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A Summertime Tale of One Weekend Salmon Fishing In Oregon
A Summertime Tale Of One Weekend Of Salmon Fishing In Oregon
Summertime. It brings brings back memories of fishing and camping at the Oregon coast. That meant catching Salmon, Cod, Perch and Flounder, digging clams and pulling crab pots.
At the end of each day? Cooking freshly caught salmon on sticks around the campfire, battering up a batch of freshly filleted perch and best of all?
Fresh Dungenous crab boiling on the old Coleman cook stove and a Mother who would make crab cakes for the next day in her Dutch oven.
The bounty to be found along the Oregon coast is indeed as varied as it is marvelous.
Our story today is a continuation of the saga of adventures of a ten year old boy growing up in the Pacific Northwest. Imagine if you will, spending the day out on the ocean salmon fishing. At the end of that day, returning to a campsite where you can sit around the campfire smelling the salmon cooking on sticks by the fire. Clams or crab boiling in a pot, corn on the cob cooking in the coals of the campfire....Priceless.
Little did we know the summertime tale of one weekend of Salmon fishing in Oregon we would have to tell when we returned to the dock that night.
The Adventures Of A 10 Year Old Continue
The picture to the lright is an aerial view of Winchester bay, looking east, (or inland if you will) up the Umpqua river. If you look closely at the entrance to the harbor (between the jetty's) you can actually see the discoloration in the water indicating where the bar is located. Right across the entrance. It changes with incoming and outgoing tides. (The Photo is courtesy of the Oregon State Marine Board, Boating in Oregon Coastal Waters)
Today's story is a continuation of my adventures as a ten year old.
Little did we know when we left the dock that morning, of the tale we would have to tell when we returned from this day of deep sea fishing. A summertime tale that would last us all of our lives and it all happened on the weekend immediately following my two week YMCA Summer camp story (as outlined in: http://campingmannw.hubpages.com/hub/mountain_climbing-2 ) To view that page, just click or copy and paste. Our family was close knit and very much centered around the outdoors
On this particular weekend, we were headed for a small but popular fishing and logging town on the Oregon coast, named Reedsport, Oregon and an area known as Winchester Bay. It was a favorite fishing haunt of my Dad's, not only for Deep Sea Fishing but Dungenous Crabbing as well. As a family (myself in particular), we were ready for a good weekend of fishing. Funny, even though I had just spent two weeks at a YMCA summer camp?
It was good to be home and with my family again.
Camping At Winchester Bay For The Weekend.
My Mother was the final decision maker on where we camped.
We arrived at Half Moon Bay campground around noon on Friday. After Mother picked where we were to camp, we proceeded to unload all of our camping stuff and set up. Once done and Mother was readying everything just as she wanted it? My Father, Brother and I took our boat over to the docks to put it in the water and rent a slip for the weekend.
Upon our arrival at the harbor, some of the early boats were just returning and all carried fish and or crab and Dad stopped to talk with one of the boat Captains and negotiated the sale of (6) Dungenous Crabs for our dinner. Seeing the boats come in always seemed to get me excited and I was anticipating a good weekend's bounty of both fish and crab.
Some of said bounty, we would eat while there and some we would take home. Meanwhile, we placed our newly purchased crab in two buckets and headed to our boat in the slip, as our last job, was to make sure our three crab pots were ready and that no crab could escape.
That done, back to camp with our bucket of live Dungenous Crab for dinner.
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Camping On The Oregon Coast - Give yourself a bit of luxury
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Our First day of a Two Day Salmon Fishing Trip
A ten year old's perspective
It was still dark
That next morning as Dad, my younger brother and I arrived at the docks to go fishing. Mother hugged us all and then jumped back into the pickup for a day of driftwood hunting. Waving goodbye, we all climbed in the boat to head out. For us to get to the ocean from the river , meant crossing a 'Bar' at the ocean entrance. But before that, we had several stops to make before we actually started fishing. The Bar that I spoke of, is the spot where the river meets the ocean and sand piles up underwater from tide movement.
Our First stop, the fuel platform:
With daylight still two hours away, we set off from the docks and headed to the fuel platform, arriving to find ourselves only third in line. As our tanks were being filled with fuel Dad bought some ice for our fish box and for 'old red' our "Coca-Cola' ice box. That battered old ice box must have been my Grand Dad's but it went everywhere with us. We kept our Grape NeHi drinks in there, some orange juice usually and our lunches (weenies in a can were our favorite) and some sort of fruit, usually an apple or an orange for each of us. Purchasing complete, we pulled away from the fuel dock. .
Next stop, the Bait Barge:
Buying our bait for fishing (we used frozen herring in those days) and some additional bait for our crab pots (whatever fresh bait they had to sell that day) Dad was not really particular about bait for the pots, as long as it was fresh. The reason? Dad had several 'Lucky Spots' to drop off our three crab pots and he wanted to make sure we caught as many as we legally could. Fresh bait was important.
Our last stop before heading across the bar:
Setting out our three crab pots. We didn't have GPS in those days, but Dad used landmarks for knowing exactly where to drop each of our pots in that river. Each spot easily identifiable to him. Once he finished setting out our pots, (Our name was on each float) we headed out of the river mouth to cross the bar and head into the open ocean.
It was still dark.
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Crossing The Bar
It could be tricky sometimes
Crossing the bar
Depending upon the time of day (tide going in or out) and the water level, the bar at Winchester Bay could be dreadfully tricky and had wrecked many a boat and owner who was not careful. As is in evidence with the picture to the right. We however sailed over it with ease on our voyage out. This was the first day of a planned two day salmon fishing trip..
No Modern equipment did we have
Even with the lack of marine equipment in those days, we never got lost or had any problems. Dad did have a Coast Guard emergency radio if needed, but we really never went out too far. By no Marine gear, I mean stuff such as depth or fish finder's, CB Radios, Ship to Shore radios and the like, but In spite of that, Dad always seemed to know where the fish were and this day would prove to be no different
Fishing away from the crowds
Sailing far enough out to get away from the other fishermen but keeping land always in site, Dad rigged our sea anchor. It was daylight now and he broke out the fried egg sandwiches our Mother had made for us all., While pouring himself a cup of coffee he also poured us Orange juice. Somewhere around seven If I remember, he rigged and set out all three of our poles. Inside of a half hour, my brother had hooked a fish. So while my Dad and I reeled in our lines, my 6 year old brother did his best to reel in his fish. Being 6, he was mostly just keeping the line taut. By the time we had our lines in, my little brother was tuckered out so Dad told me to reel for a bit. Making a long story short, as the fish was nearly to the boat I handed the pole back to my tired little brother so he could reel it in the rest of the way and I stood by in case he needed help. As the fish neared the side of the boat, Dad neatly scooped that King Salmon our first fish, into the net. My brother was so excited, he was jumping around as much as the fish.
It was clear, we were in for a great day of fishing.
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"Even a fish wouldn't get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut. -Unknown
Salmon Fishing At It's best
We already had three Salmon.
By lunchtime, (man 'O man, we were living large this day) our lunch of weenies in a can and some saltine crackers and a couple of crab cakes each? All washed down with a bottle of Grape NeHi. Two small boys and their Dad out for a day of fishing. What could be better?
So far, my brother and I had each caught a King Salmon but Dad hadn't caught a fish yet. It had been his idea to go Salmon Fishing and he had yet to even get a strike? About then though is when Dad's line suddenly 'zinged' with a strike.
My brother and I raced for our poles to reel in our lines when suddenly, I had a fish on as well. My brother had his line reeled in and was pulling in the sea anchor while I moved to the opposite side of the boat so as not to tangle in Dad's line. Never before had we had two fish on at once.
If my fish were to cross my line over my Dad's line or my Dad's line over mine, or even the sea anchor, one line could easily be cut by the other and we could lose one or both fish. So that was why the urgency to keep the two lines separate. My brother had the sea anchor onboard and we both were holding my pole as I struggled to reel in my fish.
But it was really heavy and bending my pole a lot. About then, Dad called for the net and my brother who had been helping me, grabbed the net for Dad and helped him bring in our third salmon, as I now struggled to reel in my own fish, whatever it was.
With his salmon finally on ice, Dad came over to see if I was getting tired (and of course I was) I had the pole between my legs to keep it from going over the side, but in reality I just wanted to reel in the fish so I said I was fine. Dad reached out and pulled on the line slightly, deciding it was a pretty big fish but said nothing. Later he would tell me why he did what he did. He never left my side though and just encouraged me to keep reeling in that fish.
Finally, the fish seemed to quit fighting and I was able to get it near the boat... it was then that we were able to see I had hooked a Flounder. This was not just any Flounder, but a huge one (for me anyway) that weighed over 25 lbs. when we got back to the dock, but that would be much later.
After getting all fish on ice, Dad noticed the horizon was getting dark.
'Time to go' was all he said.
Just a few years earlier, Mother had caught a huge fish and managed to reel it to the boat. Dad let it go because he thought it was a mutated fish. He had never seen one. Later, telling the tale at the docks and describing it's size? He had let a 50 + lb flounder go on that day. We keep them all now.
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The Horizon Was getting dark - A storm was headed our way
Dad pulled in the sea anchor and started the motor, as I stowed all of the poles. My brother was doing his best to drag our 'Coca-Cola' ice chest towards it's spot against the cabin wall.. Everyone knew their jobs. Both my brother and I then grabbed the heavy fish box and stowed it under the rearmost port side bench. Dad by now had the boat headed for shore as fast as we could safely go. Our summer day of salmon fishing was over just that quick.
The sky kept getting darker and the wind was really starting to pick up. Looking behind himself at the sky Dad said later, he was mad at himself for not noticing sooner. But for now, he told my Brother and I to get inside the cabin. We were about four or five miles out from the bar when the rain caught up with us and the seas which had already been pretty heavy and choppy, suddenly grew much bigger. Water was splashing in from all sides it seemed, and waves were towering over our boat.
There we were, two little kids, bundled up in life jackets and hanging on to our seats inside the cabin, watching the ocean going by our windows as Dad kept the boat headed for the Bar. The wipers were going like mad on the windshield, but the waves and rain were too much to keep up. Waves were now occasionally washing over the bow and Dad was soaked to the bone as he stood there in the fury of that storm that came out of nowhere.
Even with his bridge mounted windshield, I can remember looking back at him and he looked like some Sea Captain from a painting or a movie. The lightening flashes illuminated and outlined him against the dark sky looming ominously behind him. Suddenly, a wave came slightly from the side and the front and knocked him down, taking his 'Lucky' Fishing hat over the side.
You would of thought he'd lost one of us boys for the fuss he made as he stood back up and grabbed the wheel once again. Reaching down, he grabbed our three Salmon Fishing poles and stuck them through the door of the cabin for me to take inside with us, as he didn't want them washed over the side. With his foot, he also slid the Coca-Cola ice chest the rest of the way into the cabin with us and told me to lash it down, which I did. We were getting bounced all over now. With the wind blowing the rain sideways, and the waves towering over us, we could only see when we reached the top of a wave. it's the loneliest thing to be at the bottom of the wave and see nothing but water.
Dad tied a line around his waist to the wheelhouse so he wouldn' be washed down again.
Then--Seemingly out of nowhere:
A Coast Guard Whaler (a double ended boat with a cabin) appeared alongside of us.and the Coast Guardsman at the helm began to hail us on a megaphone. The Coast Guard skipper advised us that one boat had already foundered and had been lost attempting to cross the bar. Dad told them that he was sorry for the folks but that just idling here was even more dangerous.
Dad then politely yelled to ask if they were refusing us entrance?
That Coast Guard Whaler
It's skipper is advising us to turn back
Since we were about a half to three quarters of a mile from the bar at this time, (the river mouth/harbor entrance) Dad had throttled back a bit and tossed out the sea anchor while talking to them. Now mind you, the wind is howling, water is splashing and coming in from all directions, the rain is pelting down and Dad had to yell to be heard. The boat in the picture to the right is similar to the one used by the Coast Guard that day except for the coxswain's shelter. The one that day seemed like it was more rounded. I don't think they use this style any longer though.
About then, a wave rolled the Coast Guard Whaler completely upside down. (their boat had moved sideways in the trough of the wave while they spoke with us), It came out the other side of the wave having righted itself. I looked at my brother in complete dis-belief and he looked at me the same way, as we had never seen anything like that before. Rolling upside down and then turning right side up. The Coast Guard Captain, now thoroughly soaked just looked at us and said that he was there to advise people of the danger in attempting to cross the bar right now but that it was our choice.
Dad replied that he had crossed this bar many times in bad weather and the way to do it safely was to 'surf' the boat through. A wave washed over the back of our boat about then and swamped the deck for a second or two. Our fish box full of fish was in danger of floating over the side as Dad managed to trap it with his foot, shoving it too, into our now crowded cabin.
Once the box was inside the cabin, he then grabbed the wheel of the boat. Turning to the Coast Guard Captain, he said: "Good luck, we'll see you at the dock." With that, he 'idled up' the engine and motored forward, but kept turning to watch the following seas coming at us.
The waves by now, towered over the stern of our boat as we rode up and then back down the other side backwards. Dad let first one, then another go by. The only real way to describe what it felt like, was to recall the movie "The Perfect Storm" and how it looked like their boat was going straight up a wave? The only difference was we were going up and down backwards as our Dad throttled the engine up and down keeping the boat steady.
As the back of our boat would go up a wave, the nose would point straight down at the water until we crested and started back down the other side of the wave backwards. Each time my brother and myself were hanging on to the dashboard, looking straight up at the sky with our feet against the backs of our seats as we went down the wave backwards. Then we would look straight down at the water as we were going up the wave, but now hanging from the boats dashboard, with our feet against the seatbacks.
Each time we went up, that fish box would slide all of the way forward against the back of my seat, as we went down, it would slide back to the back of the cabin wall. Through it all, Dad was muttering at the Coast Guard for putting us in danger by stopping us in this weather. Actually, they were doing their job, Dad was just worried about his two small sons.
On the third or fourth wave ( I don't remember because all we could see from in the cabin, was a monster wall of green) Dad gunned the boat forward catching the wave. He then backed off slightly to let the wave settle under us. Then gunning the boat slightly to keep it there. That wave was pushing us forward at what seemed a breakneck speed as he powered us slightly across the face of the wave, the sea anchor helping to hold our course.
The Coast Guard Boat which had been staying with us, disappeared behind the waves as we raced in.
We were now on the other side of this monster wave and going down like a rocket. My brother and I both hung on to the dashboard of the boat inside the cabin, with our eyes glued through the windshield, looking almost straight down at the ocean. The bottom of the trough seemed to be coming fast, but before we hit bottom, Dad reversed throttles to slow us down and that wave seemed to bottom out right under us.
Our speed slowed and don't you know, that wave had shoved us forward smooth as can be, safely into the river mouth.
Inside The River Mouth
Time to retrieve our crab pots
We were now in the safety of the river mouth with no other boats in sight. We asked Dad what happened to the Coast Guard boat and he said that they were going to stay out until they were sure everyone was in. But, being back inside the river mouth did not mean the water was calm, just calmer. It was still raining cats and dogs and the waves were much bigger than normal. Dad untied himself from the wheelhouse.
Although my brother and I were glad to be safely back, we had forgotten about the crab pots as we both jabbered at our Dad about how cool it had been surfing the boat in and the Coast guard Whaler rolling over and coming right back up. Just non stop blabber from his two little kids. But even with all that had happened, Dad had not forgotten our crab pots.
As we idled up to the first pot, Dad had me keep an eye on the throttles, to make sure the waves didn't shove us towards the Jetty. As he was pulling up that first Crab pot we wondered if there would be any crab as we had only been gone about six and a half hours. This was going to be a new one for all of us, as crab pots normally need a fairly long soak for sideways walking crabs to meander along and go inside.
The churning ocean from the storm must have put the crab on the move though, because as Dad was hauling the pot up, you could tell it was full by the way he was straining. When the pot cleared the water, it was full of wiggling crab. He then had me idle the boat further out into the river and away from the Jetty. My brother and I were hooting and hollering as Dad set the pot on the deck and we went about sorting for male from female and for size, tossing female and under size crab back in the river.
The only legal crab to keep, were Males and 5 3/4" across the back was the rule then. (in the picture, you can see the difference in the markings between a male and female crab) Dad however would not keep ANY male crab unless it was at least 6" across the back because he always said: "If we put this crab back today, he will only grow larger for the next time.
On that day, after the sort, we had eleven keeper's from that first pot, so, that pot safely stowed and our crab in five gallon buckets, it was on to pot # 2. That day of Salmon Fishing, we had caught three salmon, one flounder and kept 27 crab total from the three pots.
It had been quite a day of Salmon Fishing in Oregon. Quite a day for sure
Our Day Salmon Fishing
Back at the dock
As we approached the docks, we could see Mother was there to greet us as usual, but it seems the news of Dad's 'Boat Surf' over the bar and the professional manner in which he handled the boat had already been radioed in by the Coast Guard. The Skipper of the Coast Guard Whaler wanted to meet my Dad (as did it seemed, half of the people of Reedsport) as we unloaded our gear and bounty for the day.
So, the dock master, after hearing the story, got the number of our campsite for the Coast Guard Skipper and Dad of course had to tell and retell the story numerous times for all who asked before we could leave that dock. The only one who seemed not pleased at all, was our Mother as she hugged all three of us and looked at Dad with a different look.
From that day forward, Dad was never again allowed to take us boys fishing out on the ocean alone. We never to be separated as a family ever again, to go fishing on the open ocean. I guess it was just my Mother's way of saying:
"If we're going to die fishing, we're all going to go together." Mother was like that.
I want to thank you for reading today and hope you enjoyed that day of fishing, from a ten year olds perspective. The event is entirely true and is but one of the many adventures we enjoyed as a family while my brother and I were growing up. Our parents are both gone now, but the traditions and values we learned as kids, continue to this day, having been passed to my own children and they in turn are passing them along to their children. The saga continues.....
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and I'll see you on the trail--CampingmanNW