Highliner Charters helps anyone fish in the San Juan Islands

ANACORTES, WA — Being out at 3 a.m. just happens to the special buds, and Jose recently left that early to try and catch his first salmon. He arrives in Anacortes before sunrise to go fishing with Captain Brett Rawson, who owns Highliner Charters.

“We go fishing and that doesn’t mean fishing,” Brett said as he prepared his boat to head out. Jose was able to purchase a hunting license at the office, and didn’t need to bring any fishing gear, Highliner Charters supplies everything.

Brett is a veteran, former Navy rescue swimmer. He is also a pilot for FedEx. And he loved hunting all his life.

“When a fish bites, I feel it all over my body, and I feel electric. It’s amazing,” Brett said.

There’s only one thing he enjoys as much: “I’ve found that taking people fishing, I get just as excited, honestly, when I’m watching people fishing, and I’m helping people catch fish. I get the same fun as when I’m catching them myself,” Brett said.

Today’s fishing grounds will be the southern tip of San Juan Island and the scenery is stunning during the 40 minute boat ride to where the fish should be. Brit can fish four people at a time from his boats, ensuring personal attention and lots of learning.

“We take a lot of people who’ve never fished before. So I start out very basic. I start by giving them the rod and showing them how the reel works,” Brett said.

Rawson helps Jose catch pinkfish, salmon that are abundant in Pacific Northwest waters only during odd-numbered years. It also hunts cohos, also known as silverfish. Any Kings, also called Chinooks, should be let go because they are out of season in San Juan during the time of the hunting trip at the end of August. Updated salmon fishing rules and seasons can be found on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

The first time the pole is bent and a fish is turned in, Brett Jose recommends watching the rod tip rather than looking at the reel as he works to get it onto the boat. The fish first slips off the hook before reaching the boat. Fish number two does the same. For the third time, Jose’s magic was, bringing his first salmon to the boat with Rawson’s help in the net. It’s pink.

Jose now knows how to fish, not just fish, when one fish hits it’s different: “This looks like a seal? Like a whale?” he said, staggering. The fish is big enough and Jose starts to sweat.

“This feels good?” Brett smiles, coaching Jose not to rush the fish to the boat, but to take his time, keep tension on the line, and let the fish run out if it chooses. “Enjoy it. Relax. Chill. Get into it,” Brett said. “That’s one of the great pleasures in a human life.”

Jose approaches the fish near the boat, Brett sees it as a king salmon, and the season is over for them. Therefore, they must be left in the water and left. Brett expertly does this by using a special tool to pry the barbed hook out of the fish’s mouth. The cool fish swims freely.

“It’s about the experience for us,” Brett said. “It’s not really about the harvest, it’s about being here enjoying the islands and enjoying the scenery and catching some fish. Slow down and enjoy the moment because when you catch a fish, it’s for fun.” Anglers, it’s all about having fun with the clouds. And the fishermen say that the locomotive is drugs.

After his experience with Highliner Charters and the experience that got away with it, Jose became hooked.

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