RWONWF Megan Tharp: The Date Night Chinook

Editor’s note: Each December we feature the Real Women of Northwest Fishing in our year-end magazine issue, and here are stories from the 2021 edition!

By Matt Tharp

Megan and I live in Olympia with our two young boys. I have been an avid salmon angler my entire life but have mainly focused on fishing the ocean and the North Sound. Our boys are getting older and are now able to fish, so Megan and I decided that we would get a safer boat and learn to fish in Deep South Sound, better known as Area 13.

We have lived in Olympia for a long time but never thought there was a fishery down this far in the Sound, but we made a commitment to fish down here with our boys and learn the area in 2018. We would catch a few fish here and there, but it was never red-hot. 

Until July 2021.

Megan Tharp’s idea to have an evening date on the water without the kids led to one heckuva catch, this very nice South Sound Chinook, which she landed in mid-July after a great fight. (MATT THARP)

My friends and I caught a few nice kings the week after the 4th of July, basically bright, low-teen Chinook. On July 15, Megan asked me if I wanted to go fishing with her but without the boys. It was date night that I would have never expected her to ask for. So I said, “Sure, let’s do it,” and we headed to Zittel’s Marina on Johnson Point, where the boat is moored for the summer. 

We started trolling around with one rod on the downrigger, talking, having a glass of wine, and enjoying the beautiful 80-degree evening. As it got later, I thought it just wasn’t going to be our night, so I started cleaning the cabin, bulkhead and otherwise making sure the boat was sparkly white. Megan was having such a good time just being on the water without kids that she said, “Let’s fish until dark.” 

At 8 p.m. on the dot I was down in the cuddy when she said, “Matt, I think you have a fish on,” to which I replied, “That’s your fish; grab the rod.”

I came up to the deck and Megan was grabbing the rod out of the pole holder when it happened. The rod buckled over in her hands and the big king peeled half the spool out. I was tempted to give in to her asking for me to take the rod, but no, this was her fish and more importantly, her first Chinook ever and in our home waters. 

The fish took out 100 yards and then started jumping! Kings don’t usually jump, but this one did! Megan was screaming and yelling and there wasn’t a single boat around. 

Megan fought the fish to the boat and then it went on another run, but this time straight out, then straight down! She again fought the fish back to the boat and repeated this two more times! Finally, on the fourth time getting the fish to the boat, she won and I dipped the net. With some light coaching she walked back on the deck and the nose of the fish came straight in. 

When it hit the deck it was maybe one of the happiest days of fishing in my life. It was pure joy for Megan in the accomplishment of catching a 20-pound king in Area 13. The big king was landed at 8:33 p.m. Her arms were tired but her face was pure joy! I think it might be one the happiest days in her life as well, looking back at the photo of Megan and her Chinook.