FISHING THE KELP beds along the Strait of Juan de Fuca near Freshwater Bay with lure designer and avid angler Pete Rosko last Thursday proved the highlight of my recent vacation.
More precisely, the grilled pink filets I enjoyed for dinner that night and on subsequent nights, were the pinnacle of my respite.
After I cadged my way into an invitation to go out on the salt water, Rosko and I set out at a perfect time for fishing, just before noon, to catch the incoming tide.
I’m fine with rising in time for the first-light bite, but a nice afternoon and early evening of angling was perfect — at least for me.
Warm sunshine and the slight westerly breeze kept things comfortable, and the kelp beds contained plenty of baitfish and pinks, which kept us occupied — even if the tide fought us a bit more than we wished.
The only thing missing in good numbers was our intended target, chinook.
Rosko is a firm believer in fishing at Freshwater Bay. The relaxed ramp, typically good catch rates and hard-to-top scenery, keep him coming back.
He’s also a light-tackle proponent, having come to the realization that fishing with heavy setups just isn’t worth it.
Rosko also said using a method like mooching with herring is an expensive proposition with the amount of pinks around to rob your bait.
While we waited for the tide to come in a little higher to ease our launch, we heard a fish tale of woe from a seated kayak fisherman.
He had just come in from playing out and eventually losing a large chinook, and the exertion of his efforts and disappointment at the outcome was plain to see.
Landing that big fish just wasn’t meant to be, he said, even with the help of a nearby boat that came over to try and net the fish.
More chinook for us to catch, I thought.
But not that day. It turns out we were fishing during a lull in the king run, only seeing a few potential prospects on Rosko’s Lowrance depth finder.
Rosko told me every serious angler needs a depth finder on their boat, otherwise you are flying blind.
When the finder found the first circular bait ball, I was sold on that premise.
“Find the bait (or the birds) and find the fish” is the common refrain, and pretty soon we were hooking up, with pinks biting on a 1/6-ounce blue and silver Sonic Baitfish.
Rosko had me try casting and twitching the jig on a horizontal plane, and my first cast of the day brought a pink to the boat for release.
There were many more fruitless casts, but getting that first one to find a fish was good for building my confidence.
The biggest lesson I learned is you can’t fish and have fun when poor casts end up tangling up your line.
Sorry, Pete, I hope those knots worked themselves out.
I’ll just need more practice to cut down on the long looping arm casts, and instead use more finesse and control from wrist-powered casts.
We stayed along the edges of the kelp line, fishing about 10 feet from the bottom in depths ranging from 18 to 40 feet for most of the afternoon.
Rosko showed me fishing spots like the Big Eddy, which pulls in fish on the incoming tide; Pineapple Rock, a sea stack resembling the tropical fruit; and Madrona Point, named for the large madrona tree jutting from the cliff.
It wasn’t a cast-and-catch day with the pinks, but there were plenty of bites and we had our choice of which fish to keep toward our limits and which to release.
I could easily see why serious anglers can be annoyed by the pinks, but I enjoyed seeing the fish roll and having seemingly three or four fish fight for the hook close to the surface near the boat.
These odd-year pink runs have to be one of the best ways to get kids interested in fishing.
The high likelihood of a strike, the ability to see fish almost swarm the boat, and the pinks are small enough that when hooked, they provide a level of fight a kid can handle.
My favorite line of Rosko’s was something all anglers can agree on.
“I love to see that silver flash,” Rosko said.
“That will never get old.”
He was referring to sunlight glinting off salmon swimming close to the surface.
Another good line came as we headed home.
“We are so lucky to have this resource available to us so close to home,” Rosko said.
Area 9 portion closed
The section of Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) south and west of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point to the Hood Canal Bridge closed to salmon fishing today.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said the closure is necessary to protect mid-Hood Canal chinook, per state and tribal management plans agreed to during the North of Falcon preseason process.
Angling from shore from the Hood Canal Bridge to the northern boundary of adjacent Salisbury Point Park in Kitsap County is still allowed.
The daily limit is two salmon, plus two additional pinks.
Anglers must release chinook and chum.
For specific information on the regulations, consult footnote number six for Marine Area 9 in the sports fishing rules pamphlet
Kids salmon derby
The annual Clallam Bay-Sekiu Lions Club Kids Salmon Derby will run from 6 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 15.
Registration is available at Van Riper’s Resort or Olson’s Resort along Front Street in Sekiu beginning at 5:30 a.m.
The derby is free and open to ages 5 through 14.
Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third-place, and there will be additional prizes for legally caught salmon.
Weigh-in will be held at noon at Olson’s Resort, with hot dogs and refreshments following the ceremony.
“We’re excited this year to have our weigh-in at the ‘new’ Olson’s Resort, now owned by the Mason Family,” Lions club member Janet Campbell said.
“They have made some great upgrades to their facilities and are excited to get as many kids [as possible] out this year.
“It is a humpy year for salmon as well, so many kids should be in the running for the bigger prizes as well as get some great experience in fishing.”
To donate or to help with the derby, phone Adam or Janet Campbell at 360-963-2143 or 360-461-6701 or email [email protected]
Outdoors columnist Michael Carman appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at [email protected]