1. Be safe.
This is number one for a reason. Having a vessel that is well prepared for the conditions it could face out here is a life or death matter. Inflatable life jackets should be checked and recharged if outdated. Flares, fire extinguishers, electronics, and motors should all be gone over to help minimize risk.
2. Dress for the weather
One rainy day a few years back I learned the hard way that it’s up to the Captain to make sure the crew is properly dressed. I was faced with dropping off my crew at West Basin so they could walk up to Englunds to get rain coats and bibs. I made a couple fruitless passes on the Green Line while my phone blew up with tales of a wide open bite at the church hole. I reconnected with my crew and made it across the sands just in time to watch the last remnants of action dissipate.
3. No tying knots on the boat
Knot tying is done in your garage, or at camp. Everything should be pre-tied and connected via duo-lock snaps. Even if you somehow break off at your mainline you need to have at least one extra rod set up and ready to go.
4. Know the tides and how to fish them
I could write and entire blog on this one alone. In fact, I have. Any attempt at this topic in the short form would be woefully inadequate so hopefully you’ve caught some of our past blogs one this subject. If not, find a seminar at a local tackle shop, or hire a guide and bludgeon him with questions. In regards to catching fish this is easily the most important facet to learn about this fishery.
5. Know your weather
If you don’t already have it on your phone download ‘Fish Weather’ right away. This will give pinpoint wind forecasts at several weather stations in the area and across the region as well. Having this information as well as how the tides and wind react to each other will also affect safety. For example, an outgoing tide couple with a West or Northwest wind spells trouble.
6. Bring good bait
Whether it’s fresh or frozen doesn’t really matter as long as it’s quality. I brine everything be it Herring or Anchovies just to help toughen them up a bit. Keep them cold throughout the day too. Mushy bait won’t hold up here.
7. Plan your day, but be willing to adjust.
My first day out last year I made a fool proof plan for success based on research and intelligence. We left Hammond Marina and put our lines in at the Jetty Lagoon. By the time we hit marker 20 we had 2 fish in the box on 5 hookups. A wiser Captain would have turned around to make another pass through that group of biters but not me. I stuck to the plan which was to troll all the way to Marker 10 and wait for the tide change. It took 4 hours and about 8 river miles until the next fish would hit the deck. The following day I learned from my mistake and changed my plan once we found the bite. We returned with our 8 fish boat limit at 11:30 that morning.
8. Tackle prep.
Remember that lucky spinner you whacked fish on all season last year? Chances are it’s been sitting in your spinner box, not seeing the light of day since September 1st and now the hooks are dull and rusted. Take the time to go through and rebuild those killer blades. Lubricate reels and make sure they are filled with fresh line. Re-stock on hooks, leader, flashers, duo-locks, bead chains, divers and whatever else you might use.
9. Fish ID
This is one that I can’t stress enough. Sport impact on wild Tule Chinook is the number one limiting factor on our season each year. Learn to identify these fish so they can be released unharmed and make it to the spawning grounds. With record or near record Chinook returns over the last 5 years there is no reason to think we shouldn’t have a 2 Chinook daily limit through September.
10. Bonk ‘em, bleed ‘em, get ‘em on ice.
Don’t let your hard earned bounty spoil in the sun. The river is 65-70 degrees so hosing them down periodically won’t help. Fisherman’s regularly has great deals on kill bags so pick up a couple before you go. Even the small cheap ones will hold two Chinook and two Coho plus ice.
There was a good bite above the bridge this week so expect a decent opener. I’ll have plenty of updates and info coming so stay tuned and be safe out there.