Making the Most of Winter
For Pacific Northwest boaters, December has a lot going on. December is an ideal month to catch up on any boat projects and maintenance you may have been thinking about to improve the safety and function of your vessel for the upcoming year’s blackmouth season and beyond. It’s also the best time to drop hints for those fishing-themed Christmas presents you might want. There are good opportunities to get out and chase some fish as well! So, let’s get to the boat projects and maintenance first, and then on to the fishing fun.
A fast running and high functioning fishing machine is going to make life on the water safer and more enjoyable. In general, the more thought and attention paid to your boat, the better. Specifically, there are basic things to keep in mind when getting your boat ready for some early, potentially foul-weather fishing.
In the winter, a few things regularly pop up that slow down a fishing trip: bad fuel, bad batteries, or something freezes if it’s cold enough. Diesel boats have less fuel issues than gasoline, but still changing fuel filters and keeping fuel fresh is a must. For gasoline engines, running only ethanol-free fuel will go a long way towards a trouble-free season. Good fuel additives will help too. Making sure batteries are topped off if needed and charged is right up there on the priorities list. If they’re getting towards the end of their life cycle, replace them sooner rather than later. Out on the water is not a good place to find out you have charging or starting issues. Cleaning up wiring will also help. If you’re storing your boat out of the water, make sure to lower engines and drives, if applicable, to drain water. Draining and treating the fresh water tank is a basic chore as well.
There are a lot of additions you can make to your boat to run a productive and organized vessel. Sometimes it’s the little things that lessen the headaches. Having a place to put knives, pliers, cutters, and tackle within easy reach is helpful. Considering adding rod and net holders too. And, of course, cleaning up and organizing the boat inside and out as much as possible. It seems as if every time I go through my boat before the start of the season, I’ll find twice as many downrigger clips, swivels, pliers, etc. then I thought I had. And, if I’m really missing something I’ll need, I know it by going through the entire boat.
As far as the December fishing scene is concerned, winter Chinook are a good reason to head across to close by Canadian waters this month. Check the Canadian regulations and area closures before you plan your trip, and make sure you’ve got the correct identification and crossing procedures down. It’s no longer a requirement to call Canadian authorities if you’re not touching land. However, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife does have an online form that needs to be filled out. Many of our blackmouth from U.S. hatcheries can be found in British Columbia waters this time of year. It’s fun to pick a good weather day or two and go explore up north. The blackmouth fishing can be good around the Victoria and Sidney areas and usually not too crowded.
Crabbing should be open in some areas of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands through December. Squidding should be productive too. Christmas crab and calamari sounds like a treat for sure this year. Something different for the holiday table always makes a meal more fun.
Sea-run cutthroat trout can be a good catch and release opportunity in the salt water this time of year, mainly for the fly fisherperson. These fish are usually caught casting from the beach or from a boat casting to the shore. The cutts will be found near structure on a cobbled beach bottom. Many fly patterns and lures work, as they are on the feed. A smaller center console boat or tender would be perfect for this application in good weather conditions.
Resident coho can also be found in Southern Puget Sound in December. As with sea-run cutthroat, they are usually caught by fly anglers. They aren’t big fish but provide good sport on light tackle. As always, check the regulations before you go to make sure the area you plan to fish is open and not restricted.
Hatchery steelhead should show up in our local rivers this month. These fish are usually smaller that their native cousins and are meant to be bonked and taken home. They provide good sport and good eating. If you’re not set up for river fishing and want to try something different, booking a guided trip is a great way to get out there.
Next month kicks off another new year and some more fishing opportunities. Until then, get in the holiday spirit, get that boat ready, and get out on the water!