Really really big ones at Tillamook bar -
The Oregonian's Bill Monroe!

Go Back > Ifish Archives > Ifish 2002 archives

Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 09-10-2002, 09:08 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Just downstream from the Hole O' Garbage'
Posts: 8,838
Default Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

As we approach the next zoo area for fall fishing – Tillamook bay, I felt it might be prudent to document this installment of “As the impeller turns”.

This is a true story. It is also why my friend “Reel Dick” (who is a new ifish member and is overdue with his first post) now refuses to go near ANY ocean bars. I have to admit it gives me pause for thought each time I get near one.

The years all blend together now but I remember it was a nice fall day in September back in the late 80s. Reel Dick had volunteered to take his boat down to the coast with a hometown buddy “Sod” and me for the weekend.

That morning we got to Garibaldi amidst the 3000 other anglers and waited to launch without incident. We were fishing the incoming tide in his 17’ Sylvan boat and I was driving. We worked our way past the Coast Guard Station and started fishing near the tower. There wasn’t much wind but there were 3 to 4 foot rollers that were coming in from the ocean. No big deal as they were not breaking, but they were constant that morning.

We could see out to the bar as we got closer and the fishing looked pretty hot from what I could see. There were lots of boats working right at the bar itself where the jetties end and they seemed to be enjoying the most action. We saw nets flailing with regularity out there. But there were nets occasionally showing where we were too so we chose to stay back from the bar a bit.

Or more precisely, Reel Dick offered no choice in the matter. Sod, at my urging, was “on board” with the idea that we should hit the bar like everyone else and catch some hogs. But Dick said no way were we going out there, and in spite of me driving, since it was his boat and all I acquiesced to his wishes. Couldn’t understand his reasoning though, as it was only a few hundred yards from where we were at our closest approach and the rollers were no different there than along the rest of big blue or inside the jetties. I basically cast aspersions upon his heritage but slowly we backtrolled back toward the Coast Guard Tower.

As we got back there I got a quick take down but nothing stuck so I reeled up. Sure enough the bait was missing. So, while trying to keep the kicker true against the incoming I looked down to rebait a cut plug when it happened. I honestly at first didn’t even realize what was going on.

Sod and Reel Dick, however, knew immediately and commented. “Man, that was a HUGE roller”, said Dick. And then I realized, wow, that was a big roller wasn’t it?

And then the action started. Lots of folks were standing on the North Jetty beyond the Coast Guard Tower and we could see them looking toward the bar. Then we noticed Coast Guard personnel in the tower run outside and look to the bar with big binocs. Literally within a minute or two we saw a chopper pass over and we knew something bad had happened. Then just a few minutes after that a Coast Guard Cutter steamed past as well. Then a Zodiac.

What the hell had happened we wondered? We motored a bit closer back toward the bar and could see flotsam. It was a sinking feeling. The story became clear as we started talking among witnesses to the devastation.

It seems that, all of the sudden, even though the seas had been constant and rolling all morning at about 3 to 4 feet, a 25’ sneaker rolled in from sea. It got right to the bar, crested, broke, and wreaked absolute terror on those who were fishing on the bar. Details in my aging memory are getting hazy now, but I remember a 28’ Bayliner literally broke in half. We saw an 18’ Boston Whaler being towed in by the Coasties that was totally capsized (yes it was floating but you would not have wanted to be in it). Several other boats were sunk and/or damaged as they were flung into the jetties and yes, there was loss of a few lives.

A really disconcerting thing about this whole incident is the way that there was but one wave that was so immensely different from the rest. Immediatelyafter the wave the 3 to 4' rollers returned and if not for the devastation and rescue, one would never have know anything happened at all.

Reel Dick just looked at me that day and said “That is why you will never get me to fish on a bar or in the ocean ever again.” I respect his decision and no longer ask him if he wants to go out to big blue.

In the years since I have even taken my open 18’ Alumaweld over Tillamook bar and fished the area behind the South Jetty. It took several before I did, and when I do I do not choose to stay at the end of the jetties no matter how many boats are slamming how many fish there. There is simply no doubt in my mind that another wave will sooner or later happen again and the results will be tragic. No fish is worth it.

As a post script to this, the next fall I was waiting to pull my boat out of the Garibaldi Marina and struck a conversation with a fellow about that event. He told me he was on the bar that fateful afternoon. He was fishing in his older glass ski boat when he looked up and saw the huge wall of water coming at him. When he saw it, he took immediate action that may have saved his life, and might save one of ours if we remember it. What action? He, without hesitation and without reeling his gear in, started his big outboard and put the throttle full forward and ran INTO the roller. By doing so he caught the roller at sea in front of the bar and before it broke. Something to keep in mind…

Please be aware, whether it is Tillamook or Nehalem or any other bars (this is the real reason why there is NO fishing past Buoy 10 until you get well outside the jetties in case you didn’t realize) that you need to keep a spotter in the boat watching for unusual waves at all times. Do not become a statistic over a fish!


[ 09-11-2002, 05:18 AM: Message edited by: Hogmaster ]

Hogmaster is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old 09-10-2002, 09:19 PM   #2
get hooked
get hooked's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: gresham
Posts: 417
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Hogmaster, there are many such stories like that one. Tillamook is noted for those sneaker waves, so you need to always keep an eye out. I spent some time in the Coast Guard an did some of my duty there. I've seen a 25 foot cruiser flip completely upside down and then back right side up in a matter of seconds. One has to respect the power of the ocean. Safe boating to all.
USCG 1968-1974, MST 1st Class ( Northwind, Staten Island, Wachusetts, MSO Portland, Nehalem and Tillamook Bay )
MMSI# 338018603
get hooked is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-2002, 09:20 PM   #3
Pete's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 41,241
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Thanks for your tale of woe and warning, Hog. The big pond deserves every ounce of respect we can muster for her, and every bit of lore that may help us deal with what she throws our way helps. I always check my "nervousness factor" when I face the salt ... it's what keeps the awareness and focus keen. The day my stomach isn't dancing is the day I turn back at the tower.

[ 09-10-2002, 09:20 PM: Message edited by: Pete ]
Report Game Violations!
Washington: 1 877 933-9847
Oregon: 1 800 452-7888
Pete is offline   Reply With Quote
Sponsored Links
Old 09-10-2002, 10:08 PM   #4
Salmonslayer2's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Albany,Oregon, USA.
Posts: 436
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

I was there that day. My fishing partneer back was killing him and we came in. when loading the boat we herd of the news. I feel for thoes that lost there lives. The ocean I give a lot of respect. Always becarefull and have life jackes on you never know.
16 foot Jetcraft Boat, Humminbird 787c2 Combo GPS Fishfinder
Salmonslayer2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 05:24 AM   #5
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Just downstream from the Hole O' Garbage'
Posts: 8,838
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

I suspect others were there that day and/or have seen how a sneaker can appear out of nowhere.

I always had the mistaken impression that seas must build somewhat before a big wave came out of a set. Not true. This wave came literally out of nowhere and was a lonesome rogue.

When I wrote of a spotter if you are crossing or especially fishing on the bar, this is why. If everyone is busy watching their rod, or someone in the boat as they bait, or the boat fighting the fish, or whatever, it would be really easy to miss the approach of one of these waves.

Stay alert. Stay alive.
Hogmaster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 08:45 AM   #6
CAGEY's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Mcminnville,Oregon,USA
Posts: 1,120
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Yes the Tillamook bar can be a deadly place. For those of you who fish the Nehalem jaws dont forget it can be just as nasty. Time after time i see small open boats venturing out across the bar in rough conditions. Its a disaster waiting to happen. If you want to be safe just follow me around on the nehalem. I have a open bow 16 foot and it has a huge yellow stripe right down the middle of it and no amount of money can sway me to cross the bar unless the waves are 3 inches or less.
CAGEY is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 09:05 AM   #7
[email protected]
Jennie@ifish's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: North Coast
Posts: 117,452
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Bill, and others who wish to fish the jaws with me , and spend all day trying to soothe my nerves enough to go, are not pleased with you for telling me that story.
Now I can really do, the "Yeah but, what if?"
--and base it on fact and storytelling from

I, on the other hand, thank you for this story!
More power to me for fishing.... where there aren't any fish!!!

You know.... far in from the jaws... Places like the ghost hole, where I hooked up with that 12 lb silver, or the 31 pounder two days ago... places like that that hold no fish. :smile: :smile: :smile:

I'm safe AND I can get fish!

Isnt flat water grand? That's what I hate about the ocean. It's SO unpredictable!


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Whoo hooo! What a Ride!”

Jennie@ifish is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 09:31 AM   #8
skrimmy's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Hillsboro
Posts: 3,728
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

It was too disturbing a site to see the coasties try unsuccessfully to save a guy when he swamped his boat off the South Jetty last October to be out there in questionable conditions. Call me a chicken or whatever, but no fish is worth losing your life for. I'll be out there off the South Jetty again soon, when the water's soft, but when that ocean kicks up, I'm outa there.

Let's remember too one of the areas best guides, Ted Howell. In my opinion he's one of the best boaters and guides out there. Granted he may like to fish in a bit close, but anyone who knows him knows how skilled a boater he is. Three successive sneakers didn't care how good he was, he lost his boat and two clients just a few shorts months ago off the South Jetty.

We spent a lot more time in the bay last year, and I can't remember any sneaker waves there! What I can remember is catching some mighty fine Nooks in the Ghost Hole, and limiting out for the week, all inside the bay. That was the first week of October too, when the ocean is usually the place to be. I'm hoping the ocean is good this year, or at least my fishing buddy is hoping that. Steve, if you're reading this........prey for flat oceans so you don't have to call me a wussy! May the bay be as kind to you this year as it was for me last year!

Careful out there......
Get the Net!!!

skrimmy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 10:00 AM   #9
King Salmon
Thumper's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Vancouver, WA
Posts: 12,322
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Skrimmy is right on about Ted Howell. If sneakers can catch Ted they can catch any of us. That guy has more experience in the big blue, over 40 years as a full time saltwater guide and commercial fisherman, than any of us.

Tillamook Anglers!!! Good people doing great things!
Thumper is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 10:15 AM   #10
King Salmon
Threemuch's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 6,830
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

I always wonder about those that think I am crazy for running 5-40 miles offshore to fish, but then they will take their boat and troll the bar all day. Offshore, a lone big wave just picks you up, and puts you back down, you never see boat eating curlers except in shallow water.

The bar is no place to linger, fish or no fish. You make your crossing, and get the heck away. But there is no way I give up the salt for the bay or the river. No way.

Threemuch is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 10:27 AM   #11
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Nehalem,Or,
Posts: 955
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Ah, the sneaker wave. Years ago a buddy and myself were fishing the jaws of the Nehalem in his aluminum driftboat and 8 hp kicker. The silvers (this was back when you could keep them anytime) were thick out by the whistler but nothing was happening in the jaws. In fact there was no one fishing in the jaws. The ocean and the bar were a virtual lake. So flat that ********* could have swam from Nehalem to El Sigundo without getting his hair wet. We fished the jaws for about an hour and never saw even a two foot swell come in the bay. After a little talk and some more watching we decided that we were going out to the buoy. We pulled in our lines, fired up the mighty Johnson and headed West. As we passed the South Jetty a swell approximately 5 foot high seemed to come out of nowhere and swept by us. No problem. Right behind that one was an 8 to 10 foot high swell. That provided us a little pucker to give us suction on the seat and as the boat slapped down I looked over my shoulder to see the mother of all waves bearing down on us. How high???? From the bottom of the trough looking up I would have swore it was 100 feet. In reality as we were climbing the wave in the 16 foot driftboat we had at least a boat length and a half in addition to our current boat length to go to get to the top (realize that is slope distance). I could see that milky green water at the sharp top of the wave and was hollering that it was going to break on us and give all the power you have.
As we made it to the top, the wave literally swept out from underneath us and we now had the first Johnson powered aerial drift boat. Our herring were floating in the air above our feet and our feet were floating in the air above our heads. My only contact with the driftboat was a white knuckled grip on each gunnel and my partner had one hand on the motor and one hand on the gunnel. We looked like a pair of bull riders that didnt make the eight second time limit.
After what seemed like eternity the boat landed flat. We hit so hard that I put a permanent vee in the aluminum bench in the front. Immediately after that wave passed everything was flat. There wasnt a ripple. We fished half heartedly outside for a while to compose ourselves and clean ourselves up and then cautiously went in and fished the jaws. We never saw another swell after that. Later a yellow rental boat with Ma and Pa Kettle and their three kids went by us out into the ocean, tooled around and came back with out a care in the world.

Were we wearing life jackets? NO.
Have I ever been across a bar without a life jacket ON since then? NO NO NO.
I learned my lesson that day. That wave can come anytime and literally out of nowhere.
It took that experience to make me realize that the Ocean deserves all the respect you can give her or she will make you pay the price.

It is easier to fool people than it is to convince them they have all been fooled. Mark Twain
OneLastCast is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 10:28 AM   #12
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Newberg, OR
Posts: 318
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

I will stay in the river and bays thankyouverymuch.

If I go out into Big Blue I will do so with a professional guide.

I am not very smart, but I am smart enough to know my limitations.


Anyway, it is more fun to deal with the hoglines...
Patrick Johnson
Newberg, Oregon
Chacal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 11:58 AM   #13
Get Bent
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 993
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

That's one of the (few) advantages that bankies have over boaters. The only sneaker waves we have to worry about are from the guy we're fishing next to who had beans for dinner the night before. :shocked: :shocked: :shocked:
Get Bent is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 08:26 PM   #14
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Just downstream from the Hole O' Garbage'
Posts: 8,838
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Jennie -

(Or should I write Bill)

I don't mean for the story to turn anyone off to fishing in big blue or the jaws. Like Threemeuch wrote, the ocean might get rough seas that can build (OK, sometimes with short notice), but a sneaker is almost always a roller out there. And the jaws are safer as witnessed by us that fateful day. The wave turned back into a roller once inside the jaws.

It is the bar itself that can be so unpredicatable.

Anyone who is part of an event like what happened to Ted Howell, One Last Cast or witnessed by skrimmy or us gets a very serious wakeup call about a Pacific Northwest bar.

Frankly, fishing on the bar is like playing Russian roulette with a gun that has many chambers in my view. Each time you do it you spin the revolver. Might do it for many years, but sooner or later... :depressed:

And I was as cowboy as they come prior to then. One experience is all it takes.
Hogmaster is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-11-2002, 09:45 PM   #15
Ifish Nate
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Bandon by the sea..
Posts: 2,220
Default Re: Really really big ones at Tillamook bar

Originally posted by Get Bent Tackle:
That's one of the (few) advantages that bankies have over boaters. The only sneaker waves we have to worry about are from the guy we're fishing next to who had beans for dinner the night before. :shocked: :shocked: :shocked:
<font size="2" face="verdana,arial,helv">Down here on the south coast in bandon on the coquille river, we had a nice little sneaker, it came up just on the North jetty, (where the light house is.) I was in my boat fishing and I about filled my drawers. The wave came in ingulfed the north jetty, Kept going, covered the light house. literally over the top of the light house. and moved a bus that was in the parking lot. Bankies are only safe if they fish way up river. And because of that, I always wear my life jacket in the big blue and crossing the bars..... ******** scares me to death!
Bla... bla, bla.... Bla bla bla.....
Lepper is offline   Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Cast to

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:16 PM.

Terms of Service
Page generated in 0.50028 seconds with 28 queries