This report is for 3 days of fishing this weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). We burned a lot of fuel running from Squalicum Harbor each day, but I feel like I finally did some good break-in with my boat and learned a lot about fishing and cruising in it.
Friday morning was just my friend and I, and it was the only day I expected to get a real serious duration day in before the girls joined us on the weekend itself. The two of us met at Squalicum at 6am and got to use the running lights for the first time. Besides a quick stop and search in the dark water for my baseball cap (d'oh!), we had a perfect, smooth cruise and watched the sunrise behind us for 45 minutes. We pulled up on site and were the first boat trolling there as the full day broke. We had a good amount of success in the same location the Sunday prior, so we expected to have a hot hand, but we instead trolled for several hours without a bump. Finally, at 10am, my rod started banging and I grabbed it but the fish popped off right away. I got lines reset and barely started to troll again when the rod started going and I got the first fish of the day in the net, a nice 8ish lb hatchery that went in the cooler. Less than 10 minutes later my friend hooked up and caught his fish, another hatchery king and we were done before 10:30. We briefly considered throwing the 2nd fish back and trying to be a little bit more choosy, but better judgement prevailed and we decided to count our blessings. We had a beautiful lazy cruise back exploring some new islands and even did a little bit of flounder fishing with a kokanee rod I had forgotten was in the boat. All flounder released to be caught another day.
Saturday it was just my girlfriend and I fishing. We hit Squalicum at a leisurely 7:15am and quickly left the harbor. There we were greeted with a nasty southwest wind chop covering bellingham bay. The forecast certainly hadn't called for 2-3' wind waves so I was caught off guard. It was a long haul to find protection from the breeze. We only made about 11mph all the way across the bay to try to keep our stomach contents in our body and keep our spines from compressing too badly, so we were late arrivals to our spot. Shortly after getting lines down we watched the boat next to us hook up, and then the boat next to them, and then it was our turn!! In less than 20 minutes we had the first fish on ice and were preparing for a very short day of fishing. Well, as most days of fishing go, it didn't turn out as we expected, we lost one more fish during the day, but otherwise had very little action the rest of the day before calling it quits in the early afternoon. In hindsight we should've spent more of the day prospecting new locations, but it was hard to leave a spot that had produced so well for us before.
Sunday my younger sister decided to pay us a visit and get in on the action. So the girls and I launched again at a fully daylight 7:30am or so. We had a great smooth cruise which was a nice change of pace from the day before. My sister has done very little salmon fishing ever and couldn't even remember the last time she went fishing of any kind, so I told her that no matter which rod went off I would be grabbing it out of the holder and handing it to her. Well the first rod starts bouncing soon after trolling and I can tell the fish isn't huge, but I hand her the rod and let her fight it. Well she must have really been winching that thing all the way in because before I could even finish swinging the downrigger out of the way I looked up and was greeted by a 23-24" King jumping almost in to the boat! The fish had tons of energy at the boat and it reminded me of a really big kokanee. I yelled unhelpful instructions about holding the rod tip this way or that while she did her best to hang on. After about the 3rd time it went around the downrigger cable the leader had finally had enough and the fish broke free to grow some more. Okay big brother, time for some better coaching, after getting lines back in the water we discussed how we could do better and I promised to get the downrigger out of the water before the next fish! Well we didn't have to wait long and the same rod was banging away. I grabbed the rod and the fish was already taking line. I told her to take her time and let that fish tire itself out (but not so much time that a seal nabbed it!). Once I got the downrigger in I got out of her way and told her to step towards the back of the boat and follow the fish. Well she listened to my instructions perfectly, but I didn't remember to tell her to reel as she walked! In horror I watched as she handed 3 feet of slack to the fish and yelled "reel! reel! reel!", but by the time she had picked up that slack the fish was gone. Okay, time to make things right. I warned her it's "3 strikes and you're out", so it was time to put one in the net. A while later we were trolling in a tight group of boats and were struggling to even find some open water. I spotted some arches near the bottom and I turned to her and said, right now, in front of all of these people you are going to catch a fish. Well sure enough, I called the bite and handed her the rod. And like a professional she did awesome and we got to put that fish in the cooler. Not the most impressive fish that will ever be caught on my boat, but certainly it will be a memorable one. The rest of the day we only landed a shaker and lost several more early after grabbing the rod. It would be nice to blame the seals, but I think barbless hooks and 11" flashers are the more likely culprits. We had another beautiful cruise back to harbor except that my motor's oil reserve got below the safety threshold just outside of the jetty and we had to roll into the dock with a terrible alarm beep ruining all of the ambiance.
All fish were caught on Coho Killer Spoons behind 11" flashers (Gibbs and Pro-Troll). I tried several other tackle options shortly during slow times, but never found one that worked. I'm usually not one to put too much stock into color when fishing over 100' deep, but 2 patterns far outfished the others this weekend; Friday and Saturday the Super Trooper pattern accounted for nearly every bite, and today it was the green spatterback getting all of the love. 100-120 feet down in 90-160 fow. The bite definitely comes in waves, so we learned that it was critical to get all gear back down to depth right away after losing or landing a fish, as often the next bit would either be within 10 minutes or not for hours. In total we brought home 4 fish for 7 person-days, or a 0.571 batting average, which seems to be pretty good compared to those around us. Once we get some of the kinks worked out with our fighting routine and get some more practice fighting these scrappy, energetic fish we won't lose so many and should have more full coolers, but we also won't complain about 3 straight days of beautiful March sun on the water and fish to filet every day. Been eating salmon for dinner nearly every night for a week now and will have a full smoker this week. I love the San Juans and I am so lucky to now have a boat that can explore them.