The summer chinook season

We’ve only had this season for the last two years so there really isn’t a “roadmap” to catching these fish.  Having so much vacation to use this year, I decided to take a week off and fish part of it before heading down to the Blues Festival to volunteer with OFB.  It’s a good thing I like fishing the boat by myself because it’s hard to find folks to fish with during the week.

I hit my regular ramp, Chinook Landing, and shotgunned around the area.  A lot of anchoring in various areas, I tried to move around a bit to see where folks were hooking up.  Some days I got out earlier in the morning, some days later.  I tried spinners, kwikfish and wobblers.  I tried to match up what other folks were hooking up on (a good pair of binoculars is essential boat gear).

On the fourth day I was sitting on the outside of two other boats.  The inside boat already had one fish in the box, the middle boat had nothing.  The insiders hooked up a fish and the boat between us reeled in; I made the mistake of leaving my rig out.  They dawdled before dropping out with their fish and wouldn’t you know it: their fish ran into my line.   I dropped out with them to follow them down but with my line slack, my spinner got hung up on the bottom and resulted in them losing their fish.  I apologized profusely but in a case like this there’s not much you can say that will make them feel any better.  But I was starting to see a pattern emerge.  On the last day, I set out with a plan.

I ran up to my new favorite spot and found what I was looking for: a sharp ledge alongside the current.  I set up on the very edge of the shelf and deployed a spinner, bouncing it out behind the boat until I felt like it was running in good current and set the rod into the holder.  Whilst reading a bit of newspaper featuring local microbreweries I heard the drag on my rod going off.  I looked up to see a bright steelhead about 2′ above the water with my spinner in its mouth.  I grabbed the rod and reeled furiously to catch up with the fish but before I could get in the slack line the steelie threw my spinner back at me.

Great.  My one shot at a fish and I blow it.  I reeled in to check my gear and deployed one of R&B’s “chinook spinners”.  He promised me that this spinner would catch me a chinook.  A quick squirt with some WD40 (why it works, I don’t know) and I bounced it out there.  Once it was sitting in good current, I set the drag by making quick hooksetting motions and tightening down until I got the ‘pull’ I wanted.

My hands didn’t stop shaking for about thirty minutes from my quick steelhead encounter.  I love that part of fishing.  There’s just this huge jolt of adrenaline when a rod goes off and even if the fish isn’t landed, it’s still a blast.

A few hours later I’m nose down in the Tao Te Ching when I hear my rod stripping line out.  I look up and the rod is buried in the holder.  I looked downstream to see if anything is getting airborne while I’m grabbing the rod.  It’s pretty quickly apparent that this is the chinook I’ve been waiting for.  I drop off of the anchor ball, fire up the motor and start reeling up slack.  There’s a boat anchored directly below me so I bump the motor into forward and pull my fish out toward open water.  Now thoroughly into the fight I start to think about landing the fish.  I’ve got the top up restricting space at the rear of the boat, and my net is on top of that.  I popped the clips that hold the top in place and fold it forward to clear space to land the fish.  I got lucky because I’d forgotten about my net sitting on the top; it fell between the two ends of top instead of falling overboard (which would have been disastrous).  Pretty soon I’m starting the see the fish just a few feet below the surface, which only serves to piss it off and give me some good drag-burning runs.  The fish starts to tire a bit and after a few missed net attempts I manage to swipe the fish into the net.  Woo-fucking-hoo!!!

3′ long, 18 pounds and some change, hatchery clipped buck.  Since my vac sealer is giving out on me, I made a lap through the neighborhood and gave away a bunch of it.  It just didn’t make sense to me to vac it all up and have it get freezer burned.  I kept three packages and should be able to eat my way through it before the seal on the bag breaks.

Next season up is steelhead season.  I think I’ll be heading back to my new favorite spot once the counts over the dam indicate that the fish are coming in in good numbers.