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Fishing for Lake Washington Cutthroat Trout

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Big Lake Washington Cuttroat Trout
Big Lake Washington Cuttroat Trout!

Guest Article by Pro-Guide Chris Snyder

Steelhead is the only item on the menu for most winter fisherman but not for me!

Let me introduce you to winter Cutthroat Trout  fishing on Lake Washington!

I was fortunate enough to learn this fishery a few years ago and I have not looked back since. This is a great fishery that not many people  choose to fish. Lake Washington is close to Seattle and only has a dozen people that fish the lake regularly.

Lets talk about the basics for the Lake Washington trout fishery. This is a troll fishery that requires nothing more than a downrigger and a good light action trout rod. My rod of choice is an Okuma SST Kokanee rod 7’6″ in length with a palm size reel spooled with 10lb P-Line.

Herring is my bait of choice for these winter trout. Sockeye smolts are present in the lake from winter to spring and these trout gorge themselves on them. I like to run orange label herring in a basic salt brine. To make the brine, I use kosher salt and distilled water and then add the frozen herring to the brine eight hours prior to fishing. I put two buckets in the bait cooler, both with the salt water brine. In one bucket I will sometimes throw in some green bait dye to color up the herring. On a tough day of fishing the addition of color to your bait can often put more fish in the net.
The set up for these trout could not be more simple. Run the herring on a solid mooching rig with hooks to match the bait size.  From your main line tie on a six bead-chain swivel then tie on your leader. Add the herring and your off and trolling.
These trout seem to be real boat shy so let your gear out 100′ and then attach it to your downrigger clip. As far as the downrigger clips go be sure to switch over to the small trout size clips because the trout can’t pull the line from the big salmon size clips. This might seem like a small detail but details catch fish and being lazy won’t.
With the lake temperature dropping the fish will begin to slow and not want to use much energy to find a meal, so you need to put the bait right in the path of the fish. Watch your electronics close and keep working your gear to stay in the money zone. I like to start out fishing at about 1.4 to 1.9 mph and adjust accordingly. If you’re marking fish and not getting bit, switch something up. Speed up or slow down, switch out your bait or add some new scent. You need to keep working to keep catching.
I hope this inspires you to try something new this year and you never know, you might just help save a few steelhead from the dinner table!

The Author – Chris Snyder can be reached at (253)335-9514 or through his website HERE!

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

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

How to take great fishing pictures!

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To me taking photos of the day’s catch is far more rewarding then filling the freezer.  I don’t just like taking photos, I like taking good photos! Good photos when viewed, grab your attention and draw you in.

Creating this picture, the timeless documentation of some of these moments, helps me to remember and relive these experiences for years to come.  I’m going to provide you with some tried and true methods for turning your mediocre pictures into great ones!

Do your pictures look like this …
or do they look like this?

I’m going to give you some pointers on how to take photos that get noticed, get remembered, and get framed, not just stuck away in some drawer.

The most important thing to mention first is that you need to be in the habit of taking your camera with you.

Make sure the batteries are charged, or that you have additional batteries. Make sure that the camera is accessible and not hidden away in the bottom of some bag, cameras that are out to get used, get used.  Even if you aren’t good at taking photos, you will eventually luck into a good one every now and then just because you’re taking a lot of them.

There are a two types of photos that are typically taken on a fishing trip, photos of the catch and photos of the scenery for this first installment we are going to focus on photos of the catch.

Let’s go over some of the things that can create a great photo of your prized catch.

Photos require perspective.

What this means is that in order to tell the dimensions and size of an object in a photo you must have something in the photo that has a known dimension that the viewer can relate the main content to. For example, if you have a 40 pound Chinook salmon laying on the floor of the boat without anything else in the photo then it’s going to look just like a 20 pound salmon or a 30 pound salmon. Take that same fish and hold it up in front of you and now all of a sudden you have created perspective. The viewer has something they can measure the fish against and realizes that “Wow! You caught a huge fish!”

So you have done the most important part, you’re holding the fish for the picture! These next items just start making the photo better.

Fill the frame with the subject and if at all possible, don’t do it using the zoom.

Not many people realize this but the optical zoom function of your camera magnifies the subject by stacking more lenses together to magnify the scene and in doing so makes the image darker. The glass lenses while being extremely clear still have some opaqueness and when you add more lenses by zooming in your going to make the photo darker. Instead of zooming in step forwards and backwards to fill the frame with the subject. Allow a little bit of the background on the top and the sides to be present in the photo but don’t allow the background to be a major portion of the photo because it will draw the viewer’s attention away from the main subject.

Take the picture immediately after catching the fish.

This is when the fish has its best color and rigor hasn’t set in stiffening the fish and making it appear unnaturally shaped.Taking the picture at the end of the day next to the garage or kneeling down in the yard takes much away from what could have been a great photo if you had just taken a minute or so to capture it when the fish was fresh, the moment was recent, and the scenery was great.

Hose the fish off, nobody wants to see a fish covered in blood, leaves, or mud.

Have the subject face into the sun.

The sun should be at the photographers back. Trying to take the photo with the sun shining into the lens of the camera will cause the subject to be dark and under exposed because the camera had to compensate for the extreme light in the background. Another great tip is to turn on the cameras flash when the sun is high overhead the flash eliminates or lessens the facial shadows that are created by ball caps etc. Also if the sun is high overhead try to take the picture in the shade, this can work great on the shore but isn’t always practical in a boat.

Take off your sunglasses.

Give your eyes a few moments to adjust so you’re not squinting. By beeing able to see your eyes, this allows the viewer to have a more personal connection with the photo.

Hold the fish with two hands.

Nobody cares how strong you are, holding the fish with one hand doesn’t make the photo look cool, it actually makes the fish look lighter in weight and often times places the fish off to the side of the angler reducing the photos perspective, making the fish look smaller, and drawing the viewer’s eye away from the fish. Hold it with both hands, and hold it in front of you.
Don’t cover the fish’s face up with your hands, if you must hold the fish by its head try to keep your hands on the backside of the fish’s face out of site of the camera.
If you’re holding the fish vertical, then hold it vertical. If you’re holding the fish horizontal, then hold it horizontal. It’s simple, hold it straight up and down or hold it level. Don’t hold it at an angle, its either 90° or 180°. However it is okay to hold the fish tilted toward the camera as long as you maintain the horizontal or vertical plane, doing this can add depth to the photo allowing the viewer to get a better perspective of the fishes size.
The fish also needs to be held squarely, meaning no bellies and no backs. Square the fish up, if the fish is tilted back showing the belly, nobody sees the true dimensions and colors of the fish and the same holds true if it is tilted forward showing mostly its back.  As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to see an equal amount of belly and back.


Act like the fish isn’t heavy … pretend it’s not slimy … and most of all hold on tight! It’s hard to smile while doing all of this but smiling is the most important part of all!  If you’re not going to smile, then don’t even bother taking the photo. Look at it this way, the viewer sees someone holding a fish, smiling, and really looking like they are having a good time. The mental image that comes to their mind is “That looks like so much fun! What a great looking fish!” And maybe even “What am I doing here? I should be out fishing and catching one like that!” Alternatively when the viewer sees a photo of an angler holding a fish and not smiling, then depending on the viewer a non-smiling expression could be taken as a scowl, and either way the viewer is left with the impression that”I’m not having any fun … its just another fish, I’ve caught a million of them.” And potentially “Why did he even bother to take that picture, he’s not excited, probably just wants wants to brag.” So smile, it doesn’t take much effort and it really really makes an average picture look great!

So you have the subject posed, they are smiling and doing everything else correctly, now take a couple photos, don’t just take one.

It’s less likely that the subject will be blinking in multiple photos and this also allows you (at least on digital cameras) to preview the previous photo and to correct something that you may not have noticed before.

Don’t forget that it’s your job as the photographer to make sure that all of this comes together.

Remember the subject can’t see themselves and don’t realize that many of these things aren’t happening. Definitely make sure that you thank the subject when they put all of this together and do it right, making great pictures isn’t easy at first and when they do it right make sure you let them know! “Hey that’s going to make a great picture! Good job!”  A little praise goes a long ways toward getting them to take the time to pose again.

Remember great pictures are created, they rarely “just happen”, they are put together a piece at a time until all of the elements are just right! Eventually this just becomes second nature.

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

Learn the #1 secret to catching more fish!

Check out our Astoria Fishing Charters and Washington Halibut Charters

Photo courtesy of Langara Fishing Adventures & Flickr

Tyee Chinook Club

There’s an old saying that goes like this, “The guy that works the hardest gets the most stuff!” Fishing is no different! The harder you work, the more time you spend on the water, then the more knowledge you’re going to gain; and you’re going to put more fish in the box because of it!

The number one secret to catching more fish is this … work harder.

When I talk about working harder at fishing, it’s not always intuitive what this means, but let me give you some ideas.

Get to the dock earlier.

Leave the dock later.

Work your rod like a maniac, keeping it in the zone and fishing effectively. Make fishing the primary priority and relaxing secondary.

Keep your bait fresh by changing it way more often than you think you should.

Talk to other fishermen.

Fish more days out of the year.

Fish with new people.

Fish with fishing guides.

Study the charts.

Know the tide table.

Try new things, be willing to change.

Try old things again, be willing to change but don’t forget the things that have worked before.

Take note of changing patterns from year to year and from day to day.

Stay focused and driven, but remember it’s supposed to be fun.

Working harder gets increased results. Some folks like to talk about working smarter as well. Some folks have the ability to work smarter and some don’t. I have known a lot of folks over the years that are lacking in the smarts department but still hands down out produce the geniuses because they are just willing to put in more effort day in and day out.

Working hard isn’t always fun and working hard is almost never easy, but if you want to catch more fish and have more success then there is definitely a way to make it happen. Start today, make it a habit and a lifestyle, and the next thing you know it’s no longer work it’s just the way you are.

Copyright 2013 Total Fisherman™

The author, Kevin Newell, is a professional fishing guide in Oregon and Washington!

Click here to go fishing with the Total Fisherman Team

Top 5 Sturgeon Fishing Tips

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Sturgeon fishing tips

Sturgeon fishing tips and techniques are fundamental for consistently catching high numbers of sturgeon and big sturgeon.

The following 5 sturgeon fishing tips are techniques that I employ on a daily basis as a sturgeon fishing guide and they have put a lot of sturgeon in the boat over the years!

1. Fish where the sturgeon are.

Fishing where the sturgeon are may seem like an obvious statement, yet I can’t tell you how many times I see anglers fishing in areas that just don’t hold sturgeon or aren’t holding sturgeon at that particular time.  Sturgeon are a very mobile fish, they move on the tides, they move to follow food, and they move to stay comfortable. These fish move a lot and they aren’t always moving where you expect them to be moving!

One of the best tools that an angler can have when pursuing sturgeon is a very good high end digital fish finder, such as the new Lowrance HDS series or a digital Humminbird or Furuno.  It not only pays to have one of these units, but it pays even higher dividends if you really know how to use it. Read the manual, go out on the water and practice with it (not while fishing), and then read the manual again. These units are complex but they aren’t impossible to use, and a little bit of practice and reading goes a long ways!

Another tried and true approach to finding sturgeon, especially sturgeon that are willing to bite, is fishing in water that has adequate flow. As a general rule of thumb, big sturgeon are found in big fast-moving water. If you go to Bonneville your going to find that the big fish are in the fast water and the little fish are in the slower moving side areas and eddies.  If your on the Willamette fish closer to the center of the river, the middle of the river has more flow.  Big sturgeon like to eat big food and it takes a pretty good amount of current to move big food!

2. Keep your sturgeon bait fresh.

Keeping your sturgeon bait fresh … again pretty simple stuff, but it doesn’t matter if I’m salmon fishing, steelhead fishing, or sturgeon fishing, I see anglers trying to use their bait for way too long. I can understand the mindset that causes this behavior, it’s one of two things or a combination of both; “Well the fish aren’t biting right now, so my baits fine” or trying to conserve on bait because it’s expensive. The end result is the same,you’re not as likely to catch sturgeon on old milked out bait, as you are on fresh bait, or fresh out of the package bait.

anchovies for sturgeon bait

Three things make sturgeon bait fish well; guts , blood, and slime coat.  If the guts are missing from your sand shrimp or smelt/anchovy then the majority of its sturgeon attracting ability is gone. The same thing goes for the blood, a huge amount of the blood is in the guts and gills, when the blood is gone then the bait isn’t bait anymore it’s just a little fish on your hook.

The third thing really only applies to smelt and anchovies, and this is the slime coat. The slime coat is the outer protective coating that each fishes skin and scales are covered with.  This slime coat is their first line of defense against infection from parasites and other nasty things that want to hurt them. When we smell a fish after touching or being close to it, it’s the slime coat that we smell, it’s this same slime coat that allows other fish to smell it when it’s used as bait.  When the slime coat is gone, the bait doesn’t feel slimy anymore; it just feels like wet bait. Freezer burnt sturgeon bait and bait that has been soaked too long on the end of the line have both lost their slime coat, and should be changed out.

Don’t be this guy, “My bait looks just fine, I don’t need to change it.”  I hear this all the time from my customers, many of whom have their own boat and are avid fishermen, and every time I smile and say “It’s not how it looks, it’s how it smells.”  At least half of the sturgeon baits fish catching ability lies in the way it smells, and for you salmon fisherman out there, the herring’s flash and vibration attracts the fish but it is the smell of freshly baited herring that seals the deal.
Again don’t be that guy, change your bait often! Change your bait twice as often as you think you should, and if you want to catch even more fish then change your bait three times as often as you think you should!  This is super effective and it’s not a secret, it’s just work, and yes, extra bait money.

3. Move around.

Sturgeon fishing on anchor is not the same as salmon fishing on anchor. The old adage of “Well they have to come through here sooner or later”, which is often applied to salmon fishing, simply does not hold true with sturgeon. If you’re not catching sturgeon for at least 45 minutes, then you need to move. Don’t sit there with all the other boats that are around you, (who are also not catching anything) and announce that “well the sturgeon must just not be biting”.  Wrong.  The sturgeon are biting somewhere, and they are biting for somebody, make that somebody you.

Sturgeon Fishing

Moving to different spots looking for sturgeon was the key to success this day!

Even if you don’t know where to move to, still get up and move.  Anything is better than staying where the sturgeon aren’t, at a minimum you will learn some new locations or be able to eliminate some locations.

4. Sturgeon hooks and leader.

Anodized (black, red, blue) hooks stay sharp longer than hooks that are bronzed or are just straight nickel.  The anodizing process adds a few more layers of protection to the base metal and keeps the hook’s point from wearing down as quickly.  Using anodized hooks is especially beneficial for sturgeon fishing in saltwater, where the saltwater has the tendency to just eat up standard nickel hooks.

Red hooks stay sharp the longest, but they don’t stay red, the red gets worn away and you see a goldish silver plating. Black hooks work almost as well as red hooks and they retain their black coloring.  Personally I prefer black hooks over red hooks when sturgeon fishing.

Sturgeon leader material doesn’t have to be Dacron. Dacron has long been the de facto standard for sturgeon leaders, the only problem with Dacron besides being moderately expensive, is it just doesn’t last.  Dacron has a tendency to fray under normal use, and has a strong tendency to fray when rubbing up against the head of a large sturgeon. In the last year I have switched from Dacron leaders to leaders made from braided line such as Tuff Line, Power Pro, or Sufix.  I only use 120 to 130 pound braided line. After switching to nothing but braid for my sturgeon leaders, I have found that these leaders outlast the hooks, which is a new problem, typically the Dacron would get fuzzy and require a whole new set up to be tied long before the sturgeon hooks ever got dull.

5. Use a light tipped rod for sturgeon fishing.

Sturgeon can be very light biters, and if they’ve been pressured hard then they know that the  resistance they feel when they pull on the bait means they’re in for a quick ride to the surface. You don’t want sturgeon to feel resistance when they are biting the bait. Using a really stiff rod hinders you in two ways, it keeps you from seeing the light bites, and it makes the sturgeon spit out your bait because they feel the rod.

Sturgeon fishing in some areas such as the Columbia below Bonneville Dam require a heavy sturgeon rod, but a heavy rod doesn’t have to have a really stiff tip.  If you’re going to fish Bonneville, find a rod with lots of backbone but with a tip that has similar flexibility to your salmon rod. If you’re sturgeon fishing other areas such as the Willamette or the main stem Columbia then use your medium action salmon rod.

Just one quick note on being a good sportsman, these light tipped medium action rods can definitely land big 8, 9 and 10 foot sturgeon, but it’s extremely hard and very unfair to the sturgeon to try to do so while remaining on anchor in all but the slowest water current. There is a reason you have a buoy ball on your anchor line and it’s not just to help you pull in your anchor; throw the rope, drift out, fight that big sturgeon quickly, and then come back to your anchor. Getting these big sturgeon in as quickly as you can is what is best for the sturgeon’s health and best for the longevity of our sturgeon fishery.

When sturgeon fishing, some people don’t know how long they should fight big sturgeon,  a good time frame of should be less than 30 minutes anywhere outside of Bonneville. Bonneville sturgeon fishing requires heavy lead in deep fast-moving water and this can make landing those big sturgeon in 30 minutes much harder.  However it can definitely be done, my rule at Bonneville is to not fight a sturgeon over an hour. If you can’t pressure a sturgeon hard enough to get him in an adequate amount of time then you need to hand the rod off to someone else and take turns fighting him.

Copyright 2013 Total Fisherman™

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

Click here to go fishing with the Total Fisherman Team