Category Archives: Fishing Trips | Real Women Of Northwest Fishing

Read the stories of Real Women of Northwest Fishing on their Trips and Outings here at NW Sportsman Mag.

Bummed By Northwest Fish Runs? So Is This Angler, But He’s Also Exploring New Ops

By Rick Itami

Like many other sport anglers in the Inland Northwest, I am deeply saddened about the drastically diminished runs of salmon and steelhead in our favorite rivers and streams.

For me, 2018 was the worst year in terms of fish landed since I retired in 2003. Fishing was so bad that I cut the number of days on the water by over 50 percent.

Looking forward, the future is not bright. With a new “blob” of warm water developing in the Pacific and the current El Nino, we might be looking at several more years of low run counts.

SPOKANE-BASED ANGLER-AUTHOR RICK ITAMI WITH HIS FIRST-EVER SNOOK TAKEN OUT OF FLORIDA BAY. (RICK ITAMI)

There are just too many negative factors facing our beloved salmonids these days, including pinniped predation, terns and mergansers feasting on outmigrating smolts, continued loss of habitat to human development and other causes.

Then you have our politicians trying to do the right thing, but only succeeding in getting a few days of good press with little real benefit to salmon and steelhead.

And lately, to hear that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission has voted to allow nontribal gillnetting back into the Lower Columbia in the face of low run predictions for 2019, I am getting a sick feeling in my stomach.

I turned 73 years old in April 5 and my window of opportunity for my favorite pastime is narrowing faster with each passing year. And then it hit me: will I die before salmon and steelhead numbers recover to what they were just five to 10 years ago?

The truth is the answer to that question could easily be “yes.”

ITAMI IS MUCH MORE AT HOME IN HIS NATIVE IDAHO, WHERE HE CAUGHT THIS NICE STRINGER OF HATCHERY STEELHEAD, BUT LOW RUNS ARE LEADING HIM TO LOOK FOR OTHER ANGLING OPPORTUNITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY. (RICK ITAMI)

I STARTED FISHING WITH MY OLDER BROTHER WHEN I was 5 years old. We had a creek fed by natural artesian wells that ran through the middle of our little farm just west of Nampa, Idaho, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game planted rainbow trout in it every year. We spent many happy hours catching 6-8 inch trout in our creek and cooling off in our swimming hole in the heat of summer.

Since then, I have graduated to fishing all over the Northwest, mostly for salmon and steelhead. And in retirement, I was blessed to be able to figure things out to the point that I would catch 50 to 150 steelhead a year and a few dozen Chinook salmon. But that’s all in the past now.

Rather than sitting in my easy chair feeling sorry for myself and other salmon and steelhead fishermen in the Inland Northwest, I have decided to give fishing a rest in my favorite local salmon and steelhead venues and pursue different fish species elsewhere.

Over the years, I have developed a bucket list of fish species that I would like to catch that would require me to travel well outside of the Northwest.

I read some books and watched fishing shows about fishing the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. This got me excited about trying to catch some of the many species available on the Gulf Coast, including redfish, speckled sea trout, tarpon, bonefish, permit, pompano and other species.

During the past two years I have fished almost the whole semi-circle of the Gulf Coast, including the Lower Laguna Madre and Port Aransas in Texas, Barrataria and Venice in Louisiana, Tampa Bay and the Florida Keys. I’ve booked my wife and I a guide out of Grand Isles, Louisiana for another trip to the bayou this fall.

So far I have landed several species of fish I had never caught before such as redfish, speckled sea trout, snook, black drum, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, ladyfish, Spanish mackerel and sail catfish.

ITAMI ESCAPED COLD INLAND NORTHWEST WEATHER TO WADE-FISH FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF TROUT WAY DOWN TEXAS WAY, THE SPECKLED TROUT OF LAGUNA MADRE. HERE HE REELS IN HIS FIRST EVER. (RICK ITAMI)

I caught all of these species inshore fishing various flats with local guides. I have come to love flats fishing. My wife feels safe fishing water that rarely gets over 3 feet deep.

While most of our trips were successful, our one excursion to fish for tarpon on the northern pass of Anna Maria Island near Tampa Bay was a bust. On the mid-May 2018 day we landed in Tampa, a tropical depression had formed over the entire state of Florida. We had to sit out torrential rains most of the week.

The one day we got out to fish, the storm had moved the 10,000 tarpon that were in the pass the previous week somewhere out into the vast Gulf of Mexico. We got skunked.

My wife and I went after bonefish on some flats on the east side of the Florida Keys this past February. Strong winds and passing clouds made it difficult to spot the fish in the 1- 3-foot-deep water.

The guide did his job by poling his skiff within range of seven or eight groups of bonefish. Unfortunately, his clients were too slow and inaccurate with the casts in the windy conditions to get the baits within biting range.

But it was a thrill to see bonefish for the first time — some approaching 9 pounds! I didn’t even know they got that big and I will definitely give fishing for them another try.

So far my favorite Gulf fish to catch is the big bull redfish because they get as big and fight as hard as our beloved Chinook salmon of the Northwest.

FOLLOWING 2017’S BAD RUNS, ITAMI HEADED FOR CAJUN COUNTRY — LOUISIANA’S BAYOU — AND BOOKED SOME FISHING TIME WITH GRIFFIN FISHING CHARTERS. (RICK ITAMI)

IF YOU GET THE URGE TO FISH THE GULF COAST like me, I should let you know some of the things I learned.

First of all, no matter where I went to fish it off Texas, Louisiana or Florida I found that the vastness of the flats makes it almost impossible for DIY trips. In most areas, you can find places to rent boats or kayaks, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re unfamiliar with the area.

The exception to that would be Port Aransas, where some friends from Colorado and I caught some nice speckled sea trout while DIY kayaking.

The guides know the areas well and have their local contacts to let them know where the fish are. On most trips, the guides will travel anywhere from 5 to 30 miles from the launch area to get to where the bite is.

Most of the flats around the Gulf coast have hundreds of small cane or mangrove islands — all of which look alike. Even after going out with guides, I know I could never go out on my own and find the spots they took us to. Worse yet, I would undoubtedly have gotten lost in the vastness of the flats.

So finding a good guide is essential. I search the internet for guides with 5-star ratings from trip advisor. I also take note of guides that are highlighted on fishing shows on TV.

However, the latter didn’t work out quite as well as I would have liked in one case. Having seen a guide out of Venice on a popular fishing show, I booked a trip with him for me and my Air Force buddy from Tampa and his son.

The guide told me over the phone that we could stay at his “lodge” for free. That should have raised red flags, but I didn’t delve any further into the state of the accommodations. We drove from the New Orleans airport to Venice and arrived just before dark. We used our GPS to locate the so-called lodge, which was down a dirt road just off the main highway.

At first we didn’t believe the GPS because it landed us at a ramshackle two-story unpainted building that looked like it had been abandoned for years. We contacted the guide and he assured us we were at the right place and that he needed to do a little “cleaning up” before we settled in.

IT’S NOT ALL DOOM AND GLOOM IN THE NORTHWEST — THE OPENING OF STURGEON RETENTION ON LAKE ROOSEVELT NEAR THE LILAC CITY AFFORDED ITAMI, LEFT, A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE A NEW CLOSE-TO-HOME FISHERY. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

He arrived a few minutes later and let us in. He showed us to a small room with two bunk beds that were unmade and with bedding and other things scattered everywhere. My buddy’s son found mouse droppings on his bed. The guide showed us how to use a vise grips to turn the shower on and off. Unfortunately, it was too late to try to find other accommodations. We were stuck.

The good thing was that fishing was good and we caught a lot of nice bull redfish. But beware of anything that sounds too good to be true.

One of the differences in Gulf Coast guides as opposed to Northwest fishing guides is that they all call themselves “Captain.” Most of them prefer to be addressed as Captain, followed by their first name, e.g., “Captain John”. But they don’t seem to mind us Yankees not observing that custom.

Weather is an important factor in the success of fishing the Gulf coast. Hurricanes, tropical depressions and cold fronts are common in this area of the U. S. So it’s often a crap shoot when you book a guide far in advance of your trip.

Most guides require a deposit when you book a trip, but will return it if weather conditions don’t permit a trip … or allow you to reschedule a trip at a later date. Nowadays, you can look at the weather predictions up to 10 days in advance so you can cancel airline, lodging and charter reservations if things look bad.

If you want to target a specific species, you should let your guide know ahead of time. Oftentimes, the guides will go to different areas of the flats depending on which species you want to pursue. For example, in the Louisiana Bayou country, oftentimes redfish are found in different areas than speckled sea trout.

When my wife and I fished the Florida Keys, the guide took us over 20 miles into Florida Bay where we caught a variety of fish including snook, speckled trout, mangrove snapper, jack crevalle, and other species. The next day, we asked him to target bonefish only, so he took us on the Atlantic side of the Keys where he poled us into several groups of bones, as mentioned above.

ITAMI AND HIS GUIDES POSE WITH A NICE GULF COAST CATCH. (RICK ITAMI)

It’s also important to let your guide know ahead of time if you want to catch bull redfish (over 26 inches) as opposed to slot reds (20 to 26 inches). They are usually found in different areas of the estuaries.

I’m not much into to catching sharks or stingrays, but they are often plentiful in the flats and put up a great fight if you want to give that a try.

Speaking of stingrays, I once went out with a guide in the Lower Laguna Madre on the south Texas coast who wade-fished exclusively. I love this type of fishing, but you have to shuffle your feet along the bottom so as not to step on a stingray, which can launch its tail spike into your leg in an instant. This can be extremely painful and lead to horrible infections. A lot of wade fishermen wear special leggings to protect them from stingray strikes.

Finally, while my preference is inshore flats fishing, in most areas of the Gulf Coast you can also choose to fish offshore in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Here you have the opportunity to catch other species like yellowfin and blackfin tuna, cobia, king mackerel, red snapper, barracuda and other species.

But most charters take out several people at a time much farther from the launch site than inshore fishing and they are usually a lot more expensive. I never keep any of my catch and get seasick at times, so I will probably continue inshore fishing only with smaller groups of relatives and friends.

ITAMI SHOWS OFF A NICE BULL RED CAUGHT IN THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA OUT OF VENICE, LOUISIANA. “IT FOUGHT LIKE A CHINOOK SALMON,” HE REPORTS. (RICK ITAMI)

WHILE GIVING MOST OF MY INLAND NORTHWEST FISHING a breather until hopefully the runs of fish return in more respectable numbers, I will not totally abandon it.

Having fished for over 60 years, I have developed a lot of friendships with guides, lodging owners, and cooks and wait staff at great small eateries. So I will fish some of my favorite haunts if for no other reason than to give these wonderful people some business.

And as all avid fishermen know, it’s great just to get out into the stream and take in the beauty of Mother Nature.

Spokane Angler Fishes For A Different Kind Of Trout — Texas Specks

By Rick Itami

I took my first trip to the south Texas Gulf Coast in late January 2018 to get away from the freezing temperatures in Spokane, Washington, where I live and to fill a bucket list desire to land a speckled sea trout.

SPOKANE’S RICK ITAMI ESCAPED COLD INLAND NORTHWEST WEATHER TO WADE-FISH FOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF TROUT WAY DOWN TEXAS WAY, THE SPECKLED TROUT OF LAGUNA MADRE. HERE HE REELS IN HIS FIRST EVER. (RICK ITAMI)

I searched the internet for a guide on the Lower Laguna Madre and found Captain Ernest Cisneros (956-266-6454). He almost exclusively wades for redfish, trout and snook, which appeals to me much more than fishing from a boat.

So I reserved January 24th and 25th to fish with him. We stayed in touch on a weekly basis because the weather kept changing. As is common this time of year, a few cold fronts came through in January and winds were at times over 25 mph, making fishing impossible. To my delight, the weekend before my scheduled trip, Ernest called and said we were good to go.

Ernest said he could supply me with Simms waders and boots. That was great to not have to carry my own boots and waders in my luggage. He also asked me what type of gear I would like to fish with so he could provide exactly what I needed.

I flew to Harlingen, Texas, and drove to Port Isabel, where I checked into a nice motel that had a great view of the Laguna Madre.

On our first morning out, the weather was cloudy with rain showers. Perfect – just like steelhead fishing in the Northwest!

Owning great equipment, Ernest’s boat is a beautiful 24-foot shallow water vessel with a 250 hp Yamaha outboard that zips around the flats at 55 mph.

On the way out to the first spot he planned to fish, Ernest and I shared our backgrounds. He is a retired educator from Brownsville, Texas who has been guiding in the Lower Laguna Madre for 17 years, but has fished his home waters using artificial baits for 29 years.

He said he started guiding while still teaching science classes to sixth-graders and went into full-time guiding after he retired from teaching. Needless to say, he knows every inch of the water he guides on. I kiddingly suggested that he probably knows every fish in the flats by name.

CAPTAIN ERNEST CISNEROS SHOWS OFF A NICE SEA TROUT. HE GUIDES ON THE EXPANSIVE LAGUNA MADRE, LOCATED BETWEEN FAMED (AND INFAMOUS) SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, A COLLEGE SPRING BREAK DESTINATION, AND THE MAINLAND NOT FAR NORTH OF THE MEXICO BORDER. (RICK ITAMI)

 

Ernest stopped his boat just off the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW) and lowered his power poles so his boat wouldn’t drift away. We started wading along what he called “spoils,” which is mainly sediment dredged out of the ICW. We cast KWiggler willow-tail soft plastic lures as far as we could in about 3 feet of water and usually got hit after twitching the bait 5 to 10 feet. Luckily, the trout were biting early and I was pleased to land my first ever within 10 minutes so that I could take that item off of my bucket list.

We kept moving along the spoils for about 200 yards, staying at the same depth and caught several trout each –some over 20 inches. Then Ernest took us north to another spot where he said we could catch both trout and reds. He wasn’t kidding. The trout were the first to bite and we landed several that averaged larger than the ones in the first spot.

Then we approached a shallower flat and started catching one red after another ranging from 3 to 8 pounds. We later stopped at another spot and had the same kind of luck until a porpoise moved through, killing the bite entirely. We ended the day in a shallow bay to the west where I landed two more reds. Then we called it quits after a fantastic day of catch and release fishing.

ITAMI RELEASES A NICE REDFISH. (RICK ITAMI)

The next morning we started at the second spot where we had the best luck on the first day, but the tide was lower and we caught only trout and no reds. For some reason, we got a lot of short strikes too. In addition, we saw more porpoises than a day earlier feeding in the distance.

Ernest took me to a new spot on the other side of the ICW where he said we should get into a lot of trout. We did, and hooked up on almost every cast. The only problem was they were all small – less than 15 inches.

Then Ernest took me to a spot he said that Laguna Madre was famous for. He ran his boat around the shallow bay to show me waking reds and trout darting away from the boat everywhere. Ernest slowed down, shut down the engine and quietly coasted further into the bay. Then we slid into the water and started to wade and sight fish.

The water was about a foot deep and crystal clear. We split up and crept along as quietly as we could, but the fish were just too smart and wily for us. Neither of us came close enough to see any fish within range. Ernest said that’s the way it had been for the past few weeks in that spot.

I did have a little excitement as I was creeping along, squinting to see any fish in front of me. For some reason I looked down and was shocked to see a stingray 4 inches in front of my right foot! If I had not looked down at that moment, I would have stepped right on it and maybe ended up with a spike in my leg. Whew!

Ernest took us to one final new spot where he hooked and landed three reds, but I didn’t get a nibble. But it was another good day and we went back to the launch totally satisfied.

Captain Ernest began an Empty Stringers Catch and Release Program two years ago to enhance the long-term sustainability of the species he and his clients fish for. Being well-known in the area, he was able to get the support of several sponsors like Simms and Costa. Ernest’s clients who release all of their catch are rewarded at the end of the day with gifts from sponsors like caps, shirts and other paraphernalia. The client can also fill out a raffle ticket to win a free fully guided trip for two by Ernest. I chose a couple of caps.

AN EMPTY STRINGER’S A GOOD THING IN THE CAPTAIN’S BOOK. HIS “EMPTY STRINGER” PROGRAM YIELDS REWARDS TO THE ANGLERS WHO TURN BACK THEIR CATCH TO ENSURE THE LONGTERM SUSTAINABILITY OF THE FISHERY. (RICK ITAMI)

I enjoyed everything about this trip, not only the great fishing but also the good eateries like Joe’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant and Mexiquitos Mexican Restaurant and the general friendliness of the people. But I am most impressed with Captain Ernest and his Empty Stringers Catch and Release Program that will hopefully help ensure good fishing for years to come.

Allons! Northwest Steelheader Goes Cajun

By Rick Itami

Like many other sports fishermen in the Inland Northwest, I endured a disappointing year in 2017 with most steelhead and salmon runs much lower than average because of poor ocean conditions caused by El Nino and the dreaded “blob” of uncharacteristically warm water in the northern Pacific Ocean.

So I decided to look elsewhere to try new fishing experiences that were on my bucket list. The first venue that came to mind was inshore fishing for redfish, black drum and speckled trout in the Mississippi River estuary south of New Orleans often referred to as the Bayou.

I researched the internet and found what sounded like a good fit for my needs — Griffin Fishing Charters and Lodge (504-689-7588). Their rates were reasonable and their accommodations appeared to suit my preference of something comfortable and not luxury high-end, which frankly turns me off.

I called and talked with Colby Creppel, co-owner of the facility. The first thing I wanted to know was if the hurricane season was over since up to then, seemingly one hurricane after another had hit somewhere on the Gulf coast, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Colby quickly assured me that hurricane season was indeed over and that November was a good month to fish for reds. I told him to sign me up and was pleasantly surprised that he didn’t require a non-refundable deposit of half the cost of the chartered trip that most other charters require. He also said that he would not charge if the weather was too bad to fish.

Griffin Fishing Charters has a stable of modern, well-kept boats right next to the Lodge on the Inland Waterway. (RICK ITAMI)

Eagerly anticipating the trip for the next three weeks, I finally boarded a flight on November 13, 2017 in Spokane, Washington, and landed in New Orleans that afternoon. It was an easy one-hour drive from the airport to Griffin Fishing Charters and Lodge. I enjoyed viewing the features of this flat, watery world that was so different from the hills and mountains of the Northwest.

As I got within a few miles of the lodge, I crossed over the Inland Waterway and turned on to Jean Laffite Boulevard, named after the notorious privateer who is viewed as both a hero and an outlaw. Not surprisingly, the lodge is located on Privateer Boulevard. I parked at the lodge and found Colby at a fish cleaning station at water’s edge peeling a batch of freshly caught shrimp.

After a short, friendly chat, I told Colby that I hadn’t eaten all day and would like his recommendation as to where to get a good meal. He pointed me to Voleos Restaurant, about 7 miles down the road. When I arrived, I knew right away this would be a good place to eat because all of the others in the restaurant were local fishermen. I ordered the seafood platter with a side of seafood gumbo. It was all delicious, but the gumbo was something to die for.

The next morning, breakfast was served at 5:45 a.m. and all of the guests boarded their assigned boats at 6 a.m. I was assigned to guide Casey Rojas. I got to liking Casey right away. He is a soft-spoken and knowledgeable middle-aged man who has guided for 15 years. I appreciated the fact that Casey didn’t engage in constant chatter like some guides and answered my questions and explained things clearly and succinctly.

We headed out on the Inland Waterway and took a little less than a half-hour to run the 10 miles to the fishing areas, which are about 15 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The area is comprised of hundreds of small islands ranging in size from a few square feet to several acres. They were formed over millions of years from the sediment that flows out of the Mississippi River.

Casey first anchored in a small channel where the outgoing tide was moving the murky water into a larger channel where we hoped some redfish would be holding to ambush baitfish.

We started hearing a lot of shotgun blasts not far away and Casey informed me that duck season had just opened. I told him he should have brought his shotgun along to bag a few ducks while I was fishing. Any outdoorsman would love this area because of the many species of waterfowl. During the morning of fishing we saw ducks, pelicans, ibises, kingfishers, herons, terns and other species. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Casey set me up with a spinning rod and reel with a small fixed bobber about 2 feet above a weighted jig hook onto which he put a fresh shrimp. We both fished for about 20 minutes without any action. Casey pointed out an alligator cruising around about 80 yards from us. I wondered if that may have had a negative effect on our fishing.

Anyway, we picked up and moved to another spot about 5 minutes away. Casey baited my hook and told me to cast toward a point of a small island about 50 feet out. Within about 5 casts, I got my first good take-down and set the hook on my first redfish — a nice 3-pounder that Casey said was perfect eating size. I was impressed by the fight the fish put up. It stayed low and pulled hard like a Chinook salmon and didn’t jump.

The author’s first-ever redfish from the Louisiana bayou. (RICK ITAMI)

The rest of the morning’s fishing was fabulous. I landed at least 10 redfish ranging from about 1-6 pounds, and an assortment of small black drum, sheepshead and channel catfish. The only other species that we could have caught were speckled trout, flounder and possibly even a largemouth bass, which remained elusive to us.

As usual, we had some quiet times when the fish were not biting during which I enjoyed talking with Casey about fishing and hunting experiences. At the end of the morning, I was thankful for being blessed with great fishing, 70-plus-degree weather and a great guide.

After taking a short nap after lunch, I took a walk around the town of Barataria. Known as the Town of Jean Laffite, it exudes a rich history of the days of yore. Laffite is known notoriously as a pirate and privateer who smuggled precious metals and other goods taken mostly from Spanish galleons and selling them in New Orleans. He was also known to profit from smuggling slaves into the United States.

Barrataria, Louisiana, proudly advertises itself as the Town of Jean Lafitte. (RICK ITAMI)

If you don’t know the difference between a privateer and a pirate, I’ll save you the trouble of searching the internet and give you the definitions here.

A privateer is any individual granted license by their government to attack shipping belonging to an enemy government, usually during a war. A privateer operates legally so long as he has a Letter of Marque from the government.

A pirate robs or commits other acts of violence for private ends on the high seas outside the normal jurisdiction of any nation, and without authority from any government.

During the War of 1812, Laffite was recognized as a hero for leading his privateer group to help General Andrew Jackson fight the British in the Battle of New Orleans. General Jackson is quoted as saying Laffite was “one of the ablest men” of the battle. Laffite also supplied Jackson with flints and gun powder from his stolen stores in Barataria.

All of this won Laffite a full pardon for him and his men from President James Madison. But something in Laffite drew him back to privateering and pirating, which he spent much of the rest of his life doing.

One of the interesting features of many of the homes around Barataria is that they have been raised by special hydraulic jacks and placed on stilts, seemingly 12-15 feet high. This was in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Casey said that they have developed the technology to raise the homes so that there is virtually no damage to any part of the homes raised.

A large home that has been raised and put on stilts in case of another Katrina. (RICK ITAMI)

The second day of my trip started out the same, but for some reason we seemed to be able to catch only smaller fish regardless of whether they were reds, black drum, sheepshead or catfish. Casey moved us to several different island points to try to find the big ones.

Finally, at mid-morning, he anchored us off a small island where I landed two keeper reds along with a few other smaller fish. As we were moving to another location, Colby maneuvered his boat full of adults and children with one fellow holding a video camera next to our boat. To my surprise Casey handed one of my reds to Colby and they took off. Casey explained that Colby’s boat was filming a commercial for the Town of Jean Laffite and they needed a redfish as part of the filming. So he said my redfish would become famous. What a hoot!

We continued to another point where on my first cast, I saw my bobber disappear a second or two after it landed in the water and I managed to land my third keeper red. Then the bite completely shut off and we could not catch any fish of any size. I thought to myself that redfish were just like steelhead by inexplicably failing to bite. So we called it a day and I ended my trip with a great feeling of satisfaction.

Guide Casey Rojas with a sheepshead, a species known for its human-like teeth. (RICK ITAMI)

Some things that Casey shared with me are worth keeping in mind when planning a trip to this area. For one thing, Casey said that a cold front will absolutely shut the bite off and he said that Griffin Fishing Charters tries to discourage fishermen from going out during such a front to keep them from being disappointed and wasting their money. Also, high winds will also make fishing very difficult.

For those of us who must reserve airline tickets well in advance, this makes it kind of a crap shoot. I was lucky to have blue bird weather the two days I fished. But you can look at some of the weather forecasting sites on the internet and view the forecasts up to 10 days in advance.

As far as when the best time to fish for reds goes, Casey says generally May through November is good fishing with the hottest months varying from year to year.

While we used shrimp under bobbers during my two days of fishing because of the murkiness of the water, Casey says that when the water is clearer in the summer, they often use lures such as spoons and swim baits to catch reds. He also said that a few of his clients choose to fly fish for reds, but that can be a little more of a challenge.

I tend to be more of a home body most of the time, but I am so happy I decided to break out of my mold and branch out to this great fishing venue. I now have good memories and a great appreciation for the fishing, cultural history and people of the Bayou.

If steelhead and salmon runs in the Inland Northwest continue to be at the low end of the scale, I will be looking for another fun destination to fish like the Louisiana Bayou somewhere else in the U.S.

RWONWF: Avid Fisherwomen Team Up On Sturgeon

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 

7th-annual-real-women-logo

by Ashley Burows

Ashley Burows (left) and Natalie Travis, both of Tri-Cities fished the Columbia River in Richland on the second to last weekend of sturgeon season 2016.
(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST VIA ASHLEY BURROWS)

(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST VIA ASHLEY BURROWS)

Natalie, who fishes for sturgeon a great deal, had yet to catch a keeper for the season and this was Ashley’s first time for sturgeon.

Both avid fisherwomen, Ashley fishes frequently for bass on the Yakima River while Natalie chases the migratory species.

The day was going very well for us when Natalie’s drag started to sing, giving Ashley the opportunity to reel in a 72-incher, her first sturgeon ever!

Having three rods out we were able to play with a few shakers before having this dandy on.

“I felt bad not handing off my rod to Ashley, but knowing I felt a large keeper on the other side I chose to fight him myself,” says Natalie.

It paid off. After measuring the fish three times in the water, we finally lifted him into the boat with a final measure of just under 54 inches.

RWONWF: Power Of The Pink Rod

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 7th-annual-real-women-logo

By Troy Rodakowski

She has this pink rod and I believe it’s magical. I witnessed it first-hand on a trip with her – guess which one of our rods went off? Yep, Vicki Tindall’s hot pink one.

“I don’t ever remember a time when my family didn’t hunt and fish growing up. I always loved helping my dad gut anything he killed. Fish, deer, elk – it didn’t matter, I loved being there and watching my dad,” recalls the Springfield resident.

Good thing, too, since her father was a fishing guide on the Umpqua and McKenzie Rivers for many years. Tindall has endured struggles in her life, with family members abusing drugs, and the loss of her grandmother and father very recently, but fishing is what has kept her grounded and alive inside.

(TROY RODAKOWSKI)

(TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Tindall’s become good friends with local guide Guy Springman and they’ve spent countless hours on the water fishing together. Both have been good therapy for one another through tough times and losing close family members.

“In spring we decided to do the Scappoose Bay fishing derby. I was super excited, and Guy came over with a present – a hot pink fishing rod! I couldn’t wait to fish with this new rod. It has caught a crazy amount of fish, and it saved me from dying inside,” she says.

Fishing is more than, well, just fishing for Vicki Tindall. Her favorite moments on the water?

“I think seeing someone catch a fish for the first time is very special, and just being around to help is rewarding,” she says.

“Of course, catching fish always makes me happy, especially when it’s given me a great fight.”

RWONWF: Fishing A Field Trip

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 7th-annual-real-women-logo

Teresa Schmeck, a seventh-grade history and English teacher at Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, has become an excellent angler over the last five years.schmeck-1

“My personality of calm peace in my thoughts, patience, attention to detail and competitive tenacity make fishing perfect for me,” Schmeck says.

Friend Andrew Templeton says she enjoys bass, crappie, kokanee and lings, but walleye and salmon are her faves.

(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, BOTH)

(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST, BOTH)

“Fishing has helped me as a teacher of Washington history,” Schmeck adds. “I’ve seen so much of our state’s amazing geography, natural beauty and influential history while travelling the state and fishing.”

“I always want to be learning. Steelhead next, please!”

RWONWF: Lemonade From A Lemon Of A Salmon Season

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 

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By Toni Pollock-Bozarth

This year saw the gloomiest salmon predictions for the areas I usually fish – Puget Sound and Sekiu – but in July, I was able to seek them in new locations. I journeyed to Neah Bay for a salmon/bottomfishing trip with my brother and sister-in-law. Though it wasn’t too successful, I was able to experience humpback whales that were so close I could see the baleen in their mouths. That was something I couldn’t even imagine.

I returned home from that trip on a Tuesday and was in the Southern Washington port town of Ilwaco by Thursday morning. Fishing with a group of ten other anglers I was last to get my limit. However, it was worth waiting for: an 11.9-pound coho, the biggest salmon of our trip.

The first week of August I was honored to fish out of Westport with friends. There I was blessed to catch a 17-pound king.

(TONI POLLOCK-BOZARTH, BOTH)

(TONI POLLOCK-BOZARTH, BOTH)

pollack-bozarth-1

The most challenging year for salmon fishing turned out to be exciting as I traveled from one tip of Washington state to the other to catch some beautiful salmon and lasting memories.

Editor’s note: Toni builds and sells tackle through wannafishalure.com.

RWONWF: 2016 A ‘Turning Point’ For Valerie

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 7th-annual-real-women-logo

Buoy 10 and Lower Columbia fall Chinook weren’t just fisheries for Valerie Holmberg. They were learning experiences and provided a “very real turning point,” she says.

Holmberg spent a good part of August and September on the big river catching big beautiful kings while fishing and deckhanding with ace guides.holmberg-1

“The best part about Bouy 10 for me this year was the amount of confidence I gained by watching how so many different masters created success for their clients,” says Holmberg. “I learned a great deal about targeting big fish and combat fishing in general – boat-handling skills, bait prep and running six rods at a time. I really focused on the process involved in running a sled, trolling and how fishermen work together to find fish.”

(VALERIE HOLMBERG, BOTH)

(VALERIE HOLMBERG, BOTH)

At last check she’d carded nearly 30 salmon and said she wasn’t done fishing yet. Stay tuned for more from Valerie Holmberg in the future!

RWONWF: Healing And Learning

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 

7th-annual-real-women-logo

By Troy Rodakowski

was always drawn to fishing but never really had anyone in my world who fished, so it was just something I might do ‘someday,’” says Gretchen Dearden.

The smiles of happy anglers and the peaceful scenes from the water intrigued her, but also were intimidating for the Everett resident.

That is, “until a few years ago, when I went on a guided tour with Mr. Dave Perez and got my first salmon ever,” she says.

Since then, Dearden has made sure to visit the water regularly, and not just to catch as many as she can but also to absorb all that she could about baiting hooks, the gear and how to manage her own. She has done a pretty good job over the last few years and now spends even more time fishing.

“I wanted to spend all my free time on the water; I wanted to learn everything,” she adds.

Dearden’s life has not come without challenges. In August 2015 she lost her ex-husband in a tragic canoeing accident while her two boys watched during a Boy Scout trip in Montana.

(Gretchen Dearden)

(Gretchen Dearden)

“It took me months to be able to leave my boys and even think about fishing again. But when I finally did, with that first sunrise on the Columbia I knew it was where I belonged. That spiritual moment of feeling close to their father and talking to him and God, telling them to please protect my boys,” says Dearden.

Being on the water with nature helps to cleanse the soul and heal her heart.

Dearden has also been blessed to meet Jay Johnstone of Wraptor Rods and become a part of that family. Everyone there has been so helpful to Dearden. Several people have taken the time to teach her something.

“In all honesty, they saved me and kept me believing I could fish and be good at it,” she says.

Folks like Bill Monroe Jr., Sara Dodd, Jay and Julie Johnstone, Pam Magley, and Dan and Corin Snider all are very special to her.

Dearden wants to continue with her passion and never give up. She wants to be that grandma who is taking her grandchildren fishing and creating a lifetime of memories with them.

RWONWF: ‘I Just Want To Go’

Editor’s note: This December marked our 7th Annual Real Women of Northwest Fishing feature! Once again, we turned the issue over to the women and girls who are quietly and very successfully joining the ranks of Washington, Oregon and Idaho fishers, making Northwest anglerdom all the stronger. And as we do each year, we share their stories and photos on our blog. Enjoy this year’s edition of Northwest Sportsman’s Real Women of Northwest Fishing! 

7th-annual-real-women-logo

By Troy Rodakowski

I think the thing I love about fishing the most is the adventure with the water!” exclaims Sasha Mord.

The angler from the southern Willamette Valley enjoys chasing different species and exploring all the nuances that each adventure offers.

“When I was young, the only fishing I did was on the Long Tom River,” she recalls. “We had a pond on our property, and to keep me entertained my grandpa would give me a 5-gallon bucket and send me down to the murky water. I would sit down there and fish with whatever pole and reel we had lying around, using worms that we dug up in the yard around my grandma’s flower pots.”

It was these special times with her grandpa that Mord remembers the most. As she grew older, she fell in love with the McKenzie River and its beautiful waters.

(TROY RODAKOWSKI)

(TROY RODAKOWSKI)

“I spent a lot of time there, met a lot of fellow fishermen and made summer money flipping cars for local fishing guides on their trips,” says Mord.

Shortly thereafter she was fishing the Siuslaw and other local rivers for Chinook, finding that there’s always something more to learn about the fish and waters. It intrigued her and she knew at that time she wanted more.

Two years back Mord fell in love with Montana’s Clark Fork River, where her interest in fly fishing was born.

“I still don’t care if it’s fly fishing a new river, trolling for Chinook in the big water, chasing pretty chrome steelhead on the riverbank in January, going 40 miles out for tuna in the dead of summer, or taking my 8-year-old daughter out after carp in that old murky water I grew up fishing, I just want to go, “she explains.

For Sasha Mord, fishing isn’t just about the catch but about the adventure, the community, the water and the circle of life.