Species #50 — Chinook Salmon

Though this is a jack (juvenile) and not the fish I caught that day, Chinook Salmon live up to the title of “King”.

Species: Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Location: Humboldt Bay, Eureka, CA
Date: August 11, 2013

This trip was something special. With my brother and a few of his friends, we opted to go to the Central California Coast. Of course fishing was on the docket, but my main reason for the trip was Glass Beach, California, a location not far from Fort Bragg.

We stayed in Woodland on the way down, with my Uncle Sam and Aunt Mary, and after parting ways, we headed west to the coast.

From left to right: my brother Gabe, his friends Nate Nickel and Will Brain, a much more physically-prime me (I worked out then). Photo credit: Aunt Mary.

Everything went south from there. Since this story will be an upcoming column this summer, I won’t go into too much detail, but basically these things happened:

1) My headlights went out as I made my way north along Highway 1 (a notoriously windy and dangerous road), and we basically drove blind.

2) We couldn’t afford a hotel, and there were no showers, so we paid for a carwash after visiting Glass Beach to wash each other off. We used the car to block traffic, as we stripped down to our underwear and pressure washed one another.

3) Glass Beach itself was a disappointment. Years of unregulated commercial gathering had destroyed this once-beautiful destination.

Sea glass has always fascinated me. Though it pales in comparison to fishing, collecting it is one of my only other hobbies.

4) I took a salmon charter out of Eureka. I caught mostly Coho Salmon (which had to be released), but I did manage to catch a few Chinooks.

It wasn’t monstrous, but the 13-pound Chinook I landed remains one of my larger fish to-date. I’ve only caught White Sturgeon, Bat Rays, Striped Bass, and Common Carp larger at the time of writing in June 2018. It was also my first Salmonid over 30 inches. Note my matching shoes and sweater, too. I’ve always been fly.

5) The largest salmon boated was nearly taken by a sea lion. Fortunately for the angler who caught it, the gaff can be a persuasive tool.

This is one of the best fishing pics I’ve ever taken on a boat.

That was more or less it. I’ll keep it simple because I don’t want to cannibalize my own writing.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #51 — Australasian Snapper.

Species #49 — Coho Salmon

Coho Salmon, often called Silver Salmon, are the second-place salmon of the Pacific Northwest, behind only Chinooks.

Species: Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
Location: Puget Sound, Seattle, WA
Date: July 23, 2013

Washington has some tremendous fisheries. For that reason, it’s strange that I spent so long without fishing this state.

In fact, when I left on this trip in my newly-purchased 2002 Honda CR-V with my friends Ben Blanchard and his then-girlfriend (now-wife) Autumn, it wasn’t a fishing trip.

I packed some fishing rods because, of course, but I really had no idea when or where I’d be fishing.

Instead, we’d traveled north to Sequim, Washington for the Lavender Festival. It wasn’t really my idea, but I like to travel, and I’d never been to that part of Washington State before.

We made it up safely, and the sight, sound, smell, and taste of lavender permeated everything. I supposed you could say it purpletrated our senses completely because we moved from farm to farm and sampled honey, jam, baked goods, lemonade, and every other food or beverage you can infuse with lavender.

It was delightful.

The summer after graduating college, I joined a few friends for a trip to the Lavender Festival in Sequim, Washington. I dressed for the occasion.

Though I was a bit skeptical about going to a festival dedicated to flowers, it actually turned out great. It was beautiful and an all-around great experience.

We made sure to take a lot of pictures of the majestic scenery, and despite my low-quality camera, they turned out pretty well.

Lavender and bees go about as well together as lavender and honey — for that reason, I took home a lot of lavender honey.

***

Though fishing was at the back of my mind, it was still present. Obviously.

I began planning trips here and there, and apart from a brief stop at the famed Lake Crescent where I tried for the Beardslee strain of Rainbow Trout and several stops at small coastal streams in pursuit of Bull Trout, I hadn’t spent enough time fishing.

So as we goofed off and frolicked in the lavender, taking a mock photo shoot, my wheels really began to spin.

Shot 1: Casual.
Shot 2: Too Cool.

 

 

 

 

Shot 3: The Lookback.

 

 

Shot 4: Shy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

The actual fishing trip came a day or two after the festival ended. After riding my first ferry and dining on some delicious Nepalese food when the three of us met up with our friends Christopher Puckett and Logan Moore — both of whom were attending school in Seattle at the time — I crashed hard.

Boarding the boat on two hours’ sleep was rough.

I struggled to stay awake as we ran out to our location, but All-Star Charters was a decent charter operation. We trolled for fish. Though it wasn’t my favorite method, it worked, and we picked up a number of Coho Salmon — my first.

We actually hooked one Chinook as well, but the angler lost it at the last minute.

Over the day, I landed two total fish, and added a new species.

Salmon trolling is boring, but it can be effective.

My first Coho Salmon weren’t terribly big or hard-fighting, but they sure tasted good.

Everything had panned out, but next time, I would make sure to prioritize fishing just a little more. It’s a mantra I’ve lived by ever since.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #50 — Chinook Salmon.

Species #15 — Kokanee

Kokanee are some of the most beautiful fish I’ve ever captured. The variability of the species is part of its appeal.

Species: Kokanee Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka)
Location: Odell Lake, OR
Date: August 6, 2005

As a kid, I think I fished from a boat maybe half a dozen times. For that reason, I remember every time I had this opportunity afforded only to the wealthy very clearly.

***

When the family headed to Odell Lake for the first time, I worked my early teenage charms on my parents to convince them to rent a boat.

“The limit is 25 kokanee,” I argued.

“The boat will pay for itself.”

After spending nearly $100 on jigs, spoons, spinners, and flashers, another $50 for the boat rental was gravy.

As we loaded our trout poles — complete with undersized reels spooled with six-pound mono — onto the boat, we spotted several anglers cleaning stringer after stringer of chrome-bright kokanee, and we were very optimistic.

***

Many of my fishing stories from this stage in my life begin with naivete and end with disappointment.

This is one such story.

Despite trolling all over the bloody lake, somehow snagging half of the gear in water more than 100 feet deep, and losing two very nice fish (likely either big Browns, Bulls, or Lakers) on our way to matching sunburns, we’d picked up just a handful of fish.

The day was redeemed when we picked up a few fish jigging Gibbs and Nordic Kokanee Jigs, though that was just my family. I still only had one fish.

I was quite proud to have landed the largest fish, a 14-inch buck, which is really quite sad if you think about it.

The handful of fish we boated came home with us, as most fish we caught in my youth did. They tasted delicious, but it was a small consolation for an otherwise disappointing trip.

***

It would be more than a decade before I landed kokanee again, but the two fish pictured in this post did come on back-to-back casts in the fall of 2014. These ones were much larger, but I misidentified them as pre-spawn rainbows and released them.

I’ve since caught a lot more kokanee, but I haven’t kept another. This I regret and plan to change. Hopefully very soon.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #16 — White Crappie.