Tag Archives: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic

Yuasa: Blackmouth Fisheries, Seattle Boat Show, Derbies Highlight January

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

It’s time to hit the “refresh button” as we ring in the New Year with plenty of fishing choices, a chance to participate in a NW Salmon Derby Series event or, tops on the list, taking in the 72nd Seattle Boat Show.

I’m feeling reinvigorated just thinking about all the places to go, events to see and fish to catch, if you catch my drift!
First off there’s no need to winterize your boat in the Pacific Northwest especially with the salmon fishing opportunities that abound right now from the San Juan Islands to Olympia.

AUTHOR MARK YUASA IS EXCITED ABOUT 2019’S POSSIBILITIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The winter chinook fisheries hit full-stride when it opened today (January 1) for winter hatchery chinook at the highly-popular marine fishing grounds of northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Areas 7, 9 and 10).

Three key ingredients to make your outing a success is finding schools of baitfish (herring and candlefish) since blackmouth are hard-wired on feeding. That means it’s important to stay on top of baitfish and if you drift off them be sure to rev up the main motor and move right back to that same location.

The second tip is to not keep your presentation near the surface or at mid-water column depths like you often would do in the summer-time. These fish tend to hang right off the bottom digging their noses in the sand for bait like candlefish or picking off schools of herring. Keep your bait moving up and down the water column and let it soak for a little bit on or near the bottom before reeling it back up. If using downriggers set them at multiple depths and be sure one of the lead balls is bouncing right off the bottom.

Third is knowing a winter blackmouth’s habit during tidal movements and it isn’t necessary to be out on the water at the crack of dawn as you would during the summer. These fish are more predictable so if the bite occurred at a certain time of the day, it’s most likely they’ll do the same the following day only an hour later. Understanding their tendencies and where fish are hanging out on certain tides will lead to better success.

David Stormer, the WDFW Puget Sound Recreational fisheries manager says to keep in mind closing dates could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches).

The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates around Jan. 11.

In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates for 9 and 10 around Jan. 18.

All three areas will begin with a one hatchery chinook daily limit.
My word of advice is to go sooner than later, which will likely guarantee you more time on the water.

Salmon predictions roll out soon

We’re still a couple months out before anglers get their first glimpse of 2019 salmon forecasts but here’s early insight on pink salmon that return during odd-numbered years.

“We are just starting to get the spawning surveys and forecasts compiled,” said Marisa Litz, the WDFW pink and chum salmon biologist. “What we know for pinks is that a lot of fry can produce a lot of fish. Pinks are known to produce a lot of fry even coming off low returns. We won’t know for sure what 2019 holds but if we get that type of production we may see somewhat of an uptick in pinks.”

The pinks seem to be a very prolific fish, the run doubled from 1997 to 1999 although it is not a guarantee nor a consistent situation. It was like 1991 when 500,000 pinks returned and then soared to 1-million by 1993.

“It is something to be cautiously optimistic about,” Litz said.

WDFW and tribal co-managers are in the process of completing drafts for all salmon returns and the pink draft estimate for 2017 wasn’t very rosy.

“The pink runs are very boom or bust and we can see some pretty dramatic changes,” Litz said. “The total pink return was 480,858 pinks in 2017 (down from preseason forecast that year of 1,150,522) and to give you some context this is the lowest run size we’ve seen since 1997.”

In terms of a run-size and prior to 1997 you’d have to go all the way back to 1975 to see a lower run than that. Litz pointed out the 2017 pink return puts it in the top three lowest runs in the past 40 years.

For the past 15 years pink returns have steadily increased with more than a million returning in 2013, which was a record setting year.

“We had a lot of flooding and drought conditions in 2015,” Litz said. “That summer rivers were extremely low, and the spawning channels were very narrow when the pinks arrived. Then we had big floods and scouring of spawning beds and that wiped out a lot fish.”

The reductions from 2015 to 2017 was drastic, especially in the freshwater production environment, but the marine production was also hampered with a blow to the arm by the “Blob” – a mass of warm water that wreaked havoc on the Pacific Ocean ecosystem.

Here is a look at how some Puget Sound pink returns fared in 2017:
The Dungeness River had a pink return of 356,000 in 2015 and was 20,000 in 2017; Nooksack was 335,000 to 35,000 (96,218 was preseason forecast); Skagit was 411,000 to 86,000 in 2017 (85,600); Hood Canal was 646,000 to 39,000 (229,440); Puyallup was 800,000 to 100,000 (382,391); and Nisqually was 200,000 to 9,000 (21,463).

“The Green pink return was just getting started and new to this river system and we had close to 100,000 in 2013,” Litz said. “It appears the run is there to stay; we had about 50 percent less come back in 2017 (118,689) to what we saw in 2015.”

The Fraser River pink return was estimated at more than 8-million in 2017 and run-size ended up being 3,616,000 with an escapement goal of 6-million. That actual return was the second lowest since 1965.

Anglers got an early peek at Columbia River salmon return predictions last month that don’t look very rosy for spring and summer chinook and sockeye, and all are down from the 10-year average.

A total of 157,500 spring chinook are forecast to return down from a forecast of 248,520 last year and an actual return of 176,642. The upriver-bound total is 99,300 down from 166,700 last year and an actual return of 115,081.

Lower Columbia tributaries are also taking a hit with Cowlitz at 1,300 (5,150 forecasted in 2018 and actual return of 4,000); Kalama, 1,400 (1,450 and 2,300); Lewis, 1,600 (3,700 and 3,200); Willamette, 40,200 (53,820 and 37,441); and Sandy, 5,500 (5,400 and 4,733).

The Upper Columbia summer chinook return is 35,900 down from 67,300 last year and an actual return of 42,120. As for sockeye it is 94,400 down from 99,000 and 210,915.

Other news from the Big-C showed a 2018 fall chinook prediction of 376,000 and preliminary returns are about 75 percent of the forecast. The good news is bright jack chinook appear improved compared to 2017 and tule jack are similar to 2017.

The 2019 fall chinook outlook show bright stocks similar, and tule stock less than the 10-year average. Poor ocean conditions the past several years will likely hinder returns in 2019.

The 2018 Columbia coho return is about 35-percent of the preseason forecast of 213,600. The good news is jack coho returns are much improved over recent years and are about 50-percent greater than the recent 10-year average.

Other salmon nibbles and bites

Anglers who ventured off the coast managed to find good coho fishing this past summer while the king fishing never really took off.

“We had a pretty darn good coho fishery coast-wide and had a couple places close, which reached their coho quota early and while that is never good news what it means is that we caught fish,” said Wendy Beeghly, the WDFW coastal salmon manager. “Chinook fishing was slow everywhere last year. It makes sense since chinook returns weren’t very good in the Columbia River.”

Beeghly noted the coho seen in sampling were healthy, bigger and fatter so that was encouraging.

“While we can’t provide anything definitive just yet, what we saw with coho last season was good news compared to prior years and we all hope that what lies ahead will be good,” Beeghly said.

Federal fisheries managers are also reporting that environmental conditions in the ocean are improving, salmon productivity has made a turn for the better and the food chain is on the mend.

“The coho response to those factors should be a lot quicker than chinook which take some time and are slower to recover,” said Ryan Lothrop, a WDFW salmon specialist for the Columbia River region.

WDFW will present their salmon forecasts at the end of February in Olympia. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will approve final salmon seasons April 9-16 in Rohnert Park, CA.

Seattle Boat Show drops anchor soon

The Seattle Boat Show – the largest boat show on the West Coast – is Jan. 25 through Feb. 2. This is your one-stop shop for checking out hundreds of fishing boats, informative fishing seminars, and state-of-the-art gear and electronics.

There will be 78 free fishing seminars (up from 55 last year), and more coverage on a variety of new topics by top-notch experts that will provide an in-depth wealth of knowledge on how to catch fish across the Pacific Northwest. For a complete list of all fishing and boating seminars, go to https://seattleboatshow.com/seminars/.

This is also a great time for visitors to check out the NW Salmon Derby Series grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It will be on display in the West Hall at the Master Marine Boat Center.

THE NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES’ GRAND PRIZE BOAT WILL BE ON DISPLAY AT THE HUGE SEATTLE BOAT SHOW COMING UP JAN. 25-FEB. 2. (NMTA)

The fully-rigged boat comes with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics Stereo. Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success include Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

First up are the now sold-out Resurrection Salmon Derby Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby); and Friday Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 7-9(http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/.

Those will be followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/); and Everett Blackmouth Derby March 16-17 (http://www.everettblackmouthderby.com/).

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett CohoDerby on Sept. 21-22. For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water or come say “hi” at the great Seattle Boat Show!

 

Yuasa: Tons Of Blackmouth Fishing, Razor Clam Digging Ops In March

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

The feeling of excitement started to build in the middle of last month when the days were getting a little longer, spring felt just that much closer, and most of all more fishing options are now coming into play throughout the Pacific Northwest.

It was back during the Seattle Boat Show – our most successful in attendance and boat sales – after logging 90-plus miles on my sneakers and putting in 12- to 15-hour days where people came up to chat with me on all things fishing. But, in particular it was one man who said, “Hey you’re Mark Yuasa and I just loved your columns, but miss you not being in the newspaper.”

AUTHOR MARK YUASA REPORTS THAT FAMED POSSESSION BAR HAS BEEN PRODUCING BLACKMOUTH SINCE IT REOPENED FEB. 16. (NMTA)

I replied, “Well thank you for the kind words, but no need to miss out on my column.”

That drew a rather perplexed look, which in turn I told him you can still find me in places like the Reel News and other outdoor publications. His response was “Wow that is great and I’m stoked! So where should I go fishing in the next couple of months?”

That last comment got his head swirling faster than a jig fluttering to the bottom of Puget Sound as I spoon fed him with plenty of fishing choices.

Even if you could stay “Sleepless in Seattle” there wouldn’t be enough time to hit every spring-time fishery on the must do list, but there’s no doubt with a little homework that an angler who uses their free time wisely can score an A+ in the fishing gradebook.
In order to keep everyone’s grade above the standards here are the possibilities for success.

After months of delays, the northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 9, 8-1 and 8-2) finally reopened for hatchery chinook.

It appears hitting the pause button did work to some extent as the catch of sub-legal chinook – those under the 22-inch minimum “keeper” size limit – were less abundant as they had been way back before the Christmas holidays.

The first few days of the fishing season – which began on Feb. 16 – saw nasty weather with winds 10 to 30 knots blowing, but by President’s Day (Feb. 20) the situation calmed down enough that anglers managed to dial-in on success.

Hit the usual spots like Possession Bar, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Point No Point, Marrowstone Island; Double Bluff off south west side of Whidbey Island; Hat Island at the “racetrack”; Columbia Beach; Onamac Point; and Elger Bay.

Still on top of list, but not quite as grand as it had been in January are the San Juan Islands (Area 7) where catches of nice-sized fish were still coming from places like Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Speiden Island; Spring Pass; Obstruction Island; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Peavine Pass; Doughty Point; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

Even more exciting is the fact that the Strait of Juan de Fuca comes into play for hatchery chinook this month.

Sekiu in the western Strait harkens me back to the “good old days” of salmon fishing, and it’s open March 16 through April 30. The good news here is that don’t expect any premature closure with hungry chinook from the Caves to Eagle Point, and west from Slip Point-Mussolini Rock area to Pillar Point. The eastern Strait off Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay is another stop off for chinook through April 15.

Closer to Seattle, the doors to salmon fishing in central Puget Sound (Area 10) have closed, but south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) and Hood Canal (Area 12) are open through April 30, and southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

This month also marks a special time for coastal communities who come out of a winter slumber as the bottom-fishing season kicks into high gear.

Ilwaco, Westport and La Push for opens lingcod and other bottom-fish on March 10. Bottom-fish fishing west of the Bonilla Tatoosh Island line off Neah Bay also opens on March 10, and east of the line is currently open year-round. The lingcod fishery on northern coast opens April 16.

Many will begin to make regular trips to the Lower Columbia River in pursuit of spring chinook. The 2018 forecast is 166,700 upriver spring chinook, which is 90 percent of recent 10-year average return. That is compared to 160,400 forecasted in 2017 and an actual return of 115,822, but somewhat down from 2016’s 188,800 and 187,816.

Spring coastal razor clam digs will be down somewhat from previous years, but mark your calendars for tentative dates set through April.

Final approval will depend on further marine toxin testing, which will likely be announced a week before each scheduled dig series. Digs in March occur during evening low tides after 12 p.m. while those in April are during morning low tides until 12 p.m. or until times noted below.

Dates are: March 2-3 at Mocrocks; March 16 at Copalis and Mocrocks; March 17 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; April 19-20 at Mocrocks; April 21 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 1 p.m.; and April 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 2 p.m.

More digging dates could occur later this spring if sufficient clams remain available to harvest.

The Puget Sound salmon forecasts were released on Feb. 27, and those who’d like to get involved with this rather arduous process should take a seat at some of the upcoming meetings.

Early word on the street is that fishing seasons could resemble last season, but it’s still too early in the game to know exactly how things will pan out. For a list of other meeting dates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

First three events in Salmon Derby Series start off with decent action

Thousands of anglers converged to San Juan Islands for three salmon derbies – part of the NMTA’s NW Salmon Derby Series – since the New Year with good catches and decent weather conditions.

The Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 8-10 had 100 boats with 329 anglers that weighed-in 122 fish (winning fish was 19.15 pounds).

In Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20 had 100 boats with 357 anglers weighing in 179 chinook (winning fish was 17 pounds, 11 ounces). The Resurrection Derby on Jan. 5-7 saw 102 boats with 334 anglers reeling-in 50 hatchery chinook (winning fish was 18.28 pounds).

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Next up is Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 9-11, and Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 17-18.

(NMTA)

Check out the grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer. It is fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Drawing for the boat will take place at conclusion of derby series. For details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

Lastly, it was super great meeting everyone at the Seattle Boat Show where our combined net attendance for all three locations was 52,928, up 2.1 percent over last year. Indoor attendance at CenturyLink Field Event Center over all nine days of the show was 46,938, up 0.8 percent compared to last year.

On that note, I’ll see you on the water very soon!