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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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!
February 12, 2013
by John Childs
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:
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
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.
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!
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 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 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 05, 2012
Buoy 10 - A Day-by-Day Look Into the Life of a Guide
by John Childs
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!!)
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. http://www.wpcouncil.org/bottomfish/Documents/200705_Closure/BF_Releasing_Methods.pdf
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!!
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!"