Monthly Archives: August 2012

Port Townsend and beyond… 8/30/12

I had been itching to visit Port Townsend as I’ve heard great things about its Victorian homes, big vista views, rich history of nearby Fort Worden, and of course great fishing with Point Wilson and mid channel bank and Marrowstone island.

This is the time of year that we like to head out to the Olympic peninsula I get our fill of Coho salmon for the smoker and barbeque. Since its tough for me to get a stretch of consecutive days off to be able to fish I booked one of the non commissioned officers homes at Fort Worden as its an easy drive to the beach and to the river. There are many charming shops and restaurants, galleries and romantic Victorian style homes surrounding Water street of the down town. The eclectic mix of artists, poets, modern hippies and families all seem to blend nicely. Even the public restroom was architecturally significant and was about the cleanest and most efficient place I’ve seen. Later my wife told me that the town has the highest registration of Prius per capita in the nation and the number of solar powered homes is also notable. It’s a Eco- friendly, hip, swanky, and charming town that has the bonus of great fishing all within a stones throw! I was telling my wife that I could see ourselves retiring here or at least visiting more often.

Today was a slower day fishing wise than I was hoping for as the Coho didn’t seem to rush up in big schools. Mostly it was one or two fish at a time. There were many people fishing but mostly standing around waiting for the fish. I had to really work for the fish and ended up with 5 for the smoker between dad and I. Most of them were cookies cutter in size, 4-6 lbs but there was what appeared to be a larger buck but upon filleting found eggs and would estimate the hen at 8-9 lbs, as it had some girth to her.

My mom took the heads and make salmon soup, an amazingly rich and flavorful broth of the heads meat reduced to a creamy concoction, warmed the heart and soul for sure! I brought my mobile fish processing stuff and have 4 fish brining for the smoker and 1 we kept to make spicy Korean fish soup for our dinner tonite.

After our dinner we took a walk around the hill and saw the old bunkers and Batteries that were built into the hillside to protect against intrusions into Washington. Dad and I will he’s back out today in hopes that the run numbers will improve with the full moon. We met with Ching W. and Tom E. yesterday and Tom already had a fish on while Ching was hoping to scratch out his first Coho on the fly. As the tide change came and the into the flood and push of fish came and I sighted a fish in front of Ching. Giving him some instruction he was able
to entice that Coho and next thing it was laying in the beach with Ching grinning from ear to ear! He was pumped up and could see the look of relief and joy on his face. That made the experience all the more rewarding and enjoyable for dad and I. Hoping that we have a few to hand today and tomorrow.

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One last hurrah? 8/27/12

With the recent emergency closure of Marine areas 9 and 10 and report of good King salmon still around I needed to give it one more shot before it closed down. Dad and I took the Hewes out and had our sights on Dolphin Point which is the top of marine area 11. My neighbor Jim G. Had reported good success at Dolphin, seeing his boat hitched up to his truck was too much for me and I made the last minute call to dad, hitched up and loaded up the boat and readied for the am departure.

We didn’t get in the water until a little after 7 and made our approach out to the point. We wouldn’t be alone with a dozen or so boats also doing laps in search of the clipped kings. We only saw one net fly in the couple hours we dragged our flashers and spoons. It appeared to be a small coho but was enough for that boat to keep it. Also heard some chatter that another larger fish was almost boated but lost. Jim said that it’d been slow for them and I know he was probably out since daylight so I didn’t feel so bad for not being able to make it out with lines in the water by 7:30.

We trolled the point, the bay and did a few laps working the tide change without any success. When Jim asked how we were doing, I said ‘excellent! If you can count all the shakers…’ dad and I decided to poke around Three Tree in Burien, so we punched out around 9:30 in hopes to catch a little not of the flood tide. I ran into Ed W. who was out with his Woolridge boat and his dog, that guy loves to fish and does it all by himself. He said it was slow all morning at Three Tree and threw everything he had at em without any success. He said it had been good with multiple hookups days prior, story of my Puget Sound King fishing in 2012! Either I’m too early or too late. We couldnt keep the shakers off the Coho killers and one of those shakers coughed up a small anchovie the exact size of the coho killer. I guess after the stellar 2011 fishing this is payback for putting the hurt to those Tyee’s.

I’ll take the boat out over the Labor day weekend to throw some crab pots and maybe spend a day with my family on Blake island. Not sure if I’ll have her out again for winter Blackmouth or fall Coho but will look towards filling up my freezer this coming week as we head out to the Olympic Pennisula for a few days off with fishing for dad and I.

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Slivers of Silvers: 8/20/2012

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Invited Rob D. to join me for some Coho action on the OP. We
up at 8 am and left Seattle for the 2+ hour drive out towards Sequim. There were a few other anglers waiting for the tide change but very few fish to be seen. Each year the river changes slightly and a new channel formed with heavy weed growth. As we approached a couple of coho escaped through the green lined weed bottom in a deeper slot, which was un reachable with our flies.

We waited patiently until we sighted schools of 2-5 fish per pod as they entered into the river. It was a sight to behold as Rob’s eyes were amazed at the sight of chrome Coho rushing in from the salt. The fish are running smaller, about 5-7 lbs but the meat and row are among the very best I’ve seen with these fish. 2 of the 3 fish I got were female and Robs fish was also a female. Thinking those bigger to upper teen males will be coming later next month, and we are highly anticipating their return. It wasn’t a skunking and we had a blast even if it wasn’t two full limits.

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Smoked salmon recipe

Many of my friends and family have asked me to share my recipe for smoked salmon. I’ve tried different variations of brine but found that the dry brine from Salmonuniversity.com to be among the easiest to prep and best in taste.

Now that you’ve caught your fish, what to do with all this meat? Well if you can’t eat it all at once or don’t give it away smoked salmon can be a wonderful treat months down the road and reminder of your fishing successes when the salmon were running.

I like to enjoy my smoked salmon as a dip, on top of a cream cheese bagel or toast, scrambled in eggs, added to clam or fishermans chowder or just enjoyed with a cold beer. Here is a repeat of the recipe with a modification of using the Costco minced garlic and freshed cracked pepper as well.

I bought a couple of clear plastic Sterilite containers with snapping lids so they can be stacked in the fridge and I can view the brining process as know when it’s done, usually overnight in the fridge. Also I’ve upgraded my smoker from the Big Chief which I didn’t care for the small heating element, thin gauge aluminum walls, and lack of temperature control. I replaced it with a Steel lined and insulated Masterbuilt smoker with chip box, larger element and thermostat which I can add a timer. Usually set at 200 degrees I can smoke a fish in 3 hours with no oil or fat ooze or loss from the fish and done is less time with excellent taste and quality. Enjoy!

How to Smoke Salmon – Recipe #1

This brine recipe is one of the simplest you will find. People tend to get crazy with all sorts of ingredients in their brines… white wine, tabasco sauce, paprika, apple juice… try them if you’d like, but I prefer a simple brine that I can memorize.

Here are the basics:
4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup non-iodized salt (canning & pickling or kosher salt)
10-15 cloves of garlic

I prefer dark brown sugar over light brown sugar because I like the color that the dark brown sugar imparts on the fish (a nice dark red), and I think it might taste a little different, too.

For the salt, I use non-iodized canning salt. In the past I had used rock salt, and I would use 2 cups of rock salt to every 4 cups of sugar… but every once in a while, I would get a batch of smoked salmon that had a metallic taste. One day I mentioned this to a friend, and he asked me if I was using rock salt… he reminded me that rock salt has impurities in it, and that’s probably what was giving me the metallic taste. As a result, I have now switched to canning salt, and the metallic tastes are gone. But, the canning salt is ground much finer than rock salt, so I’ve cut back to 1 cup of salt for every 4 cups of sugar.

For the garlic, try to use fresh garlic, and run it through a garlic press… if you’re like me, you hate to peel garlic… especially 10 or 15 cloves of it… that’s OK, let your wife do it, just promise her you’ll do something else. If you can’t negotiate that, I have substituted dry garlic flakes (like the Frontier Herbs ones sold in bulk at QFC). In this case, I use about 1 teaspoon for every clove, or about 10 teaspoons total. You could also try using the chopped garlic sold in a jar, or dry garlic powder, but I haven’t had much luck with these… they have a different, more bitter taste, and aren’t as potent.

Put it all in a big bowl, and mix it all together. OK… so you’re asking, “How much fish will this recipe handle?” Well, that depends on how heavily you cover your fish… to tell you the truth, I usually just keep a bunch of ingredients on hand… I mix up a batch of brine using the measurements above, then I start covering my fish, and if I need more dry brine, I just quickly mix up another partial batch.

Now it’s time to brine the fish. Cover the fillets liberally with the dry brine mixture. Once the fillets are coated, stack them in the bottom of a non-metallic pan… in this case, I’m using an enameled pot. You can cover the bottom of the pot with brine, but it really doesn’t matter… once the brine starts to work and some of the water from the fish is extracted, the whole thing turns into a gooey mess.

I usually place the first fillets in the pot skin side down, and then alternate them as I continue… so all the fish lays flesh to flesh and skin to skin.

Once all my fish is in the brine, I cover the container and put it in the fridge for about six hours. The amount of time you keep the fish in the brine and the amount of salt you use in your brine mixture will determine how firm the flesh of the fish becomes, and how salty the taste of the end product will be.

After the fish has sat in the brine in the fridge for six hours, take the pieces out one by one and rinse them gently in cold water. You don’t want to scrub them or disturb the flesh, you just want to get the heavy deposits of brine off. Once the fish is rinsed off, drain it the best you can and set it out on a rack to dry at room temperature. I use the rack from my smoker because it’s convenient, but you can use cookie cooling racks as well… just realize you’ll have some explaining to do when the next batch of chocolate chip cookies tastes & smells like coho.

You need to let the fish dry at least a couple of hours. I usually dry them for four to six hours, depending upon the thickness of the fillets. You don’t want the room temperature to be too hot or too cold, what you’re trying to do here is dry the fish out and form the pellicle on the surface of the flesh. Good airflow around the fish is helpful, you can even use a small fan to help the process if you’d like. If you’re using the racks from your smoker, set it up so the thicker fillets are on the lower shelves, and the thinner fillets are on the upper shelves… this will even out how they dry once they’re in the smoker.

The next step is to smoke the fish. There are lots of different smokers out there, and lots of them do a good job of smoking fish. I prefer the electric smokers because they are much more hassle-free than the charcoal or wood-fired smokers. With an electric smoker, some people even get as fancy as to run the smoker on a timer… so in case you didn’t plan ahead, you don’t have to wake up at 3am to shut the smoker off.

A couple of words about small, uninsulated smokers… first of all, they are weather-dependant. In other words, if you’re smoking fish on a warm August day with no wind, it will take less time to finish than it will if you’re smoking on a cold, windy October night. On a warm day it might take six hours to achieve your desired result, and on a cold night it might take ten or twelve hours.

You should also be aware that some electric smokers have bigger elements (higher wattages) than their smaller counterparts… and therefore the bigger ones have more consistent results.
When using an electric smoker, you should always try to avoid using an extension cord if at all possible. But, if you must use an extension cord, make sure it’s a heavy duty grounded cord (14 gauge or bigger) and use the shortest one possible, to avoid any voltage drop.

As always, USE COMMON SENSE. Don’t set up your smoker indoors. Don’t set it up on your deck. Set it up on a firm, level, non-flammable surface, out of the wind, and clear of any houses, garages, wood piles or other flammable objects.

Preheat your smoker for 15 minutes to get it up to temperature. Put your rack of fish into it, and add your wood chips to get it smoking. The amount of wood chips and what type you use are completely up to your tastes. For this recipe in a Big Chief Smoker, I use one pan of alder chips at the start, and one pan of apple chips after one hour… then I let the fish sit in there and dry out for another four hours or so, for a complete smoking/drying time of about six hours. Again, this is done to taste, and due to wind and temperature fluctuations, I check on the appearance of the fish after about five hours, and make a judgement from there.

Be prepared to have plenty of oohs an aaahs as freshly smoked King salmon doesn’t last very long in our household. My son was already tearing into it before I could lay my chops into the Alder infused goodness.

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Skokomish River: 8/16/2012

After Wednesdays outing Ching and I wanted to get back out for another chance at the Skok kings. We met up at 7:15 and left promptly to arrive at the river by 9 am. After suiting up and proceeding to walk out the mood was somber with no fish on the bank from other anglers and no signs of schooling fish. As I surveyed the anglers in the estuary it was pretty bleak with most folks standing around hoping for a chance that the fish would enter the river. We spotted a couple of fish towards a south channel and proceeded that direction but one fish was caught and another made it past being a smaller 7-8 lb fish.

I finally had a shot at a fish but it was fouled and back it went as it zipped back down into a deep water hole below. It was a waiting game as the low tide approached of 10:52 and -0.8′ about 30 prior to this a pair of chrome fish entered the run and made their way upstream only to fall prey to my purple haze Matzuo sickle fly. The bled weight came out to 9.1 lbs, so probably close to 10 lbs wet. I also weighed in the two fish from the previous day and the larger was 17.8 lbs and the smaller was 12.6 according to my digital scale. They were bled and put on ice so another pound was probably the correct weight for those two. They made for a fine dinner grilled up and enjoyed with some black cod that I marinated and barbecued as well. Oh how I love summer King salmon!

Today’s fish would be destined for the smoker as I’ve not prepared King salmon for the smoker and was anxious to fire up the ol’ Masterbuilt for the 2012 season.

Rod: Sage RPLXi 9′ 12 wt. 3 piece
Reel: Galvan Torque 8
Line: Airflo Multi tip

 

 

 

 

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Skokomish Kings: 8/15/2012

Having just returned from a family vacation and catching up with work and unpacking it was time to hit the Skokomish river to fuel up on some Hood Canal King salmon. When this river comes up thoughts of anglers lined up shoulder to shoulder come to mind with chuck, duck, and ripping corkies and yarn with copious amounts of pencil lead conjure disgust, head shaken no-no’s and frustration. I fish this river because I like the tidal flats, plenty of back casting room, fantastic scenery with the Olympic range to the west and of course Chinook salmon on the fly.

I invited Ching W. to join me as our last 4 outings had proved to be a bust and I had to redeem myself for the sake of showing him that King salmon can be caught on the fly. We arrived at the Skok a little after 9 am with heavy parked cars along both the Purdy cutoff road and lined along the 106 near most of the gear and traditional access points. Upon our access to the river saw a school of 4-6 fish that were making their way up but was greeted with gear guys tossing every sort of lead and yarn in front of the Chinook faces. I found a spot that looked like it might hold fish and within my third cast connected with a nice hen which for me was relief, having broken the skunk of not being able to bonk a legal fish with Ching. I was telling him on the drive down that perhaps he was the reason why we didn’t get any fish, joking of course.

I hit another smaller fish of about 6-7 pounds, decided to release her in favor of the cookie cutter teens fish that were swimming around. There was a nice pod of 5 fish that ran up but for some reason I couldn’t get any to coax until I checked my hook, or rather lack of hook! I was using a purple peril I tied specifically for steelhead and replaced the smaller hooks with 3/0 sickle hooks. Somehow the junction of the eyelet between my last fish I release came apart with the hook eye and I had been ghost casting for those fish.

I was able to punch out another legal fish and ended the morning with a pair of nice Kings for the barbeque. Ching wasn’t so successful on his first Skok outing but he definitely got the hang of this fishery and will hope to get another stab at getting a fish on his own another day.

 

 

 

 

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Crater Lake and Bend, OR: 8/10

My wife had planned an extended weekend getaway for Crater Lake and central Oregon. Two places I’ve never visited but after spending some time there definitely need to get back there to investigate some of the good fishing opportunities that I’ve read or heard about from others.

Since Crater Lake is a national park there isn’t a local fishing license required and there are no limits imposed on how many fish can be kept. In reading the history the seeded the lake with rainbow trout along with Kokanee salmon. Fishing however can only be done via hiking down the 1 mile Cleetwood trail near the north entrance of the park. This is pretty steep hike down with sand and loose surfaces not intended for the meek.

Crater Lake is supposedly the cleanest large body lake in the world. There are no streams or rivers that feed the lake thus the clarity of the water is impeccable with Secchi disk readings averaging 102′ with the deepest reading at 144′. The deepest part of the lake is 1940′ deep and the color of the lake is a deep blue with turquoise edges. Trout can be seen cruising the shoreline but insect hatches were bare to minimal with small midges being visible. The lake does support healthy populations of crayfish and newts, perhaps what the larger trout end up feeding on as I can’t imagine those larger trout got that way from eating midges.

Since I only had an hour or so to give it a try I armed myself with my Redington Classic Trout series pack rod with the Cortland clear intermediate line and olive and black rabbit fur micro leeches. Within my first few casts the line stopped and had my first Crater Lake rainbow trout at the end, nothing spectacular, only 5″ and not significantly different than any other trout you’d see from a local lake. After a few more tugs and only smaller fish to show for it, seemed clear that targeting the larger fish would require crayfish patterns and having the time and ability to scramble around the perimeter of the lake in search of cruising fish.

I didn’t have my iPhone with me so limited on the photos I took, but the scenery and the side hikes we did were amazing. Will have to download the photos from my DSLR to share later.

Sunday we drove to La Pine, which is about 30 miles south of Bend to stay at the Diamondstone Bed and Breakfast. Gloria and Doug Watts run a nice operation with Doug also running MotoFantasy, a motorcycle rental company for folks visiting from near and far wanting to spend time touring the wonderful scenery of central Oregon. I was drooling when he showed me his garage with range of BMW sport and touring bikes, Ducati, Harley, vintage Honda CBX, amongst others.

Doug shared with me some knowledge of the local fishing and indicated that nearby Paulina lake held the Oregon record for largest brown trout back in 2002 with a 28 lb whopper that came out. Although I didn’t have time to fish it, my wife was understanding enough to let me scope around. The lake reminded me of Roche lake in BC. Definitely need to swig back though and fish Crane Prarie, Hosmer, Paulina and Davis lake in the near future.

When we got to Bend on Monday mid morning, I stopped by the Orvis store to see the casting course and get some info on the fishing since the Deschutes river cuts through the Old Mill district and there are trout that fill the fertile banks. Although the temp was expected to soar into the low 90s, it didn’t deter me from wetting a line. I walked on the west side of the river passing by the Colorado street bridge and further southwest to another footbridge. The banks were mostly lined with a lot of vegetation and the river moved like a spring creek.

I didn’t see much good holding water that was wet wadable until I walked back north east towards the east bank of the Colorado bridge and found a nice slot where the depth, speed and location screamed out: ‘trout live here’. I gazed into the run and saw fish working the seams and currents searching for morsels. I cast my rig: Stimulator dry with unweighted hares ear nymph dropper. I didn’t see much if a hatch going on for big stone flys that the Orvis salesperson indicated I should buy, but nonetheless used the dry up top as an indicator for the hares ear nymph below.

Within my first cast the Stimulator stopped, I lifted up and a little trout took my dropper. I brought the colorful Rainbow to hand, flipped the hook and sent it back to its seam. A few more casts and few more fish later I was content. Since I had my 2.5 year old crying in the stroller it was time to pack up and grab some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and load up for the long drive back to Seattle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Close but no cigar: 8/4/2012

After three previous outings without bringing a fish to the net today would be the day to break the spell for me. However it wasn’t a keeper fish as it had a third finger and had to be set free. We did have another violent takedown, but the hook didn’t stick and after a brief fight it was off.

Ching W. and my dad would join me to launch at 4 am from Shishole in hopes that we’d intercept the big bait balls that were reportedly around the Kingston area. We found the bait at Jeff Head, but we also found the fleet of guide boats and other sport fishers that were in search of the migratory kings as well.

I am not the type to follow a war path of the charters or other sport boats and like to do my own thing because too many flashers and spoons running through even the biggest bait balls will put the bite off. Even too much bait will throw a bite off as when I’ve fished a caddis or tricorithydes hatch it’s really about timing, presentation, and matching the hatch. Since we didn’t have a fish to sample the gut we had to go off the bait that we got from Point no Point and it was small. I started off with a UV purple haze and blueberries and cream tail wagged with no success. All the action was coming off the green dragon Q point flasher with white lightning coho killer. Even though the were shakers it was action.

I decide to retire the 3.5″ spoon in favor of the cookies and creme coho killer which was responsible for both takedowns on the port side set up. Although we didn’t get a fish to qualify us for the derby it was a nice day, although a bit windy it was nice to find some of these migratory fish in our local waters. Surprising that the best action was from. 10:30-11:30 just a couple hours before the outgoing low tide.

Although the photo doesn’t do the fish justice since were trying to keep it in the water for release I would guess between 13-14 lbs? As a concession we grabbed an almost three limit of Dungeness crab for the dinner table.

 

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