Fishing With Captain Randy On His Salty Dawg!
Today I helped out Captain Randy with Northwest Fishing Charters on a Lingcod trip. We had phenomenal weather and great fishing at Possession Bar. I have never fished with Randy before, and was excited to finally get the opportunity. He has been running a charter business on Puget Sound longer than I have been fishing, so I was very interested in getting to fish with a veteran Lingcod angler. We had a great group on the boat, a family from Maryland that wanted to experience what local Seattle area fishing has to offer.
Randy operates a Uniflite Salty Dog named the Dom Perignon which is moored at the Everett Marina. We met a little early to rig rods and get a game plan together. While we each consider ourselves decent fishermen, we hashed out our strategy for the day. Steve, Lauren, Ben and Sam met us at the dock at 7am and we were off.
We issued fishing licenses and headed over to Hat Island to catch a day’s worth of live bait. Randy had a really efficient way to fill the live-well. He rigged up a double dropper setup with small barbless baitholder hooks and tipped them with a small chunk of Octopus (which was great bait, it caught fish and was extremely durable). We set up a drift in about seventy five feet off the Southeast edge of the island. It didn’t take long before we had a dozen small Sand Dabs in the livewell and were off to find our guests some Lingcod.
We cruised south to Possession Bar under bluebird skies, everyone soaked in the beautiful view. Mount Baker was visible to the north, Rainier loomed over Seattle to the south. A perfect day to show off our neighborhood to visitors. We had an incoming tide throughout the morning with a very small exchange of about 4 feet. When drift fishing for Lingcod, a small exchange is nice because it allows the captain to easily back the boat up to keep the lines at a vertical angle but still cover ground, so to speak.
Our first few drifts at Possession weren’t anything to write home about, in fact they were downright disappointing. We hooked a couple anenomes and even one that was affixed to a beer bottle. As of the first hour, our guests would’ve had a great we didn’t catch anything except a beer bottle! story to share… and those don’t look too good on Yelp! We kept at it. Our drifts were perfect, and we had the boat positioned over some great bottom structure. Our sonar screen image showed off small rockpiles and depressions, even a few fish hunkered on the bottom. We knew we would eventually get em!
We Find Good Lingcod Structure
As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, and soon our luck would drastically change. As we drifted over some fishy-looking structure, one of our rods doubled over. It was a classic live-bait takedown. A few short throbs, then a steady load of the rod. Fish on! Steve grabbed the rod to battle our first fish of the day and wham! The rod on the other side of the boat doubled over in the rod holder! We fought both and landed one, a nice 27 inch keeper. We made quite a few more drifts and hooked one after another. Steve had his keeper in the fish box and I had just netted Sam’s first Lingcod, both were nice fish, but what happened next was the highlight of our day.
Ben was up next. As his rod folded over, I grabbed it and reeled down on a hefty fish before the handoff. A true monster was on the end of Ben’s line! Line ripped off the reel as the fish headed straight back to the bottom. He battled it for a while, and all the while keeping his composure. Not once did he offer the fish any slack, nor did he horse it in. He fought the good fight. And as I dipped the net underneath the biggest Lingcod I have ever seen in Puget Sound, we all cheered!
We boated it to get a quick measurement; the beast taped out at 45 inches long. I have released a big 42 inch fish at Foulweather once, but this one appeared as if it could’ve eaten that dink! We snapped two quick photos of it before reviving and releasing it. It is my belief that these large fish deserve the protection that they are given, and I always tail them in the water until they are ready to swim away on their own, this one took a minute to revive but swam away to live another day. What a thrilling experience!
As the day came to a close, we battled and lost a few other Lingcod. Those buggers can come unlatched pretty easily when fishing with live bait. Just as Randy gave the call to reel up the gear for the return to port, Lauren grabbed her rod and got hammered by a fish!
I think there’s something big down there!
She had a little bit of a tough time with the rod, so I gripped the butt of the rod to give it a little stability while she cranked. She was excited but calm and steadily cranked it all the way to the surface… Lift, Scoop, Net in the boat, our third keeper taped out at 34”. Randy and I were pretty darned excited that everyone on the boat was able to battle a Ling to the net.
All in all we had about a dozen opportunities, of which we experienced three double-headers (which really goes to show that when you find the structure that Lingcod like, you can find quite a few fish in a small area). We ended up with three very nice keeper Lingcod: 27”, 28” and a 34”. The monster Ling that we released really capped off the day and made it special for all of us.