Develop your seasonal transition strategy with these tips from seven professional guides.
Mike Arnold is a guide and owner of Absolute Angling Products in Tillamook, Oregon. Arnold is known for making quality handmade spinners and Salmon Trolling flashers with American made components with an emphasis on the use of UV colors and creating high contrast spinners that draw strikes from finicky biters.
Arnold has developed a checklist to make sure he's prepared before the boat hits the water.
"Make sure your inflatables are in good working condition. Re-arm them if necessary and make sure to use the proper size CO2 cylinder.
Service your boat, whether you do it yourself or take it to a shop. The boat trailer bearing should be repacked or at least checked before you hit the road.
All your reels should be in working order, which means get them serviced in January. Any reels with mono should have it replaced and reels with a mono top shot should also be replaced.
Herring should be purchased at the end of the year for the following year. Seek out Puget Sound herring if possible.
Have an ample supply of herring leaders, spinner leaders and leaders for your plugs ready to go. Nothing worse than having to wait at the ramp for some guy tying leaders!
If you're fishing from a boat make sure you have some sort of check list of supplies and gear and make sure it is with you. It really sucks when you forget your net or herring cutter."
During the spring, Kyle Buschleman of Veneta, Oregon and owner of Willamette Valley Outfitters, focuses his energy guiding clients on the Multnomah Channel and Willamette River early in the season before transitioning to the Umpqua and McKenzie Rivers further south. The geographic span of area in which he guides allows him some versatility in targeting fish that are on the bite.
"What I like to do during the transition from winter steelhead to spring Chinook is take three to four trips to test the water to make sure there's a good bite going on or a bite that I can find somewhere else. I generally take a day off between fisheries to organize the gear. We work the kinks out over the first three days of fishing, so that when the clients show up, we're good to go."
While it may be more difficult for the average angler to get that much prep time in scouting water to find fish, you can still do your homework by checking river levels, reports, fish counts and weather to align the forces that create a fruitful outing.
Grant Rilette guides a majority of his spring clients in Tillamook, Oregon, mainly on the Nestucca. His advice is pretty simple. Anchor lines, bow lines and slide cables that have been damp for months on end can grow algae and slime, which can create a dangerous lack of friction, or prevent them from catching in the cleats mounted to the boat. (Not to mention they're a little gross to the touch)
"Wash everything in the boat, especially your lines (rope). Then wash everything again, especially the lines in your boat. Prepare good, clean, proven bait and use sticky hooks when you tie your leaders."
Matt Halseth grew up in Lyons and Stayton, Oregon. It became a natural progression to start a guide service on his local Santiam River. He uses a lot of the same tactics in the spring as he does for winter steelhead, like side-drifting and throwing hardware to target both summers and springers. Halseth likes to get a head start on spring by preparing and collecting what he will need on rainy days during the winter.
"Tie leaders for springers on any winter day you aren't fishing! Order herring, pick up a flasher or diver or two every now and then. Cure your winter steelhead eggs in springer cures. I have my buddies that cast lead prepare all the weights that I'll need. Think even further ahead and pick up materials you'll need mid springer season too."
Halseth's good friend Sam Wurdinger, creator of "Dinger Jigs" has a similar strategy.
"Think ahead of the start of that particular season and buy gear 'out of season' A lot of popular gear is hard to come by in the heat of the season. Buy that gear an entire season before it's needed. This allows you to be stocked up before the masses buy it out at the local tackle shops."
Wurdinger lives in Silverton, Oregon, and also targets the Santiam for Spring Chinook and Summer Steelhead.
"Another big thing that I do (for any seasonal transition ) is to pull out my fishing journal and look over the past couple years entire season. For springers I really pay attention to water temps and fish movement. Spring rains can dictate a lot of what they do. I've found by pouring over journal entries looking for patterns in water flow, temps, turbidity, cloud cover, etc....I can lay out a plan for the upcoming day or week of fishing and I seem to be more successful on the days that I stick to my plan more than the days that I just 'wing it'. Putting together a good plan before hand is greatly helped by taking the time to record all pertinent information after each fishing trip."
Ivan Khorseev of Castle Rock, Washington has a fluid history as a well-traveled worldly angler. Khorseev is a United States Marine Veteran that returned to the states to start his guide business, Semper Fi Sportfishing. Konezone flashers named one of their best selling models after his design, "The Ivan." Like most guides, his spring transition consists of having both steelhead gear and springer gear ready, as he's still targeting steelhead until the end of March.
"In spring I'm transitioning to springers (trolling herring /superbaits) on the big river (Lower Columbia), then transitioning back to Cowlitz for springers, which require a whole different set up, because I'm mainly backtrolling divers, plugs and doing some hover fishing. Preparation is key, having leaders pre-tied for all those fisheries, rods all ready to rock and stocked up on bait. During all those high water days, that's exactly what I have been doing, getting everything ready and on stand by. Once fishing is good, I'm not wasting time on prepping the boat or the gear."
Damon Struble of Albany, Oregon guides for steelhead, salmon, kokanee, and sturgeon, as well as ling cod, rockfish, and crab through Nomads Fishing Adventures. The diversity of his target species often means that he's constantly in a state of transition and adapting to different conditions. Struble offers some good advice:
"Check your weather and water conditions. Dress appropriately. I'm always prepared with a large tote with extra clothing. Make sure your trailer bearings and boat motors are in good working condition. Have all your leaders pre-tied. I put clips on all my leaders to save time when replacing them. If your bait has to be purchased, get it done sooner rather than later. Some times supplies get low. Get rid of last year's scent if it's more than 3 months old. It's made from real fish, so it could be rancid. Don't take a chance."
Hopefully these anglers' advice have helped you remember a few things you might normally overlook when prepping!