Fishing | Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu lands 17-pound salmon
Wakamatsu lands large king while fly-fishing in Puget Sound.
Seattle Times staff reporter
When Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu looks for relief it doesn't always come from the bullpen.
In this case, it was off a Puget Sound shoreline on the Kitsap Peninsula, where he was on a fishing outing with Keith Robbins, owner of A Spot Tail Salmon Guide.
For Wakamatsu, fishing has been a passion since childhood. And it's a perfect balance to the high-pressure job of being a major-league manager.
On Monday, he took advantage of a break before a game against the Angels.
The morning fog bank was thick as pea soup as Wakamatsu and Robbins headed to the fishing spot.
"It was foggy and we weren't going very fast," Wakamatsu said. "The shore was probably 100 feet off, and we hit a sand bar and got beached there for a little bit."
Robbins said moments before he had looked at his Global Positioning System, then glanced down into the water and saw the bottom coming up fast.
"I said, 'oh no, I've got to move out,' and a few seconds later we were stuck in the mud," Robbins said. "It was absolutely the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me in the boat."
Wakamatsu jokingly asked Robbins if he'd make it back in time to get to the ballpark. But the tide was starting to rise, and they were off the beach an hour later.
Robbins walked Wakamatsu up the beach, and showed him where to fish.
"I caught a flounder and a bullhead," said Wakamatsu, who was using a light six weight rod. "A half an hour later, I was casting, and ended up catching that king on a red-and-white clouser fly.
"It pulled a lot harder than that bullhead. To hook that thing and watch it come out of the water. This [fish] was taking my line out, and it took me almost to the end of the backing. One more run and it would have taken my fly line with him.
"I have been fishing a lot in the Sound, and didn't know that [catching a king this summer] was such a rarity at the time."
It took him 15 minutes to land the hatchery king that weighed 17.2 pounds.
"That was the biggest king I've heard of caught off the beach in Puget Sound on a fly," Robbins said. "It was just unbelievable to catch a king that big. He [Wakamatsu] was totally stoked.
"I was almost shaking from being so embarrassed or depressed, and then going to elated in a matter of seconds."
Wakamatsu's big catch also got the attention of players in the clubhouse.
Ken Griffey Jr. wisecracked to reporters that they should ask Wakamatsu about the fish Griffey said the manager caught at Pike Place Market.
"I think I saw the price tag on it," Griffey said.
And whatever became of the salmon?
Monday afternoon, Mariner Mike Sweeney cleaned the fish, and it became part of the clubhouse dinner.
Wakamatsu's passion for fishing started as a kid when his family lived for two years in Bremerton while his father helped build a skyscraper in Seattle.
"We used to go for lingcod and salmon in [Puget Sound] when I was really small, but most of the fishing I've done was down on the Columbia [River] or in the Bay Area," Wakamatsu said. "I remember fishing on the Trinity River with my dad and uncle, and we didn't catch anything. We were walking away upstream and a guy comes in right behind us, fly-fishing [and] pulled four fish out of there."
Wakamatsu and bench coach Ty Van Burkleo got hooked on fly-fishing about 10 years ago when the two were coaches at Anaheim.
"I had fished with my father, brother and family for years [using] conventional [gear]," Wakamatsu said. "I walked into a Provo [Utah] Fly Shop one time when we were both over in Anaheim, and it was something I always wanted to try. I thought it was a graceful thing to take up, and a challenge. I fell in love with it."
Before his recent outing, Wakamatsu and Van Burkleo went fly-fishing in June.
"We went down to Gig Harbor and had a great day," Wakamatsu said. "Ty got a coho, and we caught 20 to 25 sea-run [cutthroat] and I got a nice 18-inch sea-run."
In the offseason he fills his free time with fishing trips.
"I like to go whenever I can with the boys [Jacob and Lucas] and my daughter [Jadyn]," Wakamatsu said. "I really want to get my daughter into fly-fishing, but they haven't gotten into [it] yet. And down there [in Texas] there isn't a lot of trout fishing, but I started fishing for largemouth bass on a fly.
"I try to get out as much as I can outside of their athletic schedule. It is our getaway, and our family hobby with the kids."
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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