Nov 272015

After today, it’s would be perfectly correct to label me a complete and total fool. I don’t really like shopping in stores, especially “big box” places, but against every shred of reason and logic, I decided to go to the Black Friday sale at Cabelas Outdoor Superstore in Tualatin, Oregon, which is basically Portland. I’ve been mainly satisfied with Cabelas’ products, mostly outerwear, boots and fishing stuff and have spent a lot of money there, but I’d never been to a Black Friday event and have zero interest in participating. Tempted by the Black Friday ad, I called Cabelas on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and told them I didn’t want to drive all that way for nothing. The Cabelas representative told me the items I was interested in were well stocked and expected to last the entire weekend. I live in a fairly remote area with not many stores around, so when I saw a number of things I wanted but can’t get locally at a fantastic price, well, I couldn’t resist.

Long drive to Portland; to get there about 4:00AM, I left at 2:00AM to go to a friggen store. When I got to Cabelas at about 3:45AM, there was already a long line of people, some who looked like they had been there all night. Got out of the truck and proceeded to stand in line in a strip mall in sub-freezing weather for the privilege of entering a retail establishment. Bizarre. I wasn’t alone; within a half hour, the line to get into the store easily doubled in length.

Black Friday at Cabelas

About a half hour before the store opened at 5:00AM, bundled up Cabelas employees came out handing out numbers and “gifts” for the first six hundred people in line. I got a $10 gift card, a girl next to me won a weekend trip. I’ve got $10 and I’m actually not far from the beginning of the line, number 365. I’m beginning to think I may have been wrong about Black Friday sales and people actually get great deals!

Black Friday at Cabelas

I got into the store about ten minutes after opening and moved quickly through the mob to the counter to get what I came for. “Sorry, out of stock.” OK, item number two; “sorry, out of stock”. This was repeated for all the half dozen items on my list. These things were common outdoor-type items, I could have got most, if not all of them, at any WalMart in metro Portland, albeit at a higher cost. So, ten minutes after the “sale” starts, 375 people in the store, everything that anybody wants is sold out. Tough shit for me and the 700 or so people in line behind me. Cabelas deliberately short stocked all these items to suck people into the store and steer them to stuff they were trying to get rid of.

So, I’m the fool. I should have known better. All Cabelas family run, flag waving marketing is a bunch of BS. It’s just another big corporation with Chinese stuff and minimum wage employees. Cabelas lost my trust and my business today, although I’m 100% sure they don’t give a damn about me or any of their other customers.

Nov 042015

Well, winter is just about here; when the thermometer dips below 32°F, that’s getting into the cold range. Getting up at 4:00AM is tough enough when it’s shorts and T-shirt weather, hopping out of the sack when it’s 50° makes it extra special. We wait as long as possible to turn on the 24/7 heat(money, you know), because we fight winter to the last stand. Anyway, even though everything is going against us, the sun is shining and there is at least one fish in the river, so we are out there.

Fishing is dead on the Columbia River, so we head way up into the hills for salmon and steelhead. We had a pretty good run of rain for the past few days, a lot of it probably fell as snow on Mt. Adams, but the Columbia tributaries are still murky from rain, visibility is only about a foot. We hoped for better conditions, but nature runs the show around here. Like they say; “it was a great day of fishing”, but not for catching. Not a huge disappointment, this is the time of the year for the hardcore fisherman. When you fish for trophy fish, sometimes you get nothing. This time of year, one last fish is all you want, one more fight before packing it in for the winter.

SW Washington salmon river

Not even a nibble today, I would say “man, the fishing sucks“, but then I look around and wonder how I could complain about anything.

Oct 292015

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over”

We gave it our best last ditch attempt, but the late run salmon fishing was just not happening. The water levels and fish counts dropped, the fish stopped biting and that was all she wrote. Everybody knows the salmon runs are limited, but it’s tough when the fall salmon run ends because that’s usually the end of the fishing season and for the next few months; cold, rainy and gray days will be the norm. It’s already started to rain and the high temps for the days are falling short of the sixty degree mark, so all the kayak fishing gear has been packed up and stored away for the winter.

We had a good salmon fishing season; keeping nine chinook salmon, four coho and two steelhead. The spot we fish at most of the time has a lot of native fish, so I released at least as many fish as I was able to keep. Lost a few as well. After last year’s record salmon run, we have to adjust expectations back to a normal season. The weather was mostly good so it was an enjoyable fall fishing season.

Salmon fillets in the freezer

Now it’s on to editing the photos and video from the season and posting them on the website, we are getting busy with that so keep checking in for new stuff.

Grilled salmon from the Columbia River

Now it’s time to have a few beers, tell fish stories and have some salmon. Then, when the rain stops, get back on the bike and do some riding.

Oct 252015

Last week was not the best of the fishing season, but the conditions are pretty tough and it is the end of the salmon run. There are still some fish coming over the downstream dam, but just as many, if not more fish going over the upstream dam, so that’s a net loss. The water levels in the rivers are still low, that’s not helping. I had one solid hit while trolling but lost it; that’s about my best result and caught one sturgeon that confirms that fishing with eggs is not going to work any longer. Disappointed that I didn’t get a fish, but I saw a few caught, so I’m willing to give it one more try.

It’s raining today and tonight, so maybe that will get the fish biting. I don’t think there will be enough rain to muddy the rivers, but if there is much more rain, we’ll probably wait a day or two. One more skunk and I think that will do it for me. I might go fishing a few more times, but there’s no advantage to using the kayak, so I’ll wind up the season with a few “river runs through it” sessions.

Oct 212015

Well, we’ve been giving it a good try, but I’m pretty sure our favorite salmon fishing spot has pretty much had it for the season. The water levels have come up a couple feet, but the fish were not biting today. We didn’t even get a nibble and we didn’t see any fish caught. There was a pretty decent surge of salmon over the big downstream dam, but no evidence of that today.

The weather is cooler in the morning, but pretty darn nice; makes you want to go fishing. We may have had our last go at the home spot, but there is one ace in the hole to play.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

There’s a shot at the late arrival Chinook salmon, hope they keep coming. Then, there are the “pretty rare this year” Coho and “fish of ten thousand casts” Steelhead, so we have that going for us. At this point in the season, any fish would be a victory. Thing about this kind of fishing is that you could catch the fish of a lifetime tomorrow, even if you haven’t caught anything all week.

Oct 192015

If you go kayak fishing in the dark, it’s a good idea to have a light on board so you can be seen by other boats. Posted on the website is how to make an inexpensive mast light that will allow you to be seen from a long distance in the dark. It costs $20 or less to make and will help keep you safe in the dark.

Make a kayak mast light

If you need a light in the kayak fishing dark, click here for an easy kayak fishing project that will keep you safer.

How to make a kayak mast light.

Oct 162015

The salmon fishing on the Columbia River here in the Gorge has been pretty tough lately, but it’s hard to give up on salmon fishing because it is really world class fishing and salmon tastes pretty good too. Salmon that was caught by noon, on the grill at five and eaten by six is what “fresh” is all about. Anything else is just marketing; the “fresh” salmon you get in the store, not exactly fresh. Anyway, we went out yesterday with the mindset that if we didn’t get some action, the kayak fishing gear would be reluctantly packed away for the winter. We could still head up the Columbia River tributaries and try to find some fish, but it’s a long trip. We’ll probably do a couple trips anyway.

So the day starts out pretty slow, then I get a hit on the trusty Mepps spinner and manage to land a pretty decent Chinook salmon. I didn’t see any other boats land a fish so that was pretty good fortune. When I landed the kayak, there was a guy fishing on the bank who caught three steelhead while I was humping my gear up the cliff. I talked to him for awhile and told him he probably caught more fish than all the boats on the river put together! They were all wild steelhead so he released them. Caught a fish and saw three more caught, the season is saved!

Chinook salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

The Chinook I caught was getting dark, but this one cleaned up and grilled nicely. Next week, maybe not.

Kayak fishing for salmon on the Columbia River

Today we headed out a couple hours before sunrise, night fishing opens today, and arrived to see the water level in the river had dropped four or five feet in less than twelve hours. That is a huge change in the water conditions. The spot I caught the salmon yesterday is dry land! Places that usually have a gentle current is now fast moving water that you must work to get upstream in a kayak. Stumps and rocks that are normally submerged under a few feet of water are totally exposed. Much more dangerous for a kayak, especially at night. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and you have to have the common sense to not push it, so we paddled in, stowed the kayaks and tried a little fishing from the shore where the guy caught the steelhead yesterday. The only difference is that the rock he was standing on yesterday was over my head.

The current was really ripping and it was tough to fish with a bobber and prawns. As it got light, you could see how much everything had changed from the day before. Usually, a significant water level change causes fish to stop biting for a couple days and with such a drastic change, the fishing was not going to be good. It wasn’t. I did get one fish hooked up. I could see it was a nice silvery fish, either a steelhead or Coho salmon. I reached for my landing net and right then, the fish made a drag burning run all the way across the river and I lost it. Catching a big, fast, jumping fish like a steelhead with a barbless hook takes some skill(and a little luck) and luck wasn’t on my side this time.

Not sure what else can happen, earthquake is always possible, but there is a bit of rain in the forecast, maybe we can get some of our water back. We aren’t ready to give up on the season yet. Might have to use all the tricks in the book this season, we’ve got another week to keep it going.

Oct 122015

The salmon fishing has been pretty challenging for the past week or so. It’s the tail end of the annual fall salmon run and the fish counts over the nearest downstream dam are way down. On top of all that, with daytime temperatures here on the river in the mid seventies and nighttime lows in the fifties, it’s not that much colder on top of the local mountains and the glaciers have started to melt again, filling the local rivers with glacial silt. All of that reduces the realistic chances of catching a fish to almost zero.

The weather this week looks great for kayak fishing, so we are going to give it a least a couple more days before we give up. Kayak fishing for salmon is a great fishing experience and it’s hard to admit that it’s over until next year. If there is any decent chance of catching a fish, you have to go.

Kayak fishing on the Columbia River

The Chinook salmon fishing is pretty much over. Even if you hook a Chinook, it will be 90% dead and most likely too dark to eat. Even though the Coho salmon fishing has been tough, give those proven Coho lures a shot. Think pink. I caught a huge steelhead earlier in the season, maybe get another one. Not very likely, but possible. Probably wind up fishing eggs and/or prawns at some point and hope for the best. After a month of great fishing action, sitting there for a couple hours without a bite will be enough to call it a season.

Chinook salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

Will report back in a few days.

Oct 082015

We’ve been fishing hard all week, all I had to show for it was a small coho salmon and a couple wild Chinook that were released. The fishing is getting tougher every day. Not only have I not been hauling them in, the past couple days, I only saw a couple fish caught, even at the “name brand, ace in the hole” spots. I decided to give it one more try today at a spot that is clearly on the downswing and lucked out by landing a late season Chinook salmon.

Chinook salmon caught kayak fishing on the Columbia River

By next week, the Chinook that are left will be too dark for eating and there are no signs that the meager Coho salmon fishing is going to pick up, so it looks like the 2015 salmon fishing season here in the Gorge is just about over. We’ll try again tomorrow and take a probable windy and showery weekend off. Even if the fish aren’t biting, the weather next week looks great for kayak fishing, so we’ll probably try a day or two next week before we give up fishing for the year.