The coho rushed the south side of Montrose Harbor so fast I lost feel of it Sunday as I hand pulled line. But Jason Le and crew assured me it was still on and I landed my first fish on a powerline.
I’ve wanted to fish with Le for a long time, partly for his fishing skills, but mainly for his eye in combining fishing and art in custom-painted lures, Instagram, YouTube and self-designed gaiters.
“Fishing is what we do every week on our days off,” said Le, who manages a small business and is off Tuesdays and Sundays. “Even if you go out and don’t catch fish, you still have fun.”
Sunday the group included Le’s friend Donnie Nguyen, uncle Mai Nguyen and brother Ricky Le.
I met Le at 5:30 a.m. at Park Bait, where he bought night crawlers and large fatheads. Because of the wind, we stayed at Montrose Harbor instead of going to one of his isolated powerline spots.
“I look at the wind before I go,” he said.
Sunday, northerly winds did what he predicted, curling around to a calmer area on the harbor’s south side.
“We’ll catch fish today, as long as the wind doesn’t go crazy,” he said.
He waited until light came around 6:19 a.m., so he could point his pipe in the right direction. Le uses 12 Owner 5315 No. 4 or 2 hooks, spaced at least six feet apart. Up to 50 hooks are allowed when powerlining. He thinks 12 is enough.
“Twelve hooks is faster and you can only catch five [salmon daily],” he said. “And it only takes me 10 minutes to get set up.”
Le alternated between crawlers and fatheads on his line. On Sunday, all our coho came on fatheads. His brother used crawlers. Donnie Nguyen alternated squid and minnows.
Le had good reason for powerlining.
“It is the only way we can catch them, they are way out,” he said.
I didn’t powerline before because I thought it was ethically the same as longlining in the ocean. Le helped me rethink that.
Powerliners evolved in what they use to propel the weight. In days of yore, it was whirling a railroad spike around, then letting it fly. Next came using a plumber’s helper. Now a fire extinguisher blasts the weight out (75 yards or more).
Four minutes after Le blasted out his weight, the closest group–powerliners were spaced the length of the harbor’s south side–landed a coho.
Le’s uncle caught our group’s first at 6:38.
At 6:50, we had our first hit. Le had me bring it in. The hard part was walking out the hooks when pulling the line in, so as not to end up with a mess. Even with the coho charging, the Owner hooks did their job and held.
At 8 a.m. I caught my second coho, then came a lull and I learned Le came to fishing naturally. His father fished and had a boat when living on an island off Vietnam.
“I think that is where I get it from,” said Le, who left Vietnam at 7.
He earned the nickname Jason Special when a friend used one of Le’s custom-painted lures in Wisconsin for fall Chinook and “Boom” it worked.
After that, it became the “Jason Special” lure.
“Everyone who uses the lure catches fish,” Le said. “They love it.”
Le became Jason Special One on Instagram. His YouTube channel is Jason Special. His gaiters are designed around Jason Special.
At 9:30, Le’s uncle and I doubled up with coho. At 9:50, I caught my fourth. Le thought I would get a limit. But I ran out of energy by 11.
It was time.
On Monday, I baked coho whole with olive oil, soy sauce, lemon and garlic, then served them with lemon wedges and dill-yogurt sauce, delicious and heart healthy.