Oct 032015

September has turned to October and the salmon fishing season continues. The mornings are getting colder, the leaves on the trees are turning to fall colors and most of the chinook salmon have passed by on their annual run upstream towards Idaho. Thankfully, we have started to see more coho salmon in the area so the fishing remains pretty good. It’s great to see the silvery coho make their yearly appearance.

Coho salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

I caught a few keepers this week in addition to a few more wild fish. We seem to catch a lot of wild fish at the local fishing spot. I don’t know if many of the hatchery fish are caught before the get here or wild salmon just like this place. So far this season, it’s been about 50-50 wild fish-hatchery fish.

The fish story of the week has to be a big coho salmon that snapped a new fishing pole like a toothpick, but I managed to use the two feet of fishing pole that was left to get the fish netted and into the boat. I use lighter than normal fishing gear because in a kayak, if you hook a bigger fish than the tackle can really handle, you can let the fish tow the kayak around until it gets tired. Because of the crowded conditions, I have to anchor the kayak and that puts a lot more stress on the equipment. After snapping two $15 fishing poles in one week, even though I used one of them all last season and up until a few days ago, I have broken down and purchased a $40 fishing rod. Many fishermen have no problem spending $100 or more, much more, on a fishing rod, I don’t think that a $100 or $200 pole is going to make you a better fisherman.

Big coho salmon breaks fishing rod while kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

I got a personal best steelhead and a big chinook salmon earlier in the season, so this big coho will give me the salmon season “grand slam” of trophy fish. I released a couple wild chinook salmon that were probably bigger than the one I was able to keep, that’s just icing on the cake.

Big coho salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

Pretty motivated to continue the kayak salmon fishing adventures as the seasons change. On the windy days that we don’t go fishing, it’s time to get the truck and the homestead ready for winter. Getting the warmer clothes ready for the colder and wetter days that will be here soon enough.

Sep 272015

After a hot start to the salmon fishing season, things have cooled off considerably. The fish counts are way down and there are more fish leaving than coming. From here until the end of the season, any salmon or steelhead caught will make it a great day and you can expect a few days when you might not catch anything. That’s salmon fishing.

The past week has been slow fishing at a couple reliable spots. The place we usually fish late in the season had a good day mid-week that was followed by a really slow day. If you aren’t catching any fish but everybody else is, well, you might be doing something wrong. If nobody is catching fish, then you can assume the fishing is slow. One day, at another spot, I did not get a nibble and didn’t see any fish. Even if the fish aren’t biting, you can see them jumping and surfacing. There may not have been any significant number of fish around that particular day. It’s tough fishing; the 20lb. mono wore grooves in the fishing rod guide from making so many casts.

Monofilament wearing grooves into fishing rod guide

I hooked a few fish that managed to shake the hook and get away. There were a number of half-hearted hits to keep us out there. I finally managed to hook a nice chinook salmon and get it to the kayak, only to see it was a native fish and released it without using the net.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

Even if the fishing is a little tough, the weather has been pretty nice. Getting colder in the morning, but nothing major.

Salmon fishing on the Columbia River

Time to close the blog department and get the kayak fishing gear ready for the 4:00 AM wakeup call tomorrow. Looks like a couple good fishing days coming up, gotta get out there.

Sep 182015

It must be all the clean living we are doing because we are having some pretty decent luck salmon fishing so far this season. There were a couple days where the weather didn’t cooperate, but for the days we got out on the river, we were pretty lucky. You can tell when the fishing is slow and at the beginning of the week, the fishing was pretty tough(as salmon fishing often is). I managed to keep my “salmon on every trip” streak alive, but only barely. Each day I only caught one salmon and they were both wild so catch and release. The weather was beautiful and the fishing was great, but the “catching” was really tough.

Thing about this kind of fishing is that you have to go out there whenever you can. Sometimes, you get nothing. Some days, it’s the best day of fishing you ever had, you have to get that line in the water. We got a little rain, not too much, but sometimes a little rain gets the fish moving. It was a beautiful morning, light winds and warm. Mt. Hood was showing a fresh dusting of snow, so you know you better get those days before winter sets in. As it has been for the past week or so, the fish seem more eager to bite around sunrise. When the sun comes up over the local mountain, it’s hard to get a bite. The weather is too nice for good salmon fishing. Hooked into a Chinook salmon just before sunrise and got on the scoreboard.

Kayak fishing for Chinook salmon on the Columbia River

Foul hooked a native Chinook that put up a heck of a fight, got it to the side of the boat and removed the barbless hook without using the net. After another hundred casts, another hookup. After a few long runs that had the drag of my reel working overtime, I had the fish at the boat. A big steelhead; maybe the biggest I’ve ever caught. The salmon are a little better to eat to most people and are great fighting fish, but big steelhead are right there. Strong runs, jumps and quick direction changes make steelhead real fighters. Definitely a memorable day.

Kayak fishing for Chinook salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River

It’s so nice, but it won’t last. Winter is right around the corner. We really need some rain around here so those gray, rainy months won’t seem so bad. Right now, this is world class fishing and we’re stoked to be out there and catching a few.

Sep 112015

I’ve been very lucky for the past week or so and done really well salmon fishing on the Columbia River. I’ve gone fishing six times and caught salmon every time. That has to be the best start of the salmon season, or any other fishing season, I’ve ever had. It’s not like the fish are jumping in the boat either. Most of the days I only caught one salmon and felt super lucky to do that because the fishing was slow and only a few fish were caught. One nice salmon is worth a morning’s hard fishing to get it, even if it is a wild salmon and you release it. I never keep wild salmon, even if you can, kind of “fishing karma” I guess.

Chinook salmon, kayak fishing on the Columbia River

You only have to go salmon(or steelhead) fishing a few times to realize the luck I’ve had, but a lucky streak like that can’t go on all season. My time will be coming up when I don’t catch anything and get to watch the guy ten yards away catch one fish after another. It’s been a great week of kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River.

A lot of the action is early in the morning so the video footage is limited, but at this time of the season, you just want to get out there and catch fish. There’s no doubt there are going to be a lot more fishermen here pretty quickly. As fisheries close to the west because the catch limits have been met, those fishermen will be headed east and it could get ugly on weekends. One of the things that always stuck with me from surfing was that when the surf was good, you went surfing because the waves may be gone tomorrow. Get while the gettin’s good I reckon.

I use pretty light fishing gear, which you can do in a kayak because if you catch a big fish, you can let it tow you around until it gets tired. When I’m anchored, it’s more of a challenge.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

It was a really good day today. I caught three Chinook salmon and had a couple heartbreakers, including one that has to go into the “one that got away” archives. I was tossing a spinner and got a solid hit. When I set the hook, the fish took off on a twenty yard run towards the main channel. Problem is, there was a boat with a couple guys fishing ten yards away and the fish swam right through their lines. I had to release the bail on my reel to let the other fisherman untangle the lines and even though he untangled the lines very quickly, the fish had just about spooled me. I started to take back some line, but with my light gear, it’s hard to get a big fish from a long way off and I lost it. Check in at Heartbreak Hotel, right? Sure, it’s a bummer, but what you do is throw it back out there. Here’s a couple that didn’t get away

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

A big one got away, but you get over it if you keep fishing. Just after sunrise, another big hit and after a great battle, the big Chinook salmon was at the boat

Big Chinook salmon kayak fishing Columbia River

Turns out this salmon was having a lucky day, too. I already had two Chinook salmon on the stringer, I think that’s all you can keep, I don’t know for sure. There are so many regulations and they change all the time, it’s hard to keep track. Anyway, I had what I think is the daily limit for Chinook salmon, so I unhooked this fish and let it go. Got a cool video though.

So thankful for this past week of fishing. Taking the weekend off to avoid the crowds, but I could use a rest day. Kayak fishing around here is like CrossFit, only it’s CrossFish; full body workout. Beers, fresh salmon tonight and sleeping in tomorrow; oh yeah!

Sep 052015

After a slow summer of fishing, the fall salmon and steelhead fishing season is under way, so time for a little salmon fishing on the Columbia River to get things going. We’ve been able to spend a couple days fishing at our favorite local spot and the fishing has been pretty good. The wind has been picking up in the afternoon, so it’s an early start and off the water by about noon when the wind picks up.

I had a great start to the season when the first fish of the year turned out to be a nice Chinook salmon. A short time later, I hooked into a steelhead that almost jumped into the boat! No video for these fish because it was before sunrise and too dark to shoot. Nice way to start the season.

Chinook salmon and steelhead caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

The following day, we were out again before the crack of dawn. Just a little before sunrise, I hooked into what I knew was a big fish. It was still dark, but I could see with my headlamp that it was a huge Chinook salmon. After about ten minutes, I was ready to net the fish when I saw it was a wild salmon. I’m not sure of the regulations, if you can keep wild salmon or not, but I usually release the native fish, especially early in the season. When I tried to net the big salmon, it was clear that it was not going to fit into the net. One more big thrashing at the side of the kayak and the fish broke off one treble hook and straighted out the other treble hook on the lure and disappeared into the dark Columbia River. The fishing was a little slow today, but I managed to connect with another nice fish. After a worthy battle, another Chinook was in the boat. I saw a few other fishermen catch a few fish, but it was tough fishing so I was glad to come home with a nice salmon.

Columbia River Chinook salmon caught kayak fishing

We are looking forward to a great salmon fishing season, but with the weather the way it’s been, you never know what’s going to happen. Another thing that is noticeable is how many more fishermen and boats there are compared to last year. The Columbia River is big, but it’s not that big and the fish are usually concentrated around the rivers that empty into the Columbia River, especially the rivers that have fish hatcheries on them. The well-known fishing spots have been packed. There are boats of all sizes and condition, kayaks, float tubers, stand up paddle boarders and fishermen wading into the river among the boats. Some of the boaters have the attitude that they “own the place” and have no problem using their larger, motorized boats to move kayakers off “their” spot. This is a dangerous precedent, somebody is going to get hurt. Salmon fishing is very competitive and it can get real nasty. The salmon season closed early downriver because all the sportfishing quotas had been quickly surpassed, that may happen here as well.

Salmon fishing on the Columbia River

We aren’t fishing over this Labor Day weekend, the crowds are ridiculous and it’s windy, so we’ll have to be content watching football and squaring away the fishing gear. I’m hoping for a good salmon fishing season before the PacNW winter sets in.

Aug 252015

The Lowrance Elite 3X fishfinder is one of the least expensive fishfinders available, there will be a lot of kayak fishermen who are looking for a basic, low cost fishfinder and the kayak fishermen who do not need a $500 fishfinder might be interested in the Elite 3X. The low price and color screen will be tempting, but there are a few things to consider.

By far, the biggest problem we had with the Elite 3X was not the fishfinder itself, but with the terrible Lowrance customer service. We emailed Lowrance at least a half dozen times asking for technical information about the Elite 3X, as well as the Elite 4X and 5X, but not a single email was answered. A company that does not respond to pre-sales inquiries is likely not going to respond to warranty or support requests either, so we got the least expensive model in case there were problems. No response by email, so we called the Navico(the corporation that owns Lorwance) call center a number of times both before and after buying the Elite 3X. The information they gave was useless, nearly always incorrect and they never miss a chance to try and up sell you on a more expensive fishfinder or accessory.

As far as the fishfinder itself, it is a nice looking, small fishfinder and the color screen is attractive, but it’s what’s inside that counts. We did a side by side, on the water comparison with two brand new Lowrance Elite 3X fishfinders and a ten year old Eagle CUDA 168. Lowrance(Navico) purchased Eagle and the Eagle line of products was absorbed into the Lowrance catalog. Overall, we felt the CUDA 168 was more accurate than the two Elite 3X fishfinders. That’s with the CUDA 168 transducer shooting through the hull and the Elite 3X transducer in the water. Both the Elite 3X and CUDA 168 are 200 kHz devices(the Elite 3X is 83/200 kHz) and use a Lowrance HST-WSU transducer. A very important point about the Elite 3X fishfinder is that the transducer that comes with the unit cannot be used to shoot through the hull of a kayak or boat, the Elite 3X transducer must be in the water or the fishfinder will not work.

Lowrance Elite 3X fishfinder review

Since we are doing an in-hull installation and the transducer that came with the fishfinder won’t work, what options do we have? The cheapest solution is a Lowrance Scupper Hole Transducer Mount. That leaves the transducer sticking out the bottom of the kayak. Since we kayak in an area with a lot of rocks, that’s out. Or, according to Lowrance Technical Support which has yet to give us correct information, we need to buy a different transducer, which costs just about as much as the fishfinder. Then, there’s the option we chose; to return the Elite 3X and try something else.

We were concerned about the Elite 3X’s ability to shoot through the kayak hull, that’s a big reason why we tried to contact Lowrance before we bought it. Before the sale, Lowrance phone representatives(we called twice on two different days), told us that the Elite 3X would, in fact, shoot through the hull of the kayak. What they didn’t tell us is that we needed to buy an additional $80 transducer to do it. We wasted a lot of time for no reason other than Lowrance being more concerned with getting us to buy a more expensive fishfinder than providing the basic information we required.

If you want an inexpensive, low power fishfinder and can mount the transducer in the water, the Lowrance Elite 3X is an option. Just hope you don’t have problems.

Aug 182015

After weeks of wind, we finally got a mostly calm day to get out on the Columbia to do a little smallmouth bass fishing. The air was full of smoke from multiple large wildfires in the area, but it was sunny and not too hot. The water level was even a little high for this time of year, the flow of the Columbia River is completely controlled by the many large dams so you never know what you’re going to get.

I got one small bass on one of the first few casts so I thought we might be in for a good day, but it turned out that was the only fish I caught in five hours of fishing. The fish were just not biting at all. I might have done better if I had a working fishfinder so I could find where the underwater dropoffs were. Sometimes, you can tell where they are by the water color, but if there is wind chop and you’re drifting around, a fishfinder helps to keep you in place. Even with a fishfinder, I still might have not caught anything. It was one of those days, where after a couple hours, you knew the fish just weren’t biting. There were a few guys fishing for steelhead, I didn’t see them catch anything either. This past summer has been pretty bad as far as smallmouth bass fishing goes. I don’t know if it was the low river water levels during the spring spawning, the fluctuating water levels because of the drought conditions, the extremely hot weather and warmer than normal water temperatures or what, the usually reliable and active smallmouth bass fishing has been dead. It’s been mostly windy for the past couple months so it’s not like it’s fished out either. Who knows?

If you’re going to fish all day and get nothing, the best fish to go after is steelhead. They are probably the hardest fish to catch around here. Most of the time, if you get one or two a year, that’s pretty good. Last year, I caught more steelhead than I ever have. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but I think it’s time to get the heavier gear out and start going after them. Most of the steelhead I caught last year were native fish. They are beautiful fish and strong fighters, but you can’t keep them. Anyway, time to dig out the steelhead/salmon fishing stuff. I’m hoping that all these heat and water issues don’t have an adverse effect on the fall steelhead and salmon runs. Maybe that’s why they are letting more water out of the dams.

We finished up making an inexpensive, removable stern light for the kayak. During steelhead and salmon fishing season, I’m out on the Columbia River in the dark, I want to be sure that power boats will see me and not run me over. I’ll be posting how to make it on the watermanatwork.com website.

Aug 122015

As you may know, I’ve been trying to install a Lowrance Elite 3X fishfinder on the kayak for nearly two months now without success. I bought the fishfinder from Dicks Sporting Goods because it was on sale. Turned out not to be such a bargain because the fishfinder that I bought was defective out of the box. I’ve been going back and forth with Lowrance Customer Service since then and it’s pretty clear that I am not going to get a working fishfinder from them. When I called Lowrance customer service on the phone since they do not respond to emails and told them about the problem, they sent me a transducer/power cable. Of course, since the fishfinder is defective, all this did was give me another couple weeks of no fishfinder and more frustration.
When I called again and told them the fishfinder was still not working, they told me they might be able to fix the unit OR “for my troubles” I could upgrade to a more expensive model at a “discounted” price. So, Lowrance sells you a defective product and when you request warranty service, they try to up sell you. That’s a pretty messed up way of doing business.

Since the warranty that comes with Lowrance fishfinders is basically worthless, back to Dicks Sporting Goods where I inform them I will be disputing the charge for the fishfinder, do they want me to send the fishfinder back? Dicks Sporting Goods said they would replace it under the 90 day return policy. When I called a few days later, there was no record of this. I’ve just about had enough of Lowrance and Dicks Sporting Goods. If a retailer sells you a defective product, why is it such a hassle to exchange it? I paid for what they advertised; a working fishfinder with a one year warranty and I got neither.

If you are thinking of buying a Lowrance fishfinder or sonar/GPS unit, especially one of their more expensive models, I would strongly advise you to think about it. If you do buy a Lowrance unit online, you better make sure the place you buy it from has a bullet-proof return/refund policy, because dealing with Lowrance warranty service is the road to nowhere.

Aug 012015

We braved the 105° afternoon heat to do a little kayak fishing for smallmouth bass on the Columbia River. A few days ago, water was released from the upstream Columbia River dam which raised the very low river water levels and probably cooled the water off as well, which seemed to make the smallmouth bass more eager to bite. Today, after a couple 100° days, the water is lower and no doubt warmer, so the fishing was a little slow. It’s always harder to find bass in the hot summer months than it is in the spring. The bigger fish are in deeper water, so the best place to fish is along underwater dropoffs. With the new Lowrance Elite 3X on the blink, finding these underwater ridges is much more difficult. We caught a few smaller fish and I managed to get a nice one on one of the underwater ridges before the intense heat forced us off the water.

Columbia River smallmouth bass

I do the best I can to protect myself from the sun using sunscreen, protective clothing and sunglasses, but a couple days on the water in over 100° has left me with some sunburn and feeling pretty drained. The heat and drought conditions are not good for the fish either and the news about the drought’s effect on the local fish is not good. Salmon and steelhead fishing will, hopefully, begin in earnest here in the next week or two, but it doesn’t look like the weather is going to cool down very much, who knows what’s going to happen?