I love my boat, cruising the Puget Sound and the offshore coastal waters fishing for salmon and tuna are my favorite angling pass times in my twin engine North River Offshore. But there are times when a small boat can be a big advantage fishing Puget Sound salmon.
First not every angler can afford a large offshore boat. With gasoline prices, fishing from big rigs can cost you, not just operating them but towing them to top locations to fish. But anglers in small boats can sometimes find fishing that others have a hard time reaching.
Probably more fish in modern history hit the decks of small aluminum and fiberglass boats than any other watercraft. One only needs to check out the boat ramps on any summer weekend to confirm this.
Well if you have been following fishing reports in the South Puget Sound (Tacoma area) it’s been quite good, not only for summer kings but also for winter blackmouth the past few years. The salmon seasons here are also some of the longest in the state.
The only problem is accessing this fishery, with few boat ramps long lines have been the norm during this fishery. So, I looked into some options as I like to leave my North River boat in Westport for the summer but also didn’t want to miss out on the great local fishing opportunities which last year was better than the ocean for king salmon.
My fishing partner Jerry Henderson (aka: Uncle Jerry) has had a boat in a locker at Pt Defiance Boathouse for years, pretty much doing the same drill, one boat at Westport, one in Tacoma. I’m pretty sure he fishes 5 days a week. After seeing his great locker setup, it didn’t take long before I called Art Tachell at the PT. Defiance Boathouse (253-591-5325) and rented my own boat locker.
What’s great about this facility is your boat is locked in a secure dry place, no boat ramps, you wheel it out of the locker on a dolly and use one of the elevators to drop you down to the water. The staff controls the elevator operation via cameras and intercom system, you just climb in your boat and say go! Seconds later you’re in the water and on your way. After fishing you drive back into the elevator and your boat goes back on the dolly, a quick boat rinse and motor flush your back in your locker, with a total time process of 10-15 minutes.
Art maintains a great tackle store, with bait, all the must have tackle selections, plus food, drinks and of course hot coffee. They also have ethanol free fuel and a fish cleaning station. Yep, take your catch home cleaned and fillet. Add this to a current fishing report from the courteous staff and you have everything you need and you’re ready to be fishing the local productive waters within minutes. One of the other added benefits is some of the best anglers I know fish out of the Pt Defiance Boathouse.
Now I just needed to find a locker boat. After some hard searching, I found my boat. It is a 1987 15ft GlasPly Moocher. Its short enough under 16ft to fit in the boathouse locker that I rented, but with a very nice beam so it’s very stable. These boats were built to drift mooch out of and allow me to stand on the side without even felling the boat is the slightest bit tipsy. These GlasPly Moochers are very hard to find, and I felt very lucky finding mine.
It needed some work, well maybe a lot of work…LOL! It had two older motors on it a 50 & 8HP. They both got sold and I went to Dave Johnson at Kitsap Marina (360-874-0504) in Port Orchard who handles all my boat and motor maintenance.
I just wanted one motor on the Moocher that would troll down, and Dave set me up with a 50-horsepower Mercury outboard. It has heater tiller handle for those cold mornings. It also has great fuel economy. I can fish six or seven days in a row before refilling the 12-gallon bow gas tank. My Mercury equipped moocher can easily cruise over 30MPH and troll as slow as 1MPH if needed. I had a Mercury Vessel View Mobile installed to monitor all the engine information through a Mercury ap on my phone. It gives me tach, fuel burn and even a maintenance due warning.
Last the Moocher needed some fiberglass repair. Well maybe more than a little according to my friend Robin Halbert who owns Fiberglass Fixer (253-486-8930) in Enumclaw. Yes, he put more than a few hours into restoring it and added an upgraded I wanted by molding in two downrigger mounts on the gunnels. After Robin was done the boat look brand new.
Thanks again Robin, you’re a master at your trade!!!
After that I added two new seats, two Scotty 2106B electric downriggers and a Lowrance HDS Live 9” Sonar/GPS and my new small boat project was done.
Let me just add that most locker boats have seasoned hulls with somewhat newer motors and run-in length 15-17ft. You don’t need to go through the restoration process I did when you find your boat, but I went into this knowing I was looking at restoration project with this GlasPly, but I will be keeping my moocher for a very long time.
Small Boats: More Time Actually Fishing
Besides being able to be in the water 10 minutes after arriving at the Pt Defiance Boathouse parking lot (No waiting in launch ramp lines anymore). Many times, boathouse anglers can be in the honey hole and limited out before many anglers even can get their boat in the water. I saw this happen many times last summer during the morning king bite.
You can easily fish by yourself and since you’re not dealing with trailering and you tend to fish just the more productive times around tide changes, but you fish them more often as access is easy. When you’re towing a big boat after going through all the setup up procedures you tend to pound out the entire day on the water since you towed the boat there and put in the effort.
With a small boat you also have an incredible better maneuvering then in a bigger boat. I can turn in a couple of boat lengths which allows me to stay on a bait patch. On my big boat you’re always looking for a turning lane to get turned around. When the fishing is good sometimes this can take a ¼ mile in a larger boat with heavy traffic around.
I can stop and play a fish all the way around the boat, no windshield. It’s also very easy to jig out of as you can easily back into the current and stay vertical with the jig on the bait with very little wind resistance.
Not a lot of tackle required. I carry a few Pro-Troll flashers and some Silver Horde spoon/squid setups for my downrigger rod and some Pt. Wilson Darts for my jigging rod.
Sometimes I even take a fly rod and target cutthroat or resident coho on the beaches before going salmon trolling. The low profile of the moocher makes a great stealthy fly-fishing platform. There is always something to fish for in the South Sound.
It’s also very convenient to use the Pt Defiance ramp next to the boathouse to put your locker boat on the trailer if you want to fish a local lake of have maintenance done on the boat.
Small Boats: The Downside
It doesn’t take much weather to get you off the water in a small boat. Heavy rains are not much fun or is a breeze that comes up and makes a fun choppy to ride back to the elevator. Fortunately, most of the wind comes from the south in Tacoma and Pt Defiance makes a good wind block allowing you fish many days you could not in other areas. Yep, I do miss the North River diesel heater in the winter! The good news is most of the fishing takes place close to the Boathouse so short runs are the norm.
Take a look at a small boat if you’re just getting into salmon fishing. It’s very economical way to fish and you will learn a lot. If you’re in the Tacoma area call Art at the PT. Defiance Boathouse he can get you setup before all the lockers fill-up this summer. You will also spend more time on the water and make yourself a better salmon angler. Why I will never give up my 27 North River Offshore or my 19 ft Scout for my overall fishing, adding my 15ft GlasPly Moocher to my fishing arsenal has paid big dividends producing many more fishing opportunities and much more time on the water for me.