Author: kmnewell

Tiller versus Steering Wheel? Which is right for you? Part 2

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Last week we went into detail about the advantages and disadvantages of forward helm steering wheel equipped boats, this week we’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of tiller handle boats.

Tiller handle open boats are considered to be the most versatile platform available for fishing the Northwest’s inland waters, from Black Mouth Chinook fishing on Puget Sound to side drifting the Cowlitz to plying the Columbia for Spring Chinook, these aluminum sled style boats in the larger sizes can do it all!

Advantages of the tiller handle boat:
Open tiller handle boats have the most room of any design.
The tiller handle does protrude slightly into the vessel, but takes up almost no space.
If your goal is to maximize space that is available for storage, seating, or just open space, then removing the steering wheel from the equation is the ultimate way to go.
Exceptionally maneuverable at low speeds.
The reason for this great low speed maneuverability is because of the speed with which the motor can be moved from full left to full right and back again, often in under two seconds.  This quick response time makes it very easy to parallel park one of these boats in a tight slip or to quickly get it on the trailer in rough conditions when most boaters find themselves having to make another go at it.
Since you’re in the rear of the vessel, you have perfect visibility over what is happening in the whole boat.
Driving from the stern let’s you see the full length of the boat and everything that is happening in it.  Is someone leaning over the side?  Did someone’s hat just blow off?  Did a rod not get stored properly and it’s now about to fall overboard?  All of these things are a non issue in a tiller handle boat because you can see these events unfolding and react in time to deter disaster. In a forward helm boat you are going to be reacting to these events after someone has told you they have happened, and worse case scenario the other passengers might not have even seen this stuff has happened at all.
Most passengers sit facing rearward towards the driver so they are watching what is happening behind the boat, which often means they see jumping fish, birds or bait that would have otherwise been missed by the captain who is facing forward.
There is definitely a communication and tactical advantage when you’re facing each other with the driver looking forward and passengers rearward. Ultimately it’s better to have more visibility over what is happening in the boat rather than less.
Always in control of the vessel.
The main motor and the trolling motor are next to each other so you are always in command of the vessel, never having to leave the ability to steer while firing up the alternate motor.
When driving from a forward helm boat, it’s necessary to turn off the main motor and leave the driving station, walk to the rear of the boat, and fire up the trolling motor. Now if you have a great crew member who is willing to help you fire up the trolling motor, then you won’t have to abandon the steering station, and someone will always be in control of the vessel. However you’re going to find occasions when you don’t have a helper, or don’t have a helper that is capable of helping, and you’re going to be running from the front of the boat to the back of the boat to quickly get that trolling motor started up.
In most cases no catastrophe arises from the small amount of time that the vessel is not under control, but every once in a while Murphy’s Law comes knocking and you’re going to find yourself in a tight spot that could’ve been avoided if you were in control of the vessel. This scenario is a non-issue onboard a tiller handle boat where both motors are next to each other and control is maintained throughout the transition from one motor to the other.
Side Drifting is one style of fishing where a tiller handle setup is highly preferred because of the inherent ability to maintain control of the vessel in fast water.
The back of the boat is very stable and provides a comfortable ride.
This is pretty straightforward, the rear of the boat is the heaviest and it has the advantage of following the front and middle portions of the boat through rough water. When you’re standing or sitting in the back of the vessel you’re going to enjoy the smoothest ride possible. Trust me; having a smooth ride is important when you’re standing for long periods of time driving a tiller handle boat.
Disadvantages of the tiller handle configuration:
Safety should always be of foremost concern when operating a boat. Driving large (20 – 26 foot) tiller handle boats isn’t for beginners.
There is a moderate amount of strength that is required to safely control the motor and the amount of strength required to operate a tiller handle increases with the motor’s horsepower, rough water, and higher speeds. You don’t just hand over the controls to your inexperienced friend and expect that everything is going to be okay.
Hard turns at higher speeds.
Performing hard turns at high speeds with a tiller handle is not recommended.  Since you are standing while driving, you have little or nothing to hold on to other than the tiller handle, and when you’re banking into a hard turn you’re going to find it hard to stay upright.
Steering wheel boats definitely have the advantage here. The steering wheel gives you something to brace your self with. It also isn’t necessary to tightly grip the wheel which allows a person to drive with one hand while holding on with the other, or to lean their body away from the turn’s inertia.
Physically demanding.
It’s hard on your body to stand at a tiller handle for long periods of time, alternatively if you don’t stand you have decreased visibility.  Driving a tiller handle is going to beat you up a little bit, it’s just the nature of the beast.
Outboard power only.
With the exception of Motion Marine’s inboard tiller handle two-stroke sport jet engines, (which have never really seemed to catch on with the majority of jet boaters); outboard power is the only option for powering a tiller handle vessel.
Outboard motors are great, but if you have your heart set on having one of the big 300 or 350 hp outboards and also running a jet pump on it, then the following is going to be sad news for you. You can’t run a jet pump on an outboard bigger than 250 hp. The aftermarket jet pumps that we put on these larger motors are manufactured by a company called Outboard Jets, (located in San Leandro California) and for whatever reason they have never made a pump available to the public that can handle more than 250 hp.
Remember when you’re building that boat of a lifetime … you’re adding every bell and whistle to it, increasing the weight, and also planning on swapping back and forth from a jet pump lower unit to a prop lower unit, don’t forget that you’re going to lose 37% of your power when switching from a prop to an outboard jet pump. This means that on a 250 hp motor you’re going to be losing 92 1/2 hp!  (By the way this loss of power won’t be as noticeable on a two-stroke as it will on a four stroke because of the two stroke’s higher torque.)
No windshield.
No windshield and the covers/tops that you see on open boats are generally more trouble than they’re worth.
Long distance ocean driving i.e. “no land in sight” or low visibility conditions such as driving in fog is going to take longer.
Not only is the trip going to take longer with an outboard tiller handle boat, but it’s also going to cost more in fuel. This is one of those things that not many people realize because we don’t find ourselves in situations like this very often.
The reason this occurs is because of the layout of a tiller handle boat, since there is no steering station with mounted electronics directly in front of the captain, it is necessary to constantly be looking forward and then back down and to the side where the GPS is mounted on the side of the boat. Since the GPS isn’t directly in front of you it’s much harder to stay on a true course and you unintentionally weave an indirect path to your destination.
This is the second part of a three part series (click here for the first article in this series) Next week in part 3 we are going to look at center console boats and why they just might be the ultimate boat layout!

The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!

Click here to go fishing with Kevin or Lacey

Willamette Closes to Sturgeon Retention starting Nov 9

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife                                                                       
Contact: John North (971) 673-6029
              Chris Kern (971) 673-6031                                                                              
Fax: (503) 947-6009

For Immediate Release                                                                              November 8, 2010

Recreational white sturgeon fishery closes on Willamette River
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon fishery managers announced today the closure of recreational sturgeon fishing on the Willamette River downstream from the Willamette Falls, including Multnomah Channel and the Gilbert River. This closure is effective Nov. 9.
According to fishery managers, the closure is needed to remain near the guideline of 3,600 fish set earlier this year. 
“For 2010, white sturgeon harvest guidelines were reduced 40 percent because of declining trends in numbers of fish,” said John North, fisheries manager for ODFW’s Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program.
“Anglers kept over 3,000 fish, or 84 percent of the annual guideline between January and March.  When the fishery reopened last week, effort and catch rates were high, resulting in the balance of the quota being used. That is why we are taking this action.”
Catch-and-release angling is allowed after the retention season closes.  The fishery is scheduled to reopen to retention on January 1, 2011.
In addition, the area from the Wauna Powerlines to Bonneville Dam is currently open to sturgeon retention three days per week on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  This fishery should continue through Nov. 20, and potentially through the remainder of the year.  The States will continue to monitor this fishery and recommend action if needed.
More information on the sturgeon angling rules may be found on the ODFW website at:

Tiller versus Steering Wheel? Which is right for you? Part 1

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So you’re in the market for a new boat?

There are a lot of decisions to be made when buying that new boat and some of this can be a little intimidating. You need to figure out how much you’re going to spend, whether you’re going to buy new or used, what length, hull material etc. Just the process of researching all of these things can make buying a boat either a lot of fun, or a lot of work, depending on your perspective.

In an effort to make a little bit of this easier, let’s break down one of the most frequently asked questions by a new fishing boat buyer here in the Northwest, “Should I buy a tiller handle, or a steering wheel boat?”

There are advantages and disadvantages to both of these styles, and depending on where you fish, how you fish, and what size of boat you’re buying, making the wrong decision here can at a minimum create significant frustration or possibly even require an upgrade to another vessel after a short period of time.

Let’s start with breaking down the pros and cons of forward helm – steering wheel boats.

Advantages of the forward helm steering wheel boat:

Forward helm boats almost always have a windshield.

The wind and wave breaking ability of a windshield is a must if you are planning on fishing in less than ideal (rough) conditions on large bodies of water like  the ocean or Great Lakes.  When the boat noses into a wave or has a big one break over the bow, the windshield has the ability to shed that water down the side and out of the boat.

Safer and more maneuverable at high speeds.

At high speeds, (30+ mph) having the mechanical advantage of a steering wheel is highly preferred over having to hold onto a tiller handle especially when  needing to corner hard.
In a tight turn, the steering wheel gives you something to hold onto and being in a seat gives you the personal safety and stability that isn’t available with  a tiller handle.

Steering wheels are a lot less physical work than a tiller handle.

Find me a person that just drove a tiller handle boat 15 miles in rough water and I will show you someone that is wound as tight as a top and is sore! There is  no comparison when measuring the level of fatigue after running long distances driving a tiller vs. a steering wheel.  The steering wheel boat beats the tiller hands down for long distance comfort.
Remember large tiller handle boats are typically driven standing up so the captain can see what obstacles must be avoided, large boats are only driven from the seated position when it is relatively calm, and most of the time not even then.  Standing while driving creates this constant balancing act for the captain who has little if anything to brace himself against, and over long distances this really takes it’s toll on the body and mind.
The fellow driving the steering wheel boat arrives relatively fresh and ready to fish but the poor guy in the tiller handle boat just got beat up, isn’t that  happy, and isn’t looking forward to the run back, nor is he looking forward to doing this kind of thing for days on end!

Driving from a forward helm allows for increased visibility.

Forward helm boats allow you to see better and pick your way through tight spots with a little more finesse than if you were driving from the back of the boat.
For example, I would never want to run big white water like the Deschutes or Rogue Rivers from a tiller handle boat!  I know guys that do but some of them have  also told me that the big inboard forward helm jet boats are the best way to go in water like this.
The distance between the boat’s steering wheel and the  back of the boat is about 20 feet so if you’re driving in the front of a 24 foot boat you are going to be able to see the rocks you need to avoid hitting 20  feet before you would be able to see them if you were driving from the back of the boat.
To put this in perspective, this is approximately a half a second  advantage when driving at 30mph;driving from the front gives you a half a second better reaction time than driving from the rear.

Diesel, gas, inboard, and outboard power are all options in a steering wheel boat.

Tiller handle boats are almost exclusively outboard power; diesel and inboard power aren’t available or aren’t realistic options .

Driving a boat with a steering wheel is fairly intuitive for most people.

It’s like driving a car, turn the wheel to the right and the boat goes to the right.  If folks have driven a car then they understand how the boat is going to react.

Multiple helm locations.

In larger ocean going boats there are often primary and secondary driving locations which allow the captain to drive from inside the cabin or to be outside on the back deck closer to the action or up above in the tower looking for fish.

The captain can talk while driving.

Not only can the captain converse with the other passengers, but he can actually be heard as well.  Being away from the motor’s noise and often sheltered behind a windshield creates a much quieter ride.  Forget about much conversation while driving a tiller handle.

Disadvantages of the forward helm steering wheel configuration:

Increased maintenance.

The working components of the steering mechanism require a modest amount of maintenance, whereas a tiller handle setup requires almost none. Maintenance such as bleeding and topping off hydraulic steering fluid and greasing the moving parts on the steering shaft or cable. There isn’t much expense associated with this maintenance, however it is something that has to be taken care of a few times a year.

Not as maneuverable at low speeds.

This is due to the inability of the steering wheel to be able to move the motor from full left to full right and back again rapidly. This is of primary concern when docking.  Other than having bow thrusters there is just no beating a tiller handle when you’re taking a boat in and out of the slip.

Having the steering location in the front of the boat means you are often removed from the back of the boat where all the action is happening.

Driving from the front of the vessel really takes you out of the game. Your away from most of the conversation and excitement that is happening on the back  deck, while some captains may enjoy getting away from the chaos, others may feel that their duties as captain aren’t nearly as fun from up in the front of the  boat.

The steering location takes up a moderate to substantial amount of room in the vessel.

If you are restricted to buying a smaller boat, but you still really want to be able to comfortably take more than three or four passengers then you’re going to find the  steering wheel is taking up the location of at least one seat. Take out both the windshield and the steering helm and you add seating space for up to two anglers.

Steering components, especially hydraulic steering, add significant initial cost.

The steering console, hydraulic mechanism, and cables can add up to more than $2000 whereas an aftermarket tiller handle setup can be had for around $300-$500.

Driving from the front of the boat is rougher because of the pounding the front of the boat receives.

While driving from the front of the vessel gives the captain greater forward visibility and an enhanced reaction time, one major downside is that the front portion of the vessel is where all of the pounding takes place. The front dead-rise of the boat is what impacts and breaks the waves, and the captain is seated very close to where the impact is happening.  When the weather is bad and the seas are rough the forward part of the boat is not a pleasant place to sit.

This is the first installment of a two part series.  Next up will be the “Pros and cons of the tiller handle setup”.

The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!

Click here to go fishing with the Total Fisherman Team

Top 5 things I focus on when the fishing is tough.

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Fishing isn’t always easy and tough days happen to the best of us!

The five things listed here will help you salvage those tough days and help to ensure they are less likely to occur in the future!

1. Have fun!  When the fishing is tough, it’s even more important to have fun.

For many this is hard to pull off.  Individuals that are very accomplished at their chosen profession or hobby also tend to be very driven, and goal oriented. “Success is everything!”, is their motto!
Most really good anglers are no exception to this rule.  When the fishing is great and everything is going according to plan it’s easy for the crew (crew = other anglers in the boat) to deal with this intensity but when the fishing is tough, this intensity often just adds to the frustration of the day.
Remember the measure of a successful day on the water isn’t just about fish in the box.  Having fun is a large part of the success and often times tough fishing means a conscientious effort needs to be made to ensure the trip contiues to be fun.
Anglers that are worth their salt and spend an insane amount of time on the water know this, and on tough days it’s easy to separate the young dogs from the old ones just by their attitude.

Sometimes you have to work to keep it fun and lighthearted, but it’s effort well spent! Remember to keep it fun!

2. Just because other people aren’t catching fish doesn’t mean you won’t.

In many parts of the country especially in saltwater and estuary fishing, we fish on schools of fish that are “running”, salmon or Striped Bass runs for example, anglers tend to congregate  in the same traditional fishing areas and the visibility and success of the group as a whole is easy to see.  When you’re in a crowd of fishermen and nobody is catching anything it’s easy to fall into the trap of not fishing hard, or not paying attention to the little things that create success.
While the crowd may not be catching anything, remember that most of them don’t have the focus and the drive that you have, their attention to detail isn’t there, and most of them wouldn’t know which details to focus on even if they wanted to.
Do not let the crowd’s ineffectiveness lure you into believing you’re not going to have a great day.  Work your system, watch for patterns, keep the bait fresh and the hooks sharp and it will happen for you!

3. You can’t control the fish being there or being on the bite, but you can control how fresh the bait is and how hard you work it.

This one goes hand in hand with number two above.  We all want to be successful but remember it’s fishing, it’s not bowling or baseball.  There is an element of luck and many things affect your day that you have absolutely no control over.
The fish might not be there and/or they might not be biting, and try as you might you just can’t change that.  The only thing that can change the absence of fish or the fish’s willingness to bite is time and location.  Give a specific location enough time and the fish will show up or go on the bite. If you don’t have time to wait for this change to happen, then you better change your location, looking for an area that is “different”  than where you were.  If you go to a new location that has the same structure, tide timing, depth, water clarity etc as the previous unsuccessful location then you’re probably going to end up with the same results!  Change it up!
If the fish are truly absent or “off the bite” then you need to change the way you’re approaching the day.  When you get into a different depth, structure, tide, etc you’re essentially going to a whole new river, because now  the whole game has changed, and this means that the fish have changed too!

4. Focus on fundamental patterns and locations, when in doubt go to the last place you caught one or the last place you saw one caught.

When the going gets tough everybody seems to want to experiment with new locations and new lures.  This is the worst time to be changing it up.  New locations don’t necessarily hold fish, and who knows if a fish even wants to bite that new lure or bait?  Experimentation is best for when the fishing is good, that way you at least know there are fish around and are catchable.
Essentially I’m saying … grind it out.
I’m not saying don’t switch lures or switch locations, but please don’t start grasping at straws hoping to pull it off.  When you start experimenting, inevitably you’re going to be in the wrong location or with the wrong setup when the fish do start biting. Work your patterns, be in the location where you know fish congregate, use your go-to techniques,  and it will happen for you.
Tough fishing days are rarely made into great fishing days; the best you can hope for is to salvage the day and make it a “good” one.

5. Fish longer.

Lot’s of folks want to give up on a tough day, I don’t mean a tough day in the middle of a tough season; I’m referring to a tough day of fishing in what has typically been a good fishery or good season.  Tough seasons are due to lack of fish or bad conditions and fishing longer isn’t going to change these.
In all my years of fishing I have actually been able to measure the success rate that comes from fishing longer, i.e. one to three extra hours.  The results are in and it’s 50%!
50% of the time when you fish a couple extra hours, you’re going to turn a low success day into a good one!  A one in two shot!  These kind of odds are worth it to me!
Sticking it out for this change to happen also helps you put together a couple pieces of the fishing puzzle. The biggest thing that happens when the fish do go on the bite is that you learned what pattern changed in order to make them bite! You can now apply this new found knowledge to future trips and your percentage of tough days is going to go down over time.  More time on the water = more success and more knowledge! Knowledge = future success!
Here’s hoping none of you have any tough days in your future, but if they do happen, remember these simple rules and your bound to come out ahead at the end of the day!

Copyright 2013 Total Fisherman™

The author, Kevin Newell, and his wife Lacey DeWeert are professional fishing guides in Oregon and Washington!

Click here to go fishing with the Total Fisherman Team

Columbia River Crabbing – How To Catch Crab on the Columbia

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As fall happens upon the fishermen of October and our salmon fishing is winding down … the lower Columbia River’s crabbing action is in full swing!

Guest Article by Captain Mike Barksdale

In this article I will give up some helpful tips that will definitely increase your Dungeness Crab catch rate!

How to catch crab isn’t a big secret, but the ability to catch limits of crab day in and day out and have your traps absolutely stuffed full of prime keeper sized crab takes a few tricks of the trade. My experience owning a charter boat and working as a commercial crabber gives me some special insight and a definite edge over the competition.

The lower Columbia River is a fantastic location to harvest great numbers of delicious Dungeness Crab! We are now in the early stages of fall, and mid-October is a great month to start baiting up the crab traps and heading out to load up on good amounts of these tasty shellfish.

Recently, I was at the mooring basin in Hammond Oregon, and was impressed by the amount of people that filled the parking lot heading out to take advantage of a sunny day with great tides to capture their limits of crab!

As owner and operator of “Fish On Extreme” charter service, I also like to take full advantage of the great crabbing that happens during this time of year to provide my clients with full limits of the flavorful treats.

How does this work?

I feel that lower Columbia River crabbing is the best on the Oregon coast. I can go out on the river each trip and feel confident that my clients will have a great time, enjoy high catch rates and not be disappointed.

It seems that every fall there is a huge migration occurring that brings thousands of Dungeness crab from the ocean into the lower Columbia River. This huge influx of crab in the fall and early winter months is the main reason for the high success rate and why many people come down here in search of these crawling critters.

The tides are a large piece of the puzzle that some people may not pay too much attention to. As a rule of thumb, the incoming part of the tide is going to be the best time to drop your crab gear to the sandy bottom.

Due to the vast volume of water exiting the mouth of the Columbia River on an outgoing or ebb tide, the crab tend to hunker down into the sand. The crab are aware enough not to expose themselves to the powerful outgoing current.

On the incoming part of the tide the flood, there is less flow so the crab can move around and search out prey to feed on. If you time the tides right, the crab will be seeking out your bait filled trap to feast upon!

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What do crabs like to eat? Or the better question is, what shall we use for crab bait?

Most people will use some sort of fish carcass, raw chicken, or raw turkey legs. Some commercial crabbers will use sardines, squid, and Mink (from local Mink fur farms). All of these will work well, but I have come across a deadly combination that can turn a crab trap that produces 8 to 12 legal sized male crab into a trap that will have upwards of 25 to 30 legal crab in it!

I prefer to work smart, not hard and this is how I go about doing it. My crab catching cocktail is a tuna carcass in a chewy bag and 1 razor clam in a bait can. However, if I run out of tuna, shad also works very well. This tuna/clam combo produces the best for me.

Again, most of the other baits work well, I just prefer to use the best bait for whatever type of fishing I might be providing for my paying clients.

Location… Location… Location…

There are some really good areas to crab in the lower Columbia River and there are some really bad ones, here are a few of the good spots you might drop your gear.

Down river from the Hammond Mooring basin, between buoy 22 and buoy 20 inside (south) of the red buoy line in 20? to 35? of water is a popular area to place a string of pots to nab those buggers.

Further west and north will find you on the Washington side of the river below Cape Disappointment along North Jetty or near the A Jetty and this area is also a great spot to capture good limits of crab.

Make sure you check the tides before your drop your gear. Load your pots with good bait. Place your crab catchers where the crab are living. Make sure you have only 12 male crab at a minimum width of 5 ¾ between the inside part of the tips of the crab before you head to the dock.

I hope some of the information will help you load your buckets with easy limits of huge crab. If you are looking for an easy day of crabbing, feel free to contact me to book a trip to catch loads of lower Columbia River Dungeness Crab!

Capt. Mike Barksdale
Fish On Extreme
Ph. 503-939-7816

States reopen lower Columbia chinook season

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October 14, 2010

CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Chinook salmon fishing will reopen on the lower Columbia River downstream of the Lewis River from Oct. 15 through the end of the year.

In a joint hearing this week, the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife decided to reopen recreational chinook salmon fishing on the Columbia from Buoy 10 upstream approximately 88 miles to the mouth of the Lewis River.

This section had been closed for chinook since Sept. 12 to reduce impacts to federally-listed wild “tule”-stock chinook salmon destined for several lower Columbia River tributaries. Tules are a stock of chinook that spawn primarily in the lower Columbia tributaries.  They exhibit a different life-history than “bright”-stock fall chinook, which typically spawn later and migrate farther up the Columbia.

“The tule chinook have moved into the tributaries, so we are able to reopen this area to allow fishing access to other chinook stocks,” said Chris Kern, assistant fisheries manager for ODFW’s Ocean Salmon and Columbia River Program. “The chinook run is definitely winding down and we don’t expect many to be caught from here on out but there are still some upriver brights available.”

Under the rule change, the entire Columbia is open to chinook, coho and steelhead fishing through Dec. 31. The daily bag limit is two adult salmon and steelhead in any combination. Steelhead must be adipose fin-clipped in order to be retained, as must coho in all areas downstream of the Hood River. Chinook may be retained whether they are fin-clipped or not.

“Essentially, this change will bring the entire Columbia River back under permanent Oregon fishing regulations for salmon and steelhead, as outlined in the 2010 fishing pamphlet,” said Kern.


Chris Kern    971-673-6031
Rick Swart    971-673-6038