My big boat was still waiting for a last-minute repair on its deck, so he brought over his little Smoker craft. The Columbia was lying down nicely on a gray day, the kind we’ve had all spring, so we wouldn’t have a problem with whitecaps. I pulled the boat out on the float as Milford drove his truck to the parking lot.
A fisherman out with his two young boys was sliding up to the dock in his Duckworth. I could see a nice sickle-shaped tail sticking out of an ice chest in the stern. “Any luck?” I asked. “We had some bites by the bridge,” he offered. “We got one keeper just at the limit and threw back a couple of shakers.”
That sounded pretty good to me. The sturgeon had been slow in arriving near my Astoria home and just now were causing a little stir. As soon as my older partner got back to the boat we headed out to the river. We scanned its broad expanse, looking for boats up near the bridge. Unfortunately, there weren’t many there. It’s always great to find a small flotilla with fish hanging off the side, but today we’d have to do it alone.
After half an hour of nothing we moved to another spot, got skunked again, and looked for a little shallower water in the fast-moving ebb. We pulled up close to the Maritime Museum and dropped the hook. After ten minutes of nothing, Milford was fooling with the bait.
We have two very different fishing styles. I like to drop in my offering, kick back and watch the water. Milford likes to keep trying different things every ten minutes. To that end he always has a ton of different types of bait. On this day he very quickly switched from the traditional smelt bait to anchovy, squirting on both WD 40 and Sturgeon Candy lure. Then he tried sand shrimp, and finally dug into a little baggie buried deep in his bait box.
From the depths of his little ice chest came one of my favorite and most versatile baits, a six-inch squid. “Getting pretty exotic aren’t you?” I ribbed my buddy. While squid was the preferred bait for a lot of fisheries, you didn’t see it used for sturgeon much. “You can just keep getting skunked,” he scolded. “I’m going to catch some fish.”
Five minutes later, his rod started bobbing. After about 15 minutes of hooting and hollering unbecoming a man of his elderly status, he gloatingly asked for me to net his prize. One four-foot-long fish was soon in the boat and he rebaited us in squid. Another 15 minutes and I hauled in a second fish, a solid two inches bigger than his original. Once again his resourcefulness had saved the day, limits for two!
For those who like to RV up and down any of our coastlines, a packet of squid is a great idea. Not only does it work well on everything from perch to sharks, but also it stores nice and flat, is cheap, and doesn’t stink. Having a couple of baggies with squid and medium-size shrimp provides you with a ready bait for most anything you find on any coastal or saltwater fishing opportunity. And, with luck, your wife will let you store it as food, rather than chuck it as bait!
I’ve used either whole or chunked market squid on jetties for rockfish and on piers for sand dabs, cast over sandy beaches for perch, and fished whole in muddy bays for sharks. Most everything from salmon to tuna to huge sperm whales likes to make a meal out of squid. Many of Hemmingway’s thousand-pound marlin fed on the big “red devil” Humboldt squid that swim off the coast of South America in huge schools.
Not only does it keep well and tastes great fried or in an omelet, squid holds onto a hook like iron, and will keep fishing well for hours. So sneak a little baggie into your refer your next trip; you may have some tasty fish to augment your calamari!
Bob Ellsberg’s column, Fishin’, appears monthly in RV Life and rvlife.com.