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.
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 IngredientsNate'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!
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!
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!