Tag Archives: coos bay

Yuasa: I-5 Fall Trout Releases Boosted, Plus Squid, Crab, Salmon Ops In November

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

We’ve been hanging our salmon fishing lines in the water for more than five months, and I’d like to switch gears and set sights on another exciting opportunity to get through the impending holiday madness.

Yes, take some time to let go of your snobbish salmon attitude and harken back to days when you pursued trout with nothing more than high hopes, a jar of salmon eggs, Power Bait or a container of worms.

Now is the time to hit the refresh button and replay those memorable moments or share it with someone new to fishing.

“We’re trying out a couple of pilot programs, which allowed us to be creative on how we structure trout fisheries in our region, and we’ve kept intact a couple others that have been successful,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist in Mill Creek.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Earlier this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) strategized ways to boost trout prospects at a time when many have holiday plans or shopping on their minds.

According to Spinelli, WDFW hatchery staff had space in some hatcheries and funding to raise thousands of rainbow trout to catchable size (8 to 11 inches) this past spring and summer.

“During this pilot program, we plan to monitor and conduct creel surveys so we can get an idea on participation and success,” Spinelli said. “Keeping fish in hatcheries longer was expensive. We need to make sure for budget purposes that it’s worth our effort to provide this special opportunity.”

WDFW is planting 27,000 rainbow trout along the I-5 corridor in 12 lakes within Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties.

“I’m really excited and hopefully it leads to getting more people into the sport,” he said. “We’re trying this out in urban centered areas. We know a lot of people in the cities may be interested in getting outside and going fishing.”

Spinelli says this offers easy access to nearby lakes and it’s not too complicated of a fishery to learn, doesn’t take a whole bunch of expensive fishing gear and provides fish that are willing to bite.

Two popular local lakes where late-season annual plants have become the norm are Beaver Lake in Issaquah and Goodwin Lake in Snohomish County.

Beaver was expecting a plant – possibly as soon as this week – of 1,250 trout averaging 2 pounds apiece and another 1,250 just prior to Thanksgiving. Goodwin will receive 5,000 in December.

Here are other scheduled plants (most lakes are open year-round except two have seasonal dates):

King County – Green, 3,600 (1,611 planted last week); Steel, 1,600 (open Nov. 1-Jan. 5 only and 804 were planted last week); and Fivemile, 1,200 (616 were planted last week). Snohomish County – Gissburg Ponds, 2,000; Tye, 2,000; Silver, 2,000 (1,005 were planted last week); and Ballinger, 1,600 (804 were planted last week). Skagit County – Clear, 1,500; and Cranberry, 1,750. Whatcom County – Padden, 1,750 (open Nov. 1-Jan. 5 only and 1,000 were planted last week).

“Some lakes we plant will have fish biting for quite a while,” Spinelli said. “I’m thrilled with this new program and hope we can demonstrate that this can be a stimulus for our trout fisheries at a time when choices of fishing activities are much slimmer.”

The popular “Black Friday” trout fisheries also give anglers a chance to get out and burn off the calories from a Thanksgiving feast. This includes thousands of beefy trout averaging 1 to 1.3 pounds going into more than a dozen southwest Washington lakes.

Clark County – Klineline, 2,000; and Battle Ground, 2,000. Cowlitz County – Kress, 2,000. Klickitat County – Rowland, 2,000. Lewis County – Fort Borst Park Pond, 2,000; and South Lewis County Park Pond, 2,000. Pierce County – American, 2,000; and Tanwax, 1,000. Thurston County – Black, 1,000; Ward, 300; Long, 1,000; and Offutt, 1,000.

Millions of fry-size trout were planted this past spring in eastern Washington lakes that are open from Nov. 29 through March 31. These fish should have grown to catchable size (8 to 11 inches). They include Hatch, 10,000, and Williams, 12,000, in Stevens County; Fourth of July, 80,000, on Lincoln/Adams county line; and Hog Canyon, 20,000, in Spokane County.

Elton Pond in Yakima County open from Nov. 29 through March 31 will be planted with 2,000 trout averaging 1.2 pounds.

Be sure to check the WDFW website for additional lakes open year-round, which are expected to be planted in late fall and winter. For weekly stocking reports, go to www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly.

Other holiday fishing opportunities

This is a magical time of the year with opportunities blooming for squid, salmon and Dungeness crab just to name a few.

Hitting up many Puget Sound piers has become a nightly affair as millions of tasty squid – known in the culinary society as “calamari” – are pouring into Puget Sound marine waterways from Edmonds south to Tacoma.

Squid jigging is good at the Les Davis Pier in Tacoma; Des Moines Marina Pier; Seacrest Boathouse Pier in West Seattle; Seattle waterfront at Piers 57, 62, 63, 70 or the Seattle Aquarium Pier; Edmonds Pier; A-Dock and Shilshole Pier; Point Defiance Park Pier; Fauntleroy Ferry Dock; Illahee State Park Pier; and the Waterman and Indianola piers in Kitsap County.

Night-time on a flood tide are the best periods to catch squid as they’re attracted to lighted public piers. Squid like to lurk in the darker edges of lighted water and dart out into the light on their unsuspecting prey. The WDFW website has a wealth of information on squid jigging at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/.

Salmon chasers still have opportunities in central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10), which is open for chum and maybe a late coho through Nov. 15. Target chums around Jefferson Head, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Kingston, Allen Bank and Southworth near Blake Island, and the east side of Bainbridge Island.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) is open year-round and should be fair game for hatchery winter chinook off Fox Island, south of the Narrows Bridge, Anderson Island and Johnson Point.
Hood Canal (Area 12) is often an underfished location in the winter for hatchery chinook around central region at Misery Point and Oak Head.

A reminder the daily catch limit is two coho, chum or hatchery chinook in southern Puget Sound (Area 13). The daily limit in Areas 10 is two salmon but only one may be a coho (you can retain chum, pink and coho but need to release chinook).

Central Puget Sound (Area 10) and south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopens Jan. 1 for hatchery chinook. Northern Puget Sound (Area 9), San Juan Islands (Area 7) and east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) reopens Feb. 1 for hatchery chinook.

There’s nothing sweeter than having a plate of Dungeness crab sitting on the holiday dinner table and fishing has been fairly good since it reopened back on Oct. 1. Dungeness crab fishing is open daily through Dec. 31 at Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Marine Area 4); Sekiu area in western Strait of Juan de Fuca (5); Port Angeles area eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (6); San Juan Islands (7); and northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9) except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff. The east side of Whidbey Island in Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay (8-1); Port Susan and Port Gardiner (8-2) has closed for crabbing.

Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset. For more information, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/.

Can you dig it? Coastal razor clam success very good since opening in late September

The coastal razor clam digs have gotten off to a stupendous start and be sure to get some for the holiday dinner table.

The first digs of the 2019-2020 season began Sept. 27-29 at Long Beach and success was excellent with 18,000 diggers taking home 296,000 clams.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“Digging went really well during the first series opener at Long Beach,” said Dan Ayres, the head WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “It was as close to limits as you can get (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily per person limit).”

Digging this week also was off-the-charts good at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. There’s still a last chance on tonight (Nov. 1) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (minus-0.2 feet at 10:38 p.m.). No digging is allowed during PM low tides only.

Many night-time low tide digs are planned in the weeks ahead on Nov. 1, 11, 13, 15, 17, 24, 26, 28 and 30 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 12, 14, 16, 25, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Dec. 10, 12, 14, 16, 23, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 11, 13, 15, 26 and 28 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis.

Final approval is announced by WDFW about one or two weeks prior to each series of digs and are dependent on marine toxin levels being below the cutoff threshold.

WDFW shellfish managers are saying this could be one of the best seasons seen in quite a while for many digs planned from winter through spring. For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/razor-clams.

New name and new events happening in 2020 during the NW Fishing Derby Series

A quick look back at the 2019 derby season saw a total of 6,176 anglers entered into 13 derbies (one was cancelled) which is up from 4,690 in 2018 and there’s plenty of excitement coming up in 2020.

We’ve now hit the refresh button and renamed it the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series” with a tentative 18 derbies scheduled. It will include two lingcod/rockfish “For the Love of Cod Derbies” in Coos Bay, Charleston and Brookings, Oregon in March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively, and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan in April.

The highlight is a chance enter and win a sleek $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Series Hardtop boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. Our newest sponsor of the derby – Shoxs Seats (www.shoxs.com) – has provided a pair of top-of-the-line seats that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas.
The good news is anglers who enter any of the 18 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package!

A huge “thank you” to our other 2020 sponsors who make this series such a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Scotty Downriggers; Burnewiin Accessories; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronics; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; Lamiglas Rods; KIRO/ESPN 710AM The Outdoor Line; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; Rays Bait Works; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

First up in the series are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. For details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

In the meantime, take a break from holiday shopping and hit up a lake or open saltwater areas for a feisty fish tugging on the end of your line.

I’ll see you on the water!

Rough Days At Sea Series II: Black Tuesday

A weather-window run out of Charleston for albacore nearly turns into disaster when a storm unexpectedly hits 32 miles from safety.

By Jim Pex

never encourage people to take up albacore tuna fishing. All those fish just offshore and easy to catch. If you go one time, you will be hooked for life. Don’t do it! It is what happened to me in 1990 and I have been afflicted ever since.

The following is a story about one of those early trips at the height of my addiction. Here I must note that my friends were not a support group, as they were afflicted too.

WHAT BEGAN AS A GOOD DAY TO FISH OFF OREGON’S SOUTH COAST FOR ALBACORE TURNED BAD ON THE RUN BACK IN FOR SEVERAL BOATS. (JIM PEX)

THE EXPEDITION STARTED WITH PHONE CALLS on the local fishing network, visiting the docks, talking to commercial fishermen, reading the Salty Dog forum and studying the weather reports. It was not like getting the local news and weather; here we look at actual ocean buoy reports and sea surface temperature maps for 60-degree waters inside the 125 line. It might also include walking up to people sitting in their boat fumbling with tuna gear and mumbling under their breath. You just knew a kindred spirit when you saw them.

In longitude, the edge of the continental shelf is at about the 125 degree line west of Charleston, outside Coos Bay, and about 37 nautical miles west. In theory, when underwater currents reach the shelf, upwelling occurs and this is where we often find the fish. This is also close to the limit in miles for many recreational boats based on their onboard fuel supply.

How much boat fuel to use before getting concerned is different than with trucks and cars. With boats we use the rule of thirds: one third to get there, one third to get home. If the seas turn on you, the amount of fuel used returning could be much more than the trip out. For example, if you take a string and label the ends A and B, one can measure the length of the string stretched full length. Now make a series of bends with the string and remeasure the distance between A and B; it will be considerably shorter. Such is the case when ocean conditions worsen while you are out there traveling up and down with the waves. The trip home becomes longer than the trip out.

My friends Cliff and Dale were avid fishermen. We would pursue fish almost every weekend that we could escape our household responsibilities. We all had boats, but mine was a little more seaworthy than theirs were. It was a 1990 Bayliner Trophy with an enclosed cabin area. At 21 feet with a single 5.0-liter engine, it was adequate for getting us to the fishing grounds and back. There was room to fish three comfortably, and it had sufficient fish boxes to stack ice and tuna. My boat had the usual safety equipment that included a VHF radio, a Loran and a GPS – enough stuff that we thought we were prepared for the day.

AUTHOR JIM PEX, HERE ON YAQUINA BAY AT THE WHEEL OF HIS FIRST BOAT, A 20-FOOT FIBERGLASS APOLLO, WAS AMONG THE EARLY ENTRANTS INTO THE NORTHWEST’S RECREATIONAL ALBACORE FISHERY, GETTING HOOKED ON THE “ADDICTION” NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO WITH A HANDFUL OF OTHER SOUTHERN OREGON ANGLERS. “BACK IN THE 1990S, THERE WERE NOT A LOT OF SPORT TUNA FISHERMEN IN OUR AREA. ALL TOTAL, WE HAD FOUR BOATS HEADING OUT THAT MORNING,” HE WRITES. (JIM PEX)

THE WEATHER HAD BEEN BAD FOR SEVERAL DAYS and the ocean conditions were unsuitable for fishing with a boat the size of mine. The three of us were often talking back and forth on the phone, listing every resource possible in our search for a day to get out.

Then it happened, it looked like there was going to be a break in the weather. It was July, and in our area, the wind blows hard and often in July. But it looked like on the following Tuesday that there would a window before the wind started howling again. I normally know better than to trust the weatherman, but when addicted, I only need one positive resource.

The three of us were not the only ones who spotted this chance. Back in the 1990s, there were not a lot of sport tuna fishermen in our area. All total, we had four boats heading out that morning. None of us on my boat could sleep the night before and I was up a dozen times checking stuff that I might have forgotten. At that time of year daylight arrives at about 5:30 a.m. and we were at the dock at 4:00 a.m. with the guys from the other boats. Everyone was excited and the talk was all tuna.

The recent intel suggested the tuna were 17 miles out to the northwest. Tuna are sight hunters and require clear water to find food. Inshore, the water has algae within it and the color is green. When you are out far enough to find the tuna water, the color is blue. Blue is the reflection of the sky in clear water.

My friends John and Lou were already pulling out from the dock when we got there. John was running a 24-foot Osprey, Lou a 24-foot Sea Sport. My friend George and his wife were launching with us and they were in a 23-foot Olympic. They were much older than our crew but still loved the challenge of the sea. Little did we know the day would challenge that love affair.

THE PLAN THAT TUESDAY WAS TO RUN 17 MILES TO THE NORTHWEST OUT OF CHARLESTON WHERE FISH HAD BEEN RECENTLY REPORTED, BUT IT WASN’T UNTIL THE BOATS WERE 40 MILES OUT THAT SCHOOLS WERE FOUND. (NOAA)

WE RAN OUT OF THE BAY BY G.P.S. in the dark hoping not to run into any crab pot lines or logs. It was a little unnerving, as I could hear the bar crashing on the jetties long before we got there. The swell was present well inside the channel, which is usually a warning, but undaunted, we kept going.

Once on the bar we dropped to displacement speed, which is slow, and climbed up and down the waves for the next half mile. If you have not tried this in the dark, there is a certain amount of pucker factor that goes with it; be sure to wear your life jacket. The crossing reminded me of years past when I lived in Medford, when I would run some sections of the Rogue River at night in my drift boat to be the first one to get in a fishing hole. The sound of the rapids by flashlight was intense too. Here we had bigger boats and larger waves. Are some of us a little bit crazy? Probably.

After the crossing we made good time heading northwest behind the other boats. I love to see the sunrise in the east from the ocean side; it is always beautiful. On this day it was spectacular. The waves were tolerable, the wind was up early but we were making about 20 knots heading out.

What was a surprise was the view to the south. In the distance we could see a black wall of weather hanging clear down to the water. Thank goodness we were not going in that direction. I don’t recall ever seeing a cloud pattern like that one. But to the northwest, the sky was clear. As the three of us talked about fishing, the mood was great.

In an hour we reached the GPS coordinates at 17 miles, but the water was still green, so we kept running. John and Lou were into fish about 40 miles out in 60-degree water, so that was our destination too. George agreed, as he was still running in my prop wash.

When we arrived at 40 miles out, we were in blue water. We set the hand lines and had fish on immediately. The fishing was good, the skies were clear and blue but the wind and waves had picked up and were making the troll uncomfortable. Cliff is a tall guy and the gunnels on my boat were not high enough for him to brace himself, so he was on his hands and knees getting to the lines, while Dale was hanging on the best he could. But the fish were there, and we were catching them. In a little over an hour we had 27 albacore on board. The rear deck was covered in fish blood and the two of them were so bloodied they looked like they had lost a bar fight.

I stayed up front and ran the boat, watching for schools of fish on the surface, what we call jumpers. I talked to George on the VHF and said it was getting a little too lumpy and probably time to head for the barn. He and his wife had all the fish he wanted and agreed. The “sheep was on the water” out there and I knew we were cutting it thin on this trip. John and Lou decided to hang in there a little longer. The fishing was too good to give up just yet.

I LOOKED SOUTH AND THAT BLACK WALL OF CLOUD had moved north and was now getting between us and shore. It is not unusual to be able to see all the way across a squall line and this was no exception. I could still see blue sky nearby. I took off with George behind me, making good speed under the current conditions. It did not take long to see what was happening ahead. Some of the waves were out of the west and the wind had shifted from the northwest to out of the south. Some larger waves were coming out of the south, causing mixed seas. Weather fronts always have a good wind before the actual storm hits and this was no exception. The seas were about 6 feet when I set a course for Charleston due southeast.

At 32 miles out, we hit the storm. Visibility dropped in the driving rain and the seas doubled in size. To consider them at 12 feet was certainly in the ballpark, but I was never sure. How do you judge from inside a small boat? It was unusual in that we did not hit this storm gradually. We were doing OK, then we were in it in minutes. I dropped into a trough between waves so low I could not see anything but the surrounding water. Then the first wave broke over the bow and up the windshield. To starboard, I was momentarily looking underwater. The boat rocked hard as the wave pushed the bow off course to port. Just as we cleared that wave, we were struck again. The skies were dark gray and the surrounding seas were also gray and angry.

Our course kept changing to east instead of southeast. I attempted to steer into the waves to get back on course but that was stupid. We were in trouble. The only thing I knew to do was quarter the seas and continue east as best I could at a slow pace. I kept watching for the waves that break over like you see in surfer movies. They are especially bad as they are full of air. Air does not float a boat. When I would reach a wave top, we would look around for George and reassess the seas. Here I had a brief moment to talk with him on the radio. George and his wife were frightened out of their wits. The next time we hit a wave top, I tried to reach the Coast Guard to advise them of our position and sea conditions, but I got no response.

ALBACORE FISHING HAS TAKEN OFF IN RECENT YEARS, WITH THIS SEASON’S RECREATIONAL HAUL SETTING A NEW RECORD. (MIKE CAMPION)

WE’D CLOSED THE CABIN DOOR WHEN WE started back, and Dale had pinned himself between the table and the forward bulkhead. Cliff was on the other side of table and tight to the door with his long legs. Dale’s eyes told it all: He was sure we were going to die. You could see his fear as he looked around at the churning seas. Then he said it.

“Well, Jim, do you think we are going to make it?”

“I don’t know, Dale,” was my response.

Cliff was silent, which if you knew the guy was a statement in itself. As the captain, I was in uncharted territory; nothing like this had ever happened to me. I don’t think I was scared, just intent.

VHF radio transmits along line of sight and the 8-foot antenna mounted to the side of the boat was too low to send a signal above the wave tops. At some point I looked past Dale out the window only to see a part of my antenna shattered like a wet noodle strike the window. Now that radio was useless. I grabbed my ditch bag, found the handheld VHF and turned it on. These only have 5 watts of transmitting power, limiting the distance it could send and receive.

We were still making headway with the wipers going in the rain and the high seas, but at some point had lost visual on George. I tried to reach him on the portable but got no response. Cliff and I both thought we had to go back, while Dale was silent. So I waited a few minutes trying to decide just how I was going to reverse direction. I had plenty of power, just no place to use it.

Finally, I decided to do the snow ski trick. As we started up a huge wave, I cut the wheel and hit the throttle doing a 180-degree turn. One look at Dale and he was sure it was the wrong move. We accomplished the turn just ahead of a following wave that was rolling off the transom and lapping at the swim platform. We hit the bottom of the trough hard and plowed the next wave. I dropped the throttle and the bow lifted us to safety. We found George putting along making some headway, but just not able to keep up with me. We spoke words of encouragement over the portable and I did another fancy turn into the churning seas. Then Dale spoke:

“Well, Jim, do you think we are going to make it?”

“I don’t know, Dale,” I said.

AS SEAS GOT LUMPIER, PEX AND CREW DECIDED TO HEAD BACK TO SHORE WITH ANOTHER BOAT, BUT RAN INTO THE STORM. “IT WAS UNUSUAL IN THAT WE DID NOT HIT THIS STORM GRADUALLY. WE WERE DOING OK, THEN WE WERE IN IT IN MINUTES,” HE WRITES. (JIM PEX)

BY THIS TIME, JOHN AND LOU, WHO HAD stayed behind to fish a while longer, were in the storm. John got on the radio and said he had standing waves running down the walkways on both sides of his hardtop boat. Lou and his crew were in an open windshield boat and were not up for talking. They were bailing instead. Lou told me later that the waves were coming over the side of the boat. The water would hit the shift lever causing a short that would shock him if he was slow to remove his hand. The crew was bailing with 5-gallon buckets to stay afloat.

The only way I could tell we were making progress was watching the distance meter on the GPS to the waypoint I had laid for the Coos Bay Bar. The going was slow, green water was still running over my windshield and I was often looking underwater out the starboard side. It was wearing all of us out with the bracing for impact, the rocking of the boat and the worry. Then we lost George again. Cliff could not get a visual and I could not raise him on the VHF.

A few moments later we did hear George on his VHF and we heard him contact the Coast Guard trying to explain our dire circumstances. Cliff kept looking back each time we reached a wave peak, then suddenly he saw George about 100 yards off our port side. Fear had him applying a little more throttle to keep up with us. I could hear him but not the Coast Guard. He had a top-mounted VHF antenna that was still intact, which gave him the ability to reach out even in these seas. What I did hear was that no one was coming if we were still underway.

Dale had that look again.

At one point, I was sure the oncoming waves were larger and were going to break the windshield. We held our breath as they struck hard, rocked the boat and passed over the hard top.

“Well, Jim, do you think we are going to make it?”

“I don’t know, Dale,” I said as I kept quartering the seas.

By this time our progress was taking me north of my intended destination and I was worried that if we made it, we would end up at Winchester Bay but under impossible conditions for a bar crossing. Hours went by, I was getting tired, Cliff was getting banged around in the boat as he tried to brace himself and then there was Dale and his question.

We were still in the thick of it and had not seen George for at least a half hour. Attempts to raise him on the radio were negative, so I made another power turn like a skier would do on a mogul and we headed back out to sea. We found George again: He just could not keep up with me, was bone tired and his voice was weak on the radio. There was nothing I could do but try to keep him close. I could see the water pass over his bow in the troughs, but it would lift just in time to wash it away and clear his windshield . I told him to raise his outdrive a little and it would give his bow more lift. He did but it did not help much when the headway was limited.

I LOOKED BACK AT MY REAR DECK AND THERE would be no need for cleanup at the dock. It was as clean as a whistle from the seawater. I had been so intent on watching the surrounding seas that I did not immediately see the bilge pump light come on. That meant there was water in the bilge and the pump was working on it. To do an inspection, I would have to get on the back deck and raise the engine cover for a look. There was no way I was going to let go of the steering wheel and it was clear that the other two were not venturing past the closed door either. We would just have to continue not knowing.

Ever try to not think about something important? Ever try not thinking about the water building up inside your boat in rough seas? It just does not work. We discussed tossing out the 27 tuna on board to lighten up the boat, but again we would have to go outside the secure cabin to open up the fish holds. None of us were willing.

I tried to reach the Coast Guard on my portable VHF but got no response. As the hours passed, I lost sight of George but could hear him talking to the other boats. I wondered how his wife was taking all of this. None of us had ever been in seas like this and it was a fright.

We did have one thing going for us and that was the design of modern-day fiberglass sport boats. Unlike commercial boats, the sport boats sit on top of the water like a cork, which lets most of the seas pass under the hull. Commercial fishing boats have displacement hulls and displace a lot more water when underway. Turning around like I did would be nearly impossible in a displacement boat and they seldom are capable of running faster than 10 knots.

I kept telling myself how well the boat was performing under the conditions. We would climb a wave, reach the top, then cascade down the other side like a surfer to the bottom of the trough, then turn up to meet the next wave. The wind was blowing the tops off the waves, creating a white foam that could be seen on the water and on my boat. We refer to this as the sheep were on the water. In time, I could feel there was hope that we would make it, provided the bilge did not fill with water and kill the engine under the deck.

“Well, Jim, do you think we are going to make it?”

“I don’t know, Dale.”

HOW SERIOUS WERE THINGS BECOMING? AT ONE POINT ON THE WAVE-WRACKED RUN IN, WITH WATER SEEPING INTO THE MOTOR COMPARTMENT AND THE BILGE PUMPING, THE MEN MULLED TOSSING THEIR 27 ALBACORE OVERBOARD TO LIGHTEN THE LOAD. BUT NONE WANTED TO RISK GOING OUT ON THE SEA-SLOSHED DECKS. (DAVE ANDERSON)

LATE THAT AFTERNOON THE WAVES STARTED TO subside, and the skies began to clear. We were about halfway between Charleston and Winchester Bay for latitude and still about 10 miles out. We had passed out of the weather cell and I was able to pick up speed with the changing conditions. Soon we were on the bar at the entrance to Coos Bay.

Here we go again, the swell from the storm had kicked up the bar. The Coast Guard had not closed it, but I thought they probably should – right after I got in.

We sat outside watching the pattern of the incoming swell, waiting for the right wave. I hit the throttle hard and jumped on the back of one. From this position I was high enough in the air that I could see across both jetties. The situation was intense: I was at full throttle doing close to 30 knots trying to stay on the back of the swell and in front of the one lapping off my transom. I didn’t look back to see how the other two were doing. I don’t think I took a breath for several minutes.

Then we were across and in the safety of the inner bay under blue skies. When we got to the dock, Dale got out of the boat, laid on the dock and gave it a kiss, seagull poop and all. Cliff had been banged around so much he could hardly walk. In time we got the boat on the trailer, iced down the fish and called it a day.

I turned to Dale and said, “We made it.”

EVENTUALLY THE STORM AND SEAS BEGAN TO LAY DOWN, BUT THE ENTRY TO COOS BAY POSED ANOTHER PROBLEM. “THE SWELL FROM THE STORM HAD KICKED UP THE BAR. THE COAST GUARD HAD NOT CLOSED IT, BUT I THOUGHT THEY PROBABLY SHOULD – RIGHT AFTER I GOT IN,” PEX WROTES. (JIM PEX)

I slept hard that night after telling the family about our adventure. I don’t think I could verbally express the circumstances well enough for them to appreciate the danger, so I went to bed.

The next morning I called Cliff. He said he was stiff and had several bruises from being banged around in the boat.

I called Dale in midmorning. He had just gotten up to get a drink of water and was going back to bed. Dale loved the ocean and the fishing to be found out there. In our conversation he admitted on the way in he prayed to our Lord that if he survived this experience, he would never go back to sea.

He never did.

I keep a St. Christopher medal pinned to my boat headliner and reference it in times of worry. I am sure, in my heart, He was looking out for us that day.

WE WERE LUCKY, AND NOT JUST US THREE. All the boats made it in that day. As we learned, ocean conditions can change at a moment’s notice, going from the fantastically beautiful to deadly. We all discovered that one can never be totally prepared for events like this but if one survives, the experience is priceless.

When our group occasionally meets for a beer and to reminisce about old fishing adventures, it is clear that none of us will ever forget that day. NS

Author’s note: My dear friend Dale Reiber passed away this spring. This story is the combined memories of Cliff Lance and I in remembrance of Dale.

Editor’s note: Author Jim Pex is an avid angler based out of Coos Bay and who enjoys fishing for albacore, salmon and rockfish. He is retired and was previously CEO of International Forensic Experts LLC and a lieutenant with the Oregon State Police at its crime laboratory. Pex is the author of CSI: Moments from a Career in Forensic Science, available through Amazon.

Oregon Family Free Fishing Events Begin This Weekend

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will host about 30 different Family Fishing events throughout the state from April to November 2019.

Detailed information about these opportunities to take your family fishing can be found here: https://myodfw.com/articles/take-family-fishing.

AN INSTRUCTOR TEACHES A YOUNG ANGLER AT A 2017 ODFW FISHING EVENT. (ODFW)

All family fishing events are free and open to all ages. Children 11-years old and younger do not need a fishing license. However, those 12-17 will need a youth license, which can be purchased from any ODFW license agent or online via MyODFW.com for $10. Adult anglers will also need an Oregon fishing license. Licenses won’t be issued at the event so those who are required to have one should obtain their license ahead of time.

ODFW will also hand out rods, reels, tackle and bait to participants while supplies last. Pre-registration is not required and participants are welcome to bring their own fishing equipment if they prefer. ODFW staff and volunteer instructors will be present to assist with everything from gearing up, casting, landing and cleaning fish.

“Family fishing events are wonderful ways for new or beginner anglers to get out and experience fishing,” said Amanda Boyles, ODFW Angler Education Coordinator. “Volunteers and staff are more than willing to help with all fishing-related questions and all you need to bring with you is your license (if you’re 12 or older) and a smile on your face! Good luck, have fun, and say ‘thank you’ to all the ODFW volunteers you see out there because they make these events possible,” Boyles added.

Each Family Fishing pond will be regularly stocked with trout by ODFW. Review the Stocking Schedules to find out what’s being stocked throughout the year.

Anyone unable to participate in these fishing events can explore many other fishing, hunting or wildlife viewing opportunities at ODFW’s recreation website, including classes and workshops held for all ages, at  MyODFW.com.

ZONE, DATE AND TIME LOCATION NEAREST TOWN
Northwest Zone
April 20, 9 am – 2 pm Hebo Lake Hebo
April 27, 9 am – 2 pm Devils Lake (Regatta Park) Lincoln City
May 4, 9 am – 2 pm Vernonia Lake Vernonia
June 8, 9 am – 2 pm Cleawox Lake Florence
July 7, 9 am – 2 pm Dundas Pond Siletz
Southwest Zone
April 27, 10 am – 2 pm Empire Lakes Coos Bay
May 4, 9 am – 1:30 pm Reinhart Volunteer Park Grants Pass
May 18, 10 am – 2 pm Powers Pond Powers
June 8, 10 am – 2:30 pm Denman Wildlife Area Central Point
July 4, 9 am to 1 pm Mingus Park Coos Bay
July 20, 9 am to 1 pm July Jubilee North Bend
Willamette Zone
April 20, 9 am – 2 pm St. Louis Ponds Gervais
April 20, 9 am – 12 pm Walter Wirth Lake Cascades Gateway Park Salem
April 27, 9am – 2 pm Trojan Pond Rainer
May 4, 9 am – 2 pm Sheridan Pond Sheridan
May 5, 9:30 am – 1:30 pm Alton Baker Canoe Canal Eugene
May 25, 9 am – 2 pm Mt. Hood Pond Gresham
June 15, 10 am – 2 pm Alton Baker Canoe Canal Eugene
October 12, 9 am – 2 pm St. Louis Ponds Gervais
October 19, 9 am – 2 pm Mt. Hood Pond Gresham
November 26, 9 am – 12 pm Walter Wirth Lake Cascades Gateway Park Salem
Central Zone
May 4, 8:30 am – 1 pm Bikini Pond (Mayere State Park) Mosier
May 11, 8:30 – 2 pm Camp Baldwin Dufur
May 18, 8:30 am – 2 pm Middle Fork Pond Parkdale
June 20, 9 am – 12 pm Shevlin Pond Bend
Northeast Zone
April 13, 10 am – 12 pm McNary Channel Ponds Hermiston
May 18, 10 am – 12 pm McNary Channel Ponds Hermiston
July 6, 9 am – 2 pm Jubilee Lake Pendleton

5 Coos Bay-area Lakes To Be Stocked With Nice-sized ‘Bows

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

Anglers looking for large rainbow trout should head to Coos Bay area lakes soon. Next week, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is stocking five lakes with 14 to 16-inch rainbow trout for great fall fishing.

FALL FINDS NORTHWESTERNERS FOLLOWING SALMON RUNS AND HEADING TO HUNTING CAMP, BUT ONE WESTERN OREGON FAMILY MAKES ITS WAY TO COOS COUNTY FOR TROUT FISHING. (ODFW)

Upper Empire Lake is getting 3,200 trout. Lower Empire will not be stocked due to low water, warm temperatures and weeds. Instead, Butterfield Lake, accessed through Riley Ranch County Park will now receive 1,400 rainbows. Butterfield anglers might also hook into a warmouth, an unusual fish that looks like a crappie with a bass head.

Saunders Lake will receive 1,300 trout. This lake is about five miles north of North Bend and is an easily accessed, pleasant place to take the family fishing. Three miles south of Bandon, Bradley Lake is getting 1,600 trout and Powers Pond will receive 1,300.

This is ODFW’s final trout stocking of the year for Coos County and gives anglers a “last chance” opportunity before winter hits and the weather is not conducive to trout fishing. The rainbow trout harvest limit in most lakes is five fish per day, two daily limits in possession.

Check myodfw.com for fishing tips and the latest Recreation Report.

ODFW OKs Second Rods For Coos Bay, Rogue; ‘Exceptional Return’ Of Kings Expected On Latter

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Anglers with the two-rod validation will be able to use two rods in Coos Bay and the Rogue River beginning on Aug. 1, under a temporary rule adopted by ODFW this month.

TWO PRIME OREGON SOUTH COAST WATERS WILL OPEN FOR ANGLERS TO USE SECOND RODS WITH THE ODFW ENDORSEMENT. FISHERY MANAGERS EXPECT AN “EXCEPTIONAL RETURN” OF KINGS ON ONE, THE ROGUE, WHILE COOS BAY CHINOOK CAN PRODUCE WELL TOO. JORGE RUBIO SNAPPED THIS SHOT OF ONE ON THE LATTER IN 2013. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective Aug. 1 to Sept. 30, Coos Bay anglers who have a 2018 two-rod validation will be able to use two rods while fishing for Chinook salmon or hatchery coho salmon where fishing is open to salmon in Coos Bay (Coos Bay, Coos River, South Fork Coos River from mouth to the head of tide at Dellwood, Millicoma River).

Rogue River anglers with a two-rod validation will be able to use two rods from Aug. 1 to Sept. 3 (please note different closing date) while fishing for Chinook salmon or hatchery Coho salmon where fishing is open to salmon in the Rogue River from the mouth upstream to Ferry Hole Boat Ramp (RM 5) near Gold Beach.

In both areas, only one rod may be used when fishing for species other than salmon.

“Many Coos Bay salmon anglers have been asking for the option of using two rods,” said Gary Vonderohe, ODFW fish biologist in Charleston.

According to Laura Green, ODFW fish biologist in Gold Beach, this will be a good year for two-rod fishing on the Rogue.

“We’re expecting an exceptional return of Chinook salmon to the Rogue this fall,” she said.

Two-rod validations cost $24.50 for both residents and non-residents. Licensed anglers who purchase the validation can use two rods wherever regulations allow them, which is primarily in ponds and lakes. When possible, ODFW extends the validations to specific streams. Kids under the age of 12 do not need a validation to use a second rod.

For the latest fishing regulations, see the Fishing Report in ODFW’s Recreation Report at www.MyODFW.com