Fishing for Kings
Despite the wild and wet weather of the past few weeks October is prime time for “King Fishing.” King Chinook Salmon, that is! There is a simple reason that they are called “Kings.” – after all, the big fish can tip the scales at fifty pounds or more.
Despite downpours and sea squalls, I recently joined a fishing party on Tillamook Bay where we tried our luck for the king of the salmon. If you’re eager to catch a “King,” you arrive at the Garibaldi docks an hour before sunrise.
A longtime Oregon fishing guide, John Krauthoefer, told our huddled group of anglers: “It’s the early bird who gets the worm, men! This has become such a popular fishery that if you wait and go late, you might miss the bite.”
Krauthoefer added that it had been a long salmon fishing season. I knew exactly what he meant because we had joined John on two earlier salmon fishing trips. Our first adventure was in July – on the ocean – where the summer Coho salmon bite was awesome. We joined John again in September when the Coho and Chinook season slipped into high gear at “Buoy 10″ on the Columbia River.
Now, in mid-October thousands of salmon are migrating through dozens of estuaries like Tillamook Bay and swimming into their home rivers.
As we motored out of the marina, Krauthoefer noted that it had been a wet and wild weather week and that several big storms had pumped up a huge ocean. As we approached the ocean, we watched huge swells rise and fall – sometimes fishing boats would briefly vanish as the swells passed by. The bar was closed – no one would be heading out onto the ocean today.
Birt Hansen, a longtime fishing partner, had joined John and me on Tillamook Bay where scores of other anglers had also gathered – we were excited, anxious and ready for action. After all, low tide was about to turn to flood and it might serve up the biggest of all the salmon species called “King.”
John’s a big believer that a plug-cut herring makes the best bait when fishing for Chinook. He makes a bevel cut with his razor sharp knife just behind the herring’s head to make the bait spin when it’s trolled in the water.
We dropped our lines over the side and John began a slow troll with the tide. As the tide turned to flood, signs of salmon life began to appear as nearby anglers hooked up. It happened to us too! Suddenly, I had my hands full with a hard charging king that had decided to head back to sea.
Krauthoefer put his motor in gear and followed the salmon. After a twenty-minute tug of war, the gleaming 20-pound salmon came to the net and it was scooped aboard.
It can be a he challenge to fish along the jetty – where the swells and the waves and the tide can combine to change conditions in a heartbeat. We wore our inflatable PFD’s (Personal Flotation Devices) at all times.
Sport-anglers catch more than 12,000 King salmon on the bar, the bay and the five rivers that flow into the bay on their way to the sea. So, special rules are in place to protect the Kings from over harvest. An angler can keep one King per day and five per season from Tillamook Bay or its rivers. In addition, anglers can also keep a hatchery Coho salmon.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.
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