The Willapa 2


Well, it turned into a party. After a few hours at home to catch up on work, reload the bait box, unload some fish and generally hop around like a lunatic, Weston, Halo and I jumped in the car and picked up Skyla at volleyball practice. This meant hitting the road at 5:15pm on the Friday of a three-day weekend…which only a crazy person would do. But sometimes, apparently, craziness is rewarded: No traffic! None. Weston and Halo slept, Skyla played DJ, and we chatted and sang our way to the coast. We eventually had all five Sweeneys–including Grandma Janet–and their dog Fisher, Smarty and his dog Honey (Halo’s cousin), me, the kids and Halo at the cabin. People party, dog party, fishing party. Awesome.


Morning came fast. The kids and I jumped in with Smarty and four Sweeney’s took their boat in search of salmon. As an added bonus, we were joining the circus that is the annual Willapa Bay Salmon Derby, so nobody was getting lonely on the water. Pictured at top: the kids and Smarty with Weston’s king (which he couldn’t lift on his own) and Skyla’s silver. Just above, the Sweeneys with a nice silver.


Of course, Weston–the kid who sleeps most of the time while fishing and still manages to land the biggest trout in Montana and the 30-pound halibut on a steelhead rod in BC–won the kids’ division of the derby, earning him hearty applause from the crowd, $50 cash, and bragging rights. He was stoked! That’s him with Skyla and Sweeney, weighing in his fish.


Fishing remained tough, but we hit the water again for the afternoon tide, and again the next morning just scratching out a fish here and there. By Sunday afternoon, we were fished out. Smarty headed down the coast to scout geese with Honey, and the rest of us kicked back on the beach, which turned into an impromptu raft-building party. That’s the crew with all hands (and paws) on deck. What a time! Huge thanks to the Sweeneys and Smarty for being family to us, and for making such great memories. And on that note, it’s time to go pull the last load of fish out of the smoker now…Love this time of year.

On The Willapa


In my continuing efforts to stock the freezer with smoked salmon, I was lucky enough to spend the first part of last week fishing Willapa Bay with the Sweeneys. This is something of an annual tradition for Sweeney and me, and more times than I can count, this last and latest saltwater king-salmon fishery has bailed me out of a fish shortage. This year, the whole Sweeney family–including Grandma Janet–was there to fish and hang out with. Above, a morning’s worth of work; two kings and a big silver.


Dark skies and occasional rain dominated. After long stretch of warm, dry summer weather, it felt like autumn had arrived. And the up-and-down barometer made the fishing a bit tougher than usual. But there were enough fish around to make it worth doing, and gradually, we scratched out enough to fill the box. That’s Maren Sweeney, above, with a nice silver.


Laine Sweeney, commuting back and forth from volleyball practice in Olympia to the coast, went to bed late and somehow got up early for each morning tide. Her dedication paid off with an epic battle to land this king. After three days, I had to bail for home to catch up on work, start brining fish–and about 20 hours later–pick up the kids and dog to head back to the Willapa. To be continued…