Tri-City-based fishing charter business expands to Australia

DownUnderSportFishing to offer package deals in 2018

A Tri-City fishing business will expand its operations to open a branch more than 7,000 miles away next year.

DownUnderSportFishing, which offers sightseeing trips and fishing excursions, will offer fishing charters in Australia.

Mike Palmus and his wife, Rosemary, of Kennewick say Australia is the perfect destination for their fishing business.

“Australia is pretty phenomenal, and the fishing is not really developed,” said Palmus, whose wife is from the land down under. “Other than a plane ride, basically it’s like a trip to Alaska. People go to Alaska, and we think we can offer them fishing in Australia for the same type of experience.”

Palmus and his future wife met in Australia, although they didn’t marry until two decades after their first encounter. Both were avid anglers, but Palmus moved back to the states. In the 1990s, he settled in the Tri-Cities and started working at Apollo.

“I became a contractor, but the owner knew that I had fished extensively and asked if I would do it for Apollo clients, customer appreciation and employees. I started running a corporate boat. The company paid me and I took people fishing. During the salmon season, I was never even on projects,” he said.

During that same time, social media reconnected Palmus with the girl he’d met when he was 21.

“We hadn’t spoken in 20 years. We got back together, and we’ve been married for five years,” he said.

Life has been good for the couple, but Palmus was lured by the idea of starting his own business. With his wife’s support, they started DownUnderSportFishing.

By 2014, Palmus quit his job and started offering corporate and private fishing excursions along the Columbia River.

This year, DownUnderSportFishing was approached by Visit Tri-Cities to provide sightseeing tours of the Hanford Reach. Palmus said the business ran its first trip in June—a four-hour boat ride along the Columbia River.

He said as long as a fishing trip isn’t scheduled, they’re open to doing more tours.

During salmon season, charter boat excursions are $800 per day. Palmus said he’s usually booked every day from the second week of September through the month of October.

“Last year I booked out in one week,” he said, adding that corporate bookings accounted for 80 percent of his business. “I enjoy taking people salmon fishing. They’re impressed by the fish. Some of the girls (who’ve gone out) have caught bigger fish than their boyfriends.”

When it’s not salmon season, seats are $180 per person. Fishing trips, which typically run from about 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., include all tackle and gear, and cleaning, filleting and bagging of the fish at the end of the trip.

On full-day trips, lunch, snacks, water and soda are provided.

“We fish salmon, steelhead, walleye and sturgeon,” said Palmus, who is excited to offer customers an experience to catch something new in Australia.

“They don’t have king salmon there. Over there, we fish barramundi and flathead, brim and estuary cog. The three we target the most are barramundi, Australian bass and flathead. They’re delicious,” he said. “Barramundi are a beautiful white meat, and they grow to be 40 to 50 pounds.”

The couple currently have a home on the Gold Coast just south of Brisbane. After salmon season this year, they’ll travel to Australia to start preparations for the new business venture.

“We’ll be there from November to June,” he said. “We’re chasing summer.”

The idea is to never have an off season since Australia and the United States have opposite seasons.

“Some of our clients are farmers, and we have friends over there that are farmers or own wineries, so we’d be able to show people from here some of the stuff going on in Australia,” he said. “Not just fishing, but ecotourism.”

Palmus stated that DownUnderSportFishing has no plans to offer any offshore fishing, such as catching marlin. Instead, they’ll be fishing in the estuaries in Australia.

“We know enough people in the Tri-Cities and have clients on this side that want to go to Australia, and we know people in Australia that want to fish in the Northwest,” he said. “We’re trying to put together a package deal.”

Once clients arrive, Palmus said they want to make the experience as stress free as possible.

“We’ll pick you up, take you to your hotel or accommodations—maybe a houseboat—and basically play tour guide everyday,” he explained.

The goal is to open the DownUnderSportFishing’s Australian branch by winter 2018. The husband and wife team will travel back and forth, chasing the sunshine, and occasionally get a fishing trip in for themselves.

“My wife is the better fisherperson,” Palmus admitted. “I spend more time running the boat.”

Find DownUnderSportFishing on Facebook or call 509-820-1100.

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