Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Landlocked Chinook in the Family Boat

April 2019
They say there are two best days in a boat owner's life. One is the day he buys the boat and the other is the day he sells the boat. I hear a lot of stories where people buy boats, only to never use them and then sell them a short time later. How can this be? Boat neglect is a serious offense. I'm sad to say that I've also been guilty of it!

My family has a small fishing boat and some of my fondest adolescent memories have been in that boat. The family gem is a 14 foot 1970's Mirror Craft riveted V-bottom. 
The original grimy yellow color was never much to look at so when I was in junior high, we sanded it down and painted it camouflage. I'd always wanted a bass boat, so we eventually built a platform on the front and mounted a foot controlled trolling motor. This "poor man's bass boat", has seen a lot of fish over the years. However, the last few years it has sat idle in my fathers garage. Convinced he was going to buy a larger boat for the grandchildren, my father sold the old outboard and purchased a larger heavier outboard from a friend. A new boat purchase had to be put on hold in the last several years and we worried the new motor would be too heavy for the old boat, so the boat has sat in limbo for the last 4 years. 2019 held too much promise to let the boat sit any longer, so I decided to get the boat back in operation!

I started by cleaning out all the junk that had collected in the boat -(a boat in a garage makes an excellent storage container). I had to grease the wheel bearings, re-inflate the tires and replace a trailer tail light. I then took the boat down to the carwash for some deep scrubbing. Once the boat was dry, I vacuumed out the 20 years of accumulated gravel, dirt and split-shot. It was then time to register the boat and trailer, as well as purchase an invasive species sticker. Convinced the boat could handle the new motor, I mounted the motor on the transom and made the appropriate fuel connections. Once I had fuel in the gas tank, it was time to see if the motor would run. Comfortably bathing in a garbage can of water, I began pulling. Three pulls was all it took and she fired right up. 
The only other thing left to do was add some support to the motor when traveling on the trailer. Worried the heavy motor would damage the back of the boat when traveling, I mounted a support arm on the trailer to help absorb the road bumps. The boat was now ready to fish! 
On an early April day, I decided to take the boat to Lucky Peak and test her out. Joining me would be my favorite experimental adventure buddy and brother-in-law, Trevor.   

Lucky Peak is home to planted rainbow trout, Kokanee salmon and landlocked Chinook salmon. These fish would all be cruising high in the water column this time of year. I chose to troll with a sinking fly line and some flashy flies, while Trevor started with a spoon on the spinning rod. 
It only took 10 minutes before I felt a fish bite. I set the hook and began fighting the mystery fish. A few moments later, a rainbow trout came thrashing to the surface.  

We made another pass in the same area and I connected with another fish. This one fought much harder and was definitely heavier. As it came closer to the boat, I saw it was a Chinook salmon! I forgot to bring a net, so landing the scrappy fish was a challenge. After some comical splashing and boat side wrestling, I had the fish apprehended.

These Chinook are planted in several reservoirs throughout Idaho to help manage the Kokanee salmon population. Kokanee salmon tend to get stunted when their numbers are too high. Voracious predators like Chinook salmon help by eating the smaller Kokanee, as well as providing more angling opportunities. 

We continued trolling, but so far Trevor's setup hadn't gotten a sniff. I hooked up with a couple more fish that I lost before we reeled in and cruised to the other side of the lake.

Trevor switched to a chartreuse crank bait and was rewarded with a rainbow trout.  

We fished for another hour or so without a bite. The afternoon had been beautiful and the boat had performed well. 

The maiden voyage was a success and with spring run-off starting, the family boat will not be neglected in the coming months!