Jul 15, 2010

Seattle 2010

     My wife and I have been pretty lucky in being able to travel and see a lot of the country since we've been married.  Most of our best trips have been with her dad and his family. We have been to New York, Chicago, Yellowstone, and a bunch of places in-between.  We usually do normal-people touristy type things (e.g. Statue of Liberty, Gettysburg, Old Faithful etc.).  However they usually factor in at least a half day or two for me to go fishing. I'm sure there's plenty of eye rolling about it when I'm not looking, and rightly so, but I've been able to add several new species to my list on these trips.
     In July of 2010 our family trip was going to take us west to Seattle.  I realized that although I'd been there quite a few times, I hadn't ever fished there.  I began researching potential opportunities for new critters.  I'd never caught a chum salmon, but the timing was wrong for that.  There were dolly varden (-or were they bull trout? -or both? I won't get into that here...) and coastal cutthroat to be had.  Then there was Puget Sound.  There are plenty of critters in saltwater that I hadn't caught yet so that's always a good option.  I decided to play it by ear and see what opportunities arose.
     We met up with the in-laws and we all jumped into the car and soon we were again doing touristy things. We saw the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, the zoo, Mt. Rainier, and the Olympic Peninsula.
My kids were still a little too young to really get into this fountain. It was fun watching them chicken out though.
This tiger at the zoo wasn't paying me any attention at all. She was however VERY interested in the bite-size little girl standing next to me.  Thank goodness for that eerily thin pane of glass between us!
We visited the monkfish at Pike Place Market. Brooke didn't think it was near as funny as I did. Yes I know I'm a horrible person (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see this video and I think you'll be able to put the pieces together).
     One of my favorite parts of the trip was our drive through the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim WA.  Let's face it, it's not every day that you get the chance to be licked by deer, elk, buffalo, yaks etc.
Well hello there!
Somehow everybody managed to escape with all their fingers intact, though we did get slobbered on!
     The Olympic Peninsula was absolutely beautiful. We even got to stop in Forks. if you don't know what that is, congratulations you're a better man than I. 
Random waterfall. Pretty eh?
     The Hoh river was on our way and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to fish it. I talked to some locals who told me that there was the possibility of catching dolly varden and coastal cutthroat trout, it all sounded pretty good to me. So the family dropped me off and I hiked upstream about three miles through some of the prettiest rainforest I've seen.
This is what almost the entire hike looked like.
The Hoh River
I'm not sure if this rock contains some celestial apparition, or a post-rhinoplasty Michael Jackson, you be the judge.
     The hike was awesome. Unfortunately the fish were less than cooperative.  I only had one bite all afternoon and I missed. Probably the most interesting thing I came across were some curious little juvenile coho salmon swimming in a tiny little tributary.
Baby coho
      When we got back from our trip to the peninsula we stayed with some relatives in Port Ludlow. Pretty soon I freed up another afternoon to do some species hunting. I made for a nearby pier that I had spotted at Salsbury Point Park. Using a variety of lures, baits, and little tiny sabiki rigs, I managed two new species in short order. The pacific staghorn sculpin bit first.
Four inches of sheer excitement if you ask me! And this was one of the bigger ones. Yes I know I have a problem.
          After catching plenty of sculpins I put on a castmaster just out of curiosity. On about the third cast I hooked something that wasn't a sculpin. After a short but impressive fight for a 13 inch fish, I beached it. It took me a second to realize that I had caught a coastal cutthroat!
Coastal Cutthroat trout, new species number two for the day.
     Satisfied with my success of two species in about an hour, I decided to try another spot. I headed over to the Kingston ferry dock, walked out on the pier and began casting some new-species-catchers (which usually means tiny little hooks that any self-respecting fisherman wouldn't consider using.  As it turns out, I am not a self-respecting fisherman).
     It didn't take long until the new species started coming over the rail. Species number three on the day was the mighty shiner perch.
These things may be small but..... no I can't do it. I was going to try to make this little thing sound glamorous somehow, but they're pretty much just a small fish that not too many people (besides me) would take notice of.
     I started casting little curly tail jigs and the next critter to hit the deck was the pacific snake prickleback. I'm still not sure how I hooked him since the hook he bit was way bigger than his mouth.
Pacific snake prickleback. They're called that because they live in the Pacific, look like a snake, and have prickly backs...
     I also landed some positively monstrous (at least by my standards established earlier in the day) pacific staghorn sculpin.
Huge right?
     I continued casting the little jig and enjoying catching quite a few sculpins; it almost reminded me of smallmouth fishing in Idaho.  Then one bite felt a little different and the resulting fight was much harder. I was pretty excited when I saw what looked like a tiny halibut come to the surface. I managed to pull him up over the rail and I had species number 5!
The mighty rock sole, complete with a face only a mother could love.
     Five new species was the tally for the day. That may not sound that cool to you, but to me that's like hitting the lottery!  I slept well that night.
     The next day I took my girls down to the beach...er...tidal mud flat.... thingy... near the house to look for treasures.  The kids were pretty excited to find lots of clams and sand dollars. Being the curious fellow that I am, I couldn't resist flipping over some rocks. We found tons of crabs under most of them, which either terrified or fascinated my girls, I couldn't decide which. Under one especially promising rock right at the water line we found about a dozen small fish. They were mostly high cockscomb prickleback, which were not as exciting as their elaborate name suggests, but definitely were a new species! There was also one particularly homely lump of a fish that I learned was called a plainfin midshipman - also a new species.
The intimidating high cockscomb prickleback,  faster than a speeding ladybug, able to leap a pencil eraser in a single bound...
The beautiful plainfin midshipman.  These actually have photophores (light producing organs) that are used to attract prey at night. In a temporary lapse of judgement I failed to get a picture of this slug of a fish. I borrowed this picture from the internet. Photo credit goes to this site which is actually pretty cool in it's own right.
    The discovery under that rock brought the total up to seven species caught on this trip!  Now I know what you're thinking, I caught these last two with my hands, not on a hook and line, so that shouldn't count right?  But don't worry, I wrote a little addendum to the bylaws of my game to allow species caught by hand to count. It's fun to make your own rules!

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