Outdoors

Super Baits for Fall Chinook 2.0

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Super Baits for Fall Chinook 2.0

Earlier this summer, I touched on some of the basics of trolling with Super Baits and Pro-Troll Flashers.  Since then, I’ve had a chance to learn more from those that are developing the technique as well as refine it for myself.  Let’s talk about a few of those items that we can hone our Super Bait game with.

Speed control is an important factor, but it’s not ‘speed over ground’ that matters.  In fact it’s not always about your speed against the current either.  Rather what‘s important is line angle, and the speed at which your flasher is turning.  What makes this technique effective is the action imparted to your lure of choice by the flasher.  Too slow, and the flasher won’t produce the solid thumping action that entices Salmon, too fast and it will spin out of control.  I like to keep that rod tip thumping at a rhythm of just over one beat per second but don’t hesitate to play around with your speed and see what the fish like that day.

Rod length should be 9’6” or greater, but a 10’6” rod with a strong backbone and soft tip and mid section really shines here.  A short ‘pool cue’ rod doesn’t have the give that is needed to allow the flasher to work properly.

In my last blog on this I mentioned that the length of the leader from the swivel to flasher should be around 24”.  This still definitely works, but some of the noted guides refining this tactic such as TJ Hester and Cameron Black have shown that these intermediate leaders can be as short as 16 or even 12 inches.  The reasoning is that the shorter bumper will produce a quicker ‘snap’ than a longer one will.  It seems that 20” makes for a good starting point and one can play with different lengths from there.

For packing your Super Baits its seems that Tuna is the undisputed champion.  But keep on hand some additives such as Sardine, Anise, Krill, or other scents that can set you apart from the fleet and trigger a bite.  Garlic is popular for the upper Columbia, but tends not to work as well in the lower river.

When it comes to locating fish, covering ground is the name of the game.  Since Salmon are on the move through the lower river any stretch of the Columbia can produce at a given time.  Find a water depth that you feel will have Salmon in it given the tide and time of day then fish it.  It also never hurts to have several buddies along with in order to stagger your lines and find the depth that is producing.   When in doubt, troll the channel. 

Having good electronics will pay big dividends when tracking down your quarry.   This will help you dial in not only how deep you should fishing but more importantly whether or not there are fish in the area.  As thick as the fish seem to be this time of year one often doesn’t have to travel far between schools of fish.  As a result it isn’t out of the question to simply choose a starting point and make one continuous pass for the duration of the day.  That said if you have a stretch where you’re getting bit consistently then it goes dead, it stands to reason that the smart move is to run back up and make another pass through the water that produced. 

I want to thank everyone that has read and shared my blog over the past two-plus years, along with Kevin and the team at CSNNW.  The time has come for me to move on to other pursuits.  It has been a lot of fun to share whatever knowledge I may have soaked up from people in the industry such as Jack and Brandon Glass, Rob Brown, and countless other outdoor writers and fisherman who I share this passion with.  Good luck, be safe, and tight lines everyone.

Facebook videos from Outdoor GPS Day at the Park

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Facebook videos from Outdoor GPS Day at the Park

Another successful Outdoor GPS Day at the Park is in the books! It was a great event with some great sponsors, information booths, and even a very special live broadcast of Outdoor GPS! Our Chris Burkhardt was at the event filming tons of informational and behind the scenes videos on Facebook Live. Check them out below, and look for more at Facebook.com/OutdoorGPS

Behind the scenes, getting ready for our LIVE Outdoor GPS show, here at GPS Day at the Park

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

LIVE edition of Outdoor GPS, complete with a live "studio" audience! Only here at Outdoor GPS Day at the Park!

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

LIVE with CJ Siebler of Next Adventure here at Outdoor GPS Day at the Park

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

Jason Hambly of Pro-Cure Bait Scents give us some great tips on how to properly use Pro-Cure with your bait, from here at GPS Day at the Park.

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

LIVE: Owin and Dave wrap up our live edition of Outdoor GPS, from GPS Day at the Park!

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

LIVE from Outdoor GPS Day at the Park

Posted by Outdoor GPS on Saturday, July 23, 2016

'No Tuna for you'-Plan B means Salmon on the Pacific

'No Tuna for you'-Plan B means Salmon on the Pacific

Thursday night I received a text from Brandon Glass that I’d been expecting, but not hoping for.  “Winds 15-20 knots offshore, Tuna is a no-go.”  For the time being, my bucket list item of heading out to the blue water to chase Albacore Tuna would have to wait.  A few minutes later, my phone buzzed again with the promise of rather exciting plan B. “Near shore looks good.  We’ll fish Salmon and Sturgeon instead.”  My spirits quickly lifted in anticipation of aggressive Chinook and Coho in the not-so distant waters of the Pacific. 

The next morning I would join my good friends Tracy, and Chris along with a couple fellas from Wisconsin named Mike and Dave.  As luck would have it, Mike and Dave’s previously scheduled guide had to cancel due to illness.  Fortunately for them, Brandon happened to have a couple open seats.

We crossed the bar Friday morning in comfort as Brandon’s 28’ Alumaweld effortlessly made short work of 6-8’ swells as we rounded Peacock Spit and headed toward Long Beach. 

Our rig for the day was whole Anchovies behind a Yakima Bait Fish Flash.  One trick Brandon likes to add is to slide a Hoochie skirt over the nose of the Anchovy.  This adds color and can help direct the bite toward the front of the bait and reduce short-strikes.  Most anglers use divers to get their gear down but we used lead.  His reasoning behind this is that lead allows you to feed line to a fish after it strikes if need be, this often results in another opportunity.  In the same scenario, a diver will simply trip and come to the surface.  That’s not to say that divers don’t have their place out on the pond, but they do have their short comings. 

We began our first pass along a rip line in about 60’ of water straight out from the condos.  A quick flurry of bites within the first few minutes resulted in a hatchery Coho, a native Coho, and one that spit the hook.  After that, things slowed down a bit as we searched for a new pod of fish.  After receiving some intel, we made the move out to deeper water to begin our third pass.  This time, as soon as the first two baits hit the water we had a double, then a triple.  It was at this point that things got out of hand.  The incoming tide kept pushing us toward the beach, so as soon as the bite tapered off, we picked up and ran back out and got right back on the fish again. 

I don’t recall a quad, but I counted at least three triples, and too many doubles to count.  The grade of Coho is very good for this early on.  Ours averaged about 6-7 pounds which is great since most of these fish will spend another month in the fertile pastures of the Pacific before hitting freshwater.  We also landed three Chinook and had a couple others spit the hook.  I can say with confidence that this is shaping up to be another outstanding Chinook year for Buoy 10.  The reports from the ocean outside of Illwaco have indicated that there are a lot of adult Kings out there right now, so get ready.

Though my bucket list item will have to wait until next year, by 11:00, we had rounded out our limits of bright Salmon and were headed back to the sheltered waters of the estuary for some catch and release Sturgeon.  Hard to argue with a day like that.

Did someone say Buoy 10?  Yeah, it’s already the most wonderful time of the year again and I’ll have a run down for you next week.  Stay safe out there and have fun!

4th of July Weekend fishing opportunities

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4th of July Weekend fishing opportunities

For the active outdoorsmen, the 4th of July weekend offers a nearly unlimited opportunity.  There are literally (figuratively) a thousand different places to be fishing right now and we have plenty of great weather to enjoy it in.  Let’s take a look at the plethora of opportunity available right now in our region.

Summer Chinook is always a headliner this time of year.  The Columbia River ‘June Hog’ as some folks still call it, basically equates to a bigger, meaner, version of a Springer. Though they don’t currently return in the numbers that their spring arriving cousins do, they tend to fall prey to an anglers offering more easily since water conditions are generally better.  They can be caught on pretty much anything you would normally use for a Springer.  Trolled Herring or spinners, Wobblers, Kwikfish, and Maglips will all work.

Summer Steelhead are pouring into the lower Columbia (think below Kalama) and this stretch is littered with beaches that these little fighters travel along. Either by shore or boat, they will fall victim to a prawn spinner or U20 flatfish rather easily.  What’s even better is that these shallow lanes are often occupied by Sockeye, and Summer Chinook as well.  The tributaries are loading up with Steelhead too.  Savvy anglers will downsize their offering to compensate for low, warm, clear water conditions.

Speaking of Sockeye Salmon, the little guys are inundating the Columbia right now as they head upriver.   Counts at Bonneville have soared past well beyond expectations to this point.  The only problem is that they can be a bit finicky when it comes to getting them to bite in the lower river, however Coonstripe Shrimp and small spinners will get them on occasion.  Your best bet to get into large numbers of these tasty critters is to plan a trip to the upper river in mid to late summer.  Some years the daily bag limit will go to 6 fish per angler at Brewster pool and the Hanford area.

Perhaps you’ve had your fill of the big river and want to hit the beach for some salt therapy.  Bottom fishing for Rockfish and Lingcod remains good, and Cabezon retention opens July 1st.  The ocean appears it will cooperate over the long weekend too.  Always check with the Coast Guard before you head across the bar no matter what port you depart from.  It’s also a good idea to allow time at the boat ramp for a voluntary safety check from the CG as well.  This is a good way to help hedge your bet against trouble on the sea without finding out the hard way.

In addition to Cabezon opening July 1st, so does the Cape Falcon Salmon season.  The Chinook prospects certainly look promising this year, but catch rates aren’t usually that high on Kings for sport anglers at sea.  Most of these fish stay deep and can be tricky to locate but some are successful and occasionally adult Chinook will hit a shallow line targeting Coho.  Though the same can’t be said about the promise of the Coho forecast, it should be noted that even last year when the run came in at a fraction of pre-season expectations we still saw pretty solid Coho fishing in the ocean and at Buoy 10.

TUNA!! Now that I have your attention, it’s time to go chase them out in the big blue.   Albacore started biting back in mid June and the action has only picked up since then.  As usual with the early part of the season, most fish are being taken on trolled plugs, but live bait should begin to produce in a few weeks.

If you plan on trying any of the fisheries off the North coast, make sure to bring 6/0 barbless hooks and Dacron leaders.  The Sturgeon bite in Astoria is absolutely insane right now.  Guides are often boating 40 or more gators in a day using Sand Shrimp and Anchovies.  Though retention is closed, most of these fish are in or around the “keeper” range so be prepared for a sore back and arms.  If you’ve never caught a sturgeon down here I can tell you they are fresh from the sea and fight like a fish twice their size.

All that and I didn’t even get to Trout, Kokanee, Bass, or Walleye.  The opportunities this weekend are limitless so don’t miss out on the great outdoors that this amazing country of ours has to offer.  Have a safe 4th and God bless America!

Using rotating flashers for Chinook

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Using rotating flashers for Chinook

By the time the Columbia River Fall Chinook run had reached its peak last year, the rumor finally got out to the masses.  A number of guides and a select group of private captains that were in the know had been slaying the Upriver Brights on a method developed and employed for years by Tri-cities anglers.  No longer must one rot on the hook just outside of the slot and go 0 for 1 because he didn’t get on the river at 3AM.  Or worse yet decide not to fish at all because “the tides aren’t right this weekend.”  The success we saw on the lower river last fall was no fluke and its use expands far beyond the URB’s of the Columbia, so let’s take a look at how to employ this killer combo.

Rigging this setup is similar to how one rigs a fish-flash and herring for spring Chinook but there are a few important differences.  Perhaps the most important one is what makes this tandem so effective.  What’s different about the rotating flasher is that instead of spiraling through the water like an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass it swings around in a wide arc.  Because of this, the standard 12”-16” bumper between your swivel and flasher won’t do, we need something closer to 24”.  This allows the flasher to move in a larger circumference and therefore impart more action to the bait.  Conversely, we need to shorten the leader from the flasher to the bait.  36” is a good starting point but remember that the longer you make the leader the less action your bait will have, not to mention it gets pretty difficult to net a fish with a total leader length of more than 7’.

After their introduction around a decade ago, the Superbait and Super Cut-Plug had become somewhat of a forgotten lure on the lower Columbia.  But recent success with this method has brought these colorful plastic lures back into the spotlight.  As far as I can tell it seems that color doesn’t seems to matter a ton as long as you follow the basic rules of available light (solid colors in overcast or low light, metallics in direct light).  Pack them with canned Tuna, Sardine, Herring, or Anchovy.  Toss them in the river and troll them downstream while waiting for your rod to fold over.

Superbaits aren’t the only lure that works behind a rotating flasher.  Small trolling spinners and plug-cut Herring proved very effective for Spring Chinook this year at times.  I definitely plan on running Anchovies at Buoy 10 this year with them this season too.

Now that you have the rigging down you just need to find some fish to put your gear in front of.  This is where good electronics are worth their weight in gold.  Unlike early season Springer trolling you can forget dredging the bottom with your lead.  In the summer and fall months Chinook will suspend off the bottom during the tide changes and the flood.  As a result, all you need to do is clip enough weight to your slider to get down to the depth you’re marking fish at.  During the ebb is a good time to start fishing deeper.  Work your gear within 5’-10’ of the bottom to locate traveling fish.  Line counter reels are almost a must here.  It also doesn’t hurt to have a few buddies on board so you can stagger depths until a biter is found.

Though it was the Fall Salmon season last year that brought this technique to light in the Portland area, it’s proven quite versatile in other fisheries as well.  Spring Chinook in the Willamette harbor, Buoy 10, and Ocean Salmon all lend themselves well to this tactic.  With Summer Chinook beginning to show up, I’m certain this will have a place for those looking to avoid the 3AM launch time at Bonneville that’s necessary to grab one of the relatively few anchor spots.  Good luck out there!!