WHEN YOU SEE a chrome summer steelhead like this one, especially a hatchery fish, it has to lead the outdoors report, even if it is salmon season out on the salt.
Jerry Wright of Jerry’s Bait and Tackle (360-457-1308) in Port Angeles supplied the details on the hatchery steelhead he encountered while fishing with Randy Lundon of Joyce earlier this month.
“My brother’s girlfriend came to town, and my friends were all talking about how its been terrible out there on the Sol Duc [River],” Wright said. “We wanted a change of scenery and decided to go down the Bogachiel. He’s been out a few times but that was his first summer steelhead. I’ve been saying we should go buy a lottery ticket.”
The fish put up a strong fight against the light tackle setup Lundon and Wright employed.
“We were using a Nightmare jig, a small, micro jig underneath a float with 8-pound test [fishing line],” Wright said. “We both saw it at the same time, we saw the flash before the bobber went down. It was a great fight and it jumped all over the place. With the light test he really couldn’t do much with it, so it was probably a seven-to-10-minute fight to reel it in.”
Wright saw the missing adipose fin and realized it was a hatchery fish.
“We kept it in the water, took some photos, brought it on board and got it all fileted out and cooked it for dinner that night,” Wright said.
“It was delicious. It had a super-mild flavor and the meat inside like sockeye meat. It was blood red.”
And it was about as fresh a river steelhead as you can get.
“That little dark spot [near the anal fin] is sea lice, so it was a freshie,” Wright said. “The sea lice still had their tails, really long tails, so it was within hours of being in the salt water.”
Wright prepared it simply with olive oil, garlic powder, butter, a little Johnny’s Seasoning Salt and grilled wrapped in tin foil.
Fish on the move?
Salmon fishing off Sekiu opened on fire, remained tremendous through the weekend and has slowed a bit through Thursday, according to Brandon Mason of Mason’s Resort in Sekiu (360-963-2311).
“Fishing started off red-hot and stayed real steady, but we went from a lot of hatchery fish and now we are starting to see more and more wilds,” Mason said. “So folks have to work at it a little more. But there are still a ton of fish. We are getting guys who are coming in and saying they tired of catching fish and are taking a break.”
Mason said a laser show accompanied by music will be held from around 10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s double the length of what we usually do and music and lasers will go on until 11:30 p.m.,” Mason said.
He said most folks are wearing masks in public and practicing physical distancing.
“It’s good to see everybody is being super safe, it’s just weird to see folks walking around Sekiu like this. I was even out fishing and we passed somebody with a mask on.”
Better safe than sorry these days.
Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles took his normal salmon opener vacation last week and spent plenty of time on the water.
“I fished Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Aunspach said. “I wore myself out by Sunday.”
Aunspach said his trips didn’t produce much.
“Things started off very, very slow,” he said. “I fished those four days and hooked three fish. And the two I did land I couldn’t keep.
“I heard it was picking up a bit today, a friend of mine said he caught one in the 20s at Freshwater Bay.”
And Aunspach said “things look right” out on the water.
“I’ve never seen so much bait. I know the herring hatch this year, the spawn was phenomenal. I think that bodes well for the future.”
White and glow color combinations have been popular.
“Some of the whites, the glows and the Silver Horde cookies and cream on the spoons and white and glow on the hoochies,” Aunspach said. And the Ace Hi Fly by Silver Horde seem to be working.”
Despite limited salmon success, Aunspach filled up on crab.
“On crab, I limited out every day,” he said. His favorite crab preparation involves a heaping mound of cheddar cheese.
“I make up a crab and cheese, almost like a dip,” Aunspach said. “Take cheddar cheese, grilled onions, garlic salt and Johnny’s Seasoning and eat it with crackers. “It’s a big favorite with my coworkers when I bring some to the store.”
Port Angeles angler and lure designer Pete Rosko loves to jig for salmon but hasn’t had good luck so far.
“Jigging for salmon has been poor, so I decided to troll a 1/3-ounce chartreuse/white Kandlefish and Sonic BaitFish and had three strikes and a solid hook-up with a big king near the Winter Hole on an incoming tide. I was trolling on Jim Nurse’s boat. The downrigger ball was down at 36 feet over 263 feet of water. I finally lost that king after my leader was cut. My guess was a dogfish was the culprit.”
Wright heard of the same bite at Freshwater Bay as Aunspach, but said it was short-lived.
“I went out and fished my drift boat out there and I didn’t see any birds,” Wright said. “Zero sea gulls. I don’t remember a time when I’ve gone out and there’s been no birds.
“What I am thinking is this rain we are having today, usually that will get the fish to start moving. Now we might get that run that’s been off Sekiu coming our way.”
Tom Burlingame of Excel Fishing Charters (360-374-2225) changed things up and headed out to Swiftsure Bank on Thursday.
“It has been really slow out here overall,” Burlingame said. “We have been doing pretty good off Sekiu but we thought we would try something different pretty much inside, fishing right around Sekiu there. Fishing has been good, you just have to go through a lot of fish to get the ones you want. The bite slowed down for me [Wednesday], we had a long day.
Burlingame said his four charter clients, the most he’s allowed to carry due to COVID-19 restrictions, had landed five chinook and two coho by midday Thursday.
He was running one pole with a hoochie, a 142 in the green splatter-back glow and another with a 5-inch green splatter-back color pattern.
And the boat was treated to a whale show Thursday.
“An incredible display by the humpbacks. It was spectacular,” Burlingame said.
August halibut dates
Halibut fishing returns to Puget Sound marine areas, including 5, 6 and 9 (Admiralty Inlet), beginning Thursday, Aug. 6.
The fishery will open on a Thursday through Saturday schedule until the hatchery quota is reached or Sept. 30, whichever comes first.
A total of 30,069 pounds of halibut quota remain to be caught.
Avid fly fisher and hiker Jim Cox from the Western Rivers Conservancy will speak at The Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers online meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Cox will discuss the many rivers in the American West and Pacific Northwest that the WRC has helped to protect.
Cox’s presentation is expected to last a good hour.
Nonmembers can ask for the Zoom webinar address by emailing [email protected].
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].