Mar 27, 2022

Just for the Halibut

      I go on a decent number of charter boat fishing trips off the coast of Washington and Oregon, especially for a guy who lives inland. It's been one of my favorite things to do since I was a teenager. This despite the fact that I get seasick quite often (though less so since I discovered Scopolamine patches). It's never so bad that I can't fish though; I just sometimes have to take a barf break, then I can go back to fishing. Somehow to this day, the barfing has always come in-between fish, but I do like to think that if push really came to shove, I could lay down a chum slick while actually reeling in a fish and still pull it off. Life goals I guess. But I digress. Most importantly, there's always a a chance for a new species when you're fishing in the ocean, and catch rates on these trips are almost always good enough to make it a lot of fun. Nevertheless very few of these charter trips stand out enough to me to warrant their own blog post. One such excursion last summer however, definitely stood out and was an exception to that rule.

      We launched from the marina at Sekiu (pronounced "seek you") before dawn with Outlander Charters, and headed west. Fast. I'm used to charter boats with big inboard diesel engines that slowly plow their way through the waves out to the fishing grounds. This was not that. I assumed we would be fishing somewhere within the Strait of Juan de Fuca (pronounced "Strait of Juan de careful how you say that"), but we got up on plane, headed west, and kept going. We passed the very tip of Washington, Neah Bay and the Makah Reservation, and just kept on going. The captain made it pretty clear that he guarded his spots pretty religiously (and after experiencing them, I can't say I blame him). When we did finally stop at the first drop, I asked how far offshore we were, and the response was an ambiguous "all the way". I'm reasonably sure it was at least 30 miles offshore though.

      Our first drop wasn't actually "the spot" but a new spot he wanted to try, and there were marks on the fish finder so we sent our rigs down several hundred feet to the bottom. I hooked up almost instantly as did someone on the other side of the boat. I pulled up mine and the captain and I both said "uh oh". It was about a 10 lb Yelloweye Rockfish, which are protected in Washington. The captain immediately went into action. He used a descending rig to release my fish, and the other fish from the other side of the boat which also turned out to be another Yelloweye. While he was releasing the fish, he asked that everyone else reel in so we didn't continue to catch the protected fish. I appreciated the conservation mindedness of this gesture. 

     Then it was off to the spot he actually had his eye on. We dropped our rigs again and officially began the onslaught. I'm not often sore on the day after fishing trips like this, but I was bruised, sore, and battle scarred the next day. It was fantastic. 

     I used a huge diamond jig for most of the day, and the vast majority of the day was spent either dropping down, or reeling in a fish. Waiting for a bite was not a thing. To really kick things off, my first fish at this new spot was species #150, the Bocaccio Rockfish.

150 seemed like somewhat of a milestone, so it was pretty awesome to get something big. New Sebastes are a favorite of mine! This wasn't even among the biggest of the day either. AND it's fun when the fish matches your bibs!
Two of our biggest Bocaccios that day. Did I mention that it was amazing?

      We caught a mixed bag of Rockfish, but Bocaccios made up an alarmingly large proportion of our limits. Pretty crazy considering I had never even seen one in person before. Having added species 150, I was pretty content. Anything else we pulled in would just be gravy. Turns out there was a lot of gravy! Soon halibut started coming over the rail. We released the small ones, and everybody picked out one that they deemed big enough to keep.

I am not sure how the fish box kept fitting the fish in but he kept adding them and they kept sliding in.

One of the bigger halibut I've caught. Sometime I'll need an actual big one. An Alaska trip is in order at some point.
The "wrong" way to hold a halibut. I like it though.

      What a lot of people don't really get about the open ocean is that it's largely kind of a desert once you get out away from land. There are large swaths of ocean that are quite barren. That was what was so odd about this particular spot we kept drifting through. There was life everywhere, and of every variety. We caught dozens of fish, but we also saw many varieties of birds, breaching whales (not sure on the species), pods of orcas, and sea lions. At one point someone hooked a Coho Salmon while reeling in their gear, so we switched to smaller casting gear and each caught a few of those before that school moved off. They all turned out to be wild fish, so we couldn't keep them, but it was still a blast.

A pod of orcas swims by as we gather our catch. And a bird, but that's not as exciting.

      I don't usually promote charters or anything like that, but this was good enough that I'll pass along my thumbs up rating for what it's worth. It was more expensive than other charters, but well worth the difference. Check out Outlander Charters if you're looking for a charter in northwestern Washington. Back at the dock, we unloaded the fish box and the pile was alarmingly large. So large in fact that one kid got buried in a fishalanche.

Halibut, Lingod, Canary, Yellowtail, and Boccaccio rockfish. Oh my!

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