Locals fish 'The Hole'

In a small patch of water near Deception Pass, easily viewed from the bridge, anglers catch hundreds of salmon each year. Nestled near the park’s North Beach, the spot is simply known to veteran Whidbey Island fishers as “The Hole.” Now is the time of year when thousands of salmon, just before heading for home rivers to spawn, take a short rest in the large eddy created by a huge outcropping of rock. This is on the Whidbey side of the pass.

When the current is racing through the pass on outgoing tides, bait fish and salmon often rest and wait for the tide to change, rather than fight the swift currents. This eddy — roughly 300 yards long by 200 yards wide — creates a wonderful opportunity for anglers to try for salmon, either from shore or in a boat.

The water creates a fertile but challenging fishery for boat anglers. It is best attacked with small, agile boats that can react quickly to the shifting currents and other boats. The object is to hold against the current and keep your boat from getting too close to other vessels in the Hole. All boat anglers fish directly from their poles (no downriggers, please), which cause tangle-ups when you have to move aside to let an angler with a fish on through the crowd.

The majority of anglers use a 4 to 6-ounce trolling sinker, a 3-foot leader to a dodger, then a plug cut herring about 18 inches behind that. Department of Fisheries employee Don Hubner, who counts fish in the area, said this combination accounts for most of the silvers caught from boats in the Hole.

Some of the true patriarchs of the Hole, such as Vic Vaccaro and C. “Bergie” Bergman, who have been fishing the place since the early ‘50s, simply use a plug-cut herring behind their trolling sinker. Here’s how they do it: After letting anywhere from 20 to 40 feet of line out, keep an eye on the rod’s tip, hoping for the jerking tugs that indicate the fight is on. At the same time, watch for the other boats and the large wakes caused by the multitude of large pleasure craft travelling through the pass.

The beach anglers, on the other hand, cast and retrieve a variety of lures. Mostly Buzz Bombs, a lure that casts easily and gives a variety of actions depending on the retrieve the angler uses. The beach is for those willing to make a hundred casts for one good strike, but they do catch fish. Thursday morning Keith Wiggy of Snohomish landed a bright, 8-pound coho. West Dye of Anacortes battled for 20 minutes to land a 22-pound king that he weighed quickly before reviving it and releasing it to continue its journey. There were 15 anglers lining the shore, men, women and children casting in hopes of catching “the big one.”

Salmon don’t care who is on the other end of the line. If they see something they want, they grab it.

Some anglers have grown up fishing in the Hole. Kathe Quinn, “Bergie” Bergman’s daughter, said, “I was so young when dad started bringing me out that I took naps curled up under the bow of his boat.” Others remember the time when you could fish for kings in the Hole, and hope they can again some day. Tony Reedy said, “When I was 13, my mom would drive me to Cornet Bay so I could go out and fish in my friends boat for kings in the Hole.”

So far, this year’s run of silver salmon hasn’t really started through the pass. They are coming soon, though, and when they arrive people will see dozens of boats and beach anglers trying their luck. If you decide you want to give it a shot, go and watch the fishing from North Beach. Local sporting goods departments have what you need.

You also should remember to bring lots of patience, and be courteous to your fellow anglers: Take a look at what is going on, follow the flow of things and everyone’s fishing experience will be a good one

May you be the next one to yell “FISH ON.” Look for me, the big fellow in the red, 16-foot Lund.

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