OK, so I’ve heard the fabled stories about Neah Bay but I had to make the run to see it for myself. Gil C. left for Neah to fish for two days, Saturday and Sunday the 25-26th. After hearing their report, I high tailed it with my dad after working a long day with a remodel project. Gil and company reported thick pinks, lots of Coho around with a good chance of hooking a King. I was just considering fishing Elliot Bay that evening and possibly camping out at Blake Island, but his report sounded too tantilizing so we furiously packed up the truck boat, fishing, camping, food, water and was on the road withint 40 minutes heading towards Sequim.
We made good time, not knowing how my truck would do on the open road and over the hills since its 20 years old and has a 4 banger motor, but surprisingly, we made good time doing 55 to 60 the whole way. Driving into Hood Canal it started pouring and I was worried that we’d have some rough seas the next day. I have to remind you that this is my first motorized boat and hearing the stories about the open ocean kind of scared me but knowing that we’d have our friends out there to help guide us was a bit comforting.
In Sequim we were treated with a nice room and hospitable hosts Gene and Jenny C., Julie W’s. uncle and aunt. They have a nice spread and love to fish, crab and enjoy the harvest of the ocean. Dad and I toured Uncle Gene’s garage with his 19′ Jetcraft, powered by a Yamaha 130, Followed by his Smokercraft Alaskan Lodge Series, also Yamaha powered and finally his 17′ 1978 Whaler Montauk with mint Teak and Yamaha power. We were amazed at their organized garage and operation with fish cleaning station, fish processing counterspace and commercial vacuum sealing operation. What a life to live in sunny Sequim and being so close to all the good stuff!
The next morning we woke to make the drive out to Neah Bay. I wanted to get up early to do a once over on the boat and much to my surprise, found the battery dead! Bummer, as I had put it on the trickle charger, guess something was still on and it slowely drained the battery. I quickly learned a lession on a prior outing and always carry a spare battery along with jumper cables. I swapped out the batteries, made sure we had all the necessary gear and made the trek out leaving the house at 730 am. Driving through Port Angeles was quick but the real scenery came once we hit Clallum Bay. This road, highway 112 is probably one of the twistiest roads in Washington but also the most scenic from what I’ve seen in my 10 years living here. I’d noted to dad that part the road was dedicated to the Korean War Vets and the other part was for the Vietnam Vets. We also noticed the signs with the scenic highway designation.
As we travelled along the single lane road it reminded me of being in Kauai or Maui, parts of it were lush, with views of the ocean, surf and beautiful blue skies. I swear that the Napali coast was just around the corner by the rock formations and the open ocean to the north. After another 2 hours and 40 minutes we arrived to Neah Bay. We checked into Big Salmon where there is a public boat launch, paid the $10 fee and also bought the recreational permit ($10) and made our way out the harbor on towards Duncan Rock. Gene’s boat had done well the day prior, with easy limits of fish within 5 hours. They ended up leaving early too since the swells were 8-9 feet and 1-2 foot wind waves. I don’t blame them. When I lived in Florida and went out a few times on my friends Proline 20 miles out, I got a dose of motion sickness and swore that I would never set foot on a boat with a 2 stroke motor and bouncing around with no where to run to. Well, I have a 2 stroke motor, burns much cleaner and more efficiently than that Johnson and I guess since I enjoy fishing so much, I had to earn my stripes by sucking it up and giving another chance.
I must admit it was a bit intimidating seeing those rollers suck you up and losing the horizon in your sights, I could see that on a bad day over quickly changing weather conditions a small craft like mine would get eaten up in Neah Bay. I was humbled by the experience and always have a fear as much as a respect for the water. We motored out into the straights about 3 miles from the launch and then started our trolls. I marked our location on the GPS, as I wanted to remember and have a good account of our location. As soon as we dropped our downriggers we were into fish. Pink after Pink the action was good, often times those fish hitting the descending lures before they even got horizontal. I had never experienced that type of action before, but we werent’ after Pinks, we wanted Coho and King!
Around 3 pm the wind started to come in and the wind waves and the rollers were getting bigger, a certain sign that it was time to head inland. I guess I should have marked the abscence of other boats in our area and Gene’s boat was nowhere to be seen. My cell didn’t work out there and upon a scan using binocs, couldn’t locate them. I decided that it was time to pull up and roll in! Upon getting close to the big round white radar ball on the top of the mountain, we spotted the Jetcraft and proceeded that way.
They’d been bottom fishing and tried to call, saying that the weather was coming in and wanted some bottom fish for their freezers. Dad and I rigged up, but found it a bit challenging to get down with the combination of the current, tide and the wind. I did manage to nab a Pink on my Mr. Twister tail, not what were looking for, but fun to catch on the light $14 ultralight Walmart Trout rod with 6 lb test. After jigging at that location for an hour, we were bored, they decided to try again near Waadah island, but it proved to be the same result, nothing for dad and I, but they landed a few more. Oh well… by now, dad and I were tired and wanted to roll into camp, eat dinner and get some rest. As we neared the green buoy near the harbor, Jenny remarked that the reports said that Kings could be had from the Green buoy and to the north. Their boat didn’t have a King and Gil wanted another stab and the troll, so they proceeded to drop the balls and try again. Dad and I agreed and proved to be a good decision.
As we dropped, in 60 feet of water, I decided to suspend the ball at 50 feet. Within 10 minutes the rod was pulsing and running, enough to spit the line from the clip. We motored down and I picked up the rod as the tip deeply pulsed into the salty depths. I said, “DAD, we’ve hooked a King, and I think its a nice one!” Yards of line was ripping out the reel and I tried my hardest to keep that bruiser buttoned to the small green splatter black Coho Killer. After a few minute battle, the big hen subdued and we netted her. I was screaming and patting dad on the shoulder, I’d never caught a King that big in the open ocean. The largest I’d nabbed so far was a 27 lb from the Skokomish river on the fly, but to do that when they’ve got the power and the aggressiveness was a difference between night and day.
The big hen weighed in at 19.9 lbs and filled the length of the fish box from nose to tail. It made those Pinks and Coho look like trout in comparison. After that moment, we trolled around, making a few sweeps around that hooked location hoping to find another King, but just Pinks. We only used two lures that day behind a Pro Troll 11″ e chip flasher, in green UV and red. 40″ to the Coho Killer in Splatter back green/black with glo and one without. The Glow ended up taking more fish and was the lure that was the ticket for the King. By the end of the trip, half the paint chipped off from the tail to the body, but it still ended up catching fish!
We finished up the evening around 7 pm, but by the time to packed up and headed to Hobuck it was closer to 9. We found the location, scenery and facilities at Hobuck to be nice. Our neighbors were surfers, couples and weekenders who were quiet, and respectful. We set up camp, ate dinner, prepped the boat for the next day and went to bed at 11.
I wanted to be up and out on the water the next day by first light. I can tell you that it was tough getting up, feeling the pain from all the manual winding, reeling, and soreness of the rods pressed up against my sternum. Its work to be out fishing and definitely not for the faint at heart. We were greeted to the water with a gorgeous morning and calm seas. We started our troll near the green buoy and made a few swipes. The rod did go off upon our third swipe, but the fish came un-buttoned, I think it was a smaller king judging the way it hit and how the rod pulsed. Darn!!
We decided that we’d had enough of the shallow troll and proceed to the straight and into the tide rips to find some Cohos. After a few Coho and lots of Pinks we decided to take another stab at the bottom fish. Luckily we were blessed with some nice Black Rock fish, Greenlings, and some other fish that I couldn’t ID but would enjoy on the dinner plate. Dad even caught a Pink, surprisingly the largest of the two days, with the Mr. Twister tail 1/4 ounce jig head. We rolled into the launch around noon, cleaned our fish, washed down the boat. Note to self…bring a brush, motor mufflers to Neah Bay. There is fresh water and hoses to clean out things which significantly helps the clean up for when you get home.
Where else can you catch three species of salmon in the same water along with colorful bottom fish, gorgeous scenery and fresh air? This will be one of my top future fishing destinations, with the next time wanting to hit Swiftsure with the fly rod in hand in search of top water Coho action. I want to thank Gil and Julie for introducing us to Gene and Jenny and their hospitality, it was a great weekend and totally worth the drive. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!