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By Pete Rosko
With the July 1, 2022 opening of the Washington State summer salmon season finally here, this monthly article discusses the techniques that I employ off Port Angeles (Wash.) Area 6, on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
My two main Port Angeles fishing areas involve launching out of the city harbor or launching at Freshwater Bay, which is 15 minutes west of Port Angeles. City launching is convenient and accommodates all boat sizes. Conversely, Freshwater Bay has a rustic boat ramp, no dock, no facilities and is only practical for smaller boats.
Over six centuries ago, Spanish explorer Juan de Fuca discovered a freshwater source for his vessels. That was Colville Creek, which flowed into the strait that separates Vancouver Island from Washington State’s north shore. Freshwater Bay acquired its name as a result of Colville Creek.
Scenery-wise, fishing out of Port Angeles offers a view of the city, its deep water ship harbor and the U.S. Coast Guard station, located on the end of Ediz Hook, on the north side of the Port Angeles harbor. This open water area is fished by jigging or trolling. Conversely, Freshwater Bay is an area of rugged scenic beauty with more fishing options because of its great variety of underwater and shoreline structure, including rocky outcroppings, ledges and vast kelp beds with countless pockets that attract both prey and predator fish. This area can be fished by almost any artificial lure technique ever created.
When fishing off the city of Port Angeles, I almost exclusively vertical jig. At Freshwater Bay, I primarily cast along the kelp edges and vertically jig the deeper water. My tackle and casting technique with the Sonic BaitFish (SBF) are as follows:
I like a 6 1/2 foot spinning rod that is light in weight with a strong backbone and fast-action tip. The reel is filled with 20-lb. braided mainline and attached to about 2 1/2 feet of 20- to 25-lb. fluorocarbon leader. Remember, I am fishing in and around kelp that is tough on line. No panfish tackle here!
I always fasten the package-supplied duo-lock snap at the end of the leader. The snap does more than just facilitate quick lure changes — it is the vital link between the lure and rod. The wide bend on the snap enables the SBF to function more freely than by tying the leader directly to the lure or fishing with a snap that does not have a wide bend. This is extremely important when fishing with very small metal jigs, as their delicate balance, and action, are easily affected by not using the proper snap.
With a spinning outfit, I can quickly and easily cast to salmon boiling on baitfish near the surface. When done correctly, it should be an automatic hookup. Here’s a tip if the hookup does not occur when the SBF hits the water:
Functionally, this tight line technique works best for me, down to about 100-feet, for fish near surface and suspended within this range. Beyond 100-feet, I will resort to vertical jigging with a baitcasting rig. “Tightlining” a Sonic BaitFish causes it to fall more slowly and exaggerates its sideways darting action.
To create an even slower fall rate, cast down-current at anchor and retrieve against its current or wind to create more drag against the lure, which in turn increases its action. On a drift, cast up-current to create more pull on your lure for a slower fall rate and increased lure action. This gives suspended fish more time to see and react to the lure.
Conversely, a loose line will cause a lure to fall faster. Lure size is not only determined by water depth, but also by current and wind velocity. I have tightline-fished 1/3- and 3-oz. metal jigs at the same location only because of one variable — wind.
This technique is basically simple, but also difficult. If your target fish are located near the bottom, then this is simple. Just bounce the lure against bottom and hold on! The downward flutter of the SBF triggers hard strikes compared to bait fishing. Predators love to slam an injured prey. The are neurologically wired to react that way. The SBF is designed to be that injured prey. Compare that predators reaction if it comes across a chunk of dead meat. It may lick it or chew on it, but it will not try to prevent it from getting away by attacking it since it has no movement.
Now this is where it gets difficult. I consider zeroing in on a single suspended target to be one of the most difficult tests in sport fishing. Trollers use downriggers to accomplish this feat. But, we are not trolling in this article. Instead, we are at anchor or are drifting. Instead, our downrigger is actually in our bait caster fishing reel. It’s a line counter!
The drift is the most natural presentation in fishing because your vessel is moving in sync with the current. Compare this with a fly-fishing person with their dry fly presentation on their favorite stream. When fishing to suspended fish, the drift in combination with a line counter gives that angler a superior edge. Just make sure your line counter is calibrated to 100 percent accuracy, then hold on!
As always, thank you for subscribing to the monthly issue of the Mack Attack Magazine. It is our hope that this publication increases your enjoyment and success on the water. — Capt. Pete