UPDATED 8:23 A.M. SEPT. 23, 2014 A near-12-pound silver took home gold at last weekend’s 21st Annual Everett Coho Derby.
Gary Hamlin of Marysville won $10,000 for his 11.96-pounder, weighed in late Sunday morning and topping the coho that had been in first by a third of a pound.
Hamlin caught it in the deep shipping lanes south of Mukilteo on a purple haze flasher and squid combo, according to organizers. His big cash payout was sponsored by John’s Sporting Goods, Harbor Marine, Bayside Marine and Silver Horde.
But Lillie Ludwig’s big Saturday fish, an 11.63-pounder, slipped to third when Mathew Thoura weighed in an 11.82-pounder just before 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Thoura and Ludwig, both of Snohomish, won $5,000 and $2,500 for their efforts. Their checks were sponsored by Bickford Ford, Dick Nite and Ted’s Sports Center, and Roy Robinson Chevrolet, respectively.
In fourth and fifth were Rusty Breedlove (11.10 pounds; $1,000, sponsored by RayMarine) and Nevin Booth (10.48 pounds; $500, sponsored by Greg’s Custom Rods).
Samantha Bratton of Everett won the Kids Division with an 8.97-pounder, good for $300, while Renna Skinner of Renton came in second with an 8.81, which scored $200. Noah Bratton’s 8.34 won $100. Their prizes were sponsored by Accurate Automotive
As for the Northwest Salmon Derby Series boat raffle winners, Joel Clark of Monroe won the outfitted 21-foot River Hawk and Jackson Girard of Lynnwood won the 14-foot River Hawk Pro V.
The boats are given out as the culmination of the series.
As huge as those prizes were, this year’s crop of coho were on the smaller side.
A quick review of our post-derby blogs since 2009’s event showed that Hamlin’s winning fish was over 3.5 pounds lighter than the next smallest, last year’s 15.5 plucked off Possession Bar.
And the average of 6.15 pounds was nearly a pound and a third lighter than last year’s 7.41-pound average. The average coho in 2010 went 8.91 pounds while 2009’s was 8.34.
It’s an artificial benchmark, but only 12 coho weighed more than 10 pounds this year.
“Overall, I’d rate the fishing as below average, and the size of the fish were substantially smaller than in past derbies,” said organizer Mark Spada.
Despite wind on Saturday morning, the first day of the derby yielded nearly 600 coho —John’s Sporting Goods’ Facebook page has a ton of pics — while yesterday’s glorious weather produced 336.
Spada says that very few coho came from the rivers.
It was not an easy bite on Sunday. Fishing from midmorning until well past the official end of the derby off of Edmonds, the Richmond oil tanks and along the east break of Possession Bar with two lines baited with cutplug herring behind green spatterback, purple haze and double glow hoochies or Ace-Hi flies and flashers, we saw maybe two coho landed, one lost next to us, a bird netted, and our boat turned back a dink.
Indeed, Possession turned out to be very possessive of all the coho on the fishfinder. Our one coho bit under the mother of all bait balls and bird flocks as the tide flooded over the bar, ideal conditions, but drag as we might, no such luck in that scale-sparkled wash.
So what’s the story on the finicky fish and their small size?
“Coho are definitely finicky by the time they get to Possession some years, and some years they are not. It seems like from the time they turn the corner at Admiralty Inlet, to the time they hit central sound, their attitude can change completely,” notes WDFW fisheries biologist and hardcore salmon angler Brett Barkdull.
“Size is just about food. This summer there was a lot of talk about warmer water just off the northern coast which I saw for my own was true, which equals no (or less) upwelling, which equals less primary productivity (algae blooms) which equals less stuff coho feed on. And thus they are smaller. It doesn’t seem like they are less abundant than expected, which is helpful,” he says.
All totaled, there were 1,939 adult participants and 252 kids in the Everett Coho Derby. They caught a very respectable 928 coho, and the overall weight of the haul was 5,677 pounds.
Biggest coho caught on a Silver Horde product was Hamlin’s derby winner.
Biggest fish caught on a Dick Nite was a 7.49-pounder, by Brad Failing of Bothell.
Kane Ayling won a fishing trip with Alaskan King Salmon Adventures and Three Rivers Marine & Tackle in Woodinville.
“Thanks to everyone for your help in promoting this years Everett Coho Derby. Your assistance is invaluable, and is greatly appreciated,” said Spada.