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Hoodsport Hijinks

2399 Views 17 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  juro
Bunny Leech, another friend and I made our annual trip to Hoodsport on Monday. One the negativer side it is combat fishing and it requires little skill as the fish are everywhere. On the plus side chums will kick your butt in the salt and it is fun to go get your fill of "catching" so you can dedicate the next five months to "fishing" for steelhead.

I won't bore anyone with tales of this fishery but for those of you who have experienced it I wanted to share the story of the two "fishermen" from Spokane. Given last weeks discussions of purity, I thought this might at least provide a laugh.

About 7:30 in the morning we are in our tubes casting to a large pod of fish in front of us when here comes "Fisherman" 1 in his float tube headed right through the pod. Since he was going backwards I thought maybe he didn't see the fish. Trying to be helpful I called to him and told him there was fish right behind him. His reply, "don't worry, they'll be back". With this he kicks through the pod and away they go. Hey this is Hoodsport so we turned around and started casting to a pod behind us.

After pushing in between Bunny Leech and myself, we had left a good 10' between us, he starts telling us that this fishery is "the best kept secret in the lower 48". If so, I don't want to fish the worst. He went on to explain as soon as he got back home he was going to tell all his family and friends about Hoodsport. Ah damn, there goes the fishery. :)

About this time, "Fisherman" 2 shows up and the two of them proceed over to stand in the creek in front of the hatchery gates (which is illegal by the way) and start casting right up to the gates. For those of you that have not been there, the mouth of the hatchery consists of a pool roughly 15' by 20' and 3-4' deep. There are always between 100-200 salmon stacked up there and it is off limits to fishing for obvious reasons. Not to the Spokane boys though as they repeadedly cast to the gates and then made a series of hard strips until their fly found flesh. This was followed by a "I got another one, man this fishing is incredible". And the snagging was apparently pretty good as well.

Watching this, I couldn't help but chuckle at how pathetic a display we were watching. Fly fishing at its finest. But don't tell anyone, it is a secret ;)

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Fishing the stilly this summer at the height of humpy fest. I quit after only an hour or so of fishing and around 9 or 10 hookups. The fisherman above me couldn't understand why I was quitting when the "fishing" was so good. I tried to explain to him that out of the 9 or so fish I had hooked only 2 had been in the mouth and I figured one of those was flossed. This was the only time in my life I had to quit fishing because there were too many fish. It was almost impossible not to snag. He couldn't or wouldn't understand why I choose not to fish under those conditions.
One year I had been fishing to a large showing of summer runs at the Headworks Dam on the upper Green above the Gorge. Rarely would see another angler up there and somedays the steelies were hot to trot. BTW - they are into crayfish up in that stretch, so GPs tied with golden pheasant brick reds and ringneck blues over dark claret seal get their attention along the boulders in the first pool. A family of otters had a brood there and the rocks were littered with crayfish shells that year, which led me to try more furnace hackles and crayfish patterns with success.

Anyway, the big chinook made their way up there and the stretch was socked in with big dark kings. My ability to fish the runs were made impossible with wet flies due to the amount of bodies in the water so I went to a dry caddis. A huge slab king coincidentally rolled under my fly and it caught the dorsal, running me down the river like a freight train until I popped it off.

When you can't even fish a dry without fouling a salmon, it's time to move on!
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Just a word of caution to float tubing around the Hoodsport area at this time of year!
If you survive all the snaggers and drunks in front of the hatchery you could some day run into another problem.
There is a shark that grows to over 17 feet in our Pacific NW waters called a Salmon Shark. This shark follows and feeds on migratting salmon and is in great numbers in the hood canal at this time of year. The Salmon Shark is the close cousin of the MAN, (Great White). To see them side by side you would have a hard time telling them apart. Though there is no reports of Salmon Sharks attacking humans there is speculation that the few attacks in Washington waters by great whites may have infact been Salmon Sharks.
One must remember that swimming in Washington waters is rare due to the cold water so we don't get many attacks but talk to any Washington surfer or commercial fisherman and he will tell you a story or two about this shark some miss identify as the great white. They are ugly, mean tempered and aggressive around people.
Float tubing is fairley new to the Hood Canal so just remember you are an experiment on what the Salmon Shark may or may not eat.
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Chomp! Chomp! Everyone out of the water!

What about hooking one of these things while float tubing? That would be a rush. Might get you up on plane. he he he
Did you read the part about acrobatic leaps and blistering runs? Close relatives to the GW and mako? Adapted to north pacific waters, caught 40 at a time in seine nets but the "chaos of dealing with so many" spurred interest in set lines, etc. There must be a lot of them around.

A friend's dad saw a large shark feeding just off La Push, may have been one of these.
Oh sh*t, I thought painting my float tube fins with baitfish designs would help me get more fish. I am not sure now! Oh well, I am sure a pair of legs kicking back and forth like a wounded animal under a big doughnut will scare away any shark. Don't you think? ;)
Don't think the baitfish or funny colored donut will scare them, but if they read that previous thread (about the Bi Sexual fly) they might think twice!!! :*
I don't mean to be an alarmest when it comes to float tubes and Salmon Sharks after all I've not had any reports of missing float tubers on the Hood Canal. "Sinktip you still there"?
But yes there are a lot of them and have one story about them that took place near West Port.
On a large NW October swell years ago waves were breaking well inside the jetties on an incoming tide. About a mile out from where Bradys oyster company in located there is a fairly large sandbar or island. This bar is a couple miles inside the bay and yet the surf looked as it was breaking perfectly to surf. An old surfing friend took two of us out to the bar to surf saying he had surfed there before. We went out in an old 16 foot whaler and decided to anchor in deep enough water so as not to have any larger sets break over the boat while we were surfing. We noticed lots of what looked like coho crashing the surface and at first I thought they were feeding on bait. Boy was I wrong, it was the coho who were bait and as we slowly motored in we watched sharks hamering fish all around us. We watched coho being pushed up on the sand bar by a school of sharks. Most of the sharks looked to be about 6 feet long but it was hard to tell because it was caos when they moved into the school of salmon. There was no way we were going to surf but decided to move around the east side of the sand bar where it was calm. We figured we could beach the boat walk to the other side and snag a few beached silvers for a party that night and so we headed around the island. As we rounded the corner I could look down and see the light sand bottom, it was maybe 10 or 12 feet deep. Then I saw the dark backs of large school of fish come almost under the boat at high speed and a shark that had to be 12 feet long right behind the fish, fish and shark were gone in a second. I swore it was a great white but friends tell me it was a salmon shark and the bay around West Port all the way up into the Chehailis river is full of them when the salmon come in.
There was an old timer named Mel who used to live by the Duckabush River and who spent a lot of time on the Hood Canal. We got into this discussion a couple of years ago and he said he has witnessed much the same on the canal and even once had a pod of Orcas chase a school of chum up on the mud flats while he was claming.
Having had a day like this in the NW put me a little on the safe side when it comes to entering the water around large schools of salmon. I've spent years surfing with tiger sharks and hammer heads in the tropics and never felt anywhere as unsafe as I do here after seeing what I saw on that October day.
One legged Pete.
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I hope you don't think I'm not taking you serious. I owned and operated a gill net boat for 14 years in the sound and have witnessed these sharks in action before. Not like you have described but, I have seen them attack salmon in the gill nets. It seems to me we had another name for them but, it escapes me now. I know of one fisherman that got one hung up in his net. He said the damn thing almost destroyed his net before he managed to hack it out. Never really thought about them much except that they were a competitor for the salmon.

Interesting reading Juro. I wonder how one could hook one of these monsters on a fly.
I'll have to admit the thought of hooking one occurred to me right away. }> The mako shark, a very close relative, is a prized gamefish in the northeast and is fine eating as well. The salmon shark has to be many times the fighter that a tarpon is, one would hope not to get one over 6 feet so they could manage the battle. Sturgeon are comparable in length but I am sure they can't come close in terms of fight.

OC - in my days fishing out in Neah Bay, Swiftshure, Nitinat, Sekiu, etc, there have frequently been orca, stellars sea lions, dalls porpoises, whales just feet from our boat. I felt concerned at times but never nearly as much as I did just reading about your encounter. I used to fish Westport a lot in the fall months and think I know where that bar is up toward the mouth of the Elk and Humptulips? That's way up inside and if the east coast sharks came in to push fish onto sand bars we'd have some real serious concerns with all the wading and kayaking going on. My friends' dad Roger Johnson had his encounter in LaPush is just a little bit up the coastline.

I don't imagine I will ever have to worry about an encounter but it's quite an eye opener to think that there are GW/mako cousins cruising for a bruising in the emerald waters of the PNW, up thru Alaska - something I would have never suspected due to the cold water temps.

We should be lucky this variant evolved to be fish eaters and not piniped eaters. You can tell by the small mouth and different body proportions with respect to it's cousins. The seal eaters have a greater tendency to mistake humans for food!
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Ok, ok, I was shark bait! For what it's worth they target salmon sharks for recreation out of Seward, AK and I hear it's a scream, but enough of that.

Getting back to the original post I feel compelled to share a conservationist concern. First, if you're going to Hoodsport it's a bit like deciding to join the circus. If you've been there you understand. If not, think about running off to join the circus. :) Having said that, as Sinktip mentioned, we watched in disbelief as these jokers cast darn near into the hatchery while snagging fish. Not much later we watched as some gear fishermen walked down and cast their lines in doing the exact same thing. The fact that fishermen would stand in front of hundreds of people and do this out of either ignorance or disconcern is unreal. What's more amazing is that the bulletin board posted at the hatchery list the rules and even has an article posted on the number of citations written there in 1997 (over 100) for people breaking those written rules. One has to wonder, "if people are brazen and foolish enough to illegally fish in public, what is happening on our rivers during un-patrolled closed C&R seasons?" For that matter, what poaching or other illegal activity occurs during open seasons? We all have reason to fear the conduct on a closed fishery. We all need to consider self policing and activism to support and save both steelhead and salmon. Hopefully the state considers this as well. If not, our obligation is to remind them.

Happy fishing!!!
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What's the daily and possession limit on Chums at Hoodsport? Down here it's all catch and release, but, even so, it's an incredibly popular fishery with gear slingers as well as fly types. Probably because, as someone above pointed out, there's more catching than fishing.

Anyway, I'm heading over to the Kilchis for my annual Chum fix. Word is that it's been very good this year.

There are also a report of a few winter steelhead being hooked in the Miami.

Have a great weekend,


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I've got some great hammerheads in Baja stories, and some okay blue sharks in California stories... The best one having to do with a buddy raiding a Baja shark float (large float with a larger baited hook dangling below. Shark eats bait, shark can't swim, shark die, shark dinner.) The 10 footer he was pulling aboard decided it was only MOSTLY dead :-D And the best part is it was all captured on video!!!!! There were definitely some dirty britches on that panga! Fish blood and parts of your anatomy sharing the same water on the west coast is best left to those who can compartmentalize their brains and not think about the possibilities, no matter how remote...
In the past I've fished (for fun and spirit) on commercial troller here in the banana belt of Alaska. For those unfamiliar with commercial troll gear, it essentially amount to a downrigger line with individual leaders of 6 to 12 feet clipped on to the "downriggerr" line at similar intervals. Fish are landed one at a time by reeling up the downrigger line until the fish is at the surface the fisherman then leans over the gunwale and grabs the leader by hand to pull the fish close enough where it is then dispatched with a sharp bonk to the head with the back of the gaff and then finally gaffed in the head and brought on board. The leader is then unclipped from the line and more line is brought in to get to the next leader and so on...

On few occasions as I leaned over and pulled the salmon close enough to I've these huge dark shapes (salmon sharks)rocket in out of nowhere and steal the salmon from the line. The 100 to 120# leader is cut or the hook straightened. IT happens to while the fish are hooked and deep though of course you cant see the "take". It is truly frightening to see something come so quickly and violently from out of the depths of that big big ocean so close to your reaching hand. My heart beat like a drum on all these times and I afterwards I'd always try to look past the hooked fish to see if anything was coming.

A friend told me he once had one take a King Salmon he was releasing. He was fishing with a pt Wilson dart type jig and had the jig in his hand trying to free the hook when the shark grabbed it. Said his legs turned to jello and he peed his pants!

On another shark note, a few months ago I saw a special on the great white. They were filming at a seal rookery off the South African coast and had caught great whites taking swimming seals on the surface. It was spectacular these 12-18' sharks would come clean out of the water and take the seal on the way back down. It was so fast and violent. They also rigged up a fake seal a trolled it behind their boat to "fish" for them (no hooks just to film the take). I couldn't imagine what it must've been like to see it in person.

Truly magnificent creatures indeed.
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Wow, .... as most have already said. I lived/fished in Washington's SaltChuck for 30 years and never heard of these beasties. Suspect I'd be one that would need to change his pants if presented the wrong 'opportunity.'
Saw that episode, it was a pretty impressive display of the sheer killing machine that a GW is.

Doublespey was talking about salmon sharks being caught at Alki in downtown Seattle! Worth a search thru the Times archives...
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