Tag Archives: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic

Yuasa: I-5 Fall Trout Releases Boosted, Plus Squid, Crab, Salmon Ops In November

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

We’ve been hanging our salmon fishing lines in the water for more than five months, and I’d like to switch gears and set sights on another exciting opportunity to get through the impending holiday madness.

Yes, take some time to let go of your snobbish salmon attitude and harken back to days when you pursued trout with nothing more than high hopes, a jar of salmon eggs, Power Bait or a container of worms.

Now is the time to hit the refresh button and replay those memorable moments or share it with someone new to fishing.

“We’re trying out a couple of pilot programs, which allowed us to be creative on how we structure trout fisheries in our region, and we’ve kept intact a couple others that have been successful,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist in Mill Creek.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Earlier this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) strategized ways to boost trout prospects at a time when many have holiday plans or shopping on their minds.

According to Spinelli, WDFW hatchery staff had space in some hatcheries and funding to raise thousands of rainbow trout to catchable size (8 to 11 inches) this past spring and summer.

“During this pilot program, we plan to monitor and conduct creel surveys so we can get an idea on participation and success,” Spinelli said. “Keeping fish in hatcheries longer was expensive. We need to make sure for budget purposes that it’s worth our effort to provide this special opportunity.”

WDFW is planting 27,000 rainbow trout along the I-5 corridor in 12 lakes within Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties.

“I’m really excited and hopefully it leads to getting more people into the sport,” he said. “We’re trying this out in urban centered areas. We know a lot of people in the cities may be interested in getting outside and going fishing.”

Spinelli says this offers easy access to nearby lakes and it’s not too complicated of a fishery to learn, doesn’t take a whole bunch of expensive fishing gear and provides fish that are willing to bite.

Two popular local lakes where late-season annual plants have become the norm are Beaver Lake in Issaquah and Goodwin Lake in Snohomish County.

Beaver was expecting a plant – possibly as soon as this week – of 1,250 trout averaging 2 pounds apiece and another 1,250 just prior to Thanksgiving. Goodwin will receive 5,000 in December.

Here are other scheduled plants (most lakes are open year-round except two have seasonal dates):

King County – Green, 3,600 (1,611 planted last week); Steel, 1,600 (open Nov. 1-Jan. 5 only and 804 were planted last week); and Fivemile, 1,200 (616 were planted last week). Snohomish County – Gissburg Ponds, 2,000; Tye, 2,000; Silver, 2,000 (1,005 were planted last week); and Ballinger, 1,600 (804 were planted last week). Skagit County – Clear, 1,500; and Cranberry, 1,750. Whatcom County – Padden, 1,750 (open Nov. 1-Jan. 5 only and 1,000 were planted last week).

“Some lakes we plant will have fish biting for quite a while,” Spinelli said. “I’m thrilled with this new program and hope we can demonstrate that this can be a stimulus for our trout fisheries at a time when choices of fishing activities are much slimmer.”

The popular “Black Friday” trout fisheries also give anglers a chance to get out and burn off the calories from a Thanksgiving feast. This includes thousands of beefy trout averaging 1 to 1.3 pounds going into more than a dozen southwest Washington lakes.

Clark County – Klineline, 2,000; and Battle Ground, 2,000. Cowlitz County – Kress, 2,000. Klickitat County – Rowland, 2,000. Lewis County – Fort Borst Park Pond, 2,000; and South Lewis County Park Pond, 2,000. Pierce County – American, 2,000; and Tanwax, 1,000. Thurston County – Black, 1,000; Ward, 300; Long, 1,000; and Offutt, 1,000.

Millions of fry-size trout were planted this past spring in eastern Washington lakes that are open from Nov. 29 through March 31. These fish should have grown to catchable size (8 to 11 inches). They include Hatch, 10,000, and Williams, 12,000, in Stevens County; Fourth of July, 80,000, on Lincoln/Adams county line; and Hog Canyon, 20,000, in Spokane County.

Elton Pond in Yakima County open from Nov. 29 through March 31 will be planted with 2,000 trout averaging 1.2 pounds.

Be sure to check the WDFW website for additional lakes open year-round, which are expected to be planted in late fall and winter. For weekly stocking reports, go to www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly.

Other holiday fishing opportunities

This is a magical time of the year with opportunities blooming for squid, salmon and Dungeness crab just to name a few.

Hitting up many Puget Sound piers has become a nightly affair as millions of tasty squid – known in the culinary society as “calamari” – are pouring into Puget Sound marine waterways from Edmonds south to Tacoma.

Squid jigging is good at the Les Davis Pier in Tacoma; Des Moines Marina Pier; Seacrest Boathouse Pier in West Seattle; Seattle waterfront at Piers 57, 62, 63, 70 or the Seattle Aquarium Pier; Edmonds Pier; A-Dock and Shilshole Pier; Point Defiance Park Pier; Fauntleroy Ferry Dock; Illahee State Park Pier; and the Waterman and Indianola piers in Kitsap County.

Night-time on a flood tide are the best periods to catch squid as they’re attracted to lighted public piers. Squid like to lurk in the darker edges of lighted water and dart out into the light on their unsuspecting prey. The WDFW website has a wealth of information on squid jigging at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/.

Salmon chasers still have opportunities in central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10), which is open for chum and maybe a late coho through Nov. 15. Target chums around Jefferson Head, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Kingston, Allen Bank and Southworth near Blake Island, and the east side of Bainbridge Island.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) is open year-round and should be fair game for hatchery winter chinook off Fox Island, south of the Narrows Bridge, Anderson Island and Johnson Point.
Hood Canal (Area 12) is often an underfished location in the winter for hatchery chinook around central region at Misery Point and Oak Head.

A reminder the daily catch limit is two coho, chum or hatchery chinook in southern Puget Sound (Area 13). The daily limit in Areas 10 is two salmon but only one may be a coho (you can retain chum, pink and coho but need to release chinook).

Central Puget Sound (Area 10) and south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopens Jan. 1 for hatchery chinook. Northern Puget Sound (Area 9), San Juan Islands (Area 7) and east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) reopens Feb. 1 for hatchery chinook.

There’s nothing sweeter than having a plate of Dungeness crab sitting on the holiday dinner table and fishing has been fairly good since it reopened back on Oct. 1. Dungeness crab fishing is open daily through Dec. 31 at Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Marine Area 4); Sekiu area in western Strait of Juan de Fuca (5); Port Angeles area eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (6); San Juan Islands (7); and northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9) except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff. The east side of Whidbey Island in Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay (8-1); Port Susan and Port Gardiner (8-2) has closed for crabbing.

Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset. For more information, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/.

Can you dig it? Coastal razor clam success very good since opening in late September

The coastal razor clam digs have gotten off to a stupendous start and be sure to get some for the holiday dinner table.

The first digs of the 2019-2020 season began Sept. 27-29 at Long Beach and success was excellent with 18,000 diggers taking home 296,000 clams.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“Digging went really well during the first series opener at Long Beach,” said Dan Ayres, the head WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “It was as close to limits as you can get (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily per person limit).”

Digging this week also was off-the-charts good at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. There’s still a last chance on tonight (Nov. 1) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (minus-0.2 feet at 10:38 p.m.). No digging is allowed during PM low tides only.

Many night-time low tide digs are planned in the weeks ahead on Nov. 1, 11, 13, 15, 17, 24, 26, 28 and 30 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 12, 14, 16, 25, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Dec. 10, 12, 14, 16, 23, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 11, 13, 15, 26 and 28 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis.

Final approval is announced by WDFW about one or two weeks prior to each series of digs and are dependent on marine toxin levels being below the cutoff threshold.

WDFW shellfish managers are saying this could be one of the best seasons seen in quite a while for many digs planned from winter through spring. For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/razor-clams.

New name and new events happening in 2020 during the NW Fishing Derby Series

A quick look back at the 2019 derby season saw a total of 6,176 anglers entered into 13 derbies (one was cancelled) which is up from 4,690 in 2018 and there’s plenty of excitement coming up in 2020.

We’ve now hit the refresh button and renamed it the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series” with a tentative 18 derbies scheduled. It will include two lingcod/rockfish “For the Love of Cod Derbies” in Coos Bay, Charleston and Brookings, Oregon in March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively, and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan in April.

The highlight is a chance enter and win a sleek $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Series Hardtop boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. Our newest sponsor of the derby – Shoxs Seats (www.shoxs.com) – has provided a pair of top-of-the-line seats that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas.
The good news is anglers who enter any of the 18 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package!

A huge “thank you” to our other 2020 sponsors who make this series such a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Scotty Downriggers; Burnewiin Accessories; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronics; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; Lamiglas Rods; KIRO/ESPN 710AM The Outdoor Line; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; Rays Bait Works; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

First up in the series are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. For details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

In the meantime, take a break from holiday shopping and hit up a lake or open saltwater areas for a feisty fish tugging on the end of your line.

I’ll see you on the water!

Yuasa: Lots Of Midwinter Blackmouth, Shellfishing Ops; Ode To Jensen’s Smokehouse

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

We are lucky to live in an area of the country where anglers have a legitimate chance to catch salmon year-round, and much of that is accomplished by a program requiring hatchery chinook and coho to be adipose fin clipped prior to release.

Washington has the largest hatchery production on the planet, which annually pumps out more than 200-million juvenile fish in hundreds of state, tribal and federal hatcheries. Since the mid-1990s mass-marking has played a critical role with salmon management to keep sustainable fisheries open while doing our due diligence of recovering wild salmon stocks.

HAPPY BLACKMOUTH ANGLER. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

A recent Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) memo to Governor Jay Inslee dated May 1, 2018 showed Puget Sound hatchery and wild chinook populations have increased by 14 percent over the past 10-years. Returns of just hatchery chinook to Puget Sound over the last 10-years have increased by 24 percent.

Hatchery production helps an angler identify between an unmarked wild fish versus a hatchery fish, and if it wasn’t for this type of technology, we’d likely be taking up another sport like golf or lawn bowling.

I beg to differ and pick salmon fishing for my pure enjoyment! After all feeling the tug of a hard-fighting salmon is way more satisfying than aimlessly hitting – along with my wicked slice – a golf ball.

Soon after the holiday parties concluded, three key marine areas (central and northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands) reopened their doors Jan. 1 to some of the best winter blackmouth – a term commonly given to chinook for their dark gumline – fishing.

“What we’re seeing (in Area 7) is some pretty good fishing, but nothing great and I’ve heard of fish in all the top-20 usual spots around the islands,” said Derek Floyd, owner of Anglers Choice Fishing Charters in Anacortes.

Included in those top picks are Clark and Barnes Islands; Sucia Island; Parker Reef; West Beach; Spring Pass; Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Point Thompson; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

By far the most hysteria involving winter chinook was central Puget Sound (Area 10) which closed on Jan. 20.

“We saw an unprecedented catch per angler effort with close to half-a-fish per rod,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “We had incredible success and turnout.”

WDFW staff indicated it was some of the best fishing seen in Area 10 for the past several years and the good weather was also a factor for early closure – fishing was supposed to be open through March 30.

WDFW preliminary estimates and fishery projections indicated the Area 10 total encounter guideline of 2,997 chinook had been achieved with 738 boats and 1,561 anglers catching or releasing 3,351 fish (734 were kept).

I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again that making fishing plans sooner than later will guarantee you more time on the water. It’s a new era where catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) will dictate the length of seasons.

In the San Juan Islands (Area 7) winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters, and midway through last month they were at 8 percent or 859 encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook. Areas 7 and 9 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.

The chinook fishery on the east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has a total encounter of 5,474, and was at 29 percent or 1,597 encounters. Areas 8-1 and 8-2 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit. WDFW plans to provide regular catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

In Puget Sound, seek out chinook at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.

Other areas open for winter chinook are south-central Puget Sound (11); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).

Whatever fishing location whets your appetite just be sure to find the baitfish (herring and candlefish) and you’ll likely find hungry chinook in the mix.

Lastly, I’d go fishing sooner than later as most areas could close in a moment’s notice if catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) are achieved. WDFW plans to provide updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. All three areas have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.

Anglers can also make plans to fish for winter chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay (Area 6) when it opens Feb. 1 through April 15 and Sekiu (Area 5) from Feb. 16 through April 30.

If bottom-fishing gets you excited then mark March 8 on your calendar because that’s when Ilwaco, Westport and La Push opens for lingcod.

Other important dates are Feb. 27 when WDFW unveils their salmon forecasts during a public meeting, 9 a.m., at the Lacey Community Center. Other dates include North of Falcon meetings on March 19 at the DSHS Building in Olympia and April3 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will be adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council on April 11-16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Sonoma, Calif.

Iconic Greenwood smokehouse closes its doors

After 34 years, the iconic Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse in Greenwood, has shuttered its doors but hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this highly popular store where anglers have gotten their catch custom smoked in a variety of delicious ways.

“It has been a privilege to serve many of my customers over the years, and if I could redo my life, I’d do it all over again,” said Mike Jensen, owner of this family business in North Seattle since 1985. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people as far away as New Jersey who’ve said our smoked salmon is the best. Those kinds of comments really helped save the day and were very gratifying.”

JENSEN’S SMOKEHOUSE WAS IN BUSINESS ON GREENWOOD AVENUE IN NORTHWEST SEATTLE FOR 34 YEARS, SMOKING AS MUCH AS 3,000 POUNDS OF SALMON A DAY DURING PEAK SEASON. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Jensen – whose parents started a smokehouse in Bremerton many decades ago – says keeping his business going has been very tough the last five years where he employed up to 25 workers at peak periods from summer through fall. During slow times they’d produce about 300 pounds of smoked products per day, but during busy months they’d generate about 3,000 pounds daily.

“Hiring workers has been difficult in recent years as well as other issues like wage increases so I just felt it was time to retire,” said Jensen who is 64. “My wife (Kathy) retired a couple years ago and our 30-year anniversary is coming up (in February) so this is a nice way to launch into our next decade of marriage and walk into the sunset.”

Running the business hasn’t been easy as his wife and their home is located at the Lake Limerick Country Club near Bremerton. This meant Mike spent weekdays away from home and his beloved family.

“We love to play golf and pickleball, go on long hikes and water ski on the lake, and now I’ll get more time to do those kinds of special things,” Jensen said. “I’d also like to travel south in the winter to warmer places where I won’t hear my teeth chattering.”

Jensen’s commitment to his company was a family affair. Over the years, his son Scott and two daughters Mariah and Theresa helped with bookkeeping and the front counter and prepped and packaged products. Each of his kids have moved onto other successful ventures, but all learned how a company functions at the family smokehouse.

Their custom work was beloved by customers as fish or meat/poultry products were hand cut, filleted and each batch brined then hot or cold smoked with care that included specialty toppings like garlic and pepper. Double pepper was one of my favorites! Each of the finished products were then vacuum-sealed and date stamped for freshness.

They also sold products to retail grocery stores like QFC, Uwajimaya and to vendors at Pike Place Market. Their closing will leave a void in the smoked seafood industry.

“It’s a pretty serious disappointment that we couldn’t keep the business going,” said Jensen where his 34-year-old company has stood in a building erected in 1955.

The building is expected to be demolished by 2020 and replaced with a four-story townhome although current Jensen employees are trying the reopen the business for 12 months and then hopefully relocate elsewhere.

“It has been an honor to serve the community for so long and I’m glad for what I have accomplished in life,” Jensen said.

Dig into this shellfish news

There’s nothing more fun then digging up your favorite shellfish during the winter time especially when oysters are in prime eating condition.

The only overriding factor is that winter low tides occur in the dark so packing along a powerful lantern coupled and flashlight or headlamp is vital when hitting your favorite Puget Sound and Hood Canal beach.

In Whatcom County, Birch Bay State Park in Whatcom County is open year-round for shellfish and is a great oyster beach. In Jefferson County, Shine Tidelands State Park is an excellent beach for Manila, littlenecks and butter clams. Belfair State Park located in Mason County is productive for mainly oysters.

In Hood Canal, Dosewallips State Park is excellent choice for oysters and clams. Eagle Creek near Lilliwaup is a good spot for oysters. Point Whitney Lagoon and Tidelands and Wolfe Property State Park are decent for clams and oysters. In Kitsap County, Port Gamble Tidelands has acres of clams. The Quilcene Bay Tidelands is a good clam digging spot. Decent oyster beaches are Triton Cove, Twanoh State Park and West Dewatto.

Best upcoming low tides are Feb. 1-5; and Feb. 15-22. For tides, go to http://www.saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/washingtonsites.html.

Remember all eastern mainland beaches from Everett into southern Puget Sound are closed due to unsafe pollution levels. For details, go to WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/2019_ps_clam_oyster_seasons.pdf.

Be sure to follow all the shellfish rules, daily limits, and gathering etiquette such as filling-in all holes, shucking all oysters and leaving shells on the beach where you found them.

For emergency closures, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the DOH website at www.doh.wa.gov Check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov

Here are next dates for those looking to hit the coast for razor clams (WDFW usually gives final notice on openings a week before each series of digs): Feb. 1, 4:48 p.m. is plus-0.2 feet at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Feb. 2, 5:28 p.m. is 0.0 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 3, 6:04 p.m. is -0.1 at Twin Harbors and Copalis. Other tentative dates are Feb. 15, 3:11 p.m. is 0.4 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 16, 4:08 p.m. is -0.3 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Kalaloch; Feb. 17, 4:59 p.m. is -1.0 at Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 18, 5:46 p.m. is -1.4 at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 19, 6:31 p.m. is -1.5 at Twin Harbors; Feb. 20, 7:14 p.m. is -1.3 at Twin Harbors; and Feb. 21, 7:56 p.m. is -0.8 at Twin Harbors.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve just wrapped up the first two derbies in the series – Resurrection Salmon Derby and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic – and each was a great success with a good turnout and plenty of winter chinook around to catch.

THE GRAND PRIZE BOAT FOR THE 2019 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Another successful boat show ends Feb. 2 with many getting their first looks at the sleek grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors who make the derby series a success include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; 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 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

Next up in the derby series is the sold-out Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/). That 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 Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22.

For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
I’ll see you on the water!

 

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!