ROCKPORT, Wash. – Far upriver from the scene of May 23rd’s I-5 bridge collapse, I awaited the arrival of guide Nick Petosa while trying my best to prepare myself for a day of side drifting on one of the north sound’s most scenic rivers. The springer fishery on the Skagit is often overshadowed by larger Spring Chinook fisheries with an expected return of a mere 2,700 Chinook. The Skagit makes up for this seemingly small run, which is actually pretty standard for most north sound rivers, with its Dolly Varden and post spawn winter steelhead opportunities. Oh and one more reason. It’s absolutely stunning.
The fishery extends from the Highway 530 Bridge in Rockport to the Marblemount Bridge and continues on up the Cascade. It provides anglers with views of a river, which despite dam controlled flows, remains inherently wild. With views of the north Cascades and the omnipresent eagle and elk activity, one can hardly discount a fishery that offers the opportunity to catch twenty plus pound king salmon.
Guide Nick Petosa of Petosa’s Guide Service sees the conditions on the Skagit as a mixed blessing of water conditions. “The fishery remains consistent but low flows and gin clear water can make things difficult.” The low clear water he refers to is a direct result of the I-5 bridge collapse. Huge quantities of snow melt are being retained in an effort to make things easier on repair crews down-river. Anglers are finding ways to triumph over these adverse conditions however.
From The Boat
Anglers should focus on side drifting Pautzke cured roe and back trolling plugs. Side drifting rigs are the tried and true way to catch any of the species that this fishery has to offer. Tandem size 3 and 2 Vision hooks paired with size 10 or 8 Corkies, in rocket red, chartreuse and lime are deadly. Spinning gear rigged with 8 to 12 pound test is all that’s necessary when side drifting but lighter is always better when conditions are as clear as they have been.
Don’t be afraid to break the norm! Petosa swears by his Edge 7600, a 7’6” side drifter in a sea of 9’6” rods. “The tip responsiveness in such a short rod is unlike anything I’ve fished before.” When side drifting bait isn’t producing anglers should turn to back trolling plugs wrapped with a small fillet of either sardine or herring. Petosa recommends using Yakima Bait’s MagLip 3.5 and 4.5 in double trouble, silver-char head or white pearl. Back trolling is a great way to tackle the mighty Skagit as it is usually a swollen fast flowing river during this fishery. Back trolling allows anglers to cover water while maneuvering their baits into holding water. “The only way to coax the already finicky spring Chinook into a willing biter and eventually dinner is with precise presentation.”