Dec 7, 2016

The Complete Box Set

     Living in the pacific northwest, I'm no stranger to salmon fishing. Although in a strange twist of irony, I caught my very first salmon in California of all places (see this post for details).
My first salmon ever, circa 2000. Caught with my Uncle Fred (the one holding more fish than me...) in California's American River.
     But in North America, there are five different species of Pacific Salmon. I have since caught more Chinook, as well as sockeyepink, and coho; but the last one, chum salmon, has eluded me for years. I've tried to get one a couple times (See this post for example), but my timing was always off. This has been killing me because I've always thought chums were the coolest looking of the salmon. When all decked out in spawning coloration, they're greenish with a black lateral stripe and garish purple and black vertical stripes. Also, one of their nicknames is "dog salmon" because of their large canine-like teeth. So basically tiger stripes and teeth to match! 
     When most people go salmon fishing, they plan on eating them, so they want to catch them as early in the run and silvery as possible so they taste better. This was not my objective. I had no interest in eating them. I wanted a big nasty male with a mouth full of teeth and attitude. A buddy of mine figured it out last year and he was kind enough to share his spot and some advice on timing and flow conditions etc. So as the time drew nearer this November, I got all pumped up reading reports, tying jigs, and dreaming of big teeth and crazy stripes.
Some big fluffies ready for action! The one in the middle and the one at about "10:00" ended up being the most useful ones.
     Once the calendar and water levels were where I deemed appropriate, I cleared my schedule and headed to the Green River near Auburn WA. I can tell you that much since it's a popular chum fishing river, but I won't divulge the actual spot. Having failed before at catching chum, I was ready to put in some work to get one. But as I hiked to my spot (to get away from the crowds) and got closer to the run I wanted to fish, I began seeing more and more fish. When I arrived, they were everywhere. I could see about a hundred of them doing their business in the shallows. I took care to cast out into the run itself, well away from the spawners, but even so it only took three casts for the first fish to decide to participate and I soon had the 14th member of the Salmonid family on my list flopping in the shallows at my feet. (For those of you who speak fish, Cottids and Cyprinids are the next most common families on the list, as might be expected.)
Species 113! A Female Chum Salmon. There's a suggestion of some teeth there, but that's not quite gonna cut it...
     So having added the species, my focus became not just catching any fish, but specifically a good size male with as much color and teeth as possible. And they didn't disappoint.
Now we're talking TEETH!!
     Most of the fish were smaller than I had expected, probably averaging from about 4ish to maybe 7 or 8 lbs. But luckily I got into three big males that were well into the teens, and for one of them there was even another dude there to take my picture.
This just might be my favorite salmon picture of mine so far.
Same fish, closer view. It's hard to do those teeth any justice with just a picture though. The tip of that lower jaw was sort of bulbous, so with all the teeth on it, it was sort of like a mace or maybe a flail for you medieval weaponry buffs...

My collection was finally complete!
Clockwise from top right: Chinook, chum, sockeye, pink, and coho salmon.
     Now the more ichthyologically savvy among you will probably point out at this point that technically I'm still missing one pacific salmon,  the masu or cherry salmon. To that end, I would point out that that's why I said I'd now caught all the North American pacific salmon. If I want to really top off the Pacific grand slam and get that last one, it'll require a trip to Japan, Russia, or Korea. I just haven't quite figured out how to do that in a weekend road trip yet. Maybe some day...
     But for the time being I was pretty happy with my box set as it stood. So, being that close to Puget Sound and having already accomplished the primary objective of the trip, there was no way I wasn't going to try out a pier or two. It's starting to get a little more difficult as the list grows, but I usually still scrape up a species or two from most piers. This time I ended up at one of the ones in Tacoma, and I put in as close to an all-nighter as I could muster. Squid were caught, as were the typical Puget Sound residents. But I also managed to rack up two more new species, the pacific herring, and the roughback sculpin!
The Les Davis pier is a crowded location all through the night in November. See, it's not just me!
If you're not familiar with squid fishing, here's some typical rigs. Glow-in-the-dark and spiky is the general theme.
The market or opalescent inshore squid. Goofy looking critters.
114! Pacific Herring. Sure, you can go buy them at most bait stores, but that wouldn't count as number 114 now would it?
Cute little roughback sculpin. That's 11 sculpin species now if you're counting along at home!
This roughback was smaller than the first one, but I like the picture better so I had to show it to you. You're welcome.
     In a state where I'm sort of running out of stuff to catch without getting really creative, three new ones, including one of the big salmonids, in a weekend is a raging success in my book.

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