By Wayne Kruse Herald Columnist
Recreational salmon fishing, a sport rich in heritage and tradition?
No way. Baseball is a sport rich in heritage and tradition. Even fly fishing is a sport rich in heritage and tradition. But salmon fishing?
Salmon anglers are looking toward tomorrow — the newest lures and colors, the latest rod and line materials, the fastest boats and the most innovative techniques. Salmon fishing has no use for yesterday.
Sean Kelly begs to differ. Each year he takes two or three days off from his position as a vice president for Global Wealth Management in Everett to try his hand at a unique salmon fishing experience. The goal in this fishery is to follow regulations virtually unchanged since 1924 and catch a chinook. A BIG chinook.
The largest so far this summer was caught Aug. 11 and weighed 61.5 pounds, Kelly said. The largest on record was in the low 70s. These fish were caught from rowboats, using single-action reels, single barbless hooks, 20-pound test line max, and probably a Gibbs spoon or shovelnose plug produced no later than the 1950s. No downriggers are allowed, no electronics, no natural bait. Etiquette is strictly observed.
Kelly got blanked last month, but that’s irrelevant.
“I’m carrying on a long tradition of Everett residents who have fished for king salmon from a rowboat,” he said. “This was my 15th year, and I’ve been fortunate enough to catch four fish over 30 pounds. The largest weighed 38.5 and I landed it four years ago.”
That record allows Kelly to wear the coveted Tyee Club copper lapel pins. If he had nailed a chinook in the 40s, he would have been allowed a silver pin, then gold for a 50-pounder, and so on up the ladder.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, this special fishery is in the “pool” off the mouth of the Campbell River on the east coast of Vancouver Island. “Tyee” is the term Canadian fishermen use for a chinook over 30 pounds, and the Tyee Club headquarters is in the town of Campbell River.
“Having the chance to hook a really big salmon isn’t unique to Campbell River,” Kelly said, “but the regulations are, And when you combine big fish in shallow water with 80-year-old rules and equipment, it makes a really satisfying, memorable experience.”
The Campbell river pool is 25 to 30 feet deep and three-quarters of a mile long. Powerboats are prohibited by law but you’re likely to see 50 or 60 rowboats on a Friday or Saturday morning or evening during the peak of the season, Kelly said. And anglers happily pay $300 or $400 for one of the original old lures, when one changes hands.
But the antique spoons or plugs are not specifically required.
“I got a 26-pounder (“undersized” for Tyee Club recognition) last year on a Gold Star Canadian-style spoon in ‘cop car’ color pattern with mylar ‘scales.’” Kelly said. “My thanks to the folks (Gold Star) in Lynnwood.”
Kelly, who went to school in Snohomish with Everett-area charter skipper Nick Kester, said Painter’s Lodge, the unofficial digs for Campbell River anglers, maintains its own history.
“The fishery started as playtime for rich sportsmen from the U.S. and Europe,” Kelly said, “but has been carried on as a local tradition. Painter’s has photos and autographs of big names who have stayed and fished there over the years: Zane Grey in the 1920s, Bob Hope, Sean Connery, Robert Duvall, and others.”
A number of women participate in the fishery, Kelly said. In fact, a Mrs. W.C. Butler won the Tyee Man trophy in 1934 with a chinook of 60.25 pounds.
The club catch record can be found at www.tyeeclub.org/2013-catch-record.htm. Old photos can be found at www.tyeeclub.org/historical_photos/images/tyee_club_photo_174_jpg.jpg.
Kelly is happy to answer questions about the fishery by e-mail, at email@example.com.
If you enjoy a sprinkle of history and tradition on your fishing, this is about as good as it gets.
The 20th running of the Everett Coho Derby is scheduled for Sept. 21-22, sporting a grand prize of $10,000 for the largest silver on ice. This should be a gunnysack event, said Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood, because there are already a bunch of coho in local waters, including fish of 15 pounds and better. The only problem, Chamberlain said, is that as of Wednesday, he still had no tickets to peddle.
When they’re distributed, at $30 a copy, they will be sold at Arlington Hardware, Holiday Sports, Everett Bayside Marine, Harbor Marine, John’s Sporting Goods, Performance Marine, Possession Bait, Sportco, Greg’s Custom Rods, Ed’s Surplus, Ted’s Sport Center, Cabela’s, Outdoor Emporium, McDaniels Do-It Center and Triangle Bait &Tackle in Snohomish, Doug’s Boats &Outdoors, and Three Rivers Marine.
In addition to the grand prize, everyone buying a derby ticket will be eligible for a raffle to award an Alaska fishing adventure, courtesy of Cabela’s. Youth division (12 and under) entrants can vie for cash prizes of $100, $75 and $50.
John Martinis of John’s Sporting Goods will once again present his popular coho fishing seminar on Sept. 20 at Everett Bayside Marine. The seminar begins at 7 p.m.
Proceeds from the derby, sponsored by the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club and the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, benefit kids’ fishing programs, fish stocking of area lakes, fishing events for disabled veterans and service personnel, and contributions to local high school programs.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.