PAT NEAL: The true cost of salmon fishing

ALONG ABOUT THIS time of year we get a run of salmon up the rivers.

That’s where some folks prefer to fish for them: Where you can just walk to your favorite fishing hole, catch a salmon and take it home for dinner.

The fishing this year is maybe not as good as it used to be, but it’s probably better than it is going to be.

Every day on the river is a day to remember.

That’s not saying there’s anything wrong with salmon fishing on the salt chuck.

If you have a death wish.

They don’t call it the “Graveyard of the Pacific” for nothing.

The brief periods of calm between storms and wind invariably find the saltwater enshrouded in a blanket of fog so thick you can’t see 50 feet.

Along with suicidal tendencies to fish in the saltwater, you’ll need $1 million or so for a motor boat with two motors (in case one conks out), a boat trailer and of course a disposable truck to pull the whole outfit.

Disposable trucks are best for salmon fishing because once you dip them in saltwater while launching the boat, the effects of electrolysis on dissimilar metals causes a chain reaction of rust and corrosion that eats through your brakes, bearings and wiring in unbelievably expensive ways.

None of that matters of course once you are out on the water cruising in your pleasure zone, looking to hook a trophy.

That’s where investing in the right technology really pays off.

Inside the cabin of one of today’s typical fishing boats has the look of a video game parlor with different screens that tell you where you’ve been, where you’re going and how to get back.

There are fish finders, depth finders and video monitors with tutorials that show you how to catch a salmon when you are out on the water trying to catch a salmon.

For that you will need the right gear.

Hope you saved some money from buying the truck and boat because now you’re facing an even bigger financial challenge: getting the right salmon fishing tackle.

When shopping for salmon fishing tackle remember one person’s tackle collection is another’s hoarding disorder.

Whoever dies with the biggest tacklebox wins.

It is an enduring truth that no matter how much fishing tackle you have you will have to buy more because you will be losing or breaking everything you use.

Just think of fishing as throwing your wallet into a hole in the water.

Breathe deeply. Get over it.

The most important thing to remember about buying fishing lures is to look for the ones that are not on the shelf.

They are all sold out.

That is because they caught fish.

Ask the friendly sales person for the lure that is not there and they won’t be friendly for long.

It’s when you finally catch a salmon that real trouble starts.

In most cases the fish must have a clipped adipose fin, indicating it is a hatchery fish, to be legal to keep.

Fish with intact adipose fins are said to be wild but in many cases they are unclipped hatchery fish that must be released to the hungry seals and sea lions that routinely shadow fishing boats.

This year’s anglers have reported catching a dozen or more salmon to get a keeper.

Wouldn’t it be less destructive and wasteful to the fishery if we were required to keep the first two fish we caught?

I guess it’s all just part of the true cost of salmon fishing.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal