John is a full time fishing guide in Oregon, guiding from the Columbia to the Oregon Coast. John also is a writer and photographer about all things to do with fishing.
March 20, 2013
Curing Prawns - The Unofficial Guide!
by John Childs
Curing Prawns - The Unofficial Guide!
So often when fishing for Chinook high quality bait is one of the most important contributions to consistent success. Yes, being in the right place can be a big factor. Using the correct rigging is also key, but if you're doing everything else right and your bait isn't up to snuff, your catch rates will suffer.
In this article I'm going to talk about the brining, curing, and storage of prawns with several different methods. Sometimes the fish want a different smell in prawns, so it's not a bad idea to carry more than one type of cured prawn when fishing. Just like when fishing eggs, I will often have 2 or 3 different brines/cures with different colored baits to try and tempt the sometimes-fickle Chinook.
Always start with a frozen prawn, or a freshly thawed prawn. I like to start with frozen prawns, and then add whatever cures/brines I'm using and then let them start curing as they thaw. I usually get my prawns at Tony's Fish Market in Oregon City. Super nice people, and they usually have high quality baits!A case of Prawns from Tony's Fish Market in Oregon City.
First I'm going to cover the simplest prawn cure I know, which is Nate's Prawn Cure. It couldn't be an easier cure to use. Just add prawns to either a zip lock bag, or a small container, and add the cure. If you're going to use the container method, put a layer of the prawns in the bottom, coat liberally with Nate's, then put another layer of prawns, then another layer of cure. If using a bag, just put the prawns in the bag, add the cure, then mix them together by agitating the bag. Be gentle though if using this process, because the prawns aren't cured, so they can still be soft and you can break them up if you're not gentle.Nate's IngredientsNate's Cure at work. Nate's Cure showing with the layers of Prawns
The next cure is a wet cure. One of my favorite parts of this cure is the ability to get some amazing colors of prawns. For this cure I use Pautzke's Fire Brine (the liquid), sea salt, sugar, and Pro Cure's Bad Azz Bait Dye. It's a pretty darn simple cure as well. Add some salt and sugar to the bottom of a pint jar, then add some dye for whichever color you'd like to make, then add enough fire brine to fill ½ the jar. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it vigorously to get the salt and sugar to dissolve into the brine. You'll almost always have salt and sugar sitting in the bottom of the jar. If you don't, add a little more to make sure you have a 100% salinity in the jar. Steve Lynch from Pro Cure told me about this neat little idea of taking a piece of potato and seeing if it floats in the solution. If the potato doesn't float it's not at 100% salinity. If it floats you have enough salt. Great idea!! The salt is important because it really hardens the baits up, and prawns in a liquid brine can get a bit soft if you don't have enough salt to toughen them up. Once you've mixed the brine, start adding prawns to the cure until the jar if close to being filled. At this point you almost always have to add a little more Fire Brine to the jar to make sure the liquid completely covers all the prawns. This brine will be ready to fish in about 3 days. The Fire Cure ingredients
The colors I use most with this brine are straight chartreuse, orange and hot red. Chartreuse is simply using the straight lime/green Bad Azz dye. To get orange, you start with the same chartreuse dye, but then add just a smidge of the red Bad Azz to your brine. Go easy with the red, because you can easily overpower the chartreuse color and you end up with a pink/red prawn anyway. When mixing orange, the brine generally looks a bit muddy to me, but it still cures the most gorgeous orange prawns you can imagine! For red or pink, use the straight Pro Cure Bad Azz dies. These dyes really do a fantastic job at creating a great looking bait!Orange Prawns!Chartreuse Prawns!
The final cure I'm going to talk about is a standard egg cure used for prawns. I've often read how you have to use only prawn cures to prepare your shrimp baits. This isn't true at all. I've successfully used egg cures on my prawns for many years, and they prepare a fine bait. The only necessary addition to any egg cured prawn is salt. I think it's important to add some additional salt, but I'll also add a few other ingredients depending on what I'm looking for in the final product. In this cure I'm going to use Amerman's cure, sea salt, Pro Cure's Brine & Bite, and Pro-Cure's Shrimp-Krill Scent. I use the container method when making these baits, where I put a layer of prawns in the bottom, then a liberal coating of cure, then sea salt, then Brine & Bite, then repeat until I've filled the container. Once the container is full, I put a liberal coating of the Pro-Cure Shrimp-Krill Oil on top. This helps give me a little more liquid in the bottom of the container as the prawns begin curing. Amerman Cure
With all three of these cures I leave them out of the fridge for about 24-36 hours to completely cure. I rotate the prawns in the containers by gently stirring them by hand (with gloves of course!!) twice a day. At first the prawns on top won't be looking completely cured, but as you stir them towards the bottom, you'll notice the prawns all start to take on the color of the cure, and you can see how you've penetrated the shells with the cure. After you've stirred them for a day or so, you can put them in the fridge to keep cool. It's not a bad idea to continue to stir them for another day or so after they hit the fridge to make sure all layers of your prawns have been completely cured. You'll notice how all the juices and cure are thickest at the bottom of the container. This is the reason for stirring the prawns, to get the bottom layer on top, and the top layer on the bottom so they all get equal amounts of cure.
With the jarred cures, just flip them over a couple times each day for the same 24-36 hours, and then put them in the fridge. If you didn't use the potato trick, I'd add some salt if you don't see some salt sediment in the bottom of the jars. Once in the fridge I'd continue to flip them for another couple days as well.
Curing prawns is really this simple. Of course these are all just base cures. From here you have lots of ability to experiment with other additions. In fact, it's the additions from this point that can make for some amazing baits. I'll caution you here though, don't get too carried away with adding other "secret" ingredients! I think two things can happen. First, you can add to many scents and you end up with a bait that repels fish more than it draws them in. Second, you can get so many ingredients that you can't remember what you did with your brines. I think it's pretty smart to make a fairly simple brined/cured prawn like the ones above, and then add whatever extra ingredients you desire when you're on the water. That way you don't end up with way to many different types of prawns, which can become a problem just remembering which cure your fishing! Don't ask me how I know this!!!
Some good additional scents and ingredients you can add to either your cure, or the baits right before you fish them are sodium sulfite, sodium nitrite, metabisulfite (this one can burn baits so be careful!), Monster Bite, Slam-O-La Powder, shrimp scent, garlic, krill, tuna, sardine, sand shrimp, etc… It's really only limited by your imagination, but again be warned that overdoing the scents can be a negative. Steve Hansen once told me to try and never add more than 3 scents at any one time, and I think this is excellent advice!
Now get out some prawns, draw on the mad scientist within, and get your cure on!
February 27, 2013
Get Your Springer On!
by John Childs
Get Your Springer On!All smiles with a nice spring chinook!
Can you feel it? Are you ready?
Yes, it's early, but with the steelhead season a bit less than stellar so far (yes, I know there have been a few bright spots, but it hasn't been consistently good…), the springers seem to be calling my name?
So how do you make good on early season spring Chinook? Well first, you have to fish for them to catch them! If you don't spend some time with baits in the water, you're absolutely not going to get one. And two, see the first rule!
Really, catching an early springer comes down to persistence and preparation. I have a saying on my boat that "luck is when preparation meets opportunity," and I truly believe this. If you don't go out with yourself, your bait and gear all prepared to catch one, you probably won't. You have to fish like you believe it's going to happen, and then at some point it probably will.
Here are a couple of things I think help for early season springers. First, I think having the best bait you can is imperative (of course I always believe this is the case!). Without a ton of fish around, you have to make sure you have bait in the water that looks and smells great, because you're not showing your bait to as many fish. It has to be primo! Second, it's also important to make sure your bait is behaving EXACTLY how you want it to. You can't get away with "my herrings spinning ok…it'll do," type attitude. If it's not spinning correctly reset your hooks, or start with a fresh bait. Make sure when you put the bait in the water it looks perfect right out of the gate! Third, change your baits often. When there's a ton of fish around, we can all get a bit lazy about changing baits, but when there aren't a bunch of fish, make sure you're getting fresh baits out often. Baits have the scent wash out over time, so putting fresh bait out puts a heavier scent trail out which can be imperative when there aren't a ton of fish out there. With salmon, it's not all about the look, the smell is just as important!
I also believe the brine is an important factor. There are so many great brines on the market today; it's hard to say which one is the best. Pick the one you have the most confidence in and get your herring brining, but adding some extra kick to the brine is something that can turn the tide in your favor. I think adding sea salt, sugar and then maybe a drop or two of pure anise oil to the brine can really turn things in your favor. I've read over and over how you don't want to put to much salt in your brine (or sugar for that matter) because it can make your baits look like prunes. Well, that's true, they can look like prunes if you add a bunch of salt, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. When your baits look like a dried piece of fruit, your just witnessing a bait that's been dehydrated some by using lots of salt, but what happens when you add water? Guess what, they rehydrate themselves! I WANT my baits to look like raisins, because I know when they rehydrate, or "plump up," they are going to be tough baits, which can be especially important if your dragging the bottom on places like the lower Columbia. If your baits are prepared like this you won't have many baits wash out at all. Colored baits can also be a great addition to your early spread!
Sugar can also be an important addition to your brine, because salmon definitely have a sweet tooth! Adding a bit of sugar and then a drop of anise oil can be just the ticket to make those herring irresistible to the fish.
Sometimes you have to grind it out this time of year. Early season, you can't get discouraged when you don't get fish right away. It's often just a matter of grinding away until you find a biter. If you keep prime prepared fresh baits out there, and you keep trolling in areas where the fish like to live, you're going to eventually get bit. It's one of those scenarios where the boats that put in the time are eventually going to get their fish.
Some of the great early season spots that consistently pop out a few fish are Sellwood (usually one of the first producers), the Portland Harbor, the mouth of the Multnomah Channel, Davis Bar & Caterpillar Island, and the Airport Troll are all good early season bets. The Willamette often fishes slightly better until the middle of March when more fish show up because often it has slightly warmer water which gets the fish a bit more active, but so far this year fish have been caught in all the places mentioned. It might be cold, but that pretty springer probably warmed you up!!
So get out there and see if you can't find that elusive early spring Chinook!
Also, don't forget the new angling rules on the Columbia and Willamette, which require the use of all barbless hooks!
November 27, 2012
Confidence, and Persistence… and How to Manufacture Luck
by John Childs
Confidence, and Persistence… and How to Manufacture Luck
I've heard the old cliché "I'd rather be lucky than good," about a ga-zillion times, and I'll bet you have too. Another cliché that's often floated around the places fisherman gather is "10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish." While I believe in both cliché's, I believe them with a caveat… I think they are related, and I believe the magical 10 percenters out there use confidence and persistence to create their own brand of luck! I've come to believe that luck is really a point where opportunity meets preparation, and if you are both confident and persistent you'll most likely be able to take advantage of the opportunities and now you've manufactured your own little lucky streak.
I've seen it so many times on my boat; the quiet yet confident people are the ones who catch fish. But it's not just my clients who need to be happy and confident, I've found it also has to radiate from me. Have you ever noticed on those days you leave the dock and you absolutely know you aren't going to get them, how this prophecy tends to become true, and conversely how when you know in your gut today's the day, it often is? I've seen it over and over, that when I'm confident of the day's outcome, of how we will find and catch fish, we often do just that. Lucky Bert and myself with a fantastic spinner king!
Before I was guiding full time I was often accused of fishing with a vengeance (and sometimes not being very fun to fish with as I was VERY wound up!). I would approach each day with an expectation, and would work at finding and catching fish with a hard demeanor and very uptight attitude. I actually see this same attitude in many of the clients who get on my boat. It's their one day off, they've hired a guide to make sure the day is successful, and now they are spun up to the max, hoping to make sure everything pans out just the way they imagined. I see myself in each one of these anglers, remembering how my own limited time was so important, how I had to maximize every opportunity, to make sure I could wring each and every second out of my precious day off.
A long time ago I began to realize, in fits and starts, that the point where I finally relaxed, when I began to let go and just enjoy myself was when I caught the most fish. It's also when I really began to feel the point when "it's getting ready to happen!" I guess I stole the idea from Austin Powers, but I've got a mojo too, and it's a fish mojo, and when I relax it seems to talk to me. I didn't really begin to fully appreciate this idea until I began fishing as a full time guide. As I mentioned above, this whole idea was only noticed in small bites before, but once fishing time was on my side, I noticed it profoundly. I now know unequivocally that when I'm relaxed, confident and prepared I catch fish… and I can often feel it getting ready to happen. It's this feeling of excited expectation, and I often say I can fell my fish mojo pinging. When these feelings happen I know we can't fail, and it almost always pans out.
I've tried to impart this to my clients, but it's hard to get anybody to relax when they're on a mission. And boy do I understand, because I lived it too, but the rub is when they can let go and settle down, things so often fall into place.
I had a couple young guys fish with me recently, and they were an absolute pleasure to have on board. Tom and Daniel were very happy to be spending a day on the water, but more importantly they were relaxed right from the go. They wanted to catch fish, but they were so laid back about it, their desire almost seemed non-existent. We talked about it at one point, and Tom told me he preferred to fish with quiet confidence. I loved it, because it sums up my feelings to a "T!" I've seen the flip side of the over confident, somewhat arrogant angler who seems to kill his own opportunities, while the quietly confident angler humbly catches his fish. This was Tom and Daniel's attitude, and it paid them handsome dividends that day with a very nice catch of fish… but the best part was their smiles at the end of the day. Tom with his big spinner caught king!
While confidence is uncompromisingly important to success, there are a couple of other attitudes that help ensure success. The primary one is persistence and determination. Sometimes you just have to put your time in. I wish there was another answer, but lots of time on the water always points back to this simple premise. The more time you put in, the more often you'll find success. Danny with a chrome river hen!
I have one client who is a great guy to have on board. He's smart, successful, funny, and always provides great conversation. His only drawback is he wants his fish on a string. He wants them fast and furious, and he's quick to give up when it seems like it won't come together. One day after we fished a long morning without any action, he fell asleep in his chair. The weather was warm for a change, and even I felt a little of the grogginess try and set in, but I also knew we didn't have much more time before he was going to ask me to take him in. I wanted the fish as bad as he did… sometimes as a guide I think I actually want it more than my clients. I was doing everything I knew to bring it together, and that fishy feeling was starting to get almost palpable. As he snoozed lightly I noticed his rod take that all-familiar dip at the beginning of a herring bite. I sat quietly and watched as his rod dipped and fluttered, started and stopped, and finally after an eternity slowly buried in the rod holder. I woke him up with a "you've got a fish, you've got a fish!" We landed the fish, and he was pleased as punch, and of course a new level of interest was back into his attitude. We made two more passes and landed two more fish, and we were still off the water by 2:00.
That day as he walked off the boat I asked him politely to please not to give up when we're fishing until I give up. If I believe it's going to happen, he should too! He still reminds me of that comment when we fish, and I think he's more confident now when we fish.
But still, the rub is wanting it so fast and furious. Often the fish aren't on our schedule and the only way we can find success is to grind it out. But when we grind it out, we have to stay confident and positive. It's these attitudes that combine to create luck. As I said at the beginning of this article, I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Sometimes we have to work to find those opportunities, and this is why being persistent is so important. If you're not ready to grind out the day, you might miss the bite, or bites you might have had if you'd stayed with it.
Give it a try… work on being confident you'll find the fish, but also WORK at it. A while back a very successful friend of mine told me the secret to his success. He said, "I've always been lucky, but I've manufactured my luck. When I was young my dad told me all you can do is work hard and the rest will come. That's the secret to my success," he said, "working hard!" And it's a premise that'll work for you on the water too. Stay upbeat and positive, work at it, and then you'll begin to manufacture your own brand of fishy luck!
October 31, 2012
Tillamook Bay Update - October 31st
by John Childs
Tillamook Bay Update – October 31st
Tillamook has shaped up as a killer year so far which is really exciting in my opinion. October can always be good, but November can be stellar. Last year I had a way better November than October in Tillamook for big Kings. October had some amazing coho fishing in 2011, which never really materialized this year, but the king fishing has been pretty darn good.
In the latter part of September and the beginning of October there were some days where it was a bit of a struggle, but how much of a struggle was it really when I look back at my overall fish numbers? One fishless day all season, and it was a day when I only had one client, so only two rods fishing. Otherwise we've had fish every day, and lately it's been averaging closer to 3 to 5 fish daily, with the occasional outstanding day thrown in.
Earlier in the season we were coming off of one of the driest periods on record in Oregon. The dry weather adversely affected river levels and with the amazingly low water the bay had a higher salinity than normal. It seemed the fish were around in the mid to upper bay on the large tides when the ocean water was sweeping in, but they seemed to almost disappear on the smaller tide sets. Yes they were still around, but the bay seemed empty comparatively.
Generally rain hurts the bay fishery. As soon as the water level comes up any fish that are ready to ascend the rivers shoot upstream. If the water is high enough, new fish are also jamming through the system and don't spend time riding the tides back and forth. For this reason, a die-hard bay fisherman doesn't really wish for rain, but the first rain a couple weeks ago was needed to even out the salinity in the bay. It made the mid bay become very consistent for a change. The spinner fishing became dependable, and we where happy people for a short period of time. Yes the rivers were still up, and fish were moving through faster than we would like, but even the small tides where holding fish throughout the bay.
This was also a godsend as the Ocean turned into a snotty witch! One day to see how ugly it really was (reported 12 foot breaking swell at the tips) I drove towards the Coast Guard station to see what the jaws looked like. As I came close to Kincheloe Point, there were already 3-4 foot rollers. By the time I was across from Lyster's, there were 6-8 foot steep rollers, and I could see breaking waves BEHIND the Coast Guard tower! Crazy big stuff!
Anyway, the fishing got much more consistent after the first rain, even though we were loosing fish up into the system. Probably the most noticeable missing link had been the Coho. Before the first rain they were just starting to be around with a fair amount of consistency, but just as I was getting ready to go on the afternoon casting assault, purely targeting these great game fish, they got sucked up into the fresh water with the first big freshet. Since then we've been getting just enough rain to keep fish moving through, and the Coho really haven't been around in any significant numbers. I think they have been in the system; they've just raced right through into fresh water ever since the first rain. This last Saturday is the first time I've seen them with any regularity since our first rain a couple weeks ago.
Of course the rivers are all blown out now, and it looks like it might be a few more days before we get a break and they start to drop and clear. The bay will still fish, but not as good with the murky water and the fish flying through on their way up to their natal stream. Regardless, it's getting ready to get really good, and the fish will be everywhere…. from the jaws all the way to the upper stretches of the 5 Tillamook rivers. All I can say is its time to get out there and fish!!
Overall, this has been a great year, with a fair number of nice large fish. I've had several come over the gunnel floating towards that magical 40 pound mark, but lots, and lots of 20-something's! It's been lots of fun!
For the last 3 weeks I've been fishing spinners almost exclusively. I sure can't get enough of those slack line grabs the big kings are so famous for! It's almost as much fun listening to one of my clients explain how the bite felt. How their blade had been thumping along and all the sudden their line went weightless. They set the hook and had something yank back hard from the other end along with strong headshakes. Priceless!
Every year the blade selection seems very static on Tillamook. Blades of ½ red and ½ white, chartreuse with a green dot, white with a red spot, or a green tipped rainbow (and many other similar choices!) are the go to colors, and this year is no exception, except I've spent the last two years enjoying consistent success with combinations of pink and white. I still fish a lot of blades with red, but pink is a pretty strong color too, so don't hesitate to add some to your arsenal. Also, white/pearl backs have been another nice addition on those dank and dark days, and early in the morning. Dang I love fishing blades!
I also spent a couple days floating a couple rivers before this current rain set blew it all out. While there were far from a ton of fish in the rivers, there were definitely fresh fish moving in on each high tide set. Not stellar, but decent fishing. It was a nice change up from all the days on the bay, and we caught some nice fish to boot. There were even some nice chums around to spice things up!
Here are some pics of the season so far, starting all the way back at the end of September! Hopefully I'll have a bevy more to add in the near future!!A great morning of spinner fishing! The best part is we went back out after this photo and caught 1 more gorgeous fish for the first limit of the season!Curtis with a beautiful coho! This was the first coho we caught and kept during the selective wild coho season. Rod with a darn nice big king! Gotta love those spinner bites!Spinners on ice! It's whats for dinner!The end result of a nice hen, great bait for the upcoming season!The rare occasion when I get to land one myself!A pretty Sunset over Tillamook BayOn those calm days we chased inshore halibut as well as salmon, and one morning I was rewarded with a little "white gold!"Steve with a snappy coho that crashed our spinner party! This was the first day of cold wind and rain! What a tough day!!A pig of fish! Right On!!!DidI mention I like to run blades? A great Tillamook Bay Sunset!!Kelly with her first spinner hooked king! I think she got hooked too!Maighread from Irish Moorings Cafe with her first spinner chinook! She cooks a mean breakfast too!!Bert with his first spinner King...Little did we know over a couple days of fishing he was going to become the lucky spinner magnet! Boy did he put the hurt on em!Bert with a nice coho.Bert with a big snow belly! What a fish!!! Me, Gary and Mr. Chumley!Kelly with the "hey, I can't find bottom" back-bouncing hen!Brett with one of those inclement weather kings! Check out that blowing poncho! It was wet and windy!!!Frank with another Dandy spinner caught inclement weather king! Can you say raining sideways, and yet we're all still smiles!?
October 09, 2012
Tillamook Bay Update- October 8th (and How to Determine if You Caught a Coho or Chinook)
by John Childs
Tillamook Bay Update - October 8th
I've been fishing Tillamook for a close to three weeks now, and I've experienced both highs and lows. She begins to show amazing promise, and then we see it get a bit tougher. I'm not quite sure why it's not just building into something stellar. With the lack of rain this fall, the rivers are incredibly low so it seems there is no way the salmon would be ascending much above the head of tidewater. I spied another guide sled the other day with a full compliment of bobber rods rigged and ready to roll. It seemed like a great idea to try kicking around in the upper tidewater to see if some of the fish that normally ascend with the first October rains would be holding in the deep holes in upper tidewater waiting impatiently for their chance to fly upstream. The kicker is, this very same guide had just come flying around the corner of the south jetty to join in a bit of bite happening in the ocean. While this isn't a huge run like it might be in some systems, it's still quite the commitment change, from one end of the bay to the other.
Last week I had a very similar day with my clients. I didn't go any higher than Memaloose, but I did start fishing in the Ghost Hole, moved to Bay City, then Rays Dolphin, into the picket fence, around the corner into Memaloose, along the Oyster House, then reverse course back down to Rays, out to the Center Channel (Center Ditch), into the West Channel, then all the way down to the Coast Guard Tower along the North Jetty, and out into the ocean and along the South Jetty through the middle grounds and back to the Ghost Hole to finish the day. We almost saw every fishable spot on the bay in one single day. Normally I would call such looking crazy movement, but we just weren't finding what we need. We landed 2 fish in the morning, and had one more opportunity in the afternoon, then struggled through the afternoon. A really tough day. The crazy thing is, the very day before I had limited my clients in two spots with very large fish. How does it change so fast in just one day? I guess that's the real kicker this year is there hasn't seemed to be consistency for more than a couple days. I guess the one thing you can bet your bottom dollar on is "EVERY DAY IS A NEW DAY!!"
One thing I can say though is we've been catching fish every day, and some days we've absolutely pounded on them. We just aren't having the consistency we all hope for you where you can start to put patterns together and then really start whacking on the big kings. When the fish are cooperating everything you would expect to work is working great. When they are getting a bit persnickety, it becomes a time to stick to what you know, and grind baby grind! I've had some great days spinner fishing the mid to upper bay this year, but I've also had some good days in the Ghost Hole and along the North Jetty and in the Ocean fishing herring. One bit of consistency is in the old Tillamook rule of fishing high in the bay on the large tide sets and fishing the lower bay on the small tide swings. But even then, you can still grind some fish out fishing these tides with a completely opposite game plan.
The silver have been around for a couple of weeks, but not in the numbers one would expect. Maybe I'm just impatient because I remember how good it really got last year when they committed to the bay. I had some days that where nothing short of amazing. I've been waiting excitedly for the return of those stellar afternoons, but to no avail as of yet. I've caught some beautiful coho, but not in the numbers I've expected, although they seem to be gaining in numbers over the last few days. Hopefully this week will see the turn with these fish really beginning to stack in the bay. When they do you can expect some truly fantastic fishing although pretty thin on the keeping part. Out of all the silver I caught last year in the bay, I only caught one with a fin clip, so don't expect to fish for limits of these super bright and gamey fish.
A few days back I hooked a large fish in the middle of the bay. It gave me a typical slack line bite on a number 7 spinner, and when I swung on him i received the expected dogged head shakes and deep bull dogging so typical of chinook, and then he proceeded to burn off a major amount of line and generally kick some butt like shallow water kings do. The surprise was the electric metallic green back as the fish finally popped up next to the boat. An amazing outsized silver, and truly hovering right around the 20 pound mark. A kick butt fish in any regard. The thing that immediately came to mind is the close resemblance to a chinook unless you really know the keys to recognizing the difference between the two species. So a quick review of how to tell the difference between chinook and coho. This is especially important in Tillamook where many of the silvers can creep up into the size range of the smaller kings, amazing outsized, gorilla type coho!
The first thing I notice whenever either species pops up next to the boat is the coloration on the backs. Fresh kings will have a purplish tint on their back that's unmistakeable. Conversely, coho will always have an electric/metallic green back. The second you see green on the back, the fish deserves a closer look to determine which species it really is. I've heard some anglers talk about looking at the spots on the back to determine which fish they've caught. This can be a really bad idea on the larger silvers, because they can honestly have the same irregular spot patterns so common and recognizable on chinook. The green back is the first clue. Chinook might have a greenish back, but it's always more of a dark olive tint, but more often you can see the black and purple tint, and with fish that have been in shallow water longer, they might have begun to sport the copperish hue of a sunburnt shallow water king.
If you suspect the fish you've just hooked might be a silver, or if your just not sure, take a look at the tail. Silver don't have spots on the tail. If the tail is perfectly silver with no spots, you've probably just caught a nice coho. Once in a while you'll catch a fish that my friend Kevin Newell has coined the chinoho... These fish REALLY do have to many characteristics of both species, but it's not "common." These chinohos can have a few spots on the top of the tail, while the rest of the tail is perfectly silver.
Here's the real key, and the one fish & game or a game warden would use to make the final determination of species, the gum line. Coho have a white to grayish white gum line. Not the mouth, which can be surprisingly black even on coho. The gum line is what's the determining factor. Look closely where the teeth come through the gums. If this area is grey or white you're sporting a coho, while if the area where the teeth come through the gums is black you have a king. I've released fish this year at Buoy 10 that looked like a chinook in almost every way, but there was just enough of a question about species that I looked closely at the gum line. These "questionable" fish got released because they sported grey gum lines, and I know full well this is what the fish checker will use as a determining factor in identification, so they swim away.
One more thing that's useful to know is silvers don't have a rigid caudal peduncle, a fancy name for the stump directly in front of the tail. On chinook this is rigid, and is why you can easily grab a chinook and lift him by the tail. you have a good hand hold that doesn't slip or collapse under the weight of the fish. Try this same maneuver when lifting a silver and it will generally slip right through your hands. This isn't a great technique for id, but it's another clue. If your not sure after everything else I've just described, try lifting the fish out of the net by the tail. If it keeps slipping out of your hand you probably should start thinking coho!
Tillamook has some truly outsized silvers that return to the basin, so size shouldn't be a factor in species determination!
As of the writing of this update, you can still keep one wild silver a year. That's one wild fish per year per angler, but you can only do this on Friday and Saturday. The rest of the week all wild silvers must be released unharmed.
Finally, as we get into the busiest time of the year I want to remind any of you fishing Tillamook regularly to share the water with others politely. I noticed this last weekend some anglers think they always have the right away when trolling. Pay attention, and work with the boats trolling around you. With boats trolling both directions in most spots it's imperative to keep your eyes open and make sure and steer your boat away from other boats. It's truly as simple as giving enough angle to your bow to show the intent of which side you're attempting to troll past. Hopefully if the other boats operator is paying attention he'll give you the same indication and you can easily pass each other without incident. The frustration comes when another boat is trolling towards you and you give the indication by your bow position of which direction you're planning on passing and they change the angle of their bow to intersect you, or maybe don't even move expecting you to move around them. This is a very "UNCOOL" attitude! If we all keep are heads up and pay attention to the direction others are going we can all troll very easily in both directions without any of the fancy maneuvering required by an inattentive, or worse, a captain who expects others to go around him.
Good luck out there, and I hope you find your Tillamook chrome!!
September 01, 2012
August 31st Update
by John Childs
I don't have a lot to report because I didn't fish real seriously yesterday. I have to admit to sleeping late (a whopping 6:30 am!) and then drinking a leisurely cup of coffee in my tent as I whipped a few spinners to try. In fact, this was the first morning in over 3 weeks where I actually got to drink an entire cup of coffe from top to bottom while it was still warm! What a simple yet lovely pleasure!
After I finished my spinners I drove down to the basin and prepared my boat to fish, but slowly and with an air of unhurried patience. I've caught a lot of fish over the last 22 days and I have an unpressured day to go at my pace. When there are clients on board it's amazingly hard to be patient or calm about fishing until the first couple of fish have been landed. I know many clients expect fishing with a guide is a catching day more than a fishing day, but I know full well we are fishing. I'm just hoping I can deliver on the catching part, so it's tense until this is accomplished. It's not terribly bad first thing in the morning, especially if I've been doing pretty good, but the longer it takes, and if we've seen some fish caught around us, the more tense it becomes. That's when I can get wound up tighter than a bow string, and I hate it, but I want my clients to catch fish so bad I get frustrated when I feel like I'm not delivering. That's the stress of this job...and really the only down side I can think of.
The point of all this is on a day off there is no pressure. None. Not even the slightest bit...I could truly care less if I get them. Yes, I do want to do some catching, but my time on the water is about more than catching fish, so I'm content just to be there, doing something I love dearly. If I catch fish, it's a FANTASTIC BONUS!
Long story short, I didn't hook any fish. I drove around and fished some spots I wanted to try without any pressure. I saw very few hooked, and I didnt worry abou it. I just relaxed in the sun, ran my boat, fished some beautiful baits and just enjoyed the fact of living a life I so dearly love.
For you wack 'em and stack 'em sorts I do have a bit of the skinny for you. They aren't biting early right now. It's a good time to wait to be on the water till later in the morning. When the incoming gets flooding hard they are starting to bite, from the Point of Sands, up through the Church. They'll also bite above the bridge coming into high slack, and through the first couple hours of the incoming. When the tides running pretty good, drag them in the dirt, right on the bottom. When the tide is slack or barely moving they'll suspend, especially in the deeper water, so run different depths. So far this year I've caught them all over the board for depths when they're suspended, but 30-35 feet on my line counters running 40 pound Maxima line with Delta Divers and Flashers have been my hot depths.
Also, several of my friends really started to get them on spinners the last couple of days. I've still done better on bait, but some have done better on blades, so fish what you have confidence in.
Good luck if you get out there soon, and hopefully I'll see you on the water!
August 30, 2012
August 8th Update
by John Childs
August 29th Updat
Today was a good day, but frustrating as well. It didn't happen quite as good as yesterday, but it still fished in all the spots I expected. That's the good part...it was a little harder to get the quality kings, and that's the frustrating part!
I had regular clients today, one who brought their grandson with the goal of catching him a salmon. Well, you can guess exactly how that all played out. I think I've said it before in my blog, but it bears repeating, "the more you want something to happen when fishing, the harder it is to have it come together." I wanted young Alex to catch one so bad it hurt! Not only did I want him to catch one, I wanted him to catch a really big one as well. The way it's been fishing I figured it was a no brainer...well, that's what I get for thinking!
We started at the point of sands again, and I should have stayed with it there longer. I knew it SHOULD fish, but I didn't have confidence in it. I also knew a bite would probably happen at Buoy 20 because it had the two previous days. The thing is, the last two days when I've pulled in to Buoy 20 we've literally hooked our first fish immediately, so I have no idea when the bite was starting. I was antsy to get over there and try to get into it for as long as possible. When we pulled up to 20, the tide was still going out pretty hard, so we made passes with the tide, all the way to Buoy 14. It was our 3rd or 4th pass when the tide finally started to slack off and we had a little flurry hooking 3 fish, one which got off (and I think it was a good one the way it burned line off on the grab!) and landed a small wild coho and a small king which we released. The tide had finally turned and started coming in hard enough to hold us in position, and eventually push us back. While we held around the buoy, we hooked another fish which was definitely a good chinook, but after several minutes of tugging on him he came unpinned. Bummer! I was starting to get a bit antsy again!
I decided we should go back and try the point of sands, and we did manage to hook and land a nice hatchery coho, releases another wild coho, and eventually landed a good king, and missed another 3 or 4 bites as well. It seems like a bunch of silvers might have showed up because the last couple of days I'm starting to get a lot of short biters.
After hammering away at the point of sands we finally decided to run up above the bridge on the Washington side. We knew there had been a bite there yesterday since my clients had fished there with a other guide, and I had heard about it as well from my network. We figured we could put the icing on our cake there.
The wind was blowing pretty good and it was getting a bit lumpy, but we kept at it. We made a couple passes and hooked and landed a small king, as well as missed a couple bites and finally hooked young Alex the king he'd come for. Finally, and right down to the wire! I had 15 minutes to make it to the fuel dock before it closed, but we skated in just in the nick of time!
So as I said, good but frustrating. I had confidence we could pull it off and we did...but it was absolutely right down to the wire!!
August 28, 2012
August 26-27 & 28th Updates - A Day in the Life
by John Childs
I never had any idea what I was getting into with these updates. It would'nt be a problem if I had Internet service and could use my laptop, but I'm typing these all with my phone. I had typed out another update early this morning before I left my camp, and managed to loose the while thing. Second time that's happened this week. How frustrating!
Well the last 3 days have been crazily different. On Sunday we had the worst weather you could imagine. It was cool, very windy, and raining to boot. It was frustrating because it drastically reduced the options of what we potentially good spots we could fish. There was a decent bite going on the Oregon side above the bridge, and we manged a decent king on our first pass, but then it turned into a pick bite where we were seeing a fish caught here or there, but not steady bites. We kept making passes, and got bit 3-4 more times, but could'nt get them to stick. We finally couldn't take the wind and rain any longer and called it a day. We ended with 6 bites, 1 chinook and 1 hatchery silver kept.
Yeaterday it was much better. It stayed calm most of the day, and we were able to get some good fish right off the bat. Since we were starting right after the beginning of the outgoing tide, I decided to run straight to Buoy 20. We were going to drop some crab pots as well, so the combination of tides and spots was ideal. After dropping the pots right off Social Security Beach, we motored just shy of Buoy 20 started to let our lines out, and were bit before the 3rd line went in the water. Wow! That's was cool! We landed the fish and it turned out to be our best of the day and was probably pushing 25 pounds.
We pounded it out for the next hour and a half and manged to land 3 more nice kings, and loose one other. It was good. The best part is we might have been one of 4-6 boats fishing the spot. Sweet!
When we had gone a bit of time without a bite, I figured it was time to move up the river since the fish riding the tide had probably passed us. We ran up to Hammond, and started making a pass there. We hooked a couple more fish, but never managed to land anymore during a picky little bite.
When the tide was coming close to ending I decided we should run to the end of the sands to see if anything might pop. We pulled in and there were almost no boats. I though about sticking it out, but it seems to have been dying lately, so I didn't want to spend a ton of time checking it out. We made a medium length pass and marked very few fish, so I decided it was time to bail up to the Washington Side above the bridge. This area was fishing unbelievably well, but has been a bit temperamental the last few days. I started in at 30 feet and was starting to troll up when I got a call there was a hot bite at Rice Island. We picked up and ran to it. There was deffinitely a bite going on, but we couldn't get bit. Not sure why, because I'm usually right in the mix if there's a bite happening, but you know how it goes. Sometimes it's your turn, and sometimes it's not! The wind started to kick up on our second pass and I knew it could end up being a booger to run through a chop built by wind against tide, so we headed for the Oregon side above the bridge. We got to where the last ship is and dropped in and hooked a fish immediately. It was a small chinook, legal, but small so we let him go. We did'nt go another 50 yards and missed one, and another 50 yards and got a Tulle. Wow, some fish are here! We got set and started in again and landed a nice upriver fish about 15 minutes latter. The wind was still building so I figured this was as good a place and time to end the day.
We ended up with 5 nice chinook, 2 releases, and probably another 6-7 bites. A very nice day!
Today I tried to repeat yeaterday, and almost managed it without the run to Rice Island or the Washington Side above the bridge. We started at 20, but somebody besides me let the cat out of the bag. We had 100 of our best fishing buddies join us for the party. We still manged just fine and input first pass Hooked around 10 fish and boxed 2 of them, and released a couple small silvers and an undersized chinook.
We ended up having to make a run back to the moorage at Astoria to pick up some stuff one of my clients had forgot, and this made us miss following the fish back. The wind was already coming up so I decided to troll the Green Can line down. I went right below the bridge, found. 30 feet and started trolling downstream against the tide. I was marking a bunch of fish, so after not getting bit for a while I turned around and started trolling with it. We hadn't gone far and got a ripping bite that tore a bunch of line off and then started coming back towards us. About this time a seal popped up, and the fish rolled on type right next to him. Can you guess what happened next? You guessed it, the seal managed to capture our fish and eventually break us off, but it was exciting while it lasted. We hooked 3 more trolling up, but no more big fish.
We ran up to the ships and started a pass down, and hooked a couple more landing a few more small fish, and missing a few others. It started to get a bit frustrating, but you have to take it as it comes.
We ended the day with 2 nice fish kept, 4 released undersized chinook, and 3 small wild silvers. I have no idea how many bites we missed. A lot! Twelve...fifteen? We cranked through the herring, that's for sure.
3 clients for tomorrow, so hopefully we can improve those statistics!
August 26, 2012
August 25th Update - A Day in the Life
by John Childs
Update August 25th
I just finished typing a long update and managed to loose the entire document by rushing as I begin falling asleep. Dang, what a bummer...
Had a great day, and manged to limit my clients out on kings by 8:30. It made the day extremely relaxing, and we had a lot of fun fishIng, talking and hoping for a few coho to add to our fish box.
I would love to retype my earlier update, but even though I was off the water very early for me, I'm still absolutely wiped out. I've been nodding off again as I type this. My day began at 4:00, and it's now 8:45 and I haven't stopped moving. No, I'm not complaining. I love what I do, and I'm not unhappy about it in any way, but just want any of you readers out there to know why I'm not always giving you more info. I want to, I really do, but the reality of my tired body is limiting some of my ability to write.
Anyway, we landed 3 chinook and one coho today, broke off a king, and lost two others on spinners as well as miss a couple other bites. It was a great day, made even better by the fact we steered clear of all the crowds. A nice way to spend the day.
The tides are starting to (503) 946-3434
Portland, ORgrow again, so it'll be interesting to see how this week fishes. It looks like Buoy 10 might close for chinook on Friday, so this is might be the last hurrah for 2012 kings here in Astoria. I'm bummed in a way, but I'm also looking forward to my own bed again too!
Anyway, I have a couple opening left this week, so give me a call if your interested in getting in on this great fishery before she winds all the way down.
See you again tomorrow!
August 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 18, 2012
August 16 & 17th - A Day in the Life
by John Childs
August 16 & 17th Update - A Day in the Life
I've had a couple tough days. Yesterday we only landed one, but we also got off the water way to early. I have been getting most of my fish in the afternoon on the outgoing tide, but I've also been getting a few each morning. Yesterday we couldn't buy one during the incoming tide. We got bit 3 times, and one stuck long enough to let us clear lines and get the net, and then he came off. Frustrating!
The tides are now pushing really hard. It's a holding game against the tide, or backing down slowly. No more forward trolling into the tides. This has turned the spinner bite on some. I'm still getting most of my bites on herring, but I did get 2 fish on spinners today and missed another and I know a few guys who are getting them all on spinners. Tomorrow I'm going to fish way more spinners and see what happens.
Today we landed 5, lost 2, and missed 2 others. My second slowest bite day. I saw a few good bite stretches along the Saw Dust Pile and Hammond, but I couldn't get hit myself. Want to talk about getting a guide tweaky! Just put him in the middle of boats hooking up and make sure he can't hook up too. Quick way to get super frustrated. Oh well, I guess you can't get them every time.
Well, my morning started at 4:30, and I left my boat at 7:30 this evening after cleaning everything up, came back and made bait, tied some spinners, and cleaned myself up. I'm exhausted and I'm falling asleep as I write this. I'll touch base again tomorrow.
August 15, 2012
August 15th - A Day in the Life
by John Childs
August 15th Update - A Day in the Life
I'm keeping the promise of daily updates, but wow am I tired. Today was a bit of a tough day, and fairly slow for the first couple of hours. We had just a bit of outgoing tide this morning, changing into a 6 plus foot incoming tide. There's been a decent bite, almost a really good one, in front of Hammond the last few days, but as the tides get bigger it has kept getting slower and slower. Kinda frustrating. Waiting for something to happen you're sure will, then nothing. Or at least almost nothing.
We landed one nice fish, and broke off another, and missed 2 other opportunities from the Saw Dust Pile all the way to Buoy 14. It was spotty and slow at best.
On good intel I heard I might want to make a move to the Washington side, and chose to check it out. We made the run and we found a few fish. We hit a bunch of small guys, but a couple nice ones as well. We ended up landing 6, keeping 4, all chinook. We lost 4 others, and who knows how many misses. We were one from limiting, and I fished way to late trying to make it happen. Oh well, it was still a fun day!
The day started at the bright and early stroke of 3:00 am when I woke up and wrote the last update. Afterwards I got up, loaded my bait and stuff in the truck and headed for the boat. I got things a bit more arranged and was just about ready when my clients arrived. We fished all day, and hit the dock at the to late hour of 5:30 pm. With a 6:00 am start, that makes for a long day.
I write this in a restaurant with my family while we wait for food. I finished cleaning the boat around 7:45, and only have to cure my eggs, prepare tomorrows bait and take a shower before it all starts again! Truly long days, but I admit I love what I'm doing. Yes, I might get a bit tired, but overall it's the life I want.
I have clients again at 6:00, so hopefully we can put another decent day in.
Final tally...hooked around 14, landed 6, killed 4.
August 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 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
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!!
May 23, 2012
Fishing the Re-opener on the Columbia River
by John Childs
Fishing the Re-opener for Columbia Springers
The Columbia officially reopens this weekend for a two-day season on Saturday the 26th, and Sunday the 27th. The same limits as the early season apply. You can retain 2 adult salmon or hatchery steelhead, but only one clipped Chinook is allowed per day (the other salmon may be a sockeye). This is great news, especially knowing if the numbers over the dam spike again when the water level goes down, we will most likely get another reopener, this time with the season lasting all the way through the June 16th Summer Chinook Season opener. With the flows in the Willamette continuing to be high, but more significantly, backed up with lessened current flow, the fishing has continued to be tough, with many anglers completely giving up. The Columbia reopening to spring Chinook fishing should shoot some life back into the fishery, and best of all, it looks like Columbia is slated to be dropping this weekend which could really help illicit a strong bite. This is potentially the best opportunity we've had for "REALLY" catching some spring Chinook so far this year.
The water temperature is currently sitting at 57 degrees at Bonneville, but could realistically drop a degree or two given our current weather conditions. Regardless whether the temps hold or go down, the water will probably be in the mid to upper 50's over the weekend. With early to mid morning high tides swinging into outgoing tides during the day, the stage is set for really good fishing conditions. Our only real obstacle this weekend will be the continued high water, but after the last couple of seasons, I think many of us who have been fishing the Columbia when it has been open, have forged new game plans to combat this high water anomaly.
If you haven't spent some time fishing during the high water flows of the last two years, I would recommend leaning toward fishing shallower water than normal. I've caught many springers between 8 and 15 feet of water so don't be afraid to target the shallow edges, especially where they are on inside corners, or flats that are removed from the faster main current flow of the river. These migrating fish are looking for the path of least resistance, and this often means seeking out the softer water on the fringes of the main current.
Given the conditions outlined above, I would arrive at the river with a game plan. With warmer water conditions, hardware could be extremely effective. With the tide change and outgoing morning tides, we could also see good downstream herring fishing. Currently, my plan is to be on the water at first light trolling herring downstream through the tide change and into the first bit of the outgoing tide, and then switch gears mid morning, and start targeting the hardware bite. In my opinion, this is where it gets interesting.
I'm a diehard spinner guy. I paint my own blades, build my own spinners, and have a collection of spinners that really gets a bit obscene at times. Oh my gosh, this seems like the perfect time to find a great anchor spot in 6 to 12 feet of water and put some spinners out, or slowly troll them upstream, or even troll them downstream like we're fishing herring, but not dragging bottom, just staying really, really close. But here's where the descisions get tough, because I love fishing plugs, (what I consider smaller K-11X Kwikfish, Wiggle Warts or similar plugs) and I also love fishing sardine wrapped Kwikfish for the savage strikes they elicit from kings. To many choices, not enough time to try them all, or is there? I might just get the full meal deal in some way or another, but I can tell you, I will show up with more than my share of gear so I can take advantage of whatever conditions or spots I encounter!
A note of caution here, as I'm still seeing large parts of trees and other debris coming down river. Not nearly at the pace of earlier in the year, but still, there are still some potentially devastating hazards floating downstream, so make sure and keep an eye out while running, or if you anchor up. Also, if you anchor, make sure you put out plenty of scope on your anchor line and put your anchor buoys out. The anchor buoy is anchored, and your boat is cleated off to the buoy. If you're paying attention and something goes wrong you can un-cleat from the buoy and hopefully avoid any disasters, but this means staying aware of what's happening around you. Pay attention and be safe!
For anchor fishing with plugs, you can use a small jet diver to get your gear down into the zone, but if you're in some current and it's fairly shallow, you can also flat line them. Both Wiggle Warts and K-11X's will dive 8-9 feet given enough line and a decent current. If it's much deeper, either lead or a diver will help keep your plugs in the zone.
If you decide to fish wrapped Kwikfish, use 18-24" droppers with a 5-foot leader and bounce them back away from your boat a ways, then wait for that magical rod burying grab the Kwiky is so famous for! Some anglers prefer longer dropper lengths for fishing Kwikfish on anchor, and it's perfectly acceptable to fish up to 4 foot lead droppers. What you really want to see is the plug working steadily, but it should occasionally quit working, and the rod tip should become still. This is when the plug hits bottom and hesitates and quits working until it floats up a bit and begins working again. The plug should be working more than it's resting, but if it's not hitting bottom a couple times or more each minute, I don't really feel it's in the zone.
The same basic set-up for Kwikfish, is perfect for fishing spinners, although I definitely like the shorter dropper lengths. I will almost always be fishing a 24" dropper with spinners, both when anchored and when trolling them. Just make sure you're right there close to the bottom, and when anchored you can have the lead resting lightly on the bottom.
Finally, don't rule out the idea of back-trolling areas with good current in 18 to 35 foot depths. You can back troll wrapped Kwikfish or prawn spinners with a jet diver on a 12-18" dropper and 5 foot leader. The nice thing about back-trolling is you aren't stuck in one current lane, but can glide from side to side while backing down, potentially finding that magical depth/contour/seam where the fish seem to be traveling.
Whatever methods you decide to employee this weekend, don't forget to have fun out there. Plan there will be crowds, busy boat ramps and excited people who may even forget their common sense for a moment when they get excited. It's about having fun out there with our friends and families in the wonderful environment we all live in here in the great Northwest. Smile and give a little leeway to the other guys and we'll all have a little more fun!
See you on the water!!
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!"