Neah Bay: June 30-July 3rd, 2011

We just rolled back into town from 4 days in Neah Bay and all I can say is WOW! What an amazing place! Dad and I had a blast two years ago, but this experience definitely tops the charts for the scenery, experience, and the fun we had as a family.  For many of you that follow my blogroll, you may have seen my Neah Bay post from two years ago in July of 2009. Dad and I had so much fun that we wanted to invite our family to join us in 2010, but there was so much going on with our lives and poor weather and bleak salmon returns and the birth of my son held us up for a couple of years. We decided that 2011 was going to be the year that we made it back out to Neah. Instead of camping on Hobuck beach, we opted to stay in the RV park cabins which have wonderful views and smells of Hobuck Bay.

Since this was going to be a family holiday with my parents, sisters family and my nieces going we couldn’t fully devote 100% of our efforts to fishing, but when we did, we were mostly rewarded for the time that we did get to spend on the water. Our trip started with a hearty traditional Korean breakfast of Sulung Tang, which is beef broth soup and noodles. There is a wonderful place in Federal Way that mixes up the special soup that sets the mood just right for a day on the road.

We stopped off at Sol Duc Resort and hot springs, for a soak in the mineral baths, something that I’ve never done, but it was pleasantly surprising and a nice way to relax.  Sol Duc is within the Olympic National Park and is a little jaunt past the 101, but was well worth the trek. As the afternoon came around, I was itching to get on the road to check in and get the boat out to drop crab pots and maybe wet a line or two for some black bass.

The crab report: sucked rotten eggs, over the few days of baiting and dropping the pots I concluded that we were feeding more starfish and our lines were attractors for the kelp that found its way and managed to wrap everything up into a frothy mess. We could’ve done better, but will definitely need some help and GPS coordinates next time. I was certain that it would be somewhat productive inside the jetty, but might be all fished out as those waters get pounded pretty hard with the locals.

We only had a few minutes left of daylight, so we motored around Waddah island to try our luck at the bottom fishing, but there was so much salad around, it made it very tough to locate the bass. Dad did manage to pick one up, but our sights were on salmon, so we pulled out and headed back to camp to get some rest for the early morning wake up call. I was a zombie that night, tossing and turning, just filled with ideas on what I’d do the day on the water. Most of the fishing for us turned out to be gear based, with downriggers, flashers and other hardware. We pushed out at 4:30 to get out before the sunrise and have our shot at a potential King. It was cool and cloudy, but the weather would improve over the next couple of hours and with that the bite did as well. It was my sisters first time salmon fishing and she would witness the fast and furious action that would come with the many take downs from the trolled gear. I would have stayed a bit longer on the water as it was calming down, but our plan was to pick up my niece so that we could pull those pots up and take her bottom fishing. However that plan never worked out and we decided to head back, so that we could do some other family activities. The final count for the 3.5 hours of fishing was 15 fish to the net, with limits of keeper Coho and Pinks. We did have a very nice King that will haunt me as we had it right next to the boat and ready to land when it decided that it didn’t want anything to do with us and with that did a tail slap and snapped the 30 lb Maxima running line of the downrigger rod like a toothpick.  I estimated that the King was pushing 17-18 lbs, not a huge fish, but it was a King and it would’ve been a keeper.  As Homer Simpson puts it, DOH!!!

The day would bring a hike out to the Cape Flattery trail with impressive views of the coastline, Tatoosh Island, and the old growth forest. I had to remind myself that its not all about me and to get out and explore some of this beautiful wilderness. I had a wonderful time on this trail with my family and its definitely a ‘must-do’ if you make it out to Neah Bay and find yourself with non-fishermen.

After a big dinner of PBR battered Tempura battered Panko bottom fish we passed out for day 3. 4 am would come very quickly and I rolled out of bed with a little more spring in my step. The weather would be even better then the previous day and I wanted to round Tatoosh and fish the west side of the penisula as the reports were positive for more black bass and Kings. Having never made that run before I was a little concerned, but the security of a good GPS/Sounder with 3D charts is crucial when making that trip. Just two days before leaving for Neah, the Eagle 1000 pooped out on me, so I went back and forth with upgrading it, but was REALLY glad that I did because it made the difference in our success.  Dad and I fished around the west side and down towards Makah Bay with steady action of Pink Salmon and 7-8 lb Coho, but after so many Pinks and all wild Coho (no-keeper) we decided that something needed to change.  I looked at the charts and wanted to make the run to Swiftsure Bank, and knew the weather would be getting better along with the marine forecast.  I shared with dad my plan, but he was a bit hesitant, but I assured him that it would be ok. We had 3/4 of a tank of fuel and if it got bad, we could retreat back. The 30 minute run out was a little concerning since we saw no other fishing boats and come to think of it, not other vessels (Cruise, container, commercial) traffic. I was going out there based on GPS coordinates and the nautical charts. I’d always heard of Swiftsure, but was told told make sure you have the boat that can handle it and enough range on your tanks as it is a pretty far run. I know my boat was up for the challenge and I keep my motors tuned and maintained so that there isn’t a concern with reliability.

We made it to the southern most point of Swiftsure in about 330′ of water, and I told dad that this must be the place, so we started our troll with gear down and with optimistic minds. Within minutes the rods were dancing and Coho after Coho would be on the end, twisting, jumping, and brawling like a UFC fight. Even though we didn’t see any other fishermen or boats it didn’t matter because we were clobbering the fish. All of our fish were wild, so they were promptly released. With each beautiful Coho release I was wondering if we’d ever catch a marked fish, but there was still time and we pressed on.  Upon our 5th or 6th release we had an amazing experience with a group of Dall Porpoise that about scared the living you know what out of me when there surfaced spraying us with the deep breath and the black and white coloration. As they sped by as lightning speed I thought it was an Orca, but the size was much smaller. I had read reports of some fishermen seeing them out at Neah, but never that close.

They were tracking us and gobbling up the released Coho that were easy pickings for these acrobatic porpoise. I wasn’t able to capture any photos as these dolphins were so quick, but I did get a clip of video you’ll see herein. We finally picked up a marked Coho of 11-12 lbs which dad and I celebrated with a blessed morning of spectacular fishing. The Coho were so aggressive and even taking topwater gear that we also had trolling accidentally. While dad was driving he lost his direction and made too sharp a turn which resulted in 70′ of cable, a 12# ball, snubber and hardware that ended up at the bottom of Swiftsure Bank. While I was rigging up a new section of cable, I put one rod into the holder with the flasher swimming just 30 yards behind the boat, within a few minutes the rod at 40′ went off and then the surface rod exploded with an airborne Coho that crushed the Coho killer on the surface.

Even though we would’ve like to boat a King the Coho action kept us there for a couple hours. After so many wild fish we decided to abandon our quest for that one that could be clipped. We pulled our lines and decided it was time to motor back. Total count for day 3 was 37 landed, but only 3 salmon (2 Pink, 1 Coho and two nice bass) kept for the grill.

I tried a little bucktailing, but it never yielded any success for me, but maybe next time if I have more time and accompanied with one of my fly fishing friends.  This trip was even better than two years ago and I hope that it won’t be another two years before I make it back to Neah Bay.


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