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John Childs

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

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April 04, 2013

Cabo- March 3rd Update

by John Childs

Cabo- March 3rd Update

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

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

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

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

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

The Patio at John's house.

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

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

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

The sun going down at the office.

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

Mountain of limes!

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

March 20, 2013

Curing Prawns - The Unofficial Guide!

by John Childs

Curing Prawns - The Unofficial Guide!

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

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

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

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

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

Nate's Ingredients

Nate's Cure at work.

Nate's Cure showing with the layers of Prawns

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

The Fire Cure ingredients

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

Orange Prawns!

Chartreuse Prawns!

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

Amerman Cure

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

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

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

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

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

February 27, 2013

Get Your Springer On!

by John Childs

Get Your Springer On!

All smiles with a nice spring chinook!

Can you feel it? Are you ready?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 09, 2012

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

by John Childs

Tillamook Bay Update - October 8th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 30, 2012

August 8th Update

by John Childs

August 29th Updat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 28, 2012

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

by John Childs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 21, 2012

August 20th Update - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

August 20th Update - A Day in the Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 19, 2012

August 18th Update - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

August 18th Update - A Day in the Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on the water tomorrow. 

August 15, 2012

August 15th - A Day in the Life

by John Childs

 August 15th Update - A Day in the Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2012

August 10th - A Day In the Life

by John Childs

August 10th Update- A Day In the Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2012

August 9th Update- A Day In the Life

by John Childs

August 9th Update - A Day In the Life 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 08, 2012

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

by John Childs

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

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

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

Picture of my spinner blades in their drying racks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 07, 2012

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

by John Childs

August 7th Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk with you again soon!

August 05, 2012

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

by John Childs

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

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

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

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

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

August 5th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!"
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