Expectations can cloud one’s perception of success or failure. I found this to be the case for me after a three day fishing trip my wife and I took to Baker lake.
After last’s year’s trip with JoAnn in which we had our six fish limits by 8am, I came expecting a repeat performance and going home with the maximum number of fish allowed to be retained in fresh form, i.e., twelve fish between us. We had three days to accomplish this, so my only really thought was we could be done and home on Wednesday. Sorry to say, the fish had a say in this, as well as my own gear issues.
Our setup for the three days was pretty consistent. Dodgers size 0 with some variation of double tied hooks, either red or pink, some yarn to receive scent, and some with smile blades for more flash. Running two riggers, we either stacked one, or ran a couple Deep 6s 35-50 pulls. So we had the target depths of 20-30 feet covered. On occasion I’d drop deeper, but the marks below 35 feet just were not cooperating. I tried some shrimp but frankly found no difference between shrimp bait and yarn scented lures, so for simplicity went with scent.
We got up at 3am on Tuesday and drove the 2 hours to Baker, arriving just ahead of five other boats in tow – good timing! Launched and down to the north end of the lake, gear in the water by 6am. The weather for our three days of fishing was outstanding in every way. 60-70s, calm mornings, sunny skies, in short, perfect! Gear working, our first action started at 6:30 and kept steady until 12:30. We amazingly (and frustratingly) lost our first three fish, two to bad leaders and one to a Deep 6 that was obviously too old, as a wild sockeye literally tore it apart! The first day was also exciting as we saw the familiar sockeye routine of doubles, with fish swarming and following gear back to the boat. It was quite a sight to behold. We caught three of four on doubles, and lost four fish on our first day. I was bummed but figured some evening re-tying of gear would fix the leader issues, and a new Deep 6 was purchased. Confidence returned and JoAnn and I enjoyed a relaxing anchorage affording spectacular views of the sunset over Mt Baker.
Day Two, Wednesday. Started earlier, 6am, and amazed at the number of boats on the water. Is everyone on vacation?!? Gear over the side and again the fish come quickly – and again we see fish pulling hooks free, making wild jumps, spins, and cartwheels. In 15 minutes we lost three hooked fish. I am in shock. How can it be so hard to get these fish into the darn net??? The morning bit continues and at 7:20am we hit a double off two downriggers. What a circus as JoAnn nets my fish, then I get the fish out of the net and net her fish! Wow, this is how the Baker Lake fishery can be – despair to elation in moments. Another fish comes off the downrigger 30 minutes later and we have three fish in the boat after an hour and fifty minutes, and three lost fish. Amazing! Now I’m having thoughts of limiting today and making Thursday a short morning. Oh, that was the wrong thought to have apparently as our luck (and action) died off. A couple missed bites and the morning ground to an end.
We decided to find a place to anchor and nap, and resume fishing in the evening. Not the best time to fish, but I have caught sockeye in the evening. It’s all about running across that random fish that decides it’s angry enough to bother with our gear. After napping in a shady area, we are refreshed, and at 4pm again drop our gear down. Now, a word about Baker Lake in the late afternoon – and that word is – wind. A nice chop forms and we are compelled to troll with the wind at our backs, which is pretty comfortable actually. I manage to keep our troll speed around 1.2-1.4 mph, and at 5:22pm a fish pops the downrigger at 35 ft. It’s a nice fish and makes number 4 for the day, our last fish. For those of you keeping track, we now have a total of 7 fish in the cooler. We need 5 for our two day retention limit.
Thursday. JoAnn says to me, “let’s get up earlier – lets have our gear running at first light". OK, I’m game. So at 5:15am we are once again at our appointed rounds, in search of five fish to make it a limits trip. Today, things are slow to start. We see a few fish caught, but it’s quiet, until 6:05am when a fish explodes off our downrigger at 29 ft deep. Yes! That’s the way, and we slide fish number 8 into the cooler. Things quiet down again and we explore, trying to get away from the very heavy crowds of boats around us. Again, the 29 ft downrigger rod pops the release and now JoAnn skillfully plays a feisty sockeye. In the net, in the cooler, fish number 9. Three more to go – this is do-able!
Now the fish gods play with my ego. All around us fish are caught, and our rods are silent. Rseas and his son come by. Nice to chat, they have two in the boat. We make a couple laps and watch more fish get caught. It’s a really good mid-morning bite. But not for us. Rseas comes by and announces they now have five in the boat. And as he motors away we watch them grab the rod and limit out – by 10am. And our rods remain quiet. And continue to remain quiet. Oh, we get a few head shakers that have us reaching for the rods, but no hook sets. And eleven turns into noon, and a feeling washes over me of – failure. We aren’t going home with trip limits. We’re just going home with nine fish. I tell JoAnn my feelings and her response is totally opposite. “We have nine nice fish in the cooler, we did great!”.
As I write this report up, that feeling of failure is gone, and now I look forward to our next trip to Baker with some new tackle and tips from Rseas. My confidence returns, as does my tempering of expectations. I’ll be happy with what success I have, which as JoAnn said, was very good. Of course it was. We have nine chrome bright sockeye! And I have a lesson in humility to digest…
I hope you have a chance to get out to Baker Lake for some of the greatest scenery and sockeye fishing this state has to offer. Just keep your expectations in check, it is fishing, after all.
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