Steve Sohlstrom’s day job is serving as operations manager for a medical supply company, leading a team of sales professionals across the western United States from his home base in Seattle, Washington. But his passion is charter fishing — more specifically, introducing others to the joys of chasing salmon in the Columbia River and tuna, halibut, sturgeon and rock cod in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Sohlstrom’s owned and operated charter fishing boats for more than 30 years. In 2000, he purchased Salty Dog, a 43-foot Delta Marine vessel certified for 23 passengers and two crew members and powered by a pair of Cat® 3208 marine engines.
“Delta is one of the world’s premium super yacht builders today,” Sohlstrom says. “But back in the early days, they built fishing vessels, and those boats are considered the finest charter boats in the world.”
Sohlstrom employs a full-time captain to take guests out on the water, usually 10 to 15 people at a time for eight- to 12-hour trips. But at least a dozen times a season, he makes the 180-mile trip southwest from Seattle to Ilwaco, Washington, Salty Dog’s home port, to join the charters.
A licensed master, Sohlstrom can provide relief for the captain and run the boat on occasion. Plus, he just likes being on board and interacting with guests.
The charter fishing season in the Pacific Northwest typically runs from the first of May into the month of October. But in 2019, Salty Dog stopped running charters at the end of August and sailed north to a shipyard in Aberdeen, where she was scheduled for a complete engine room restoration, including a repower with two new Cat C7.1 engines.
Sohlstrom describes himself as “lifelong fan” of Caterpillar and says the 3208s that had powered Salty Dog from day one gave him nothing but “carefree, trouble-free performance.” Still, he studied his options before landing on the C7.1 — and one of the deciding factors was quick turnaround time.
The engines weren’t available locally, but Chris Downes, a sales representative at Cat dealer N C Power Systems, tapped into the nationwide Cat dealer network, found a pair in Louisiana and had them shipped to Aberdeen within two weeks.
“That was important because you don’t want your boat sitting in a shipyard racking up a bill without much work being done,” Sohlstrom says. “Besides, I only have so many offseason months to get the job done.”
Work on Salty Dog commenced on September 6, 2019, and by mid-December the new C7.1 engines were in place along with new fuel lines, fuel filtration, batteries, dripless shaft shields, stainless steel engine mount rails and propellers. After a series of sea trials in late December, the boat was deemed ready for the 2020 season and returned to Ilwaco — where she immediately began to turn heads.
“We have about 28 nice charter boats of all different ages and configurations in port,” Sohlstrom says. “Every one of those owners came inside the engine room to see the restoration and the C7.1s. Several even came onboard as guests for a day of fishing to check out the performance of the new engines.”
What they experienced is what Sohlstrom believes to be the fastest 43-foot charter fishing boat based out of Ilwaco, if not the entire West Coast. Salty Dog’s previous cruising speed was 14 knots; now it’s 19-20, with a maximum speed of 25 knots. And even with a significant power increase — the C7.1s provide 100 more horsepower each than the previous 3208s — fuel consumption has gone down.
“We’re achieving a much higher level of performance for the same amount of fuel burn,” Sohlstrom says. “Distance per gallon has gone up. I’m seeing my lowest fuel bills in 10 years with these engines.”
Though speed and fuel savings are great, charter fishing is an entertainment business — and that means guests’ comfort and enjoyment come first. With the new C7.1 engines, Salty Dog is delivering on both counts. It’s quiet enough to hold a conversation on deck or in the cabin at any speed, and passengers who haven’t found their sea legs appreciate the lack of vibration and smoke.
“Guests don’t want to smell smoke. It’s difficult enough for some of them with motion sickness, let alone diesel exhaust,” Sohlstrom says. “Also, there’s nothing better in a rolling sea than to get back to port lickety-split in a boat that runs smooth.”
Perhaps most important, the fishing’s gotten better, too.
“When you have a vibration-free boat, the fish rise up closer and you catch a lot more without all that racket below the water line,” Sohlstrom says. “Albacore tuna, for example, are real skittish about any vibration or sound. Salty Dog performed really well on those trips because the engines are so quiet. It definitely improved our fishing — I could see it and feel it.”
In fact, Sohlstrom’s so pleased with his C7.1 repower that he hopes to repeat the process on another boat soon.
“Working with Chris and the N C Power Systems team was one of the single most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had — from the delivery of the engines to the sea trials to all the tests making sure they would deliver safe, trouble-free operation,” he says. “The C7.1s have performed even better than expected, and I’m absolutely ready to do this again.”
Sounds like the salmon, tuna, halibut and other fish of the Pacific Northwest had better watch out.
Caterpillar Marine offers a variety of integrated solutions to help you protect your investment, minimize owning and operating costs, and maximize up-time. These solutions are specifically tailored to meet your needs. Learn more by downloading our most current solutions and ratings guide.Learn More
Step back in Caterpillar history seven decades to discover what 1940s-era commercial fishing operations found important. It’ll likely ring a bell to those in the industry today.Learn More
Switching to the right marine fuel filters didn’t just clear up a sooty transom on the Rascal sport fishing boat. See how it also led to more time on the water.Learn More