I met a couple of guys from Northwest Kayak Anglers at the Gilbert River boat ramp on Sauvie Island on Thursday 4/16. It was nice to have the company, and to learn from a local expert (Spot) on catching springers from a kayak.
The week before, Spot had caught the first springer from a kayak in the area. Having seen his post on Northwest Kayak Anglers with a fat salmon in the frame let me know something in my fishing needed to be tweaked. I felt a bit envious of Spot and wanted to learn what he was doing to make it look so easy, so he invited me to go out with him.
Leading up to our trip, I got a call at the shop from Dave in Roseburg, OR, looking for a green or camouflage kayak helmet. "What do you need camo for? Are you hunting or fishing from a kayak?" I asked. One thing led to another and turns out Dave had been reading my blog. We both agreed I had been crying big fat crocodile tears on my last post, and he told me; "I'm a good Indian and I hereby remove your curse."
Thank you Dave. You have no idea, that's all I needed to hear.
We launched from the Gilbert River boat ramp around 7:30 AM. Temperatures were mild, in the 50's and 60's, winds negligible, skies blue, and the bank and surrounding hills a lush springtime green. As we launched, a powerboat returned with their limits full. 7:30AM and limited out; That was a good sign.
As I dropped my weight down, I realized I had rigged up incorrectly the night before. I pulled over to retie, a bit frustrated. I got back to trolling briefly before hanging up and breaking off. Again I pull over and retie. As soon as I drop my weight down again, I see Spots kayak turning in circles. He hooked and landed a nice 10 to 15 pound salmon within an hour of launching, proving once again he is the Jedi master. I pulled up and snapped this pic:
Having reached his limit, Spot paddled downstream to a deeper hole, where he managed to catch five sturgeon before heading home around 2PM.
My other paddling partner Jerrol and I had not had a strike, but we had seen plenty of fish taken. Jerrol had to turn back to the launch around 12:40PM to make it to work, and I remained trolling up and down river.
The sun had warmed me to that perfect temperature, where you completely zone out; Almost asleep but not quite. I trolled my brined, cut-plug herring just outside of the seam where the muddy Gilbert River dumps into the Multnomah Channel, trying not to pass out and fall in the water. All of the sudden my rod doubles over and my reel starts zinging. The rod was jerking like there was something alive on the end of it. "My God that's a salmon!" I screamed in my head as I took a few back strokes to tighten the line. I removed my rod from the holder and tried not to explode with excitement. I played the fish until he floated on the surface. As it got a little closer, I saw that he was a native, and barely hooked. A previous snag had bent the front hook a bit, and there was no room for error. I reached for my net on the back deck of the kayak, and it hung up on a bungee. I jostled with it a bit before giving it a hefty, frustrated jerk. At the moment I heaved on the net, my rod tip dipped, slacking the line, just long enough for the salmons last flop to set him free of the hook.
Seeing as the salmon was native and therefore required to be released, I'm calling that a "premature release", and I am good with that. After so many days of getting skunked, I was elated just to have played a fish on the last day of my springer season.
After the adrenaline rush of fighting a fish, I had to get my bait back in the water. I was sure I had the mojo going, but I trolled for another hour or so catching only this salmon fry, who's eyes are definitely bigger than his stomach:
When it is all said and done, I learned more this season than any other. It was frustrating and physically tiring, but I feel I am a better, wiser angler because of it. I will definitely chase springers on the Columbia next year, but next time I won't start until April, and I'll use brined cut plug herring the whole season.
Who knows, maybe they'll open the season for another week or so. Maybe I'll get one more shot.....
Until next week,