Discussion Board  |  Photos  |  Blogs  |  Videos  |  Directory  |  Kilchis Weather  |  Tides  |  Marine Info  |  AUP  |  Contact/Advertise  |  ifish Decals/Store

John Childs

John is a full time fishing guide in Oregon, guiding from the Columbia to the Oregon Coast. John also is a writer and photographer about all things to do with fishing.

Search This Blog

Recent Comments


Recent Posts



August 04, 2014

Buoy 10 and Tides

by John Childs

Sunrise in Astoria's West Mooring Basin

Tides are one of the most important factors for fishing Buoy 10, and creating a game plan on when you should be in certain places is of vital importance. Have you ever noticed the guides shooting up and down the river? Well there's a reason for that, and it usually involves knowing a certain part of the river should fish on different stages of the tide.

Each new tides series brings in a wash of fish, as they ride the tidal push into estuary. The fish will ride the tides and will often end up above the Astoria Bridge towards the end of the tidal push. Then they will sometimes ride the tide back down towards the ocean on the outgoing tide. It's following this "push" of fish that's the basis for fishing the tides at Buoy 10. One key though, is the often talked about "soft tides." These tides don't have the big pushes like the large tides do, and the fish will often ride the tide in, but then won't ride it back down the system. They will often stay above the bridge on these softer tides, and this is when you can sometimes get away with fishing an entire tide series in one or two locations, and be on fish the entire time. Conversely, on the large tidal pushes, you often have to run from top to bottom to consistently stay on the bite.

A simple way to look at tides is as the water reaches towards low tide, you'll want to be farther down the system, fishing from Buoy 22 all the way to 10, and then as the tide begins coming back in, follow the fish up into the estuary, and as the tide peaks and the begins to run back out, you follow the fish back down river.

A nice spinner caught Buoy 10 King!

At the latter half of an outgoing tide, I'll often start around the Checkerboard, which is the lower marker slightly downstream from the Green Can across from Hammond. This marker designates the bottom of Desdemona Sands, and can be a great place to troll the bottom of the outgoing tide, and the beginning of the incoming tide. Once the incoming tide gets rolling, it's always a great idea to push into the tide, and I often start by trolling into the incoming tide from Buoy 22 all the way up to 14. On big tides, you'll actually be back-trolling, and on the smaller tides you make passes where you troll forward until you decide to run back up and make another pass into the tide.

As the tide gets moving, you'll often notice a flurry of bites and then it dies off. This is the time to move back towards Hammond. I might start at Buoy 20, and as the bite seems to taper off, move back to Buoy 22, then back to Hammond, then the Saw Dust Pile. You can keep moving back with the fish on the tide like this, ending up by the ships in the Astoria Harbor. I often follow the fish back as the tide comes in until we are about half way through the tide, usually ending my moving back routine around the Saw Dust pile, when I head over to the checkerboard again, and start trolling with the tide, making passes from below the checkerboard towards the Astoria Bridge on the Washington side. This is one of my favorite parts of the tide, and is often where I land the majority of my silvers. I'll fish this through the end of the incoming tide, trying to coincide arriving above the bridge around high slack. High slack above the bridge is often the highlight of the day, fishing anywhere from the sands above the bridge, to Shipwreck on the Washington side. Then as the tide reverses, I make a few passes above the bridge, and as the bites begin to wane, I start trolling back downstream, making passes from the Bridge down to the church, and then repeating until I'm ½ way through the tide, when I'm usually back down along the checkerboard, where everything starts over.

Happiness at the end of a successful day!

Finally, a note on the new closure in front of Youngs Bay. Make sure you follow the regulations staying in the shallow water to the North of the Green Can line this year from the Saw Dust Pile upstream to the Astoria Bridge. This was a major change in the regulations, as they closed all this prime water that's traditionally been the fishing spot of many small boaters. Just make sure you're outside their new boundaries!

September 11, 2013

Fishing Astoria's Buoy 10 - And How to Manufacturer a Double!

by John Childs

Well, I have to say this has been a wild ride of a year so far for me! I've begun to feel spread pretty thin, between running tuna trips and then trying to race up to Astoria to fish clients there as well. Sometimes just getting fuel during open hours has been a major hurdle to overcome! The up side has been fishing has been stellar in both locales! A year when either fishery can dependably put up 25-30 bites a day. I expect that tuna fishing, but when salmon fishing is almost as consistent I feel I have to pinch myself once in a while, just to make sure I'm not dreaming it!

Sunrise over the Astoria West Basin Marina

I thought with the season winding down at Astoria, and with a few minutes to actually poke my head up for a breath, I'd recap the Buoy 10 season. There have been a few things that have helped make it more successful, and I thought I'd share them for any late season anglers, but also for anybody already planning next years fishing.

An outsized Buoy 10 king!

In seasons past I always liked running larger baits. I've felt the larger baits cut down on the bites from jacks, and also produced larger Chinook on average, but this year I've started fishing green label herring. My first couple of trips I ran both blues and greens, and the greens got bit noticeably better, so why not go with consistency? The real capper to the decision was our use of anchovies when we could get them. I've bought the fresh anchovies before, and I have to admit on being less than impressed with them for the most part. Once anchovies have sat on ice over night they become fairly fragile bait. I need baits that are hardy to withstand some of the big current pushes we fish at Astoria, and the day old anchovies just don't get it done. Last year I caught my own anchovies with Sabiki rigs, but this is the year that anchovies really fished for me. During the first couple weeks of the Buoy 10 season, when the anchovies were plentiful and I could get an easy days supply jigging in the morning, I found these baits were producing bites at a much faster rate than herring. I think it probably has to do with the fact these are the baits the fish were feeding on prior to hitting the river. As the season progressed the anchovies became harder and harder to catch, meaning I had to rely on herring more often. With the consistency of the anchovy fishing, it seemed the correct move to stay with a bait that was relatively the same size, so we kept using green label for the balance of the season.

Happiness is another beautiful salmon to the boat!

Another thing I've always noticed is how your baits can really get banged up at Buoy 10 from the force of the large currents we are often fishing. The first couple days I was watching my baits get blown out a bit prematurely, so Zach (my fantastic deck hand!!) and I started using sea salt on our baits to toughen them up. Zach would plug cut a couple of trays of bait in the morning and throw them in a zip lock bag with sea salt. This gave our baits a tremendous advantage on toughness. They lasted and lasted! Another advantage seemed to click as well. The fish acted like they liked their herring with a bit of sea salt!! It made for some extremely kick butt baits!!

Nice silver to add to the box!

At this point I should talk about trolling speeds. I read on Internet boards, and hear anglers talking about trolling speed all the time. The problem I consistently notice is they are talking speed over ground trolling. Speed over ground, derived from most GPS units is exactly what it says, the speed you are covering ground at. The problem is if you're traveling with the current your speed over ground is whatever the current speed is PLUS your trolling speed. How do you know what the current speed actually is? You could take your boat out of gear and float with the current a while and see what speed you traveled, and then add your trolling speed to it, but current speeds change as the velocity of the tides increase or decrease. What I'm leading up to is the need for a water wheel speed sensor. I have one on my transducer that gives me trolling speed THROUGH THE WATER, not OVER GROUND. This takes away the uncertainty of speed whether you are going with the current, or against it. Your speed will always be the same.

What a smile!!

For the most part this allows me to keep an amazingly stable troll speed. It's also let me determine the exact speed at which I troll most effectively at Buoy 10. In my boat trolling between .7 and .8-mph is the ticket to success. When we trolled this speed I knew it was only a matter of time before another rod was going to fold. It also showed me how important my line angles are. We ran 16-ounce weights on the back of the boat, and 20-ounces in the middle, and 24-ounces on the front rods. I had a great view of the middle and back port side rods, and when we were trolling the right speed the line angle was just less than 45-degrees. The line angle would occasionally get steeper when we were travelling with a ripping current, or straight up and down if we were trolling against a heavy current. This is when I would deviate from the .7-.8-mph speeds, and would troll whatever was necessary to get back to the fish catching line angle. I guess my real point is that watching my GPS speed over ground readout seemed rather useless. I think any angler would be more consistently effective if they knew exactly what the speed through the water was when they were catching fish.

Another fat silver comes aboard!

It's always been well know at Buoy 10, that when fishing the deep water, suspended baits kill the fish. What I found is that suspended baits kill fish no matter where you're fishing! I love fishing the checkerboard, and the Washington side from the Church to the Shipwreck, and have found that suspended baits are just as equally effective when fishing in 30 feet of water as when we are pushing into the current at Hammond or the Saw Dust Pile. My only adjustment is fishing my back 3 rods very close to the bottom, and then suspending my middle and front rods. What's truly amazing is how often the middle and front rods are the hot tickets when fishing these shallower locals. The fish don't always have their noses in the dirt! When we were fishing 30 feet of water, the back rods where set at 35 feet, the middles at 30, and the front rods at 20 feet on my Tekota 500 line counters. It was amazing how often those 20-foot rods folded!

Leopard spotted chinook about to be released

Spinner fishing was outstanding most days, and for some of the big tide swings in the middle of the season, spinners out fished bait quite substantially. I've been fishing blades from #4 Cascades, all the way up to #7's, but the 4's and 5's have been my go to sizes. UV Hoochies definitely seemed to add to the success of these blades, and any color combination that included pink, white or red seemed to be absolutely effective. All season Zach and I went back and forth on our favorites, but in the end it was probably the ½-white, ½-red blade that saw more time and more fish than any other. Still, ½-red, ½-brass with a blue dot, and ½-yellow, ½-brass with a red dot also fished exceptionally well. These last two blades seemed to excel at finding the silvers when they were around!

1/2 White, 1/2 Brass with a Pink Dot on a Lucky R blade gets it done!!

Finally, I have to call 2013 the year of the double! We had doubles most days, and more often than not multiple doubles every single day. It was nothing short of insane. The biggest trick to hooking doubles is to not reel in your gear every time you hook a fish! We watched as most boats cleared all their lines when they got hooked up, while we only cleared the rods we needed to in order to land the fish we currently were fighting. This allowed us to keep anywhere from 3 to 5 or more rods trolling while we were fighting the fish, and this ended up turning into more doubles than I could possibly count!

One of the many doubles landed this year at Buoy 10!

The biggest key to this is to watch the line angles and move rods out of the way of the rod with the fish on. If the front rod hooked up, we would simply lift the lines below it either over or under the line with the fish on, and then move those rods up the gunnel to the rod holders above, letting the angler with the fish on to move to the back of the boat to land the fish. Every morning with a new set of anglers this took a little work to get everyone to figure out how to do it, but once they saw how easy it was, we kept most of our rods trolling while we fought and landed our fish.

The added benefit to this whole set up was keeping a tight line while we fought our fish. With the new barbless rules in effect we lost more fish than we should have, and keeping the boat in gear and continuing to troll allowed us to keep the line with the fish on tight most of the time, which relates to more fish in the box. It really helped our landing ratios once we started maintaining forward speed.

A nice limit of kings caught above Tongue Point

Overall, with amazing numbers of fish entering the Columbia, the 2013 Buoy 10 season has to go down as one of the most memorable fisheries I've experienced in the last 20 years. I can only say I hope we see more years like this in the future!!

July 24, 2013

How to Find Tuna

by John Childs

Finding fish offshore can be the hardest part of catching tuna regularly. Yes, you do need to have good fishing technique, and some understanding of your quarry, but just finding them in the big blue expanse we regularly fish can be a daunting task. This is especially true in the Pacific Northwest because our deep, cold water doesn't lend itself to fishing bottom topography the way many other tuna destinations do. Often the offshore tuna angler is fishing in water anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 feet deep. The captain/angler who consistently makes good catches, is one who has learned to fish conditions. They have figured out how to take all the information at hand and make a quality prediction about where they might find fish and then once they get on the water are able to follow through with a plan and physically track the tuna down.

Sunrise over 80 Wides!

Many new captains just follow the fleet out, and while this can be a good way to begin finding fish, in the long run it will pay large dividends to learn how to predict where the fish might be using the tools at your disposal, and then putting these plans into action. It can feel a bit nerve racking the first few times you try this, and you can end up second guessing yourself, but again, put in the time and effort and with some resolve you should be able to begin finding fish on your own. The benefit to this is many pronged, but in my opinion the best part is you can often get away from other anglers and find some seclusion. Having a small section of ocean all to yourself can often reward you with bigger catches since you won't have the issues of other anglers trying to encroach on your hard won stops. The less the fish are driven over by other boats the more likely they are to come and bite at the back of your boat, and they are even more likely to stay with your boat if you don't have other boats buzzing by you trying to troll them up and unknowingly put your hard won stop down.

Where do you find this information, and how do you put a plan together about where to look? There are a couple of ways to find this information, and one of the first you should use is the internet. Also, meeting other captains and anglers in your port who you share information with is another great way to start assembling plans. The more you fish around certain areas, and the better you get to know other people in your port, the better the information you receive will be. Finally, learn to trust your gut when searching for this information. There are always little tendrils of truth in most everything you hear, but there will always be some intel which isn't very good, so string multiple ideas together and then trust your instincts on which path to follow.

Hooked up in the rod holder!!

Today's anglers are truly blessed by the plethora of information the Internet can bring. While it is a blessing, it can sometimes be a curse too. There are many wonderful sources of fantastic information floating around in cyberspace, but as in any pursuit, the internet does breed some individuals who are wonderful arm chair anglers, but may not give the kind of quality intel you are looking for. Regardless, if you stay with reliable sources and read the on-line chat rooms with an eye towards taking most everything with a grain of salt, the internet can be a wealth of great information.

When beginning your search for tuna on the Internet, one of the first things you should look at are SST charts. An SST is an acronym for Sea Surface Temperature Charts. These are pictures of the ocean taken from a satellite that's able to read the water with thermal imagery cameras and determine the temperatures on the surface of the sea. Since Albacore need at least 60 degrees of water temperature to thrive, this can be a major factor in where you begin your search for tuna. In the Northwest this is of major importance, and can be the limiting and defining factor on where the tuna might be, so in years where there is a lot of cold water close to the beach, finding the line where the water warms to over 60 degrees is vital. Some years, the water temperatures are above 60 degrees over much of our fishing area, and temperature breaks can become the most important factor. Temperature breaks are defined as an area where the water temperatures change at least a ½ a degree or so within a very short distance. The larger the temperature change over a fairly short distance, the more a temperature break becomes important in finding fish. SST's can be a wonderful tool in locating these breaks. In the picture below (an SST shot from Terrafin, a paid subscription service) notice the area at the 45 50, 124 50 location. (see note below ** for description of latitude and longitude numbers) It looks like within a mile or so the water temperature changes close to 3 degrees. Generally, you can find fish in temperature breaks as little as a ½ degree change, but when I'm looking on the internet I look for a 1 degree change or more as a starting point.

Terrafin Sea Surface Temperature shot of Northern Oregon

Another set of charts worth looking at, are Chlorophyll charts. These charts show how much chlorophyll is suspended in the water, which lets you know if you're looking at dirty green water, clean green water, green/blue, or blue water. While I've caught albacore in all the water- colors listed, I would always prefer finding clean water, whether it be green or blue. What I really want to see though, is a color change overlaying a temperature break.

Terrafin Chlorophyll shot of Northern Oregon

As I mentioned earlier in this article, we aren't fishing physical structure like bottom contours the way you can in areas where the fish come into fairly shallow water. Since we don't have fishable bottom structure, we have to find structure formed at the surface, and color changes and temperature breaks represent surface structure. Often, color and temperature changes indicate where two currents collide, which form current rips. This structure is important because it often pins bait at the rip itself. Baitfish can't swim against a current any faster than 1mph, so they get swept along, and when two currents meet forming a rip, the bait is pinned in between the currents. Color and temperature changes often overlay these areas, forming a virtual dinning room for the tuna. This is why finding temperature and color breaks is so important. Have you ever noticed when you're offshore and you find a color change, that you often find floating debris along this line? This is visual clue that you are looking at current break, and often the fish will be right there.

You can find free charts on the NOAA Coastwatch site, but these charts are very low resolution since you are looking at a much larger area of water. There are also pay sites like www.terrafin.com and www.ripcharts.com which have subscriptions services that give you the same information as Coastwatch, but with a much more defined area, so it's easier to find the temperature and color changes.

A side note should be added hear about bottom structure. As I've alluded to, we aren't fishing bottom structure in the way many of our East Coast brethren do since we are in such deep water. (They are often fishing in water between 100 to 500 feet deep, and occasionally in 1,000 feet.) We do occasionally have the bottom structure help us though through upwellings. If the ocean currents are flowing against some prominent bottom structure, currents can sometimes be deflected off the bottom and pushed towards the surface. When this occurs, you'll often find a steep temperature and color change, which can often be a hot spot in terms of finding fish. Whenever I find a strong temperature change over prominent bottom structure, I select this as my starting point for the following day.

I also like to check the internet chat rooms like ifish.net to see if there are any recent reports for the water I'm fishing. While GPS numbers are always a nice thing to have, just knowing that a boat was on fish NW from my port at 40 miles is all the intel I really need, especially if I have a satellite shot to look at in conjunction with the report. There are often tuna schools spread out over vast amounts of water, sometimes it's just a matter of finding the distance offshore of where they happen to be.

Have you ever noticed how the commercial trollers are all trolling back and forth North to South or vice-versa? This is because they've found there are concentrations of fish at a certain Longitude, so they concentrate along that line. It's often just a matter of finding this line, and then concentrating your search there.

It's also a good idea to start to make friends with other people that run from the same port. When you develop a good core group of guys who fish the same area, you can often start to get exact locations of where the fish have been lately. This is the best sort of intel when a friend you can trust tells you EXACTLY where they found fish over the last couple of days. Again, if you can overlay this information with a current SST or Chlorophyll shot, you've often just found where the fish are. This also plays out well on the ocean itself once your fishing, because these same friends can help spread out and look for fish and you can narrow down the search much faster with multiple boats working together to find them.

This is good time to discuss etiquette on the tuna grounds. It used to be that GPS numbers were given out freely to others out chasing tuna, but as more and more people started chasing fish, and as many of the boats had started to find ways to have live bait, GPS numbers started to be harder to come by. This happened because often someone would hear that another boat was absolutely whacking on the fish, so they drove straight to the GPS numbers called out on the radio. These boats would often troll within a long cast of the boat on a live bait stop. This will put the fish down almost immediately, and of course will not help in making friends with the boat who just had their fish disappear. The thing to realize is that all the tuna in the Northwest aren't under the one boat who is doing well. There's often fish all over the area, you just need to get into the ballpark to start catching them yourself.

Nice albacore caught off of Garibaldi

Another thing I've noticed, especially latter in the season, is that guys start struggling because they are still trying to troll tuna clones (7 Strand Clones, Eat Me Lures Lolo's, Williamson Tuna Catchers, etc.), while the boats who are doing well are fishing live bait, or they are working stops using a plethora of iron, swim baits and vertical jigs. Even without live bait you can often develop a pretty good stop by using small baitfish type lures while chumming with dead bait, while the guys trying to troll clones hardly get bit at all. This often happens because the tuna are no longer feeding primarily on squid, but have switched their diets to fin bait (anchovies, sauries, hake and a mixture of bottom fish fry), consuming mostly baits in the 2-4 inch category. They wrongly assume that the boat on the stop has all the fish under them, when in fact it's what they are using that's causing them to fail.

For these reasons it's considered incredibly impolite offshore to come any closer than several hundred yards, unless you know the boat you're approaching, and if they've invited you to come closer. Otherwise, it's imperative to stay a long way off from them.

A couple years back I was having one of those frustrating days we can all have where I was struggling to find the fish. It was late season, so the troll game was virtually over. I was trolling swim baits, but the water on the surface was cool, so I was having a hard time locating them. A friend called me into a bite he had going. I got within a ½ mile of him and shut down my motors and started vertical jigging and immediately hooked up. We ended up with a great day because I had some help, but we never even got close enough for my friends to realize I had run to their numbers. They asked me at the dock that afternoon why I hadn't come in on their stop, and I relayed that I had got close enough and had immediately started hooking fish. So with this in mind, if you hear about someone doing well, try to get there east/west number, and that's often all it takes to starting finding the fish.

So I've covered the things I do preceding a day on the water, but how do you find the fish once you've actually left the dock?

First, I have a game plan I've assembled from my earlier recon. Over the last decade the one thing I've had hammered home more often than any other factor is to trust my gut, and to stick to a plan! If you change your mind constantly, you're going to end up chasing your own tail, so resist the temptation and follow the plan!

The things I'm looking for offshore are water temp, color changes, current rips and slicks, floating debris, life (i.e. birds, whales, dolphins, etc.) and finally, the tuna themselves. I look for them in the order I've given, and when I have 2-3 line up together, it's usually time to start fishing.

The first thing I'm searching for offshore is water temp. Here I want to mention that most water temp gauges have a plus or minus of 3 degrees, so your gauge could read 2-3 degrees different than mine. I can't tell you how many times I'm catching tuna in 60 degree water, and I hear someone on the radio mention they are in 58 degree water at the same east/west number I'm at and don't think the fish are there, so they are going to keep trolling west. The fish probably are there, but they are worried the waters the wrong temp. Calibrate your gauge with a hand held temp gauge, or check with a buddy boat, and you can get a sense of how far off your machine might be reading. I've also caught fish in 56-degree water, so if there's life around, but the water seems a bit cold, don't automatically discount the spot!

When I'm running towards the spot I've determined to be my starting point, I start really paying attention to the conditions around me as soon as I've hit 58 degree water. At this point I start searching for temp/color changes, floating debris and life. I ask my crew to start actively looking as well, and we often see the fish themselves, which eliminates the need to continue looking!

Debris and life are the next two things I really want to find when looking for tuna. Early in the season, you will often catch fish without a lot of attending life above on the surface. Often when the fish first arrive, their main forage base is squid, which aren't pushed to the surface the way baitfish are, so often you won't find bird life in the area, or at least large masses of birds the way you'll find them latter in the season. For this reason, if I find floating debris or a color change, all with the right temperature, it's often enough to get me to start fishing.

I often hear people talking about how important water color is. This is something I have found to be of little importance. I've caught tuna in incredibly dirty green looking water, as well as blue water. It really doesn't matter what the water color is, as long as it's warm enough (58-60 degrees) and has bait. If those two contingencies are met, the tuna are likely there, so don't get caught up in finding clean blue water.

Bird life is another key to finding fish. This is especially true from mid-August thru the end of our tuna season. During these periods the tuna are primarily eating baitfish, which they push to the surface where birds can get at them. For this reason there is often a lot of bird activity in areas where the fish are. The two most important birds to watch for are terns and shearwaters. To really tell if the fish are present, you have to watch the body language of the birds. If you see a tern flying in a straight line, with their head up they probably aren't following fish. If you see a tern flying with their head down and excited wing beats, he's probably following tuna. If you see this same tern wheel around reel quick then dive you definitely have tuna under him. If you ever see terns diving offshore you have just found tuna.

Shearwaters are sometimes called liar birds, but they still give good clues about tuna. If you come upon a large raft of shearwaters sitting on the water and they are calm and just sitting there, there probably aren't any tuna underneath them, but they probably were there not to long ago. The tighter these aggregations of shearwaters are, the more it indicates tuna were recently in the area. When you find a tight flock of shearwaters when they are squawking and actively diving there are tuna under them. Sometimes shearwaters walk on the water. They get up on their hind feet and flap their wings as they look down. This as sure a sign as any they have tuna under them. These are often things you'll notice when the tuna are puddling on the top, but not actually jumping. The shearwaters can often help you find the tuna when they aren't necessarily breaking the surface.

Finding floating debris, especially if you've found a trash line, can be a great spot to start fishing. Whenever you find lots of debris in one area, and especially if it's formed up in a line, you've found a current seam. Often this same area will correlate with a color or temperature break as well. These are areas that deserve a good look. It's common to also only find fish on one side of these types of breaks. They'll be on the side of the break where the bait is trapped, so pay attention to where you're getting bit so you can maximize your time over the fish.

Finally, just pay attention when you're offshore. The fish themselves will often tell you where they are by jumping, puddling and showing signs on the surface. The more you watch, the more you begin to see.

June 11, 2013

Bay Clamming in Oregon

by John Childs

Guide to Bay Clamming in Oregon

The morning dawned bright, clear and already warm… at least by Garibaldi standards. What a treat! We loaded the boat with rakes, shovels and 5 gallon buckets, ready to descend on the clam flats to try and reap some of Oregon's intertidal bounty.

When we got to the boat ramp we were surprised to find the parking lot practically empty. I guess the forecast for offshore winds with large swells, and the somewhat spotty bay fishing for springers, the fleet had decided to stay home and sleep. Now I enjoy a busy port. I like the buzz when everyone around you is anxious to get out fishing, the excitement is almost palpable, it amps me up! Even though I love it when the port is hopping, there's also a certain pleasure to pick such a glorious morning and to feel you have it practically to yourself!

Lonely port in the morning

We put the boat in the water, and slowly motored out to the clam-flats. I wanted to start at one of my favorite spots where it's always a great mix of cockles and gapers. Pulling in, we were the only boat on a sand flat within site. Truly amazing!

We got out of the boat and I showed my hopeful companions what the different clam shows looked like between gapers and cockles, and how to stick their fingers in the gaper shows to see if a clam was close by. They were all surprised and got a chuckle when the first show I stuck my finger in to water sprayed nearly a couple feet in the air, and I only missed getting showered in bay-clam water by quick reflexes! It was pretty amusing.

Gaper Show

I also shoed them how I like to dig them by hand, although a shovel does make the process easier in a sense. The part I don't like with a shovel is you do have a tendency to crack a fair amount of the clams, but when I dig them by hand I hardly ever get a cracked shell.

Digging by hand

Extracting my prize

The end result, a nice gaper!

Then I proceeded to show them what a cockle show looked like, and how they were almost always just a couple of inches below the surface, and in fact if I want a really fast limit of clams, I can pretty confidently go to my favorite spot and find a limit of cockles in less than 15 minutes. It's an easy clam to get first timers into!

Cockle Show

After showing them how to get it done, they all spread out and started hunting for their prizes. It was fun to watch them searching and then digging for their quarry. There were squeals of delight and laughter, maybe a slight bit of cursing and lots of good-natured teasing. It was a pleasurable as could be, and I followed them along at first making sure they all could find their clams. When I knew they were set, I began my own hunt, and within a ½ hour or so I had my clams, a nice mix of gapers, cockles and a couple of soft shells (which were a bit of surprise on this flat!). Truly a fantastic morning!

Friends Digging Away

So how do you find these prize treats on your own? Well here's a guide on how to find cockles and gapers, and how to dig them in a bay near you!

First, cockles are the easiest clams to find on the Oregon coast. You can literally find them in almost any substrate type, although good sandy bottoms, or sand with a little bit of mud are usually the most consistent places to find them. Cockles have a very unique "show." There shows always look like two small holes right beside each other, and the clam is almost always just a couple of inches below the sand. To find cockles you simply walk around on a sandy flat looking for these unique shows and literally lift them out of the sand once you locate a show. This is the by far the easiest and cleanest clam to dig!

Mixed limit of Cockles, Gapers and Softshells

You almost always find cockles more densely populated along the top edge of the small creeks/ditches that form from water draining off the flats, especially if these are mostly firm sandy spots. When you find a good spot, there are almost always a fair number of cockles in the same general area. You can also rake these areas where you find a few shows and often you can rake up more cockles than are showing on the surface, but then of course it gets a bit harder! Generally if you find a good cockle area, you can find visible cockle shows, and a limit of clams in pretty short order without ever having to resort to digging or raking.

Gapers (also called Martha Washington's or Blue Clams) have a much larger show. Their shows are often nickel up to a quarter size in diameter. I generally stick my finger in what I believe to be a gaper show, and often water will squirt from the show. If so there is DEFINITELY a clam below. Often clams won't squirt water, but when the show does you've positively located a clam.

The end result of dicking a limit of clams!

Gapers are often a foot to 2-1/2 feet below the surface. I like to dig them by hand, but you can also use a shovel. Gapers are a very large clam, and are almost always straight below the show, so if you do use a shovel, dig off to the side of the show a couple feet, then start to work towards your clam, or you'll break many of these beefy shellfish. If you're digging on a soft flat, especially one that's got a lot of mud, the holes can have a tendency to collapse on you. If this is happening, you can take a 5-gallon bucket and cut the bottom out, to form walls to slow down the process of your hole collapsing.

I like to dig clams by hand. This creates a very small hole, and is much less prone to collapsing, but in the softer wetter mud flats, this can also be an impossible endeavor, making me have to resort to the shovel and 5-gallon bucket method. When digging clams by hand, just follow the show downward until your hand contacts the clam. When you feel the clam, you'll almost always immediately encounter the neck as well. I find it easiest to just pinch the neck tightly with my fingers and begin pulling them upward. Just keep steady tension on them and you'll find they begin to release from their borrow and with a few seconds they pop out of the hole and you have your clam. With this method I never break shells, and I can generally dig even these hardy burrowers fairly fast.

Easy 4 person limit from the mornings dig.

You'll also occasionally find soft-shell clams when digging for gapers and cockles. Their shows are all different sizes, but are generally smaller than the gapers, and will also be closer to the surface. These clams are also easily dug by hand, but you won't need to uproot them by their neck since they are shallow enough to be easily extracted by working them free with your hands. Softshells look similar to a razor clam, except they are generally a brown to dark blue on their shells instead of the bronze/brown color of razor clams.

These clams are all easiest to find when you have low tides of at least zero to some type of negative tide. As long as the tides are low enough for bay flats to become exposed you can find your clams. I've even got limits of cockles when there isn't a very low tide at all, just by going to areas I've traditionally found them, and raking in water 1 to 2 feet deep, but it is always easiest to wait for a one of those glorious low tide mornings and making an event from finding your clams.

So next time a good low tide set is coming, get out in the bay nearest you and find some of Oregon's shellfish bounty for yourself!!

Images of some of the other things you might see on a clam flat.

Cool small shrimp found in a small tide pool

A crabby visitor!

An otter! A very unusual find!!

Link to Oregon Shellfish Regs

Link to Shellfish Identifications

Link to Oregon's Shellfish Pages

May 18, 2013

Fishing the Big D

by John Childs

The Deschutes is really one of those magical places, an oasis of verdant green hidden amongst high desert basalt and sagebrush. It's a place that can get under your skin, and every time I fish it I remember why she's pulled me to her banks so often for over 20 years… It's the river where I finally started "catching" trout, instead of just angling for them. It's where I began my illustrious guide career, and it's where I think I found who I am. It was right there, fishing the hummocks of the Deschutes that cemented the fact that I was destined to spend my life chasing the dream of fishing for a living.

Maybe a trip to the Deschutes is a ritual that has to be undertaken each spring, or maybe it's just a burr that gets under my saddle, but each spring I have to make at least one pilgrimage back to the river I think of as my "home river." So many things have happened to me along her banks, so many profound changes to my life in the simple form of fishing, that I just can't bear to let a season pass without at least one visit to her beautiful shores.

Yesterday I was working around the house, preparing my gear for my upcoming move to Garibaldi when my good friend Lance Fisher called and asked if I wanted to join him for a trout excursion over to the Big D. Well, that was a silly question Mr. Fisher, of course I want to join you!! It falls right into my right of spring, and it couldn't come at a better time, when my world has seemed to implode around me a bit.

I can't tell you how comforting the thought of bright sunny skies, warm canyon temperatures, and crisp cool water comfort my soul. Have you ever noticed when things don't seem to be going your way, going back to basics, trying to find one of those things that kind of anchors your whole being, helps you find some peace and perspective in the hectic messes we get ourselves into? That's exactly what a fly-fishing trip to the Deschutes will do for me… It will let me get lost for a time in the methodical pursuit of the rivers beautiful denizens. I will fish, I'll sweat, I'll enjoy wading in the cool water, I'll sit on the bank and watch water ouzel's feed on the rocks, I'll feel the wind on my cheeks, and I'll hear the creak of the oars as they strain against the emerald waters, and when I get home, some perspective to the mess my life seems to have become will hopefully be shown in a new light.

I know way down in my soul this little break is needed, and maybe my only regret is not going alone. Sometimes those days spent alone at a place like the Deschutes are where perspective really gels into reality.

I remember when I was young, still learning to fly fish, so desperately trying to become a competent angler, spending weekend after weekend camped alone along the banks of this river. I remember cooking breakfast along the waters edge, and pondering about a life that was mostly still in front of me, wondering what was the right path, and how to choose which route to take along life's crazy journey. It's always been moments like that when a real clarity sinks in. When I can look at something as objectively as I'll ever be able to, and my subconscious is finally allowed to air its opinion as to the path I should follow.

It's often this part of my mind, which allows me to make those decisions about my life, but also to strip away the fog in my mind, and bring situations to the stark reality that I need, so I know how to act.

I guess this is the only regret of the upcoming trip, knowing that the camaraderie of the day won't allow for contemplative sitting under and alder on the bank, watching the stoneflies fly by like small sparrows, the swallows dipping and darting through the air catching their afternoon meal, feeling the cool breeze against my cheek, and hearing the gurgle of the stream as it ever burbles on towards a meeting with the ocean. I know they would find this eventuality strange, me sitting on a rock. Why I would need to do such a thing, not understanding I'm searching for something more than just another trout, not knowing what I search for is hidden in the recesses of my mind.

It's okay though, sometimes the act of just being with such good friends allows some of the same reflections. Maybe not exactly the same; maybe not the chance to finally strip away the gauze of subterfuge we each plague ourselves with, but I'll still have those quiet moments alone, working up a bank rhythmically casting, stripping, looking for the elusive signs of a trout hidden below in his liquid world. Just these little moments can still help to find those glimpses into my soul to help me decipher what's real, what my course should be.

I hope the fish feel in friendly mood when we get there, but I also know there cooperation isn't mandatory for a great day. I guess I don't want them to be easy, and in fact I'll search out those fish that are a bit tougher to catch, the ones snugged up under a tree in an eddy where it's tough to get a good cast, much less a drag free drift, but catching a couple of these gorgeous fish would brighten my day considerably.

The Deschutes fish really are an amazing fish to look at, with their dark olive backs, crimson sides, rosy cheeks, and their amazingly large ink black spots, with the biggest eyes… I'm captivated by their looks each time I'm lucky enough to hold one for a moment. It's in fact in the very moment of holding one of these magnificent creatures that I'm brought back to the very bedrock of why I fish… the chance to spend time outside in fantastically gorgeous places, catching something so wild and pure. It kind of defines the whole sport of angling for me.

It's also the beauty of the settings, and the quietness of the world outside of our bustling metropolis that begins to settle my soul. I need these respites from the compact sprawl our urban communities have become, to help bring clarity to my life. I live for each of these opportunities.

"Yes, Mr. Fisher," I replied, "I'd love to spend a day on the Big D chasing some rainbows with you!"

April 10, 2013

Cabo- April 8th Update

by John Childs

The last couple days have been a bit on the windy side. So much so that the port has been closed for pangas both days, and yesterday they closed the port in the morning for all traffic. They ended up reopening the port yesterday around 9-10 for anything over 30 feet, but left it closed for pangas. This has put a little bit of a damper on my fishing! It's seemed every plan has failed a little bit, so it's a bit of a bummer.

Dylan and Brady headed offshore two days ago, and Kelli and I were going to fish a panga. The wind was howling, and it was cold when we woke up, to the point where I was wishing I had brought a jacket! Since the weather was supposed to be clear and in the 90's for the entire trip I left both a jacket and sweatshirt out of gear. I was bumming on this for sure!

We got Dylan and Brady to Red Rum and checked in, and then we headed over to Dream Maker Sport Fishing to check in with Grace for a panga trip. When we got over to Dream Maker we found out they had closed the port to pangas, so we weren't going to be able to fish. I was bummed! Yeah, it was windy and cold, but I knew it would get warm once the sun was out and that we'd find something to do out of the nastiest part of the wind. Oh well, sometimes it just doesn't swing your way.

The break did allow me to catch up on the last couple of updates, so I guess there's a silver lining! Kelli and I headed back to the house where I took a bit of a nap, and then caught up writing my updates and posting a few pics.

After that we spent kind of a lazy afternoon by the pool, waiting for the time to go pick up Dylan and Brady.

At 2:30 we headed in to pick up the boys at Red Rum, and as usual we parked ourselves in Mango Cantina to enjoy some ceviche, cervezas and sun while we waited. This wonderful little Cantina sure is a great place to hang out!

When Dylan and Brady finally arrived I was disappointed to see their boat round the corner with no flags flying. Crap, a day offshore with nothing to show for it, and worse off, it was there last day to fish all together. Probably the worse part was I couldn't try to save the day with an afternoon panga trip with the wind whipping the sea into a frenzy and a closed port!

We they made it up to the restaurant they relayed how they'd run up the cape far enough they got out of the wind and trolled all day looking for marlin and hoping to find some dorado along the way. Well, it turns out they did find some fish…two dorado so small they almost didn't count! Gorgeous little fish for sure, but they were more bait sized than anything else! To bad the big black and blue marlin weren't around, because they where the perfect live bait trolling size! I was impressed to note the captain of their boat for the day hadn't even put up flags even though they had technically caught two dorado. It's nice to know they aren't trying to fool people into thinking the fishing is something it's not.
Apparently they'd also seen a few marlin, but couldn't get any of them to bite. I think they were seeing the same thing we'd seen the day before, fish sitting up on top digesting dinner and not really looking for a snack of fresh mackerel!

After we finished debriefing over a couple of cervezas, we decided to head home and get cleaned up so we could go to dinner for their last evening in town. Tonight Dylan wanted to go to a restaurant he'd been to before and really liked, The Shrimp Factory. Sounded good to us, so we got cleaned up and headed back into town for a nice dinner.

After dinner we spent the last evening of their trip visiting a few bars downtown, which are the have to see places when you visit Cabo. We went to Cabo Wabo, The Giggling Marlin, and made a few other stops as we walked around town. It was a very pleasant evening spent enjoying reliving the last few days of fishing and fun in Cabo.

I'll update soon for yesterday, but right now we are getting ready to leave for San Jose Del Cabo to catch a panga to go fish the Gordo Banks. We heard they had a good wahoo bite yesterday, and there have also been some yellowtail and dorado. Hopefully we'll have some good stories and pics to update soon!!

April 08, 2013

Cabo- April 7th Update

by John Childs

Yesterday was an offshore day. I went with Brady and Dylan on Rum Runin to take some pictures of their trip and to hang out with them. Kelli had decided to take an off day and to do some shopping and sit by the pool. Sounds rough huh?

We were up at the customary 5:00, and left the house shortly before 6:00 am. The time in Baja had changed over night from daylight savings time, so we sprang forward which meant we lost an hour. We gained the evening light, but lost the light in the morning, so it was really 5:30 on our body clocks when we checked in at Red Rum, and it was still dark. The mornings before it had actually been sunny and warm by the time we got to the office. What a difference a simple hour can make.

Jumping Dorado

We got our paperwork from Tiffany at Red Rum and then met our Captain of Rum Runnin, Jesus. The captain and mate both have the same name, and our often referred to as the two Jesus's. Makes for a nice rime.

We got over to the boat and loaded my camera gear aboard, pushed off and headed to check in with the Federales. In the morning, every fishing boat embarking out of Cabo to fish has to check in with the Mexican Police to make sure everyone has their paper work. We get cleared by the Federales and then head over to the live bait pens. While there's an actual live bait barge, pangaleros run bait to each of the boats. We had 5 live baits ordered, but I suggested we take an extra 10 pieces. The first 5 are included in our trip along with 5 frozen ballyhoo, but I always like having some extra live bait aboard just in case you need them. I've ben out there before and run out of bait, and it's kind of a helpless feeling when the fish want live baits and you don't have anymore! I guess that means it's time to head for port! So we picked up an extra 10 baits from the pangalero and paid him $30, and were finally off for the offshore grounds.

True to normal Red Rum style, we bombed offshore at a pretty good clip. So many of the boats in Mexico don't want to burn the fuel, so they only run a mile or so then put out the fishing gear and troll their way to the spot where they want to fish. I know they catch fish doing this, but it still seems like a waste of time, while Red Rum's boats drive to the fish before they put out the troll gear. I like this style because it also takes you out of the crowd of boats, and I think you can often find unpressured fish.

We ran for about 20 minutes, and when I checked my GPS we were about 12 miles from Cabo when we came off plane and put out the troll gear. It was pretty windy, and there was a lot of wind chop on the water, mixed with some impressive sized swells. Unlike our Ocean in Oregon, the major swell period is amazingly long, so even with the chop on top it's not really that bad. Of course we were also trolling with it, so it seemed pretty comfortable even though the sea looked pretty big and confused.

We put out a spread of 1 dead ballyhoo in the shotgun position, 2 straight running tubes on the riggers, a sewn dead mackerel bait on the long corner, and the short corner got a spreader bar with squids and big swimming lure as a chaser bait. The spreader bar didn't have any hooks, so was running strictly as a teaser. Then we had a pitch bait ready at the live well in case a hot fish came in to the boat, or if we saw a sleeper lying on top.

After trolling for a little while the mate comes flying off the fly bridge as the captain throttles the engines forward. They've seen a marlin. I see the captain turning to port, so I move to that side and see the sickle tail and dorsal fin of a resting marlin. Jesus pitches a live mackerel to the sleeping billfish and I see the fins disappear in a light swirl. This is always the point when you're anxiously hoping he's a biter and not just another sleeper, as you watch for any movement on the surface, or listen for the sound of mono to begin ripping off the reel. To no avail…He doesn't bite and we go back on the troll.

As we are trolling I'm watching forward of the boat from the port side and I see a marlin free jumping a couple hundred yards in front of us. The captain sees it at the same time and he guns the engines forward to try and intercept the marlin. He jumps several more times as we close the distance, and as we roll over the spot where he last jumped Jesus tosses a live bait and we all watch the spread and the new live bait to see if anything pursues. It's a tense couple of moments, but again, we are foiled without a bite.

Dorado about to be welcomed on board.

We get back on the troll and we go through a period where nothing much happens. As we troll north we are getting more and more protection from the East Cape and the ocean gets positively greasy. The light clouds have burnt off, the sun is out and the wind is down. It was absolutely gorgeous weather to be on a boat. As we drone along, looking, hoping, waiting, I hear the pop of the starboard outrigger clip followed by the scream of a protesting drag. Dylan who was sitting in the fighting chair was in a perfect position to grab the rod, out of the rod holder as I grab my camera. I look behind the boat just in time to catch a huge dorado come leaping out of the water. In fact, this dorado was so large and blue when he first jumped I thought I was looking at a striped marlin. It took a second to comprehend the blunt head sans bill!

Dylan fights the fish but he continues to burn line off, and after a few minutes of not gaining any line the Jesus (the captain) starts to slowly back down on the fish. Dylan starts to gain some line. After a few minutes the fish again gives us some wonderful jumps and he's turned from his silver blue hues to the green, gold and blue we so often associate with dorado. What a gorgeous fish as he leaps out of the blue Mexican water.

He sounds for a bit and I can see him swimming deeply below the boat, shining like a long gold bullet. It was a beautiful site, and honestly one I never get tired of seeing. The mate comments on the grande size of this great fish.

After a 15-minute battle, Dylan finally has the fish coming along side the boat, and Jesus is able to sink the gaff home. I knew this dorado looked like a good one as he jumped and fought around the boat, but I was still surprised at the size as he was brought over the gunnel. What an amazing mahi!

We took some photos, then the two Jesus's stowed the fish in the fish box (with the big tail still sticking out!) and then we got back on the troll.

Grande Dorado!

After a little while we I see something jump off the starboard side of the boat and I ask the captain if it was a marlin. He's told me it was a big pod of dolphins. I asked him if they might be holding any tuna, but he says they are the large dolphins, not the little ones that so commonly associate with dolphin schools. We troll through the pods of dolphins, which are spread over a ½ square mile or so without any action, or sighting any other fish.

As we troll away from the mammals I spot a sickle fin off our port side. I yell marlin, and the captain and mate look where I'm pointing and then Jesus is flying off the bridge again to get the pitch bait as I watch the marlin swimming along side the boat. He makes a perfect pitch to the billfish, but again, this fish sinks out on us.

We get back on the troll, and within the next 15 minutes we see 2 more marlin sleeping up on top and repeat the exercise with exactly the same results. I think we are seeing fish that have been feeding deep in the cold water where there metabolism is slowed, so they come to the warm surface layer to get warm, and to increase their metabolism to help them speed up the digestion of their last dinner. I asked what they had been feeding on, and Jesus confirmed my supposition as he said they've been feeding on big schools of squid. Ah ha, fat, happy and full marlin enjoying a nap in the Mexican sun. Guess I can't really blame them!

We get back on the troll again when I hear the long corner rod scream for a second and then pop off. Jesus is flying down from the bridge again as I hear the reel chirp again. He drops the pitch bait back and he starts reeling in the mackerel bait. I grabbed my camera as I see the marlin chasing the mackerel bait right to the back corner of the transom lit up like a Christmas tree. They sure are amazing fish when they are excited and literally look like they have neon lights inside them lighting them up with the most vibrant hues of blue and silver. It's an amazing site.

Jesus had Dylan rip the mackerel out of the water, because the marlin was doing everything he could to kill that bait, and as soon as it disappeared from behind the boat, he turned and engulfed our pitched live mackerel as I hear line start ripping off the reel and Dylan starts swinging the rod to set the hook. Then the marlin comes grey hounding out of the water, doing the dance on the surface of the sea that always keeps us fisherman coming back for more. I know some people can get bored chasing marlin and other offshore game fish because there can be so much dead time in between bites and fish landed, but just the sites of something like a lit up marlin eating a bait 10-feet off the transom of the boat always keeps me coming back for more!

Jumping striped marlin.

Dylan fights the fish for a while, and after about 15 minutes we have the fish along side the boat. Jesus reaches down and grabs the fish's bill as the captain comes down from the bridge and helps him pull the fish up into the boat. They mate has the bill and dorsal fin, as the captain holds the tail and we position Dylan in the middle for a quick hero shot before we launch the marlin back over the gunnel head first. As the fish hits the water he sits for a moment, probably confused over the course of events that just happened, then with a mighty beat of his massive tail shoots off for the cool depths. Awesome! We landed a nice stripped marlin!

Fighting the marlin.

The marlin comes alongside.


We get back to the troll and spend another hour or so without seeing any fish, when Dylan says he just saw a fish jump on the port side. The captain and mate turn and say it was a mako shark. We troll towards the spot where they saw it leap from the ocean, and as we pass the spot the shotgun ballyhoo rod gets bit, but it's only on for about 2 seconds. We keep trolling and Jesus reels up the bait to see what happened, and only ½ of our bait is left. The shark grabbed the bait just behind the hook! Oh well, we had a close encounter. I had told Dylan any encounter with the big fish would probably be short lived since they sport such impressive dentures and we were trolling with all mono.

We continued to troll the rest of the afternoon, and did spot one more marlin up top that also refused to eat a tossed bait. This fish was a little different though because he was cruising up on top so fast. When we first spotted him and the captain gunned the boat to get into position I could see the fish in the waves and he was gaining on us and we were probably doing 10-12 miles per hour. Impressive how fast they can swim, especially considering this fish just looked like he was loafing along! We managed to get in front of him about 5 times and each time Jesus made a perfect pitch to him, but each time he just kept swimming on his course. He showed no interest in our baits at all.

All in all we saw between 5-6 marlin, caught 1, and also landed the biggest dorado I've ever witnessed with my own eyes. Awesome day!

When we got back in, we grabbed a couple celebratory cervezas then showered and got ready to grab some dinner. I also whipped up a big bowl of ceviche which we'll eat tonight after Dylan and Brady get back from fishing offshore.

Dinner was at the Mango Cantina, and we had them cook some of our sheephead for us. It was amazing grilled simply with garlic butter and mango sauce. Yum!! Mango Cantina again didn't disappoint.

After we ate we took a walk on Medano beach down to the Mango Deck and had a couple more beers as we watched the sun go down over baja. Another wonderful day! We were all pooped after running so hard, and decided it was time to head back to the house and call it an early night.

April 08, 2013

Cabo- April 6th Update

by John Childs

Sorry for no update yesterday, but we've been running so hard I didn't get it done yesterday morning. I'm finding to get these written I have to get up around 4:30 in the morning before everyone else is up and write these or they just don't get done!

Sunrise over Cabo!

Two days ago we started out at 6:00 am heading for town to get Dylan and Brady on the boat with Red Rum. We got them checked in and then Kelli and I were off to See Grace and Dale to go out on a panga trip again. We had hired Oscar and his mate Raul, and hopefully we could find a bunch of fish again.

We made it over to Dream Maker Charters (the name of Grace and Dale's business) and got checked in ourselves and met Raul for the walk over to the Panga. It was already still and hot in the marina, and looked like we might be in for a very nice morning.

A warm quiet morning in the harbor!

Raul arrived and helped us carry our gear over to the boat. I really think it's a pain in the butt bringing my own gear to fish with, but on the other hand the quality of what we are using is so far superior to any of the gear you might use in Mexico it all becomes worthwhile. Oscar and Raul are totally digging on going through all of my gear while we fish. I've told them they are welcome to use anything, and it's like watching two kids in a candy store. It's almost worth the price of admission for this alone.

I have to add here that the G Loomis SAMR1025C rods are absolutely killer casting and sierra fishing rods. They do it all, and they still have the horsepower to pull on a big yellowtail. I even caught a nice skipjack on one and they just plain have the butt section to get the job done. Paired with the new Calcutta D's, I've found a new outfit that's going to get some serious use this year in more places than just kwikfish back home!

So we cleared the rocks and Oscar says we should try for yellow tail right off the bat. We all vertical jigged for about an hour, and each of us hooked a skipjack or two, but the yellows were managing to avoid our hooks. Kelli got tired of the constant work on the jigs and decided she wanted to try a live bait, so I rigged a Loomis Pro-Blue up with an egg sinker and she sent it down. I kept giving her a hard time about fishing bait when the jigs can be so successful, but she wanted to try the bait. After about a ½ an hour I turned around to her and asked if her bait was out fishing our iron and wouldn't you know I see her rod start to bounce with a good bite! Ok, she wins!!

She hooks the fish and it's obviously decent sized and it gives her a decent tussle, but it doesn't fight like a yellowtail. She finally spins it up to the top and it's the largest sheephead I've ever seen. Truly a giant sized model!! Awesome! And boy do they have some teeth!

Kelli with a giant sheepshead!

After a little while longer of not finding any yellows (we did see another panga not far away manage to hook and land one) we decided to go try for sierras again. It sometimes not that great in the sunlight, but I have to admit of getting a bit tired of the fishing the iron myself. It plain gets to be work when you're dropping over and over again without a fish!

We went up to the same spot we'd fished the evening before off the lighthouse and we started getting sierras pretty quick. It wasn't lights out like the day before, but we did manage several doubles and were getting a fish or two every pass. We fished these great little speedsters for a couple hours until we had an absolute pile of fish. If you've never had smoked sierra you're missing out. Grace and Dale also have a smokehouse called Gricelda's Smokehouse, and our fish were destined to be smoked and vacuum packed for the flight home to Portland. We're going to be enjoying these sierras for a few months to come!

Another great sierra.

We decided to go give the yellowtails another try, so we motored back to the rock and put out our gear again. This time I decided to join Kelli with a live bait, so we both dropped baits to the bottom, while Oscar and Raul dropped iron. There was a pretty fast drift this morning, so I kept checking to make sure I was close to the bottom. On one drop I felt my lead hit the bottom, put my reel in gear to crank up a couple feet and felt my bait get picked up. The fish pulled pretty hard a couple times and I thought he was hooked when the hook pulled free. I reeled up and the hook had got turned around in the bait, bummer! Within seconds Raul is hooked up on the front of the boat. Looks like the fish I missed maybe wanted iron too.

Kelli took the rod and it was obvious from the way it was fighting we had a good-sized yellowtail on. She was pretty stoked because she mentioned several times before our trip how she really wanted to catch a yellowtail. It was awesome she was finding what she came for!! We landed the fish after a 10-minute slug fest, and it was real dandy!

Dandy tail!

We put down the baits again and fished for another ½ hour or so, but the wind had built considerably, and I also didn't know what time I needed to be back to meet Dylan and Brady so we decided to head in, get the gear back to the house and to go wait for the guys to get back from the morning with Red Rum.

We got back to the harbor and checked with the Red Rum office, but the boys weren't back yet. Tiffany said it was pretty rough out there and she wouldn't be surprised if they were late. Kelli and I decided to wait at the Mango Cantina and have some ceviche and cervezas. What a nice way to spend the afternoon.

After an hour or so Dylan and Brady finally pull in. They had worked at it all day and managed to release a small marlin for Brady, but unfortunately nothing else. They'd had a few other shots, but the fish just didn't eat. Bummer, but at least they found one!!

They sat down with us at the Cantina and had an appetizer and then we all headed back to the house to shower and get ready for dinner.

Tonight we went to the Office for dinner and had another great meal. I really do like this place, and it's always a treat to sit on the beach with my toes in the sand while I eat a fantastic meal!

After dinner we got back to the house and sat around the pool and had a nightcap, but we were all so tired from the day we didn't make it long, and we were out for the count.

Well, it's almost 6:00 am as I write this and we are departing shortly for another action packed day, so the blog update for yesterday will have to wait for this afternoon!

April 06, 2013

Cabo- March 5th Update

by John Childs

The evening sky turning beautiful shades of pink and orange.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you go on vacation, especially a fishing vacation, you can run harder than when you're at home? Well that's exactly what today was like!

Kelli with a nice sierra. Look at those beautiful spots!

We got up this morning and I made up a bunch of wire leaders for fishing for sierras and then rigged a bunch of new Shimano flat-sided jigs with split rings, solid rings and assist hooks.

When I was done rigging those we ran into town to grab breakfast. We ate at the Mango Cantina again, and I have to say this sleepy little restaurant is quickly becoming one of my favorites. No shine, no glitz, but consistently great food in a quiet corner of the marina. If you make it to Cabo you need to make sure and stop there for a meal. I've yet to be disappointed with anything on their menu.

I had to pick up Dylan and Brady at the airport at 11:30, so by the time we got back to the house from breakfast, I had about 45 minutes to finalize getting the afternoons fishing gear ready. I set the rods out, made sure I had boxes of lures for each of us to take, along with extra leaders, wire, swim baits and jigs. We were set!

I left to pick up the guys and Kelli decided to stay behind and enjoy sitting by the pool. Can't say I can blame her for taking a little quiet time in the sun!

We were supposed to be in town to meet Doug Christie for lunch at 1:15, so by the time we got back from the airport we had just enough time to sit by the pool for a half hour and enjoy a cool cerveza. We discussed what the days fishing might entail, and then grabbed the gear and headed in to town.

We met Doug at Cabo Cantina for lunch and had a wonderful meal. The owner of the cantina, George was around, and he made us our own daily special of robalo (snook) simply grilled with lemon pepper and butter, yum!! We also had an appetizer of ceviche, which was simply excellent. What a great meal.

After lunch we walked down to Dale and Grace's little shop where we met our panga captains Fransisco and Oscar. I sent Dylan and Brady out with Fransico, and we went out with Oscar. We were going primarily for sierras, but it's like anytime your fishing, your also looking for whatever will play along! We got lucky though, because the sierra where in the mood to play.

It started the way a good bite often does. It wasn't lights out, and in fact it was sometimes 10 minutes between bites, but as the day faded it just kept getting better and better. By the time we decided we probably had enough sierras we were hooking doubles almost as fast as we got our gear out. They were absolutely tearing us up! What fun. The nicest part is the sierras where big! We caught a couple that might have gone 8-9 pounds. Very nice fish, and they would tear drag like nobody's business.

Me with a very nice sierra.

Doug had told me before we came down to bring something a bit lighter than normal for the sierra fishing. He said light gear made it so much more enjoyable bringing in the little mackerels. I brought down two G Loomis SAMR1024C salmon rods to use, and paired these with the new Shimano Calcutta D's. When Fransico and Oscar saw these, they went nuts. They thought it was exceptional gear, and it sure proved itself out on the water. The Loomis rods had plenty of backbone for the sierra, but they also had a ton of butt strength, which I proved a little latter in the evening, when I hooked a 20-25 pound yellowtail on one. The yellowtail definitely fought hard, but I just kept steady pressure on him and finally beat him after about 10 minutes. I was never under gunned, which was a pleasant surprise on such a large bruiser of tail on light gear. In fact Doug couldn't quit commenting on how nice the gear we were using was.

The big yellowtail.

The gear used to land all the fish!

After we had caught enough sierras to provide a nice batch of smoked fish and ceviche, we started targeting yellowtail. We trolled big Rapalas for a little while off the rocky shoreline, but never found anymore. Oscar decided we should end our day right off the arch. So we ran up there and we used my Trevala F series rods paired with Shimano Trinidad 16 Narrows, and vertical jigged in front of the rocks at lands end. We never managed to find another yellowtail, but we did find a really big school of skipjack. You know, if skippy's made it to 200-pounds you probably couldn't land one. They truly are amazing little tunas! After playing with the school for a minute and each landing a fish or two, we cut out and got a bit tighter to the rocks attempting to find one more yellowtail, but to no avail. As we gave it our last try we watched the sun sink into the horizon and light the thin veil of clouds up into a beautiful pink sunset. What an amazing afternoon we had on the pacific!

The sun setting over Cabo.

We came back into port, unloaded our catch and gear and then went and had dinner across from the Wyndam Hotel at a little restaurant called Salvatore's. What an amazing Italian restaurant. This is another one of those places you need to find some time to try if you get to Cabo. The meal was absolutely fantastic! I had a dish called Mama's Gravy, which was a spicy spaghetti dish with meatballs and Italian sausage and was so good it really defies a good description.

After dinner we headed back to the house, arriving around 9:45. We all sat by the pool and enjoyed a cocktail and chatted about the wonderful day, but it didn't last long since we have a 5:00 am wakeup call for the morning to meet our boats for today. Brady and Dylan are headed offshore for big fish with the crew from Red Rum, and Kelli and I are fishing with Oscar again. Hopefully we will have some more great Cabo fishing to talk about tomorrow!!

One more thing I'll mention is not many people plan on going fishing in the afternoon, but I have to say Doug's idea of doing it this way is a wonderful one. There aren't any other boats around for one, so the fish don't get pressured as bad as they do in the mornings. As the sun starts to get low in the horizon the fish start feeding hard just like they do early in the morning, but nobody buy yourselves are driving over the fish, so it was simply amazing fishing!

These are some pics from the day!

April 05, 2013

Cabo- March 4th Update

by John Childs

We had another busy day yesterday, but we never got around to getting some lines wet. It seemed that circumstance kept us from the fishing. We'll be rectifying that today though because my friend Dylan arrives today and I've booked afternoon pangas for us, so today we will finally fish.

Yesterday morning I woke up and started assembling my gear. I had filled new reels to come down on this trip, so none of my reels had any leaders or top shots. I also needed to rig some wire leaders for sierra fishing, so I spent the morning putting reels on rods, tying up top shots and rigging leaders.

After I had the rods assembled we ran into town to grab some breakfast. We went to the Mango Café right down from Red Rum's office. This little café is never super busy, but the food is VERY good. It's also not very expensive, and their fish ceviche is to die for!! In fact the ceviche is so good we had an appetizer of fish before our heuvos rancheros. Breakfast was excellent, but took a while. We were probably there for about an hour and a half. Not to hard to do though while your sitting around in Cabo watching the boats come in and out of the marina.

The marina from Red Rums Office

After breakfast we checked in with Red Rum to make sure everything was set for our fishing days. We are fishing with them from the 6th through the 9th, and then also on the 11th. We got everything set and then it's was back home to put a few more finishing touches on my gear.

When we got back to the house I talked with my friend Doug Christie, and we had agreed to try and fish sierras in the afternoon, but a nasty wind had come up from the North so we decided to no go because it would have been a wet nasty ride to up where the fish had been biting. I was a bit bummed, but I also didn't want to spend an hour huddled up getting wet and bumped around in a panga.

Instead of fishing we met Doug at Salomon's in the marina. He was having lunch and we drank a couple beers and told fishing stories. Doug had promised to run us around town and show us some great local stops for food, and to also introduce to the people who run some of the best pangas around.

After showing us around town a little bit, we ran up to Doug's house, but before we did, he took us to the top of the mountain overlooking Cabo. What an absolutely amazing view. It's one of those aha moments! Someday you won't be able to go this same spot because it's a lot that's for sale and somebody will eventually buy it and build an amazing house overlooking everything, but for now we can still get to the top and stand there and look out over the world. Amazing!!

View from the top of the world, Sea of Cortez side. The little bump in the middle right is Lands End.

View from the top of the world on the Pacific side.

We then went down to his house and spent a very nice afternoon just visiting at his house. As it got towards evening I started getting pretty hungry, so we agreed to meet in one hour at the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse is the restaurant that used to be called Latitude 22 before it was moved. What a cool place! It had great food, and the ambience was a tremendous highlight. It had great memorabilia all over the walls, fishing pictures, cool fish mounts, and all kinds of bric-a-brac. Very neat place.

Well, we ended up shutting Latitude 22 down, and by then I was getting pretty tired so we headed back to the house for the night.

Today we have the boats in the afternoon, so hopefully tomorrow I will be able to update with the first of many fish pictures to come!

April 04, 2013

Cabo- March 3rd Update

by John Childs

Cabo- March 3rd Update

Yesterday was one busy day!! I was excited enough to be leaving for Cabo that I didn't sleep well, and at 3:30 in the morning I finally decided to bite the bullet and just get out of bed. I made coffee, showered, and then figured I'd read until my friend Kelli was supposed to pick me up at 5:00. The surprising thing was she must have had trouble sleeping too, because at 4:15 I heard a car pull up in front of the house. I look out the window and Kelli had just pulled in. Crazy, we're going to get an extra early start. At least this would give us time for breakfast at the airport.

The travel came off without any hitches. The only problem we had was I managed to wrench my back moving our heavy bags as we loaded our gear onto a cart at the airport. This made for some uncomfortable flying, but otherwise we made it to Cabo with no issues.

When the plane landed it was awesome to walk into the warm weather outside. It was about 85 degrees and it felt amazing!

We got our rental car and headed straight to our house. We are staying at my friend John Boyer's place, which is about a 5-minute drive from downtown Cabo. It's got a beautiful view of Cabo, and is a great place just to sit and relax!

We didn't stay long though, because we were both hungry. It's amazing how long travel takes. We left Portland at 7:30 and didn't land in Cabo until 3, so we were both starving. We dropped off our bags, drank a quick celebration beer, and then headed into town for food. We also wanted to make a quick stop at Jansens Inshore Tackle to ask about fishing from the beach.

The Patio at John's house.

Since it was almost 5:00 by the time we got downtown, we decided to stop at Jansen's first, to make sure we caught him while they were open, and luckily we did. Stefan was there, so we were able to talk with him about fishing and what to use. He said our tackle was going to be a touch on the lite side, mostly suffering in retrieve speed and how far we could cast. I didn't have any dedicated surf gear, so I brought some of my tuna reels, Shimano Stella 5000's loaded with 30-pound Power-Pro Super Slick, and planned on putting them on 9' G Loomis SAMR1084S Spinning rods. I also knew this would be a slight handicap, but sometimes you have to make due with what you have available!

With this gear in mind, Stefan told us about a beach he said we should be able to fish with no problem, but he did warn us in advance that we would have to be there right at first light. He said the bite had been fast and furious, but would only last for about a ½ hour or so. He gave me directions on how to get there and some ideas of how we should fish. His main advice was to reel as fast as we could, and he said, "When you think you have the lure moving about fast enough, speed it up some more!" We also picked up a couple of his Jansen's Cabo Killers, a great local lure he designed just to fish off the beaches around Cabo.

After we finished at Stefan's we headed to one of my favorite restaurants in Cabo, The Office. What isn't to love about The Office? Great food, fantastic ambience, as you sit with your feet in the sand. Perfect! We had a great meal as we watched the sun go down. It was a perfect ending to a very busy day. I have to admit to having planned ending my day at the office no matter what. It's just that kind of place!

The sun going down at the office.

When we were finished eating we headed to the grocery store to stock up on cervezas, coffee, and a few snacks. By the time we got back to the house the early wake up call was definitely catching up to us both, so we called it an evening.

Mountain of limes!

Today, we are planning on bumping around town a bit, hopefully meeting up with my friend Doug Christie, going to see the guys at Red Rum Sportfishing to finalize our trip details for the next few days, finding the beach Stefan told us about, and hopefully to find a panga to try an evening fishing excursion for sierras. Should be another busy and adventure packed day!

April 02, 2013

Cabo- Here I Come!

by John Childs

I tried to give daily updates this last year while I fished Buoy 10, and I thought maybe a trip to Cabo might be another good candidate for daily updates. So with that in mind I'm going to again attempt to update daily over the next week with pictures and stories about an upcoming trip to Cabo.

The Cabo Arch

I'm leaving tomorrow on the 3rd for 9 days of fishing and sun in Cabo. I'm going with 3 good friends, and I should have lots of pictures to go with our fishing stories.

So far today I've been running around like crazy trying to assemble the needed gear to get out of town. We're going to be fishing with Red Rum Sportfishing for at least 4 days, and they will have us covered on offshore gear, but I'm planning on doing a few days from Panga's as well as trying my hand at finding some roosters, jacks and sierra's from the beach. I want my own gear for the beach and the pangas, so I'm busily trying to put together my mix of gear.

I have a good friend, Doug Christie, who stays in Cabo every year for 3 months, and he's going to help us figure out a lot of the things we want to try. (A local's help is one of those amazing ways to cut the learning curve considerably!!) One of those is evening fishing for Sierra's. He tells me afternoons and into the evenings are often the best fishing of the whole day, so we're going to be attempting that Thursday. He gave me a list of gear I should bring, and as usual I'm sure I'm overdoing it, but I can't come home to get it if I should leave it behind!

On Friday through Monday we are going to be heading offshore for Marlin, tuna, dorado, and hopefully a couple yellowtail. Then latter in the week we're going to drive up the East Cape a ways and see if we can't find some jacks and roosters from the beach.

I'll update again tomorrow with how our arrival and first afternoon go.

Wish us luck!!

March 20, 2013

Curing Prawns - The Unofficial Guide!

by John Childs

Curing Prawns - The Unofficial Guide!

So often when fishing for Chinook high quality bait is one of the most important contributions to consistent success. Yes, being in the right place can be a big factor. Using the correct rigging is also key, but if you're doing everything else right and your bait isn't up to snuff, your catch rates will suffer.

In this article I'm going to talk about the brining, curing, and storage of prawns with several different methods. Sometimes the fish want a different smell in prawns, so it's not a bad idea to carry more than one type of cured prawn when fishing. Just like when fishing eggs, I will often have 2 or 3 different brines/cures with different colored baits to try and tempt the sometimes-fickle Chinook.

Always start with a frozen prawn, or a freshly thawed prawn. I like to start with frozen prawns, and then add whatever cures/brines I'm using and then let them start curing as they thaw. I usually get my prawns at Tony's Fish Market in Oregon City. Super nice people, and they usually have high quality baits!

A case of Prawns from Tony's Fish Market in Oregon City.

First I'm going to cover the simplest prawn cure I know, which is Nate's Prawn Cure. It couldn't be an easier cure to use. Just add prawns to either a zip lock bag, or a small container, and add the cure. If you're going to use the container method, put a layer of the prawns in the bottom, coat liberally with Nate's, then put another layer of prawns, then another layer of cure. If using a bag, just put the prawns in the bag, add the cure, then mix them together by agitating the bag. Be gentle though if using this process, because the prawns aren't cured, so they can still be soft and you can break them up if you're not gentle.

Nate's Ingredients

Nate's Cure at work.

Nate's Cure showing with the layers of Prawns

The next cure is a wet cure. One of my favorite parts of this cure is the ability to get some amazing colors of prawns. For this cure I use Pautzke's Fire Brine (the liquid), sea salt, sugar, and Pro Cure's Bad Azz Bait Dye. It's a pretty darn simple cure as well. Add some salt and sugar to the bottom of a pint jar, then add some dye for whichever color you'd like to make, then add enough fire brine to fill ½ the jar. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it vigorously to get the salt and sugar to dissolve into the brine. You'll almost always have salt and sugar sitting in the bottom of the jar. If you don't, add a little more to make sure you have a 100% salinity in the jar. Steve Lynch from Pro Cure told me about this neat little idea of taking a piece of potato and seeing if it floats in the solution. If the potato doesn't float it's not at 100% salinity. If it floats you have enough salt. Great idea!! The salt is important because it really hardens the baits up, and prawns in a liquid brine can get a bit soft if you don't have enough salt to toughen them up. Once you've mixed the brine, start adding prawns to the cure until the jar if close to being filled. At this point you almost always have to add a little more Fire Brine to the jar to make sure the liquid completely covers all the prawns. This brine will be ready to fish in about 3 days.

The Fire Cure ingredients

The colors I use most with this brine are straight chartreuse, orange and hot red. Chartreuse is simply using the straight lime/green Bad Azz dye. To get orange, you start with the same chartreuse dye, but then add just a smidge of the red Bad Azz to your brine. Go easy with the red, because you can easily overpower the chartreuse color and you end up with a pink/red prawn anyway. When mixing orange, the brine generally looks a bit muddy to me, but it still cures the most gorgeous orange prawns you can imagine! For red or pink, use the straight Pro Cure Bad Azz dies. These dyes really do a fantastic job at creating a great looking bait!

Orange Prawns!

Chartreuse Prawns!

The final cure I'm going to talk about is a standard egg cure used for prawns. I've often read how you have to use only prawn cures to prepare your shrimp baits. This isn't true at all. I've successfully used egg cures on my prawns for many years, and they prepare a fine bait. The only necessary addition to any egg cured prawn is salt. I think it's important to add some additional salt, but I'll also add a few other ingredients depending on what I'm looking for in the final product. In this cure I'm going to use Amerman's cure, sea salt, Pro Cure's Brine & Bite, and Pro-Cure's Shrimp-Krill Scent. I use the container method when making these baits, where I put a layer of prawns in the bottom, then a liberal coating of cure, then sea salt, then Brine & Bite, then repeat until I've filled the container. Once the container is full, I put a liberal coating of the Pro-Cure Shrimp-Krill Oil on top. This helps give me a little more liquid in the bottom of the container as the prawns begin curing.

Amerman Cure

With all three of these cures I leave them out of the fridge for about 24-36 hours to completely cure. I rotate the prawns in the containers by gently stirring them by hand (with gloves of course!!) twice a day. At first the prawns on top won't be looking completely cured, but as you stir them towards the bottom, you'll notice the prawns all start to take on the color of the cure, and you can see how you've penetrated the shells with the cure. After you've stirred them for a day or so, you can put them in the fridge to keep cool. It's not a bad idea to continue to stir them for another day or so after they hit the fridge to make sure all layers of your prawns have been completely cured. You'll notice how all the juices and cure are thickest at the bottom of the container. This is the reason for stirring the prawns, to get the bottom layer on top, and the top layer on the bottom so they all get equal amounts of cure.

With the jarred cures, just flip them over a couple times each day for the same 24-36 hours, and then put them in the fridge. If you didn't use the potato trick, I'd add some salt if you don't see some salt sediment in the bottom of the jars. Once in the fridge I'd continue to flip them for another couple days as well.

Curing prawns is really this simple. Of course these are all just base cures. From here you have lots of ability to experiment with other additions. In fact, it's the additions from this point that can make for some amazing baits. I'll caution you here though, don't get too carried away with adding other "secret" ingredients! I think two things can happen. First, you can add to many scents and you end up with a bait that repels fish more than it draws them in. Second, you can get so many ingredients that you can't remember what you did with your brines. I think it's pretty smart to make a fairly simple brined/cured prawn like the ones above, and then add whatever extra ingredients you desire when you're on the water. That way you don't end up with way to many different types of prawns, which can become a problem just remembering which cure your fishing! Don't ask me how I know this!!!

Some good additional scents and ingredients you can add to either your cure, or the baits right before you fish them are sodium sulfite, sodium nitrite, metabisulfite (this one can burn baits so be careful!), Monster Bite, Slam-O-La Powder, shrimp scent, garlic, krill, tuna, sardine, sand shrimp, etc… It's really only limited by your imagination, but again be warned that overdoing the scents can be a negative. Steve Hansen once told me to try and never add more than 3 scents at any one time, and I think this is excellent advice!

Now get out some prawns, draw on the mad scientist within, and get your cure on!

February 27, 2013

Get Your Springer On!

by John Childs

Get Your Springer On!

All smiles with a nice spring chinook!

Can you feel it? Are you ready?

Yes, it's early, but with the steelhead season a bit less than stellar so far (yes, I know there have been a few bright spots, but it hasn't been consistently good…), the springers seem to be calling my name?

So how do you make good on early season spring Chinook? Well first, you have to fish for them to catch them! If you don't spend some time with baits in the water, you're absolutely not going to get one. And two, see the first rule!

Really, catching an early springer comes down to persistence and preparation. I have a saying on my boat that "luck is when preparation meets opportunity," and I truly believe this. If you don't go out with yourself, your bait and gear all prepared to catch one, you probably won't. You have to fish like you believe it's going to happen, and then at some point it probably will.

Here are a couple of things I think help for early season springers. First, I think having the best bait you can is imperative (of course I always believe this is the case!). Without a ton of fish around, you have to make sure you have bait in the water that looks and smells great, because you're not showing your bait to as many fish. It has to be primo! Second, it's also important to make sure your bait is behaving EXACTLY how you want it to. You can't get away with "my herrings spinning ok…it'll do," type attitude. If it's not spinning correctly reset your hooks, or start with a fresh bait. Make sure when you put the bait in the water it looks perfect right out of the gate! Third, change your baits often. When there's a ton of fish around, we can all get a bit lazy about changing baits, but when there aren't a bunch of fish, make sure you're getting fresh baits out often. Baits have the scent wash out over time, so putting fresh bait out puts a heavier scent trail out which can be imperative when there aren't a ton of fish out there. With salmon, it's not all about the look, the smell is just as important!

I also believe the brine is an important factor. There are so many great brines on the market today; it's hard to say which one is the best. Pick the one you have the most confidence in and get your herring brining, but adding some extra kick to the brine is something that can turn the tide in your favor. I think adding sea salt, sugar and then maybe a drop or two of pure anise oil to the brine can really turn things in your favor. I've read over and over how you don't want to put to much salt in your brine (or sugar for that matter) because it can make your baits look like prunes. Well, that's true, they can look like prunes if you add a bunch of salt, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When your baits look like a dried piece of fruit, your just witnessing a bait that's been dehydrated some by using lots of salt, but what happens when you add water? Guess what, they rehydrate themselves! I WANT my baits to look like raisins, because I know when they rehydrate, or "plump up," they are going to be tough baits, which can be especially important if your dragging the bottom on places like the lower Columbia. If your baits are prepared like this you won't have many baits wash out at all.

Colored baits can also be a great addition to your early spread!

Sugar can also be an important addition to your brine, because salmon definitely have a sweet tooth! Adding a bit of sugar and then a drop of anise oil can be just the ticket to make those herring irresistible to the fish.

Sometimes you have to grind it out this time of year. Early season, you can't get discouraged when you don't get fish right away. It's often just a matter of grinding away until you find a biter. If you keep prime prepared fresh baits out there, and you keep trolling in areas where the fish like to live, you're going to eventually get bit. It's one of those scenarios where the boats that put in the time are eventually going to get their fish.

Some of the great early season spots that consistently pop out a few fish are Sellwood (usually one of the first producers), the Portland Harbor, the mouth of the Multnomah Channel, Davis Bar & Caterpillar Island, and the Airport Troll are all good early season bets. The Willamette often fishes slightly better until the middle of March when more fish show up because often it has slightly warmer water which gets the fish a bit more active, but so far this year fish have been caught in all the places mentioned.

It might be cold, but that pretty springer probably warmed you up!!

So get out there and see if you can't find that elusive early spring Chinook!

Also, don't forget the new angling rules on the Columbia and Willamette, which require the use of all barbless hooks!

February 12, 2013

Tuna Canning

by John Childs

Canning Tuna

If you read my blog at all you know I recently returned home from a trip to Cabo. I brought home one of my favorite delicacies, fresh frozen yellowfin tuna. While I, like many others, love eating this fish as sashimi, I have an even fonder taste for it canned.

Being a tuna captain here in the Northwest, I harvest and can albacore each year, and love this as well, but canned yellowfin tastes even better to my palate. One of the things I like about the canned yellowfin is it has a bit more of a "tuna" flavor. It's not fishy by any means, but has a stronger flavor, where I think canned albacore is incredibly mild. I especially love the albacore made into tuna sandwiches or spreads, while the canned yellowfin is generally reserved for special occasions, and is eaten straight from the jars with a some pepperoncini's, crackers and cold beer.

I'm going to outline the canning process here, but I also want to talk a little bit about the additions. The additions I use can be used with any fish you're canning, but I especially like it with the yellowfin, and think it blends wonderfully. In fact, I can and will eat it immediately after canning, but it gets better with age. If let to sit in the cans for 6 months or more it gets even better, as the flavors of the vegetables, garlic and fish meld as they age.

Canning Supplies

Items Needed to Can:

Pressure Canner
Separation Rack for the interior of your canner to separate jar layers.
Jar Lifter (Nifty device, similar to tongs, but made to lift hot jars from the bath.)
Tongs (To retrieve the hot lids from the boiling water)
Towel to se the hot jars on the counter
Sweet Red/Yellow Peppers
Sea Salt

The first step is getting your fish, which I accomplished nicely on my recent trip. I brought everything home frozen in zip locks. Once home I let it thaw out, and then cut the tuna into two inch chunks. The size doesn't really matter, as long as you can easily fit the chunks into your jars.

Next you need to select the size jars you're going to can with. I prefer to use full pint jars for this fish. When I sit down to enjoy a jar of this tuna, I'm generally sharing with a good friend, so a ½ pint is way to small, and is consumed to quickly. A pint seems to be the perfect size, and can even be enjoyed by a few more people if other appetizers are added to the mix.

Once you have your jars, run the jars through your dishwasher with a hot drying cycle. I wash both the jars and the lids, but the lids will go directly from the washer into boiling water to complete the sterilization process. As the hot jars come out of the dishwasher, I add boiling water to each of them to keep everything hot right up until I pack the tuna into the jars.

Boiling and sterilizing the lids.

A side note, always make sure to use new lids and rings. Jars can always be cleaned, sterilized and reused, but the lids and rings should be new whenever pressure canning.

Jars filled with boiling water right out of the hot washer cycle.

Cut up the vegetables and garlic. I prefer to use a garlic press on my garlic so it becomes more infused in the cans, but you could also add whole or partial cloves. I put each of the ingredients in their own bowl so when I begin stuffing my jars, everything is ready to add right to the can as I add the fish.

Take a hot jar and dump the water out. Add the vegetables to the bottom of the can, adding 3-4 slices of jalapeno, a layer of onion and sweet pepper, and a pinch of the pressed garlic. Then begin stuffing the fish into the can, making sure to leave as little air space as possible. Fill the jar, but leave an inch to inch and a half of space at the top. The whole concoction needs some space to expand when its in the pressure cooker, and without the space it will expand enough that the lids won't seal once you remove them from the canner.

Everything set out and ready for packing the jars.

Once all the jars are filled, add sea salt and water to the top. I like to add water to about ½ way up the filled jar. I will often have to stick my finger along the side of the jar making room for the water to filter down in the fish because it's packed so tightly in the jar. Once the water is at a level you like (this is personal preference and you could fill the jar to the top of the fish if desired, but the one to one and a half inch head space still needs to be left at the top), add a ½ to 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Now the jars are ready to be sealed.

The jars packed and ready for the lids and rings. Notice the space at the top. I also added the veggies to the top of one jar so you could see the type of quantity I use.

It's important to clean the rims of the glass jars off before adding the lids because vegetable matter, fish and salt can get on the rim, keeping the lids from sealing once they come out of the canner. To clean the glass rims, take a clean soft cotton cloth and dowse it with vinegar. Then take the vinegar soaked cloth and wipe the mouth of the jars off.

Once the mouth of the jars are clean, take the hot lids and rings from you're boiling water and tighten them down on the jars. You should screw the rings down snug, but not excessively tight. Now add the closed jars to the canner. (It's important to note here that the jars are not sealed yet. They won't seal until they come out of the canning process and begin to cool off on your counter.

Most pressure canners have a offset rack to go into the bottom of the canner so the cans are not resting directly on top of the bottom of the canner. This allows water to be beneath the actual jars, which will reduce an most likely eliminate any jar breakage. Fill the bottom of the canner with your jars. I have a 23-quart pressure canner that fits 8 cans in the bottom. I then add a wire rack to the top of the jars, and then put a second layer of 8 jars on top.

The jars stacked in the canner, ready for the lid and cooking.

Now add cold water to the bottom of the canner. A lot of the new canners have a fill mark along the inside of the pot, but if yours does not, add about 2-3 inches of water in the bottom. The most important thing here is to not fill above the level of your closed jars. Add some lemon juice to the water to help control the smell that can be a downside to pressure canning. A few squirts will do.

Now it's time to start the pressure canner. You should do this outside, since no matter how careful you and clean your process is, you will still develop a fish smell through the canning process.

Use a camp type stove, set the canner on the burner, and bring it to high heat. Crab/turkey cookers can be used, but it's very hard to keep a consistent heat level once everything begins to pressurize. This is where a camp-type cooking stove is much preferred. I often use my crab cooker to bring everything up to heat, and then move the cooker to my Coleman Stove once it begins to pressurize. Here I can keep a pretty consistent pressure through the whole process.

When you put the canner on the stove, don't add the pressurizing weight at first. You want to bring the canner up to heat, and once the canner begins blowing steam out of the pressurizing vent, you want to start a timer for 10 minutes. The vent should be blowing a solid stream of steam for a full ten minutes before you add the pressurizing weight.

The canner on my cook stove. Notice the pressure weight on the table and not on the canner as I bring the canner up to heat.

Once the canner has been steaming for 10 minutes add your pressure weight. Within a few minutes your pressure gage should begin climbing. You want the canner to reach 11 pounds of pressure, and then hold at that pressure for 90 minutes to sufficiently cook the fish. This process is about cooking your fish, but it's also how the botulism spoors are made sure to be killed, so bringing your canner up to heat, and then maintaining the 11 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes needs to be followed rigorously.

The canner blowing steam through the pressure vent. I'm in my ten minute warm up phase with the steam venting steadily.

If for some unfortunate reason your canner drops below the 11 pounds of pressure before the 90 minutes is up, the timer must be started again from zero once the 11 pounds of pressure is regained, so babysitting the canning process if pretty much mandatory!

It's also a bit of a chore to stay right at the 11 pounds, so stay with your canner through the process and you'll be rewarded with a great safe finished product.

The canner at full pressure, almost 12 pounds. It holds this setting for 90 minutes.

After you reach 90 minutes at 11 pounds, remove the canner from the heat and let it cool down naturally. I timed this recently and it took about 30 minutes from turning off the heat until the canner unpressurized itself. Don't attempt to speed the cooling process down, or try and open the canner until the pressure has completely dissipated. This is also part of the canning process and is taken into account for ending with a safe product.

Another note here. These times are for sea level canning. If you're canning above 1,000 feet, make sure and look at canning adjustment times and pressures. These can be found on-line through many sources, and are also mandatory to end with a safe product.

Once the canner has cooled enough to un-pressurize, you can open the canner and remove the hot jars. This is where the jar lifter is especially handy. As the jars come out of the canner, the water in the jars themselves will still be boiling, and will continue boiling for some time. Put the jars on a towel on your counter with at least an inch of air space surrounding them, and let them cool completely. This process will take a couple hours.

Within anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour after removing the cans from the canner you'll start to hear the cans ping as they seal themselves. This is the important seal that tells you everything is safe. You can come back and check your jars once they've cooled for this seal by pressing in the middle of the jar. If it doesn't ping up and down, your jar is sealed. If it does ping, then that jar hasn't sealed. The product is still safe, but must be refrigerated and eaten over the course of the next few days, and is not safe for storage.

The finished product cooling on the counter.

Now, the hardest part of the whole process…wait 4-6 months to enjoy! I will often break down and try my jars early, but they just continue to get better and better if you can wait for them to age.

January 25, 2013

Cabo- A Winter Treat

by John Childs

Cabo- A Winter Treat

Sometimes it just pays to be in the right place at the right time. A few weeks back I was having lunch with my friends Kevin Newell (Total Fisherman Guide Service) and John Boyer of Eat Me Lures. Over lunch the idea was thrown out there for a quick getaway to Cabo to check and John's house and catch a few fish. Wow, nice to be around when that kind of talk ensues!

Skip forward three weeks and I find myself boarding an Alaska 737 bound for southern Baja. Lucky me! I'm a guy who lived his first 23 years in Southern Texas, so heat is in my blood, and I find as I get older, these cold wet Oregon winters just aren't to my liking, so when a chance to visit someplace warm like Cabo comes around, I'm one happy camper. It's gets even better when fishing is involved. (Like how could it not be included in a trip to Mexico?)

It wasn't supposed to be super hot while we were there, but it was supposed to be high 70's and low 80's during our 5-day visit. I could take it a few degree's warmer, but it was a major improvement on the current 28 degree's it has been at my house, so when we got off the plane and it was shorts and t-shirt weather I was instantly all smiles.

We cleared customs, got our bags, picked up our rental car and headed for John's casa. Unfortunately, even though it was John's idea to take this trip together, work prevented him from coming, but his wife Evelyn and son Jason were going to be meeting us there. We made a quick pit stop on the way to the house to pick up some cerveza's. Now I was truly in heaven, even without a fishing rod in my hand. Shorts- check, t-shirt- check, flip-flops- check, cold beer- check, life was looking WAY UP!

Blooming bougainvillea with a visiting butterfly.

We poked around the house for a bit and enjoyed the amazing views from the porch and the veranda upstairs. It was nice enough that we relaxed for an hour or so and just enjoyed the sun and view while visiting with Jason and Evelyn.

[i]The porch at John Boyer's house.

The Veranda, where you could see for miles!

View of Cabo and Lands End from the Veranda.

Sunset from the Veranda.

Both Kevin and I were hungry from our air travel, so after decompressing for a bit we headed into town to walk the Marina and to grab some dinner at The Office on the Beach. If you ever get to Cabo, you have to make sure and have at least one meal at The Office. It's the kind of spot that gets under your skin. I've eaten there many times, and honestly, it was one of the places I was most excited to visit. The Office is located on Medano beach, and it's right on the sand. During the day they have canopies up so you don't get a sunburn while eating, and during the evening you're eating under the stars while wiggling your toes in the sand! It's a great place with fantastic ambiance, and the food is wonderful as well!

The Office on the Beach!

We had a great meal, including a few more cerveza's, then went and walked around the marina. I always love walking the marina at night when all the lights are on. It's an amazingly beautiful place. Unfortunately the boats weren't all lit up with no big tournaments or other big draws to Cabo this weekend, but it's still a pretty special place to visit, and the amazing view of lots of multi-million dollar yachts all sitting together just adds icing to the cake.

Cabo Marina at night.

The mall lit up at night.

Finally we head back to the house and stay up for a few more hours visiting and just enjoying the nice weather and the stellar views.

The next morning we get up and head back to town to take care of our fishing arrangements for the next couple of days, and to grab some food. The two goals of visiting Cabo where to locate a good location for our clients to be able to come down and fish, as well as check out a couple of different charter operations to see what kind of service they run. Kevin had made arrangements to fish Viviana's the first day, and Red Rum Sportfishing the next day, so we went by both locations and paid for our fishing days, and to find out what time to meet the following mornings.

Red Rum's Boats lined up on the dock.

After that we spent the rest of the afternoon just goofing around looking at boats, and enjoying walking around the marina. We might have even stopped at a cantina or two and enjoyed a cold libation!

Fishing boat with a couple of pelicans waiting for a ride.

Swimming Pelican

With that all squared away and the afternoon dwindling to evening, it was time to look for some dinner. Wouldn't you know it? We end up back at the Office. They had a big party going on this evening with all kinds of fun contests and a live band. It was fun to watch, and we even got to watch one poor fellow dance his way right off the stage! He was dancing along with the contest and all the sudden we see him disappear right off the side of the stage. Luckily for him he landed in soft sand and appeared to be no worse for the wear.

After dinner we headed into town to check out the local nightspots. It also wouldn't be a trip to Cabo without a visit to El Squid Roe, The Giggling Marlin, and Cabo Wabo. Even though a cruise ship was parked out front, none of the bars were packed, but then again, they weren't slow either! Busy enough to be fun watching all the people dance and drink, but slow enough we could actually find a table. It's always fun to be in Cabo at night, and this evening was no different. Out of all the places I've been in Mexico, Cabo definitely has the most inviting nightlife!

The Giggling Marlin.

Around midnight we decide we have an early morning ahead of us, and that we should call it an evening. We knew the next morning was going to come very early, and boy did it! It seemed like we had barely fallen asleep when the alarm started going off at 5:00 am.

We manage to shake the sleep off and headed into town to meet Viviana's Sportfishing for a day on the water in their 31' Luhrs. We rented a car to get back and forth to the marina, and the only place to park is by the covered parking for the mall, and it's a big hike to get around to Viviana's who are moored right in front of Baja Cantina. The day before we took a water taxi, but at 6:15 in the morning, there isn't a lot of water taxis motoring around in the harbor!

We get to the dock just after 6:30 and meet Pablo and his mate Alberto. We get loaded up on the boat, stow what little gear we brought (primarily my camera equipment) and we push off. We head over and show our fishing licenses to the Federales, and then proceed out of the harbor to get some live bait. We picked up 10 great looking green mackerel from one of the live bait pangas, and then proceeded out past the arch, and then south to the tuna grounds. We had requested to fish for grande atu'n (BIG tuna), but we were told there weren't many grande's around, so we would chase the small schoolies, and hopefully get a shot at marlin along the way.

Great looking green mackerel baits.

When you pull around lands end and head south, it really feels like you're heading dead west. You come around the rocks and take a 90-degree turn to the right, and it feels like you're pointed west. This is the direction I thought we were headed until I looked at the GPS on my phone and we were headed almost due south. Kind of a strange feeling, and I'm not one to normally get turned around!

The famous Cabo Arch right after sunrise.

When we were about 3 miles past the rocks, we slowed down and put out a spread of marlin jigs, while the mate sowed up a beautiful looking dead mackerel with 2-ounce chin weight for our shotgun rig. With the trolling rods deployed we settled in for the troll out to the tuna grounds. We had been told there were large numbers of tuna out 20-25 miles under big pods of spinner dolphins, so we would troll for marlin or anything else that would eat our jigs while we headed south looking for the dolphin schools.

Sewn Mackerel bait.

About a ½ hour into the troll, our mate Alberto comes scooting off the flying bridge as Pablo slows the boat down. I look in front of the boat and see the welcome site of sickle fins sticking out of the water. Right on, our first marlin sunning himself up top. We pull up pretty close and Alberto makes a nice pitch to the fish with a live mackerel. The big marlin boils like he's going to eat the bait, but apparently we spooked him instead. Bummer, but in Cabo there are always more just ahead!

Casting a bait to a sunning marlin.

We continue our troll south and about an hour later we see another marlin up top. Unfortunately, this opportunity plays itself out almost exactly the same way as the 1st marlin. We get close enough for Alberto to make a great pitch to the fish, and he blows up and spooks. I've had the opportunity of pitching live baits to marlin before and I'd never seen them quite so spooky. The ocean was pretty greasy calm, and maybe contributed to their skittishness, but I've caught them in these conditions before, so who knows, but this fish disappeared on us as well.

Frigate bird. These birds are often cruising over the top of fish, or in this case the large groups of feeding spinner dolphins.

We get back on the troll, and it isn't long before I hear the motors rev as Pablo picks up speed. It's obvious he see something as we go from an 8 knot troll, to close to 15-18 knots, with our troll gear bouncing around everywhere. Alberto comes out of the bridge and tells me to start clearing our gear; we've spotted the dolphins.

Jumping Dolphins

We clear our troll gear, and redeploy the rods with small weighted dusters. Dusters are very similar to a small hootchie, except they have mylar skirts instead of plastic. For this spread we run three lines, a flat line, an outrigger line and a shotgun. Pablo is almost dancing up on the bridge he's so happy. Alberto says he's happy because we've found the dolphins and he knows we're getting ready to hook up.

Pablo positions the boat in front of the big group of dolphins, and as they approach us we hook up on our first fish. Kevin grabs the rod and begins the tough job of spinning a decent size tuna up to the boat. After a 5-minute fight, Kevin has the chunky yellowfin along side the boat. Alberto gaffs the fish and we're all very happy to see the beautiful fish swung aboard. Right on, we're on the board, and with a nice fish too! Although not excessively large, it close to 30-pounds. Looks like some sashimi's in our near future!

Kevin Newell with our first tuna of the trip.

We lay our spread back out and start the troll again. The ocean is absolutely getting flat and greasy, with just some left over wind wave swells that continue to diminish throughout the day. I also notice the dolphins appear to be playing more than feeding, and the entire fleet appears to have joined us about the time we find the fish. It might not look like Buoy 10, but there are 15 boats in the same area, which feels a bit crowded when we are 20 plus miles offshore.

This time our next hookup doesn't come so quick. We troll for quite a while without any bites, with Pablo, Alberto and myself actively working the 3 troll rods for nada. After about an hour of trolling Pablo gets bit and the fish takes off to our starboard side just as another boat trolls past us and don't you know it, our lines fouls on his rudder. Pablo has a really tough time trying to break him off, and it ends up taking both Pablo and Alberto working together to get the 80-pound mono to break. That's a new experience for me in Mexico, having fishing line that's in good enough shape to be hard to break!

When we get Pablo's line back in, we decide to switch to trolling one live bait, and the two dusters. We get the live bait hooked up and set back into our pattern with a 2-ounce egg sinker in front of him to help keep him down. We're only trolling about 2 miles an hour and we get bit pretty fast. I'm holding the rod when I feel the tuna pick up the bait and begin burning off with the line. I give it a quick 1001, 1002 count and put the reel into gear. Hooked up again!

This fish is a bit smaller and we land him in pretty short order. It's pretty hard for a 20-pound tuna to stand up to 80-pound monofilament on a 50 wide Shimano Tiagra!

My first tuna of the trip.

We see what it's going to take to get these fish to bite, so we put another live bait down and once again I'm bit in short order. This fish is a twin of our first fish, so we have 3 very nice tuna on board. We decide to troll through the dolphins for one more pass and then go marlin hunting.

Our mate Alberto with one of our tunas.

It seems our decision is serendipitous as we see a marlin feeding along side the dolphins and we pull up close to him and pitch another bait. Even though this fish was actively feeding on top when we spotted him, he sinks out on us when we pitch the bait. It seems we are a bit unlucky on the marlin so far!

Once we are on the other side of the school of spinner dolphins, we clear our tuna spread and redeploy our original marlin jigs and start trolling north, scanning the horizon as we go looking for more sickle fins. There isn't much life north of the dolphins, so we troll and scan, but nothing seems to be up.

About an hour into the troll I hear the starboard rigger clip pop, and the reel starts to make that wonderful shrill ratcheting sound as line is ripped off against a protesting drag. I look behind the boat in time to catch a 20-pound Dorado leaping skyward. The water was in the low 70's, so there weren't as many Dorado around as there can be when the water is in the 80's or even warmer, so this fish was a very pleasant surprise. I had noticed walking around the marina the two days prior, that there were very few Dorado flags flying as the boats returned to port. Cool, we've made a lucky catch.

Kevin lands the fish pretty rapidly, and we have some more great fillets to add to our fish box!

A pretty Dorado to add to our catch!

We troll almost all the way back to lands end without any more fish. Bummer for us, yet how can it be a bummer? We've seen tons of life, hooked quite a few fish, and have at least 40 pounds of fillets to take home. As I mentioned earlier, I could almost taste the fresh sashimi!

When we got back to the dock we got our fish processed, bought a cooler to transport them home in, and then headed back to the house to have some afternoon refreshments and get our fish in the freezer. We both agreed the day had been pretty darn nice. Our only complaint had been the noise level of the boat. It had to have been the loudest diesel engine either one of us had ever heard on a boat! Beyond that, it was an especially nice day!

After getting our fish packed away in the freezer, an afternoon cocktail, and a warm shower, we decided to head into town to grab some dinner. While the office is a wonderful place to eat, we decided on some variety and ate at one of the restaurants in the marina. For the life of me I don't remember the name of the place, but it's just to the north of the big commercial boat launch right next to the Puerto Paradiso Mall. They had wonderful tacos and a salsa that accented everything wonderfully. It was nice sitting in the open air bar staring out at all the yachts while we enjoyed another wonderful Cabo meal.

We headed back to the house early since we were both pretty tired from staying out late the night before, and it made it a lot easier to handle the early 5:00 am alarm the next morning. We were up, with our gear assembled and out the door shortly before 6:00 am. Today, Jason Boyer, John's son had decided to join us for a day fishing with Red Rum Sportfishing, who's located right below the street where we could park, so it took us less than 5 minutes to walk down to their office. We were introduced to Ramone our captain, and his mate Julio. They walked us down the dock to our boat, a 28-foot Californian, which looks a lot like a Uniflite to my eyes.

The first thing I noticed as we climbed aboard was the matching gear. We had matching rods with Shimano Tiagra reels with what appeared to be new line. This is one of the first outfits I've fished with in Mexico where the gear actually matched! I began looking around and the next wondrous realization was I couldn't find a rusty hook on anything! And this is Mexico! Matching rods and reels (a mixture of 50, 30 and 16 Tiagra's), new line and what appeared to be new or well cared for hooks, amazing! For a gear head like me, this was one of the best surprises I could get!

We repeated the routine from the morning before and headed to the mouth of the marina where the Federales check the licenses, then picked up our live baits. We had paid for 10 baits, but Red Rum does things a bit differently than some of the other boats I fished from in Cabo. Instead of taking all the bait as live bait, they supply five ballyhoo for dead trolling and pitching baits, and then they pick up five live baits in the morning. The ballyhoo make for fantastic trolling baits, so this seemed like a good compromise to me, although I always feel a bit more comfortable with more live baits in the well!

Sunrise on the way to the tuna grounds.

After getting our bait we headed around lands end and headed south again to look for the tuna schools. Another difference from the day before is we ran at almost 20 knots the entire way out to the tuna grounds. We didn't troll at all, and in fact we got to the tuna grounds by 7:45 or so, and were the only boat around. When we arrived where the captain thought the dolphins should be, we put out a spread of marlin lures, and began trolling while waitingfor the dolphins to show. It didn't take long either, and within 10 minutes of putting out the trolling lures I heard the engines rev as we changed course and sped up considerably. It only took a couple of minutes and we were amidst 1,000's of dolphins (similar to the day before) except these animals were definitely feeding!

We set out a pattern of three cedar plugs and the one ballyhoo, and continued to troll. The closest cedar plug was on the second wake, and was very visible as it juked and jived in our wake, and it didn't take long till a tuna, leaving a huge boil, engulfed this tempting plug! Hooked up by 8:00 am. Awesome!

Cedar Plugs about to be deployed.

Jason was up first since he hadn't fished the day before, and he landed his tuna in short order. This tuna was a bit smaller than the ones we landed the day before, but still easily in the 20-pound bracket.

We got the troll gear back in the water and trolled less than 5 minutes and were stopped by a double. This set the stage for an epic troll bite on school tuna. We literally were hooked up on the troll with doubles, triples and one quad almost as soon as we got our gear in the water and started making headway. There were also no other boats around, so we had these snappy tuna all to ourselves. What an awesome treat! In fact this was very reminiscent of a good Albacore troll bite back in Oregon, and was the type of day where we could have easily landed 40-50 fish. In Mexico there is a 5 fish per species per day limit, so in short order we were limited out on tuna, and even had to let a couple extra fish go. What a way to start the day. I have to say the combination of no other boats around along with a set of cedar plugs run close to the boat was a super-winning combo this morning!

Another fat football!

Once we got all the tuna packed away and iced in a kill bag (another big surprise for Mexico, they actually had a kill bag!), we set out our marlin trolling spread and began the long troll back towards Cabo. Our game plan was to fish for marlin until the end of our day.

We trolled almost all the way back to lands end without seeing a single marlin, or having any blind strikes on our lures. A bit of a surprise, but today the ocean was much more lumpy making the spotting harder amidst all the sheep grazing along the top of the waves.

The captain got a call on the radio from one of his friends that they were finding some marlin off the Cabo light house which is about 5 miles north of lands end, so we pulled up our spread and ran for the light house. Once we arrived we found quite a few other boats in the area, and several where fighting marlin as we pulled in. Almost as soon as we got our troll spread out, I saw a free jumping marlin a couple hundred yards in front of us. We headed for where we saw the fish grey hounding across the surface and made a couple loops without ever raising him into our pattern. We saw another fish and headed for that area next, but didn't raise anything here either.

At this point, the captain took the boat out of gear and we cleared our troll spread. Julio said we were going to dead drift live baits and see what we could do. We got a couple of Tiagra 30's with live bait hooks and started a drift with two baits sunk with 6 ounce torpedo weights, and one bait fly lined on the surface.

It didn't take long until I was bit. I let the fish start to take line in free-spool as I counted to 5 then slowly engaged the drag and reeled until I came tight. The rod loaded up, and the line started angling toward the surface. We all expected a marlin to come rocketing out of the water, but to our disappointment a giant seal surfaced chewing my no longer lively little mackerel! Bummer! I guess I can dislike seals down south now too!

We set our baits back out and were bit again almost instantly by the same seal. Crap, he's going to follow us and snack on all our live baits. The captain saw the same thing so we all reeled up and moved up the line about 2-3 miles and redeployed our lines. As we began our drift I felt a bump on my bait, but nothing more. Shortly thereafter I saw the captain start reeling quickly and then set up hard. His rod loaded up and then almost instantly went slack. Then another seal pops up behind the boat. Crap, we've found more seals. About the same time, my rod gets bit, and I give the mandatory five-second free-spool, come tight and then instantly I'm off. Oh well, it looks like the seals are clearing our baits for us!

Ryan reels in the free lined bait and to our surprise, he'd been bit by something other than the sea lion. It looked like his bait had been cut clean in half by a very sharp knife…wahoo! We just weren't pulling it off here.

At this point we only had one live bait left and a couple ballyhoo, so we decided to call it a day. We had 15 fat tuna iced down in our kill bag, so who could complain! It had been another fantastic day of fishing in Cabo!

We headed back into the marina and pulled up to the dock in front of Senior Frogs, where there is a commercial cleaning station. A couple guys where waiting with a garbage can on a dolly for us as we backed in. We unloaded our tuna, and Julio said it would only take them 10-15 minutes to fillet our fish. We walked up on the dock and bought a couple beers and waited for them to process our fish.

This is the only part of the day that wasn't covered by our charter fees. We opted to pay an additional $3 per fish to have them filleted, which I thought was an excellent option, and they were back with our bagged and filleted fish in very short order.

We pulled back to our slip at Red Rum's dock and they took our fish and vacuum sealed and froze them for us. This service was covered by our charter fees, and was a super convenient way to have our fish taken care of. How nice!

I walked away from our experience with Red Rum being completely impressed. I thought they ran a first class operation, regardless of being in Mexico. I would have been just as impressed if it had been in the states! Clean, professional service, with top-flight captains, crews, boats and gear. I can't say enough about how impressed I was with their outfit!

Well, to celebrate a wonderful day on the water, we stopped and had appetizers and beers at another little restaurant in the marina. I saw ceviche on the menu, and asked the waiter if it was good. He said it was very good, so we ordered the fish ceviche, and beef nachos, and washed it all down with ice cold Pacifico's. The appetizers arrived, and I have to say this was one of the best ceviche's I'd ever had. Great ending to an already stellar day!

In fact, it was such a fun trip, I'm already planning a return adventure with some friends. It's hard to beat wintertime trips to warm locales where the fishing is good, the sun is hot, and the beer is cold! If you get the chance, you should make the trip too!

December 14, 2012

A Fishing Guides Holiday- Part 2, Continued- Big Fish Found!!

by John Childs

[b]A Fishing Guides Holiday- Part 2 (Continued....)

Well the wedding and the reception went off without a hitch, and we all enjoyed another evening of reminiscing while maybe imbibing a few too many of those adult beverages. It's still amazing to me my little sister is finally married. (She's the surprise baby that happens in so many families and is 19 years younger than me!)

The following morning we all get up and get moving at a bright and early 9:00 am! I guess this happened because our immediate family, along with the wedding party, closed down the bar at the reception hotel. It was a great time, but I was a bit groggy after getting to bed at an early 3:00 am.

Mom had decided to have any of our relatives who had stayed in town overnight to join us at the house for breakfast so many of us reconvened at 10:30 for one more chance to visit. As you can guess, Pete and I are carefully watching the clock for our next chance to exit, and at 12:00, as everything seemed to be winding down, we raced out of the house for another shot at those fish.

On the way out to the flat, I suggested to Pete we look at the jetties. Sometimes when the wind comes from the Northwest, it absolutely lays the surf down, and allows the crystal clear water to lap against the smooth white sand beaches. Generally when these conditions occur there is almost no surf, and the jetties can be an amazing place to fish. I had heard someone mention catching a king mackerel off the end of the Packery Jetty just a couple days before, so I thought we'd give it a look.

We parked on the sand and walked down the jetty to see what was going on. There was an amazing amount of bait, and we probably saw 10 different sea turtles. The sea turtles have become extremely common over the last 5-10 years, but when I was young they were almost never present. As a kid, spotting one was truly an "event!" The bait is what caught my eye though, because normally the big schools of mullet have already departed by the last week in November, so with fairly warm water, mackerel could definitely still be present.

A shot of all the bait along the jetty. It doesn't show it well, because there is an amazing amount of bait present.

We walked back to the truck, got our rods and a selection of tackle and walked back out towards the end of the jetty. We fished for a while, but unfortunately had only one bite. I got picked up by a Spanish mackerel (or a king mackerel??), but unfortunately got bit off almost immediately. He bit the gold spoon on the sink, and I felt him pick it up, but before I couldn't tighten up the line I was already off. It's always a Hail Mary tying mono directly to the spoon, but I've landed a ton of mackerel without the wire trace, but my bite off convinced me to add about 3" of wire, and of course I never got bit again. After trying for a bit over an hour to persuade another speedster to bite, we decided to head for the flats where we Knew we should at least be able to catch a few fish.

The gear I carried onto the flat, using the small over the shoulder pack shown.

A selection of top waters that worked as well.

The wind from the Northern had blow itself out the night before, and it was easily 6 degrees warmer today, so it made for very pleasant wading on our chosen flat. The downside was without the wind created current, we didn't do quite as well. I think after 3 hours of fishing we had 2-3 small reds, one small speckled trout and a couple flounder. Nothing to exciting unfortunately, but it was still great to get out with my brother Pete! I managed to hook one strange fish. Not really strange maybe, but uncommon back in the bay complex. I hooked and landed a small needlefish. Check out the wicked set of dentures!

Texas jig caught needle fish.

See why their called needle fish? A wicked set of needle like dentures!! Don't put your fingers to close!!!!

Unfortunately Pete had an early morning flight out, so this was our last chance to fish together. I was bumming we hadn't tried a different flat; to try and find some of the larger reds I knew should be around. We still had a great time together. It's always fun sharing something I love some much with great friends or family!

Several years ago, I had hired a local guide on one of my trips south. I only had one day I could fish and wanted to make the most of it, so I hired a guide that works at Roy's Bait and Tackle, Capt. Steve Utley. What a great guide. He was laid back and fun to fish with on top of the fact we wacked on the reds pretty darn hard.

He'd taken me to a spot I'd launched at before with other guides, called Wilson's Cut. The difference was we fished in the series of lakes just north of the put in, instead of running farther North as I had before to fish closer to Aransas Pass, Redfish and Copano Bays. I remembered this series of lakes being very shallow, and I wondered if I could wade to them?

That evening at the house, I pulled up a shot of Google earth, and saw there should be a way to get my vehicle close to the closest lake, so it was decided, I tread into a new flat the next morning and see what I could find.

I woke up early to have a cup of coffee with my folks, Pete and his wife Donna before they left for the airport. We had a nice albeit short visit and then they headed for the airport. I decided it was a likely time to head for the new flat, so I packed my gear and departed as well.

I pulled up to Wilson's cut just before first light and because I couldn't really see very well, decided to not try driving any further back towards my selected flat. You see, I was crazy enough when I got my first four-wheel drive rig to try and drive it right to one of the spots I liked to fish by Aransas Pass. As often happens with inexperienced youth, I found a four-wheel drive truck isn't a foolproof method to not get stuck. The worst part was the fact I got further back than anybody else could, and had 3 other vehicles get stuck just trying to get to my location to pull me out. On that occasion I finally used a bumper jack and jacked my little SUV out of the holes I was buried in (all the way to the frame of the truck I might add!), and pushed it off the jack so it was sitting on dry mud. I then carefully backtracked and managed to pull the other 3 vehicles out. I had been stuck for almost 30 hours before we finally managed to extract my truck, and the people who'd been kind enough to try and help me. Needless to say, I wasn't in any mood to repeat such silly mistakes, so I parked at the cut itself and walked back towards the flat I wanted to try.

A picture of my flat with the two small islands in the middle of the lake.

I arrived at a channel that ran between an island and the main part of the bank I was on. I knew from experience this channel was likely to deep to wade, but if I couldn't cross it my newfound plan might fail before it began! I waded in and found it wasn't terribly deep, but within 20 yards the mud became unbelievably soft and deep. Deep enough it caused a hasty retreat. Generally when you wade some of the mud flats it can be uncomfortable because you can sink all the way up to mid shins, but you almost always feel a solid bottom at some point under your foot. In this spot I never could feel a hard bottom, just gooey soft mud as I continued to sink, almost all the way to my kneecaps. Very spooky!

I got to the bank and began wondering if I was going to have to find another flat. Regardless of the deep mud, I decided I wasn't going to be dissuaded so easily. There was a lot of bait showing in the channel, so I started wading close to the bank and started fishing, hoping to find a few fish.

As the light increased and I could see better, I realized the water probably wasn't so deep, and as the small creek began to open up into the larger lake I noticed a set of foot prints in the mud bottom that looked like someone had crossed the channel towards the tip of the island. I figured if someone else could do it, I probably could too, and I made it across without encountering the deep mud again. Hooray, I was going to make it into the flat system I wanted to try.

As I rounded the point of the island, there was a bunch of submerged grass and instead of doing the right thing and making sure I fished each bit of structure before I got to it, I waded right around it and managed to push a nice red out of the grass he'd been rooting around in. He pushed a substantial wake as he bombed out of the grass and towards the deeper water in the middle of the lake. I made two quick casts in front of him, but to no avail. While I've hooked a few fish over time with this tactic, it's far from consistent, and I realized I should make sure and fish the structure from here on out.

I started fishing out along the bank, and casting into the grass and mangroves along the edge, and interspersing it with casts into the deeper water out towards the middle of the lake. I was using a moderately quick and bouncy retrieve, trying to keep my jigs from fouling too much on the grassy bottom. No luck, but I kept seeing mullet all over, and some larger boils that looked like they were probably reds feeding on the mullet. Most of the boils where in deeper water, so I was eventually tugged away from the bank line and began wading across the lake to a set of two smaller islands in the middle of the larger lake complex. I figured I would find a gut in the middle somewhere that was un-crossable, but I thought I would fish as far as possible, and to my mild surprise I was able to wade all the way to the middle of the big lake where the two smaller islands where. At this point I'm beginning to doubt my decision to fish this set of flats. I'm seeing bait, and at least one fish I'm 90% certain was a decent sized red, but nothing more than a few piggy nibbles have come my way. Uncertainty on the morning's direction is beginning to plague me.

I manage to fish my way along side the two small islands, and even peak through to the other side for a moment into the back half of this large lake. To give an idea of the overall size of the lake, I would estimate it at well over 50 acres, and possibly closer to 100. It's a good-sized area, and is actually a series of spoil islands set amongst predominantly shallow water between one and three feet deep. I'm finding a mixture of sand and mud bottom with a wide variety of grass interspersed with those wonderful "trout" holes, clean sections of bottom surrounded by grass.

As I make it to the west side of the lake, I see a kayaker working along the bank I started on. I don't see him doing much either and eventually he fades back to the west, disappearing into some of the other lakes I can see. When I fished this water with Capt. Utley, I remember these lakes and spoil islands extend to the west for quite some distance. I've also seen 3-4 boats coming ripping out of Wilson's Cut and have spread themselves out through this system as well. I'm beginning to think I can probably wade anywhere I like through this amazing system, and it's empowering…with the down side of not finding any fish to catch as of yet. On this note I'm becoming a bit dejected!

As I reach another Island at the west end of "my lake," I'm starting to think I have to go find another flat. I'm starting to get bit a lot more by piggy perch, but I haven't hooked a darn thing. Bummer. I've decided that I'll start working back towards the truck crossing back to the original spoil island and work east along it's bank until I get back to the channel, and if I haven't caught anything by then I'll relocate to someplace else. I'm starting to have a sneaking suspicion this lake doesn't fish this far back in December, although with all the bait I'm seeing, it should emphasize the fact that SOME game fish "SHOULD" be around.

As I begin the crossing from my side of the lake back to the original spoil island, fishing the whole way (you know the routine, cast retrieve step, cast retrieve step, over and over and over again…) I have a powerboat come gliding into my lake. They go behind the two twin islands I've already waded past and come to a stop at the east end of my lake, very close to the middle. They anchor up, and 4 guys hop out and begin fishing their way west paralleling the two small islands I just fished past. At first I pay little attention to them, since I'm not crowded in any way, and I just fished the water they are targeting. My doubts have increased substantially at this point, as I've put close to 2 hours of time into this session and have nothing substantial to show for it. At this point I notice a couple of the guys from the boat across from me land some smaller fish. They land what appears to be under sized speckled trout, although we are far enough away from each other, species identification is truly impossible. Regardless of WHAT they have caught, they have tempted a couple fish where I have not. Huh!

At this point, I start paying a lot more attention to what they are doing, and I notice right off they are using much slower retrieves than me. It makes me think back to the day before fishing with Pete. He out fished me yesterday, and when I asked him what he was doing he said when he felt a tug he was stopping his retrieve for a moment to let them eat it. I also noticed he was using a slower overall retrieve than me. Can you see the light bulb starting to illuminate over my dense skull?

I begin fishing with a much slower retrieve, literally just hopping my jig off the bottom a couple times then letting it rest for a minute, retrieving a foot or so of line and then gently hopping it a couple more times, then resting again. An amazingly simple and slow retrieve, almost counterintuitive to what I've used in the past, but I should also remember that although the water is warm to my northern bred body, these fish are use to 75-80 degree water, not the chilly mid 60's I'm fishing.

Fish on!! A rod loaded up!

After a few casts I feel one of the familiar tap, tap, taps indicative of another piggy perch. I stop my retrieve for a second, and then begin the slow lift for another couple of hops with my jig, and my line comes tight. I'm almost shocked! I've actually hooked one, but best of all this is a very good fish. He takes quite a bit of line at the onset and comes to the top and rolls and I can see it's a very nice red. Awesome, they ARE here! I play the fish to my feet and get to have the fun of trying to subdue a very nice fish without the aid of a net while standing waste deep in the water. The fish attempts to go through my legs at one point, making me dance for a minute trying to clear the line around myself and get turned and straightened back out. I play the beautiful fish for a couple more minutes and finally bring him to hand.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to snap a self portrait holding a fish while wading waist deep? Tough!!!

A close up of the fish with the jig lodged in the corner of his mouth!

After Pete and I had caught the nice flounder a couple days ago, I actually stuck a stringer in my small tackle pack. I also looked up the regulations for what we could keep, and measured the lengths on my rod so we could keep a fish for dinner if we wanted to. I had put a wrap of electrical tape on my rod at 14, 15, 20, and 28 inches, so all I had to do was hold any fish along side my rod blank to see how long each fish was. Once I had this fish subdued and in my hand (unlike Salmon and steelhead, redfish are surprisingly tame once in the hand. Not a lot of wiggling around, which allows ease of handling to measure, unhook and take a couple quick pictures.) I lay him along side my blank and he's well beyond my 20" mark, and way closer to 28" than 20"! Right on! I figured him for 25-26", and I was incredibly pleased with my luck. Okay, maybe luck interspersed with finally pulling my head out of my butt and fishing slower!

Well the amazing part of the story is this literally unlocked the secret of fishing this series of flats. The reds where there, and in decently thick numbers; I managed to land over 10 nice fish that morning between the keeper slot length (you can keep 3 redfish a day between 20 and 28"), I broke a couple nice fish off (I'm sure these were over 28"! ?), and landed several undersized reds, a couple small speckled trout and a small flounder. I could have kept a couple reds for dinner, but honestly I'd rather eat trout or flounder if I'm going to keep a fish, so my stringer never made it out of my pack. Now if I'd landed a couple 16" speckled trout, they'd have been in REAL danger of meeting my frying pan!

[u]Another close up. Notice the large scales.

My luck continued through the next couple of days, landing nice reds on every outing. The key really came to working my jig slowly, and once they pounced on it to give them a second to suck it in. Almost every single fish was hooked in the corner of the jaw, which told me they were truly eating the jig, and by me slowly reeling to tighten up the line, I was drawing the hook into the corner of their mouth. It ended up being one of the most spectacularly fun trips I've had. I've caught quite a few reds before, but the combination of doing it myself, and finding a new area I could work by foot, made it all the more sweet. The only down side to the three days of fishing I enjoyed once my brother Pete had left, was his absence. I know how much he would have truly enjoyed fishing for these larger fish, so I was disappointed I hadn't found this before his departure!

Another very nice fish! Redfish rock!!

And another....

A Great sunset!

A smaller fish, probably around 22"

A close up of a redfishes tail. The interesting aspect here is the mutltiple spots. This generally indicates a fish from hatchery origin. Also, notice the beautiful blue fringe along his tail. This is amazingly beautiful as you see them swimming around you with their copper backs and brightly lit blue fringes on their fins.

December 04, 2012

A Fishing Guides Holiday- Part 1

by John Childs

A Fishing Guides Holiday

Holiday might be a stretch, since the point of heading to Texas for a week was to attend my sisters wedding, but when you're already there shouldn't you take some time for yourself? Especially when there's fish to be caught? I needed to spend some time with my family anyway, but they know my leanings on sneaking off to fish whenever I can fit it in, so it worked out great!

A sibling photo after the reception. From the left, Me, Elizabeth, James and Peter. Man do I miss my family!

I grew up in South Texas and luckily my dad retired in Corpus Christi, so I have a home base when I visit, right near my old homeport! It's a wonderful thing having a place to stay, enabling me to fish the water I grew up fishing. I even keep my own tackle at my dad's place, so when I get there I just have to take stock of what I have and then go hit the water!

Last time I visited South Texas, I decided to take my fishing gear home. I've looked at my gear the last couple times I fished Texas and kept wondering if I could use it at home for salmon, steelhead and even tuna. It was an interesting idea. I've tried it the other way, bringing salmon and steelhead gear to South Texas; why not try it the other way around? I've found that our wiggle warts in all their fancy colors tempt a bevy of Texas saltwater denizens, and that my very favorite wart, red with black herringbone, is one of the best colors there as well. I've tempted ladyfish, speckled trout, spanish mackerel, and redfish with them, and I'm sure they'd work for other species too. Why not try some of my Texas soft plastics or gold spoons in Oregon along with some of their fishing techniques, and see if they tempt our fish too? So I brought home a bevy of my gear my last visit, and when it came time to pack for my sisters wedding I had a WHOLE bunch of stuff to bring back to Texas!

I got it assembled and weighed (yes, I did say weighed!). It always brings an amusing look from the airline counter clerks when I show up with boxes and bags that are 48.5 to 49 pounds! I ended up only having to pay $20 extra for checking 3 bags (1 is my rod tube), and I feel I'm getting off awfully lucky. A few years ago I went to fish a big tuna/marlin tournament out of Puerto Vallarta, and I ended up with $500 in extra baggage charges (I think I had 10-12 boxes of tackle on that trip)! That was a bit insane, but in Mexico you often can't find what you don't bring! So $20 seems like an absolute steal.

So I finally get to Texas with my booty. I arrive at 6:30 in San Antonio where I'm picking up my rental car for a leisurely drive to Corpus Christi. My sister's rehearsal dinner was the same night as my arrival, so my family isn't expected home until around 9:30 or so, which should coincide nicely with my arrival time. I retrieve my bags, get my rental car and I'm heading south on I-37 within a short half an hour. I'm totally looking forward to seeing my family. I haven't seen my two brothers in a couple years, and my sister for 18 months, so this is going to be a treat!

I arrive at my parent's house shortly after their return from dinner and we have a wonderful evening catching up while drinking one of my favorite Texas libations, Shiner Bock Beer; a great time! We talked till the early morning hours, and truly just enjoyed getting to hang out together.

During our late night visit, I find out my dad wanted to have breakfast with us boys in the morning, while my mom, sister, and sister's in law all head over to take care of last minute wedding details. After our breakfast I don't have to be anywhere until 4:00 p.m. at the church. I catch my little brother Pete's eye and motion to him a fishing rod. He get's a big grin on his face and enthusiastically agrees! Sweet, we'll get a couple hours of fishing time in and still make it to the wedding with plenty of time to spare.

The next morning, after breakfast, I assemble my gear and find in my haste of getting everything together I left my box of soft plastics back in Oregon. Dang, what an idiot maneuver. I remember having the box in my hand, but I set it down while looking for an extra Curado reel, and never did pick it up again. Well this is a minor set back. We'll just have to swing by Roy's Bait and Tackle to pick up some plastics. I also realize I took my wading boots home and forgot to bring them back as well, so I'll need to pick these up also. (Amazingly, for the last week in November, the weather and water is still warm enough to allow me to wet wade without freezing my fanny off! Not all Texas residents would agree with that statement, but they also don't spend 8 months a year running around in 50 degree rainy weather!) Just a slight set back, but we need to get licenses anyway.

As soon as breakfast is done, Pete and I are headed for the flats, ready to see if we can't find some redfish and speckled trout before the wedding, with a quick stop at Roy's for licenses and gear. I figured out a while back that when you're at a store that sells fishing equipment, the staff is much more likely to give you some good information about what's currently happening when you're purchasing some merchandise. I find one of the clerks and ask him what's currently working for our intended quarry on the flats. I follow him into the incredibly well stocked isles and buy several packages of the items he suggests, some Berkley Gulp Shrimp, and Saltwater Assassin jerk baits, along with 1/8 ounce jig heads in chartreuse. I find some inexpensive wading shoes, get our licenses, thank the clerk and boogie towards one of my favorite easily accessed flats.

The flat I fished with my brother Peter.

As I get the rods out of the truck and put some leader spools, plastics, jig heads and other assorted tackle into my little shoulder tackle pack, my brother and I cheerfully chat about our amazing luck at being let out of the house to chase a few fish! We both agree we couldn't be luckier!

A cold front had blown in over night, and we had a pretty stiff wind out of the west, which blows directly into your face on this flat. The first thing I notice is this flat has changed drastically. With the drought conditions and no hurricanes or other major water moving storms, this flat has filled in. We are fishing on the backside of a barrier Island on the north tip of South Padre Island. There are several cuts along the island where storms many years ago had punched a hole through the barrier island, connecting the shallow bay with the Gulf of Mexico. These passes never last long though, because the Gulf has very little tidal movement. Most of these tides move less than a 1-2 feet a day. With such little tidal movement along with a very shallow Gulf entrance they sand in very quickly. Then it's just a matter of time as the island slowly reclaims its hold on the cut. The cut we are planning on fishing has had an amazing amount of land fill in. Just 18 months ago it had been shallow close to the bank where the cut opens up into the main part of the bay, and then it gradually worked out to deeper water, and within a hundred yards it was waist deep. It had become deep enough I had never attempted to keep wading once I hit belt depth water, and there were no color changes to indicate anything but a slow but steady increase in the depth. (The water on these flats is typically gin clear. It's easy to see the deeper spots indicated by green water, where the shallows are identified by being able to see the color of the bottom, which is typically dark green over the grass flats, and light tan over sanding bottoms. The deeper the water, the greener it is.) There had always been a gut down the middle of this cut, and it still appeared there was one, but I could see shallow water on each side, and a guy was wading along the edge in what would have previously been water that was deep enough to be over my head. Even more startling was a new bar about 200 yards out that paralleled the bank, and was shallow enough to show exposed sand at the low tide we arrived on.

An interesting aside on tides in the bays along the Texas coast: For some unfathomable reason, there is only one tide set per day…meaning there is only one high tide, and one low tide daily, not the normal 2 highs and lows. Very strange, and this, coupled with the fact mentioned earlier of very small tidal exchanges makes for little current on most of the flats. The further you get from open Gulf passages, the less current you have. It also means winds create some of the most important currents along these flats, which is the case today with a strong wind out of the West, blowing current over the paralleling sand bar and hopefully pushing some bait towards the deeper guts we plan on fishing.

I've always approached this flat by wading out towards the deeper water at the center of the cut, then moving out towards the middle of the bay while casting into the deeper water along the cut. The big change was now once I got a couple hundred yards from the bank, I would run out of deep water and run into a shallow sand bar. The good part was it looked as if the old deep trough took a perpendicular turn at the sand bar and began running perpendicular to the bank as it opened up into the main part of the bay. It made the choice of how to fish it pretty easy, wade out along the cut like usual, fishing the deeper water, then climb up onto the shallow bar and follow it south and continue fishing the deeper water between the bar and the bank.

This is exactly how Pete and I approached it, and while I can't say we hammered the fish, we didn't do poorly, especially considering it was our first time on the water in South Texas in over 18 months! We began fishing along the cut and were both being grabbed pretty consistently on our Gulp Shrimp, but it was obviously some piggy perch (also called pinfish or grunts), who were tearing us up! We slowly worked our way towards the sand bar, and when I got to the deepest water just shy of the bar I hooked a small speckled trout, followed by a decent but undersized red. Sweet, there are definitely some fish kicking around. My bother was working along the edge slower than me, and I urged him to catch up, because often where there's one, there's a bunch more! Unfortunately it didn't work out that way, and we didn't hook any more fish from the deep corner where it met the sand bar.

Our first fish, a decent but undersized redfish.

We climbed the sand bar and began working our way down the bar, still fishing out into the deeper water between the bar and the bank. Not long after climbing onto the bar I saw Pete with a deeply bent rod. It definitely looked like a fish to me, but he seemed unsure. As it got closer to him I saw a couple definitive headshakes, so I knew he was hooked up, yet he still seemed unsure. As the fish surfaced right in front of him I realized what the confusion was all about since it was a door mat flounder! Flounder don't always fight all the way to you the way many fish do, they come up as just a lot of wait, but decide to fight once they break the waters surface right in front of you. This particular fish turned out to be one of the biggest flounder I've seen in a long, long time. I found myself immediately wishing for a stringer, but unfortunately I hadn't brought one. Oh well, I reminded myself we had to be at a wedding in 3 hours, and there really wasn't the time or inclination to deal with cleaning a few fish! I tried to snap a few photo's of Pete and the big flatty, but he tried to grab the line and lift the fish out of the water which ended in an abrupt release, so the only pictures I have are as he fought the fish. Regardless, it was a very nice flounder, probably 21-23" and close to 6-7 pounds.

Pete Hooked Up!!

The nice flatty coming to hand.

We kept fishing down the bar until I realized it was close to 1:30, and we needed to be to the church by 4:00. We both needed to shower and get our suits on, so it was probably time to make our way back towards the truck. We began fishing our way back and caught a couple more flounder and another undersized red. It ended up being a great day, especially considering it was a freebie in that neither of us had expected any opportunity to escape the day of the wedding!

Peter with a beautiful little red!

After we got back to the truck, took off our wet shorts and traded them for dry ones, put the gear away and began the 30 minute drive back to the house I got a frantic phone call from my mom. She asked me, "are you aware you have to be at the church by 4:00?" I responded to the affirmative. She then said, "well nobody knows where you guys are and we're getting worried you aren't going to make it." I realized they were probably freaking out from normal worries of everything not getting off without a hitch, so I reminded her of the normal guy detail of only taking 5 minutes to shower, and another 10 to get dressed, so I figured we'd be early, and that's exactly what happened. By the time Pete and I returned to the house, put our gear away, showered and changed, we were dressed and at the church by 3:40. I do have to admit watching my mom give a big sigh of relief when she walked us walk in!

To be continued…

November 27, 2012

Confidence, and Persistence… and How to Manufacture Luck

by John Childs

Confidence, and Persistence… and How to Manufacture Luck

I've heard the old cliché "I'd rather be lucky than good," about a ga-zillion times, and I'll bet you have too. Another cliché that's often floated around the places fisherman gather is "10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish." While I believe in both cliché's, I believe them with a caveat… I think they are related, and I believe the magical 10 percenters out there use confidence and persistence to create their own brand of luck! I've come to believe that luck is really a point where opportunity meets preparation, and if you are both confident and persistent you'll most likely be able to take advantage of the opportunities and now you've manufactured your own little lucky streak.

I've seen it so many times on my boat; the quiet yet confident people are the ones who catch fish. But it's not just my clients who need to be happy and confident, I've found it also has to radiate from me. Have you ever noticed on those days you leave the dock and you absolutely know you aren't going to get them, how this prophecy tends to become true, and conversely how when you know in your gut today's the day, it often is? I've seen it over and over, that when I'm confident of the day's outcome, of how we will find and catch fish, we often do just that.

Lucky Bert and myself with a fantastic spinner king!

Before I was guiding full time I was often accused of fishing with a vengeance (and sometimes not being very fun to fish with as I was VERY wound up!). I would approach each day with an expectation, and would work at finding and catching fish with a hard demeanor and very uptight attitude. I actually see this same attitude in many of the clients who get on my boat. It's their one day off, they've hired a guide to make sure the day is successful, and now they are spun up to the max, hoping to make sure everything pans out just the way they imagined. I see myself in each one of these anglers, remembering how my own limited time was so important, how I had to maximize every opportunity, to make sure I could wring each and every second out of my precious day off.

A long time ago I began to realize, in fits and starts, that the point where I finally relaxed, when I began to let go and just enjoy myself was when I caught the most fish. It's also when I really began to feel the point when "it's getting ready to happen!" I guess I stole the idea from Austin Powers, but I've got a mojo too, and it's a fish mojo, and when I relax it seems to talk to me. I didn't really begin to fully appreciate this idea until I began fishing as a full time guide. As I mentioned above, this whole idea was only noticed in small bites before, but once fishing time was on my side, I noticed it profoundly. I now know unequivocally that when I'm relaxed, confident and prepared I catch fish… and I can often feel it getting ready to happen. It's this feeling of excited expectation, and I often say I can fell my fish mojo pinging. When these feelings happen I know we can't fail, and it almost always pans out.

I've tried to impart this to my clients, but it's hard to get anybody to relax when they're on a mission. And boy do I understand, because I lived it too, but the rub is when they can let go and settle down, things so often fall into place.

I had a couple young guys fish with me recently, and they were an absolute pleasure to have on board. Tom and Daniel were very happy to be spending a day on the water, but more importantly they were relaxed right from the go. They wanted to catch fish, but they were so laid back about it, their desire almost seemed non-existent. We talked about it at one point, and Tom told me he preferred to fish with quiet confidence. I loved it, because it sums up my feelings to a "T!" I've seen the flip side of the over confident, somewhat arrogant angler who seems to kill his own opportunities, while the quietly confident angler humbly catches his fish. This was Tom and Daniel's attitude, and it paid them handsome dividends that day with a very nice catch of fish… but the best part was their smiles at the end of the day.

Tom with his big spinner caught king!

While confidence is uncompromisingly important to success, there are a couple of other attitudes that help ensure success. The primary one is persistence and determination. Sometimes you just have to put your time in. I wish there was another answer, but lots of time on the water always points back to this simple premise. The more time you put in, the more often you'll find success.

Danny with a chrome river hen!

I have one client who is a great guy to have on board. He's smart, successful, funny, and always provides great conversation. His only drawback is he wants his fish on a string. He wants them fast and furious, and he's quick to give up when it seems like it won't come together. One day after we fished a long morning without any action, he fell asleep in his chair. The weather was warm for a change, and even I felt a little of the grogginess try and set in, but I also knew we didn't have much more time before he was going to ask me to take him in. I wanted the fish as bad as he did… sometimes as a guide I think I actually want it more than my clients. I was doing everything I knew to bring it together, and that fishy feeling was starting to get almost palpable. As he snoozed lightly I noticed his rod take that all-familiar dip at the beginning of a herring bite. I sat quietly and watched as his rod dipped and fluttered, started and stopped, and finally after an eternity slowly buried in the rod holder. I woke him up with a "you've got a fish, you've got a fish!" We landed the fish, and he was pleased as punch, and of course a new level of interest was back into his attitude. We made two more passes and landed two more fish, and we were still off the water by 2:00.

That day as he walked off the boat I asked him politely to please not to give up when we're fishing until I give up. If I believe it's going to happen, he should too! He still reminds me of that comment when we fish, and I think he's more confident now when we fish.

But still, the rub is wanting it so fast and furious. Often the fish aren't on our schedule and the only way we can find success is to grind it out. But when we grind it out, we have to stay confident and positive. It's these attitudes that combine to create luck. As I said at the beginning of this article, I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes we have to work to find those opportunities, and this is why being persistent is so important. If you're not ready to grind out the day, you might miss the bite, or bites you might have had if you'd stayed with it.

Give it a try… work on being confident you'll find the fish, but also WORK at it. A while back a very successful friend of mine told me the secret to his success. He said, "I've always been lucky, but I've manufactured my luck. When I was young my dad told me all you can do is work hard and the rest will come. That's the secret to my success," he said, "working hard!" And it's a premise that'll work for you on the water too. Stay upbeat and positive, work at it, and then you'll begin to manufacture your own brand of fishy luck!

October 31, 2012

Tillamook Bay Update - October 31st

by John Childs

Tillamook Bay Update – October 31st

Tillamook has shaped up as a killer year so far which is really exciting in my opinion. October can always be good, but November can be stellar. Last year I had a way better November than October in Tillamook for big Kings. October had some amazing coho fishing in 2011, which never really materialized this year, but the king fishing has been pretty darn good.

In the latter part of September and the beginning of October there were some days where it was a bit of a struggle, but how much of a struggle was it really when I look back at my overall fish numbers? One fishless day all season, and it was a day when I only had one client, so only two rods fishing. Otherwise we've had fish every day, and lately it's been averaging closer to 3 to 5 fish daily, with the occasional outstanding day thrown in.

Earlier in the season we were coming off of one of the driest periods on record in Oregon. The dry weather adversely affected river levels and with the amazingly low water the bay had a higher salinity than normal. It seemed the fish were around in the mid to upper bay on the large tides when the ocean water was sweeping in, but they seemed to almost disappear on the smaller tide sets. Yes they were still around, but the bay seemed empty comparatively.

Generally rain hurts the bay fishery. As soon as the water level comes up any fish that are ready to ascend the rivers shoot upstream. If the water is high enough, new fish are also jamming through the system and don't spend time riding the tides back and forth. For this reason, a die-hard bay fisherman doesn't really wish for rain, but the first rain a couple weeks ago was needed to even out the salinity in the bay. It made the mid bay become very consistent for a change. The spinner fishing became dependable, and we where happy people for a short period of time. Yes the rivers were still up, and fish were moving through faster than we would like, but even the small tides where holding fish throughout the bay.

This was also a godsend as the Ocean turned into a snotty witch! One day to see how ugly it really was (reported 12 foot breaking swell at the tips) I drove towards the Coast Guard station to see what the jaws looked like. As I came close to Kincheloe Point, there were already 3-4 foot rollers. By the time I was across from Lyster's, there were 6-8 foot steep rollers, and I could see breaking waves BEHIND the Coast Guard tower! Crazy big stuff!

Anyway, the fishing got much more consistent after the first rain, even though we were loosing fish up into the system. Probably the most noticeable missing link had been the Coho. Before the first rain they were just starting to be around with a fair amount of consistency, but just as I was getting ready to go on the afternoon casting assault, purely targeting these great game fish, they got sucked up into the fresh water with the first big freshet. Since then we've been getting just enough rain to keep fish moving through, and the Coho really haven't been around in any significant numbers. I think they have been in the system; they've just raced right through into fresh water ever since the first rain. This last Saturday is the first time I've seen them with any regularity since our first rain a couple weeks ago.

Of course the rivers are all blown out now, and it looks like it might be a few more days before we get a break and they start to drop and clear. The bay will still fish, but not as good with the murky water and the fish flying through on their way up to their natal stream. Regardless, it's getting ready to get really good, and the fish will be everywhere…. from the jaws all the way to the upper stretches of the 5 Tillamook rivers. All I can say is its time to get out there and fish!!

Overall, this has been a great year, with a fair number of nice large fish. I've had several come over the gunnel floating towards that magical 40 pound mark, but lots, and lots of 20-something's! It's been lots of fun!

For the last 3 weeks I've been fishing spinners almost exclusively. I sure can't get enough of those slack line grabs the big kings are so famous for! It's almost as much fun listening to one of my clients explain how the bite felt. How their blade had been thumping along and all the sudden their line went weightless. They set the hook and had something yank back hard from the other end along with strong headshakes. Priceless!

Every year the blade selection seems very static on Tillamook. Blades of ½ red and ½ white, chartreuse with a green dot, white with a red spot, or a green tipped rainbow (and many other similar choices!) are the go to colors, and this year is no exception, except I've spent the last two years enjoying consistent success with combinations of pink and white. I still fish a lot of blades with red, but pink is a pretty strong color too, so don't hesitate to add some to your arsenal. Also, white/pearl backs have been another nice addition on those dank and dark days, and early in the morning. Dang I love fishing blades!

I also spent a couple days floating a couple rivers before this current rain set blew it all out. While there were far from a ton of fish in the rivers, there were definitely fresh fish moving in on each high tide set. Not stellar, but decent fishing. It was a nice change up from all the days on the bay, and we caught some nice fish to boot. There were even some nice chums around to spice things up!

Here are some pics of the season so far, starting all the way back at the end of September! Hopefully I'll have a bevy more to add in the near future!!

A great morning of spinner fishing! The best part is we went back out after this photo and caught 1 more gorgeous fish for the first limit of the season!

Curtis with a beautiful coho! This was the first coho we caught and kept during the selective wild coho season.

Rod with a darn nice big king! Gotta love those spinner bites!

Spinners on ice! It's whats for dinner!

The end result of a nice hen, great bait for the upcoming season!

The rare occasion when I get to land one myself!

A pretty Sunset over Tillamook Bay

On those calm days we chased inshore halibut as well as salmon, and one morning I was rewarded with a little "white gold!"

Steve with a snappy coho that crashed our spinner party! This was the first day of cold wind and rain! What a tough day!!

A pig of fish! Right On!!!

DidI mention I like to run blades?

A great Tillamook Bay Sunset!!

Kelly with her first spinner hooked king! I think she got hooked too!

Maighread from Irish Moorings Cafe with her first spinner chinook! She cooks a mean breakfast too!!

Bert with his first spinner King...Little did we know over a couple days of fishing he was going to become the lucky spinner magnet! Boy did he put the hurt on em!

Bert with a nice coho.

Bert with a big snow belly! What a fish!!!

Me, Gary and Mr. Chumley!

Kelly with the "hey, I can't find bottom" back-bouncing hen!

Brett with one of those inclement weather kings! Check out that blowing poncho! It was wet and windy!!!

Frank with another Dandy spinner caught inclement weather king! Can you say raining sideways, and yet we're all still smiles!?

October 09, 2012

Tillamook Bay Update- October 8th (and How to Determine if You Caught a Coho or Chinook)

by John Childs

Tillamook Bay Update - October 8th

I've been fishing Tillamook for a close to three weeks now, and I've experienced both highs and lows. She begins to show amazing promise, and then we see it get a bit tougher. I'm not quite sure why it's not just building into something stellar. With the lack of rain this fall, the rivers are incredibly low so it seems there is no way the salmon would be ascending much above the head of tidewater. I spied another guide sled the other day with a full compliment of bobber rods rigged and ready to roll. It seemed like a great idea to try kicking around in the upper tidewater to see if some of the fish that normally ascend with the first October rains would be holding in the deep holes in upper tidewater waiting impatiently for their chance to fly upstream. The kicker is, this very same guide had just come flying around the corner of the south jetty to join in a bit of bite happening in the ocean. While this isn't a huge run like it might be in some systems, it's still quite the commitment change, from one end of the bay to the other.

Last week I had a very similar day with my clients. I didn't go any higher than Memaloose, but I did start fishing in the Ghost Hole, moved to Bay City, then Rays Dolphin, into the picket fence, around the corner into Memaloose, along the Oyster House, then reverse course back down to Rays, out to the Center Channel (Center Ditch), into the West Channel, then all the way down to the Coast Guard Tower along the North Jetty, and out into the ocean and along the South Jetty through the middle grounds and back to the Ghost Hole to finish the day. We almost saw every fishable spot on the bay in one single day. Normally I would call such looking crazy movement, but we just weren't finding what we need. We landed 2 fish in the morning, and had one more opportunity in the afternoon, then struggled through the afternoon. A really tough day. The crazy thing is, the very day before I had limited my clients in two spots with very large fish. How does it change so fast in just one day? I guess that's the real kicker this year is there hasn't seemed to be consistency for more than a couple days. I guess the one thing you can bet your bottom dollar on is "EVERY DAY IS A NEW DAY!!"

One thing I can say though is we've been catching fish every day, and some days we've absolutely pounded on them. We just aren't having the consistency we all hope for you where you can start to put patterns together and then really start whacking on the big kings. When the fish are cooperating everything you would expect to work is working great. When they are getting a bit persnickety, it becomes a time to stick to what you know, and grind baby grind! I've had some great days spinner fishing the mid to upper bay this year, but I've also had some good days in the Ghost Hole and along the North Jetty and in the Ocean fishing herring. One bit of consistency is in the old Tillamook rule of fishing high in the bay on the large tide sets and fishing the lower bay on the small tide swings. But even then, you can still grind some fish out fishing these tides with a completely opposite game plan.

The silver have been around for a couple of weeks, but not in the numbers one would expect. Maybe I'm just impatient because I remember how good it really got last year when they committed to the bay. I had some days that where nothing short of amazing. I've been waiting excitedly for the return of those stellar afternoons, but to no avail as of yet. I've caught some beautiful coho, but not in the numbers I've expected, although they seem to be gaining in numbers over the last few days. Hopefully this week will see the turn with these fish really beginning to stack in the bay. When they do you can expect some truly fantastic fishing although pretty thin on the keeping part. Out of all the silver I caught last year in the bay, I only caught one with a fin clip, so don't expect to fish for limits of these super bright and gamey fish.

A few days back I hooked a large fish in the middle of the bay. It gave me a typical slack line bite on a number 7 spinner, and when I swung on him i received the expected dogged head shakes and deep bull dogging so typical of chinook, and then he proceeded to burn off a major amount of line and generally kick some butt like shallow water kings do. The surprise was the electric metallic green back as the fish finally popped up next to the boat. An amazing outsized silver, and truly hovering right around the 20 pound mark. A kick butt fish in any regard. The thing that immediately came to mind is the close resemblance to a chinook unless you really know the keys to recognizing the difference between the two species. So a quick review of how to tell the difference between chinook and coho. This is especially important in Tillamook where many of the silvers can creep up into the size range of the smaller kings, amazing outsized, gorilla type coho!

The first thing I notice whenever either species pops up next to the boat is the coloration on the backs. Fresh kings will have a purplish tint on their back that's unmistakeable. Conversely, coho will always have an electric/metallic green back. The second you see green on the back, the fish deserves a closer look to determine which species it really is. I've heard some anglers talk about looking at the spots on the back to determine which fish they've caught. This can be a really bad idea on the larger silvers, because they can honestly have the same irregular spot patterns so common and recognizable on chinook. The green back is the first clue. Chinook might have a greenish back, but it's always more of a dark olive tint, but more often you can see the black and purple tint, and with fish that have been in shallow water longer, they might have begun to sport the copperish hue of a sunburnt shallow water king.

If you suspect the fish you've just hooked might be a silver, or if your just not sure, take a look at the tail. Silver don't have spots on the tail. If the tail is perfectly silver with no spots, you've probably just caught a nice coho. Once in a while you'll catch a fish that my friend Kevin Newell has coined the chinoho... These fish REALLY do have to many characteristics of both species, but it's not "common." These chinohos can have a few spots on the top of the tail, while the rest of the tail is perfectly silver.

Here's the real key, and the one fish & game or a game warden would use to make the final determination of species, the gum line. Coho have a white to grayish white gum line. Not the mouth, which can be surprisingly black even on coho. The gum line is what's the determining factor. Look closely where the teeth come through the gums. If this area is grey or white you're sporting a coho, while if the area where the teeth come through the gums is black you have a king. I've released fish this year at Buoy 10 that looked like a chinook in almost every way, but there was just enough of a question about species that I looked closely at the gum line. These "questionable" fish got released because they sported grey gum lines, and I know full well this is what the fish checker will use as a determining factor in identification, so they swim away.

One more thing that's useful to know is silvers don't have a rigid caudal peduncle, a fancy name for the stump directly in front of the tail. On chinook this is rigid, and is why you can easily grab a chinook and lift him by the tail. you have a good hand hold that doesn't slip or collapse under the weight of the fish. Try this same maneuver when lifting a silver and it will generally slip right through your hands. This isn't a great technique for id, but it's another clue. If your not sure after everything else I've just described, try lifting the fish out of the net by the tail. If it keeps slipping out of your hand you probably should start thinking coho!

Tillamook has some truly outsized silvers that return to the basin, so size shouldn't be a factor in species determination!

As of the writing of this update, you can still keep one wild silver a year. That's one wild fish per year per angler, but you can only do this on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the week all wild silvers must be released unharmed.

Finally, as we get into the busiest time of the year I want to remind any of you fishing Tillamook regularly to share the water with others politely. I noticed this last weekend some anglers think they always have the right away when trolling. Pay attention, and work with the boats trolling around you. With boats trolling both directions in most spots it's imperative to keep your eyes open and make sure and steer your boat away from other boats. It's truly as simple as giving enough angle to your bow to show the intent of which side you're attempting to troll past. Hopefully if the other boats operator is paying attention he'll give you the same indication and you can easily pass each other without incident. The frustration comes when another boat is trolling towards you and you give the indication by your bow position of which direction you're planning on passing and they change the angle of their bow to intersect you, or maybe don't even move expecting you to move around them. This is a very "UNCOOL" attitude! If we all keep are heads up and pay attention to the direction others are going we can all troll very easily in both directions without any of the fancy maneuvering required by an inattentive, or worse, a captain who expects others to go around him.

Good luck out there, and I hope you find your Tillamook chrome!!

September 02, 2012

Buoy 10 Recap in Pics

by John Childs

After the last 3 weeks with no internet service at my camp, I've come home for a few days and downloaded my pics, and now I'm adding what I would have like to over the last weeks. I hope you enjoy...

Sunrise viewed from my office.

Biggest so far this year!

Another Angle on the big girl.

And one of the big ones that didn't get away!! Yeah Lew!

Sunrise over the ships.

A beauty of a chinook!

Netting a good one.

Another one hits the deck!

John Cimino with his prize!

Lew...83 and still going strong!!

A Mercury Sunrise!

Moving to another spot...


Looking Worried!


Red in the morning, Sailors warning!

The day begins....

Another sunrise over the ships.

OK, I admit it, I like sunrises!

Blue water tuna day off.

Exploding Sky!!

September 01, 2012

August 31st Update

by John Childs

I don't have a lot to report because I didn't fish real seriously yesterday. I have to admit to sleeping late (a whopping 6:30 am!) and then drinking a leisurely cup of coffee in my tent as I whipped a few spinners to try. In fact, this was the first morning in over 3 weeks where I actually got to drink an entire cup of coffe from top to bottom while it was still warm! What a simple yet lovely pleasure!

After I finished my spinners I drove down to the basin and prepared my boat to fish, but slowly and with an air of unhurried patience. I've caught a lot of fish over the last 22 days and I have an unpressured day to go at my pace. When there are clients on board it's amazingly hard to be patient or calm about fishing until the first couple of fish have been landed. I know many clients expect fishing with a guide is a catching day more than a fishing day, but I know full well we are fishing. I'm just hoping I can deliver on the catching part, so it's tense until this is accomplished. It's not terribly bad first thing in the morning, especially if I've been doing pretty good, but the longer it takes, and if we've seen some fish caught around us, the more tense it becomes. That's when I can get wound up tighter than a bow string, and I hate it, but I want my clients to catch fish so bad I get frustrated when I feel like I'm not delivering. That's the stress of this job...and really the only down side I can think of.

The point of all this is on a day off there is no pressure. None. Not even the slightest bit...I could truly care less if I get them. Yes, I do want to do some catching, but my time on the water is about more than catching fish, so I'm content just to be there, doing something I love dearly. If I catch fish, it's a FANTASTIC BONUS!

Long story short, I didn't hook any fish. I drove around and fished some spots I wanted to try without any pressure. I saw very few hooked, and I didnt worry abou it. I just relaxed in the sun, ran my boat, fished some beautiful baits and just enjoyed the fact of living a life I so dearly love.

For you wack 'em and stack 'em sorts I do have a bit of the skinny for you. They aren't biting early right now. It's a good time to wait to be on the water till later in the morning. When the incoming gets flooding hard they are starting to bite, from the Point of Sands, up through the Church. They'll also bite above the bridge coming into high slack, and through the first couple hours of the incoming. When the tides running pretty good, drag them in the dirt, right on the bottom. When the tide is slack or barely moving they'll suspend, especially in the deeper water, so run different depths. So far this year I've caught them all over the board for depths when they're suspended, but 30-35 feet on my line counters running 40 pound Maxima line with Delta Divers and Flashers have been my hot depths.

Also, several of my friends really started to get them on spinners the last couple of days. I've still done better on bait, but some have done better on blades, so fish what you have confidence in.

Good luck if you get out there soon, and hopefully I'll see you on the water!

August 31, 2012

August 30th Update

by John Childs

August 30th


I officially ran my last Buoy 10 trip of 2012 yesterday. I had a very nice couple from Portland come down and fish, as well as a friend of mine Joe Cronn. We had a great day of fishing, but I have to admit we might have suffered in the catching department a little bit.


As this tide set has grown in intensity, it seems to be getting a little tougher every day. We had our opportunities, but not as many as I would have thought. I started with a plan of fishing the Point of Sands until the tide was close to going slack, and then heading for Buoy 20 to fish slack through the beginning of the tide change. I thought I would then follow the fish back to Buoy 22, the Hammond and maybe further depending on what I saw, and then move over to the Point of Sands, make a pass or two then start trolling up through the church trying to get to the bridge by the high slack change. Then we would fish above the bridge from high slack and into the outgoing tide. I thought it was a solid plan, but plans on the river should be fluid, and this one changed…


The tide seemed like it was going slack a lot sooner than I expected once we started trolling at the Point of Sands. It was super foggy, and we could only see 100 yards or so. It made it tough to really tell how fast we were moving, so I moved over to 20 after one pass at the Checkerboard. We ended up at 20 to early, but oh well.


It was still ripping pretty fast at 20, but I figured we'd make passes anyway and hope for an early biter. After a couple passes we finally had the current start to slack and we saw a couple fish caught, and we had a couple half hearted rips ourselves, but nothing like I expected. I sat there a bit longer than I had planned, and just backed down into the current hoping to see something develop. It was probably the worst bite I have seen yet at 20, with maybe a dozen fish hooked around me, and only 5 or so landed, for a whole bunch of boats. With as little happening there as I say I decided to skip moving back and head right for the point of sands.


We made several passes through the sands, starting with spinners, but after seeing quite a few kings landed and no rips, I decided to switch back to bait. I've been using herring primarily, and big ones at that, and right now I have my faith in these big baits. I've been running a spinner almost every day, and some days up to 3 spinners at a time, but still baits produced about 3 to 1 on the bites. I've seen more spinner bites the last few days, and lots more silvers, so I was trying the blades, but a few passes with some fish being caught around me got my right back to my confidence baits. Unfortunately I think I changed a bit to late, as I was marking fewer fish, and was seeing less fish hooked around me.


I heard from my friend Kevin Newell there was a bite along the Church, so we started our long pass up towards the bridge. About half we up we had a ripping grab and fought what seemed like a decent sized king close to the boat. My client and a boat along side us started yelling sea lion, and my client was pulling and cranking for all he was worth. I had been busy stowing gear and getting the dance floor cleared before I got to look over the side. I saw a bruiser of a Coho pop up next to the boat. My friend Joe tried to net the fish, but he was too far back and caught the net bag on a rod holder. He handed me the net, and I thought I was going to get the fish, just as the sea lion exploded on the fish right on top. It was an amazing top water grab, but sucked for us!! The only consolation I could give my client was I had noticed when the fish rolled up next to the boat it was a wild fish, so we would have had to let it go anyway…


The sea lion seemed to be following us after that, and continued to roll around the back of the boat waiting for more salmon handouts, so we decided to pick up and run above the bridge and get away from the thieving butt head!


Above the bridge we managed about a grab a pass, but the grabs where wimpy. I would see the rod dip down a couple times, start to load up like it was going to happen, then pop up flat. We would bring in the herring and there would be teeth marks on the back, but that was all. Frustrating. It seemed like they were grabbing them from behind, instead of engulfing them as usual. I've switched to three 6/0 hooks, and I've noticed I haven't been missing a whole lot of fish until yesterday, but I guess we all have our days.


Finally we had another ripper of a grab and managed to land a mid-twenties salmon. Finally! This fish might get the award for the latest landing of a salmon I've had to date at Buoy 10. I don't think he crossed my gunnel until 3:30 or so.


We made several more passes, but didn't get grabbed again, and finally called it a day.


While this isn't poor fishing, it isn't what I think Buoy 10 can be. I'm not sure if we are just having a lag of fish show up, or if the big tides are making it that much tougher, but overall it's not fishing as good as it was just two weeks ago. Frustrating, but I guess in the long run it is what it is…


Our landing stats for the day, 1 adult King kept, one VERY nice Coho taken by a seal next to the boat, and about 6 or 7 other grabs.


Fishing today for some fun this afternoon, and then I'm seriously thinking of pulling my camp in the morning and heading back to Portland. I don't have any bookings for the weekend, so it seems like this might be the end of my Buoy 10 year.


I'll update again tomorrow morning. 

August 30, 2012

August 8th Update

by John Childs

August 29th Updat

Today was a good day, but frustrating as well. It didn't happen quite as good as yesterday, but it still fished in all the spots I expected. That's the good part...it was a little harder to get the quality kings, and that's the frustrating part! 

I had regular clients today, one who brought their grandson with the goal of catching him a salmon. Well, you can guess exactly how that all played out. I think I've said it before in my blog, but it bears repeating, "the more you want something to happen when fishing, the harder it is to have it come together." I wanted young Alex to catch one so bad it hurt! Not only did I want him to catch one, I wanted him to catch a really big one as well. The way it's been fishing I figured it was a no brainer...well, that's what I get for thinking!

We started at the point of sands again, and I should have stayed with it there longer. I knew it SHOULD fish, but I didn't have confidence in it. I also knew a bite would probably happen at Buoy 20 because it had the two previous days. The thing is, the last two days when I've pulled in to Buoy 20 we've literally hooked our first fish immediately, so I have no idea when the bite was starting. I was antsy to get over there and try to get into it for as long as possible. When we pulled up to 20, the tide was still going out pretty hard, so we made passes with the tide, all the way to Buoy 14. It was our 3rd or 4th pass when the tide finally started to slack off and we had a little flurry hooking 3 fish, one which got off (and I think it was a good one the way it burned line off on the grab!) and landed a small wild coho and a small king which we released. The tide had finally turned and started coming in hard enough to hold us in position, and eventually push us back. While we held around the buoy, we hooked another fish which was definitely a good chinook, but after several minutes of tugging on him he came unpinned. Bummer! I was starting to get a bit antsy again!

I decided we should go back and try the point of sands, and we did manage to hook and land a nice hatchery coho, releases another wild coho, and eventually landed a good king, and missed another 3 or 4 bites as well. It seems like a bunch of silvers might have showed up because the last couple of days I'm starting to get a lot of short biters. 

After hammering away at the point of sands we finally decided to run up above the bridge on the Washington side. We knew there had been a bite there yesterday since my clients had fished there with a other guide, and I had heard about it as well from my network. We figured we could put the icing on our cake there. 

The wind was blowing pretty good and it was getting a bit lumpy, but we kept at it. We made a couple passes and hooked and landed a small king, as well as missed a couple bites and finally hooked young Alex the king he'd come for. Finally, and right down to the wire! I had 15 minutes to make it to the fuel dock before it closed, but we skated in just in the nick of time! 

So as I said, good but frustrating. I had confidence we could pull it off and we did...but it was absolutely right down to the wire!!

August 28, 2012

August 26-27 & 28th Updates - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

I never had any idea what I was getting into with these updates. It would'nt be a problem if I had Internet service and could use my laptop, but I'm typing these all with my phone. I had typed out another update early this morning before I left my camp, and managed to loose the while thing. Second time that's happened this week. How frustrating!

Well the last 3 days have been crazily different. On Sunday we had the worst weather you could imagine. It was cool, very windy, and raining to boot. It was frustrating because it drastically reduced the options of what we potentially good spots we could fish. There was a decent bite going on the Oregon side above the bridge, and we manged a decent king on our first pass, but then it turned into a pick bite where we were seeing a fish caught here or there, but not steady bites. We kept making passes, and got bit 3-4 more times, but could'nt get them to stick. We finally couldn't take the wind and rain any longer and called it a day. We ended with 6 bites, 1 chinook and 1 hatchery silver kept.

Yeaterday it was much better. It stayed calm most of the day, and we were able to get some good fish right off the bat. Since we were starting right after the beginning of the outgoing tide, I decided to run straight to Buoy 20. We were going to drop some crab pots as well, so the combination of tides and spots was ideal. After dropping the pots right off Social Security Beach, we motored just shy of Buoy 20 started to let our lines out, and were bit before the 3rd line went in the water. Wow! That's was cool! We landed the fish and it turned out to be our best of the day and was probably pushing 25 pounds.

We pounded it out for the next hour and a half and manged to land 3 more nice kings, and loose one other. It was good. The best part is we might have been one of 4-6 boats fishing the spot. Sweet!

When we had gone a bit of time without a bite, I figured it was time to move up the river since the fish riding the tide had probably passed us. We ran up to Hammond, and started making a pass there. We hooked a couple more fish, but never managed to land anymore during a picky little bite.

When the tide was coming close to ending I decided we should run to the end of the sands to see if anything might pop. We pulled in and there were almost no boats. I though about sticking it out, but it seems to have been dying lately, so I didn't want to spend a ton of time checking it out. We made a medium length pass and marked very few fish, so I decided it was time to bail up to the Washington Side above the bridge. This area was fishing unbelievably well, but has been a bit temperamental the last few days. I started in at 30 feet and was starting to troll up when I got a call there was a hot bite at Rice Island. We picked up and ran to it. There was deffinitely a bite going on, but we couldn't get bit. Not sure why, because I'm usually right in the mix if there's a bite happening, but you know how it goes. Sometimes it's your turn, and sometimes it's not! The wind started to kick up on our second pass and I knew it could end up being a booger to run through a chop built by wind against tide, so we headed for the Oregon side above the bridge. We got to where the last ship is and dropped in and hooked a fish immediately. It was a small chinook, legal, but small so we let him go. We did'nt go another 50 yards and missed one, and another 50 yards and got a Tulle. Wow, some fish are here! We got set and started in again and landed a nice upriver fish about 15 minutes latter. The wind was still building so I figured this was as good a place and time to end the day.

We ended up with 5 nice chinook, 2 releases, and probably another 6-7 bites. A very nice day!

Today I tried to repeat yeaterday, and almost managed it without the run to Rice Island or the Washington Side above the bridge. We started at 20, but somebody besides me let the cat out of the bag. We had 100 of our best fishing buddies join us for the party. We still manged just fine and input first pass Hooked around 10 fish and boxed 2 of them, and released a couple small silvers and an undersized chinook.

We ended up having to make a run back to the moorage at Astoria to pick up some stuff one of my clients had forgot, and this made us miss following the fish back. The wind was already coming up so I decided to troll the Green Can line down. I went right below the bridge, found. 30 feet and started trolling downstream against the tide. I was marking a bunch of fish, so after not getting bit for a while I turned around and started trolling with it. We hadn't gone far and got a ripping bite that tore a bunch of line off and then started coming back towards us. About this time a seal popped up, and the fish rolled on type right next to him. Can you guess what happened next? You guessed it, the seal managed to capture our fish and eventually break us off, but it was exciting while it lasted. We hooked 3 more trolling up, but no more big fish.

We ran up to the ships and started a pass down, and hooked a couple more landing a few more small fish, and missing a few others. It started to get a bit frustrating, but you have to take it as it comes.

We ended the day with 2 nice fish kept, 4 released undersized chinook, and 3 small wild silvers. I have no idea how many bites we missed. A lot! Twelve...fifteen? We cranked through the herring, that's for sure.

3 clients for tomorrow, so hopefully we can improve those statistics!

August 26, 2012

August 25th Update - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

Update August 25th

I just finished typing a long update and managed to loose the entire document by rushing as I begin falling asleep. Dang, what a bummer...

Had a great day, and manged to limit my clients out on kings by 8:30. It made the day extremely relaxing, and we had a lot of fun fishIng, talking and hoping for a few coho to add to our fish box.

I would love to retype my earlier update, but even though I was off the water very early for me, I'm still absolutely wiped out. I've been nodding off again as I type this. My day began at 4:00, and it's now 8:45 and I haven't stopped moving. No, I'm not complaining. I love what I do, and I'm not unhappy about it in any way, but just want any of you readers out there to know why I'm not always giving you more info. I want to, I really do, but the reality of my tired body is limiting some of my ability to write.

Anyway, we landed 3 chinook and one coho today, broke off a king, and lost two others on spinners as well as miss a couple other bites. It was a great day, made even better by the fact we steered clear of all the crowds. A nice way to spend the day.

The tides are starting to (503) 946-3434
Portland, ORgrow again, so it'll be interesting to see how this week fishes. It looks like Buoy 10 might close for chinook on Friday, so this is might be the last hurrah for 2012 kings here in Astoria. I'm bummed in a way, but I'm also looking forward to my own bed again too!

Anyway, I have a couple opening left this week, so give me a call if your interested in getting in on this great fishery before she winds all the way down.

See you again tomorrow!

August 25, 2012

Online Update August 21 - A day in the life.

by John Childs

August 21 Update- A Day in the Life (And a Few Days More)

Yesterday was a good day. Better than good. I had one client, a very light day, and yet we fished well for only having 2 rods in the water. We had 6 bites, and landed 6 fish. My best conversion rate of the year! Of course that means I'm tempted to start thinking I have some things figured out, which is always the point where the pendulum swings the other way and it seems everything you thought you knew  now seems irrelevant. 

I've switched to 3 hook rigs, and immediately my bite to land ratio went up. Now I've slowed down just a bit when I get bit. Not slow speed wise, but me. I admit I get excited when we get bit, just like anyone else. At times I have been patient through the bites, but sometimes here at Buoy 10, I tend to rush to the hook set. Some of the grabs where so fast and hard in the beginning, I started to forget a VERY basic premise of fishing herring...WAIT THROUGH THE BITE! Wait and you'll already hook more than you miss. How do you know when to wait or when to set? When the rod is bouncing up and down, where it comes almost all the way up and flat after the bite you should wait. When the rod stays down and bent over with the fish peeling line off the reel, then you should set. 

I wrote the last couple of paragraphs a few days ago, and it was already late at night and I was due in Garibaldi the following morning at 5:00 am to captain a trip for my good friend Dick Crossley. Dick had donated a tuna trip to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but had recently undergone shoulder surgery and wasn't able to run the trip himself. Mr. Crossley has been an amazing friend to me, always available to help with anything, and someone you could trust your life with. When he asked if I could help him I dropped everything I had going and headed to Little Italy. Besides, who wouldn't enjoy a day captaining a beautiful 30 foot Grady White Marlin for albacore? 

I did enjoy it, and we caught a mess of fish too! Dicks good friend (mine too!) Dale, helped me by running the deck. What a great guy! We've even fished enough together now we don't really even need to talk about what needs to be done, we just do it !

We ended the day with 25 tuna, the vast majority of which were hooked by jigging or casting swimbaits. I got to experience one of my favorite boats, chasing one of my favorite fish, using my favorite techniques, and I didn't even have to reel them in. Awesome!

I really want to keep going with this, but I'm going to skip straight to the nitty gritty or the update will be another day late. It's now. 9:40 and I've slept roughly 10-12 hours in the last 4 days. I'm wasted tired, and nodding off as I type. 

Yesterday the 23rd, I fished 3 gentleman which I used as a pre-fish for the NSIA Salmon Tournament. We let 3 chinook go, and killed 3, and released a wild coho. I think we missed 2 other bites.  A good day, and it helped me make a plan for the following day. 

Today was the tournament and we killed 4 chinook and one coho, and released a wild silver. We missed a bunch more. So many more that i won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say we had WAY more than out share of fish. 

I'm nodding off now, so I hope to update this again tomorrow. 

See you out there!

August 21, 2012

August 20th Update - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

August 20th Update - A Day in the Life

I fished the same two clients today and we had our opportunities, but it wasn't lights out. We landed 2 coho (one keeper), 1 chinook, lost two chinook, one right by the boat and missed 3 other bites. An ok day, especially considering we only had 3 rods to work with, but I would have liked to see more. We caught the first fish and lost it right by the boat on one of my custom pink spinners. I love getting them on gear I've made myself! To bad we didn't land it!  About the time the tide had really turned and began running in, we hooked, landed and released a wild coho. This fish came to bait. 

We lost a ripper of a chinook in the middle of the tide in front of the Ice House. the grab was a classic slam grab and run, but it came unpinned on the first run. Dang, two chinook lost 

We missed a grab on a spinner, and then landed a coho that we kept on a herring at 65 feet on the line counter. I think it was lost! 

We finally landed a chinook at the tail end of the incoming tide in the church hole on a spinner. There was a decent pick bite there, and a few people I know really made their day fishing here for the last part of the incoming. 

I'm now out of good herring. I need to find some, but don't know where to go. Frustrating. I've already gone through a case, and at the rate I'm burning it, I'll use another case and a half by the end of the month. Crazy! 

Spinners do seem to be working better and better, so hopefully this will continue to improve. 

Well, another day is beginning as I write this, so wish us luck in finding our fish. 

August 20, 2012

August 19th Update

by John Childs

August 19th Update - A Day in the Life 

Today was a bit frustrating. Have you ever had the experience of feeling no matter what you did, you were a day late and a dollar short? That was my day today. 

It started early again, with me waking up at 4:00, way ahead of my alarm. Oh well, I'm getting used to the early mornings. Might as well get a few things done and then get to the boat early and clean things up, tie leaders, and just keep working at staying ready and organized. 

 I'm rigged and ready when my clients arrive, and they show up a bit early so we are away from the dock by 8:45. Yeah, I know that seems late, but the morning outgoing tide just hasn't been fishing well. I planned on starting at the green can line across from Youngs Bay, but on the short run down from the marina I got a call from my friend Josh Hughes who said there was a steady pick of fish at the point of Desdamona, so we ran for it. We pulled in and hooked two fish and landed one right away. Perfect, the hardest fish of the day was already on ice! The guides relaxing, the stress level diminishes...then we go 4 hours with only one more bite. We see a few caught around us, nothing amazing, but in my experience I should be getting bit, but nothing doing. 

Last night I put in a new VHF radio, and I was starting to worry about possibly having a short creating a hot boat problem. I start getting a bit twitchy, maybe a bit wound up. We just keep grinding at it, and finally we get a grab but it comes unpinned. Damn, all that time and we loose the fish. Luckily a few minutes latter we hook and land another nice one. A chrome bright upriver fish. Cool! 

We kept at it and landed 1 more, missed a couple, and lost 1 other. By my tally we hooked 5, landed 3 for 9 grabs. Not great fishing by an stretch, but not horrible either. The only bad part was waiting so long between one and two. It's probably because I told my clients the first one is always the hardest to catch! 

We did get 2 bites on spinners, 2 on anchovies with a hoof, and the rest on herring. All the fish we landed were on herring. The last part of he incoming tide by far was our best stretch. 

I'm really looking forward to the soft tides his coming week!!

Two of my clients from today return for tomorrow, so hopefully we can find a better day for them!!

August 19, 2012

August 18th Update - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

August 18th Update - A Day in the Life

Today was a good day! I can't claim the fishing was hot, and if anything would have to say it was a bit lacking in the bite department. For the last week there has been a bite somewhere between Buoy 14 and the Saw Dust Pile everyday. Just keep working around until you find it, but today it seems to have disappeared. I did here of a true snap at the end of Desdemona today, and got there in time to see the remnants of it, but it was already over. It seemed whatever started to go, died just as fast. I've been here 9 days now and this was the worst bite I've seen. 

We still managed a decent day though, with 4 chinook landed and 1 coho, 1 chinook lost, and two swings and misses. Not a bad day when I didn't see more than 30-40 fish caught all day. 

The gravy came when we landed a fish over 40 pounds. The first bonafide 40+ fish in my boat this year, and when it's been that long for a big-un, they look even bigger! I was shocked and thrilled at the size. Several of my friends saw the fish and they all agreed it was the biggest they've seen so far this year. Cool!!! The best part is it kinda made the day for my clients! Awesome finish to an already great day!

We finally got some spinner fish, and all I can say is pink. Pink. PINK! Get my drift? They liked em! Fist 3 grabs came to the same pink blade. 

The bite above the bridge also seemed to die on the vine today. The outgoing above the bridge bite has been money for me lately, but today it was slower, but still golden when a 40+ pounder comes to net!

Blue label herring have also been one of my best baits, and today it was all blades or greens. 

Also, the early morning outgoing had almost been useless. I canceled my clients for early departures and left the dock at 9 today, and tomorrow too. Why waste the time looking around? 

Anyway, another long day as it started at 4:30 (couldn't sleep) and just finished at 10:30. Long, long hours,but it's all good because really, I couldn't be happier with the way I'm living my life. 

See you on the water tomorrow. 

August 18, 2012

August 16 & 17th - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

August 16 & 17th Update - A Day in the Life

I've had a couple tough days. Yesterday we only landed one, but we also got off the water way to early. I have been getting most of my fish in the afternoon on the outgoing tide, but I've also been getting a few each morning. Yesterday we couldn't buy one during the incoming tide. We got bit 3 times, and one stuck long enough to let us clear lines and get the net, and then he came off. Frustrating! 

The tides are now pushing really hard. It's a holding game against the tide, or backing down slowly. No more forward trolling into the tides. This has turned the spinner bite on some. I'm still getting most of my bites on herring, but I did get 2 fish on spinners today and missed another and I know a few guys who are getting them all on spinners. Tomorrow I'm going to fish way more spinners and see what happens. 

Today we landed 5, lost 2, and missed 2 others. My second slowest bite day. I saw a few good bite stretches along the Saw Dust Pile and Hammond, but I couldn't get hit myself. Want to talk about getting a guide tweaky! Just put him in the middle of boats hooking up and make sure he can't hook up too. Quick way to get super frustrated. Oh well, I guess you can't get them every time. 

Well, my morning started at 4:30, and I left my boat at 7:30 this evening after cleaning everything up, came back and made bait, tied some spinners, and cleaned myself up. I'm exhausted and I'm falling asleep as I write this. I'll touch base again tomorrow. 

August 15, 2012

August 15th - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

 August 15th Update - A Day in the Life

I'm keeping the promise of daily updates, but wow am I tired. Today was a bit of a tough day, and fairly slow for the first couple of hours. We had just a bit of outgoing tide this morning, changing into a 6 plus foot incoming tide. There's been a decent bite, almost a really good one, in front of Hammond the last few days, but as the tides get bigger it has kept getting slower and slower. Kinda frustrating. Waiting for something to happen you're sure will, then nothing. Or at least almost nothing. 

We landed one nice fish, and broke off another, and missed 2 other opportunities from the Saw Dust Pile all the way to Buoy 14. It was spotty and slow at best. 

On good intel I heard I might want to make a move to the Washington side, and chose to check it out. We made the run and we found a few fish. We hit a bunch of small guys, but a couple nice ones as well. We ended up landing 6, keeping 4, all chinook. We lost 4 others, and who knows how many misses. We were one from limiting, and I fished way to late trying to make it happen. Oh well, it was still a fun day!

The day started at the bright and early stroke of 3:00 am when I woke up and wrote the last update. Afterwards I got up, loaded my bait and stuff in the truck and headed for the boat. I got things a bit more arranged and was just about ready when my clients arrived. We fished all day, and hit the dock at the to late hour of 5:30 pm. With a 6:00 am start, that makes for a long day. 

I write this in a restaurant with my family while we wait for food. I finished cleaning the boat around 7:45, and only have to cure my eggs, prepare tomorrows bait and take a shower before it all starts again! Truly long days, but I admit I love what I'm doing. Yes, I might get a bit tired, but overall it's the life I want. 

I have clients again at 6:00, so hopefully we can put another decent day in. 

Final tally...hooked around 14, landed 6, killed 4. 

August 15, 2012

August 14th Update - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

August 14th Update - A Day in the Life

Well I guess I've failed pretty bad at this endeavor, but I'm going to try and get back on track today. So here's a short but sweet facts and tidbits update for the last 4 days. 

My days are now all blending together. They're a blur of smiling faces, ripping line, sunshine, wind and of course chromed kings! While I would be remiss to tell you we've absolutely wacked them, it's been consistently decent. I could have limited the boat any day but yesterday, and if not for the tactical problem of a string of mishaps, we probably could have limited then as well. 

 Yesterday we had one of the mornings where anything that could go wrong did. I figured out a long time ago, that the more I want something to happen when I'm fishing the less likely it seems it comes together, and yesterday was one of those days. I was booked by a gentleman who works with my wife, and he brought his better half along. He requested that my wife come along as well. Who am I to say no to this? I love fishing with Carol (my wife), so it was a no brainer! This couple doesn't fish much, although I think they really would like too. So of course this makes me really want to make their day something special, a day to remember. A day of fish, smiles and friends!

Well, as I said, if I really want it bad, it's usually not so good for the fishing outcome! If you can believe it, we hooked 11 fish before one finally came over the gunnel. I will admit here, but reserve the right to deny the truth of the statement later, that I might be a little high strung until the first fish lands in the bottom of the boat. Of course that means yesterday I was strung tighter than a bow string! I was twanging like mis-released arrow! I was trying so hard to hold it together, but wow, how do you miss so many in a row! It was a series of tactical errors, mistakes (mine and theirs) and plane crumby luck. And oh yeah, I really wanted it! 

We lost the first one because when we hooked up everybody just sat there looking at each other instead of clearing lines. Okay, first mistake of mine. You have to give the drill talk to people who don't fish much. How would they possibly know what needs to happen to make it go like a well oiled machine unless I tell them?! Okay, so I relayed the drill, reset the lines and off we go. 

A swing and a miss, then a solid hookup. We clear the lines like pros, then start playing the fish. We get it right up to the boat, the fish dives hard and all the sudden the line pops free and no more fish. I see we aren't attached, look back in he water just in time to see my flasher swim casually past the boat trailing a beautiful 15 pound chinook. I look at the business end of the connection, and we have a straightened duo-clip. Okay, two mistakes on my part... Uh oh, not doing so hot...

And this run of bad luck and mistakes continued right up until lucky 11, craps! We finally subdued and landed a mint bright hatchery coho of 6 pounds or so. Bonus fish! Except we didn't have any chinook for it to add to the bonus!

Finally, with the ice broken, we manage to land 3 chinook as well, and end our day catching 4 fish, while missing an astounding 14! I guess it's always good to end a day on a high note though, and this is a goal we accomplished very handily!

Here are the hard stats for the other two fishing days since the last update. Saturday was the seminar up at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville, which went well, but was four and half hours up, and another four and a half back, with a very tired John aboard thanks to the crazy twenty something's two camps over partying Friday night until who knows when...I left at 4:30 and they were still partying. Loudly!

Sunday, we killed 3 chinook and one silver, and released another 5 kings for being small or Tulle's. We had a total of 19 opportunities. 

Monday we had an amazing 24 bites and I honestly lost track of how many we released, but it was a fair amount. We killed 3 chinook. On this day there was an over abundance of Tulle's around, so we released more than our share! If we had kept every king, we would have limited by 8:30 or 9:00 (there are very few coho around, so 1 king a person is effectively limits right now. I'm only averaging one hooked coho a day!). 

Some tidbits...

The spinner bite has just been so-so. I'm not running a ton of blades, so of course this skus the stats, but I'm getting one or two fish a day on blades. 

Herring has been my go to bait, and I've been fishing them behind divers and a flasher on short leaders, 36 inches long. 

The incoming has been biting best so far, especially down low from Hammond all the way to Buoy 22, maybe farther. I've heard of incoming bites in other spots, but this is where I've been. Yesterday didn't have nearly as good of an incoming bite as Sunday or Monday. The outgoing tide has been scratchier, seeming to be more of a grind it out thing than anything else. Pick your spot and grind out a few more. 

Well I guess that's more than a few down and dirty details. I hope to be back on track now for daily updates, and will try to get another up tonight. 

And BTW, I'm still posting from my phone, so this is why I haven't added pics. I hope to remedy that soon.

August 10, 2012

August 10th - A Day In the Life

by John Childs

August 10th Update- A Day In the Life

We made good with the intel from fishing yesterday. I can't say it was red hot, and I can't say we killed them, but we landed 8 fish out of 19 bites, 3 of which were nice adult kings. The rest were little feeder kings. A couple of the bites we missed seemed like pretty good fish, and I had two on that both were definitely adults, one which felt very large from the weight and super heavy head shakes, but both of those came unpinned. It was a day where you expected to see the rods fold before to long of a wait, but it wasn't hot and heavy either. 

We fished the same way as yesterday with the one change of immediately going below the bridge on the Washington side and it paid off in a decent catch. We could have limited if we wanted on kings, but we were determined not to keep any of the super small feeders. Again, these are fish bigger than the 24" minimum length, but they aren't over 5 pounds in weight. 

We did have a double today, which was pretty cool. One of those fish turned out to be a feeder, while the other was a quality sized keeper chinook. I netted the bigger fish first while my friend Chad played the feeder. We knew we where going to release the smaller fish and wanted to make sure we got the larger fish in the net since it was the first fish we kept. First blood is always the hardest to get! Anyway, I netted the larger fish, then grabbed the pliers and grabbed the leader for the feeder king. As I reached down with the pliers to grab the hooks a seal materialized out of nowhere and grabbed the little king as I was reaching for the hooks. Scared the bejesus out of me!! Chad too!! We both were freaking out! It was like jaws materializing below you as you start to jump in the water...spooky! Unfortunately he did get the little chinook. Luckily he didn't get John!!

The tides were small today and we fished all herring with delta divers, flasher and a 5 foot leader. The herring were all blue labels and for four anglers we went through about 4 dozen herring through the day. I've been meaning to get some of my blades in the water, but with it being my first couple of days back, I'm trying to get into the swing of things instead of trying different techniques. When the tides get ripping next week the spinners will become a much bigger part of my game plan. 

When we got back to the dock we shot some pictures, cleaned the boat and the fish, and then I headed back to my camp. After cooking some dinner I headed over to my boat to get some gear that I need for a seminar up in Woodinville WA., tomorrow at Three Rivers Marine. I'm going to be helping out my friend and fellow guide Josh Hughes, so stop by if your in the area. 

I'll add some pictures when I get a hot spot, but for now I'm posting these by my phone, so I can't add pictures onto the server. 

August 10, 2012

August 9th Update- A Day In the Life

by John Childs

August 9th Update - A Day In the Life 

This is going to be a short update! I ended up packing and redoing things until 11:00 pm last night, and my wake up was an extremely early 2:00 am. It's 9:00 pm as I write this and I've been going since waking up at 1:45 before my alarm even had a chance to do its job. Tired is an understatement!

I got to the boat about 4:45 this morning and quickly loaded it with my gear, arranged as best I could with such short notice, and then my clients arrived. We ran heavy with gear today  because I didn't have the opportunity I had hoped for of getting everything ultra organized and arranged. That will have to happen tomorrow evening. 

We pulled away from the dock at a little before 6:00, and made the short run to Young's Bay. Everyone else had the same idea, so we began the morning trolling amongst several hundred of our new best friends. There were a fair amount of boats, but nothing like it can be, so it was fairly relaxing. That is until the wind hit at 8:00 or so! Then it became a bit more challenging to run a line. 

Nothing happened for the first hour, but a half hour before slack water a few fish started to be caught, and we joined in the fun right below the Skipanon River. We must have got bit 8 or 9 times within 10 minutes, and landed one little feeder king we released (bigger than a jack, but clearly not an adult) and missed a real good fish that ripped drag on the grab several times, but unfortunately missed the hooks. While this took place, I was baiting hooks as fast as I could get them in the water, just to see the rod rip down a couple times and then go slack. How frustrating!

We made a few more passes, but it was clearly over by 9:00, so we decided to run over to the Washington side and troll below the Bridge. I couldn't resist starting a mile or so above Megler Bridge, but to no avail. 

There were some boats trolling the 20-30 foot contour line below the bridge and when we got down to them we saw a pick bite, where every 30-40 minutes you'd see somebody with a fish on. After an hour trolling downstream my rod took a couple dips, then pounded down. I revved the motor up and told one of my clients to grab the rod. I cleared his rod as I noticed the fish running around the back of my motor. I said something about watch your line on the motors, stowed his rod, turned around in time to see the flasher and leader come sliding across the top behind the boat. Somehow the hooks pulled, and another fish was lost. 

We trolled through low slack, then made the turn and trolled back up towards the bridge, but never had another opportunity. 

The conditions were mostly clear today, but it was absolutely blowing like a banshee! It can and does get considerably worse, but nonetheless it was taxing. I couldn't be lax on the motor at all or we were immediately turned a different direction, and it was hard to keep a consistent depth or speed. 

We ended up landing only the one small feeder, and two errors, and a plain silly amount of missed fish. Crazy day...that goes to show you can't win them all!

Tomorrow I'm meeting a good friend to fish on his boat, but I know where we need to be for each of the tide stages, so hopefully we can turn the intel into a bit better outcome!

August 08, 2012

August 8th- A Day in the Life- Day 3

by John Childs

August 8th – A Day in the Life of a Guide

Well, as you know if you started to follow my blog, I meant to get to Astoria today, but as of 6:30 I'm still here at the house packing and getting everything ready. It does truly amaze me how much time it takes to get anything accomplished.

I got home yesterday from my road trip, and by the time I pulled up to the house and unloaded my gear it was 8:30. I started packaging the spinner blades on my drying racks so I could ship my Anglers Market order, and also to store the balance for easy retrieval latter. I was working on this when my youngest son asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with the family. How do you say no to something like that? Especially when you're getting ready to be gone for the next month, so I did the right thing and went downstairs and watched another installation of Harry Potter with the family. I have way too much to do, but yet family time is SO important. My boys are at the age were it won't be long now before they don't want anything to do with me, so I feel I need to enjoy the time when I can!

Picture of my spinner blades in their drying racks.

So this morning I got right back into the swing of things and finished packaging up all the spinner blades. Then I stripped top shots off of 14 reels, and then put fresh mono shots back on them, and then re-rigged everything for fishing Buoy 10. Last week when I made a run down to put the boat in moorage, I really just got by with my rigging. It was rigged right, but on to light of line, with leaders maybe a touch lighter than I want to fish down there. Today I put 30 and 40 pound Maxima Hi-Vis line on my line counters, which I feel much more comfortable with when we have the opportunity of tangling with some dang big kings! I heard my friend Wayne Priddy caught a 49 pounder last week (and yes that's a confirmed catch!) just offshore of the Columbia! Fish that size demand slightly heavier line to give a little cushion to the whole system.

This is a Picture of my rod & reel arsenal. I'm using G Loomis 1084's, 1174's, and 1265's with Shimano Tekota line counters. 500 size on the 1174 and 1265's, and 300LC's on the 1084's. The 500LC's have 50 yards of 40 pound Hi-Vis Maxima top shots, with 50 pound Power Pro Spectra main line. The 300LC's have 30 pound Hi-Vis with the same Power Pro main line. The 300's won't fit long enough top shots with 40 pound, so they get the lighter line. I use the different rods to add spread, so the front rods are 10 feet 6 inches, the middle rods are 9 feet 9 inches, and the back rods are 9 footers.

After getting the rods rigged I had to do some mundane chores like run to the back, pick up some last minute tackle at Fisherman's Marine, mail the blade order off to Anglers Market, and look for a dock cart to move my gear back and forth from the boat. Boring, but absolutely necessary jobs.

Finally I got home about 3:00 and began putting my gear in the truck in earnest. I've had ideas of everything that needs to go for weeks, but I never actually sat down and made the list. Well, that's catching up to me now! I keep thinking of things I need to remember to bring along. It's just one thing after the other, and the back of my pickup has started to look like a flea market! But it's finally coming together.

I have plans to fish tomorrow morning, and had so wanted to get an early start out of Portland today so I could get my camp set up and the gear down to the boat, but as you can see, I'm not really there yet. I've decided one more night at home with a super early departure is necessary. I don't want to get to Kamper's West at 10:00 pm tonight and bother other people while I set camp up, so I'll meet my clients in the morning bright and early, and then set up camp in the afternoon. Not how I'd like to do it, but necessary at this point.

Now I will spend the rest of the evening puttering around adding things to my list, and I'm sure remembering those little things that might slip through the cracks when you're not smart enough to start making the list a week earlier!

Tomorrow night I'll have an update on how the fishing is, and hopefully some pictures of some mint bright kings! I heard from a friend today it's been fishing pretty decent, so we'll have more news about what I see after a day on the river. Wish us luck!!

A picture of the nicest fish we caught last Thursday at the CR Buoy.

August 07, 2012

August 7th Update - A Day In the Life of a Guide

by John Childs

August 7th Update

Well I didn't get an update up last night, so I figured I update this morning. My niece got married last night in the Columbia Gorge, and by the time I got home there was no way I was going to write an update.

I'm currently sitting in the passenger seat of my buddies Ford F250, on our way to Ellensburg WA to see our friends at Pautzke's. They are nice enough to help me out with a lot of the cures and brines I use, and since freight is so expensive they ask us to come and pick it up instead of shipping it. Well, how do you say no to that? So most of my day is going to be spent on this run.

After our visit with Pautzke's, we have to make a run through Auburn to see Danielson to pick up a few more crab pots. Busy day! Especially since I really need to be packing for my departure for Astoria tomorrow.

Since my last post I managed to get all my spinner blades clear coated, and even built a few spinners for Buoy 10. I sharpened a pile of hooks, cut leader lengths, and picked up 30 and 40 pound Hi-Vis Maxima line to freshen up my reels, and then as mentioned above, went and spent a great family day at my nieces wedding.

Maybe I'll actually slow down next week when I actually get to start Fishing!

Anyway, I'll try and update again tonight when I'm not sitting in a vehicle typing on my phone!

Talk with you again soon!

August 05, 2012

Buoy 10 - A Day-by-Day Look Into the Life of a Guide

by John Childs

Buoy 10
A Day-by-Day Look Into the Life of a Guide

I've thought about doing this for a long time, and I've decided to try it. I'm going to TRY and give a daily update for the next four and a half weeks as I work through my Buoy 10 season. Being a new guide my days probably look a bit different than some of the seasoned guys out there, mostly in terms of way fewer bookings, but I've found I still stay busier than I would have ever believed with all kinds of other odds and ends that need to get done. It seems to be a never-ending procession of work, yet it all revolves around what I love, so it makes it a bit easier to do.

It seems in talking with people, most think a guides job is nothing but getting up early in the morning, putting the boat in the water, fish until 3:00 or so, take the boat out, then the rest of the day is ours. Well, in my experience this is so far from the truth to almost be laughable. It is easily one hour of work for every hour spent in the boat fishing, in preparation, cleaning, rigging and all sort of other little "jobs" that pop up all the time (like replacing messed up electronics, repacking trailer bearings, and that sort of thing). This daily journal through the Buoy 10 season should show a glimpse of what I'm talking about!

I also think some people think because we are guides we are super human in our fish catching abilities. While we often do catch more fish than a lot of other boats out on the water, we aren't super human fish catchers! We can go through the same tough dry spells any angler does, we just hope they don't happen often or last long!! I think part of the reason we catch more than our fair share of fish has more to do with being on the water all the time and seeing the small changes in the fishery as it develops, or conversely begins winding down. Fishing more rods also gives us an advantage in trying slightly different presentations on multiple rods and then to begin honing them down to exactly what the fish's preferences really are. And I guess it's also the small details. Things like getting the leaders exactly right, or making sure our herring has the roll we want, and not just letting it go at "that's good enough."

Well enough about all that. I'm going to try and get daily postings up over the next month, but at times it may be a day or two when I hit some really busy spots and don't have time to sit down and write, but I'll make every attempt at keeping this as current as possible. So come along with me for the ride, see the fishery through the eyes of someone who stays there for the whole month, and hopefully have some fun as we experience my first full time Buoy 10 season as a guide.

August 5th

Might as well start with today. It's still morning so I might have more this evening or tomorrow, but I already have a crazy busy day in the making.

Before I had decided to make the transition to full time guide, I had started a small spinner making company. I've been buying spinner blades wholesale and painting them, as well as building complete spinners for the last year. Like any new business it hasn't exactly taken off, but I haven't really marketed it either. But I've worked in the Outdoor Industry for over 20 years, so I know a lot of industry people. I showed my work to many of my friends and co-workers, and I got lucky enough to have started a working relationship with Anglers Market. They have been producing products for the Kokanee fisherman for a while, but they are expanding into the Salmon & Steelhead market, and they asked me to paint blades for them. We've been working through samples now for about two months, and recently sold a selection to Fisherman's Marine for early spring delivery 2013. (Yes, it takes that long to get new products out into the market. Not only do we have to get the designs down pat, we also have to get backer cards printed, packaging ordered, and then the product has to be built, so it takes a LONG time!) This has left me with the need to get some early ordered product off to Joe at Anglers Market so he can begin building his spinners. I've painted all the blades he's ordered, but I have to get the final clear coat on them today, so a couple hours behind the paint gun is my first duty of the day.

I also have to drive out to Hillsboro and meet my friend Tim Schoonover. He recently purchased Maxima America, and the entire operation has been shipped from California to Oregon, and he's begun setting up his warehouse operation here in town. He's got some hi-vis line I need for my Buoy 10 season, and I need to run out there and pick it up so I can get fresh mono on all my reels.

I have also decided to switch handle materials on all my rods. I hate the way cork get's absolutely hammered when fished hard, so a long time ago I started covering my cork to keep my rods in really good shape. I fish high-end gear, all Shimano and G. Loomis, and it really bugs me to see this expensive gear start to look all worn around the edges, and the corks are the first place to really take a beating. For the last six or eight years I've been using Rod Wrap, which I really liked, but two years ago I found the heat shrink tubing covers called X-Flock. I like them even better, and I have a bunch of rods I need to get covered before I head out.

I also need to tie some leaders up. I haven't even started tying my Buoy 10 leaders, so I'm WAY behind on this little job as well.

Finally, I'm due to leave Portland and set my camp up on Wednesday at Kampers West in Warrenton. I haven't really begun getting all my gear together, so I need to get everything assembled for my camp as well.

I moved my boat down to the West Basin last Thursday, so at least that's taken care of, but I also have a 36' Motion Marine boat I'm moving down as well for the days I'm going to fish in the ocean, so I've got to figure out how I'm going to get both the boat and my truck to Warrenton. (I'm running the Motion down on it's hull, not trailering, so this presents another little issue in getting a vehicle to Astoria)

I'm sure I've forgot another item or two, but knowing how long it takes to get things done, my list already seems like a pretty long day. (And it may be a long day, but as stated earlier, I do love what I'm doing, so even though it may be a lot of work, it's work I ENJOY doing, so it's not so hard to get after it!!)

July 04, 2012

Razor Clamming Anyone?

by John Childs

Razor Clams Anyone?

Ever have one of those mornings where you wake up early for no apparent reason, and somehow you can tell you're up for the day whether you like it or not?

I found myself in that very situation yesterday morning, staring wide-eyed at the alarm clock at 4:15 am, knowing full well it was the beginning of my day. The day before I had asked the family if they were interested in hitting the 7:00 am minus tide at the beach for Razor Clams, but as you might guess, I didn't have any takers. As I lay there awake, wondering what to do with my day, a plan formed; maybe my kids said they didn't want to go, (two teenage boys who think getting up early sucks!) but I figured out a long time ago that sometimes you just have to take them anyway. They might moan and groan about it, but it seems in the end, they're always happy they went, so the decision was made. "I'm getting them up, and we're going clamming!"

I got my clothes on, poked my head in their rooms and got them up and moving, albeit grudgingly, and went downstairs to make coffee. I've always liked early mornings, and my favorites are the ones where I'm preparing for a day on the water. This day was no different, and I was extra pleased my son's were coming with me.

I went back upstairs to let my wife know our plans, and when I thought we'd be home. As you might expect, she was a bit groggy at first and unsure about what I was saying, but it suddenly became clear and she said, "You got the boys up and you are all going clamming? Well I'm going too!" And that was that! The family was going after all, regardless of what they had said the day before.

I have to admit for not having pushed hard enough about outdoor activities when my boys where younger. Nobody ever really wanted to go, and pushing everyone to do it anyway always turned the activity into a lot of work (that was generally unappreciated). I regret not doing it anyway back then, but now I'm making up for lost time. So long story short, none of my family had ever been beach clamming before. I had managed to get them out a couple of times in Tillamook bay to rake cockles, but never an early morning beach jaunt for razors. This would be a new experience for them.

We ended up not getting the early start I had hoped for when I woke up, but I also knew we didn't have to be right on the surf line to get razor clams, so as long as the surf wasn't way up and pushing in early we'd manage just fine.

At the bright and early stroke of 7:00 am, we finally make it onto the beach with our bags, clam guns and shovels. This time of year always brings out a fair amount of clammers, and this day was no exception, but in short order we found a stretch of beach that wasn't overloaded, and began our search.

We walked towards the surf line, and in an area of wet sand removed from the rolling waves a bit, I started looking for shows, pounding the wet sand a bit with the butt of my shovel, and almost immediately found a couple of clam shows. They quickly turned into a couple of fresh razor clams in my boy's bags, and maybe a hint of a few smiles as well! We found a show for my wife, and everyone was off and running, looking for there own clams and digging away.

Do you remember the first time you tried digging razors, or any clam for that matter? The first part of any hunt and gather excursion is learning "WHAT" to look for, and this trip was no different. I witnessed a lot of holes being dug without a clam at the bottom, but they were finding a few, and were super pleased whenever a "suspected" show they had found on their own turned into a clam in their bag! It was fun to watch, and all the while I kept hunting for shows myself, and calling whoever was closest over to dig the clam. I had decided from the go, 3 limits, or whatever we managed to get with 3 diggers was more than good enough, so I just looked for shows, pointed them out when I found them, encouraged, helped, and generally just enjoyed watching the world wake up from the best place on the earth, THE BEACH!

It was interesting to hear my wife comment that she was beginning to know what a clam show looked like, but more importantly, what "WASN'T" a clam show! She pointed out a few holes in the sand that had a divot of sand on one side and she said, "those are always these little shells and never a clam." Right on! She was really starting to put it all together!

We managed to find close to 30-35 clams. I never got a total count because it seemed irrelevant. My wife had managed to find 12, and my boys had 10 or 11 each. More than enough, especially as I saw my boy's interest begin to dwindle as the shows became less common, and we were going longer between each successful dig. The funny thing was watching my wife, who was absolutely engrossed in finding them. Both boys were ready to be done, but she wasn't even close to giving up! What a role reversal!! We decided to look for just a few more minutes, then we started back towards the truck, managing to find 3 more on our walk back.

What a wonderful start to the my day, and in more ways than one. While it had been a bit chilly when we started with a stiff onshore breeze, the cool weather was quickly forgotten as we walked and dug. Smiles abounded, and the best news came when we got in the car when all three of my new clam digging partners all said, "That was fun!!" A great conclusion to an already fantastic morning!

June 21, 2012

First Tuna Trip on the Secret Island Remembered

by John Childs

The First 2010 Oregon Sport Caught Tuna
The Quest…Remembered

Story of a great trip with Tron before the Secret Island sold, taken in early 2010.

Our story begins several weeks ago, maybe months, even a year (now, several years!)….it begins with a friendship formed, discussions comparing notes on how to consistently find tuna, tactics to catch them, especially as the seasons change, and how to do with style and aplomb….

In 2009 I spent the summer fishing with big Dan Mitchell on his 33 foot Striper "Sales Call." We were moored in Big Tuna Marine in Garibaldi, Oregon. A new boat (to us) had joined our port and was parked at the Bay House. It was the "Secret Island," a 50 foot Delta Sportfisher captained by Tron Bull. Dan had been gracious enough to put a trailer we termed the "Tailgater" in the parking lot above the marina. This wonderful gathering spot has a large projection TV screen at the back, 2 32" flat screens in each door, an incredible sound system, and a kegerator. We kept our gear in the trailer, with walls lined with rod racks and a large rack system at the back where we stored our terminal tackle. Well, as you can imagine with a place like this to hang out, we were often the gathering spot after most fishing days. Heck, we were the gathering spot whenever anyone was in town!

Tron happened to keep a less ostentatious, yet just as serviceable gear trailer right next to the "Tailgater". Of course we began hearing rumors of Tron shortly after we moved the boat over to her summer moorage in time for Halibut season, and soon we met him as he traversed the short walk between Secret Island and the Boat House while preparing his boat for the upcoming tuna season.

At first, we did nothing more than share a beer and the common knowledge that we all loved to fish, but as these things go, talk of fishing exploits past, and ones soon to come are always in the offing. As we began talking about our most cherished of pursuits, chasing tuna, we discovered we had a similarity. We were as interested in the how and why certain techniques worked, how the fish actually arrived at our lonely little spot on the planet, and what held them in place, or kept them in an endless flight in search of a meal. In short we learned we were "fish geeks," but all misfits must keep together and this is how the friendship formed. Some of the most memorable and fun summer moments began as we spent hours discussing what we had experienced over the last couple days, what had worked and why and how the fish had arrived at each destination. In the course of these discussion I learned a tremendous amount from Tron whose experience in this Northwest fishery went WAY beyond my own. It gave me those giddy moments of epiphany and often a certain clarity of WHY certain techniques worked, why I caught fish in certain places, and sometimes more importantly why I sometimes didn't. I like to kid myself that Tron learned some from me too, but I have to admit I am the junior partner!!

As the season progressed and he and his trusty partner and deck hand Chris Powers plied the waters of the North Pacific, we would often sojourn on the back of "Secret Island," or behind the tailgater to share a cold beer and debrief. We planned to make a trip or two together at some point, if for no other reason than to enjoy a day on the water with other fish addicted "geeks," but it never worked out. Between all of our schedules we just never found that opportunity to make it happen. It was a sad day at the end of the season when we hadn't accomplished our goal of getting offshore together and Chris had to return to his home in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Tron and I kept in touch, and talked often, continuing scheming about tuna. We both made several trips to Mexico and other points south in pursuit of our favored game fish, again comparing notes of successes, defeats, and plane old reconnoitering.

I spent a couple winter nights at his house in Netarts where we talked tuna late into the nights, watched videos each of us had shot while tuna fishing and just plane had fun talking all things fin related. More than anything else we decided the next year we would "REALLY" make sure we got out on the water together.

As the season approached we hatched plans, and endlessly perused SST shots of the Ocean. The current tongue needed to bring tuna to the Northwest began forming a couple times, but northerly blows here in the Northwest would dissipate the "highway" just as it would begin to look promising. Around the 3rd week of June we had promising water of Garibaldi, but it didn't really connect down into the zone. Could some fish made it through? Could they be in the warm blue water bubble we saw sitting out along the 125 00 line, teasing and tantalizing exploratory Hail Marry and us towards?

Enter the wonderful scientific community. I have to admit, enough time has past I'm not sure who it was anymore. Was it scientists from NOAA, or was it professors from a Northwest University. Honestly I'm not sure, but they came through in our hour of need. It seems they had a current buoy that had run out of batteries, and they couldn't maneuver it any longer. It's interesting that they could put a buoy in the water and through fins used to dive and a specific gravity that allowed it to dive or come to the surface, they could put in a GPS coordinate and the buoy would under wind and water currents would maneuver to the location. It allowed the scientist to study the way the currents work, and also extract all kinds of data about the water the buoy travelled through. Regardless, it had quit responding and they needed to someone to retrieve it. They called Tron and hired him and the "Secret Island" to help collect their wayward child, and Tron immediately called me and said get your buns down here and lets see if there might be fish in our bubble.

Obviously we couldn't really fish, but we did take some troll gear figuring once we had the buoy safely on board, the scientists wouldn't mind if we trolled a little on our way back in. What a plan; we could run out to the 125 line and actually check it out without having to burn our own fuel, and even better, we'd earn a payday while poking around. Sweet!!

We motored our way out to the coordinates the scientists had for the last location of the buoy. They had brought along all kinds of equipment to help us locate the buoy once we got close. I was up in the wheelhouse with Tron as we motored to the last location. As we neared it we saw a buoy on the surface. Tron asked me to let the scientists know we had reached their location. I went back and told them that we had arrived. They started to get their gear ready to track the lost buoy, and I said, "We actually already see the buoy. It's off our port bow." You should have seen the look on their faces. Incredulous is the only description I can give. I truly don't think they expected they could give a couple fishermen the GPS coordinates to the lost article and that we could drive straight to it, but that's exactly what had happened.

Well, we had arrived at our location, we had found the buoy and in short order retrieved it, but there was a portion of the day that wasn't as happy. The water was only 58 degrees. Now I know a few of you old salts out there know that doesn't really mean anything, and we knew it too. We knew albacore could easily be in water cooler than 60 degrees; the sinking feeling in our gut was the fact that this was the warmest bubble formed off our "tuna highway." The positives where it proved that the SST's we'd been looking at where almost exactly what we were reading through our instruments, and that there was a tremendous amount of life out here.

We asked the scientists if they minded if we deployed a couple of fishing lines and putted towards home on the first part of our journey back to the dock. They were so happy to have their "child" back they were immediately agreeable to our ploy. I even think one of them was intrigued at the chance of seeing a tuna come over the gunnel himself.

I'm sure you're guessing our outcome. Yes, it was to no avail, yet we had accomplished a look at water that had some hope, and well "COULD" have held some fish, yet we didn't find any in our brief interlude at the 125 line, but we had confirmed we could believe our SST's, and in fact could take the information we got from the satellites to the bank!

We continued to watch the water daily, but this year just kept giving us those bothersome north winds that keep turning the water, creating upwellings and generally wrecking havoc with the formation of our tuna highway. You can always take one thing to heart, the fish will eventually show, and a week latter we again had a fractured highway, but by central Oregon it looked like it should connect all the way to the central pacific.

I guess now our pursuit had become an obsession, and maybe a bit of a challenge to see if we could really land the first sport caught tuna in Oregon for 2010. Again, as this tongue of water began forming, we started to hatch a plan. As Tron so demurely stated, "it's an oppor-TUNA-ty!"

A plan is hatched! Tron told me to arrive at the docks in Garibaldi at 9:00 p.m. Friday to load bait and our gear, with a plan of heading straight offshore to the 125 00 line and then turning south and then pulling gear until we actually found the albacore party! So we started following our plan with preparations. We iced and fueled the boat, bought supplies, and Tron even allowed me to bring way to much fishing gear to the party (any of you who've fished with me know the what a gear crazy man I really am). Finally, we said goodbye to our wives, and told them we hoped to return by Sunday night at the latest, and off we went! We met at the dock at 9:00 p.m. along with Tron's new deck hand Vince, and proceeded to ease our way out to the 125 00 line hopefully to arrive by daylight.

We motored on the slow boat to the southern crosshairs (Garibaldi style!) and arrived right at 5:00 a.m. (It's amazing how comfortable the ride is heading out when you're only going 8 knots, instead of the 20 we usually try and make!) Surprisingly we had crossed the most life in this area at gray dawn at the 45 02, 124 52 to 124 55 line, but we waited to put the jigs in till we arrived at our appointed waypoint. We saw less life at about 58 degrees. It was a tad cool, and seemed to get cooler as we motored south.

We had set a southern goal of the Oregon/California border. There was a beautiful warm section of water starting at the 42 53, 125 11 line, and it extended all the way to the 126 line and beyond. We knew this section of water would be holding fish, but we also thought there were several spots that looked like they had potential between the Southern Crosshairs and the 43 degree line north.

We spent Saturday morning motoring down the line with sections of intense life, amazing masses of birds flitting, wheeling and diving over schools of pacific white-sided dolphins and pods of whales, but nary a glimpse of our main quarry. Tron had a Sitex system on his boat that he truly trusted, and he kept telling me how he almost always saw the fish on the scope before hooking them. So as we motor through these sections of life we intensely watch the temp gauge and the scope for signs of tuna. It was a true bout of two guys stuck to the "fish TV," the albies just never materialized.

Saturday evening around 5:00 pm we are beginning to get disheartened. We weren't as far down the line as we had originally hoped to be, and with an eta of a Sunday evening return to the Tillamook Bay Boathouse, we weren't sure we were going to make it to our warm water bubble. We sat down in the wheelhouse and talked through our strategy again. The water seemed to be "showing" slightly colder than we remembered and we weren't positive anything connected from the warm water to get us close enough to find some of those early northern pushing albies (Note to self- Always print out a SST map with coordinates attached instead of trying to remember where exactly the lines of warm water laid!). After an intense discussion of the merits of less haul a** downhill, too, "let's call the wives and tell em we broke down!" I remembered I'd saved one of the SST photos on my laptop. We pulled it out and went to work, hovering over it again, trying to determine if we were on the right path. And what do you know, we had been on the right path all along, and the best plan was just to continue on our course.

At 6:00 p.m. we started to see a bit of life, our water temp was a solid 59.1 and we were marking some fish that looked like they COULD BE tuna??? I was at the wheel, and I looked back and almost giddily yell, "Fish on!!" We had found them! Holy cow, our quest had worked, and we'd found the fish! We all ran to the back deck and landed a beautiful 15 pound silver bullet. High Fives all around, and maybe even another type of "silver bullet" to celebrate. It's amazing the satisfaction that roles over your body when a plan, a scheme many had poo-pooed, comes together successfully. We had accomplished our goal, but not only the goal of catching the first tuna of 2010 for the sport fleet, but had fulfilled a year and a half's plan of putting tuna on the deck together. It was a sweet moment!

We continued our course south and we caught another 9 tuna, and missed 5 or 6 others. It was far from epic fishing, but we also figured we were actually on the most northern push of tuna in Oregon. Who knows, but it sure sounded good! It felt like we might even have know what we were doing! As we continued the long troll to the south, the weather began to take a nasty turn. The wind gusts came up and soon we were rocking and rolling in a 6' wind chop. This is the moment when the realization hit us that we had accomplished our goal, but we were now 152 miles from the jetties, and would be hard pressed in this messy ocean to get home by our allotted Sunday evening.

We grudgingly (sort of…. We were stoked to have accomplished our goal!! Even though we had motored a long way (over 20 hours), we found that one hour of fishing had turned out to be worth every penny!!!), we turned the boat to the North, and started the slow slog up the line for home.

You want to know the best part? We had decided earlier in the day if we hadn't caught fish by 6:00 p.m. that evening, we were going to have to give in and throw the bananas and beer overboard! Hurray for us, we got to keep them too…

June 03, 2012

Tillamook Bay Mixed Bag Getaway

by John Childs

Tillamook Bay Mixed Bag

I love this time of year, and it's no wonder. Tillamook and other estuaries along the Oregon Coast begin to offer up a true sportsman's smorgasbord of fishing opportunity. Topping the bill is often the spring Chinook, but once you're in Garibaldi you might wonder if this is really the main event! Halibut, bottom fish, crabs and clams are also high on the list, and for some people, the main reason they are here. It's hard not to love a fishery with so many choices, and I anxiously wait for this season to arrive each year!

The weekend before last I was able to make my first yearly trek down to the bay and what a wonderful weekend it ended up being. For the most part the Ocean was very nice, and Saturday it got so flat I was able to run my 25' sled 35 miles an hour offshore and not even take a bump or a bang! The best part of the whole weekend was getting to experience almost every type of fishery this fantastic port offers. While I was there primarily for salmon fishing, I ran offshore to Halibut Hill on Saturday with my good friend Dick Crossley on his boat Tuna Time. I put crab pots down each day for fresh Dungeness, fished for springers in both the bay and offshore, and made a run for near shore halibut/bottom fish in my 25' Alumaweld Super V. While I have to admit the salmon fishing wasn't off the hook, I did manage to hook 3 fish in 2 days of fishing, but I also caught a really nice halibut, several species of bottom fish and a bunch of legal crabs. What a way to shake off the winter doldrums!

The only problem with this type of mixed bag fishing is trying to remember to bring all the right gear! You need salmon gear, crab pots, halibut gear, bottom fishing gear, and a rake & shovel for clams. It's one of those times where you really need to make a list, or something as simple as your halibut spreader bars, or worse yet your halibut weights, just might get left at home by accident. It can also be a bit of a chore getting everything stowed away and organized, but in the end it can be worth it when it all comes together for a Tillamook Mixed Bag!

For Salmon fishing, the small tides between the full and new moon are often the best fishing tides of each month. The smaller water flow during these tides allows for much better success rates. Tillamook bay can often have major weed problems, and whenever there is heavy tidal current it can become difficult to keep your gear working without weeding up. A general rule of thumb for fishing Tillamook bay, and this works for both spring and fall salmon fishing, is to focus on the mid to upper bay from the Ghost Hole to Memaloose when tidal flows are heavy, and fish the lower bay from Garibaldi to the jaws when tides are small, with special emphasis on the area from Lysters Corner to the Coast Guard tower. And if the Ocean plays nice, the south jetty outside the bay can also be a great place to fish.

While the spring run of fish doesn't get the amount of pressure you see during the fall, there are definitely people chasing salmon, so often finding other boats pursuing salmon will help alert you to areas you should concentrate on. One thing is certain; if you see a net flying somewhere, don't be in a rush to move on. These fish often travel in schools, or small pods, and you don't want to drive away from a group of biting fish! A good plan is after leaving Garibaldi Harbor, head towards the jetties and start fishing around Lyster's Corner. Generally you should troll with the tide, so if the tide is going out, I would start at Lyster's Corner (right beyond where all the rocks are sticking out of the bay) and troll along the North Jetty heading towards the tips. If the tide is coming in, reverse this scenario. Sometimes it can pay to troll into the tide, so pay attention to what others are doing, especially if they are finding success.

Standard herring rigs are a good place to start. I generally fish a 24" dropper with a 6 to 7 foot leader. I troll a few rigs with flashers, and a few without. This is not a fishery where you want to drag bottom, so drop your gear to the bottom, then take two to three cranks on the reel. Pay attention to make sure you aren't dragging or hitting bottom as you troll, and occasionally check to make sure you're staying close to the bottom. If you weed up, it will often lift your gear out of the strike zone. Because of all the weeds in Tillamook Bay, it often pays to use a ball bearing or rolling barrel bead chain swivel (I really like the Vision Rolling Barrel Bead Chains because they don't have a tendency to bind up when placed under a load.) in the middle of your leader, and sometimes it's wise to add a weed guard, which is simply a plastic sheath over the swivel to keep it from fouling. If the swivels get weeds wrapped around them, they often bind up, which will tangle your leader into a ball in short order!

This same rig/style of fishing herring is the mainstay of any of the spots you would fish in the lower bay, and even in the Ocean. The only time you might not want to be right on the bottom is if you're in deeper water a bit offshore, and then you might want to stagger some baits at different depths until you get bit, then concentrate your offerings at that level. Also, pay attention to your depth finder. Sometimes these fish are suspended, so if you're marking a lot of fish at certain depths (even in the bay in deep water) you might put one bait at that depth and fish the rest of your offerings on the bottom. This last weekend I kept noticing fish on the sounder about 25' down, so I set one rod at 30' on the line counter with 10 ounces of lead, and this suspended offering is the one that got bit.

Tillamook Bay is primarily a herring fishery from offshore through the Ghost Hole, but once you get to the Ghost Hole, spinner fishing becomes more of an option, and is used with increasing frequency from Bay City to Ray's Dolphin, the Picket Fence and into Memaloose, where most people are fishing spinners. This isn't to say herring won't work throughout the bay, or vice versa.

To troll spinners, use a 18" dropper with an ounce and a half of lead and a 5-6 foot leader tied to your favorite spinner. Rainbow, Chartreuse, pink and reds in size 6-½ and 7 Cascades, are popular sizes and colors in the bay. Chartreuse with a green dot, green tipped rainbow, and red/white are some of the more popular colors.
When fishing spinners, lower your gear to the bottom slowly, and then keep letting line out until you are staying just above the bottom. It pays to check your depth often to make sure you're staying in the zone (right off the bottom). This is not a rod holder fishery!! These fish are notorious for grabbing a spinner and then quickly letting go. When holding the rod you should be able to feel the thump of the spinner blade turning, and when the fish grabs it often just stops the blade. This is the time to set the hook! Sometimes you'll just feel a tick or a light pull like your going over weeds, and sometimes the line goes completely slack like, feeling like it got cut off. These types of bites are all very easy to miss, so make sure you set the hook whenever you feel something different. Every once in a while you'll get the rip down grab, but most often it's just one of the light grabs listed above.

Good areas to concentrate on are around the Oyster House, which is right in front of the Memaloose Boat Ramp, along the Picket Fence and at Rays Dolphin, where you'll often see boats making passes back and forth. This technique can be incredibly effective at times, but make sure to keep your spinner in the zone, and hold the rod so you don't miss the often incredibly light grabs.

Also, don't be afraid to fish shallow water in the upper bay. Many fish are caught in water less than 6 feet deep. I've caught fish in 3 feet of water, so be willing to move off the deep spots, especially if you see a fish roll. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a fish roll in shallow water, trolled over the area where I saw the fish roll and immediately hook up.

A side note though about depth; be exceptionally careful in the upper bay because it can get extremely shallow especially during very low tides. This area is best suited for shallow draft boats, or boats outfitted with pumps. Just make sure you know where you're at, and don't get caught where you can't run if you need to because of shallow water. It can be a really good idea to get a track line of the deep water slots on your GPS so you can follow them when the water gets low. If you haven't fished the upper bay, go with a guide or someone you know who has fished it, or at least make sure you fish around other boats so you know you won't get stuck in a shallow water spot you can't get out of as the water ebbs on low tides.

You can also fish tidewater into each of the rivers flowing into Tillamook bay, but the Wilson and Trask are the two rivers that get the best returns of Spring Chinook, so you should concentrate your effort on these systems. The tidewater sections of the rivers will fish with spinners, but are more often fished with bobber and eggs, back bouncing or wrapped kwikfish.

Springers aren't the only option though, as mentioned at the beginning of the blog. Crabs are also a mainstay of Tillamook Bay. Crabbing in the bay can be excellent at times, and is always better when there hasn't been a lot fresh water flowing into the bay reducing salinity. Crabbing is generally best from crab harbor out towards the jaws. If you have a boat that's sea worthy enough to go in the ocean, the crabbing can outside the bay can sometimes be outstanding.

Over the last few weeks the crabbing inside the bay hasn't been spectacular, but you can grind out a few keepers by staying with it, having good bait, and especially by not placing your pots among the myriads of other folks traps. The crabbing offshore has been a bit better, but not stellar either because of the commercial seasons which are still in affect. The commercial season ends on August 14th, but many of the commercials begin pulling their gear before that date, and the crabbing generally will keep improving both offshore and in the bay as the season progresses. Again, one of the keys is to find areas where there aren't a ton of other pots. Last week I put pots both north and south of the jetties and did well in both places. With an average soak time of only one to three hours averaging 4 keepers per pot, and that's with only one pull. I could have easily limited if I would have worked at it, and left the pots soaking longer. Just look for areas a bit further away from all the other pots, and your success rates will often climb.

When crabbing in the bay, it is often best around the slack tides when the water isn't pushing as hard. Look for areas out of the main current to help make your pots easy for the crabs to access. There are lots of females and sublegal males right now, so make sure and check your pots carefully. Last week when pulling my pots I was amazed at how many crabs where 1/8 of an inch short of being legal! One thing is for certain though, there's nothing quite as enjoyable as a crab feast at the end of a long day of fishing at the coast.

You can have your crabs cooked for you right there when you're done fishing. I usually drop mine off at the Tillamook Bay Boat House before I pull my boat out of the water, and by the time I get my boat out of the water and cleaned up for the drive home, my crabs are done and ready to be put on ice.

They'll even clean your fish for you. A couple days ago after a successful jaunt offshore for bottom fish, we stopped to have our crabs cooked and fish processed. I hate dealing with bottom fish, so it's a wonderful thing to be able to walk my crabs and fish up to the Boat House and drop everything off, and come back a while latter to find cooked crabs and beautiful fillets waiting for you. For $40 total, they had our crabs cooked, our bottom fish filleted and bagged, all ready to be iced in our cooler. They even offered more ice if we needed it. Wonderful options, and a great business to have right there to help square you away after a great day on the water.

Bottom fishing off Garibaldi can be incredible, but it can also be a bit frustrating. The frustration can come from finding concentrations of fish. You have to find structure to consistently find fish, and this can be the hard part of the equation. There is some decent structure and bottom fish around the south jetty, but you really have to watch your ocean conditions. This spot can also really be a bugger to fish if the tide is ripping in either direction.

There is some sporadic structure around Twin Rocks just north of Garibaldi, and then more structure off of Cape Falcon, just beyond the Nehalem River. South of Garibaldi there is good structure around Cape Meares and Three Arch Rocks. You'll have to use your depth finder to locate the structure, and when there are fish on it, they will often show as red masses above the bottom. Keep a log of both GPS numbers and techniques, and this will help lessen the search for bottom fish on each successive outing.

Fishing for bottom fish can be what you want it to be, either a complicated affair, or as simple as can be. You can use bait on dropper loop rigs, jigs, swim baits, or my favorite, vertical jigs. Again, the real key to success is finding bottom structure, and then fish on the structure. Once you find fish, it's as easy as dropping your gear on top of them and waiting for the bite.

On days with heavy swell and current, you might need to slowly back into the direction of the current to slow the drift down enough to keep your gear working vertically. I find it's generally easiest to catch these fish if you're fishing close to straight up and down for them. (Swim baits are an exception to this rule.) If the drift is fast, back into the direction of the current until you're gears stays straight up and down. You can use your GPS to determine the direction of your drift and pay attention to your depth finder as you make each pass looking for concentrations of fish, and use your track line feature to show the direction of each drift so you can repeat it when you find groups of willing fish. I also put down waypoints whenever I find little hot spots, so I know to try and drift over these areas again.

To fish with jigs, just drop them to the bottom, take a small crank on the reel so it's just off the bottom, and begin jigging your bait up down. Lift sharply, and then drop your rod just as quick to throw slack into the line so the jig will begin fluttering back towards the bottom. The fish almost always grab it on the drop, so as you begin to lift the rod for the next jigging stroke, the fish is already there and your rod will load up. Start reeling immediately, or you will miss a fair number of fish.

One of my favorite techniques is using Butterfly jigs. The flat sided jigs from Shimano are my favorites, but most of the jigs with this same flat oblong shape will work. Drop them down to the bottom where you're marking fish and jig them with a sharp upward stroke, and then just as in the standard jigging technique, drop the tip quickly to allow the jig to flutter downward. The Shimano jigs have a great sideways flutter that really activates the predatory nature of the bottom fish, and the strikes often come fast and furious.

When there are a lot of lings around, or suspended fish on the finder, work the butterfly all the way back to the surface, by sharply raising the rod tip, and then quickly dropping the tip to start the flutter, but keep reeling the whole time, and repeat over and over again, until you have retrieved the jig to the surface. The idea is to make this look like a fleeing wounded baitfish. Once you have retrieved the jig all the way to the surface, drop it back down, and repeat again. This is often the best technique to use when fish are suspended, with strikes coming throughout the water column. When you aren't marking any fish suspended though, you want to keep your gear working close to the bottom.

Some people like using a large curly tail grub jig on the bottom with a set of shrimp flies above it. The big jig on the bottom will most often draw lingcod, while the shrimp flies will get loaded up with rockfish.

You can also use swim baits, but you have to have a pretty slow drift to make this technique successful. The drift has to be slow enough, and you have to use a heavy enough lead head so you can easily make contact with the bottom. When you can do this, cast the swim bait down current, and let it sink to the bottom. Once it's on the bottom either slowly retrieve it, making sure you are occasionally bumping bottom, or you can let the current slowly drag it across the bottom. This presentation accounts for mostly lingcod, and an occasional thumper cabezon. The key is staying very close to the bottom. When you are marking fish higher in the water column, or when they are suspending at mid to upper depths, retrieving a swim bait from the bottom all the way back to the top can produce some savage strikes.

Fishing with bait on dropper loops can also be a great way to get fish in the boat. Most any northwest bait can work, but herring and squid are probably the most commonly used. I really like squid because it's tough enough the fish can't immediately peck it off the hook if you don't get hooked up. Circle hooks can be a big bonus when fishing this way, especially if you don't have experienced fisherman with you. Instruct them to just begin reeling when they feel a bite, and often they will reel the circle hooks right into the corner of the fish's mouth.

If you fish beyond 130 feet or so, you can begin to catch fish that can't get back down if you release them. While Canary Rockfish and Yelloweye (protected species) generally live at depths of more than 40 fathoms (240 feet), they still might be encountered when fishing inshore. If they are caught in deep enough water and can't get back down they will obviously die, so you have to find a way to help decompress them. Below is a link that will show you how to safely release fish that have swelled swim bladders.


now you can fish for halibut in less than 40 fathoms of water every day, but during selected weeks, there is an all depth season, which generally runs Thursday through Saturdays. We should know soon if our halibut quota for the spring was met, or if our additional days for all depth weekends will be allowed. Check the regulations to see upcoming all depth weekends, and remember when fishing halibut, you must land your fish at the dock before you can do any other bottom fishing, and all other bottom fish are currently closed to fishing beyond 40 fathoms.

For halibut fishing, people are generally fishing large herring on the bottom. There are many ways to rig for halibut, but the easiest is attaching a large spreader bar, with the lead attached on a 2" dropper (to make it easy to break off if you snag the bottom), and a short one and a half foot leader on the other long arm of the spreader bar. The point of the short leader is to keep the mono from wrapping around the main line as you drop the gear to the bottom. As you drop a large weight down, long leaders will be fluttering above, and if they make contact or touch the main line, they will wrap around it, creating a nasty tangle. Worse, if you hook a large halibut with a leader tangled around the main line, the fish will often break you off as the leader saws back and forth across the main line.

A good rig to use is a one and a half foot 130 pound leader tied to a 16/0 circle hook, with black label herring used for bait. When using circle hooks, you have to let the fish eat your bait. As they begin to bite, slowly give them some line by lowering your rod tip. Keep moving the rod tip towards the fish until you feel a solid steady pull, then slowly start reeling in line, and the rod should load up with solid weight, and you should begin to feel headshakes. Don't do any of this fast, or you'll pop the circle hook out of the fishes mouth. The circle hook works by not hooking anything inside of the fish's mouth, but when tension is SLOWLY added to the line, it pulls the hook to the corner of the fish's jaw, where it will rotate and solidly hook the fish in the corner of the jaw. The whole trick is to build the tension slowly through the bite, or you'll continually pop the hook right out of their mouths. Never try setting the hook, because this will only be successful on the occasional fish.

The best part of being in Garibaldi this time of year is if the ocean is cooperating, you can experience all of these fisheries, and better yet, you have great odds of being successful. There are also guide services that you can hire who can help cut down the learning curve, so get out there and try a Tillamook Bay mixed bag weekend!!

May 23, 2012

Fishing the Re-opener on the Columbia River

by John Childs

Fishing the Re-opener for Columbia Springers

The Columbia officially reopens this weekend for a two-day season on Saturday the 26th, and Sunday the 27th. The same limits as the early season apply. You can retain 2 adult salmon or hatchery steelhead, but only one clipped Chinook is allowed per day (the other salmon may be a sockeye). This is great news, especially knowing if the numbers over the dam spike again when the water level goes down, we will most likely get another reopener, this time with the season lasting all the way through the June 16th Summer Chinook Season opener. With the flows in the Willamette continuing to be high, but more significantly, backed up with lessened current flow, the fishing has continued to be tough, with many anglers completely giving up. The Columbia reopening to spring Chinook fishing should shoot some life back into the fishery, and best of all, it looks like Columbia is slated to be dropping this weekend which could really help illicit a strong bite. This is potentially the best opportunity we've had for "REALLY" catching some spring Chinook so far this year.

The water temperature is currently sitting at 57 degrees at Bonneville, but could realistically drop a degree or two given our current weather conditions. Regardless whether the temps hold or go down, the water will probably be in the mid to upper 50's over the weekend. With early to mid morning high tides swinging into outgoing tides during the day, the stage is set for really good fishing conditions. Our only real obstacle this weekend will be the continued high water, but after the last couple of seasons, I think many of us who have been fishing the Columbia when it has been open, have forged new game plans to combat this high water anomaly.

If you haven't spent some time fishing during the high water flows of the last two years, I would recommend leaning toward fishing shallower water than normal. I've caught many springers between 8 and 15 feet of water so don't be afraid to target the shallow edges, especially where they are on inside corners, or flats that are removed from the faster main current flow of the river. These migrating fish are looking for the path of least resistance, and this often means seeking out the softer water on the fringes of the main current.

Given the conditions outlined above, I would arrive at the river with a game plan. With warmer water conditions, hardware could be extremely effective. With the tide change and outgoing morning tides, we could also see good downstream herring fishing. Currently, my plan is to be on the water at first light trolling herring downstream through the tide change and into the first bit of the outgoing tide, and then switch gears mid morning, and start targeting the hardware bite. In my opinion, this is where it gets interesting.

I'm a diehard spinner guy. I paint my own blades, build my own spinners, and have a collection of spinners that really gets a bit obscene at times. Oh my gosh, this seems like the perfect time to find a great anchor spot in 6 to 12 feet of water and put some spinners out, or slowly troll them upstream, or even troll them downstream like we're fishing herring, but not dragging bottom, just staying really, really close. But here's where the descisions get tough, because I love fishing plugs, (what I consider smaller K-11X Kwikfish, Wiggle Warts or similar plugs) and I also love fishing sardine wrapped Kwikfish for the savage strikes they elicit from kings. To many choices, not enough time to try them all, or is there? I might just get the full meal deal in some way or another, but I can tell you, I will show up with more than my share of gear so I can take advantage of whatever conditions or spots I encounter!

A note of caution here, as I'm still seeing large parts of trees and other debris coming down river. Not nearly at the pace of earlier in the year, but still, there are still some potentially devastating hazards floating downstream, so make sure and keep an eye out while running, or if you anchor up. Also, if you anchor, make sure you put out plenty of scope on your anchor line and put your anchor buoys out. The anchor buoy is anchored, and your boat is cleated off to the buoy. If you're paying attention and something goes wrong you can un-cleat from the buoy and hopefully avoid any disasters, but this means staying aware of what's happening around you. Pay attention and be safe!

For anchor fishing with plugs, you can use a small jet diver to get your gear down into the zone, but if you're in some current and it's fairly shallow, you can also flat line them. Both Wiggle Warts and K-11X's will dive 8-9 feet given enough line and a decent current. If it's much deeper, either lead or a diver will help keep your plugs in the zone.

If you decide to fish wrapped Kwikfish, use 18-24" droppers with a 5-foot leader and bounce them back away from your boat a ways, then wait for that magical rod burying grab the Kwiky is so famous for! Some anglers prefer longer dropper lengths for fishing Kwikfish on anchor, and it's perfectly acceptable to fish up to 4 foot lead droppers. What you really want to see is the plug working steadily, but it should occasionally quit working, and the rod tip should become still. This is when the plug hits bottom and hesitates and quits working until it floats up a bit and begins working again. The plug should be working more than it's resting, but if it's not hitting bottom a couple times or more each minute, I don't really feel it's in the zone.

The same basic set-up for Kwikfish, is perfect for fishing spinners, although I definitely like the shorter dropper lengths. I will almost always be fishing a 24" dropper with spinners, both when anchored and when trolling them. Just make sure you're right there close to the bottom, and when anchored you can have the lead resting lightly on the bottom.

Finally, don't rule out the idea of back-trolling areas with good current in 18 to 35 foot depths. You can back troll wrapped Kwikfish or prawn spinners with a jet diver on a 12-18" dropper and 5 foot leader. The nice thing about back-trolling is you aren't stuck in one current lane, but can glide from side to side while backing down, potentially finding that magical depth/contour/seam where the fish seem to be traveling.

Whatever methods you decide to employee this weekend, don't forget to have fun out there. Plan there will be crowds, busy boat ramps and excited people who may even forget their common sense for a moment when they get excited. It's about having fun out there with our friends and families in the wonderful environment we all live in here in the great Northwest. Smile and give a little leeway to the other guys and we'll all have a little more fun!

See you on the water!!

May 01, 2012

Halibut Opener May 1st

by John Childs

Halibut Opener on May 1st

Don't forget this week's near shore Halibut opener in waters less than 40 fathoms. It's a often a sleeper of an opener, with many people waiting for the all depth season, but the near shore fishing can be surprisingly good. It often takes going with one of the local guides who's scoped his water out over the years and can put you on those tiny secret spots held so close to the vest by many of the near-shore captains.

One of the surprising facts about the shallow water halibut fishing, is the fish generally run larger than their deep water counterparts. I truly wish I could explain why this would be, because it would seem most logical to be just the other way around, but time has proven the larger models seem to come from the shallow water fishery with much more frequency.

Another interesting aside to this fishery is the opportunity to hit this fishery with one of the Dory Captains out of Pacific City. Not only do you get an amazing fishing trip, you get to experience the thrill of launching and landing right onto the sand! It can be one of the most exhilarating experiences on our coast, not to mention sharing in a time honored tradition in how the majority of the Northwest's Commercial Fleet used to all launch. If this interests you, check out the website www.pacificcityfishing.com to watch a dory returning from a days fishing. Now imagine yourself on such an adrenaline soaked adventure!!!

Another great benefit of fishing the nearshore season is the shallow water. The nearshore season is considered to be water less than 40 fathoms. 1 fathom equals 6 feet, so the deepest you might be fishing is 240 feet. While guys on the East Coast might think this is deep, I often fish Halibut Hill out of Garibaldi, and we are dropping in 900 feet of water, so anything less than 250 is considered shallow!! It sure is nice when completing a bait check when you aren't reeling 4 pounds of lead up 900 feet!!

The ocean conditions for the upcoming weekend are looking pretty decent, so if you have the time and inclination, go mine yourself some near shore "white gold," as many of the Northwest salts call the pacific halibut!

The inshore season is set to fish from May 1st through October 31st, unless a limit of 23,014 pounds of fish is caught (I don't think this limit has been hit over the last several years).

The Spring All Depth Seasons from Cape Falcon to Humbug Mt (doesn't include the Astoria/Columbia Fishery) is set for May 10-12, May 17-19, May 24-26 and May 31-June 2nd. There are back up days planned if the limit of 120,821 pounds isn't caught in the first open days.

There will also be an All Depth Summer Season starting on August 3 & 4th, again until the original quota is achieved.

I've added the information above as a reference, but this doesn't stand for the actual regulations, so please take the time to look up the regulations for the zone you intend to fish to insure your following the current regulations.

And like my friends always say..."Halibut taste great!!"

April 30, 2012

Fishing the Willamette Harbor

by John Childs

Fishing The Willamette Harbor

We are continuing to be plagued by high murky water this year, and it doesn't look close to being over. With a good snow pack in the mountains, and continuing rain in the forecast, we will probably see high water all the way through May. Regardless of the high conditions, spring Chinook can still be caught in all the usual places, it sometimes takes just a little more patience and belief it can be accomplished for success to be realized.

I've been splitting my time between Oregon City and the harbor, and for the most part I've been getting fish in both places. I've been a bit more successful in the harbor, but I've also caught enough fish between Oregon City and West Linn to have faith there as well. I've also have friends moored at Sellwood, and they've also been pretty consistent in pulling a few fish from the Willamette.

It's been one of those years where it pays to learn a few spots well, and fish them long enough to really learn what works. But it's also been important to fish often enough to see what slight changes need to be made in the presentation to continue appeal to the fish.

A good example of this happened last week in the harbor. I didn't have nearly as much time to fish as I would have liked, but I did manage to fish Wednesday and Saturday out of Cathedral Park. Both days seemed tough for most boats, but we managed to get pretty lucky and hook 7 on Wednesday, and 5 on Saturday. Of course we didn't put that many in the fish box!! We had 4 fish to the boat on Wednesday, with one being wild which was released. We should have landed a fifth fish, but a little too much thumb action was applied to the reel as the springer ran and then took a wild acrobatic jump ending in a zing-pow affect! Saturday we only ended with one fish in the boat. It's days like Saturday that really get me analyzing the techniques which have been working, and what might have changed to reduce the number of solid hook ups. I know one thing that changed, I was stupid enough to actually tell someone that since March 14th I'd only missed 3 fish. I've been fishing an average of 3 days a week, some weeks a few more days, and I've only had two trips without a fish. Saying something like that out loud is definitely a good way to make sure you increase those loss numbers!!!

I have some theories about why the hook rates dropped so dramatically, but this isn't science. Anyone who enjoys fishing for the simplicity it can offer might plan on skipping the next couple of paragraphs, because I'm going to overthink everything! Of course I DO think overthinking things is a positive thing to do, because it helps to hone in on the small details that either make things work, or the things that are working against you, but I also realize there are a lot of people out there who don't enjoy being so analytical!

Last year I went through a stretch of being snake bit, and I mean bad snake bit. I fished through a couple of days where I saw more springers hooked in some local haunts then I've seen in the last 10 years. Crazy good bites, where I should have hooked double digit fish, but I ended the days with zero or one fish. I tried everything I could think of to remedy the situation. I cleaned my zincs, scrubbed my bilge, double, triple and quadruple checked my rigging, I even hired an electrician to come down an take readings in the water around my boat to see if the boat had become exceptionally hot (leaking electrical current, which can shut fish off). Nothing made a difference. Then one day one of my friends mentioned my boat had a lot of vibration. I had tagged a couple rocks during the winter pulling plugs in the Clackamas, and my prop had some pretty good dings in it. These dings where creating a lot of vibration through the motor, and you could feel the vibration sitting in the boat seats, and you could definitely see the vibration in the rod tips. I use pretty nice gear, and have been using G Loomis SAMR1265C 10' 6" rods for backtrolling with divers, and also as herring rods. These rods have an amazing amount of sensitivity, and I've been using Power-Pro 50 pound spectra all the way to my diver, which adds even more sensitivity. I began wondering if the vibrations from the motor/prop weren't being telegraphed down my line, and affecting my presentations. The few fish I was getting where always hooked in the heaviest water, where theoretically, the vibrations would have been dampened both by higher motor RPM's, and also sheer water pressure reducing the vibration transfer. I changed the prop the following day, and my catch rates went right back to normal, and I began a stretch of phenomenal fishing.

I relate the story above because I purchased a new kicker motor this year, and right away I noticed the vibrations the motor exhibited at low RPM's. I was seeing this transferred to my rod tips, and I didn't want to experience the struggles from last year again, so I decided to mitigate this issue by adding monofilament top shots. I added 150 feet of 25-pound Maxima Ultragreen line to each of my trolling rods, theorizing the stretch inherent in monofilament would reduce the rods ability to transfer the vibrations to my bait presentations. It seemed to work because my catch rates stayed consistent, and maybe even improved a bit.

My fish finder has a wonderful feature of reading speed over water. I've always used speed over ground from the GPS, but to really know the speed at which you are trolling, you need to know what the speed of the current/drift is and then subtract that from the over ground speed to get the speed you're actually trolling. The speed over water feature takes all guesswork out, because it tells you exactly how fast the boat is moving in relation to the water. With this information I've noticed all my bites have been coming when I'm traveling between .6 to .7 mph over water, and it's been consistent over the last month.

Well this last week, especially after the wonderful weather we had the weekend before (April 21st and 22nd), the water temperatures took a jump. The temps had been in the high 40's, and had even flirted with 50 a few times, but hadn't been consistently gone over the 50 degree mark until Wednesday. All of the sudden I'm reading 55 degrees. We started fishing with the same program that's been working over the last few weeks of 10-12 pulls of line, with 8 ounces of lead, trolled at .6 to .7 mph over water. We didn't get bit for the first hour. We accidentally trolled over a shallow spot, so to make sure we didn't snag on the bottom, we increased the speed for a minute to keep our gear from touching bottom, and what do you think happened? One of the rods buried, and we had our first fish. I had noticed we were going about .9 mph when the fish bit, so I figured we should try that again. We started trolling consistently at .9 to 1 mph and we managed the 7 hook ups for the day.

Generally I fish fairly light drags when fishing herring. I have sensitive rods that have limber tips, which really help with the hook up ratios on light biting fish. I add the light drag so the fish can't easily drop the bait once he has it in his mouth. This has worked wonders this year, and as mentioned above out of close to 40 bites, I had only missed 3 fish. A pretty good average, but once Wednesday and Saturday rolled around, my hook to landing percentage took a nosedive.

I've been building up to one of the reasons I think this happened, and it's a combination of all of the issues above. I believe when salmon bite our herring offerings, they are already hooked when we see the rod tip start to dance. They are trying to shake the hooks. The reason we don't set the hook or lift the rod out of the holder until the rod tip is buried and line is coming of the reel, is because when the fish is facing the boat and shaking his head and trying to get rid of the offending hooks, we often help him accomplish the goal when we pull. But when the fish finally freaks out by not being able to get rid of the bait/hooks, he turns and begins to run. This is when the rod tip burries down and line starts to come off the reel. This is when it's time to pick up the rod (And for the record, I don't believe in hook sets. I've seen more fish lost/missed from hook sets than any other thing.) and start reeling.

With the warmer water we are starting to get, the fish are beginning to bite a bit more tentatively. They aren't engulfing the baits the way they were. Many of my early fish had been hooked deep in the mouth, and often hooked with both hooks. But the fish on Wednesday were mostly hooked on the back hook. I believe with the sensitive rods where the tips flex tremendously during the bite, the monofilament with up to 30% stretch, and drags that slip pretty easily, the fish are able to get rid of the hooks before they find a good purchase inside their mouths. All of the grabs on Saturday took a couple dips, then the rod went completely flat, and line started coming off the reels. Generally this has been good for a fish in the boat unless we did something stupid like set the hook, or break them off, but on Saturday 4 out of 5 grabs like this ended up as lost fish. I truly believe the main factor was tentative biting fish with TO much give. I think the way to eliminate this problem is by increasing the drag setting so the fish gets hooked solidly while he's shaking his head trying to get rid of the hooks/bait.

Of course with all things fishing I could be completely wrong with my suppositions, but my experience over time and years is this is the right answer, and hopefully I can relate this as the truth in blog in the near future!

Good luck and tight lines!

April 10, 2012

Hi Water Springers

by John Childs

Fishing Springers on the Lower Columbia

Finally found some time amidst last month's crazy job duties to get some time on the water. I spent a day trolling for spring chinook from the bottom of Government Island down to the railroad bridge below I-5. The weather was supposed to deliver our omnipresent rain, but it turned into a mostly cloudy day with the sun peaking through a couple times. The wind never did much other than deliver a little ruffle on the water. Based on the forecast, it ended up being a stellar day!!

Since the last time I had been on the Columbia, the water had gotten noticeably dirtier. I had been shocked at how clear the water had been on my first springer foray, and was equally shocked at how much color had increased in the last couple of weeks. I noticed it as I put the boat in the water from the lights on the dock.

After parking the boat, I went through my normal routine of making sure all the rods had fresh leaders, and all rigged the same. However, this morning I added a step. When I'm trolling herring, especially in pretty clear water, I like running longer leaders behind my flashers. I will sometimes run upwards of 6 feet of leader behind the flasher. With the water looking like it might only have 18-24 inches of visibility; I decided all the leaders should get shortened. I love running flashers, and in certain fisheries, I do think it helps draw bites. With the limited visibility I was experiencing on this trip I wanted to make sure that if the fish were drawn closer to see what the flash was all about, that the bait wasn't 6 feet behind the flasher. I made the decision to shorten all the leaders to 3 feet or so. I had also brined blue label herring the night before, figuring I would use all the flash possible to draw a springer close.

The reports from the last few days on the water had been anything but stellar, so I knew I needed to do everything possible to swing the odds in my favor: shorter leaders, bigger herring, and maybe a double flasher rig or two!! I planned on taking my "A" game to the river that day.

I put in at 42nd street, and was supposed to swing across the river at 6 am to pick up my fishing partner Jeff. My lovely bride Carol had also decided to brave the cold day, so the three of us were hoping to get it done. I called Jeff before 6 to make sure he was at Portco, and we made the short haul across the river to get him. Once the crew was intact we headed up stream to start a long pass down river. We didn't have the first tide change for a couple of hours, so I wanted to make a long troll down the Washington bank first and see what we could do.

We were still a bit early when we got to our starting point, so I cut our herring, baited all the rods up, got lead on everything, and waited for enough light to start or troll. When it was starting to get fairly gray, we lowered the herring to the bottom and started our first pass downstream. We dropped our baits to the bottom with 8-ounce sinkers and kept letting out line until the lead was making constant contact. For this fishery, the downstream troll with the troll gear literally dragging bottom is one of the more effective techniques for tempting early Chinook.
We made our first pass without any luck, so we cranked up the big motor and ran down to start another pass above I-5. Most people either love this stretch, or hate it. I guess I have to be counted in the love it category. It definitely gets a bit of the old washing machine action from all the boat wakes, but I've caught a ton of springers in this stretch, especially during the years when we get to fish well into April. Because I've had so much luck in this stretch, I'm always confident. I call it my fish mojo, and this morning it's absolutely thrumming! Earlier in the morning, while we where tied up at the dock, I had told my wife, "I feel pretty lucky about today. I think we're going to get ‘em!" I think this is always a factor on those successful outings, because the days I know I'm going to catch fish I often do, and the days I don't feel so confident, I often don't catch fish.

Another thing I think helps in successfully fishing a spot like the I-5 stretch, is having caught a lot of fish, but also having seen a lot caught, you get a sense of where the productive spots are. It helps me decide how to make each pass, so I spend the most time trolling in lanes where I've traditionally seen quite a few fish caught. Another thing I see is sometimes you'll notice nobody is making passes through a certain stretch, but it's a place fish have been caught before. I always try and make a pass through this water at some point, and I've often been rewarded.

Springers seem to travel in lanes. They also definitely travel in pods. Trolling lanes that have produced one year, often produce most years, so running those stretches can be a good strategy. But more so, it's imperative to watch where fish are being caught each time on the water. If a fish is caught in a certain place, it often pays to try trolling in that same lane, because other spring chinook are traveling the same path. Since they are in pods, oftentimes getting above where a fish has just been caught and starting a troll pass down the same line of current (lane) will pay off with a hooked fish. I've even been know to pick up and run a quarter mile upstream and start a new troll pass down a current lane if I've just seen a few fish hooked in one area. This has often been a successful technique/trick!

We made several passes without any success, but we also hadn't seen a fish hooked by anyone else. About 45 minutes before the tide change, we saw our first fish landed, close to the railroad bridge. As we started our run back up above I-5 for another pass, we saw another fish hooked close to the same spot. I decided to start much closer to I-5, and ran just far enough above the bridge to make sure we had our gear running as we came below the bridge. We got our gear down and started our pass. As we came below the bridge and we began the turn from the Washington side of the river headed across towards the Oregon side, I saw my rod dip a couple times a bit differently. I said, "I think I'm getting bit." We all watched my rod tip expectantly, but it doesn't really do anything. We glance over at Jeff's rod just in time to see it take a long dip down towards the water. It dips once, twice, pops up pretty flat and then goes down again. Jeff looks at me and says, "he's got it", picks up his rod and sets the hook. Fish on!!! Right on, first springer of 2012 is finally hooked up, and only 2 dedicated trips to show for it!! Surprisingly, the fish comes to the net pretty quick, and we're doubly lucky because it's a nice hatchery fish. I net the fish and swing him onboard, and that's when this fish decides to fight. This chinook thrashed in the net and on the floor of the boat more than any king I think I've ever had landed on my boat! We finally subdued him with a welcoming thunk from the fish billy, and our springer trip is successful.

Nice 16-pound hatchery fish with mostly missing scales from fighting so hard in the net!!

We fish through the rest of the tide change and see one other fish caught and that was it. We trolled for a few more hours, but never did see anything happen, and finally decided to call it a successful outing and head for the barn.

As the water continues to rise this week, I'm a bit worried as to what this means for the last week of fishing we have on the Columbia. I'll be out there trying my hardest to add a couple more fish to the boat tally before our early season Columbia fishery closes, and hopefully, I'll see you out on the water!

March 19, 2012

What To Do When There's Water Everywhere....

by John Childs

What To Do When There's Water Everywhere???

Report for Week Ending 3-18-12

Well, with the crazy amounts of rain we've received lately, there's really not much to report. It's a bummer too, because I've really been looking forward to getting back out on the water after a long 12-day work stretch without any days off. Last week I had to fly down to Las Angeles for meetings, and then stayed to help work the Fred Hall Show. I didn't return until Monday morning (the day we had 40-50 mph gusts!), right when all this wonderful rain was getting started. And let me tell you, the plane ride back to Portland on Monday the 12th might have ended with the bumpiest 20 minutes I've ever spent on a plane. It was an adventure.

I was really looking forward (NEEDING) to getting back on the water, but as soon as I got home I had to prepare for meetings mid week in Seattle. I drove North on Thursday morning and it rained, and it rained, and it rained some more. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise for rain in March, but this wasn't your normal Northwest rain where you could have an all day outdoor barbecue and end up with just a damp sweatshirt. This was rain like I used to experience growing up in South Texas, where when you ran from your house to your car (and I do mean RUN!), you get completely soaked. All the way to the skin wet. When I drove back down I-5 on Thursday afternoon, Chehalis looked like it was getting ready to be underwater again. The river was within a couple of feet of cresting it's banks, and the fields looked more like lakes than anything. It was pretty crazy!

So much for being a good guy; working hard, all the while using the promise of a couple days of fishing once I managed to get through this long work stretch to help get myself through it all. A lot of times, it's the hope and the promise of an upcoming day on the water that gets me through these long work stints. Sadly for this weekend, fishing just wasn't going to be in the cards.

I could have headed out in our wonderful weekend weather to drown some herring on the Columbia. (Now what do you think about the combined conditions of sun, rain, snow, hail and sleet we had the last couple of days? Pretty crazy huh?) The water clarity looked pretty decent above the Willie, but my big motor is down right now, and even though I've been getting pretty jacked up for springer fishing, I usually don't start fishing until April 1st, or later. I've actually been twice this year so far (driven to it by all you overanxious ifishers!!!!), but historically it's always too iffy this early for any consistent action.

Well, there's my story of late. Not much of a first-hand fishing report, but here are a couple of tidbits. These little projects are how I manage to get myself through the long work days/stretches with some semblance of sanity. It's working with my gear, and dreaming about the promise of great days soon to come that help me keep going, and its days like this last weekend that are tailor made for getting organized.

I love having everything in its place on the boat, and I also love having all the gear pre-tied and ready to deploy. When the water looks the way it has lately I spend time tying up side drifting leaders, making slinkies, tying herring rigs, prawn spinners, back bouncing leaders, and doing all those other rigging chores that need to be done at some point. I found out a long time ago, when I can't fish, rigging fishing gear is almost as enjoyable as actually being out on the water. True, it's not the same, but it sure makes it more bearable!!

When you're fishing, keeping your gear in the water is the quickest way to ultimately increase the number of fish you hook. One way to keep yourself fishing when on the water is to have all your leaders pre-tied. If you end up with a tangle, or you land a fish and have to replace something, it's just a matter of cutting the old leader off, and clipping a new one on. I started using a modular system a few years ago, where there are duo-clips on the ends of all my leaders, so I just clip them right to the swivel at the bottom of my flashers, or the end of my lead sliders. I don't need to re-rig anything when on the water, just cut the old leader off (or unclip if its not tangled) and clip a new one on. It keeps me fishing instead of fixing issues. This also works when fishing flashers, because I can clip one or two flashers right in line, clip a leader to the bottom, and I'm fishing. It's fast, simple, and really helps to maximize my fishing time.

This is also a great time to go back and re-organize your tackle boxes. I carry way too much tackle, so traditional tackle boxes quit working for me a long time ago. I usually carry a tackle bag (or three) on the boat, with more tackle stored under the seats. I've been accused once or twice of being a bit of a tackle ho! Anyway, with all the tackle, but more so, with each fishery having certain gear requirements, the clear tackle trays really make my life much simpler. I carry one of these boxes on every single trip, regardless of where I'm fishing. The rigging box! And by the end of each season, it needs a little TLC. Even though I love the clear tackle trays, the small terminal gear like duo-clips, barrel swivels, bead chain swivels, weed protectors, rigging beads and the like, have a tendency to migrate from one compartment to another. Especially when bouncing around in a boat bag, or under a boat seat all year long! Weekends like this provide the downtime needed to empty the tackle trays, clean them up, get everything back in the right compartments, and finally, to restock the gear that's low.

It might not be an earth shattering set of tips, but taking the time to sit down and clean, organize, and pre-rig your fishing gear for the upcoming season will reap rewards later this year by keeping your downtime on the water to a minimum. As I always say, "you can't catch em if your hooks ain't in the water!"

March 01, 2012

Winter Steelhead Update

by John Childs

River Report 3-1-12

Just a quick fishing update. Managed to get a few hours on the water again this morning on one of our Coastal streams. The snow made hiking down to the river pretty exciting in most places! I definitely had to pay attention to where I was putting my feet, and I also had to be ready for the slip and slide which was due to happen at any moment. Not if, but when!

We fished several spots, starting up high, and moving downstream as we fished. We each managed to hook a fish on a jig and bobber. They seemed pretty lock jawed through the first part of the morning. We fished some great water, and because of the snow, I know we were the first to fish each spot. We didn't hook either fish till after 12:00 p.m..

I hooked a bright hatchery fish which came unpinned in some fast water about 10 feet from the bank, and my friend Rob landed a colored up wild buck around 8-9 pounds.

The fish are still out there for the taking, you just have to go find them! Good Luck!

February 29, 2012

Late Winter Steelhead

by John Childs

River Report 2-28

It's a cold one! My truck thermometer reads a chilly 29 degrees this morning. As I sit here waiting for first light, I find myself wondering why on earth I'm getting ready to go freeze my fanny off to chase steelhead?

Lately, I haven't had many opportunities, or time, to get out and fish. But by a twist of fate, I found myself with a few free hours this morning, when I could finally sneak away. It's a short window of opportunity too, with 50 mph winds and 100% chance of rain forecasted for this afternoon, not to mention all the work sitting on my desk. With the web site Weather Underground predicting up to a 1/3 of an inch of rain, coupled with the already high water from last week's storms, this next system could blow the rivers out again, which in reality, is the main reason I'm finding time to sneak away!!!

I don't know about you, but I let the high water fool me into not fishing last weekend. And of course, on Sunday, I started getting phone calls and emails from friends who had some pretty stellar outings. Sometimes it seems I can't win for losing. So, I figured the only way to combat the issue was to sneak out this morning before the rain could put the kabosh on any future fishing plans.

I'm sure you've heard the news of another decent push of winter steelhead at the coast. As I read the forums, I'm surprised at the number of people who think this is unusual. Even without the brood stock programs, February and March have always held the possibility of some outstanding fishing. Even better, the crowds have usually begun to dwindle as anglers begin chasing spring chinook in earnest. It's always been a special time at the coast. In fact, I've had some truly spectacular days all the way into late April and early May.

Another thing that keeps running through my mind is how last year every fishery (except tuna!) seemed to run 3 weeks to a month late. Could this be happening again? The robins have showed up early, I have trees that look like they are ready to bloom, and my yard really needs to be mowed. Who knows, but could the run timing be reversing itself this year? Or are we going to have another year of late arriving fish? Only time will tell, but so far the run timing seems a bit strange.

Anyway, here I sit, parked in front of a gate on one of my favorite coastal streams, waiting for the grey light of dawn. I'm hoping, praying, maybe even needing, the redemption of just one chrome fish to help regain my perspective during this crazy season.

This morning, I've committed myself to fishing a bobber and jig. Mostly committed. I tied up a dozen jigs last night, dreaming of the precious metal they might help me coax from the river, but being the over zealous fish addict I am, I brought a drift rod just in case. But I really want to get them on jigs.

Well the light is finally breaking. It's time to get my rods together, my waders on, and to hike down to the stream. Wish me luck out there. Hopefully I'll be back soon to report a successful morning of finding a bright fish or two.

I'm back, and yes, I do have a report. I was only able to fish for an hour and a half before time indicated the need to head back to my office, but in that short time I managed to land two nice steelhead.

I'm pleased I was able to use one of my new jigs to land a steelhead this morning. The reality of how it happened was even close to the scenario I had imagined while tying the jigs, cool!

Jig Caught Steelhead

I'm still happy I brought the extra rod and gear, because I used it to drift fish a fast run where I'd tried fishing the bobber and jig without success. The spot looked so fishy, I just couldn't walk away when a fish didn't immediately jump all over my jig, and on the very first cast with a corky and yarn, a bright little hatchery fish inhaled the offering.

Corky and Yarn Steelhead

Successful Gear- Corky & Yarn and Pink Jig

While neither fish was chrome bright, they were still beautiful fish, (aren't all steelhead beautiful?) and made a good account of themselves on the light gear. Both steelhead were hatchery fish, but since I hadn't planned on keeping fish this morning, and with an early deadline for getting back to work, it just didn't make any sense to bring fish home. So, I released both fish, hopefully to make another angler's day as bright as mine!

Fishing Techniques for Bank Fishing Steelhead

There are so many techniques you can use when steelhead fishing from the bank, but in the past decade, the bobber and jig has become one of the go to techniques. It's a simple way to fish, and as a bonus, it can be amazingly effective!

There are many different ways of rigging the bobber and jig, but I prefer a simple approach. I use 10 or 12 pound Maxima Fluorocarbon for leader, attached to the main line with a Double Uni Knot. I use 30 pound Power Pro Spectra (braid) for my main line, and a Double Uni Knot passes through the guides very easily, while also retaining high breaking strength. The benefit of using braided line is it floats, so mending the line is incredibly easy to accomplish.

I use ¼ ounce Thill Turbo Master Floats. These floats allow you to easily adjust the depth you are fishing, and because of the wire extending below the float help to stabilize such a light bobber, even in uneven flows.

Turbo Master Float and Pink Jig

Now tie on your favorite color of jig. I know there are a lot of choices for jig colors out there, and I even use a few of them myself, but when it really comes down to it, two color combinations see the most use. I generally either fish a cerise/pink, or a nightmare jig. Both of these colors cover so many different fishing scenarios, but most important, I have faith in them! I tie my own jigs, so I'm able to choose the color combinations when I'm tying, and I think having two contrasting colors is a good idea. The nightmare jig excels at this. For the pink jig, I use shell pink and extra hot cerise (super charged hot pink!) marabou feathers to provide a bit of contrast.

Many other jig colors will work as well, as long as you have faith in them. Combinations of pink, flame, orange, white, cerise, black and blue are all common steelhead colors. Just pick something you BELIEVE will get bit, and you're on the right track!

Set the distance from the bobber to the jig so the jig will generally be about 6 inches off the bottom, and your ready to fish. Make sure and cast well above where you think the fish will be lying, so the jig can float down into the fishes view naturally. Try to get a drag free drift.

Using a long rod helps, by allowing you to lift as much line off the water as possible. When fishing a bobber and jig, a belly of line will almost always form at some point during the drift, because of different current speeds between you and your bobber. When this happens a mend is needed to remove the belly of line. Mending is accomplished by lifting the line off the water, all the way to the bobber, and then setting it back down upstream of the bobber, so the current can't as easily form a belly in the line. If you don't mend the line to remove the belly, the current will begin dragging your bobber and jig at a faster rate than the current lane they are floating in. To see a mend in action, go to youtube, and type in "mending jig and bobber" in the search window, and you can watch how this task is accomplished. If you haven't done it before, mending can be frustrating at first, but like anything, with a little practice it's very easily accomplished.

Your bobber will tell you when you're not getting a drag free drift. When your bobber is riding straight up and down, you are getting a drag free drift. If you have developed drag, your bobber will be leaning to one side or the other. This is when a mend should be used to remove the drag. The bobber will also tilt to the side if your jig is dragging on the bottom. When this happens, you will generally see the bobber dancing a little bit as the jig bounce over the rocks on the bottom. This is when you should shorten the distance between the float and the jig. Again, when everything is working right, and you're getting a drag free float, the bobber should be standing straight up and down.

Tools of the Trade

A long rod is an essential tool for fishing bobber and jigs. I use G. Loomis STR1162-2S, which is a 9' 8" rod rated for 6-10 pound line. This rod has the length needed to achieve a drag free drift, and to be able to easily control and mend your line, while being supple enough to protect the lighter lines often used fishing for steelhead from breaking.

I use a Shimano Symetre 3000 spinning reel with 20 pound Power Pro braided line. The spinning reels allow the line to come off the reel much smoother without any tension from a revolving spool so you can more easily achieve a drag free float.

Now get out there and find some of those late winter steelies!

February 21, 2012

Pulling Plugs for Early Springers & Steelhead

by John Childs

Fishing Plugs for Salmon & Steelhead

Early season on the Willamette, especially around the Oregon City area, is a prime time for pulling plugs. With plenty of winter steelhead still moving through the system, along with an early shot of spring Chinook, the plug pulling angler can often find success with both species.

When fishing in depths of 12 feet or less, standard plug techniques can be used. By far the most popular plug for early season trolling is Luhr-Jensen's K-11-X Extreme Kwikfish. This series of Kwikfish dives to impressive depths, and best of all, rarely needs to be tuned. When targeting early season fish, you should choose plugs that are chrome, pink, flame, and orange, or combinations of these colors. As the calendar creeps towards the middle to end of March, picking larger plugs with green and chartreuse colors, and adding bait wrappers can be a good bet. K-13's & 14 Kwikfish along with their Xtreme designated brethren become the go to plug.

For flat line plug fishing, it's generally a good idea to fish monofilament outside of the rod tip. Many fisherman have switched their reels over to hi-tech spectra lines, but when pulling plugs, the no stretch attributes of braided line can cause missed fish. What happens is, a fish aggressively grabs a plug, pulling the rod tip down sharply. This action loads the rod, and without any stretch from the fishing line, the fish can throw the lure when he begins opening and closing his mouth and shaking his head trying to expel the plug, simply from the loaded rod acting as a spring. This can effectively pop the plug right out of the fish's mouth.

When a section of monofilament is used as the trolling line, a fair amount of stretch is added to the equation. This minimizes the effect of the fishing rod acting as a spring. Anyone who's pulled plugs very often has still seen the rod ripped down viciously, only to have it pop right back up fishless. It's all part of the game of pulling plugs for salmon and steelhead, but by adding a section of monofilament between the rod tip and the plug this phenomenon will be greatly reduced.

I like to make sure there is at least 75 to 80 feet of at least 15 pound test monofilament, when trolling plugs. You can use lighter line, but you will loose some fish. In fact, many guides use a minimum of 20 pound test when pulling plugs on the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Add a duo-clip to the terminal end of the monofilament, attach your plug, and you're ready to fish.

When flat lining plugs, they should generally be let out about 50-75 feet behind the boat. If the water is less than 8 feet deep use a shorter line, but when trolling anything more than 8 feet deep letting the plugs back 75 feet or so is a good idea. It's also very important to have all the plugs out at the same distance. It really makes a difference in the catch ratios when the plugs are all running together, stimulating a flight or fight response from the fish. I accomplish this task by measuring out my lines at home and then putting a heavy black mark on the main line using a Sharpie. You can also tie a bobber stop on the main line at the desired distance, so when you are fishing, have everyone let their lines out to the pre-marked spot, and all the plugs will be running together.

When pulling plugs, I like to leave the rods in the rod holders. While it's definitely not a bait bite where you need to wait for the fish to take the bait, it's still a good idea to let the fish turn before the hook is set. A lot of times a fish will come up and eat the plug and get stung by the hooks. They will then proceed to open their mouths and shake their heads from side to side trying to disgorge the offending piece of plastic. The boat is generally backing down, which gives the fish a bit of slack, and if an angler swings on a biting fish as this occurs, they can sometimes help the fish expel the plug. When the rod is in the holder, there is generally a moment or two of hesitation before the angler reacts and grabs the rod. This pause often gives the fish enough time to turn and move away with the plug, increasing the percentage of hooked fish.

When fishing in water more than 15 feet deep, and especially when targeting depths of more than 20 feet, a jumbo jet diver is the preferred method for getting your plugs into the zone. The rigging for this is quite simple.

Pass your main line through one to three 6-8mm beads, then through the eye of a barrel swivel. Then add at least one to three more 6 or 8mm beads. The colors of the beads are purely optional, with guide green beads being the most commonly used. Tie your main line to another barrel swivel. You can substitute this last barrel swivel with a bead chain swivel to help eliminate any line twist that could potentially occur. Now tie a 4-5 foot section of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader to the bottom swivel, using anywhere from 20 to 40 pound line. Attach a duo-clip to the end of the leader. Finally add an 8-12" dropper of 15-20 pound mono to the sliding swivel with a duo-clip attached to the bottom. The Jumbo jet divers from Luhr-Jensen come with a dropper line already attached to the diver, and you can just pass your mainline through the eye of this swivel when rigging. Now clip the plug of your choice on to the leader, attach a jumbo jet diver to the dropper, and you're ready to fish.

When running plugs with the jumbo jet divers, let the line out approximately three times the depth of the water fished. Over the last couple of seasons, I finally bit the bullet and added some Shimano Tekota line counter reels to my aresnal. This is an absolutely wonderful way of making sure everyone is fishing at the same depth, and that the plugs have formed a wall. But it's also a perfect way to make sure you are fishing these rigs at 3 times the depth of the water. If fishing in 25 feet of water, I would let my lines back 75 feet on the line counters.

The same hook setting rule applies when pulling plugs with divers. It's a good idea to not immediately set the hook on a fish, but to wait until the rod tip is "buried" (the rod tip is staying down) and the fish is taking line before picking up the rod. Generally, you don't need to set the hook. When the rod comes out of the rod holder, just a firm lift as the angler begins reeling is all that's needed to make sure the hooks are buried in the fish's jaw. Once the season progresses and the larger plugs are employed, you will often watch the beginning of the "take down" with the rod bouncing up and down. This is the situation described above where the fish is shaking its head from side to side trying to throw the plug. This is an especially important time to NOT set the hook. If the angler can wait until the rod tip stays down the overall hooking percentage goes way up.

I hope this helps get any of you would be plug pullers way ahead of the game for your next outing! Good luck out there!!

February 21, 2012

Fishing Early Springers & Steelhead

by John Childs

Fishing Early Springers & Steelhead

Well, it's almost springer time, Almost! I've been chomping at the bit as much as everyone else, but I also keep looking at the calendar and trying to remind myself it's still February, anybody else out there running into the same issue? I'm amazed at the weather we are experiencing lately, as it seems spring is trying to show up a month early, not that I mind in any way. It just seems like it should be the middle of March and I can't keep from feeling the lure of those mystical spring Salmon.

Like most everyone, I have a real job. Have you noticed how "real jobs" get in the way of some really good fishing? I've been traveling a lot lately for work and my main fishing fix has come from tying leaders while stuck in hotel rooms far from home, interspersed with liberal amounts of ifish.net surfing. Am I the only one who finds himself looking at the 2012 Official Spring Chinook thread daily to see if there are any updates?

Last week I got stuck in Phoenix (if you can call working in a city with daily temperatures in the mid 70's, with good restaurants and a nice hotel stuck!) working my final major spring buying show of 2012. There certainly could be worse places to get stuck! Anyway, last week I started hearing rumors of a few springers being caught, and then calls from a few friends who spend a bit more time on the water, and I started feeling a bit twitchy.

Saturday night I finally arrived back home after 6 weeks of almost non-stop travel. I definitely had plans to get on the water, but I also needed to do a little catch up in the rest department. Sunday morning was a pretty lazy morning. I found myself wandering aimlessly around the house, feeling like I had cotton stuffed between my ears. I think it's the combination of too many days in a row with a very rigid and demanding schedule, with a liberal interspersing of late nights and early mornings thrown in for good measure, and then all of the sudden I'm back at home without a schedule, and more importantly a chance to catch up on some sleep! Yeah, I was exceptionally lazy… It was one of those days where you KNOW you should be doing something, but I just couldn't get my butt started in any type of a productive direction. And whenever I contemplated starting some project, the sheer inertia of the idea became paralytic. Just the type of day where I feel lost in my own home.

Enter my good friend Carmen McDonald. I had finally come to the ardous conclusion I was going to fish on Monday. I called Carmen to see if he could fish, and also to see if he had any hot river reports. I was planning a trip somewhere on the North Coast, maybe the Wilson, the Nestucca? Who knows, wherever it sounded like there was a good shot at finding a few fish would work. When Carmen answered he said, "What's up? Ready to fish? I was just getting ready to hit the Willamette for the evening outgoing tide. Want to join me?" In the blink of an eye, I went from tired and paralyzed to absolutely ready to roll.

Carmen told me to meet him at the boat ramp in Oregon City and we'd see what we could do during the last few hours of the day. It's amazing to me how tired and out of gas I could feel one minute, and the next fully charged and moving with speed and purpose.

I got my gear loaded up, hooked up the boat to my truck (I have a slightly larger, but definitely wider boat than Carmen, so I had suggested we use it simply from a comfort standpoint.), grabbed a couple bottles of water, my camera, and my fishing clothes and was out of the house in 20 minutes flat. Not bad for a guy who 1 hour earlier was the definition of a deadbeat couch potato!

I wanted to beat Carmen to the ramp since my sled hadn't been in the water for a couple of months. Whenever it has been sitting for a bit of time, the motors get a little sluggish in the starting department. I didn't want to feel rushed to get the boat off the trailer and running, so getting there a bit early was my plan to have a little extra time to launch without feeling rushed.

I pulled up to the ramp and was a bit shocked to find a line. At least it was the type of line to be in, one where everyone else is taking out, while I'm putting in. I waited my turn and got the boat started and off the trailer without any trouble. The motors where a bit cold and took a second or two to catch, and a bit longer than normal to warm up, but overall this part went super smooth.

I got the truck parked just as Carmen and his son pulled up to the ramp. Well I guess I wasn't so early after all, or maybe Carmen was just as anxious as me to get a couple of hours of fishing in.

When I got down to the boat, Carmen and his son where already getting situated, and where getting their plugs tied on. I hopped into the boat and we were off.

It's a short run to the spot we wanted to fish so we putted across the river and got the boat situated on the seam and began to let our plugs out. Carmen advised "let the plugs out 10 passes," and we set the rods in the holders.

While back trolling may not be the most active way to pursue salmon and steelhead, I find it to be very relaxing. It gives me the opportunity to visit with good friends, all the while employing a wonderfully effective way to fish.

The area we were fishing is known for seeing a fair number of steelhead as well as spring Chinook, so making sure our offerings would be found acceptable by either species is an absolute must during these early season endeavors. Truth be told, we both figured springers were an outside bet. But one things for sure, You can't get them if you don't have a bait in the water!

About 20 minutes into the evening, I notice my plug stops working for a split second, the rod dips, the tip comes back up flat, then slowly begins to load up, and as quick as it began, the fish is gone. Carmen says, "missed one." Yep, we surely did. We both commented on how it had been a really slow and fairly gentle grab. For the water we are fishing, it's not really what I would expect. Normally in this type of water, the rod plunges down aggressively, and either line begins steaming off the reel, or a chrome bullet goes airborne behind the boat.

We keep fishing the seam, making repeated passes through the productive water. This is really a high water spot, where the fish pass through on their way upstream. It can be extremely productive when the fish are on the move, or absolutely devoid of anything if they aren't climbing the system.

About an hour later the inside rod, tickling the far outside edge of our current seam, slowly bounces a couple of times, then jams down and a pretty chrome steelhead boils to the surface 60 feet downstream. Both Carmen and I urge his son Jackson to quickly get the rod as we clear the other two lines so there will be a clear path to land the fish. After a four to five minute battle, Jackson leads the beautiful fish to the side of the boat.

It's a pretty native fish, so we put the net away and Carmen grabs the pliers to release the fish. I ask him if he wants to try and get a picture or two. He grabs the plug with the pliers and quickly lifts the fish up. He and Jackson smile and as quick as can be the fish is back in the water, the hook is turned out and we have a released fish.

We make another pass, but with the light beginning to fade we agree to call it an evening. Not bad at all. We fished for a bit less than two hours and manage to turn two fish, and land a nice 6-7 pound native. The best part of the whole evening was getting a chance to finally shake my lethargy off and get my rear end moving again!

While we may not have hooked the springer we both were hoping to find, getting a couple of opportunities at steelhead sure was a quick cure to end the "deadbeat couch potato" syndrome!

You must login to post a comment.

User Name

Need an account? Register here!

All information and pictures on ifish.net are © www.ifish.net
Terms of Service
All Coast Media Network 2 Cool Fishing Noreast.com Stripers247.com All Coast Ifish.net