Charter fishing the waters off Westport
For Fathers’ Day 2013, my dad had gotten the two of us a fishing excursion on Westport Charters in Westport, WA. Father’s Day is in June, but we had to take our trip in early August thanks to the Legislature being unable to complete its business in three consecutive sessions (yes, it still smarts). I had been looking forward to this trip for two reasons: I was anxious for some vacation time spent fishing, and I hadn’t been ocean fishing in about two decades.
My parents live in Ocean Shores, WA, which is about three nautical miles from Westport but an hour-and-a-half trip around Gray’s Harbor by car. There used to be a foot traffic ferry that ran between the Ocean Shores marina (a half-hearted collection of unkempt wooden docks lashed together) and the Westport marina (a bustling, working commercial, charter and pleasure-boat marina), however that business went under (not literally) about the time the economy tanked.
We arrived in Westport around 6 am, just in time to register, purchase the one-day license and use the restroom before boarding the Pescatore, the name of the boat on which we’d be spending the day. “Pescatore” means “fisherman” in Italian, and our boat was skippered by a gentleman named Paul Mirante. Captain Paul went over the U.S. Coast Guard safety briefing, introduced us to our deckhand, Bryce, and promptly left the marina at 6:30. Right on schedule.
Bryce was probably around 19 years old and was working the job for the summer to make some extra cash. That didn’t stop him from putting a lot of effort into it, however. Talk about a hard-working deckhand! Bryce was helpful, friendly, and never stopped moving during the entire nine-hour trip. Check out the grunt work poor Bryce had to do in some of the photo gallery pictures.
We puttered out of the marina and through Gray’s Harbor, then headed north along the coastline for about an hour until we were about five miles northwest of Copalis. The weather wasn’t cold, but the sky was overcast and we had to pass through an occasional bank of ocean mist. A nice day for fishing.
After stopping and fishing at a few dry spots, we finally found a place that was biting. I got the first fish of the day, a black rock fish also known as a sea bass. Over the next four to five hours, we landed ten apiece and the total for the boat was 168.
Toward the end of the trip, since we had nearly maxed out our limit of rock fish, we decided to switch baits and try for some ling cod. Instead of live anchovies for bait, we switched to double-hooked herring. As usual, Bryce got us all set up while we motored to the underwater rock pile where the ling cod are known to frequent.
Unfortunately, since ling cod are bottom feeders, it’s next to impossible to identify them with a fish finder. Captain Paul did the best he could, and maybe he was able to put us right over a ling or two, but they just weren’t biting that day. We tried three or four different locations around the rock pile, and only a few of us brought up bait with bite marks in it. No takers.
About the time that the whole boat was in agreement that we should pack it up and head in, I noticed that the sky and the horizon had blurred into a solid light-grey color. They were indistinguishable from each other, and as I looked around I was a bit startled to realize that I couldn’t see any land. If not for Captain Paul’s GPS, I’m sure our washed out surroundings would have left us in a bit of a predicament as we began our trek south back to Westport. I’ll admit that, while I don’t scare easily, it’s still unsettling to realize you’re caught in a fog bank miles out to sea and absolutely helpless to do anything about it. Thankfully, our captain knew what he was doing.
I recommended Westport Charters on TripAdvisor and I would suggest it to anyone looking for an ocean fishing excursion off Washington’s coast. The fish were plentiful, the staff was amicable, the wildlife was beautiful, and the memories will be meaningful. I had a great time, Dad, and thanks again for taking me.