Fishing charters help anglers land salmon, sturgeon, walleye, steelhead

Experts recommend researching guide options to get most out of trip

Dropping a line into the rivers around the Tri-Cities to catch salmon, sturgeon, walleye or steelhead has launched a handful of fishing charter businesses around the Tri-Cities.

[blockquote quote=”I take pride in making the best trip possible for my clients.” source=”Dave Hedden, owner of Hedden’s Northwest Sportfishing” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]

Recreational fishing is big business, generating more than $115 billion in economic output and more than 828,000 jobs nationwide, according to the American Sportfishing Association.

In Washington state, anglers spend $1.2 billion while fishing, according to a 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife report.

Thousands of people have become hooked on the hobby through the Takemefishing.org campaign and thanks to U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife’s fishing guides.

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation updated its 2016 goal to “increase participation to 60 million … in the next five years.” There are currently 45.7 million anglers, with fishing named the “most popular adult activity” for those 25 and older in the U.S.

With more than 10 fishing guide services available around the Tri-Cities area, experts said it’s important to do some research before signing up for an outing.

Guides like Dave Hedden, owner of Hedden’s Northwest Sportfishing can turn a one-time trip into a lifetime hobby.

“I think of it as ‘fishing school’ and share all the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing – from techniques to the best locations for different species. I try to explain the ‘why’ behind everything so they can ultimately do it on their own later,” Hedden said.

It’s what keeps Denny Sheehan and other customers coming back for more.

“He’s honest. He’s a straight shooter and gets along with everyone, from young kids to 80-year-olds—any age really,” Sheehan said. “He’s a great teacher. Whether you have a lot of experience or no experience, Dave will answer all of the questions you have and teach you something new.”

Sheehan averages three trips per year with Hedden.

“My youngest daughter and her husband come to visit from Colorado and they don’t want to fish with anyone but Dave,” he said. Sheehan especially appreciates that although fishermen don’t have control over how many fish they catch, Hedden does whatever he can to “put people on fish.”

“Dave is usually quite successful at helping everyone get fish,” Sheehan said. “He was Angler of the Year and usually gets a check in most tournaments he enters. Every time I go with him, I pick up something I didn’t learn before. I’ve been on at least six or seven trips with him.

Hedden’s “classroom” isn’t limited to the boat either. He also talks at sportsman’s shows and gives seminars and lectures.

“I do seminars at Ranch & Home and other places. The topic depends on the time of year. I might show the ins and outs of different fisheries, what to use, how to use it, or the best locations to fish,” he said.

Sheehan, a member of the Walleye Club, said his talks are effective. “He really helped us learn about how to position our boats to jig fish, and to get more control against the wind and current in our own boats,” Sheehan said.

Hedden is a “lifetime fisherman,” having grown up about three minutes from the Columbia River. Despite earning finance and business management degrees from Eastern Washington University, Hedden started his business part time eight years ago, which worked into full time about four years ago.

He helps clients fish for salmon, sturgeon, walleye and steelhead from a 24-foot North River Scout boat, with guided trips available seven days a week.

Hedden has found that the most powerful marketing for his business is word of mouth. He has used Facebook and Craigslist in the past, but said customer testimonies are “by far the best.” Clientele range from young children to retired clients, with the main range between 40 to 60 years old.

“I’ve taken all ages fishing. I love taking kids—having them catch a fish is really rewarding. They get more excited than adults, which is cool,” Hedden said. “I’ve also taken people with handicaps, older folks—pretty much anyone can go fishing.”

Another popular trend is corporate trips, which include a business meeting or retreat in a relaxing environment.

“I get lots of retired people who have the time now and want to learn the area so they can go do it on their own later,” Hedden said. His guide service has gained popularity and at press time, he had five slots left for next fall’s chinook run, which is in mid-October.

“Those trips fill up to a year in advance. People who come with me year after year end up reserving for the following year,” Hedden said. The biggest fall chinook he’s pulled in was a whopping 43 pounds. Hedden said the trip’s popularity warrants an occasional double trip in one day, but that’s rare.

“I don’t like to short clients; I want to ensure the morning clients get a fish caught. If they haven’t, I might stay an extra hour for them,” Hedden said. “When the sockeye are good, we can sometimes get in two trips a day as well.”

Trip prices vary depending on the number of people booking. If three or more are on the boat, cost is $200 each. For four to six people, cost is $175 each. Trips are eight hours long or until limits are reached. All gear, bait, fillet and bagging fish services, and supplies are included in the cost.

Hedden said he loves to share his passion with others. He also loves to compete.

“My favorite species honestly changes with the seasons, but I really like fall chinook,” he said. “I get pumped for walleye too, though. I fish the tournament circuit.”

Between 40 and 60 boats of two-person teams, usually the best fishermen from their respective regions, compete in the tournament.

Hedden competes in two-day tournaments in the Northwest circuit, the Columbia River, Potholes, Moses Lake and Banks Lake. In 2012, he was named Columbia River Circuit Angler of the Year after he earned first place for total weight caught per day in the contest. He and his partner finished first, second, third and fourth on each respective waterway, but point-wise, finished first overall.

Hedden has placed in the top 10 for 18 of the past 21 tournaments he’s competed in because of his experience on area waterways.

Hedden has noticed a definite increase in the numbers of people taking part in recreational fishing.

“The walleye trips have really grown. People are catching on and it has become one of the most popular trips during spring and summer,” Hedden said.

One of the reasons for its popularity is its affordability. In Washington state alone, 2.5 million licenses are purchased annually.

For guided trips with Hedden’s Northwest Sportfishing, clients must take their fishing licenses with proper endorsements (if necessary), food and drinks, sunglasses, proper clothing for the weather, camera, and a cooler full of ice to take their fish home.

No matter the fish species or the time of year, Hedden’s main goal is to “cater the trip to the client.”

“I’ll make special accommodations for them. It’s their trip and I take pride in making the best trip possible for my clients,” he said.

For more information, call 509-521-8620 or visit heddensportfish.com.

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