Excited For Steelhead Season

Without a doubt once of my favorite fish to go after is Steelhead. The Steelhead is regularly rated in the top 5 for sport fish in North America and for good reason. They are hard fighters and what makes the battle more fun is hooking up with one of them in a swift flowing, rocky river in the dead of winter.

So, is it a Steelhead salmon or Steelhead trout?

Let me clarify a few things. A Steelhead is a type of rainbow trout that makes the journey from its spawning river into the ocean, or the Great Lakes, depending on location. Once there, they grow large by gobbling up their favorite prey, smaller fish. After several years of growth, Steelheads return to their home river to spawn and it is there where they usually die. The journey and subsequent spawning process takes a lot out of them.

I think the confusion lies in the fact that they behave much like salmon throughout their lifecycle. Most people know that salmon return to the rivers to spawn once they are sexually mature. I think it’s the image of bears grabbing fish out of a fast flowing, shallow stream that people remember. Consider Steelhead as a confused trout or a salmon wannabe.

Since most of the Steelhead die during the run, I don’t have any issues catching and keeping them. As of now, the species is nowhere near being endangered and well thought out conservation practices are in place to ensure that is never the case. Steelhead are very tasty and are packed with about 60% of Omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon. I much prefer them to salmon, especially when cooked as part of a shore lunch during a break in the action.

Steelhead can reach up to 45 inches in length and 55 lbs in weight, although most are much smaller. They have a lifespan of up to 11 years and reach sexual maturity around 2 to 3 years of age. The interesting thing is that development is dependent on their environment. All Oncorhynchus mykiss hatch in gravel-bottomed, fast flowing rivers and streams and some stay there, while others leave for open water. Those fish that stay become rainbow trout and are identified by their characteristic reddish strip along the lateral line. Steelhead that migrates to the oceans or Great Lakes has a slimmer profile, are much larger in size, and have more of a silver color.

Regardless of whether you are angling for rainbow trout or Steelhead, they are an amazing fish and provide a great experience for everyone.

I can’t wait to get out on the water and get after them again!

-SS

 

Bluefin Madness

So, I’m out on the water and I’m talking with my client who I’m taking out on his first fishing charter. The weather is perfect in the ol’ open ocean and the water is flat calm. I could tell that today is going to be a good day. Sometimes you just wake up and you get that tingling down there (guys, you know what I’m talking’ about…) anyway, let’s just say, I was excited to test out some custom made lures on some unsuspecting fish.

The day before I spotted a ridge on my fish finder that looked really promising. There was something about the way that the seafloor dropped off into a deep chasm that made me think that is where some of the big guys were going to be lurking. You bet your ass I marked that baby with a GPS geotag! The object of our obsession was giant bluefin tuna. Nothing will get your heart racing more than hooking into one of the big guys. They are like a locomotive on steroids when they hit your line. If you’ve never experienced a battle with one of these behemoths, you are truly missing out.

I get the downriggers setup and start getting the line out for the outrigger when Jim yells at me to come check the lowrance. He’s practically wet himself with excitement before I make it back to the helm. I see what the fuss is all about. We’re directly on top of the largest school of bluefins I’ve seen in my life. I’m totally giddy with excitement.

So, I’m trying to act all casual, like this type of thing happens all the time. I’m  walking back to the outrigger that I was trying to set before Jim started hollering at me. BAM! We’re hooked up on line #3. The rod is bending into the shape of a boomerang and line is just screaming off the reel! Now, I’m yelling at Jim to get his ass to the back of the boat so I can get a harness on him so he can fight this monster. I get the harness buckled, place the rod in the holster and he starts cranking away. I’m turning to start moving some of the other lines we’ve got in the water and simultaneously, two more lines are slammed by bluefin.

I’m f’in beside myself! I mean, we’ve likely got 3 trophy fish on our lines and there’s only 3 of us on the damn boat. Someone has to drive the damn thing! I’m yelling at my first mate to hit the throttle to set the hooks, then I’m yelling at him to come back and start fighting a fish. Mad chaos of the highest order. We’re all fighting valiantly. I’m at the rail giving it all I can to get my fish reeled in first so I can help Jim land his fish. Joe (first mate) is trying to do the same. Unfortunately for him, the weight room must have been skipped in lieu of driving to the local donut shop for pastries and coffee for the last year because Joe’s arms look like they belong on the body of my teenage daughter (see pic below).

Screen Shot

After 45 minutes of fighting, I’ve got my 454 lb bluefin gaffed and secured with a tail rope. Nancy pants Joe is definitely tiring and Jim is holding his own in the fighting chair. Finally, I have a chance to get the other lines out of the water, steer the boat, and help Jim with the catch of a lifetime.

Ten minutes later and Joe is able to bring in his catch. Not too shabby. His ‘fin ended up scaling out at 257 lbs. Jim is still straining with everything he’s got. I offer to let him take a break for a while and he rebuffs me. It’s clear that he’s on a mission and he wanted to land the fish himself.

Another hour passes and I finally start to see some color breaking the surface about 20 yards off the stern. Jim’s exhausted, but his formidable foe is in his sights. Another couple of minutes pass and I’ve got the leader in my hand. Joe gaffs the beast and I throw on a tail rope. It’s pretty clear that there’s no way in hell we’re getting that big bastard in the boat. We secure the monster and head for shore.

On our way in we are reliving the whole experience. We could not believe the day that we just had. Clearly Jim has a tale to tell all his buddies when he gets back home. Conversation topics shift and we’re just shooting the bull. We start talking about luck and Las Vegas comes up. Now, I haven’t been to Vegas in probably 15 years, and let’s just say that it’s amazing that I wasn’t arrested for some of the things that I did while I was there.

Turns out that Jim has a friend that owns a limo company in Vegas.  Jim said that he’s got the hook up should I decide to venture back. He tells me to check out www.lvlimos.net and to take my pick of the fleet. Said the limo is on him if his fish scales at more that 700 lbs. By this point, I’m thinking a trip may be in order. I’ve been fishing for just a few years and I can tell Jim’s catch is going to be close to 700 lbs.

We make it to shore. The dock always fills up with spectators at the end of the day. Everyone is clamoring to get a good look at the whopper we’ve just towed in. Jim’s smiling from ear to ear as people are pointing at his fish and shouting. My buddy Ryan hands me the chain which is connected to my winch. The fish is hoisted from the water. Anticipation looms. After an eternity, the scale settles at 727 lbs. A hell of a first fish to catch on your first chartered trip. I give Jim a high five and tell him I’m coming to Vegas! He’s totally stoked and tells me that he can’t wait to tell his friends about his experience.

Just goes to show you that success breeds success. I’m booked up for the next week for charters. I can’t wait to get back out to my secret spot. What a day!

A fisherman with a blog, now that’s interesting!

One thing that’s certain about fishermen, we’re great at embellishing the truth. Fish stories are just more fun when the fish are more plentiful and larger than reality. I mean, who hasn’t stretched a truth just a little bit for the sake of a good story? What I’ll attempt to do is make you chuckle about some of the things I’ve experienced in my years on the water. Hope you enjoy the trials and tribulations of a captain!