Today was my first day fishing for salmon in Westport. I hopped aboard the charter boat Reel Elite for the day. Salmon fishing in Westport is usually a July and August endeavor, but we have the opportunity of fishing earlier in the season for Hatchery Chinook Salmon. With record returns destined for the Columbia River, everyone is excited about the prospects of great fishing this summer. We are excited too. The first couple days of the early season have been somewhat hit and miss, no one in the Westport harbor will argue that one. We still had our hopes up for a decent day.
Our primary mission was to find a few salmon, and that we did. Our boat is set up to fish six rods, two on the bow, two at the rear of the cabin, and two at the stern. Our rods are all rigged with Delta Divers and a chocked herring. My fishing partner showed me a really slick way to rig whole herring so that they spin, and it seems to be just what the fish want. We released a small Wild Chinook right of the get-go, it was a nice reminder of what those King Salmon actually look like.
While the crew was excited just to hook one , it was the second fish, a Hatchery Chinook, that really got everyone going. Although the first couple moments of action were a good omen, we didn’t really see much activity for the next few hours. With slow fishing for a while, we decided to get everyone into some Rockfish. Captain Ian zipped up to one of his nearby rockpiles and we cruised around for a few minutes, finally locating a small school of Rockfish. I got everyone ready to set their gear at a moments notice, Ian positioned the boat perfectly, and we gave the command, “Drop em down!”
We hit our target, we dropped our gear right into the center of the school. It was unbelieveable fishing for a few moments. I absolutely love being part of the chaos that ensues during a really good Rockfish bite. When you find them in a dense school, it almost seems that as the Rockfish dart to attack the lures, it triggers competitiveness in the others, creating a frenzy of feeding activity below and a frenzy on the boat deck above. Once that small school of fish offered us what it could, we searched around and found a few other rocky areas to fish and rounded out our limit of sixty Black Rockfish. We did only have one Chinook Salmon to show for our efforts so far, but having a fish box full of Rockfish really made everyone feel good about our day’s accomplishments.
On the way back to port, we spotted an area along the forty foot contour line that held a fair amount of bait, so we set the salmon trolling gear and fished while I filleted our Rockfish catch. It is more challenging to fillet fish on a moving boat, but the extra effort yielded us a beautiful Chinook for our guest Del. I saw the rod next to the cabin pulse with force as line tore from the reel, the clicker was zinging! I literally pushed Del, who was in front of me in the cabin, out the door and toward the rod. He grabbed it and the battle was on. Within a few moments we were clearing the other lines, trying to avoid any tangles, and struggling to get the net out, which was already stowed on the top of the cabin. I scooped Del’s fish and we rejoiced when we saw that we could keep it. Del’s fish was a great way to cap of a great day of fishing!