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Fishing for salmon in the San Juans

Anyone can have this ultimate Pacific Northwest experience with Highliner Charters. #k5evening

ANACORTES, Wash. — Heading out at 3 a.m. in the morning only happens for special shoots, Jose recently left this early to try to catch his first salmon. He arrives in Anacortes before sunrise to go fishing with Captain Brett Rosson, who owns Highliner Charters

"We're going fishing that doesn't mean catching,” said Brett as he prepped his boat to head out. Jose was able to buy a fishing license at the office, and didn’t need to bring any fishing gear, Highliner Charters supplies it all. 

Brett is a veteran, a former Navy Rescue Swimmer. He's also a pilot for FedEx. And he has loved fishing all his life. 

"When a fish bites, I feel it all through my body, the electricity. It's just it's awesome,” Brett said.

There’s only one thing that he enjoys just as much: "I found that taking people fishing, I get just as excited honestly, watching people catch fish, helping people catch fish. I get the same pleasure as I do catching them myself," Brett said.

Today’s fishing grounds will be the southern end of San Juan Island and the scenery is stunning on the 40 minute boat ride out to where the fish should be. Brett can fish four people at a time out of his boats, guaranteeing personalized attention, and a whole lot of learning. 

"We take lot of people out there never fished before. So I start very basic. I start by giving them the rod and showing them how the reel works,” Brett said.

Rosson helps Jose fish for pinks, a salmon that is abundant in Pacific Northwest waters only during odd years. He’s also fishing for cohos, also known as silvers. Any kings, also called chinooks, must be let go because they are out of season in the San Juans during the time of the fishing trip at the end of August. Up to date salmon fishing rules and seasons can be found at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website

The first time a pole bends and a fish is on, Brett advises Jose to watch the tip of the rod instead of looking down at the reel as he works to get it on the boat. Fish number one slips off the hook before it gets to the boat. Fish number two does the same. The third time’s the charm for Jose, he brings his very first salmon onto the boat with help on the net from Rosson. It’s a pink.

Jose is getting the hang of catching, not just fishing, when one fish hits that feels different: “This feels like a seal? Like a whale?" he said as he was reeling it in. The fish is big enough Jose starts to break a sweat. 

"That feel good?” smiles Brett. He coaches Jose to not be in a hurry to get the fish to the boat, but to take his time, keep the tension on the line, and to let the fish run out if it chooses to.  "Enjoy it. Relax. Chill. Get into it,” said Brett. “This is one of the great pleasures in life man.” 

Jose gets the fish close to the boat, and Brett sees it is a king salmon, the season is over for them. So they must be left in the water, and let go. Brett does it expertly using a special tool to slip the non-barbed hook from the fish’s mouth. The magnificent fish swims free.

"It's more about experience for us. It's not really about harvest, it's being out here enjoying the islands enjoying the scenery, catching a few fish,” said Brett. "Slow down and enjoy the moment because when you catch a fish, for recreational fishermen it's all about enjoying the pull. Fishermen say the tug is a drug.” 

And after his experience with Highliner Charters and the one that got away, Jose is hooked. 

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