The phone rang last week. It was my good friend Ted Kirkpatrick. Ted is a "master" angler when it comes to the big lakes and its residents. He proved that to me last year when we went fishing for steelies and lake run browns. When Ted talks I listen. He told me the conditions were perfect for the kings (Chinook) salmon to come in to the harbors on the big lakes. Typically I need to clear things with my wife but with Ted talking big salmon and his batting percentage being at 100 percent I told him "YES" without clearing the outing with "she who must be obeyed" my wife. After saying yes to Ted I called my wife and told her about the trip. The first thing she said was " I have a family gathering on Saturday that smoked salmon would work perfectly for." I told her to not get the cart ahead of the horse but I would give it a try.
I took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to Ted's home. Ted had the boat in the driveway and we were ready to roll within a half an hour. Fishing for kings is quite specialized and I didn't have a clue how to fish them. I relied on Ted's knowledge to tutor me. On the way to the harbor Ted explained to me that when there is a westerly wind for a week or so the warm water is blown out of the harbors and the colder water replaces it. The colder water entices the kings in to the harbors and the stage is set for some serious king fishing. Ted had already been out two days prior and caught 10 kings.
I did not need to bring a rod or a reel. Ted told me to bring my biggest cooler and have some ice in it. It took 35 minutes to get to the harbor from Ted's house. The weather conditions were not good I thought for catching fish but Ted assured me it was perfect. It was 83 degrees and little or no wind. The sky was robin's egg blue. I was a bit skeptical but Ted had never steered me wrong before. Off we went in Ted's 17 foot fishing boat. No down riggers or planer boards on Ted's boat. We were going to jig for kings.
We started marking large schools of fish about 200 yards out. Ted told me that he had fished the same area two days prior and had really good action. The rod Ted lent me was 8.5 feet long. It had a shimano stradic reel on it with 30 pound power pro and a 4 foot long 15 pound fluorocarbon leader. Ted attached a half ounce lead headed jig head and a four inch "pearl" colored soft minnow bait on the jig. I have never jigging for any fish before so the learning curve was kinda steep. I watched Ted for a long time and he tweaked my jigging technique a couple times.
On the second cast Ted landed a very nice king. The limit per person is five each and I told Ted I would like to take three home with me. Ted cautioned me to not get too confident on the number of fish to take home. The kings were smart and I needed to lower my expectations. One hour later Ted hooked in to another it it got up out of the water immediately and tail danced. I had never seen a 35 inch plus salmon come up out of the water before. It did at least three other tail dances and drug around the boat a little while.
One hour later I had a hit but didn't set the hook hard enough or quick enough. Ted told me to keep doing what I was doing and I would get my first king salmon. He told me I must be saving all my MOJO for a big king. Ted hooked up on another king and it too went in the live well. We had my three salmon and I contemplated calling it a day. Ted told me to keep at it. We hit the four hour mark of fishing and I had gotten two hits and no salmon to hand. We moved to another location to see if I could score a lake run brown. Ted told me some real monsters came in and I could score a brown that was enormous.
I had what I thought was a hit and set the hook. My rod bent in half and the object on the other end did not move. I cursed what I thought was a snag. Ted looked at the fish finder and said there are no snags here. I then reapplied pressure and the snag began to move. Ted fired up the trolling motor and told me he thought I had a big one on and that he might need to follow it to tire it out. It peeled off 50 yards of line immediately and the battle was on. Ted told me to gain line on the fish any time I could so it didn't spool me. Ten minutes later I had gotten all the line back I lost on the initial run and could feel the power of the fish. After a couple runs under the boat and a couple close calls with the trolling motor I got the KING to the surface. Ted let out a loud "WOW" when he saw the massive king. We finally got it in the net with one failed attempt because the net was too small. The king measured 40 1/4 inches. Not bad for my first king salmon and my first attempt at jigging for any type of fish.