We launched our kayaks out of Deer Harbor, at the SW corner of Orcas Island on June 2nd and paddled towards the Wasp Islands. Three to four foot wind waves, fifteen kt winds, and a bit of drizzle greeted us as we left the shelter of the harbor and made our way across the channel to Reef Island. When we reached the reef, we dropped our jigs and began fishing.
Within fifteen minutes, one of my clients, Eric, hooked up with a fish. This was Eric's first time kayak fishing, and he elected to keep the rod and reel stowed and use a hand line. "Pull up faster!" I shouted as I made my way over to his boat to assist. Eric replied with a grunting, "I'm pulling as fast as I can!" Eric is not a small guy. If that was as fast as he could retrieve the line, then it must have been a nice lingcod. Eric had brought the fish to the surface a few seconds before I arrived next to his boat. The moment I arrived to assist, the fish bounced a bit and flopped off the hook. I got a good view of it before it swam away, and it looked to be 30-32 inches and quite healthy. Eric was stoked to have hooked his first fish with the hand line. I did not dwell on the loss, as it seemed to be a solid indicator of productive fishing to come and I was sure there would be another just like it in a few minutes.
Twenty minutes went by and Gary hooked up with, and released an undersized lingcod. We made our way over to McConnel Island to one of my most productive spots and worked it hard for two hours without a bite. Something was amiss.
If the Wasps weren't going to give me a fish every 15 minutes, I thought Steep Point on Orcas Island would. So we paddled back across the channel to the West side of Orcas. We fished Steep Point for an hour or so with no bites. I tried to deduce why the fishing was so slow, but couldn't see any big indicator. I decided to drop a line down to see if there were fish here or not. I immediately hooked up with a 22 inch lingcod, and decided we needed to focus more on technique the next day.
We woke early the next morning and launched out of Deer Harbor. Blue skies and sunshine, flat water, and 10kt winds were the rule of the day. We paddled across the channel to Jones Island and began jigging. In several hours of fishing, Eric boated a nice lingcod, and we caught and released a few copper rockfish.
This was definitely much less productive fishing than what I have grown accustomed to in the San Juans, and I began to ask around to see how other guides were fairing. It turns out that we were actually doing better than every other group out fishing. All of the guides had cancelled the remainder of their trips for lingcod season because the fish just weren't biting. This was disappointing to hear, but it did make me feel pretty good about the lingcod we had caught.
On Saturday I decided to pull out all the stops. We tried new colors, lures, and techniques to no avail. At one point I hooked a flounder on a black jig 10 feet off the bottom over rocks. Things were just weird. We pounded it out for several hours with only a couple of rockfish and undersized lingcod to show.
It's like the saying goes, "A bad day of kayak fishing is still a good day of kayaking." and the island's couldn't have produced more beautiful weather for us to enjoy.....although I'd have like to have caught more fish! The last day of the trip we decided to take it easy, have a nice breakfast, and catch the noon ferry back to the mainland. All in all it was a great trip, and I'm looking forward to next year.
I'm headed out on a scouting trip in the Strait of Juan De Fuca/Olympic Peninsula in the next few weeks to look for possible locations for future trips. The lingcod season is longer in the Strait, and we wouldn't have to deal with the ferry coming back from Orcas on a Sunday. The conditions can be a little more challenging in the Strait, but the fishing might be better. I will keep you posted on those guided trip options and announce them here first.