take them as thousands and thousands of people have caught their first ever salmon here.

The crowds are big but for the most part everyone is having a good time. And there are enough fish to go around that people are willing to share information.

Every year I go into my Astoria season with a little bit of anxiety because if there is one time of year I can almost always count on something to break down it would be Astoria in August. I've had trailer bearings go out, depth finders go on the fritz, trolling motors start running bad and once I had my 200 outboard blow up. This year I started out the season with a leaking fuel tank. Why wouldn't something break down when there are so many trips back to back?

There's also a strong anti-guide/anti sport fishermen mentality in the local governmental agencies and many of the residents. Some in the Port of Astoria have even said, "They need to do something with the problem of all these sports fishermen". Talk about biting the hand that feeds them. Maybe they just need regular tourist money in the coffee stands, restaurants, hotels and gas stations? The attitude of some just make it a little less fun but they are going to have to face it, unless the salmon disappear the sport fishermen will be there.

But even with so many fish there are almost always restrictions, this year was no different. It is so frustrating to have thousands of chinook in the river and have to catch and release 10 to 20 of them trying to catch some coho. There are a lot of disgruntled fishermen and it makes bad PR for the fish agencies.

And to release bleeding hatchery fish just doesn't seem right, I'm the kind of person that doesn't like to waste things. It bugs me when left overs get shoved to the back of the fridge and have to be thrown out, wasting a natural resource it ten times worse. I can go along with their game of this for so long and then I just move my operation down the coast wear there's less restrictions.

I was told that we went over our quota by 20% and that's when it was shut down. Mark my words, when it's all said and done the run will probably be 20% larger, hence the higher harvest. This happens all the time, the management sees more harvest than predicted so they get nervous and close it. I understand that they have to also play by the Feds rules on impacts but why isn't there an in season run assessment?

I understand why it closes. It's all about impacts of wild Tule chinook. Each area has its own quota, once that is reached it is shut it down. But when it's like this we handled way more fish and impact way for of them by weeding through them. If they really cared about the fish it would be open to harvest any two fish. I suppose they are limiting the number of anglers out there when they do put in the restrictions. If it was open then there would be a lot more people trying.

Another thing that bugs me is that once they make the decision that's it, no more looking at it. Or so it seems. Time and time again there isn't even a fish checker at the ramp after the make a decision. Sometime the catching has dropped way off too.

Something has to change.

One option could be to have the first 15 days of the season fin clip only therefore saving some impacts so that we can have it open during the peak of the season, and peak of the fishing pressure.

Another option of keeping it open would be to move impacts around.

For several years now the ocean quota has not come close to filling up. Why can't they move some of those impacts into the river? If they can't be used there why not use them where there is the most angling pressure? And where most anglers can utilize the fish, as opposed to just the bigger boats that can go off-shore.

They could also have some kind of instruction for anglers to identify Tules. They trust hunters to identify the species of goose moving 30 miles an hour from 30 yards away in low light. If more anglers release tules then we would be saving impacts.

All in all it was another fantastic chinook fishery with fewer coho than predicted and I look forward to it again next year, and so do the clients who are already booking.

August 05, 2015

Fresh Vs. Frozen- The Great Buoy 10 Debate

by David Johnson

Fresh Vs. Frozen- The Great Buoy 10 Debate

For years Buoy 10 anglers have debated, "What is better, fresh or frozen herring?"

There are many, many anglers who swear by fresh herring. It is popular because you can order from the local bait shops and they will have it ready for you at the time of morning you want it. And many swear by fresh herring because they are loaded with fats, blood and lots of scent. But they do lose a lot of scales.

I personally like frozen herring. I always have. Frozen herring are starved before they are packaged. Starving herring tightens up the scales and firms the meat. I cut plug my herring, and frozen, starved herring last a lot longer and don't "blow out" when cut plugging. The way I look at it, I am making my herring into a fine tuned "meat spinner"

Fresh bait, being a lot softer, doesn't last nearly as long in fast currents. But a lot of the people using the fresh bait use helmets on their bait. The fresh bait does last a lot longer in these rigs.

Most fresh herring has a lot more blood and juices

Frozen might not have as much scent but it is firm and will hold up longer

I also like to brine my bait, either frozen or fresh (I do use fresh when I need to supplement my frozen supply). I will use a lot of rock salt and usually some bluing or a little blue dye, or both. You can also use any of the commercial herring brines that are available on the market.

Good bait will make or break you in fishing, so no matter what kind of herring you choose make sure you keep it cold. Add ice to the brine or have a lunch box size cooler with ice for your bags of fresh herring. The weather and the water is warm this time of year.

If you are ordering fresh herring do it the day before.

At the Warrenton boat ramp you can order it from Tackle Time 503-861-3693

At Hammond Sturgeon Paul's 503-861-2110

And new for this year Sturgeon Paul's will have fresh bait available at the East Mooring Basin in Astoria. Use the same number and order by 1 0'clock.

BTW, Sturgeon Paul has some very good Puget Sound herring, a salmon's favorite.

What do you prefer? FRESH or FROZEN?

July 21, 2015

Another ODFW PR Blunder

by David Johnson

Don't get me wrong, I used to be a huge fan and supporter of the ODFW. I still am. BUT I'm afraid that, like most government agencies, they have lost the use of common sense and also, they no longer representing the public for which they work for. It is a growing sentiment that ODFW has been on a down word PR spiral in the eyes of the public.

In the past I've worked for them. I have defended them for years. And I personally know many who work for the agency and they are great people who have the fish and wildlife as priorities. But over the years I've grown cynical. The have a track record of making questionable decisions. And charging more but giving us less has been a common theme. Sure, we've had some great runs of fish, particularly on the Columbia, but many of our smaller tributary fisheries and skeletons of what they once were.

The latest blunder, requiring anglers to release CLIPPED coho that are caught in the Columbia above the Astoria Bridge. You can keep clipped and un-clipped chinook as per new regulations, but because of an oversight, they didn't include clipped coho in the rule change. Why can't they add that in? There's almost 10 days left before it opens, you know there are going to be more of them caught as the month roles on.

As per the 2015 regulations, on other bodies of water, "Pink salmon, sockeye salmon and adipose fin-clipped coho salmon may be retained as part of the adult and jack daily limit in all waters that are currently open to angling for chinook salmon or steelhead" It should be a no brainer that clipped coho can be kept.

And on top of all this, with this warm water, they let the nets in. You tell me steelhead that are gill netted and released are not going to die, right away or days, weeks of months down the road.

The reasoning for letting in the nets: to mop up the un-used portion of summer chinook the sport fishers didn't harvest. Of course they could have harvested their quota if they had been allowed to keep unclipped chinook in the beginning. Unclipped chinook that are not ESA listed and have only a 50% mark rate. We would have been able to utilize the quota if they would have given us a chance.

And why was it barbless for these fish if you can keep clipped and unclipped? I can tell you that the main reason Oregon is barbless on the Columbia is to play politics with Washington State (who has somehow fallen into the influence of the "Native Fish Groups")

More PR blunders.

Maybe they need some kind of board to run ideas past. Maybe they have that, I'm not sure. But something has to be done different to stem the bleeding. Otherwise more and more people are going to keep getting frustrated and give up on the sport.

July 20, 2015

Astoria 2015- Hook, Line and Sinker (and Divers)

by David Johnson

Astoria 2015- Hook, Line and Sinker (and Divers)

With the 2015 Astoria/Buoy 10 season just a few more weeks out it's time to start getting geared up.

This is what I'm going to be using:

All my rods are GLoomis. I favor the 10 ½ length. The two I use the most are the GL2 SAR 1265. This is a great rod for a great price and it can handle divers or lead up to 16 oz. perfectly. I usually run them as my front rods as they have a little more backbone than the SAMR 1265's I run off the back of the boat. If I want some extra length I will use the 12'3" SAMR 1474.

My reels are Tekota 500 line counters. The use of line counters has made fishing so much more precise, and therefore productive. We can put all of our gear exactly where I want it while keeping everything from getting tangled up. I will have my reels filled with 65# Maxima Braid 8 in high vis yellow. The hi vis yellow makes it easy to figure out what is what when you have doubles and lines are crossed.

My leaders will be 3/0 and 4/0 Gamakatsu on 40# Maxima Ultra Green. 40# is tough as nails and is great insurance against loosing fish. I have full confidence using the same leader over and over on multiple fish. There is a huge difference in thickness between 30 and 40. This extra thickness makes it easy for me to just grab the leader and wrap it around my hand to release a fish without netting it.

Over the last several years running lead in Astoria has gotten very popular, and for good reason. It works. There is a lot of times that the fish are hugging right down close to the bottom and by touching you bottom and then bringing it up just a little you are in the zone.

This is how I rig up my flasher with lead. I like to use wire droppers and a wire between the flasher and my slider.

But lead isn't the only way of bait and lure delivery. For years a diver had been king and I haven't given up using them. Last year we caught a lot of fish with divers. I always had one or two rods with divers and they produced a lot of fish. I exclusively run Delta Divers, my favorite colors are chartreuse, orange, blood red, hot pink and white. When I use a flasher with a diver I like to attach the flasher right to the back of the diver without a piece of mono between the flasher and diver.

We run a lot of bait, cut plug herring and/or anchovies as well as spinners. Most of my spinners are homemade but I have good supply of Mulkey Squid Spinners as well. . About 4 years ago I went the whole season without running a single herring, I ran all spinners. With the hot water we're having this year might turn out the same way, it wouldn't surprise me if it did.

We have a few weeks to get geared up. Don't wait until the middle of the season or you might not find what you need on store shelves.

June 18, 2015

What I've been using for springers

by David Johnson

This spring, like all the others, we have used a lot of bait to catch springers.

We use a lot of shrimp and eggs followed by herring.

Guide Breakfast

Fresh dug

For a little added color I sometimes add a Corky

When I brine up my herring I like to add a little blue color.

My favorite salmon plug is the 4.5 Mag Lip with a sardine wrap

We got jiggy and jigged up a few

We caught quite a few springers on spinners this year. We caught them in the Columbia and at the coast.

For years we've made our own spinners but the ones Yakima Bait is turning out are just like the way I would make them. I've been impressed with the quality.

This is how I have been setting up my spinners for trolling

In the clearer water this spring we have been running a lot of Fish Flash in the green shades like "Sleeper" "High Tower" and my favorite ""Jazz Man"

We've also been toning down the size of our offering by running some 4" Fish Flash

This spring I've been trying Rudders by Short Bus Flashers, they work great for when you want a little bit of color for attraction in clear water but not a whole flasher. We caught fish in the Columbia, Tillamook and in the Channel.

Back in the 80's in Tillamook, as a spreader we would run the red plastic rudders you would find on the front of lake trolls.

These are retro, only with new and improved colors.

We used some old things and some new, it was a fun and very productive season.

June 15, 2015

Great Mixed Bag

by David Johnson

Some of my local friends recently had family visiting from Kansas and they asked if I could take them fishing. Of course I could!

I asked if they were interested in salmon or something else with more action. They chose action. But personally I just can't leave the springers alone. So we decided on both. I also brought along a few crab pots to throw out.

All the crabbing reports I've gotten this winter and spring have not been promising but I knew the folks from Kansas would still get a kick out of seeing some small crab even if we had to put them back.

In order to fish close to high tide we got a nice later start. I rigged us up with three way swivels and tied up Gamakatsu #2 Wide Gap hooks on 10# Maxima Ultra green and used the egg loop to hold on the sand shrimp.

As the current slowed, the fish got more and more active. Everyone had a blast catching the fish that would be the evening's fish tacos.

After the high slack we pulled the pots. Lots of shorts, females and red rocks. We kept 8 nice red rocks. Not Dungeness crab but they were very good anyway, they just didn't have as much meat.

Then we started salmon fishing. Nothing was really happening. The sea weed was bad, the current was ripping. Shannon asked, "What do girls do when they have to pee?"

I told her we could run in no problem, and nothing was happening yet anyway.

After a short break we started fishing again. Everyone dropped their herring to the bottom. Ceress asked me to check her rod to make sure she was on the bottom correctly. It started to get bit while I was checking it. At the same time Sammy started to get bit. DOUBLE!

Sammy and Ceress have lived in Tillamook for a while but hadn't been salmon fishing yet. They both caught their very first salmon at the same time and now they are hooked!

An hour or so later it was Shannon's turn. Another first salmon!

After another hour went by we got a fourth.

Wind and sun burned we all returned with a sea food feast fit for a king.

May 31, 2015

What a Great Springer Season!

by David Johnson

We are almost over with another fun and productive springer season. Lots of fish and lots of smiles and laughs.

The Columbia started us off with love.

After the Columbia we moved into the Willamette and even with the extremely low water it was great! The best in several years.

A couple times I went back out and fished the evenings after I was done guiding for the day. I had to fill the freezer ya know.

One of the most exciting things that happened was we got a triple in Oregon City. I can't believe we landed all three without a sea lion getting at least one of them.

With the Willamette being so warm so early this year there were a lot of fish moving over the falls and heading up to the upper tributaries.

By the time these fish get up there some of them start to color up, becoming "Mid Valley Brights"

Don't let the color on the outside fool you though, they don't spawn until September and they are gorgeous on the inside.


One thing missing this spring was summer steelhead. There are a lot of days we will catch one or two summer steelhead on our springer gear while we are in the tribs.

This year, we caught one.

With the falls counts so low this year it was like catching a unicorn.

There were some late winters around in April though.

And then there are coastal springers.

I love coastal springers. There may be less of them but they are beauties! They are bigger and fight harder than their inland cousins and they are really good biters. If they are around they will bite.

Springer fishing isn't over yet though.

It will last through June. And in June we also will have some great chinook fishing on the Columbia.

I normally get pretty booked up for all my seasons but I do have some dates open for late June on the Columbia.

If you want to see yourself in some of these pics call and get in on it.


April 20, 2015

Go Fishing-Help Out Astoria High School

by David Johnson

It's almost that time of year again for Astoria High School's Aquatic Biology Fishing Derby Fundraiser. This year it is going to be held this Saturday, April 25 at Coffenbery Lake in Fort Stevens State Park. It starts @ 7:00 a.m.

Fifty plus rainbow trout that were raised by students will be tagged with color coded tags and released into the lake. (Their feed has been held back for two weeks to make sure they are willing biters) Simply show on Saturday morning, buy a $10 ticket and go fishing. The ticket will make you eligible to redeem your prize if you catch one of the tagged trout.

I've donated the grand prize, a guided winter steelhead trip, and there are a lot of other really great prizes from Englund's Marine, Bridgewater Bistro, Recology, Cabela's, North Coast Trucking, Fort George Brewery & Public House, Brim's Farm & Garden, Lazerquick, Fulio's, Astoria NAPA Auto Parts, Fishhawk Fisheries Inc., Columbia River Roasters, Fulio's, Fultano's, Lum's Toyota, Springer's Garage, City Lumber, Rogue Public House, and T. Paul's Urban Café.

I recently had the opportunity to visit and tour the classroom and hatchery facility at Astoria High. I was impressed. I wished my high school had a program like this. They have a trout pond, race ways, tanks and incubators. It was similar to the facility at Mt Hood Community College when I attended Fisheries classes there for my Fisheries Degree. Some of the kids were doing college level experiments.

The fat rainbows ready for tagging and release to Coffenbery Lake.

Raceway study to see the fitness between chinook fry in a regular hatchery raceway and one with simulated structure/cover.

There's a study to test the feasibility of tagging crawfish with florescent tags

There's a little dot in the middle of the tail that glows under black light.

Here is a rundown of the classes offered:

Fisheries Biology

Offered Semester 1 only. An introductory course in fisheries biology and watershed science. Through field trips and lab-work, we will study the biology and ecology of salmon, trout, and other freshwater fishes and invertebrates. Students will gain hands-on aquaculture experience by spawning and rearing fish and other aquatic organisms in the high school hatchery and local hatcheries. Students will also assist in fisheries surveys of local streams and watersheds. This course is designed for students who have completed Biology with a C or better, or it may be taken simultaneously with Biology with instructor permission. This class is a prerequisite for Fisheries Technology.

Marine Biology

Offered Semester 2 only. An introductory course in the biology and ecology of saltwater organisms and habitats. Through field trips and lab-work, we will study marine fishes, mammals, birds, invertebrates and algae. Students will also gain hands-on aquaculture experience by rearing, tagging, marking, and releasing salmon juveniles in the high school hatchery, as well as rearing other aquatic organisms. This course is designed for students who have completed Biology with a C or better, or it may be taken simultaneously with Biology with instructor permission. This class is a prerequisite for Fisheries Technology.

Fisheries Technology

This is a year-long advanced course in aquaculture and fisheries science. Hands-on experience will occur in the areas of netting, trapping, spawning, rearing, and tagging of fish and invertebrates, experimental aquaculture techniques, and water quality testing. This will take place in the high school hatchery and at off-campus sites. Students will also assist in numerous local projects involving fisheries and habitat research and restoration, including the Fisheries Project (salmon net pen program) of the Clatsop Economic Development Council and various habitat enhancement projects of the Young's Bay Watershed Council. Each student will also participate in designing and carrying out an experimental study in aquatic science. A Certificate of Fisheries Skills will be awarded to all students passing at the end of the year.
PREREQUISITES: Students should have passed Fisheries Biology OR Marine Biology, although some exceptions can be made with instructor's approval.

It's refreshing to see kids excited about getting involved with fisheries. Our fishing world needs it so please show up and support them! Bring the family down and go fishing!

April 17, 2015

From Steel to Springers 2015

by David Johnson

Its mid-April, sadly it's finally time for me to fully switch over from winter steelhead to spring chinook. The balance has swung and there are now more salmon around than steelhead. It's sad not only because my favorite kind of fishing is coming to an end but because it's been a great season with lots of nice fish, lots of wild fish and lots of hatchery fish.

In March I took delivery of a brand new Clacka Max. I love this boat! It handles perfectly, runs shallow water great, it's quiet and there is so much room in it.

My two favorite rods I've used this year have been the GLoomis 1102 and 1162.

The 1162 has been a great all-around rod for just about everything we do. It's perfect for side drifting, float fishing (beads, bait or jigs) and even light weight drift fishing. It's 9 '8" length makes for great line control and its backbone has been very useful for controlling fish and landing them safely.

The 1102 is 9' 2". It also handles the fish really well. I've been using it mostly for side drifting and some bobber/bait and since it is a little shorter it's worked great for those times I've had off and gone on bank fishing excursions were I usually fished bobber and jigs.

You know, I'm really not too sad about steelhead ending though, spring chinook are going to be peaking soon on the Willamette and then after that on the coast.

With the exception of a few spots open for my evening couple's trips I am booked up for Willamette springers.

There is some space left for these great eating and hard fighting coastal springers. You must be present to win!

March 21, 2015

ODFW License Fee Increases

by David Johnson

You have probably heard that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing to make some pretty big fee increases on licenses and tags. This money isn't going to improve fishing. It's not going to open up any new places or add any more fish to our rivers.

ODFW has done virtually nothing to grow angler's numbers (license sales) increase GOOD harvest opportunities (add more fisheries) or market themselves.

We have some of the best fishing anywhere, even better than Alaska in many cases, yet people from around the country and around the world have virtually never heard of fishing in Oregon. It's hard for me to market fishing to outsiders because the business climate/seasons are not consistent.

They have been interested in increasing the number of days anglers can fish on the Columbia, but opportunity to fish DOESN'T = HARVEST. And anglers want a very reasonable chance to harvest fish. That is why B10 had become so popular. It's not because the weather is good or things are cheap, it's because there are so many fish it's easy to catch some to take home!

If ODFW was a private company there's a good chance they wouldn't even be around.

Our fisheries are in a death spiral. The more fisheries are cut, the less anglers buy licenses, and as a result, more fisheries are cut.

And many of these fisheries have been cut in the name of saving wild fish- with no improvements in those wild runs at all. The lady that championed the removal of upper Clackamas summer steelhead has admitted that it DID NOT improve those fishes survival at all.

Think of all the fisheries that are a shadow of what they once were or that don't even exist any longer.

For winter steelhead, at one time, the lines of bank anglers along the lower Clackamas, at Oxbow Park on the Sandy, Eagle Creek, and Big Creek were substantial. Now, the only people you will find at these past hotbeds of steelhead fishing are the people that don't know any better. These people are probably not going to catch anything, and most likely, don't know what it used to be and what it could be again.

Gone are the once very popular summer steelhead fisheries on the upper Clackamas, upper Sandy, Molalla, Salmon River, and Zig Zag. In the ‘80's there were as many summer steelhead tagged on the upper Clackamas River as the Deschutes. Many an angler caught their first steelhead, myself included, in these fisheries. They were vastly popular with anglers who would run up there after work for the last hour or two of day light, as well as families spending weekends camping and fishing in the area.

The biologist who was responsible for the idea that the hatchery summer steelhead was a limiting factor of the wild Clackamas winters now admits that there has been no impact and no increase to the wild fish since the summers were removed. Gee, thanks for the experiment that removed all that fishing opportunity…..

There are no longer hatchery winter steelhead planted in the Nehalem, Salmon, Cook Cr, Molalla, N. Santiam or upper Clackamas. Did we see an increase in wild fish? NO.

And winter steelhead plants have been reduced in the Siletz, NF Nehalem, Kilchis, Clackamas, and Sandy. In those places there are no more wild fish than there were 20 or 30 years ago.

Coho plants have been cut by 1/3 on the Trask and NF Nehalem and reduced on the Sandy and Eagle Cr.

Spring chinook have been reduced too.

In the 80's and early 90's there were over a dozen guides employed full time on the Clackamas and there were anglers lined up shoulder to should in all the popular spots like High Rocks, Pump House, Dog Creek and River Mill. On a busy day there were up to three or four boats in every hole from the mouth to Barton and farther up.

With less people fishing, who is going to care about the fish? Where are the kids going to find rivers and streams with steelhead and coho to chase?

Why have our fisheries shrunk?

It's been a death of a thousand cuts.

Budgets do have an impact and how much money is out there to produce fish but the biggest factor is the climate of our management.

Now fish runs are being protected that are not even of wild origin. The spring chinook on the upper Sandy are prime examples. These fish are descendants of hatchery plants yet now there are groups advocating to protect them.

Environmental groups are louder than sport fishing advocates and the more they push their propaganda the more they influence the system.

It's our turn to be heard.

Your legislatures need to hear from you. They need to hear that you are fed up with unproductive fisheries and that you will not stand for these fee increases!

ODFW admits that with a 33% fee increase they are going to lose 10,000 licensees.

I ask again, who is going to care for the fish and what about the kids? Fishing is becoming a dying sport, and the agency that is in charge of it is helping to kill it.

The ODFW commission has not and does not have a sport fishing representative with a true background in fishing in it.

Please contact your Senator and your representative ASAP and let them know you are not happy with the fee increases and not happy with our commission.

February 21, 2015

Fishing with "The Girls"

by David Johnson

Fishing with "The Girls"

Several years ago I wrote an article for Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine titled "Fish like a Girl". I started out the article saying, "If anyone ever says you fish like a girl take it as a compliment."

It's because girls flat out catch fish! They are detailed, they learn quickly, their pride doesn't get in the way and they smell good to the fish too. They also don't stress out about not catching fish.

Put a gal who has never even fished before in my boat and 9 out of 10 times by the end of the day they will be better fishers than some guy who claims to be a regular fishermen. That might sound like a bold statement but talk to other guides and they will tell you the same.

Meet Sara

and Kristin

A year ago this March I met Kristin and Sara. Kristin wanted to book a guided trip for Sara's birthday. Our first trip out we caught 7 steelhead while the other boats on the water were getting none.

If you've seen my Facebook posts or you are probably familiar with seeing these two girls with some great fish.

And if you have been on the river when we are you have probably have seen (and heard) us having fun.

Sara and Kristin always up for an adventure, they love life and they are serious about fishing and as hard core as any of my fishing buddies. To the point of that they will work a night shift, get off work at 7 in the morning and drive to the coast and fish all day. The girls fish several days a week.

They read water and can cast to any spot, no matter how overhung with trees it is. We've never been skunked together.

They have become regular clients, family friends and some of my favorites to fish with.

Did I mention they like having fun?

If you want to follow the fishing adventures of Sara and Kristin they have a Facebook page called, "Reel Women of Fishing NW"

January 29, 2015

2015 A Do Over of 2014

by David Johnson

Is 2015 going to be a "Do Over" of 2014? Yep, I think so. And in some instances Much better.

2014 was one increadable year, from springers to summer chinook to Astoria/B10 chinook and silvers to coastal fall chinook.

Willamette Springers

Coastal Springers



December Action

And we can safely say this was "The Year of the Coho" on the Columbia River and the coast.

I even caught this coho on New Years Day

And you know what they say, when we have a great coho year it is usually followed by a great steelhead year. This winter is no exception. There have been a lot of steelhead.

Last year January and February were disappointing. Not this year! Already we have had some great days catching lots of quality fish, and it's only going to get better in February and March and even in April. Usually when we have a larger run of fish we have an extended season. Much like we did last fall for chinook and coho.

A few from this winter so far-

And right around the corner from now it's going to be springer season. The Columbia is predicted to have over 300,000 fish. That is above the ten year average, the Willamette is predicted to have a run similar to last year and then there's our coastal springers, my favorites. Coastal springer jack returns last spring were some of the highest ever, translation, lots of fish this spring

I would think that our Columbia summer steelhead and summer chinook are going to be great again too. Great weather and great fishing…..

The ever popular Astoria fishery is once again predicted to be unbelievable, a don't miss.

And then we'll be back to fall on the coast. Chinook and coho galore! Bay, tidewater and river fishing.

December 09, 2014

My Fall Chinook Wrap Up-You Had To Be Present To Win


This was my 21st fall of guiding and it was incredible, pretty much tied with other two best falls ever (last year was one of those) And that's not even counting the best coho run I've seen in my lifetime.

We had some pretty cool things happen.

Three times we had a fish swallow two different baits at the same time, and we landed it with two rods. I've had this happen eight or nine times over my career and then we had it happen three times in about three weeks!

I broke a fish off on the hook set only to have one of my clients catch it about twenty minutes later.

One time we were getting some bites in a hole but couldn't hook them and then when we did hook up my other client had a coho grab her eggs right at the boat. When I was unhooking this lip caught coho I noticed it had a wad of eggs down in its throat. I think that fish was our short biter/bait steeler!

As always we had a lot of people catch their first ever salmon.

Emily from Tennessee on her first salmon trip

Lisa was visiting from Central America, fishing for the first time ever, she did great!

And we had doubles at least every other day, and sometimes two or three doubles in the same day. And twice we had a triple. Unfortunately when we had doubles I was a little too busy to get many pics.

On a few days I had a blast bank fishing and catching coho on my days off, mostly on Dinger Twitching Jigs.

Of course I caught some on eggs too.

There were some trophy coho around too.

And some very nice chinook too.

4.5 and 5.0 MagLips helped us get the job done.

From leaving Astoria to early December we consistently caught limits or near limits and they are already talking about the runs next year being even better! Don't forget to book early next year-you must be present to win!

And don't miss out on steelhead this winter, with a huge coho run we usually have very good steelhead fishing too.

We've already started getting into some.

November 18, 2014

Katies Buck

by David Johnson

I quit deer hunting about 20 years ago, it always got in the way of fall chinook fishing because the best time to hunt was always the last week of October and the first week of November, which is also usually when we get the first big rains of fall and some very good fishing.

The last few falls I did buy a western buck tag but only got out a couple times around my house with no success. I really didn't put much effort or time into it.

This year my daughter Katie wanted to try deer hunting. She saved up and bought herself a riffle.

I crossed off 6 days on my calendar and set them aside for hunting. We were going to give this some serious effort.

On the first morning we went out we picked a logging road with some promising clear cuts to check out. I spotted a deer just as it slipped behind a tree but I didn't get a good enough look to see if it was a buck so I circled around the cut to see if I could see it again while the girls stayed on the road.

After I got back they decided to walk the rest of the way down the road while I went back to get the truck.

When they got to the landing at the end of the road they spotted a buck trotting through the clear cut below them. Katie couldn't get sighted in on it as it went onto the logging road below that was lined with alders.

And wouldn't you know it, there was another hunter walking on that road. The deer saw him and turned around and went back into the clear cut and stopped behind a bush. Katie couldn't see it but that other hunter did- and shot it.

If she would have gotten him she would have taken a deer in her first hour of ever hunting.

On the next morning we hunted a large clear cut close to home. I took the road that goes at the bottom of the cut while the girls took the high road.

I scared a buck and doe toward them and when the buck crossed right in front of the gals Katie didn't have a shell in her gun. She hadn't loaded it after getting out of the truck.

She did get one shot off just before the three point went over the ridge but it was a long shot and she missed.

We went out three more days and never even saw a single deer. Lots and lots of other hunters though. Hunting on weekends is like fishing on the Wilson river on a weekend.

November 3rd was the last day Katie could hunt before she had to go back to work. I'll let her tell the story….

"So..today was my last day to hunt. I was kind of discouraged this morning, along with incredibly tired. So we head out at 5:30. I sleep a good portion of the way to a new area to try to hunt. We get there moments before its legal to hunt. lots of potholes, made me start to feel sick. Lots of driving. Saw a doe grazzing, i got out to practice feeling comfortable next to a deer, and scoping with my gun. walked very slowly and got maybe 20-30feet from her? Then we drove, Parked and walked out to the edge of a clearing, lots of elk scat and doe tracks. Walk back. Drive around some more. Then we start to head back down the top of the mountain at around 8:50. Stopping at all the clearings and glassing the hillsides. As we pass a rock quarry, i look up from my bag of chips and see it! A tan object running away from us. I yelled, "THERE!!" Grabbed my gun and exclaimed that i could run up the embankment after him. Jumped out, almost fell down a ditch, got my feeting and booked it around the corner. Took aim but couldn't count his horns because he was in a pile of brush. Dad jumped out and ran beside me. Then the deer started to walk and his horns were tall and i shot him at a backwards angle. I reloaded and booked it after him. Then mom jumped into the front of the truck and drove after us. He ran maybe 50 feet, down an embankment and dropped. One shot, straight through the liver and a lung. He was twitching when we got to him. We both pulled him up together. I have so many thanks to give to them."

Success! It could not have worked out any better.

Katie also got out fishing with me a couple of times this fall.

October 23, 2014

I killed 500 coho yesterday

by David Johnson

I killed about 500 coho yesterday.

Yesterday I joined a group of Tillamook Angler and NW Steelheader volunteers at the Trask Hatchery to assist ODFW in processing surplus coho for the food bank.

I earned my degree in Fisheries and have worked at a few fish hatcheries in the past, but that was 20 years ago. I have been wanting to go help out at one of the hatcheries but every time I've gotten the e-mail announcements it's been too short of notice for me to go. This time because of the weather, I had some cancelations and made it.

Welcome to Garibaldi

We had various jobs. At the first fish trap the hatchery workers were the ones who got into the raceway to crowd and net the fish, one of us clubbed the fish (I did this half the time while Jim the hatchery manager did the other half, hence killing about 500 coho) others sorted fish and placed them into totes and ice for shipment to the processor.

The fish must be crowded together for efficient netting/collection

fish are quickly dispatched

At the second trap they crowded the fish in the raceway then used a bailer to scoop the fish up and place them into a holding tank where they are shocked just enough to stun them. Then we sorted them- hatchery coho were dispatched and placed in totes, chinook were placed into another raceway and there was one wild coho that was returned to the river.

As of yesterday Trask hatchery has collected about 6000 silvers, that's a 5 to 6% return. Last year they have about 2,400 adult coho return. And so far they have more jacks than last year. All indications are for even more coho next year!

So far Tillamook Anglers have collected 2000 pounds of protein for needy families in Tillamook County.

The volunteers are needed and greatly appreciated. And it's fun. I encourage you to join in with the Tillamook anglers and/or Tillamook NW Steelheaders for any of their volunteer projects such as spawning, fin clipping, carcass placement. I'm for sure going to try and join them again.

September 28, 2014

The Rod Came Back

by David Johnson

The Rod Came Back!

This story sure is a testament to the effectiveness of social media for getting the word out about things.

About a month ago, while fishing in Astoria, we got ifnto yet another hot bite and my client Fred stepped away from his rod to tend my bow rod when his rod folded over. I told his brother in-law Roger to jump over and grab it. While he was doing that his rod folded over and all of a sudden with a loud snap it went over the side. I lunged for it but wasn't fast enough. That thing disappeared into the depths in seconds. And why wouldn't I also tear my rain pants on the jagged plastic that was left of the rod holder?

We couldn't believe what just happened.

After a few minutes of speculation on how big that fish was I thought maybe there's a chance someone will catch the rod since there were quite a few boats working the same area.

I pulled out my phone and posted to Facebook, "If anyone catches a G Loomis rod in Astoria today I lost one."

A few hours I was getting calls and massages that my rod was recovered!

Someone else had posted on his Facebook that he had caught a rod and reel and immediately people started replying back that I had lost mine.
After a phone call and a few days of trying to meet up I finally got the rod back.

Thank you Ron Logan for being honest and returning my rod and reel!

A little more to the story. Yes, there was still a fish. I don't know if they kept it or not. They limited out and so did we so that is a moot point. And it wasn't a huge fish either, only about a 14 pounder.

After only a few hours in the river the rod was in perfect shape but the reel was so full of sand I am going to have get it rebuilt.

Several people have asked what kind of rod holder it was. It really doesn't matter since it has sat out in the Sun/ UV for ten years, spent countless hours being stressed by a rod pinned in it and caught hundreds and hundreds of fish. Eventually everything gives.

September 18, 2014

Awesome September Coho in Astoria

by DavidJohnson

As usual, once Labor Day roles past summer is over and the lower Columbia crowds evaporate.

To their loss! I would say they all missed out. Do they not know? Or do they not care? The best fishing is NOW! It is 3 times better now and there are no lines at the ramp.

Last Tuesday by 6:30 only about a dozen boats put in at Hammond

Sure, you might not be able to keep a chinook but the action is "Off the Hook" You can get the fight of a chinook, release it, and go home with a cooler full of even better tasting coho. And the limit is 3 of those.

Since before Labor Day we have been limiting out on every trip. Sometimes we have gone off-shore where you could keep both clipped and un-clipped but mostly in the river and saved the gas.

Anglers would do well to save their vacation up and use it for fishing in September as opposed to fighting the crowds in August.

We have been doing very well with anchovies with cut plug herring a close second. I have put out a few spinners but it's easier to catch and release with the single hooks of my bait rigs.

With fishing so hot I have upped my leader from 40# Maxima Ultra Green to 50# Ultra Green. This simply allows me to catch ten plus fish on the same leader without changing it, even when there are nicks or kinks.

In the past few years I have been running a lot of lead in my arsenal but this year I was running a lot of Delta Divers again.

My line counter Tekota reels allowed for precise bait placement and my GLoomis 1265's have the give to convert those bites into fish that would otherwise be a drive by.

As good as coho fishing has been, the numbers of fish that are still off-shore and the condition of the fish (lots of bucks in river and lots of immature females in the ocean) tells me that we are going to have a lot of hot silver fishing for a long time in Astoria.

There is still time to get into this fishing so don't keep missing out.

August 07, 2014

July Recreation

by David Johnson

Late June and the month of July in Oregon has an unbelievable amount of outdoor opportunity, especially in the fishing world.

Columbia summer chinook, halibut, tuna, rockfish, ocean salmon, summer steelhead on the big river and in tributaries, trout, warm water fish, crabbing, great clam tides, sturgeon….so many things to do and places to go there just isn't time to do them all. I try to though. At least I can get half of it.

I went on a razor clamming and zip lining adventure in Clatsop County.

And hit the Columbia for some salmon and steelhead.

In mid-July it got especially busy around the Johnson's with our daughter getting married and family visiting from Texas.

My little nephew, Ezra, from Texas is one little outdoorsmen.

When we were not running errands for the wedding prep or heading out to the local waters he was playing in the woods and creek around my house, catching frogs and crawdads.

We went fishing for sea perch one day, clamming another. We went to some tide pools on another morning.

Then the ocean laid down and we got a chance to go off-shore for coho and crab. I had another client come along and bring his son as well.

We were treated to a very flat ocean but the fish were a bit scattered. We would move to a new spot, hook a few fish and then it would go quite so we would move, hook a few fish until it slowed and then move again.

We lost quite a few and released others, finishing with four keeper coho.

Then we headed in for a trip through three arches, then pulled some crab pots.

Tesha and I steamed up a rare treat of fresh crab for our Texans.

We had our Texas company here for eight days and we had sea food six of those- steamer clams, razor clams, halibut, salmon, crab, sea perch.

After everyone left and things settle down it was time to start working again. And the salmon and sturgeon were willing!

It's a shame that so few people are willing to do catch and release fishing for sturgeon. One of my clients had his best friend from North Carolina come out and bring his son to do a fishing trip.

The wind was not our friend for ocean fishing so we chose to do C & R for sturgeon. NON STOP ACTION! The only thing that kept us from catching fish was catching fish because these things were hot and we had to bring them in to keep from tangles.

Shallow water sturgeon are such a blast, but no one was out there. So it is with catch and release. I have always tried to get clients to come out in July but very few join me. These fish deserve to be caught more than once as they are an excellent sport fish.

It is now August and B10 is in full swing with A Lot of fish around. Time to focus on salmon but next year in late June and July, consider all the opportunities we have and get out there.

July 08, 2014

Cormorants Eating Up Our Fish-Stop Them

by David Johnson

There is one more opportunity to let our voices be herd to help our fisheries.

There are thousands of Cormorants nesting on a manmade island, East Sand Island, at the mouth of the Columbia and they are eating us out of house and home.

"Over the last decade, a large colony nesting on East Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River has consumed approximately 11 million juvenile salmonids per year. In recent years (2011-2013) consumption has averaged 18.5 million per year. "

(Corps of Engineers Photo)

That is a lot of fish and a lot of money, our money.

For once the Army Corps is willing to help us out, or at least work on righting what they have done, building Sand Island. They are planning on killing 16,000 birds.

But of course there is opposition. The Audubon Society is up in arms and will be protesting this. And like other inviro groups they will probably start a law suit over this.

It's all feel good though, there is no reason not to thin them out.

I see these birds as if they were a pest feeding on our crops. They are not endangered, they are thriving on a manmade island and they are increasing at an alarming rate. We can manage these birds. Their only protection came in 1972 under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the same act that allows us to hunt ducks and geese.

There are two meetings to attend to let our voices be heard, I am going to make at least one of them:

July 10 from 2:30 - 5:30 p.m. at the Matt Dishman Community Center, 77 NE Knott Street,

Portland July 24th from 3 - 6 p.m. at the Best Western Lincoln Inn, 555 Hamburg Ave, Astoria

You can also send in your written comments my e-mail or snail mail.

The Corps has released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on June 12, 2014. The 45-day public review and comment period begins June 19, 2014 and ends Aug. 4, 2014.

Comments may be made in writing, either electronically or by mail. You can submit comments on the draft EIS by email: Cormorant-EIS@usace.army.mil or by sending written comments to:

Sondra Ruckwardt
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District
Attn: CENWP-PM-E / Double-crested cormorant draft EIS
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, OR 97208-2946

We are not the only ones battling these birds, I have talked with fishermen in Spain and Italy that are having problems with cormorants whipping out fish populations.

The Great Lakes are also dealing with them too.

July 07, 2014

Another Potential Loss of Fisheries

by David Johnson

There are troubled waters ahead. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council wants to cut funding for the tribe's hatchery programs, and without them we will be left with the states providing us fish, and we all know that the future of that isn't bright.

I know many of you have a dislike for tribal fishing on the Columbia River but without them we WOULD NOT be having the fishing that we have had the last several years and WE WILL NOT have as good fishing in the future

I know this is short notice but I only got word of it today and tomorrow is the meeting but they will take written comment through July 25.

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council published a draft program that would remove years of locally-developed hatchery practices that are rebuilding abundance and setting a trajectory for delisting in favor of a hypothetical formula that would cut successful hatchery programs in the mid and upper Columbia. If this arbitrary set of standards for hatcheries is applied as written, cutting-edge hatchery programs like the Snake River Fall Chinook Program that the Nez Perce Tribe and other co-managers implement that could be dismantled. The very program that has taken Snake River fall chinook from 78 returning adults in 1990 to 21,000 wild fish in 2013 could be gutted with a 90% reduction. Hatchery production above Bonneville Dam would be reduced by 20% overall.

The damage won't stop there. The proposed amendments would be a significant blow to the tribal members and sport anglers who rely on the fisheries that these programs support. They would decrease fishing opportunities and impact the many communities that receive an economic boost from fishing enthusiasts.

On July 8, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council will be holding a public hearing on the proposed Fish and Wildlife Amendments at the Council's Central Office in Portland. This is an important opportunity for those who enjoy the bounty of Columbia Basin salmon to tell the Northwest Power and Conservation Council that we want salmon, both hatchery and wild.

All of us in this region need to rally behind our successes. A fish and wildlife program developed by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council should support and add value to the Columbia Basin's successful projects, not hamper them by becoming a new regulatory framework.

The 2013 Columbia River fall chinook return was one that was celebrated throughout the region. More than 1.2 million fall chinook made their way to the Columbia River, and among them, a significant run of Snake River chinook. The 2014 return is expected to be even higher. But these gains can be swept away unless these mitigation programs continue to be based on locally developed guidelines that reflect sound scientific practices and respect the ground-breaking work being accomplished every day in fisheries across the Northwest.

How to submit a comment:
Comments can be submitted online at:


: PublicComments@nwcouncil.org

Attend the Portland Hearing:
Tuesday, July 8
Portland, OR
Council Central Office
851 SW 6th Ave Suite 1100
Portland, OR 97204

Deadline to comment is July 25, 2014.

July 01, 2014

Eating Summer Chinook

by David Johnson

Did you get a chance to eat any of the summer chinook from the Columbia this year? I did and it was AWESOME! While I was at a friend of mine's house he pulled some out of his smoker. We devoured it! It was so tasty and packed with oil.

You want the best smoked fish? Start with some of the best salmon, and by far these summer fish are some of the best.

I think I took in enough Omega-3 to erase at least a few milk shakes from my arteries.

My favorite part, the fatty, gelatinous fin meat

Most years I miss out on the short summer chinook season we're given since I am usually fishing estuary sturgeon the last two weeks of June.

This year I didn't have a sturgeon season so I targeted some of these summer chinook farther up river. But since most of the time all the fish caught on my boat go home with my clients it's been a long time since I've actually gotten to eat one myself.

Summer chinook fishing is relatively new to us. It's only been about the last dozen or so years we've been able to fish for them. Before that the run was pretty darn small.

It wasn't always small though. Originally, in the 1800's, these summer chinook were the #1 commercially harvested salmon on the Columbia River. Once that run of fish was wiped out they moved on to harvesting all of the springers and after the springers were gone they moved on to fall chinook.

Then in the 1930's they started building the hydro systems on the Columbia and the summer fish were just barely holding on.

One component of the summer chinook run included the "June Hogs". A large strain of chinook that migrated all the way into Canada. Those fish went extinct with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. It is said when the dam was completed there were thousands of salmon jumping against the base of the dam until they beat themselves to death.

People still call the summer chinook June Hogs even though the real ones are now gone. But there are some big fish still swimming up-stream. The biggest we have caught was 42 pounds.

In reality, the summer run of chinook gets very little pressure, especially compared to springers. Which is funny since they are every bit as good to eat. They are bigger, they bite well and the weather is a heck of a lot better.

I encourage you to get out next year and catch some of these great fish.

July 01, 2014

summer chinook

by David Johnson

Did you get a chance to eat any of the summer chinook from the Columbia this year? I did and it was AWESOME! While I was at a friend of mine's house he pulled some out of his smoker. We devoured it! It was so tasty and packed with oil.

You want the best smoked fish? Start with some of the best salmon, and by far these summer fish are some of the best.

I think I took in enough Omega-3 to erase at least a few milk shakes from my arteries.

My favorite part, the fatty, gelatinous fin meat

Most years I miss out on the short summer chinook season we're given since I am usually fishing estuary sturgeon the last two weeks of June.

This year I didn't have a sturgeon season so I targeted some of these summer chinook farther up river. But since most of the time all the fish caught on my boat go home with my clients it's been a long time since I've actually gotten to eat one myself.

Summer chinook fishing is relatively new to us. It's only been about the last dozen or so years we've been able to fish for them. Before that the run was pretty darn small.

It wasn't always small though. Originally, in the 1800's, these summer chinook were the #1 commercially harvested salmon on the Columbia River. Once that run of fish was wiped out they moved on to harvesting all of the springers and after the springers were gone they moved on to fall chinook.

Then in the 1930's they started building the hydro systems on the Columbia and the summer fish were just barely holding on.

One component of the summer chinook run included the "June Hogs". A large strain of chinook that migrated all the way into Canada. Those fish went extinct with the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. It is said when the dam was completed there were thousands of salmon jumping against the base of the dam until they beat themselves to death.

People still call the summer chinook June Hogs even though the real ones are now gone. But there are some big fish still swimming up-stream. The biggest we have caught was 42 pounds.

In reality, the summer run of chinook gets very little pressure, especially compared to springers. Which is funny since they are every bit as good to eat. They are bigger, they bite well and the weather is a heck of a lot better.

I encourage you to get out next year and catch some of these great fish.

May 30, 2014

Steelhead Fishing Prank

by David Johnson

Steelhead Fishing Prank

Two weeks ago me and a couple buddies went on a steelhead trip to Alaska's Situk River. We had a blast! Tons of fish and constant laughs.

The Situk is the best steelhead river in Alaska and possibly the world. Three of the main reasons it is so productive for steelhead are all the salmon runs that provide food, the fact that the river flows out of a lake, creating a clear and stead stream flow and the abundant cover (aka. Large woody debris) that provide food, cover and shelter to adult and juvenile fish.

It was these snags, log jams and root balls that gave us fun and frustration.

When we hooked these fish it seemed like they knew exactly where every snag was. Many times the fish won.

But with the log jams came schools of fish "You just had to fish for" even if it meant you might lose your fish. Under many of the log jams you could see 20, 30 even 40 steelhead stacked up in the clear water.

We stopped in this one hole with a nasty pile of logs and brush, and probably over 70 steelhead. Ty backed the drift boat up against the logs and we tried to tempt a few fish in the tail-out to bite. While we were there Shawn stepped off the back of the boat onto the logs to try for some of the fish under the log pile.

Of course Shawn hooked one right away, and of course it broke him off right away too.

Shawn- "Hey, can you guys get me another jig?" "Hey guys?" I didn't really want to give up a jig just so he can lose it again. So we ignored his requests.

"Come on, help a brotha out!" "Ok, give me your line" I said

I tied on a "special" jig I had laying around.

Earlier in the day while releasing a fish the hook point broke off one of my jigs and it was laying around in the boat. "Here you go Shawn"

Shawn "hooked" three more steelies. Well, he had three takedowns anyway. Then he checked his hook…."YOU JERKS!' "So that's why I never got hung up…" he said.

We all got a big laugh out of it.

For future reference, always check your hook, especially if a buddy is tying it on for you.

Do you have any pranks you've pulled?

May 16, 2014

Situk River Steelhead Trip

by David Johnson

It has been a couple years since I've been to Alaska so six weeks ago when Shawn said, "Let's go to the Situk." I was all up for it.

Although I've been to Alaska 16 other times between work and adventures, I have never been to the Situk and since it has the best run of steelhead in Alaska I have always wanted to go there.

The Situk River is in Yakutat Alaska, located about 90 miles north of Juno. It flows out of Situk Lake for twenty miles before going into the Gulf of Alaska. It's a natural flowing river with thousands of board feet of timber in it. There are log jams and brush piles at every turn, part of what makes it so productive.

We chose May 10th to go, both because it is right around the peak of the run and because traditionally my Willamette River springer fishing is winding down.

Prior to our departure I ended up fishing nine out of ten days in a row, only to have a day off and then it was off to Alaska. I planned on catching up on sleep on the plane and in the airport.

We arrived to low water conditions, less than 100 cfs. My favorite. But these were really low. Lowest water levels in 11 years. South East Alaska usually has a lot of rain, usually hundreds of inches a year and feet and feet of snow. But not this year. All the snow had melted a while ago and they hadn't had rain for a while either. And it was warmer than usual. The river temp was up in the mid 50's.

Because of these conditions we had our work cut out for us. Never have I seen so many fish (we saw hundreds and hundreds a day in our 14 mile float) and had to work that hard for them. It reminded me of fishing summer steelhead on the Salmon and upper Clackamas river as a kid. They bit well in the early morning but by nine or ten the sun was intense and it didn't matter what we tried they had lock jaw until late afternoon, then we caught fish again.

We ended up doing our best with micro jigs or beads but we did get some in the mornings on pink/glo tail 3 ½ inch WFO worms, 1/8 oz. Maxi Jigs and spin glows. I ran it all on 10# Maxima fluorocarbon.

Our grand total was over 60 steelhead hooked. I say hooked because we lost about a third of them in the brush and log piles that proliferate the river.

We also caught a lot of Dolly Varden, about a dozen a day until our last day, then we lost count at 70 fish. I always like catching fish that are unique to me and since we don't have dollies here I thought it was cool to catch them.

Then on our departure day two of us did a halibut trip and I caught a nice 70 to 80 pound halibut, "bringing home the groceries"

The Situk is an amazing place and I plan to go back again.

March 22, 2014

Inside Steelhead

by David Johnson

Inside Steelhead

I like to check out the innards of fish. I have always been interested in the biology of fish. I guess it is part of why I went to college for Fisheries.

This winter we have caught several steelhead that had pink egg juice in their stomach (we caught them on artificial) as well as one fish that had a sand shrimp tail and another that had a full size tiger prawn choked down and swallowed. The tiger prawn was whole, with the shell peeled off and slightly dyed pink. It didn't have any hook marks in it so I think it was one that someone had tossed overboard.

Another very hard fighting wild hen we caught had someone else's yarnie stuck in her jaw.

Over the years I have found in steelhead snails, may fly larvae, colored and clear pieces of plastic, sand shrimp heads, cured prawn tail meat, a squid beak, a cured salmon fishing prawn, bait eggs and natural eggs from other spawning fish.

In chinook I have found herring heads, filleted sardine skeletons, bait, sand shrimp/eggs/prawns, salmon smolts, smelt, chunks of salmon rib cage, cut plug herring and once I found a shrew in an ocean caught coho.

One of the coolest/weirdest catches came last week. One of my clients snagged up on the bottom and it came loose. When he reeled in he had someone else's leader with a spin glo and double hook set up. There was a piece of white flesh on the hook and I thought, "Looks like someone was using some squid for bait." But then later on I took a closer look and noticed that is was actually in fact the maxillary jaw bone from a steelhead!

What have you found in fish you have caught?

January 29, 2014

New GLoomis Rods about to be released

by David Johnson

I have been a loyal costumer of GLoomis almost my whole fishing life and all of my guiding career and I have been blessed to be on the GLoomis Pro Staff for over a dozen years.

Part of being on the VIP Guide Staff with GLoomis is the opportunity to have a hand in designing and testing out rods. A few years ago I got to work with the "Salmon Series" and the "Steelhead Series".

For the past month and a half I have been field testing some of the new IMX steelhead rods and let me tell you, they are nice.

For lightness, sensitivity and functionality, hands down they are the best!

The lightness makes them a joy to fish with and cuts down on angler fatigue, the rod length aids in the very important task of line control and I don't even have to tell you about how important sensitivity is. These rods are sensitive. The finish and line guides are tough as nails too.

The new IMX rods are going to be releases to the public at the Portland Sportsmen Show. Stop by the GLoomis booth there and check them out yourself. I'll be there on Saturday, if you are there, stop by and say, "Hi"

January 09, 2014

Steelhead Begining

by David Johnson

The 2013/2014 winter steelhead season sure has gotten off to a rocky start. Thanksgiving is usually the "official" kick-off of winter steelhead season, however, this year it's just getting started. First we had an arctic blast for the first half of December and then the second half of the month and the first half of January we've had this pesky high pressure system that has blocked off the rain and given us a drought. Also add in that the state has cut plants of early returning hatchery stocks giving us less returning fish this time of year.

Sure, there's been some bright spots of catching fish on various rivers but for the most part it's been scratch fishing. The only good thing has been the lack of pressure making for some enjoyable time on the water without an aluminum hatch.

But things are looking up. The water that is. It is looking like we will be getting a train of our much missed Pacific NW weather systems. Rivers are rising!

With the higher flows I am thinking of side drifting and drift fishing.

Drift fishing holds a special place in my heart.

When I was a young steelheader, drift drifting was the principle method for winter steelhead but in the last ten years others techniques have pushed it to the side. This is a disadvantage to many. Sometimes drift fishing is the only thing that will get down to the fish. And sometimes you need to slow things down and give the fish some time to look at your offering.

One thing for sure. When drift fishing, it's all about sensitivity. You are going to want the absolute most sensitive rod you can get your hands on. Don't sell yourself short.
I love my GLoomis IMX for drift fishing. With it I can feel everything, from line touching a stick, to when the bottom turns from sand to gravel, to the very lightest steelhead pick up.

In the early years the single biggest handicap to me catching steelhead was not having a quality, sensitive rod. After a couple winters of not catching any steelhead I finally up-graded to a decent rod and started catching fish.

Many beginning steelheaders ask, "How do I choose the right color drift bobber and/or yarn?"

I try and match the color of my gear to the color of the water.

It's pretty simple, bright when the water is dirty and tone down as the water clears.

In real murky water my favorites are chartreuse clown, orange fluorescent and flame red. Reverse clown is a relatively new color that I'm planning on using a lot this year too.

As the water clears just a little bit, rocket red, sherbet and sunset join the party.

By the way, flame red and rocket red are Yakima Baits all-time best selling colors.

When things are that perfect "Steelhead Green", almost anything goes. Start out in the morning with the brighter dirty water colors and as the light increases start to tone it down.

Everyone's favorite color for green to clear water is the Pink Pearl (listed as pearl red in the catalog) Also for clear water go with some of the more pastel/pearl colors like pearl green, mother of pearl and pearl clown. It things are super, super clear try a black/glitter.

And never overlook the metallic colors when the sun is shining, the metallic blue and metallic cerise are my favorites. I like them better in clear water but they do seem to work in all water conditions. And don't overlook the sparkle finish corky either, they are nice little attention getters.

I also really like the luminous colors at or before first light. In clearer water I like peach luminous, luminous pink and luminous rocket red and straight up luminous in cloudier water.

I'm a bait fishermen. I like eggs. I will also use prawn tail chunks or sand shrimp but my go to are always eggs. There are also some pretty good rubber eggs out there on the market too. Some anglers will just us a corky and yarn, scented or un-scented (shrimp, krill, crawfish, and anise). I will use yarn too but usually in combo with some bait. You will want to use a contrasting color. Pink/chartreuse, blue/cerise, orange or red/white. My all-time favorite corky/yarn color combo is rocket red and white yarn with just a little bit of egg added. Especially early in the season. I think the white yarn imitates a piece of salmon flesh being washed down stream, much like the flesh flies used for Alaskan trout.

It's important to make sure you are matching your hook size to the corky size. I like to run a size #1 or 1/0 with a size 10 and a #1 or #2 with my size 12. You don't want the hook to be too big and sink your offering down but you want it big enough that the point isn't blocked by the body of the drift bobber.

Besides using corkies for drift bobbers I've been using Winners. A winner is basically a spin glo body without the wings. I use winners the most for running between two hooks while side drifting (#12 winner, two #3 Vision hooks) but I will also use it for drift fishing rigged on top of a corky (my favorite is a #12 corky/#12 or #10 winner, rocket red with white yarn)

On some occasions I like to drift fish with Spin-n-Glos. I like them for drift fishing in large sweeping tail-outs during high water. My favorites are flame tiger with black wings, chartreuse clown, flame, orange fluorescent and metallic blue in size #10 rigged above a 1/0 hook and tipped with sand shrimp. In my early years I caught several of my first steelhead on the flame tiger and sand shrimp.

A killer producer for clear and cold water steelies is a chrome body with a red head and a small pinch of eggs.

Make sure that you use a small plastic bead as a bearing between the spin glo and hook.

I also like to use the old Birdie Drifters in these tail-outs.

Choose your spin-n-Glo and Winner colors just like you would with corkies.

For leader I almost always use 10# Maxima Ultragreen for leader but will drop down to 8# Ultragreen in real low water conditions. I think if you polled a hundred steelheaders you would probably find that 80 or 90 of them used Ultragreen. I believe that the light/clear green color of this line really blends in with the underwater environment of our rivers.

I hope this blog has helped point you in the right direction for your up and coming steelhead fishing this winter.

December 28, 2013

End of an Awesome Fall

by David Johnson

End of an Awesome Fall

It's sad to see it go.

I hope all of you had a blessed Christmas season! I did!

Now that it is late December and I've finished my fall chinook season I thought I'd share a wrap up of last fall.

From catching hundreds of Columbia fall chinook in August and early September to catching hundreds of fall chinook on the coast from September to December, we had an awesome season.

Fishing on the Columbia this year was almost a no brainer with a million salmon moving up stream.

Because of all the action and not much technique involved, this is a great fishery for beginners, non-fishers or people that simply like to catch fish.

Ready for battle!

The Astoria fishery is an excellent choice for large group trips to!

We had lots of kids and women join us for the Astoria fishery.

It was also one of my best years for Oregon coast fall chinook. The conditions could not have been better, with a dry September that had a record amount of rain at the end and a record dry October and November, we caught limits or near limits on almost every day. I would much rather have no rain than too much because you can't fish in the mud.

We tried new places and old stomping grounds and used new things as well as relied on our old stand by techniques. Fishing herring, eggs and bait wrapped plugs all really paid off.

I like the fall coastal fishery the best because of the varied techniques and hands on fishing.

This fall I also picked up a new ClackaCraft drifter. Let me tell you it is one slick fishing machine! Easy rowing, light weight and perfect for low water skinny water drifting we put a lot of fish in the boat.

As mid-December approached and the arctic cold set in, I broke out my steelhead gear and hit the bank one morning. On my second cast of the first morning of steelhead fishing I caught my first winter steelhead of the 2013/2014 winter steelhead season. An hour later I had my last fall chinook of 2013 on the bank as well.

I fought that beast for at least 15 minutes using my light GLoomis 1141 (rated 4-8).

I saw a few dark salmon swimming around in the hole but then I saw a bright one go by and a couple casts later my float went down, I set the hook, and fish on! I'm pretty sure it was that fish.

From that morning on I started to target steelhead instead of targeting salmon.

I would like to give credit to all the great tools I have had at my disposal to catch all these fish. The lightness, strength, and most of all, the sensitivity of my GLoomis rods and the effectiveness of the Mag Lips, the Short Bus Flashers, and the spinners.

Another factor contributing to our success was all the quality bait I had at my disposal. I put in a lot of extra care and attention to detail curing my eggs, resulting in some of the best quality eggs most have used. I also hand pick and personally vac pac my sardines and I usually pump my own sand shrimp.

After such a great season it's hard not to get excited about next year. So are other people, as I already have people booking for next year. And of course I'm booking steelhead dates too.

Thanks to all the clients who joined me this year. I hope to see all of you again on the boat next year. And next year I would love to see some new faces too.

December 05, 2013

So Cold

by David Johnson

With all the frosty roads, frozen anchor ropes and ice on the guides (both on the rods and the guys rowing the boat) the worst of it is keeping my sand shrimp from freezing to death.

Yesterday I tried putting hand warmers in the cooler and today I tried keeping them in my pocket but they still died.

At least the fish haven't minded

On a warm note I don't have to buy ice for the fish, my bait wrapped plugs stay fresh there are less people on the water.

December 01, 2013

Mag Lips Part Deux Some Nuts and Bolts

by David Johnson

My last blog was a bit of an overview of me using Mag Lips. This blog will cover a few of the details, the nuts and bolts.

Hooks- I prefer to double up the split rings so that they drop the hooks back and then I add a high quality treble hook. For the 4.5 I use a #1 and for the 3.5 I will put a #4 on the belly and a #2 on the tail.

Wrapping bait- Fresh bait is of utmost importance. If at all possible wrap your baits the morning of the fishing trip. Or at least the night before. That is how I do it. I'll either get up a little earlier in the morning or wrap up a bunch of plugs late the night before and keep them in a Tupperware box in the back of the bait fridge.

And while fishing I will keep my wrapped plugs in their own cooler with plenty of blue ice packs.

To cure your bait or not? I prefer to keep my bait wraps fresh but many anglers do like to cure them with over the counter egg cures or marinate them in commercial brines. If I do anything to my baits I'll add a sprinkle of borax or sea salt.

And change the baits often. I will change out my baits after every two passes. And if the passes are long I make sure to re-charge the wraps with scent. I like sardine, herring or tuna.

And as I've mentioned before I prefer to wrap with sardine with tuna belly my second choice. I like the sardine better because it is thinner and easier to work with. Then there's the other alternate baits like sand shrimp or prawn tails, herring or eggs. I've used all these with some success and they are good options when sardines are in short supply or under crowded conditions when everyone else is using sardine and tuna.

I use stretchy thread for securing my bait wraps but one day I forgot it and was forced to improvise. I found a spool of 12# in my back seat and used it. It didn't work too well as it was slick and the bait wanted to keep sliding around, even a drive-by would mess up the bait.

Leader- When I'm running salmon plugs anything from a 4.5 size and bigger and I'll run nothing less than 50# leader. If you are one of those people who think 40 pound is strong enough you will likely be someone who I'll be saying, "I told you so" to when you break off that sweetheart, killer plug,

It isn't the ten pounds worth of breaking strength, it's the thickness that makes the difference.

Fish are notorious for wrapping the leader around the plug, hooks and themselves during the fight, causing for breakage and loss.

Put these little things to use and hopefully they will add up for you with more fish in the box.

November 26, 2013

Mag Lips

by David Johnson

For years salmon anglers dreamt of a "banana" shaped plug that would dive on a "flat-line". I remember the late Steve Kohler playing around with M2 Flatfish, trying to make them dive on their own. He would change the eye, file the bill or put small leads on the line.

In about 2005/2006 the Yakima Bait Company released the Mag Lip and salmon fishing hasn't been the same since.

It's too bad Steve passed away and isn't around to really get to fish the Mag Lip.

Why has the Mag Lip become a favorite plug of me and many others for salmon fishing? Let me tell you. It flat out catches fish. It dives perfectly right out of the package with almost no tuning ever and I have consistently caught fish with almost every one I have ever put in the water.

I think that it helps that there is a wire eye for your line attachment instead of a screw eye allowing less chance of the plug getting out of tune.

If your plug does need tuning many times all that is needed is to push the bait wrap one way or the other.

The company lists it as diving up to 20 feet but with the gear I use (65# braided line with a five foot leader of 50# Maxima Ultra Green) I feel that they get down in the 14 to 15 foot range. I've done very well in water as shallow as 4 feet and as deep as 18.

My favorite rod to use with my Mag Lips is the GLoomis 982. The 982 has the right tip and action to let me read exactly what is going on below the surface as well as impart the best action possible to the lure.

They can also be fished with lead on anchor or back trolled in deep water with a Jumbo Diver. I've done well fishing them in 30 to 35 feet of water behind the Jumbo.

The 4.5 is the standard size plug but in low water don't overlook the 3.5, with or without a very small bait wrap. The 3.5 has become the most popular plug fo silvers up in Washington.

The new kid on the block is the 5.0, a K15 size. I have heard that is field tests it got WAY more takedowns when fished side by side with the 4.5. I can't wait to get my hands on some and give them a try.

Ready for bait wrapping

These plugs are made for bait wraps. In fact they even have little grooves in the sides to help hold the wraps of thread. You have to make sure you keep the baits small. My favorite bait to use are sardines, followed by tuna belly. In a pinch I have also wrapped sand shrimp tails to the underside of my plugs. The other day this happened, we ran out of sardines so I wrapped some plugs with shrimp and caught some nice fish.

I've also wrapped my plugs with eggs, squid, anchovies, herring and prawns but still, my favorite is sardine.

And if you don't have any bait at all, scent them with a sticky type bait scent like Pro Cure's Jell, Mike's Lunker Lotion or Smelly Jelly's Sticky Liquid. You can also charge up your bait wraps these products. Use sardine, shrimp or herring.

This coho was caught on a scented Mag Lip

There are several ways you can rig hooks on these plugs. My first preference is to run double split rings with high quality treble hooks. Some people prefer or are required to use single hooks. These are best hung on barrel swivels. I have one friend who likes to run just one treble off the back but prefer to have both trebles since the majority of the fish I catch on these are hooked by the front hook.

We have caught dozens of fish on the Mag Lip this fall, many times it has done every bit as good as eggs. You owe it to yourself to give these plugs a try, I'm sure you will not be disappointed.

October 21, 2013

The Ghost Hole

by David Johnson

It is mid-October, and that means it is right in the middle of prime time for fishing the famous Ghost Hole on Tillamook Bay. If you have fished Tillamook Bay you probably have fished in the Ghost Hole, if you haven't you have heard of it.

It can be spotted while driving from Tillamook to Garibaldi along highway 101. There is a pull off along the side of the road right in front of the famous floating toilets provided for boaters by the Oregon State Marine Board. The lot is regularly filled with on-lookers watching for nets flying.

It is a popular fishing spot because it is a close run to a good boat ramp and the waters are calm enough for pretty much any boat. All you have to worry about is getting too far over to the west side of the channel and ending up on a sand bar. Go slow and follow the crowds and you should be all right. I have seen all types of boat fishing it, from large charter boats to jet skis and kayaks. I've even seen guys rowing drift boats out there.

I get asked all the time what gave the hole its name, so I did some research and came up with this for an answer:

In the later 1800's an immigrant settler by the name of George Weber homesteaded here and built a cabin along Tillamook Bay. In 1883 George was cutting some trees when a log rolled onto him and crushed his chest, killing him. Rumors spread that he was murdered and some local residents reported seeing his ghost. Over the years others used these rumors to make up ghost stories and pull off pranks.

The ravine area that feeds into that little wet land on the east side of 101 from the Ghost Hole became known as Ghost Hollow, and that is where the Ghost Hole just off shore of that ravine got its name.

As for fishing in the Ghost Hole, it can be epic sometimes and on other days, the fish can disappear like a mist.

For me, I have many fond memories of fishing the Ghost Hole. We started fishing back in 1985 and to this day I fish it at least once almost every day I am on that end of Tillamook Bay. So far this year we have caught at least one fish every day but one from the Ghost Hole. I think I had the exact same success in it last year too.

Ghost Hole Double. We've had several doubles in the GH this fall

As I mentioned we started fishing Tillamook and especially the Ghost Hole back in the mid 80's. Dad and I would come down every weekend in October, camping in the back of his pick-up at Barview County Park and launching out of the Old Mill Marina in Garibaldi.

It's sad that the Miami Cove has filled in with silt and Old Mill is pretty much un-usable. Maybe one day they will be able to dredge it out and bring it back to its glory.

Sheri Lyster showed us how to cut plug a herring and got us all rigged up. The crowds were crazy, with long lines out of both marinas, that took an hour or better to get into the water.

Great memories. We'd get our days herring at Old Mill and I used to love the early morning fish talk in the tackle store. In '88 dad joined the "40 Pound Club" and got his hat from the Old Mill, all while using an old, broken tip, yellow Eagle Claw rod. Two weeks later I caught a 50 pound beast trolling a rainbow spinner in the upper bay. I learned to net fish from dad. There was a trip, one time, where my mom had her arm in a sling. She got a bite, and when she set the hook, she fell on the floor of the boat and couldn't get up. She did catch that fish, and after, she told me she had filled her herring with lemon joy.

Give the Ghost Hole a try. September through October are peak months to fish it. Most people, myself included, prefer to fish a plug-cut herring close to the bottom. Don't be embarrass by tangling up with someone else because you didn't have enough weight and were too far back from you boat. This happens regularly all over Tillamook Bay. It can be very tight quarters. Also, for Pete's sake, reel in when someone near you gets a fish on. It only takes a few seconds, and will save them a hard earned fish and you the title of "that guy". A few years ago my client "Bad Brad", had a monster chinook on that got into some ones line who didn't reel in. Just as we got close to the other boat and the tangle, the other guy let go of the line with a "twang". That little bit of slack sent the hog on its way. We were all heart broken. Except for "that guy".

Spinners will also work here. Rainbow, light bulb, red/white and lemon/lime tip. Back in High school we took one of my buddies fishing for the weekend and he and I had bet on who would catch the first fish. Slyly, I told him to use his rainbow spinner because "I knew" that they only bit herring. Mark caught a 36 and 38….

Flasher or no flasher? Most the time I go with a naked herring but will put flashers on a few rods if the weeds are not too bad.

Speaking of weeds, Tillamook and especially the GH, are infamous for weeds. A person can feel like pulling their hair out after a day of pulling weeds off their line. For best success, check your gear often for weeds, because those who do catch more fish.

That and watch out for the sea gulls. They make a living at steeling bait so get your bait down quickly.

We had great times and now, 28 years later, I still love the place. Every time I smell that salty air on the bay or the awesome, pre-dawn smell of Bay Front Bakery in Garibaldi, I think of all the fun times we've had.

There are many stories and legends made in the history rich area, some are long forgotten and some happened last week. What are some of your fond memories of fishing the Ghost Hole?

October 01, 2013

A Follow-up To My Last Blog

by David Johnson

First of all, I want to thank all of you who have commented, called, e-mailed or messaged me with you agreement and support.

People who are out on the river have not been blind to these topics that I have brought up and many are fed up with it.

"Zarn" brought up many points and one of them especially caught my eye. It was catch "estimating" practices.

One thing me and many others have noticed is once they decide on closing a fishery on a certain date that's it. There wont even be fish checkers out there counting. They have already decided how many will be caught. Never factoring in weather conditions or a drop in angling pressure.

In defense of the managing agencies to an extent their hands are tied by the listed species.

This is a double edged sword.

Without listed fish species on the Columbia we would not be getting the mandated flows over the dams which have resulted in these record runs we've experienced in the last 13 years.

I just wish that when something gets protected there was a way of un-protecting it when it is time to.

I also want to state I am not fully against ODFW. There are many employees in the department who care for the fish, want to plant more fish and who really want us to catch fish.

There just seems to be a disconnect of upper management with what is going on out on the water.

September 28, 2013

Record Chinook Run/Time to reform some fish management practices?

by David Johnson

Officials have recently upgraded the Columbia fall Chinook run to 1.2 million fish and as I write it 861,841 Chinook have passed Bonneville Dam.

In response to this the limits have been upped to two salmon, clipped or un-clipped.

But wait, most of the fish have passed. Thanks for throwing the bone guys!

No wonder the fishing on the lower Columbia was the best that anyone has ever seen it. You would have been hard pressed to have 20 fish days on almost any river in Alaska this summer.

You know, they could have opened it up much sooner. But instead, they get nervous we are catching too many.

This happens with managers every time when the sport fleet is having an outstanding season and catching lots of fish. It's because there are lots of fish out there.

With a run of over a million we could have had a two fish limit, non-selective season with no closures.

On the flip side to that, every year the fleet has struggled to fill a quota, the run has come in under predicted levels. Case in point, this years coho run. All up and down the Oregon and Washington coast not one coho quota was filled. In response, managers increased the seasons and dropped the requirement to release un-clipped fish.

They should be saying to themselves, "Hey, there aren't as many coho out there. Maybe we should let these seasons run their course and give the remaining fish a break."

My thought is why not have the number of fish being caught (or not caught) factored into their formula?

That's probably asking too much though. To me, it doesn't even seem like they can get their act together with the fish checkers.

With the biggest run on record they only had something like three checkers for all four ports in Astoria. I never once got checked while in Hammond for the entire season. I only was fish checked three other times in all the other ports.

And why can't the checkers be instructed to identify and record the different sub-species? Lately the population of Lewis River tule Chinook has been the limiting factor in our harvest. Nearly every fishermen out there can tell you the difference between a tule and a bright. These checkers have college degrees, shouldn't they be able to tell too?

Lately I've been so disappointed with the quality of many of the checkers. I've seen bad attitudes, laziness, lack of care for the fishery, lack of knowledge of regulations and fish biology and identification. I used to be a fish checker and I would never dream of sitting in my car and reading a book and doing my interview with passers by. I used to meet every boat out there as they came into the dock. Willamette and some Columbia checkers have been the worst. Some of the best have been in Tillamook.

Managers rely on recovered coded wire tags to tell them the run composition. But if you only have four people check thousands and thousands of anglers, their sample size is pretty small.

Then there's the barbless hook rules. Is it really there to help the fish? Why, oh why is it in effect on hatchery rivers and in non-select fisheries? This doesn't make sens12e. It's rule to make gill netters and a very small minority of anglers feel good.

And what about all those Chinook that were released in the mark-selective season? I was hearing reports from the wobbler fishery of guys catching 8-15 Chinook just to get one to four clipped fish. Catching them in 70 degree water. We all know the survival rate on those fish isn't good. Someone told me that they were figuring a 40% mortality in that fishery.

If that's the case, wouldn't it have been better on the fish population if the first four fish were kept?

The same can be said about the ocean coho. There would be so many less fish handled and potentially killed if the first two were kept. Every angler with any experience out there knows this.

It makes me sick to think of all the waste to this precious resource.

And what happened to the coho? I'm sure the ocean conditions had something to do with their survival but if you look into how many less hatchery fish have been planted you'd get some idea. The only increase in hatchery plants have been by the Tribes. Unfortunatly for us many of those hatchery fish are not clipped, many of those un-clipped silvers you throw back are not wild. That's why the gill netters can keep them.

Is it that managers don't know what is really going on? I don't know.

Just throwing out some ideas here....

Some people are going to say I'm complaining, "Haven't you caught enough fish?" Well, no. Our fisheries could be so much more world class. People from around the country and the world should see Oregon as a destination. Oregon isn't really on people's radar. Outside of our area people should be looking to Oregon and Washington instead of Alaska. If only our limits were more liberal and our seasons didn't close early...

What are some of your thoughts?

August 13, 2013

Buoy 10- Off To The Races!


The Buoy 10/Astoria season is THE most popular fishery in the Northwest. And rightfully so with upwards of 1,000,000 salmon passing through it really is hard to go wrong.

I've been booked for months for this season and the phone still keeps ringing. Good thing I've been able to find dates for later in the fall on the coast for fall Chinook or pass along a few other guide's numbers.

I spent five hours on Sunday packing the boat and truck with everything I thought I would need for six weeks of fishing away from home. Of course I forgot a few things, I always do. But I actually got out of the house at an earlier time than I expected.

That was a first. Normally I end up leaving about two hours later.

Part of it is I am a procrastinator. Maybe I'm a little lazy, maybe sometimes I just don't want to mess around with fishing stuff on my days off and also I think I work a little better under the last minute pressure. But of course that causes me to forget stuff, or not find what I am looking for.

I normally don't like to start fishing in Astoria before the 12th of August. I want a good chance of really getting into the fish and showing my clients the kind of fishing Astoria is famous for.

Usually I'll end up booking a few days before my target date just because I get the calls and am already booked for those prime dates. We usually get into some fish anyway and a lot of time I'll get out into the ocean and slay 'em.

But this year is different. The guys who have been fishing the river for the last week or so have been getting a lot of fish. A lot of fish.

With the dam counts already the second best for this date that there have ever been and the numbers of jacks last year, it's no surprise.

I am glad I waited, but I am glad I started today too.

We had an early limit with several more hooked.

It was a great start to this year!

August 07, 2013

Is barbless saving any fish?

by David Johnson

Is going barbless on the Columbia saving any fish?

I don't think so.

This year we got handed this rule in a political compromise when the new rules were being handed out.

After putting in some days of steelhead fishing this summer on the Columbia and observing other anglers around me, I have seen barbless hooks hurt more fish than save.

There is no doubt that more fish are being lost on the barbless hooks. And to compensate for that anglers are doing things to make sure they are landing their fish. These things are not necessarily good for the fish.

They are netting the fish. Some days I have seen every boat out there net their fish. Some are even bringing them into the boat. In the past I would see anglers bring their fish along side the boat for inspection before netting and then not netting if they were wild. People aren't taking any chances to loose a fish.

Also, almost no boats are floating back off anchor when they hook fish. By staying on anchor it keeps the pressure tight on the fish so they don't shake the hook as easy. But since the fish have the river current for leverage it is taking longer to land the fish.

These steps to land more fish are not good in this warm water.

This new rule is nothing but a political, poke in the eye from the gill netters, feel good, fish hurting, bad idea.

July 23, 2013

Fishing in Italy

by David Johnson

For the end of this past June and the first half of July Tesha and I spent three weeks in Italy.

Five years ago we had Valentina as an exchange student from Italy. She became our adoptive daughter and ever since we have been trying to plan a trip to her home country. Every spring/summer/fall I have been saving my pennies but always had to spend my savings during the winters with lots of blown out days. After the last two very successful years and a dry winter this year we were finally able to save up and go to visit her and her family.


This was our best vacation yet! We stayed with Valentina's family, and they really spoiled us. They took the time to drive us around and show us so many amazing things and they wouldn't let us pay for anything. We visited Rome, Bologna, Venice, Florence, an area called Cinque Terre, and many other smaller towns. Italian hospitality is amazing! We now have a whole family in Italy.

Every food we tried was amazing; I won't eat at Olive Garden ever again.

We had some great seafood.

Octopus Salad

Octopus and potato


Fried Anchovies. They were pretty good

Fast food

And never overlook seafood risotto in Venice…..

We are from Tillamook, famous for our cheese. Our host family lives in Reggio Emilia, in the Parma region. Also famous for cheese- Parmigiano Reggiano, or Parmesan cheese. The real stuff. Not in a can. It is awesome!

Valentina's dad knew someone at a local "cheese factory" and we were given a private tour.

Here's a statue of Garibaldi, the one for whom our own coastal town of Garibaldi is named.

One of our favorite places was Cinque Terre (5 lands) mostly because it was on the sea.

While we were there we went swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. We didn't see a whole lot of fish but I found an octopus hiding out in the rocks. Lucky for him it was a fishing reserve or he might have been dinner.

I kept my eyes on the water of Venice's canals and spotted some small fish and crabs.

I really entertained the idea of bringing along a "pocket fishermen" to throw a line from the gondola. I did see two guys fishing in one of the canals.

Of course I always have an eye out for fishing. I love traveling and I love fishing in new places so I always had my eye out for a fishing opportunity or people fishing.

Fishing doesn't seem nearly as popular as it is here in the US but I did see some guys fishing. Most did not seem too serious about it. Mostly just fishing to relax.

As in most of Europe they used long, light rods, light gear, small hooks and small baits. Some used multiple rods and all of them used a slingshot to spread chum around their baits.

Live maggots are a popular fresh water bait

Float fishing is really popular

This guy was a little more serious about his fishing rig.

My hosts then took me to a fishing store named PACO. As I walked in the front door I knew I was in the right place! There were old fishermen sitting around talking fishing, tons of fishing tackle and fish pictures and employees behind the counter that, even though I didn't speak the language, I could tell they knew what they talking about.

After talking with Manu, the owner, who also spoke English, about jigging, bait fishing and trolling for tuna we set up a fishing trip.

The first date we picked ended up getting cancelled on account of water conditions but the following week we made it out.

We would be going after blue fin tuna. They had been catching a few up to the 80 kilo range but the water has been cool on account of a late/cool spring. Fishing had not been red hot.

I met Manu at his shop on the appointed day and we jumped in with his brother, Gabre, and we were on our way. On the hour and twenty minute drive to the Port of La Spezia and the Mediterranean Sea we talked about our families and our countries and compared fishing in Oregon to fishing in Italy. I found out that Manu has been on the Italian National Fishing Team.

We met up their friend Paolo and his beautiful tuna fishing boat, a twenty eight foot Boston Whaler with twin 250 Mercs that he had shipped from the US, and we were quickly out in blue water.

Probably less than two miles out of the harbor we spotted feeding birds and as we got closer spotted some small tuna busting baitfish. We got our trolling gear in the water and made one pass around the feeding school when a naval ship came cruising right at us so we pulled our gear and moved on.

La Spezia has an important Italian naval base for and this was a support vessel for a sub.

We trolled around another spot with no love so we move out farther to anchor fish with bait at the GPS numbers of where Manu's friends had caught three tuna the day before.

We were armed with A LOT of sardines. We must have had fifty pounds for chumming and bait.

After anchoring up and putting out a chum slick, it was lunch time. I love the Italians and their food!

We had Prosciutto, salami, bread, fruit and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

As my Italian friends say, "No fish, no party!"

We headed north to one of Manu's spots. An underwater sea mount that looked a lot like one of the ones we fish in Oregon.

We cut up sardines and chummed like you see them do on "Wicked Tuna", and set out five rods baited with sardines, set out in a spread from twenty to fifty feet down. Each bait was suspended at the desired depth with a balloon tied to the line with a rubber band.

Paolo dropped a bottom fishing rig to the bottom and caught a couple of "red snapper".

Again, "No fish, no party" in the tuna department.

As the sun started to get lower in the sky we pulled our gear and headed closer to shore to troll again, with the theory that the fish would be moving up as the light dropped.

Where else can you troll past an 800 year old church?

We had one fish hook up for a moment but about as fast as it was on it was gone, leaving three lines tangled.

Even though we didn't get any tuna I really had a great time fishing with Team PACO, and that is saying a lot since I really like to catch fish. The brothers joked around, just as me and my buddies would. The gear was top notch and their fishing knowledge was very evident. This fishing trip was just like going out with my fishing partners back home. And the scenery was breathtaking to put icing on the cake. I would love to have Team PACO visit Oregon and fish with me some time.

After docking the boat and packing up Manu's gear we headed up to Paolo's house for an amazing view of the harbor and an even more amazing dinner his wife had waiting for us. We had bread with olive oil that was pressed from Paolo's own olive trees (the best olive oil I've ever had) tuna, artichokes, local wine, pasta with the local pesto, figs picked from the tree in the yard, and finished with a lemon liquor, called lemoncello, made from lemons grown right at his house, then Italian coffee.

A view of the port of La Spezia from Paolo's front deck. The brightest lights to the left is the base for the Italian SEAL Team. This pic doesn't even come close to showing how cool this place was.

All I can say is "WOW, I am BLESSED"

Now it is time to get back to reality. Time to start fishing for Columbia River steelhead. And time to think about Italy and hopefully another trip there in three or four years.

June 20, 2013

Spring Chinook Wrap Up

by David Johnson

After three months it is finally time for me the wrap up my springer season.

I started off on the Willamette in April.

On our first morning we actually started off fishing in the Columbia but after only seeing one fish caught by noon we moved into the Willamette and ended up going three for five. The first springer of 2013 was a 22 pounder.

The Willamette certainly wasn't the fishery we have been spoiled with but I've seen worse after the El Nino years back in the 90's so I wasn't too disappointed.

It would have been even better had we gotten some cooler, wetter weather but unfortunately it was too warm and dry with water a level seven or eight feet lower than last year.

We also would have caught more if it wasn't for the sea lions taking almost half of the fish we hooked. There were times when we'd see a flurry of 14 fish hooked and the sea lions would take 12 of them. Most days we would hook three to six fish only to come back to the dock with two or three.

I got some attention of the media and got some attention to the problem these beasts are.

After the water became too warm in the Willamette we moved to the tributaries and Tillamook Bay. (When the water temps climb into the high 50's it triggers a migration response to start heading to upper tributaries before summer comes)

I love a good herring bite in the bay and they are HOT!.

And I love everything about fishing tributaries for salmon. I love reading the water, presenting the technique that will match the water and conditions, playing with scents and cures and the changing conditions as rain comes and goes.

And the fish can be quite aggressive once they are in the cooler water.

When you find a bitter they will regularly bite over and over again until you catch it. We will have some bobbers drifting along when one goes down but is missed only to have the next bobber burry and catch the fish. When back bouncing, we'll get bit but have the fish drop it only to have the next guy to put his bait through there to catch it.

Several times we actually caught one fish on two different baits/rods at the same time.

At first it would seem like we had a double, then it would look like we were tangled.

We also had a several doubles.

I think that when you have multiple fish in a spot they will be competitive and fight for the baits.

When you double, it is best to just take it easy with a cool head, net the first fish to the boat as soon as you can, then clip the leader and dump the fish on the floor to get ready for the next fish. Over excitement will only loose fish.

Once in a while we picked up some bonus summer steelhead. They love bait too.

The one drawback of fishing this time of year on the tribs, it gets light so stinking early! Daylight at 5 a.m. usually means I am getting up at 2:30 in the morning. If there is a lot of pressure "The early bird gets the worm."

There is still probably another three or four more weeks of springer fishing available. With summer moving in it may not be in the boat but bank fishing will hold up, especially in the upper reaches of the springer tribs. If you have not gotten enough springer fishing in there's still a chance.

Get there early, and if you can pick a day that is overcast or better yet raining, all the better.

June 19, 2013

Early Morning Springers

by David Johnson

A few weeks ago we turned to fishing tributary springers full time.

I love fishing in the smaller rivers. Reading the water and figuring out the fish, where they are and what they want.

The flows have been low so we have been bobber fishing.

My set up consists of a GLoomis GL2 SAR 1084C, Calcutta 400B loaded with 65# Power Pro.

I like the 35g Clear drift float and a 1 oz inline sinker. I use a piece of black tubing between the float and sinker as a shock absorber. I love the way a Clear Drift tacks through the water, matching the speed of the current and following the current seems.

I will black out my sinker and line with a sharpie marker for stealth.

In spring I use clear 20 to 30 pound leader, depending on water clarity. In real clear water I will switch over to fluorocarbon.

And don't overlook putting on a jig. For salmon I like the ¼ oz. Dinger Jigs made with a strong 3/0 hook. Tip it with a shrimp tail. I like red, red/black and pink/white.

Lately with the low, clear water we have been catching our fish very early in the morning, like in that legal time frame that starts one hour before sun-rise.

Of course it's hard to see your bobber in the dark so we have been running a couple large glow in the dark corkies on top of our bobbers.

When you see the lights go out, reel down and set the hook.

June 13, 2013

Tillamook Estuaries Partnership- Bounty on the Bay

by David Johnson

On June first Tillamook Estuaries Partnership held their 10th annual "Bounty on the Bay" and once again I had the pleasure of attending and guiding in this great event.

Bounty on the Bay is highlighted by fantastic food, presentations by ODFW, a Tillamook Bay fishing seminar and a great silent auction. Did I mention great food? On night two, everyone is treated to all you can eat oysters and steamer clams provided by Netarts Bay Shellfish farm.

Anglers can sign up for a seat on a guided boat or they can form their own teams of three.

This year had the most fish ever brought in (22) with top boat honors going to Ted Teufel for 1st place and 2nd place to John and Patty winters.

This year's event had a slightly less turnout but still grossed $18,000 as opposed to $17,600 last year.

One of the great things about TEP is they are able to leverage $18 worth of grant money for every $1.

Tillamook Estuaries Partnership is a non-profit dedicated to improving water quality and habitat in all three of Tillamook County's estuaries by collaborating in restoration, research and education projects that stretch from the headwaters to the ocean.

One of the most visible projects is the Miami River estuary project that you can see as 101 crosses over the Miami R but there are lots of others. Miles of spawning habitat has been opened up and acres of native trees have been planted in riparian areas. Water quality Monitoring projects are undertaken and kids in local schools are educated about our natural environment.

Whenever possible, local businesses and contractors are used, putting money into the local economy.

TEP is also involved with Tillamook County Water Trails- A water path mapped out for kayakers and other non fishing recreational users. It is important that other users enjoy and learn about our important estuaries.

Guide books are available on-line and in print for Nehalem, Tillamook and Nestucca/Sand Lake.

I have only scratched the surface with what TEP does and has done. They are one of my favorite groups I support.

I highly recommend that next year you sign up, either with your own team or for a guided seat. The fish will thank you and you will thank yourself for joining into this great event.

Check out Tillamook Estuaries Partnership

May 22, 2013

Soap Box /Rant Time

by David Johnson

Soap Box /Rant Time

How did you folks like this past springer season on the Willamette? It wasn't the greatest was it? I have seen worse. Many of those out there fishing now were not fishing before 2000. We had some tough times on the river in the 90's.

Problem is us fishermen have a bit of a short memory and seem to only remember the great days.

Chances are the run will come in less than predicted and we'll see how many fish we were really fishing over.

Now, even with a smaller run we could have had some decent fishing if our water conditions were good. Unfortunately, we had the worst scenario of weather and conditions we could have had.

It was one of the top four driest springs on record and lots of 80 degree days. I get depressed when the forecast in April shows a string of sunny, hot days. I just know every one of those days is a nail in the coffin of the fishery.

And what do we have to look forward to? I'm afraid that when they start steeling our springer smolts from the tributaries and putting them into the SAFE area's this might be a normal run size.

And how about all those sea lions?

Every year there are more and more of them. And with no fear of man they are getting smarter and more and more aggressive.

We started out loosing 50% of our fish to the fur bags. I started to loose less when I would just more when they started to circle the boat.

I worked on getting media involved, taking out Channel 2 reporters. It may not help much but every little bit helps to get people aware of the problem.

If it gets any worse there are going to more sea lions on the Willamette than boats.

One thing that bugs me is when laws are passed that don't make sense, are based on emotions, or infringe on others.

The barbless hook rule on the Columbia and Willamette is one of those. Aren't we supposed to harvest as many hatchery fish as possible? If guys are loose more fish how can we harvest them?

ODFW's own study shows that having barbs has no effect on the survival of released fish in inland waters.

This rule was proposed by the gill netters as a stab at the sports fishermen and then pushed through by the commission, all to the joy of the Native Fish Society. That and the Commission wanted to match up with Washington.

Are you aware the NFS has another attack on sport fishing "crush the barb"?

It's so ironic that now in Washington, in all the hatchery rivers like Drano Lake and Wind River, you have to go barbless. IN SYSTEMS WITH NO WILD FISH!

And then there is the Sandy River. It was once one heck of a springer river. That is going to change. Its plants are being cut even more than they have been, also thanks to the Native Fish Society. They sued the government to get less hatchery fish released. All to protect wild fish that would not be there if it hadn't been for extensive hatchery plants in the upper river and tributaries like the Salmon R.

They are a cancer to fishing as we know it.

It just seems that all our fisheries are getting reduced and the regulations are getting more restricted and people are willingly going with it like sheep.

Ok, I've got that off my chest, now I need to go fishing and clear my head.

May 10, 2013

Cotton Woods, another sign of the times

by David Johnson

Just as dog wood trees in bloom are a sign that it's time to fish springers so are the blooming of cotton wood trees.

When you see the cotton blowing in the wind it tells me it's time to leave the Willamette and chase springers else wear. But it also signals it's time to catch shad.

For a little more than a week now I've seen smallish fish breaking the surface on the Willie before daylight. These are usually shad. And every day I've been seeing more and more cotton blowing around.

American shad are not native to our rivers but they are here and usually in big numbers. It's actually sad that the Columbia River was once the biggest producer of salmon in the world and now probably the biggest producer of shad.

They always start running first in the Willamette and then just a little later on the Columbia.

Some people eat shad but most stock their freezers with them for bait. They are excellent bait for sturgeon and crab.

Shad are very easy to catch so they are great for family fishing.

They like some current and they bite best when the sun is shining. They tend to run in lanes. If you are not catching them move. I would look for ten to twenty feet of water. The best places on the Willamette to catch them are in Oregon City or near Coon Island. On the Columbia the "shad rack" below Bonneville, near Washougal or off any of the lower river wing jetties.

Think small for lures. Use small Dick Night spoons in (pearl, chartreuse or nickel or gold) curly tail grubs (white, yellow or chartreuse) or Flicker Spinners in gold or silver. Run them with a spreader and lead or behind a Jet Diver.

They can be caught of the bank near Tanner Cr or off Bradford Island near Bonneville too.

Be safe out there- It seems that every year I see the smallest boats fishing in the most dangerous spots during shad season.

Load up the fam and hit the Willamette this spring on some nice, sunny evening and have some fun.

April 28, 2013

Lady Luck On The Last Steelhead Trip

by David Johnson

A few weeks back I did my end of the season steelhead trip and went out with a bang!

Laura and Kaytianne, two roommates and co-workers, joined me in what turned out to be one of the "If you fish like a girl…." kind of trips. When I knew they would be the only ones fishing with me that day I knew it would be good.

On about the third pass I look over and Kaytianne had a fish on. No surprise to me.

On her previous few trips out Kaytianne had been on a "high fin" kick so she was expecting to have to release this one.

Not so, a beautiful, big keeper!

Not only are women great at learning fishing techniques, they are lucky. Never under estimate the luck of a girl.

On the next pass the girl's lines crossed. I said, "Just let them play out and we will worry about it when we get a fish on."
At the end of the drift they reeled in and as Laura was un-wrapping her line from Kaytianne's line I see that line swimming away from the boat. "You got a fish on!" I yelled.

Lady luck!

After a good fight around the boat several times we quickly let the beautifully colored, red sided buck go.

And of course there is social networking to be done after each fish!

The next hole was even better. Three passes and three fish. Two for Laura, one keeper.

And then released a hatchery fish that had already spawned out.

And then a rarity happened. One fish on two rods! This greedy little fish grabbed two baits! With two rods she was soon in the boat.

We only needed to fish in a couple more spots to find that last one.

The girls were limited by 11.

I'll take lady luck on the boat any day!

April 08, 2013

Yes, it's springer time

by David Johnson

Yes, it's springer time….

I ran my first springer trip today, against my better judgment. It's just a little too early for my liking.

But I had some guys who wanted to book it. And I thought, "Well if anything, we can fish for steelhead if the salmon fishing is slow."

We ground it out. We didn't see a net fly for hours. I only heard of 4 caught all morning.

Then, at 2 0'clock, on our "last pass" we saw two another boat get a fish. As we watched them rinse their net and put their fish in the box, it happened. We got bit.

Wait, wait….wait, wait, this thing was pecking and pecking. Everyone's on pins and needles watching the rod tip bounce, and bounce, and bounce. The fish was swimming along with the bait so I gave the motor a little gas to help tight things up and load the rod. It worked. The rod pinned down and it was "Fish On!"

After a pretty long fight I slid the Beckman under the beauty and Brian had a 22 pound hatchery springer in the boat. I quickly put on another leader and baited it while he tagged his fish. As he was getting pics his rod folded over again. Bill jumped up and took this one. All the way up from Arizona for this trip. First time, salmon fishing, first salmon, biggest fish ever.

Not long after, Bill's rod starts getting bit again. And so was mine. We had a double going! But my bite stopped and Bill's kept on going. Tip in the water, time to set it!

Minutes later, Bill is tagged out with his second biggest fish ever!

We got one more bite that didn't stick with it before we headed in.

That "last pass" lasted us 2 ½ hours and got us three fish.

On the way home, I saw two dogwood trees in bloom.


April 06, 2013

Is It Springer Time Yet?

by David Johnson

They say that your sense of smell is your biggest memory trigger. So true.

A couple weeks ago I took my sled down to the river to make sure it would start after sitting since November. That first whiff of two stroke flooded my brain with salmon fishing memories.

But this was mid March. Way too early to be thinking of springers.

Last weekend I drove up to Oregon City to be at my parents for Easter Sunday. Stepping out of my truck on that warm, sunny morning, I was hit with the sweet smell of budding cottonwood trees. That sweet smell has springer written all over it.

But still early.

The other day there were swallows. A sure sign springers are on their way.

But it's early.

There has been a lot of talk on the internet, on the river and in the media about the slow springer bite. But as my friend Bob Singley and I were talking at Easter time, it's ONLY March.

Some people don't realize that in the last dozen years we have had record runs and some of the years we've had some outstanding water conditions. This year's Columbia run is down a couple hundred thousand fish from the "good old days" we've had in the last decade. And the Willamette run is down from the ten year average too.

Sure, springers are caught starting in February a few are always caught in January but nothing like they will be caught in mid April through mid May. And in recent years, even later May into June has been productive.

That is what I have observed in the 28 years that I've fished for them for.

And that is what ODFW stats will show you. Right around the 18th or so of April the catch will jump significantly. When I was a fish checker in the early 90's, I heard these same "slow fishing" reports from anglers all March and early April.

I've never seen good fishing before April 1. I've almost never seen good Willamette fishing before April 15. Some good days but not very consistent.

Do you think it's a coincidence that the seasons are open for so long every year and then right before it closes the bite picks up? They like to say they are giving opportunity. I'd rather have less opportunity and more quality fishing. It's kind of like "Work smarter, not harder." Fish smarter, not longer. It's not about "Paying your dues"

This is why I don't like to start too early for springers. It would be awesome to eat one of those early Chinook but unless you are lucky you are usually looking at days between fish.

It's much better to take my clients chasing steelhead when I can count on putting them into multi fish days, instead of hoping for a chance or two at a salmon.

Funny thing is I have to sometimes beg and plead with people who call up for fishing trips in this early season. Sometimes they don‘t know what's good for them. A long, cold day hoping for a bite or an action packed day of beautiful steelhead on light tackle. Did I mention the early weather on the Columbia and Willamette usually sucks pretty bad too?

I do lose some money turning down some early season salmon trips, but I hate boat "rides", and I love sending home clients smiling after a great day on the water.

For the next week or so it will be that transition time so I will be chasing some steel and dipping my toe in the pool to test the waters for springers, waiting for the herd to show.

No doubt you've heard this before but the old timers have always said this is the cue when the springers will show up on the Willamette. Dogwoods bloom in Mid April.

Cottonwoods, swallows, dogwoods and springers are all keys that interact with the weather and environment.

The old timers knew when to go, internet not required.

March 15, 2013

Summer vs. Winter

by David Johnson

It is transition time in our steelhead rivers. Summer run steelies start to trickle in, mixing with the winters and eventually the winters fade. Both can be caught now through April.

I've already heard of several summers caught from the Sandy and Siletz and I'm sure there have been some caught from the Clackamas too.

But how do you tell what you have?

Some of the key differences you can look for in an early summer are the very steel blue back, white belly and very clear fins. These clear fins will have a blue tint to them when the fish is still swimming in the water. Their body/belly will also feel solid. Many of the late winter steelhead, both hatchery and wild, will be as chrome bright as an early summer and could be hard to tell apart. If it is a hen, look at the vent to see if it is protruding. Its belly should feel loaded with eggs (because they will be) if it's a buck it may have just the very lightest tint of rose in the cheek.

Early Summer Steel

Late winter (caught on coastal river April 28)

Now these features can sometimes be very slight and the only 100% way will be to clean it and see how undeveloped the eggs or sperm are.

Size difference of the eggs in summers and winters

Another steelhead you may come across is a spawned out winter. These might have "trouty" colors or some may be hens that are bright. Tail erosion, a small concave line down the belly and a "snakey" appearance are tell tale signs. These spawned out fish should be released as they are usually poor on the table and will return another year if they get the chance.

Notice that the belly is skinny and not full

It's an exciting time to be on our rivers, chasing a mixed bag.

March 10, 2013

Another Shellfish Saturday

by David Johnson

Another Shellfish Saturday

This Saturday one of our "adopted daughters" Katie came down to spend the weekend with us.

Saturday morning started off with Tesha making a nice breakfast of homemade breakfast biscuits, including fresh eggs from our domestic ducks. (A good sign of spring, the ducks are laying)

What a beautiful, sunny, tee shirt day at the coast. I'm good with the rainy coastal weather because when you get a day like this you really appreciate it.

We had some errands and chores to take care of and then after we did some target shooting.

Then it was time to get ready for Katie's first clamming adventure.

My friends Matt and Chris and Chris's son, Hunter met up with us and we hit the beach.

It took a little bit find a good spot with a few shows. I showed the ladies what we were looking for; I showed Katie how to stomp around to make them show and showed them how to use the clam guns.

Sometimes they showed really good and sometimes pretty faint.

Notice that faint one by my heal print.

I like to center my gun over the show with it tilted slightly towards the ocean. Usually you'll find you clam in the second plug of sand. If I feel it start to crunch I'll pull out and reposition slightly.

Pretty soon all were getting into clams.

Notice the plastic tube? I borrowed that one. Take note, if you are going to do some clamming the stainless steel gun is the way to go. It cuts through the sand so much better with less effort and less broken clams.

As it got closer to low slack the clams really started to show. You would be catching one and look around and see several more shows right next to you. It only took an hour and we had six limits as the sun was sinking lower to the ocean.

I bet if we had shown up a half hour later we would have gotten our limits in 30 minutes. We were seeing shows all over as we walked back to the trucks.

It was a beautiful sunset ending to the day as we drove home.

It takes way longer to clean 45 clams than it does to catch them.

We had a few other families come over for another one of our feasts.

As spring approaches the weather is going to be getting better and we will be having more good minus spring tides. Clamming is a great way to introduce young people (or any others for that matter) to the outdoors. Success is common and it's fairly cheap. You will want to have a minus tide and for best success a calm ocean so that the clams will show.

Be sure to consult the ODFW regs.

The Dep of Agriculture has a hot line to call to make sure shellfish are safe from red tide- 800 448 2474

March 06, 2013

A Crabby and Shellfish Weekend

by David Johnson

Last Saturday I joined a half dozen friends for a fun day of harvesting shellfish.

My morning started off rolling out of bead at about 9:30 and after kicking around for a little bit I met the guys down at the bay for low tide.

Steamers are remarkably easy to harvest. Simply take a rake out on the mud/sand flats and rake away. They are found one to three inches under the surface.

It probably only took 20 minutes for all six of us to have our 20 clam limit of steamers.

We took a break allowing for the bay to fill up with the incoming tide, baited our rings and pots and got onto the water.

There were six of us so we armed ourselves with the maximum amount of traps the law allowed-18.

It was a good thing too since crabbing wasn't great but after fishing through high slack we finished with 19 crabs.

Saturday night was feast night! A feast fit for a king. We cracked and ate crab almost until our fingers bleed. And the clams, best I've ever had. Dennis cooked up a pot full of clams in a broth made of coconut milk, beer, curry paste, garlic and onions.

Crabbing and clamming can provide some very good family time. It exposes them to the outdoors and can be pretty easy.

Soon the weather is going to be getting better and the all through spring we will be having some great tides.


March 01, 2013

Just a couple things I do for steelhead

by David Johnson

Here are a couple little things I do while steelhead fishing that I thought I would pass along…

This is how I store my cut eggs while fishing-

I like to use a plastic pencil box I pick up in the school supply section at Freddy's. It is water proof and it closes tightly so that it doesn't blow open when running in the sled.

I put a layer of paper towels in the bottom and if I the eggs are a little wet I'll layer them in paper towels the night before. You can add any of your favorite scents at this point too.

Fishing my Clear Drift Floats-

Even though a Clear Drift is great for stealth I started using them more for their great tracking ability caused by their tapered design.

Also for stealth I like to black out my lead with a permanent pen. I do the same to the line. This might not really matter to the fish but it gives me more confidence.

Between my float and swivel I like to add a small piece of black tubing that I pick up in the auto parts store. This gives a little cushion from the float rubbing on the knot and works better than a bead because a bead tends to slip over the knot.

February 23, 2013

Broodstock Steelhead- Some Quality Fish

by David Johnson

For years and years ODFW has planted our rivers with hatchery steelhead. For the most part these fish were fairly generic, usually with their brood/genetics originating from only a few sources. This can be a problem with genetics and fitness.

Another characteristic of these hatchery fish is the fact that they are early running fish, starting in November and tapering off by the end of January/early February.

The solution- Broodstock steelhead. The idea is to use wild fish from each specific watershed thus keeping the genes of our hatchery fish in-basin. The fish are caught by hook and line by anglers who have signed up with ODFW and dropped off at a collection point or hatchery.

This has done several things.

It has reduced the genetic impact incase these hatchery fish spawn with a wild fish since they are from in-basin parents.

Since the fish are harvested throughout the winter it has spread out the hatchery run and the chances of catching a fish to take home. We have caught broodstock hatchery fresh from as early as Nov 4th to as late as April 29th.

And it produces some very nice, quality fish.

And they are good biters. A study on the Nestucca showed that the broodstock fish were harvested at a higher rate than traditional hatchery fish. Maybe it's because they are using fish that were aggressive biters and were caught on hook and line instead of using fish that made it into the hatchery because they were the ones that never bit and got caught.

There are some groups out there, like the Native Fish Society, that are still against this program.

They are against the fact that some wild fish are removed from the spawning population. It's estimated that the remove of such a small amount of wild spawners would have little if any impact.

They are also against any form of hatchery fish, even one generation removed from being wild. But is there really a big difference? Maybe a little. The fish don't actually get to pick their mate. But really, it is better than using a stock from a river 100 miles away.

Here's the process-

After hooking a fish I will identify if it's a hatchery or wild fish. I carry two nets on board and if it's a wild fish I will use my small, soft net for less slime damage.

We will quickly get the hook out and transfer it to my live well.

I can hold two fish at a time, three for a short time.

The live well has a air pump and every once in a while I will add fresh water. The fact that our water temps are low also helps.

Once we are done with our float we will drive to our drop off point, net up the fish and transfer it to the holding pen.

ODFW personnel will transfer the fish to spawning.

It's a testament to how tough these fish are if a little bit of care is taken. That means a soft net and keeping them in the water as much as possible. These fish are netted a lot. Twice by me and five or six more times by ODFW while they are transported, spawned and then transported back to the river.

The steelhead are live spawned and then released back to the river, allowing them to return to the ocean and come back to do it all over again.

Double Duce

ODFW named her Double Duce for all the "2s"

Notice the pink tag near the dorsal fin? After spawning each fish that is used in the program is tagged before being released back into the river. This tag had the # 2200 on it.

We caught this fish on 2-20-13.

Records show that she was first caught on 2- 22-11. She was spawned on March 22, 2011.

She was 6.9 pounds on her first spawning and 10 pounds this time. The biologist told me he thinks that it probably also returned and spawned in 2012 since there was only a three pound gain in weight during that time. They took scale samples and will read them later to see if this is the case.

Talk about a productive and tough fish!

February 07, 2013

Small Stream Days off

by DavidJohnson

I love small stream fishing. I love everything about it. It brings me back to my roots of chasing steelhead and trout on the tribs of the Clackamas as a teen. I love exploring, the "I wonder what's around the next corner?" and I love the lack of other people.

Many times on my day off from guiding I will hit the bank fishing a small stream. I might go to a favorite or go exploring a small stream that I've never fished, just to see what's in there. It's not uncommon for me to drive 100 miles or more from Tillamook just to check out someplace new.

I don't always catch a pile of fish out of these small streams. One to three is about average.

On this particular day I was checking out a nice little creek off just about everyone's radar.

I stepped to the edge of the pool and casted in my bobber and jig. My rig swung into the tail-out and I reeled in, adjusted my bobber about half a foot deeper and made another cast. I repeated the process a couple more times until I found bottom, then I shortened up a foot, made three or four more casts and then moved on, satisfied I had covered the water.

I moved onto the next hole and repeated the same process. Except this time on the third adjustment/cast the float shot under. I reeled down quickly and set the hook into a mean buck with a bright red stripe. After landing and releasing him, I made a few more casts and then moved on.

After working my way up-stream and hitting three more good pieces of water, I worked my way back to the hole that produced. This time I already knew what depth to set my float at. On my first cast my float slipped under the surface and I set the hook into a nice little hen.

One thing I look for in choosing a stream is size. I really like one that has pools that I can cover in five to ten cast and move on. And usually I want one I can wade back and forth and cover a mile or more of stream.

My gear consists of a GLoomis 1141S, one of my favorite steelhead rods. If it's real brushy I'll opt for a rod that is a little shorter, the STR 1044S.

I will pack the pockets of my Simms jacket with a selection of jigs, a few bobbers, some split shot and a leader wallet with pre tied yarnies. If I am going to use bait, which I rarely do for steelhead on these little creeks, I will add a pack of hooks and a spool of leader.

A pair of pliers, scissors and polarized glasses finishes out my gear.

Showing up at the river without polarized glasses is like showing up naked. They are so important for this kind of fishing. Not just to spot fish but for seeing structure and avoiding snags. I have two pairs of polarized in my truck, one with gray lenses for bright sunlight and one with amber lenses for low light and cloudy weather.

The water is small and usually clear so the fish can be spooky. For stealth I try and approach from downstream and work my way up stream. This will alert less fish. I also wear dark or even camo clothes and hat. I don't know how many times I have seen someone decked out in neon bright clothes scratching their head about not catching fish.

Get out and explore one of these little gems, especially after a rain, and have fun seeing what's around the next corner.

David Johnson

January 23, 2013

Do you really want to know?

by David Johnson

In my guiding business almost every group of clients that are going on a trip with me asks, "How's fishing been?"

Do they really want to know though?

I mean, if it's good the expectations are huge and then if the fishing is slower then there's a let down. And of course fishing is almost never hot two days in a row. Hence the over used saying, "Should have been here yesterday."

And if the word is that the fishing is slow then you're set up for disappointment.

But don't fret, every day is different. It only takes one tide, a drop in water level, a rise in temperature or a smaller crowd and the fishing could be lights out.

I think if I was going on a guided trip I would just wait and see.

Maybe some better questions would be "How has the season been?", "What can we expect?" Or "What has been an average day?"

I think it's important to focus on having a good day on the water, having fun, maybe learn a little something and catch some fish.

January 15, 2013

Mid January King

by David Johnson

For the last few weeks I've been hearing of a few "winter chinook" being caught around the north Oregon coast.

This week we were fortunate to catch our own. Aaron's bobber sucked under and then he had his hands full trying to keep his 8# leader intact as this beast tore up the hole.

A chrome bright hen fresh in from the ocean, sea lice included.

On the coast it's not open to keeping Chinook between December 31 and April 1 so back she went. That's ok though, truly a trophy to catch one and fun when you are not expecting it. If you are lucky enough to catch one of these fish be gentle, there isn't a lot of them.

Historically Chinook have entered a lot of the coastal rivers every month of the year, with spring, summer, fall and winter runs overlapping but with modern development many of these runs have been lost but there are still a few around.

The latest we've caught winter Chinook was February 28 and friend of mine caught a bronzed buck that actually had sea lice during one low water March 15.

January 09, 2013

Something to do for high water

by David Johnson

As is typical with December and January on the Oregon coast we have been getting a lot of rain. Enough to drain the bank account down and make me fat and lazy. Trips have been thin but there is fishing to be had. It might not be the kind of fishing I can take clients out for but there is fishing.

When the waters are high there are some alternatives, especially for bank fishing.

Small streams- Small streams clear fast and fortunately, many of the hatcheries are located on small streams. Deadline fisheries at these hatcheries can be combat so be prepared for that.

Small streams are also a source of clear water flowing into bigger rivers. Kicking back with a chair and camp fire while plunking a spin glo with or without bait has long been a popular way of fishing creek mouths during high water. Drift fishing and bobber fishing are also viable techniques, depending on water speed and conditions. Concentrate on that current seem when clear and dirty water meet. Growing up, friends and I caught a lot of fish drift fishing the current seem at the mouth of Clear Cr on the Clackamas River after school.

And along the same lines of small streams clearing fastest, look to the upper reaches of the big rivers, where they are the size of small streams. Remember the old saying, "When the water is high fish high". There might not be as many fish in the upper reaches and they may or may not be all bright, but at least there's fishable water up there.

Lastly, there are the lakes. ODFW plants many of the coastal lakes with surplus hatchery steelhead. Constant clear water and no crowds will great you at these lakes. Contact the local ODFW office for an up-dated planting schedule.

Since you won't have any current you're best approach would be with a bobber and jig or sand shrimp. Cast it out and let it settle, then every once in a while give it a little twitch and then pick up the slack. Adjust the depth until you find the level the fish are running at, anywhere from 3 to 10 feet down.

You can also get them casting spinners or stripping a fly.

One thing about catching a lake bound steelhead is you don't have to tag them or need a tag.

December 21, 2012

Covering all the bases for steelhead

by David Johnson

I recently put on a seminar at Fishermen's Marine. It was a good seminar with a turnout of about 55 people. I brought in some rods and highlighted the techniques that I use for winter steelhead, sidedrifting, bobber/jig, float and bait (bobber doggin), drift fishing.

With all the rain here on the coast I've only gotten on the water twice since the seminar and by using these various techniques we got some nice fish in the boat. Out of the seven fish we got, we caught 2 drift fishing, 3 on bobber/jig and 2 on bobber/bait.

I usually carry and use all these sets of rods and techniques in a given day on the water, unless the water is fairly high, than we mostly side drift.

Fishing is like golfing, you can't play a game of golf with one club just like you can't use one rod for all techniques.

One of the biggest keys to successful steelheading is reading water.

Reading water is a two part process. First you have to read the water and learn where the fish are and second you have to be able to look at a piece of water and determine what it will take to catch the fish in it. Water speed and depth are the biggest factors followed by the bottom contour.

This two part process of water reading is best learned by experience. Nothing beats time on the water, the more the better. This winter get out as much as you can and be observant of where fish are caught or not caught. Remember what you see, even take notes if you have to. Note the water level, stream flow, water color and temperature. After a while you will be able to dial it in.

A lot of people have booked trips with me and walked away much better fishermen. They see the kind of water I'm looking at and they get hands on instruction to the techniques we use.

December 16, 2012

Smokin Good Christmas Presents

by David Johnson

It's mid December now and with the Chinook tapering off and the steelhead trickling in I finally got some time off for holiday/family stuff as well as do a little fishing for myself.

I was able to put a couple Chinook and a couple steelhead on my tag.

My way of doing a little Christmas shopping. Is there a better Christmas goody/gift than some fresh smoked fish?

Yesterday I ran a batch of Chinook and steelhead through the smoker.

When I was a kid we had a Little Chief Smoker and my dad's recipe was to alternate layers fish between layers of rock salt in a large bowl then fill it with water. After 45 minutes to an hour we rinsed them off and placed onto the smoker racks with a sprinkle of brown sugar. Then into the smoker.

I went quite a few years without a smoker of my own and during that time I had an arrangement with a retired gentleman who would smoke my fish for me in exchange for half.

Bill passed away a few years back so I had to start doing it on my own. I asked for a smoker for Christmas and started my career of fish smoking.

The recipe I have been using is the one I got from Togiak River Lodge three summers ago while I was up there fishing. It is easy and turns out a great product.

It's a simple dry rub:
4 cups brown sugar, one cup non-iodized salt and a dash of garlic powder.
I will cut my fish into pieces and roll them in the dry mix and place into zip-lock bags for two to three days in the fridge.

After their stay in the fridge I will take them out. Some people say don't rinse off the brine, others say to rinse. For me the verdict is still out. I've tried both ways and I'm not sure if it has mattered. Some of the pieces look a little slimy so I will give them a very quick rinse under cold tap water and then place them on the smoker racks skin side down. Make sure they are not touching.

I will let them sit for about 20 minutes to form a glaze. At this point I will either sprinkle a little more brown sugar on the pieces or I will drizzle some honey over each piece. Then I will give them a good sprinkle of some Johnny's "Jamaica Me Crazy" seasoned pepper.

The Native Americans used alder for smoking their salmon so I see no reason not to stick to that tradition. I will also add some apple wood.

About five hours at 140 to 150 degrees and it's hard to not eat it all right off the racks before it gets into the house.
Besides the stuff I ate right away, Tesha formed a ball of cream cheese and then encrusted it with crumbled smoked salmon and served it on a platter with crackers for her works Christmas party. The rest of the fish will be either dropped off at friend's houses or I'll wrap with saran wrap and then vacuum seal and freeze for later.

December 06, 2012

What I would do this weekend

by David Johnson

With the week of high water we've had and mid December approaching this weekend is perfect timing to ambush some early run hatchery steelhead.

If I was going to go steelhead fishing this weekend this is what I would do…

I would focus on one of the hatchery streams. Not only will most of the hatcheries be getting early run "brats" but usually they are smaller streams that clear up the quickest. And I would focus on fishing near the hatchery. High water is perfect for deadline fisheries since hatchery fish have a tendency to fly right up stream to the hatchery, so this is where I would want to be.

The higher flows are probably going to dictate drift fishing. I would carry a good selection of slinkies to match any kind of flow I might come across. I would have an assortment of corkies in pink, red, orange, chartreuse and combinations of these. And I'd throw in a few odd ball colors to give the heavily pressured fish something different to look at. I would have yarn to contrast the corky I'm using as well as have some white yarn. Some eggs and prawn tails would round out my arsenal.

When I'm drift fishing I rely on my trusty STR 1084C IMX GLoomis with Curado reel. For steelhead drift fishing I like to run 10# Maxima Ultra Green main line and leader.

Getting on the water early is important so getting up early and drinking a lot of coffee is a must because of course I'll be staying up late the night before. It just wouldn't be fishing with more than four or five hours of sleep.

Fishing one of these streams is usually combat fishing. I like the social aspect of fishing in a line up shoulder to shoulder but I can only do it for so long. Usually by 10:00 I'm ready to get out of there and go have breakfast. Besides, most of the fish that are usually caught from these spots are caught from daylight to then anyway.

If I had a day off to fish for a morning now through the middle of January this is probably what I would do.

Limit of hatchery steelies I caught last Jan 1st

November 27, 2012

Early Steelhead Time


It's pushing into time for winter steelhead. The traditional kick-off of for the winter steelhead season has always been Thanksgiving but every year there are always some caught before then.

My first ever steelhead was caught on a Clackamas River tributary the weekend before Thanksgiving.

So far this year I've heard of a few, seen one on the bank.

We usually catch our first one in mid November. The earliest we've caught on my boat has been November 4th and the latest around December 10th. Several times we've gotten our first one on Nov 11th and Dec 1st a couple times.

I know some of you may have already caught one this year. Or you are about to. With all this high water we've been getting there should be more early winters around.

If you are looking to get into an early winter concentrate on one of the early hatchery streams that are planted with early run winter steelhead. Three Rivers, NF Nehalem and Big Creek are good choices, especially after a lot of rain. The Wilson, Kilchis and Nestucca will also get some early steelhead.

Head over to my Facebook Page ( http://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Johnsons-Guide-Service/305317766175297 ) and post a picture of your first winter steelhead of this season. For those who do you will be intered into a random drawing for a prize pack of winter steelhead tackle. Contest runs from November 12th to December 20th.

November 19, 2012

A Different Kind Of Double

by David Johnson

Every season we get several doubles, but recently we had a different kind of double.

We were back bouncing a coastal stream when I started to get bit. I said, "I'm getting a bite!" Within seconds of me saying it, the client to my left said he was getting a bite too.

We were getting a double!

As the fish chomped on my bait I talked John through his bite. "Wait, wait, wait..click your reel over..OK set ‘em"

At the same time, my fish was chewing on my bait and swimming forward with it. I reeled down on it until my rod was loaded and stuck it too.

Right off as soon as we were both hooked up it looked like our lines were going to the same fish and I knew what was going down.

While we were back bouncing our lines were only three or four feet away from each other and this greedy fish wanted both our baits.

The ironic thing about this whole scenario was that a few hours earlier John had asked me if we had ever caught one fish on two rods. I told him yes, we have. I've had it happen for Chinook once on the Clackamas, once on the Sandy, once on the Skeena and once on the Wilson. Also had it happen once with a silver at Astoria and at least three times while sidedrifting for winter steelhead.

After our two rods for one fish rodeo, I turned to John and told him he should have asked if we caught any 50 pounders….

November 12, 2012

The cost of bait

by David Johnson

The cost of bait.

After going through four cases of herring this fall, I was forced to purchase packs of herring from the marina for $8 per eight pack.

You know how when you are overly tired everything seems funny? We were at that point. One day after fishing I was talking with guide Pat Able and the topic of herring came up. He was having to buy the same bait.

We started joking that every bait costs a dollar.

He would say, "every time my client shakes his sea weed off to hard and looses their bait it costs me a dollar."

I followed with, "Every time a sea gull steels the bait, it costs a dollar."

Pat, "Every time they step on the bait…there's a dollar."

Me, "Every time they drag the bottom and a crab eats the bait…there's a dollar."

It was all just fun and joking. We really don't mind burning through bait. (Sort of :)

Bait is my second biggest expense, following gas. But I don't mind. Those who burn through bait and use the freshest will catch more fish.

The more bait you use, the more fish you will catch, period.

Changing out a herring that has lost its shine, scales, scent or spin, replacing a bait wrap on a plug or putting on fresh eggs or shrimp often will increase your odds.

And speaking of upping your fish catching odds with bait, make sure you use the best bait you can get your hands on and take care of it. Keep it cold, store it in coolers with blue ice packs or even use dry ice if you have to. Keep your eggs out of the sun and don't let the rain get in them.

You put in a lot of effort and spend a lot of money for a successful fishing trip, don't short yourself by trying to save a few bucks on bait.

October 28, 2012

Fishin' and Food

by David Johnson

With fall Chinook season in full swing and winter steelhead right around the corner on the Tillamook area streams and my other favorite pastime eating I thought I'd share some of my favorite places to eat around Tillamook before and after a day of steelhead fishing. Not only do I like good food but I like to get a good deal. You will find both at these places.
The West side of Highway 101 in Tillamook has a number of coffee stands and food trailers along it. All these have access for vehicles with trailers.

If you are looking for a fast, inexpensive and very good breakfast on the way to the river stop at Lindsey's Lattés in the north end of Tillamook right on highway 101 and join the fishermen and loggers who line up here in the morning. Get some good coffee and some very filling and tasty breakfast sandwiches and burritos in the $3 range. I like the sandwich made on an everything bagel with sausage and egg. And for that much needed shot of caffeine on the way home stop and order a chocolate espresso milk shake, one of my favorites. Lindsey's breakfasts beat any fast food hands down for price and quality.

If you are passing through Garibaldi don't pass by Bay Front Bakery. All I can say is they are the best donuts anywhere I have ever been to. And they also have lunches to go. For me, their donuts set the standard for all others. I've grabbed donuts from there before fishing for over 25 years.

For a sit down breakfast on the way into Tillamook on Highway 6 Alice's at about mile 9 has some great food and some great history. Or stop there for burgers on the way home too.

Lyn's Chinese restaurant is very reasonable and worth stopping at. Easy boat parking too.

In the parking lot of Lyn's there is a van that sells authentic Mexican food. Tacos La Providencia. They are the best Mexican food in town!

Do you want a great pizza? Main Street Pizza on the east side of 101 is your place. They have a great salad bar too.

If you are going to be over crabbing on Netarts Bay have lunch at The Schooner. Located right across the street from the boat ramp. Get the wings, you won't be disappointed.

Eat, sleep and fish. What else is there?

October 15, 2012

Do We Really Need The Rain?

by David Johnson

Do We Really Need the Rain?

Do we really need the rain to improve the fishing? I wish I had $10 every time I've heard or read someone says, "Fishing is slow, we need some rain."

Folks, we don't.

It's almost an old wives tale. But any skilled estuary/bay/tidewater fisherman will tell you we need dry weather for better fishing

Sure, if you are a river fishermen the rain will get fish moving in. Sometimes the dark or hatchery fish will move in just on the drop in barometer. But for bay and tidewater fishing, it is the worst thing that can happen. The longer it's dry, the more fish will be a captive audience. That's why this has been one of the best Septembers/early Octobers I've had in a while.

One has to know the physiology of fall Chinook. Yes, their migration will be spurred on by rain. But to a huge extent their maturity is dictated by photoperiods (length of day light). They enter the bays and estuaries according to this calendar. They will enter the bay when they are ready and even enter the river when they are ready.

I really wish that these weather fronts would have held off a couple more weeks.

Tell me, has this rain really helped your estuary fishing?

October 13, 2012

So Tired

by David Johnson

So Tired

I just finished a marathon of fishing 16 out of the last 17 days. I usually only got five hours of sleep per night. There are very few people I know who can keep up with me, many are spent after a couple days.

I've always tried to fish six days in a row and take off the seventh for rest but in the last few years , because of the economy and the lean Januaries we've had I've broken that and gone on extended fishing binges.

People ask me how I do it. In short. Passion, adrenaline and caffeine.

After about five days auto pilot kicks in and I just run on routine.
I do get really tired and of course things start going wrong, and the memory starts failing.

And it doesn't help that I'm a night person. I would much rather sleep until 10:30 in the morning and stay up ‘till mid night. It's just my natural clock. Once I make it past 9 p.m. I'm wide awake. And unfortunately, with household chores and fishing chores, my work doesn't end until after 9 most nights. Case in point, its 10:30 and I'm sitting at my computer and I have to get up at four in the morning.

One evening I was getting stuff ready and I went into the house. When I went out a little later to hook the boat up the door was open and the light was looking dim. So I left the truck running to charge the battery….and went to bed. When I woke up the next morning I couldn't believe I'd forgotten to turn it off and left it running all night.

If I hadn't left it running all night I wouldn't have run out on the way home at the end of the day…

How many of you have forgotten to put the plug in? A couple weeks ago I did. It was the first time in over ten years. I was so tired.
And I get so tired I have to be moving or I fall asleep. I do stuff like nodding off waiting in the line at the gas station.

As the string of fishing days goes on I not only have to set three alarms, four minutes apart, but I have to set them to start going off about ten minutes earlier every morning because a start to move slower and slower each day.

How tired do you get?

October 08, 2012

Trade Steak for Crab?

by David Johnson

Trade Steak for Crab?

Last year I was told by some guys that were getting some limits of crab that they were using beef scraps for bait. I never thought a lot about it except for it was interesting.

Then this year one of my friends was returning to the dock after a full morning of crabbing with only four keepers to show for it. There was another boat at the ramp that had limits. The limiting boat had been using T BONE STEAKS for bait!

The next trip out his pots were baited with steak, courtesy of the 50% bin in the meat department of his supper marked. And he limited with 36 huge crabs.

Since then I've told another friend who works in the whole sale meat business and he has tried beef to with the same results, killed the crab.

Maybe it's the blood or the fat, I don't know. But beef works and works well.

September 27, 2012

I never liked eating crab

by David Johnson

I never liked eating Dungenuss crab.

Over the years I've tried it several times, under several occasions, and never like it. If I went crabbing I used to give away what I caught.

Then last October I was hanging out by the public fish cleaning station in Garibaldi, waiting to meet a friend who was going to give me a couple tuna when he got in. There was a couple of guys cleaning and cooking crab that recognized me and offered some to me. "No thanks, I don't care for crab." I told them.

"Here, try these. We cleaned them before cooking and everyone who has said they didn't like crab and tried these has liked them."

They were right. "Not bad."

A week later I had a couple clients who asked if we could pull up some crab pots that some of their buddies had out, "After they catch their limits." I told them sure, thinking "yea right, after four guys limit on crab."

A couple hours later, we got a call that said friends had limited on crab and were heading in. They left three pots out us.

By 9:00 my clients had their limit of Chinook and silvers, plus silver for me. We swung into Crab Harbor and pulled those three pots- three limits of crab too! Back to the dock @ 9:45 with limits.

These guys also told me to clean the crab before cooking. And one step farther, steam them instead of boiling, with some cut up limes.

I took my crab limit home, called up some good friends, and had a feast of steamed crab.

From then on, I have loved crab!

It makes sense. The boiling water won't wash away the flavor and the meat isn't boiled in the crab guts.

Here's what I do.

To clean them I hold the live crab by its legs and forcefully hit it on the edge of a counter or brick. The back should pop off and the crab should split in half. Pull off the gills that are still attached and give it shake to get rid of any other goo.

I place them in a basket in my crab cooker above a few inches of boiling, steaming water. I put the sliced limes, and some cloves of garlic, in the basket with the crab halves and let them steam for around 18 minutes. Serve with melted garlic butter.

September 19, 2012

I Had To Cut Their Line

by David Johnson

I had to cut their lines

It can happen at any time, but usually it's on a Friday or weekend. It is a combination of more boats and less skilled anglers.

And I can almost always see it coming before it happens. We have a hot fish on, and most of these fall pigs are hot, and no matter how fast I can gun it that fish will head for another boat. I usually give them a heads up, "Hey, we have a fish on here!" "He's headed your way!"

Last Saturday this happened, twice! Usually the outcome isn't so good and the fish is lost. Both these times we got miracle fish and landed them.

I am by no means ever out there to ruin someones time on the water, but if we ever get a fish tangled with your line don't be surprised if I have to cut it. I don't want to, but it is the best way to make sure we land that fish. And if my line ever gets on your fish, I would expect you to cut it the same. I want everyone out there to land their fish.

It only takes a minute to reel in and clear the area, and then you can get right back in and fishing. Probably had to check for sea weed anyway. And reeling in and putting it back out is a lot better than the alternative. Loosing gear, or worse yet, loosing someone's fish.

Most people out on the water know this is the protocol. But on the weekends, not so much. Two of the main reasons someone has tangled on our fish are because they either didn't want to reel in, not thinking it was that close or could move that fast or they try to just drive out of the way without reeling in.

Nothing good can come from trying to drive out of the way. The lines left in the water will simply rise higher in the water column and have an even a bigger chance of tangling.

Each of our tangled fish last week was tangled because of these two reasons.

Fortunately by keeping calm and clipping lines we were able to land our fish.

The first fish was heading right at another boat, a sled with five guys in it. I gave them a shout out we had a fish on. Then another. They didn't make a move to reel in yet so I gave another "it's heading right for you guys!" Too late. All five of their lines wrapped up in a huge ball around our line. When it looked hopeless at untangling I started cutting. When everything was cleared, all was slack. It appeared all was lost but I never believe a fish is gone until I see the bare hooks. I said, "keep reeling, something might still be there." As the line tightened I could tell there was. Fish on again!

A few hours later I finally crossed paths with them and handed off all their flashers, hooks and lead.

The second fish of ours tangled with a couple guys who saw us with a fish on, saw it heading their way, but just tried to drive away from us. The result, of course, was a hopeless tangle. I cut them off quickly and landed our fish.

Their gear was lost so after getting our fish, I tracked them down and gave them two new flashers and two 12 ounce leads to replace the lost ones.

If someone does get wrapped up in your fish, being calm is the first and most important step. And never give up.

September 05, 2012

B10 Wrap-up

by David Johnson

Another successful Astoria/Buoy 10 season for the books! Some of the best, most consistent Chinook fishing in the country.

For the past month every one of my clients went home with a limit of chinook except for twice.

This year's coho run was pretty disappointing, we never caught more than three clipped silvers in a day. What may not be realized is that in the last few years the coho releases have been cut in half of what they once were.

Some of the coho we did get where fatties though

Most of my days were filled with long time clients and corporate groups that fill my dates every year, months in advance. I did have the pleasure of some new clients as well.

The Sanchez Family goes twice a year with me, once for springers and once for B10, some of my most favorite trips of the year.

It amazes me how many people call just a week or two before thinking they can get a spot on the boat. We are coming into my fall season and the dates I have available are already starting to fill up so don't miss out on booking your date.

Part of my success this year came from carrying two sets of rods, one for fishing lead and one for fishing divers. As the conditions change we would just unclip out flasher/leader from the diver and snap it onto the lead spreader. This year we did slightly better using divers than we did running lead.

It was fun matching my diver and flasher colors to the water color and available light.

...and what is one of the all time best spinner colors? Red/white! Red/white Shortbus anyone? A killer in the mornings.

Some interesting politics involved with this fishery you might not know- Chinook fishing closed below T. Point after September 3rd. Did you know that if we would have just switched to fin-clip-only starting September 2nd it would have never closed? Just one day! That's it. But back in February when seasons were set the Ilwaco Charter Association said, "No, we would rather not fish than have a marked/select fishery." For some reason they have political pressure beyond us.

I personally think it would be better to keep it open for fin-clip than not at all, especiall since about 80% of the fish we caught were clipped.

What's next? All this great fishing is going to move up river as well as the start of COASTAL FALL CHINOOK

August 20, 2012

Buoy 10 Alternatives

by David Johnson

The Buoy 10/Astoria season is in full swing now. It IS one of the most popular and most productive salmon fisheries on the west coast. WORLD CLASS Chinook fishing. Where else can you have double digit days of Chinook on a regular basis? These plentiful and aggressive fish can make any angler a hero. Probably why it is so popular.

I've been guiding here for 14 years. But it's not my favorite. Sure, we catch hundreds of fish per season but I'm not a fan of the crowds, the chaos at the boat ramp, the rough water, "that guy" who leaves his lights on at the ramp, the herd mentality of the masses of boats. The local government isn't very welcoming, nickel and diming us with charges.

Catching tons of fish is fun, but I kind of like a fishery with a little more challenge. It's a lot more satisfying to catch five or six kings from a small river or bay than a dozen out here. And

Alas, I have to fish here. I make a good chunk of my yearly income hear. Catching all these fish is very popular.

But this time of year there are alternatives to fishing Buoy 10. From early August through early September there are many Oregon coast estuaries that are known to get an early run of fall Chinook. Of course the fish are not as plentiful as the Columbia run but that's the beauty of it, they don't get the crowds either. A lot of times they are described as "mom and pop" fisheries.

No long lines at the boat ramp where people just trickle in. And you can almost always find your own piece of water without combat fishing.
The estuaries that are most notably known for early kings and a relaxed environment are the Siletz, Nehalem, Coquille and Coos Bay.

Trolling is the number one technique used, either herring or spinners. It covers water, putting your gear in front of more fish.

Rig with a five to six foot leader and an 18 to 24 inch dropper to your lead. Bring along a selection of three to six ounces of lead. Every year flashers have gotten more and more popular. Since I jumped on the "Short Bus" I've seen an increase in my catches. A flasher can be a hassle if the weeds are bad so if they are, I usually run a naked herring rig. Adding a "fire cracker" rig to your herring is worth some attention too. A fire cracker rig consists of ten or twelve beads and a plastic clevis with a spinner blade slid down your leader above your herring. This is very, very popular on the Rouge Bay.

Anchor fishing with a bait wrapped Kwikfish or Flatfish is second in popularity. The days with larger tide swings are going to be best; they will give your plug good action. A T50 Flatfish or K15 Kwikfish are best sizes, not too small, not too big. Five foot leaders and a 20- 24 inch leader will get the job done.

The Rouge and Umpqua River mouths also have great August and early September fisheries but you will find them a little more crowded than the above mentioned estuaries. Trolling herring or anchovies, many times with a firecracker rig, are most practiced.

All these fisheries I've mentioned above are the most popular but almost every river/bay mouth on the coast will have a little mini fishery as early fish or ocean "feeders" dip in on the tide to feed on baitfish. These fisheries are at their mouths in August and September. They are mostly local fisheries and can only handle small groups of boats. The beauty of these are the small amounts of boats so if you find a good bite, keep it under your hat or the bite will get killed.

These small river mouth fisheries often take place where there are no jetties, making them quite dangerous at times and not for the faint of heart. Have a boat that can handle it, avoid strong out going tides and always keep an eye on the ocean.

You won't go wrong with fishing a cut plug herring on a dropper. And use enough weight to keep it under your boat and out of other's lines.

One more alternative fishery for August and September is the boat ramp hole at Pacific City (known locally as PC) When there is a hot bite it can get shoulder to shoulder but that usually happens a little later into the fall. It's a decent place for a bank bound angler to have a chance at an early king that might be nosing in.

So if you are tired of the crowds, or just want a relaxing place to target some early running Chinooks, give one of these little places a try. Labor Day is coming up, pack up the family and give one of these lesser fished fisheries a try.

August 16, 2012

Herring Time

by David Johnson

I started my Astoria season this week and again this year it seems to be a good bait bite. When you can dial in on what and where these fish are they a great biters.

Part of putting the hurt on a lot of Chinook is having good quality bait.

For years and years I have always used frozen herring in Astoria but with a shortage of frozen herring the last few years I have been using fresh bait. I still do brine it with my 11 herbs and spices (and lots of rock salt)

One of the best herring on the market is Puget Sound brand herring. One thing that makes them stand out is the fact that they are starved.

Starving makes for a firm bait since the fish use up their fat reserves and actually start to absorb their scales, setting them in and keeping them from flaking off. (Think ocean coho, they are feeding and when you put one in the boat scales fly off everywhere. A river caught coho has quit feeding and has tough skin with no scale loss)

I've been getting my Puget Sound Herring right at the Hammond Boat ramp at Sturgeon Paul's. Paul's has been driving up and personally picking up the Puget Sound's to assure a fresh supply.

It's so convenient. I just call in the day before (503-861-2110), or better yet, just order the next day's bait while I pick up my morning's bait. If you need to order bait from them make sure you do it before 3:30 p.m. so they can put together their orders.

August 11, 2012

Great Summer Steelhead

by David Johnson

Last week was the end of my Columbia River summer steelhead season for 2012. What a great time!

This steelhead fishery is so amazing, so productive and so UNDER utilized. People just don't know what they are missing!

This past July broke an all time record for number of Columbia summer steelhead caught.


been fun dialing it in, by playing with scents and colors under different water conditions (temperature, water color and lighting) almost every day we caught as many or almost as many fish as all the other boats around us combined. With days of hooking double digits have been the norm.

Of all the fish we caught we averaged about 50% hatchery, that's usually typical. Even though the wild fish are outnumbered they are more aggressive and therefore we catch a lot of them.

I had more kids than normal out this summer, and why not, the weather is as great as the fishing and anchor fishing is very easy and laid back without being too technical.

If you didn't get out and bend some rods you should have. But don't worry, they will still be running through August. I will just be salmon fishing in Astoria instead.

As the hotter weather has set in you should focus on cooler water tribs that the steelhead will pull into, especially in the Gorge since there have been tens of thousands over the dam.

July 30, 2012

Tuna Shirt

by David Johnson

Next time I go tuna fishing I'm thinking of getting a tee shirt printed up.

Last weekend I got a text from my friend Andy, "Did you see the ocean forecast?" "Want to do a tuna run?"

After a few phone calls I texted back that we (my buddy Chris and I) were in.

We crossed a supper flat bar at daylight and we were trolling X-Raps in less than an hour with a good water temp but no blue water to be seen.

Within an hour Chris had his first ever tuna.

At 12:30 we were on our way in with 12 fish in our coolers.

Andy had was running late, he had to be home by 4 and it was 1:30 by the time we got out of the ramp so we loaded the fish into my truck and parted ways, leaving Chris and I with all the fish to cark.

At the cleaning station it was business as usual. We start working on the fish and an endless stream of people start coming by.

And it's the same every time, we are bombarded with questions. I hear the same ones every time I even mention tuna fishing. The number one question: How far out were you? I've been guilty of asking this question myself. Maybe it's wonder at how far we can expand our horizons. It's kind of thrilling to think about, a little brush with danger.

Followed by, how many? Can I have the carcasses? Can you still see land from out there?

I finally got to the point that when someone walked up we would just say, "25 miles, 12 fish and we are keeping the crab bait."

Next time I'm thinking of getting a tee shirt printed up just for fun. It will say on the back, "30 miles, we can see land from there and we are keeping the crab bait."

July 25, 2012

Treat them good, in the water and in the fish box

by David Johnson

Keep ‘Em Cool-

Obviously we are fishing in the summer for these fish so to insure some quality table fair keep your catch cold.

I see way too many people just hang a fish on a rope over the side of the boat or toss them into the fish box. These magnificent fish deserve better than that and if you will take care of them you will have a meal fit for a king.

I like to bleed out my fish in the fish box for about ten minutes and then transfer them into a cooler with lots of ice. If it's going to be especially hot out I'll also sprinkle some rock salt on/in some of the crushed ice. This will drop the temp even lower and can actually freeze the fish a little. When you clean a fish and it is icy cold on the inside you know it will be of good quality. Start with a good quality fish and end with a good quality meal.

Treat Them Good-

If you are fishing on the Columbia for steelhead you can expect to catch some wild fish that need to be released. And since the water is warm we also have to treat the fish well and take care of them. The increased water temperatures can cause stress and weekend immune systems.
Here are some great ways to ensure the health of the fish you release:
1) Use a soft net to cut down on scale and slime loss. Or don't even net them at all.
2) Use heavier line. The Columbia isn't overly clear and the fish are not line shy. By using heavy line/leader you will be able to land a fish more quickly before it is too exhausted. Heavy leader will also allow you to grab the leader for release without a net.
3) Keep them in the water as much as you can.
4) Don't touch them with a dry hand. A dry hand can remove valuable slime.
5) Float back off anchor when you hook up. This will help land a fish quicker, and keep the fish from being too stressed. Plus you will land more fish since they won't have the current as an advantage. If you are drifting then fish won't get pinned to the back of the net.

July 16, 2012

Is it time to go C&R on sturgeon?

by David Johnson

Is it time to go C&R on sturgeon?

Estuary sturgeon fishing can be a blast! They are hard fighting, fat, quality fish that will jump and make runs of up to 100 yards. And even the "shakers" are quality fish, usually running 10 to 20 pounds and just under legal size. For those who say sturgeon don't fight, I say they haven't fished for them in shallow water with light tackle.

I like to target these fish in the shallows; 3 to 12 foot of water is average. You can find a lot of fish in the deep water but they are not always feeding. If they are in the shallows they are there for one reason, they are feeding!

I started fishing estuary sturgeon in the late 90's as the second half of salmon/sturgeon combo trips. In the mid 2000's I started targeting them for full day trips during June and July. These trips got quite popular as we had tremendous success. We usually caught dozens of fish a day and it was common to limit on every trip.

But now, instead of catching dozens of fish and limiting out every day, we now have to work for them. We still get some limits, but not always. On some days we don't catch more than half a dozen fish total.

We started to see the numbers of sturgeon decline about six years ago.

There have been several theories for the slower sturgeon fishing: Water too cold, too high/too much fresh water, too many anchovies, the anchovies have not moved into the river yet. I'm sure some of these things have been affecting the bite but I believe a bigger reason is simply the lack of fish.

There just aren't as many sturgeon as there used to be. Have we loved them to death like so many other fisheries?

They have been heavily pressured by commercial and sport fishermen as well as a scary fact; sea lions have been killing an alarming amount of sturgeon, many of which are spawning age females.

I've seen firsthand all the dead fish at the cleaning stations and processors and knowing that these fish grow slowly I began to worry.

I think we've been keeping too many.

And the sea lions have been killing way too many breeders. Biologists in Oregon are estimating that the fur bags killed over 6,600 sturgeon last year alone and they are expecting that number will go over 10,000 by 2014.

The sick thing is, because sturgeon aren't endangered they are not being protected from the sea lions. What's it going to take before they are gone?

Personally, I haven't kept a sturgeon for myself for four years. And for the past two years I haven't really promoted sturgeon trips, except to bring kids out. I only did three trips this past June, all with kids.

I've tried to promote catch and release in the estuary but it's been an up-hill battle. People want to take meat home. I can't blame them, sturgeon are excellent table fare, they've paid a lot of good money for a fishing trip and it's legal to keep one per person.

But people are really missing the boat.

Catch and release sturgeon fishing in the estuary can be world-class, white hot, off the hook fishing. Better action than I've ever seen while it's a keeper season.

The very few people I have taken C&R sturgeon fishing have always had a blast and have never been disappointed.

Why? Very little bait in the water for one, not to mention the fish aren't getting "sore lipped". It's not un-common to only have two or three trailers in the parking lot when if it was open there would be 50 or more.

…if clients only knew, or would listen…they could experience some of the best fishing the Columbia has to offer.

And if it was catch and release all the time…I can only imagine the fishery we could have.

There are more sustainable fish to eat and the Columbia River white sturgeon is too important to be caught only once, let's do more C&R or at least reduce our harvest.

There are cuts on the horizon. Biologists are considering ways to cut back on the harvest. Too bad the sports fisherman is going to take the brunt of the cuts.

If you would like to take part in the decision making of our sturgeon seasons there are half a dozen meetings around the region.

Dates and locations of the six public meetings are:

July 17 - Portland: Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel, 8235 N.E. Airport Way, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Contact: 360-906-6700)

July 18 - Longview: Cowlitz PUD, 961 12th Ave., 6:30-8:30 p.m. (Contact: 360-906-6700)

July 19 - Astoria: The Loft at the Red Building, 20 Basin Street, 6-8 p.m. (Contact: 360-906-6700)

July 24 - Raymond: Elks Lodge #1292, 326 Third St., 6-8 p.m. (Contact: 360-249-4628)

July 26 - Mill Creek: 16018 Mill Creek Blvd., 6-8 p.m. (Contact: 425-775-1311)

July 31 - Montesano: City Hall, 112 N. Main St., 6-8 p.m. (Contact: 360-249-4628)

What are your thoughts on our sturgeon populations?

June 29, 2012

Line Counters A Must

by David Johnson

Line Counters A Must

Line counter reels have revolutionized trolling, and having a good, quality LC reel is a must.

No more guessing on how far out your offering is. We used to measure this by going out "pulls", one pull of line from reel to the first eye of the rod. Only problem is not all rods are created equal. Most are about 18 inches from reel to first eye, but some are 20, some are 24. If you don't have all identical rods this can be a problem. Not only that but not everyone will go the whole distance. Sometimes people will get lazy and only go half a pull.

For back trolling we would count out "passes" as the reel lets out line the level wind bar crosses from one side of the reel to the other and would be counted as a pass. But all the reels had to be the same. And one would have to pay attention and not loose count.

Letting out the same amount of line is important to make sure that if a fish is caught at a particular depth you can go right back to the correct depth.

Properly letting out the correct amount of line for everyone in the boat will also GREATLY decrease the amount of tangles. It can get pretty frustrating when one person lets out too much line and causes tangles, loosing important fishing time.

I admit, I was a little slow buying into the line counter band wagon. But about three years ago while fishing in the Astoria fishery I kept getting fishing reports from fellow guides who would tell me they were out "35 feet on the line counter". Dang, now I have to do the math! Let's see, 35 feet times 12 divided by 18 inches per pulls gives me 23 pulls. Next report, "we're getting ‘em at 40 feet." Dang, more math!

I had to break down and buy some line counters.

The Tekota 500 Line Counter, hands down, is a work horse no one should be without for Columbia trolling with heavy lead or hard pulling divers. The power cranking handle is perfect this.

For back trolling I use a Tekota 300 Line Counter although I have used these for trolling at B10 with no problem so if you were only going to buy one reel for both back trolling and trolling the Columbia this one will work.

After several years of use in fresh and salt water and hundreds of fish, the drags on these reels are as smooth the day I bought them.

Since then I have found that these reels work really well for anchor fishing. After catching a fish they allow for us to bounce or cast out our offering and put it right back to the exact spot that the last fish came from.

One last thing about having a line counter reel, they are pretty cool to watch and see how far a fish is making a run.

June 26, 2012

The 3 Day Window

by David Johnson

The 3 Day Window

It's said that these days the only secret in fishing is being on the hot bite before everyone else shows up.

Ever hear of a good bite only to show up and have the bite off? Show up and have everyone else is there too? Every hear, "You should have been there yesterday."

I tend to agree. It goes something like this. There will be a good bite in a spot for a couple of boats and its limits for all. Then the next day it's ten or twelve boats and everyone is into fish. By Day number three it's two dozen boats and great fishing but by day four it's jammed up and the bite is off.

With cell phones and internet these days word spreads fast and loose lips sink ships and to "kiss and tell" can kill a bite. Everyone has friends and word spreads fast.

It can't all be blamed on other boats though. Things change. Conditions change. The fish move up stream. The tides change. The tide can make a big difference, it's always cycling with the moon and within three days conditions that have made one spot productive will have moved the fish along to the next location.

It's something to think about, if you don't get there as fast as you can the bite will drop off.

June 23, 2012

Are You Fishier Than A 5th Grader?

by David Johnson

Are You Fishier Than A 5th Grader?

I had several clients request sturgeon trips to bring their kids out on. I planned to do them this past week on account of the minus tide series.

What a blast! We didn't catch a whole ton of fish but the kids didn't mind, the fish they caught were awesome! You know, when you are catching fish bigger or almost bigger than yourself, it's something special.

It's beautiful music to hear the squeals, groans and giggles of a kid reeling in fish.

We were fishing out of Astoria, fishing the outgoing tide in shallow water. No water over ten feet deep for us. The best bite came close to low slack.

The GLoomis GL2 SAR 1265 rods paired with Tecota reels and 65# Power Pro is a perfect set up for these fish. Nice action to allow the fish to take the bait and hook up and enough strength to put the hurt on them. In the shallows we fished, we only needed a 3 oz pyramid sinker to keep our fresh dug sand shrimp in place.

June 17, 2012

First Oregon Halibut

by David Johnson

First Oregon Halibut

Like many of you, it's not too often calm seas and a day off line up for me to get out for a day of off-shore fishing.

Earlier in the week I got the call from my good friend Andy Schneider (known on ifish as Andy Coho) that the crystal ball called. The internet was foretelling small swells and an off-shore wind. "Want to go halibut fishing?"

It sounded good to me.

I called Andy on Thursday to see if we were still on. "Sure, just trying to round up a crew" I gave my dad a call to see if he could go. He could.

5:30 a.m. found us launching in New Port. The crew consisted of my dad Lloyd, Aiden Schneider, Captain Andy and myself.

I've guided for Halibut in Sitka, AK as well as done quite a bit of recreational halibut fishing while I spent two summers at a fish hatchery in SE Alaska, but I have never fished for them off the Oregon coast.

Andy had wanted to try some near shore spots that he has done well on. In these spots he has consistently caught some real nice fish.

Andy rigged us with a large mooching rig topped with a glow squid and baited with either a large herring or a shad strip.

By 9:30 there was no love on our boat so we decided to bite the bullet and head out to the Chicken Ranch.

Our first pass we were into a triple. Two halibut for me and dad and Aiden caught and released a real nice ling cod. We lost one on our next drift and then made another pass. This time another triple. Three halibut. Aiden and Andy got theirs and dad released a small one.

Boy, that didn't take long to get our limit. Should have done that earlier. We were hoping to get into some real big ones but the ones we got were just fine.

June 01, 2012

Low Citations

by David Johnson

Cheers to the fishing crowd in Tillamook County this past Memorial Day Weekend for following all the rules!

After the disappointing report from Oregon State Police during last winter's two day Willamette R sturgeon season (up to 50% non-compliance in some areas checked) it was nice to hear from a good friend who is a game warden with OSP who never wrote a ticket over last week's holiday weekend.

He was shocked but pleasantly surprised to only have to give two warnings and no citations after over 50 contacts in all the ticket hot spots like the jetties, trout lakes and clam beds-places that almost always have offenses.

Nice job at playing by the rules guys, let's keep it up!

David Johnson

May 20, 2012

Keep Your Cool

by David Johnson

Keep your Cool

Or better yet, keep your bait cool.

This time of year as our temp's rise it's a good idea to really pay attention to keeping you bait cool.

I always keep my eggs, shrimp and other bait in a cooler on board, usually adding a pack or two of blue ice. The warmer the weather, the more ice I'll add. I'll also throw in some frozen water bottles. If it's going to be real hot I'll even go as far as buying some dry ice to put in there.

I like to keep my batch of brined herring in a small lunch box size cooler. There is so much salt in my brine I don't really worry too much about the bait spoiling or getting soft but if the temps are climbing into the 70's it's a good idea to throw in a couple handfuls of crushed ice to keep the temperature down.

To keep my sand shrimp fresh smelling and alive it's important to keep them cool. I always store my shrimp in zip lock storage boxes, spread out on paper towels. Then I'll keep them in a cooler with flat blue ice packs above and below them. The paper towels will give them extra life, especially if you change the paper towels out every day. This is to keep them from sitting in their own urine.

Sardine Fillets. They can get soft pretty fast. Also keep them packed with blue ice or dry ice as much as you can. I like to use my sardine wraps as fresh and natural as I can but if you want to firm them up and/or help preserve them in the warmer temps you can cure them with a light sprinkle of salt, borax, slam ola or your favorite eggs cure like Pro Cure or Amermen's.

So as late spring and summer rolls along, keep your cool and catch more fish.

David Johnson

May 14, 2012

Reality Salmon Fishng

by David Johnson

Reality Salmon Fishing

After the last two years of some of the best Willamette spring Chinook fishing anyone can hardly remember, we are back to "Reality" salmon fishing. You're not always going to have great runs of fish and even if you do you're not always going to have good conditions to catch them.

There have been a lot of long hours, a lot of long faces, and just a little grumbling and confusion.

I really think the fish are there but we just keep getting dealt with bad hands when it comes to the weather and water conditions. Every time things have leveled out and started to clear we've had some great fishing only to be followed by heavy rain, rising water and a dying bite.

Last week all conditions matched up and for just over a week it's been hot fishing. Only to be followed by the hottest weather of the year.

This hot weather is going to change things up a bit.
But that's reality salmon fishing.

We've had to adapt. We've had to fish area's we've not fished before, try things a little different and experiment until we figured out what the fish wanted. Evenings have been pretty productive, some days more productive than the mornings.

If you're not planning on getting out on the Willamette in the next two weeks you should. It's not over. There will be more salmon swimming the Willamette in the next month than have been in it all year so far. The peak of the migration over Willamette Falls is typically the middle of May.


Fish early and late. I know, I know, a no brainer. But it's true. When that sun is beating down and bright those fish don't bite (much)
Go deep. If you're not getting them in the shallows or normal places move off the shelf and fish deeper. If you are deep water trolling in the lower river run your gear deeper too.

If the trash fish are eating your eggs switch to prawns.

Switch over to hardware. As a salmon's metabolism increases so will it's agressivness toward flash will increase.

Get away from the crowds/boat pressure. In the clearer and warmer water the boat traffic will put them off the bite.

There are still plenty of opportunities to get you springer on so go them 'em.

David Johnson

April 29, 2012

Should have been here yesterday

by David Johnson

Should have been here yesterday

How many times have you heard this? If you've fished more than two or three times you've probably heard it at least once.

Things change. Water conditions, tides, pressure from other boats, weather. They all change from day to day. What was working last week, yesterday or this morning may or may not make much difference if something changes with conditions.

Spring Chinook are the guiltiest of being finicky. There can be a hot bite for days but once that water rises it can be over in 24 hours. We saw that happen this past week.
One thing that stinks about this fact is it seems to always happen on the weekends.

The weekend thing isn't just bad luck. (sometimes it is) but statistically, in almost all fisheries the catch drops as the crowds increase. Not only does heavy fishing pressure move fish around (and away from where they were) but the "pie" gets cut into smaller and smaller pieces.

There are only so many biters. If all week there are ten or twelve boats fishing an area and they are pulling ten or twenty fish its pretty good fishing. But then when Friday and Saturday role around and you throw in another twenty or thirty boats there is still only that many biters but they are split up between all those boats. I see this almost every week while guiding and I used to see it almost every week back when I was a fish checker for ODFW.

I see it make such a difference that I almost refuse to fish on weekends, even if I get paid to. I'll make exceptions but I don't expect to do as good as during the week.

So if you don't have the luxury of fishing during the week what do you do?

This is what I do:

Start early, the early bird gets the worm.

If it's on the big rivers/systems I will start off fishing the normal locations but if that's not working I will try and fish places that others are not fishing.

Get away from the crowds and start your own bite. Many times even in a place with less fish you will have better odds if the fish don't have a thousand other herring to choose from.

And speaking of a thousand herring, be detailed. Keep things clean, change out that bait just a little more and be attentive of keep your bait in the zone.

April 07, 2012

Spring Mixed Bag

by David Johnson

Mixed Bag Fishing

I really like fishing our western Oregon and Washington rivers in the spring. On our coastal and Cascade rivers from late March through early May you almost never know what you are going to hook. It could be a late winter wild steelhead or a broodstock hatchery (who had wild parents), it could be an early summer, a spawned out early winter or it could be a prized spring Chinook.

Some of these will be easy to tell apart right away and some will be a little harder.

Some of the key differences you can look for in an early summer are the very steel blue back, white belly and very clear fins. These clear fins will have a blue tint to them when the fish is still swimming in the water. Their body/belly will also feel solid. Many of the late winter steelhead, both hatchery and wild, will be as chrome bright as an early summer and could be hard to tell apart. If it is a hen, look at the vent to see if it is protruding. Its belly should feel loaded with eggs (because they will be) If it's a buck it may have just the very lightest tint of rose in the cheek.

Now these features can sometimes be very slight and the only 100% way will be to clean it and see how undeveloped the eggs or sperm are.

Here are skiens from a winter and a summer

Here are the summer and winter broodstock that the eggs came from

Another steelhead you may come across is a spawned out winter. These might be dark with their "trouty" colors or some may be hens that are bright. Tail erosion,a small concave line down the belly and a "snakey" appearance are tell tale signs.

Here's a perfect example of a spawned out hen winter steelhead. In pic two look at the belly and see how skinny she is and that it has a little concave line.

These spawned out fish should be released as they are usually poor on the table and will return another year if they get the chance. I always encourage my clients to release them and they usually do unless it is a first steelhead.

Here is a very bright spawned out hen. It was Aaron's first steelhead and he kept it dispite my protests. It did end up cutting OK

Can you see how skinny it is?

All your normal winter steelhead gear will come into play as well as some springer techniques thrown in. If the river is big and green, which is common, opt for a little heavier steelhead gear for insurance.

Early in the winter florescent orange is one of my top colors. Of course pink works well in the winter but it really seems to works well in the spring especially in the shade of cerise. This time of year the fish also really have a "sweet" tooth for shrimp, both sand shrimp and prawns. Don't over look some shrimp oil or tipping your hooks with a little piece of shrimp, if not using whole for shrimp bait.

If you are running plugs try smaller to medium size ones that will easily take all species. Mag Lips, Mag Lip 3.5, K11 and K13 Kwikfish and Brads Wigglers. Sardine or herring wrap the Mag Lips and K13. I like to add a paste type scent to the smaller plugs like Pro Cure sticky liquid, Mike's Jell or Smelly Jelly Sticky liquid. I like shrimp, sardine or crawfish.

I like chrome/chartreuse head, chrome with orange stripe, green pirate and flo orange are my favorite colors.

Early summer steelhead

Late Winter Broodstock

Mixed catch of summer and winter steel

The Clackamas, Sandy, North and South Santiams, Lewis, Cowlitz, Wilson, Nestucca, Siletz, Kalama and Hood are all rivers that will give you great opportunities for a mixed bag. Give one of them a try.

March 11, 2012

Banana Rama Steelhead

by David Johnson

Steelhead Banana-Rama

Many of you know the superstition surrounding the bad luck of bananas on a fishing trip. Some don't.

Some say that bananas were considered bad luck on a boat because when transported in the hull of a ship they release ethylene gas and sailors used to fall unconscious and die if they went below deck.

Others say they are bad luck because of the giant spiders that used to be found hiding in the bunches of bananas.

The potassium found in bananas is said to repel fish. But I can tell you, fish don't mind potassium.

The most likely origin of the banana superstition comes from Polynesian myths, something to do with bananas being from the land god and they don't belong on the sea.

I've even heard of some guides searching their client's lunch boxes to make sure none of the forbidden fruit makes it on board.

Not me though, I'm not superstitious. I have a greater faith.

On a recent steelhead trip things were starting out a little slow. On about the third hole, as I was going back up for a second pass, I notice a couple bananas tossed on shore. Probably by someone who noticed a boat mate had them in his lunch and forced said mate to toss them.

I couldn't resist. I hit the shore and before my clients know what was going on I had me a couple bananas. When they asked me what was up and I told them that some think bananas are bad luck but not me, they said, "Great, we have a couple in our lunch box."

After taking on my new cargo things picked up, a lot. Soon we were hooking up in every drift we fished. The steelies liked the new bait and scent we were using.

We finished our drift early so we talked it over on what to do for our second drift of the day.

As we were pulling into the road to our next boat launch, out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw some money on the ground. I stopped the truck and jumped out and sure enough, there was a twenty on the ground!

Brad didn't have a lot of time left before they had to head back over the hill so we kind of blew through pretty fast and picked up one last hatchery buck.

At the take-out, after going to get my truck I walked back to the boat and it had the odor of bananas wafting from it.

Once again it is proven; banana will have no power over you if you don't let them.

"...because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the banana."
I John 4:4 (New DJ Version)

February 29, 2012

Big Steelhead Time

by David Johnson

It's the time of year again to tie into some very nice, big wild steelhead (and broodstock steelies, hatchery fish with wild parents)
If you want to target these bruisers consider that they are big for a reason. All their life they've been the biggest kids on the block, the most aggressive of the bunch gets the most food and grows the biggest.

Reach for large profile baits and lures. You will want something that will get their attention with a large profile. Think spoons, plugs, pink worms and large drift rigs like a steelhead rag.

In heavy water toss the BC Steel, half and half and in less flows reach for an R&B Wiggle spoon. The white matte silver is excellent in dirty water as nothing reflects light as well as matte silver.

For plugs run Tad Polly, K11 Kwikfish, Wiggle Warts and the new Mag Lip 3.5. I like florescent orange, metallic blues, pinks and reds or chrome with accents in flame, pink.

And I'm sure to use heavy leader. Twenty or twenty five pound test leader will insure that the mad steelie will not break off while thrashing around. They are not leader shy and if they are going to hit one of these big plastic things invading their territory they are not going to think twice about the heavy leader. It's just good insurance.

If you are going to run this stuff you are going to want to beef up leader and line. #15 is a good start. #20 isn't out of the question.

"What river should I target them on?" you might ask. All the major rivers will produce big fish. We've caught them out of most. More importantly, the question should be, "What kind of water should I target?"

Deep and fast is the answer. Maybe throw in some broken surface structure like large rocks or ledges for good measure. They have big bodies and they want something over them to keep ‘em covered up. Security is what they will be looking for.

And since many of the fish you will catch this time of year will be wild fish that need to be released please be sure to take care of them.

They are a tough critter, capable of swimming 100's of miles, jump waterfalls and survive seal attacks but as tough as they are, when catch and releasing these fish it's important to take care of the them.

Here are a few pointers-

Don't touch them with a dry hand. A dry hand will remove important slime that is part of a fish's immune defense against fungus.
No matter what, once in a while you will hook a fish deep. If the hook is too deep just cut your leader as close to the fish as you can and release ASAP.

Don't pick up a fish by its gills. This should be obvious. It wouldn't be good to have someone touch your lungs would it? Touching gills can cause bleeding and permanent damage.

Don't pick them up vertically by the tail. This can pop vertebra.

Try and get your fish back in as fast as you can to reduce stress.
And lastly, if you use a net, use one that is fish friendly. Knotless, soft mesh or rubber nets are recommended. I've seen a lot of pics on ifish and other places as well as seen boats on the water where guys were using nets that are not very fish friendly.
The C&R net I use I picked up at Tillamook Sporting Goods. It's shallow and soft and very fish friendly.

We need to take care of our fish, admire them and put them back healthy.

-David Johnson

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