(Fishing) Communication is King by Dave Haukeli

(Fishing) Communication is King by Dave Haukeli

Making It or Breaking It

fishing salmon chinook

The boat’s launched and on the beach, motors warming up, rods ready, baits cut and everyone's anticipations running high in the hopes of that magical feeling that only the tug of a steelhead or salmon can provide.

I have this affliction bad, so bad in fact that at times I forget to do the one thing that can make or break a day on the water—"The Speech."

Don't get me wrong, I am not a hard guy to fish with but just the opposite. At times I’ve been accused of being to easy to get along with and not giving enough instructions on what to do. I know the next five minutes can either make your day a fun filled one with bent rods, fish in the box and smiles on all your buddies faces, or one of tangled lines, missed fish and maybe even a broken rod and everyone wanting to call a do-over of the trip.

I have been on both of these trips and the easier you make it for your friends to move around in your boat, find tackle and know what to do when the action starts makes your day a stress free one without the chaos of that "Chinese fire drill."

Here are some things that work for me.

steelhead cowlitz

The "Speech"

The speech is the same whether I am fishing for fall estuary kings, ocean silvers or side drifting bait for winter or summer steelhead. You just let everyone know what to do "when." A few years ago I was fishing in my boat with two great friends of mine, Jerry and Steve.

We were having one of those double-digit days on steelhead, the kind of day you wait all winter for. Clear skies, no wind, mild temps and some chrome in the box. Everything was going great.

Steve, a good fisherman but was new to this whole side-drifting thing, seemed a little outta sorts and not in sync with Jerry and myself. I always want everyone to have a good time fishing with me, so I asked him what's wrong? He said, "You need to tell me what to do here, I am lost."

So right then and there I decided that you can't shove off in the morning and automatically assume everyone that climbs into your boat will know what to do unless you tell them. So "the speech" was born.

fishing steelhead cowlitz river

I like to make sure everybody knows where to be in the boat whether we are drifting, running, fighting or netting a fish. To know where the bait is and how to rig it, where the leaders and extra tackle are and especially how to stow the rods when we hook up. These simple instructions make all the difference for me. If I can get everyone on the same page, all I have to do is run the boat and hopefully get a chance to net a few fish.


I try to keep it as easy as I can for people to find tackle and other equipment. I have wide side trays in my boat that work perfectly for using 8" by 11" clear plastic tackle organizing boxes.

plastic tackle boxes


These boxes are great for keeping everything sorted and easy to see and access. Right above the tackle trays I keep all the leader totes along with extra pliers and scissors. So when the bite is on, your friends can find a weight or the hot color Corky or re-bait their rigs fast and get back in the water. I preset all the drags on all of my reels ahead of time so as to minimize any malfunctions. I also keep at least two or three extra rod and reel setups rigged and ready to go in incase we do have a problem. A couple extra raincoats, maybe a hat, a pair of sunglasses and some sun screen. Keeping everyone comfortable keeps them fishing hard all day.

tackle tray leaders corky rigs

Keep It Clean

The cleaner you keep things as the day goes on, the less of a mess you will have at the end of the trip. I give everyone nitrile gloves to wear, and I also keep extra boat towels everywhere, especially when we are egg fishing. I love the gloves. Eggs and all those oils and gels that we like to put on our baits almost completely wipe off from these gloves. This keeps the rod handles and the rest of the boat from turning "pink" and smelling like a tuna boat.

I give the boat deck a quick rinse to remove fish blood and scales right away before they dry and get tracked all over the boat. I keep a small garbage pail handy. It doesn't have to be a big one, just something to collect all of the soda cans, old gloves, sandwich wrappers and those tag ends of scrap mono that always seem to make there way under the floor boards and into my bilge pump for a nice tangled mess.

Take A Break

I learned this one from my good friend Glenn Hall. Over the past few years, I have had the great fortune to be part of the TV show Hawg Quest and go on some amazing adventures. Let me tell you Glenn is the master of taking breaks, and I mean this in a good way.

No matter how good the fishing is that day it is important to take a break.

This gives everyone a chance to get out of the boat and stretch their legs on shore and eat some lunch. It is also good to remember that some of the people that you take fishing may only do this two or three times a year and they may not be used to a full day of hardcore winter steelheading and a break is welcomed. I also use this time to check all the rods and reels to see if any of them need maintenance or new leaders. I check the bait situation and cut some if need be and also reorganize the boat for a fresh afternoon start.

boat sandwich 

New Ideas

I have been fishing since I was big enough to hold a rod, maybe even before that, and it has been an incredible journey. Along the way I have picked up a lot from other great fisherman and I try to share as well.

I never turn down an invite to hop into another boat and get a new idea or a way to improve my set up and be more efficient. I think that is what it is all about, sharing ideas and information with each other. I am not a guide nor do I have the aspirations to be one. But I do enjoy sharing this sport with my friends and family. Hopefully some of these tips will help you as they have for me.

Good luck and see you on the river.

- written by Dave Haukeli

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