Allen Thomas column: Cleanliness in pursuit of spring chinook

By Al Thomas, Columbian Outdoors Reporter



It’s a month to the day when I’ll start spring chinook fishing in the Columbia, given that March 9 is the earliest I’ve caught one and even that probably was a fluke.

If I anchor and use Kwikfish or Mag Lips this year, I’m going to be zealous in following the advice of Forks, Wash., guide Bob Kratzer about keeping my lures clean.

Most anglers these days wash their plugs before putting the lure back in the tackle box. You see lots of Lemon Joy bottles in boats.

Kratzer not only cleans his plugs before putting them away, but again before fishing with them.

He then rubs a little Crest toothpaste, with its mild abrasive cleaning action, on the plug.

I’ve written about Kratzer and his Crest toothpaste trick before, but I listened in January to his presentation again at the Western Washington Sportsmen’s Show.

“You can have a great lure with great action, but if it smells bad it’s not going to work very well,” he said.

“When you put scent on your lures, and you don’t clean them properly, and you put them back in your box, that scent gets on there and gets nasty and now it’s in that plug.”

The guide said his lures are clean and dry before going back in his box.

“I scrub my lures with Lemon Joy or Dawn, either one, religiously, every single day,” he said. “I scrub them first thing in the morning before I even use them.”

Then comes an additional cleaning with regular-flavor Crest.

“I get the lure a little bit wet, put a dab of Crest on my finger and rub it around,” Kratzer said. “It gets crud and scent off the lure.”

Here’s why I’m going to go neurotic about lure cleanliness: I’ve got a pair of K14s that worked great in 2001 and 2002, yet have never been bit since, no matter how many hours I fish with them.

Both those lures were wrapped with sardine and I’ll bet in the zeal of those early years of being back on the Columbia after such a long absence the K14s were put away without being cleaned.

I’m even toying with trashing my spring chinook tackle box, wondering if some funky scent is in that plastic, too. I don’t know if I’ll actually buy a new box, but the Crest is already in the boat.

Wanting parity

Commercial fisherman Bruce Crookshanks berated the Columbia River Compact in January for the lack of monitoring of the spring chinook sport fishery, especially guides.

“Those are commercial fishermen,” he said. “The only difference is gear type. They use hook-and-line and we use a gillnet. They ought to fill out fish tickets and pay landing taxes. I’m so sick of this monitoring being directed at us.”

Some sport organizations are telling their members not to report releasing of wild fish, he added.

“I just want parity,” he said. “You can check me all you want.”

John McKinley, a Wahkiakum County commercial fisherman, said much the same thing about sturgeon.

“It’s time to start doing some monitoring on them and putting the finger on the sport fishery a little more instead of pressuring us all the time with this,” McKinley said.

Allen Thomas covers hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor topics for The Columbian. He can reached at 360-735-4055 or He can be followed on Twitter at @col_outdoors.