Puget Sound on FIRE!!! by Terry J. Weist
There couldn’t be a more appropriate heading. The Puget Sound area is not only battling wild fires, but the coho fishing is absolutely disgustingly HOT!
I live in the community of Tehaleh, Washington, on the outskirts of Tacoma. Wild fires have been ravaging our hillsides for about a week. We are in Phase 2 meaning we are “on notice to evacuate”. So far we haven’t had to do so.
The air quality is beyond terrible as the smoke fills the air leaving most of us short of breath, coughing, wheezing, and looking for relief.
My best friend from high school, Greg Denney, who was also my best man, had recently asked me about fishing the Puget Sound.
What boat to buy?
What gear to buy?
Everything needed to get on some fish. I told him I could spend his money easily and laughed.
He said go for it. So we did!
The first thing was to get a boat that maximized the fishing space. A cabin forward boat, air ride seats and all open behind the cockpit leaving as much open space as possible. I sent him a picture of an 18.5’ ThunderJet and said “something like this”.
Greg’s new 18.5 ThunderJet
Next thing I know he sent a text back and said “done”.
After bringing it home there was a lot of work to do. Install electronics, downriggers, rod holders, dual battery system, lights, more lights, and even more lights!
Its go time and the boat is brand new… what to do? FISH!
Even though we still have some work to be done to complete the boat, it was ready for its maiden voyage.
Normally it would take me 45 minutes to get to my buddy’s house, but due to the fires, Google Maps said it would be an hour due to all the closed roads. It actually took me more than an hour and a half as even more road closed in the early morning hours. As it was, we still got to Don Armeni Ramp at Alki just before the 6:00AM opening time, and we were completely shocked!
There was nobody there! Seriously, the day of the Edmonds Coho Derby and no waiting at Alki!
As we headed towards the oil docks cautiously as our site was very limited. Normally it would be fog, but now it was actually smoke!
We pulled up just short of where we wanted to fish so we could get things set up.
Rods and gear were all set the night before, but since everything was new, we just wanted to make sure the downriggers and electronics were working good before joining the 200 plus boats in the main party.
I put on a Silver Horde Two Face Cookies and Cream spoon and added some Pautzke Fire Gel Herring scent to both the spoon and the 11” Green Glo Flasher. I let out 25ft of line and set the rod down as I reached for the downrigger clip.
ZZZZZZZZZZZ (Sorry I don’t know how to express the sound of the real screaming out).
“Holy S#!t, you got a fish”, said Greg.
10 seconds flat! Not sure if that’s any kind of record, but truly amazing to get a fish that quick. I can tell, this boat’s going to be a fishing machine!
After a knuckle bump and a few laughs we put Greg’s line in first this time. A blue Grand Slam Bucktail fly with Herring Scent, 30 inches behind a green glo flasher. We dropped it to 45ft and then dropped my rig down to the same.
It wasn’t quite as fast as the first fish, but maybe only two minutes and Greg’s rod pop’s from the downrigger release and he welcomes his first fish of what will be many aboard his new boat.
Greg and his first fish aboard the new fishing machine
If you’re wondering about the background color of the picture, that’s not photo shopped. That’s smoke!
We dropped three fish in the box within 15 minutes and then decided we’d catch and release, if we were lucky, until we got a big fish. Luck have it, we ended up releasing 4 fish rather quickly and we were absolutely having a blast.
Yes, we would eat good after this trip
We’d set our rods out again after a double and I needed to have a quick... um, you know, break.
Luckily Greg had buckets on board just like was on the checklist. When I reached over to rinse the bucket I lost it and it floated behind us. Now Greg’s captain skills would come into play so I could get close enough to grab it. First attempt and he was dead on, but a little too close and it pushed the bucket under about 2 feet. Second attempt it pushed it out about 3 feet. Then, a genius moment… use the net dumbass! Greg stretched the net out and brought it back in for use on future endeavors.
Almost ready to have a seat, my rod pops off and I grab it.
“This is a big fish”.
Greg ask if he should reel his line in. I told him no. But then I looked up and his rod popped off.
“Yeah, go ahead and reel your line in now”.
We were both laughing as we were reeling in another double.
I tried to net my own and wrapped it around the downrigger ball which was hanging on the side. Greg’s cracking up at me as I look like a total doofus trying to get the fish undone and net it at the same time. And I did.
Then, I had to keep the fish in the net, and in the water, while I netted his fish to see which one was bigger. Truth be told, both fish were almost identical but it didn’t matter, I wanted to make sure we kept his fish so he could say he truly limited out the first time out on his new boat!
Congratulations Buddy! There will be many trips to come and we’ll always laugh about things leading up to the present. It’s what fishing is about.
Greg with his first limit of Puget Sound Coho aboard his new ThunderJet
The author with a pair of nice Coho himself
- written by Terry Weist