washington salmonIn early December, my team and I headed up to Friday Harbor, Washington, by the Canadian border to participate in the 2nd annual Resurrection Derby. The tournament was a great event, put on by Kevin Klein and Jay Fields. They got 69 boats entered (up from 47 last year) and 96 fish were caught over the two days of fishing.

We managed to find some bait that served us well, and we put seven fish on the boat over two days with the biggest going 16.01 pounds on the derby scale, enough for third place and $1,500 in prize money!

I ran the Defiance Guadalupe 290 for this event and was in absolute heaven. I need to do this more often! The killer rig for us was the QCove Breakaway Glow Pearl Flasher with a Silver Horde Irish Cream spoon. The Fin-Nor Marquesa reels saved the day when I had to back down on our winning fish to prevent a seal from snatching it up. Without the 6.2:1 gear ratio and super smooth and even drags, I doubt we would have gotten that fish. These blackmouth salmon (a nickname for chinook salmon that refers to their black gums) are sooooo tasty!

Good crews are vital for competition events, and I definitely had the right guys on the boat this weekend! My team, consisting of Hardwood Jerry, Don Mooney (Moonedo), Jeff Stulc and myself headed up to Port Townsend Thursday morning to launch and start our scouting effort. Being opening day (December 1st), the waters were untested and it was anybody's game. We set up shop and started our efforts at some of the more well documented areas.

This is a fishery that I usually do not take part in because my mind is south of the border in warmer waters. This year, I am staying close to home and taking advantage of this great fishery that we have access to.

I made the call to run to a place that usually holds bait and occasionally some bigger fish. With the great forecast and Gunslinger at my fingertips, I made the call to run to the straits. I obviously need to gather more karma, because the friday forecast of 5to 15 knots produced consistent winds of 18 to 20 knots! We hit up the north side of Smith Island. I didn't see any bait and trolling in the trough was a blast.

Not seeing any action (bait or fish), I picked up and ran to Hein. We put down and immediately hooked up on a good size blackmouth (in the 10- to 12-pound range). I actually departed the confines of my warm cabin to fight this fish. Clearly, I should have stayed inside because when I brought the fish boat side, the we broke the fish off. Enough fighting fish for me. Hard to come off pulling on tuna and go into tugging on blackmouth.

washington salmonWe fished throughout the day, and the water actually laid down quite a bit. Then it happens. The line peeler that we're looking for! Don hooks up on cut plug herring fished and the fight is on! And then the dreaded moment when your fish drinks a Red Bull, grows wings, and starts driving away from the boat like a pissed off mad hatter rolling a Shelby GT500! Our good fish now hangs in the mouth of a predator. After this trip, I won't leave home without deterrance means. I chased this seal down and stayed on top of him like I was trying to prevent his last breath. Finally, he comes up where we can see him and he has no fish in his mouth, only a 4/0 and a 3/0! Crap. Game over! We break it off and head for the barn.

Not being too impressed with NOAA's ability to predict the forecast or the size of fish on the bank, I make the call to stay to the inside for Day Two of the tournament. We play the game of tides, currents, and back eddies and it pays off.

Jerry hooks up on the port rigger and gives the good fish call as the reel starts to dump line. A couple touches of the screen and the Raymarine chartplotter has the spot marked. Then I hear that awful word, "seal!" I look over to see a seal staring Jerry in the face and then turning his head to see where the line is entering the water, then diving! I run into the cabin and throw the sticks in reverse. As the 250-hp Mercury Verados roar, Jerry keeps line on the reel. I position the boat vertical on the fish and try to let the seal know that he doesn't have a chance. Jerry works the fish in brillantly and brings it boat side so I can welcome it to the net. The fish nor the seal ever had a chance.

I was fooled by the weight of this fish. I looked at it and guessed around 12 pounds. When it tipped the scales at 16.01, I was blown away! These fish are fat and dense fish.

We continued the troll, releasing a couple small ones and a native. We found one more keeper for the box (that brought the total to five) and the bite died. As time wound down we trolled away from the slug of boats but didnt' find any more paydirt.

The event was a blast and we will definitely be back next year. For more photos, check out the Washington Forums at



Capt. Tommy Donlin, the BD Outdoors Pro Staff representative for the Pacific Northwest, has more than 20 years of experience fishing the waters from Sitka, Alaska, to Clarion Island off the coast of Mexico. He chases everything that swims off the Washington coast, including tuna, salmon, lingcod, halibut, crab and shrimp. Tommy spends countless hours on the water hunting and honing his fish-catching skills. He is a firm believer that the devil is in the details and strategy is everything.

"Prior to each trip, I run through the game plan in my head minute by minute, making sure that I haven't missed anything,” he says. “Then I go out there and execute that plan.”

Tommy is also a pro staffer for Defiance Boats and gives many seminars throughout western Washington. He's extremely active on the Washington Forum on