Tag Archives: Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark

Yuasa Excited By July’s Westside Chinook, Crabbing Ops

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

For salmon anglers, the thrill of a fish peeling line off the reel in July resembles a sugar rush, free-for-all in the candy store.

I’m hooked on that feeling and judging by the early signs we experienced last month in open salmon fishing areas, there’s enthusiasm in the air of what lies ahead from the coast clear into Puget Sound.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

I harken back to my early college days when summer was a three-month, job-free fishing affair with many fond memories created at a nearby lake, river or a marine area from Sekiu to Elliott Bay and many stops in between.

It was a great time when being young and willing to live on two hours of sleep just to be on the water by 4 a.m. and staying out until well after dark was simply a rite of passage. I confess it’s been more than three decades since those hey-days and while I can’t quite kick up the rpm’s like I did in the past, I still live for those glory moments.

A rush of early excitement occurred in June with the spotlight beaming brightly on south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma area (Marine Catch Area 11), central Puget Sound (10) and the Tulalip Bubble Fishery (8-2) where fishing took off right when it opened.

“This early part of the summer reminds me of what we used to see in the good old days,” said Art Tachell, the manager of the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma.

The catch estimates for south central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) since it reopened June 1 for salmon fishing are 756 fish retained under a catch quota of 5,344. Fishing action has been slow to fair for a mix of resident chinook, 5 to 8 pounds, and kings, 10 to 18 pounds, since the initial opener and the dogfish were thick off the Clay Banks at Point Defiance.

In Area 11, 448 boats with 718 anglers June 1-3 caught 242 hatchery-marked chinook and released 315 chinook for a total of 557 chinook encounters; and 1,042 boats with 1,520 anglers June 4-10 caught 512 hatchery-marked chinook and two unmarked chinook and released 666 hatchery-marked chinook for a total of 1,180 chinook encounters.

This year’s projection of 227,420 hatchery chinook migrating to Puget Sound is up 21 percent from the 10-year average and a 35 percent boost over last year.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca opened July 1 off Sekiu (5) for salmon, and Port Angeles opens July 3. Sekiu is the main intersection of fish runs heading east into Puget Sound and south to the Columbia River and beyond. In the past few years, Port Angeles has gotten off to a hot start and the hope is for another blissful season.

Many are licking their chops on what should be a “summer to remember” for hatchery kings in northern Puget Sound (9) and central Puget Sound (10).

The Area 9 summer hatchery king fishery has a 5,563 quota – which is a similar figure to the 2017 quota and up from 3,056 in 2016. Modeling by WDFW staff suggested this change would likely result in a shorter 2018 season given the forecast of increased hatchery chinook in the area.

“I’ll be happy if the Area 9 hatchery chinook fishery lasts two weeks,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “It was lights out king fishing at Midchannel Bank (last summer) and that seems the place to be when it opens in July.”

Many will focus their time in late July and August in Area 10 that has a cap of 4,743 hatchery chinook.

Shore-bound anglers can get in on the action with numerous piers scattered across Puget Sound that are open year-round for salmon. The Edmonds Pier has already been producing fish since early-June. The steep drop-offs around the Point No Point Lighthouse offer an easy cast to prime fishing holes.

The San Juan Islands are open until July 31 for hatchery kings, and switches to wild and hatchery kings from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3.

Hood Canal south of Ayock Point is open through Sept. 30 with a liberal four-hatchery chinook daily limit. The forecast is 57,558 up from 48,300 in 2017 with many kings destined for the George Adams and Hoodsport hatcheries.

The coastal chinook and hatchery coho fishery got underway on June 23 at Ilwaco (1), La Push (3), and Neah Bay (4). Westport (2) opened July 1 where salmon fishing is allowed Sundays through Thursdays. All areas close Sept. 3 or when the quota is achieved.

“We’ve had some decent success rates up north for the commercial trollers in Area 4 (Neah Bay and La Push), but pretty scratchy fishing in other areas to the south,” said Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager. “I’m expecting (the sport fishery) will start off a little slow, but we might find some fish up north in Area 4.”

Commercial trollers fishing off the coast since May reported the salmon are there one day and gone the next, according to Beeghly with nothing consistent and no huge schools of fish at this point.

“Based on what we forecasted for chinook returns this year we expect it to be a little slow this summer, but that doesn’t always indicate anything, and we will have to wait and see,” Beeghly said.

A downtrend in Columbia River salmon returns could result in mixed success for coastal anglers although “paper fish” forecasts have been proven wrong in the past, so watch for catch trends each week to see when’s a good time to go.

In between the Puget Sound salmon action, be sure to bring along the crab pots for a chance at some tasty Dungies!

Areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 12 are open through Sept. 3. Area 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh line and 5 are open through Sept. 3. Area 7 South opens July 14 through Sept. 30, and 7 North is open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30. Fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week only (closed on July 4). Areas 11 and 13 are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.

Lastly, some local rivers were bursting at the seams with kings and sockeye; and follow the trout plants in lakes at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Summer Dungeness crabbing underway

The highly popular Dungeness crab season has started in many Puget Sound areas and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay to Sekiu.

Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish manager says crabbing should be good this summer in marine waterways north of Seattle.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Fishing in open areas will be allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). The crab fishery is closed on July 4. South-central and southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.

The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca around Port Angeles (6); Deception Pass (8-1); Port Susan/Everett (8-2); northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9); central Puget Sound (10); and Hood Canal (12) are open through Sept. 3.

The western Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary to Sekiu (4 and 5) are open through Sept. 3.

The San Juan Islands/Bellingham (7 South) are open July 14 through Sept. 30, and the San Juan Islands “Gulf of Georgia” (7 North) are open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.

In all inland marine catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested in 2017 season was 9,285,912 pounds in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 in 2016.

This comes on the heel of an all-time record catch in 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

General Puget Sound rules are crab pots may not set or pulled from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crabbers must immediately write down their catch record cards after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches.

Fishermen may also keep six red rock crab of either sex daily, and each must measure at least 5 inches. For more information go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

Anglers start your motors! The PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby is July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby is July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Those will be followed by the Brewster Salmon Derby on Aug. 2-5; South King County PSA Derby on Aug. 4; Gig Harbor PSA Derby on Aug. 11; and the Vancouver, B.C. Canada Chinook Classic on Aug. 18-19.

It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about coho in September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is Sept. 22-23.

That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp and 9.9hp motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Now it’s time for me to take that first bite of chewy goodness in a “PayDay” candy bar and bee-line out the door to see if I can score a fish or two. See you on the water!

Yuasa: South Sound Crab Aside, Lots Of Good Fisheries To Hit

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

Hold on! Wait a minute! It’s truly hard to believe the calendar already reads June as the days are flying by at warp speed.

Spring was a blur, and by now many have already made their early summer salmon fishing trips to southeast Alaska; opening day of trout season is a distant memory; pots have been filled with spot shrimp and topped on salads or grilled on the BBQ; razor clams are now vacuum sealed in the freezer; and lingcod and halibut fishing was decent from the coast clear into open areas of Puget Sound.

This is time of year when turning over a new leaf on another season is set to take place with anglers switching into summer fishing mode.
But, before we get too deep into what opportunities exist we should weigh-in on a dire situation facing Puget Sound Dungeness crab.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

It appears the glory days of Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries could momentarily be in the rear-view mirror as areas south of Seattle (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due a dramatic dip in population levels. Tribal fisheries are also shutdown in those areas.

Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish biologist says anglers haven’t been faced with such a low abundance since 2012 and lousy success in 2017 were a signal of what was to come.
Dungeness crab abundance test fishing in early spring around south-central and southern Puget Sound found the situation wasn’t very rosy.

What fishery experts are seeing – or in this matter aren’t seeing – in those two areas is a two- and three-year-old male Dungeness crab class (averaging 4.4 inches) and four-year-old class (averaging 5.4 inches) are also greatly reduced. Legal-size is usually the five-year-old and older age class crabs averaging 6 ¼ inches or more.

“We’ve had some pretty extreme surface water events in 2014 and 2015, and it is a possibility the abnormally high-water temperatures could have played a role in the downtrend,” Velasquez said. “When young of the year Dungeness crab are faced with these types of conditions they tend to die at a much higher rate.”

Other reasons for the decline are a distant source of brood stock for larval production and inconsistent larval advection; low dissolved oxygen levels; ocean acidification; restricted water flow south of the Tacoma Narrows; and excessive harvest.

To make matters worse extremely low density of Dungeness crab could affect successful mating for future generations.

In Puget Sound catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested was 9,285,912 pounds during 2017 in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 pounds in 2016.

The record catch was 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

While crab opportunities have declined I must go back to my one of my old mantras: “You can gripe about where you can’t fish or head to greener pastures.”

And in this case those greener pastures will likely be found in northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. Specific dates haven’t been determined but fishing usually gets underway in early July. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Many other fishing options abound this summer

Now let’s move onto what’s happening this month and beyond.

The WDFW statewide trout derby is happening on 100 lakes now through Oct. 31. A common theme since opening day – which seems more pronounced than last year – is the number of tagged derby fish caught of late. Last year more than 50 percent of the tags were turned in so if it’s better so far this season that is great news!

More funding was diverted into 2018 with about $38,000 in donated prizes and more than 1,000 tags of which one-third (300 total) were placed in 22 Puget Sound region lakes.

Prizes range from gift cards to fishing gear, plus one tag lurking in a local lake is a getaway to Roche Harbor Resort in San Juan Islands.

Trout action remains steady and should continue until it heats up although deep-water bodied lakes will be good clear into summer. Bass, walleye and perch are also gaining more traction.

Shore-bound anglers shouldn’t overlook coastal surf perch fishing, which has been good since early spring from Neah Bay south along the Oregon coast.

The hatchery chinook season in Tacoma area of south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopened June 1. Since the winter/spring season ended on a high note with baitfish teeming off the Clay Banks it should no doubt attract some early-feeding kings into the area this month.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) chinook fishing in May was better than it had been in previous years with good catches off Point Fosdick, and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point and Fox Point.

Other marine salmon fisheries on horizon include Sekiu, San Juan Islands and a portion of Hood Canal all opening July 1 for hatchery chinook; and Port Angeles opening July 3. The Tulalip Bubble fishery is open Fridays to Mondays of each week but closed on June 9.

Central Puget Sound is open in June for coho only and I’d earmark the shipping lanes off Jefferson Head. On coast, Ilwaco, Neah Bay and La Push open for salmon on June 23; and Westport on July 1.
On river scene, the Cascade, the Skagit above 530 Bridge and Skykomish opened June 1 for hatchery chinook; and a section of Skagit opens June 16 for sockeye.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

Next up on Northwest Salmon Derby Series is PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about a coho season in central and northern Puget Sound during the prime fishing month of September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is date stamped for Sept. 22-23.

That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo – for a $65,000 value. Not bad to get your name pulled out of a hat or maybe a cement mixer like we did last year in Everett. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Now excuse me while I tie a bunch of leaders, prep the boat and zoom out the door to go fishing. See you out on the water soon!

Yuasa Reviews Washington 2018 Salmon Seasons, Looks Ahead To Halibut, Shrimping

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 months are flying by faster than a coho hitting your bait in the prop wash.

It felt like “Yesterday” – an ode to a classic Beatles song – when we gathered in Lacey on Feb. 27 to see what the salmon forecasts had in store for us. Now a season package is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – did you say Stevie Wonder? – for anglers to digest and begin making plans on where to wet a line.

The process known as “North of Falcon” (NOF) culminated April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon, and I was on-hand as a sport-fishing observer.

JUSTIN WONG HOLDS UP A NICE KING SALMON HE CAUGHT LAST SUMMER IN THE OCEAN OFF WESTPORT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

When proposed seasons came to light in mid-March it was like a feisty trophy king tugging on end of a line, which after a long battle unhooked itself at the boat causing the lead weight to smack you right in the eye.

While grief and a swollen black eye set in, you might have been down in the dumps. But, my mantra has been to never whine about what you can’t do or lost (the trophy king in paragraph above), and more on making the most of the present moment.

Life throws you lemons so make sweet lemonade because if you don’t your head will go into a swift-moving tidal tail-spin and turn your fishing line into a messy tangled web of hurt.

The initial good news is environmental conditions – El Nino, warm water temperatures, a “Blob” and droughts – that have plagued us with restrictions going back to 2015-16 appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

Secondly, was the warmth (albeit mixed feelings by some NOF attendees) of unity and transparency between user groups despite a usual difference in opinions over how the whole pie of sport, tribal and non-tribal fisheries was divvied up.

These are signals of “baby steps” in a complicated process that long has been filled with arguments, bitterness, cultural indifference, protests and a fight over that “last salmon” dating back to Boldt Decision.

The true litmus test of how long this “hand-holding” philosophy will last between all parties is essential as we move forward to ensure our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon runs will be around for generations to come. Even more so as we carry the torch of a long-term Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan to the federal fishery agency’s table later this year, which will dictate how we fish from 2019 to 2029 and beyond.

“Now that we’ve finished this process we need to work on being responsible with conservation, habitat issues and simply change our philosophy to create a long-term management plan,” Ron Warren, the WDFW salmon policy coordinator said at conclusion of Portland meetings.

While being mindful of that briny future, let’s go over highlights of our fisheries at hand.

A positive are extended seasons – something that hasn’t happened for several years – for hatchery coho in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) from July through September, and non-select coho in central Puget Sound (Area 10) from June through mid-November. The Puget Sound coho forecast is 557,149.

Another shining star is a South Sound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017.

The northern Puget Sound summer hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,563 – a similar figure to 2017 – and is expected to last one-month when it opens in July.

The elevated forecast is a blessing when south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens June 1 especially in popular Tacoma-Vashon Island area. A central Puget Sound hatchery chinook fishery starts July 16 with a cap of 4,743. Area 10 has a coho directed fishery in June at popular places such as Jefferson Head-Edmonds area.

A hatchery king season opens at Sekiu on July 1, and Port Angeles on July 3. Both switch to hatchery coho in mid-August through September.

A summer king fishery in San Juan Islands (Area 7) opens July to August, but September is chinook non-retention.

Late-summer and early-fall coho fisheries will occur in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 11, 12 and 13.

On coast, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay open daily starting June 23, and Westport opens Sundays to Thursdays beginning July 1. Hatchery coho quotas are same as 2017 although chinook quotas are down a decent amount. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1.

On freshwater scene, a sockeye forecast of 35,002 to Baker River is strong enough to allow fisheries in Baker Lake from July 7-Sept. 7, and a section of Skagit River from June 16-July 15.

The Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open Sept. 16 for coho. Sections of Skykomish, Skagit and Cascade open for hatchery chinook beginning June 1. For details on seasons, visit WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Bounty of May fishing options

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp during a season that begins May 5.

“I am more positive this year on our spot shrimp projections than the last couple of years,” said Mark O’Toole, a WDFW biologist who is retiring May 18 after an illustrious 36 years with the department, and many thanks for your valued input on shrimp and other fish policies!

BIG PRAWN-SIZE SPOT SHRIMP COME INTO PLAY IN THE MONTHS AHEAD AROUND THE PUGET SOUND REGION. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In general, last year was another good season with relatively high abundance,” he said. “The catch per boat ended up being higher for all areas.”

Look for good shrimping in Strait; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; central, south-central and northern Puget Sound; and Hood Canal. Test fishing conducted this spring showed marginal abundance in southern Puget Sound.

Hit pause button on spring chores since trout fishing in statewide lowland lakes is now underway.

Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist says 460,000 trout went into Puget Sound region lakes on top of 500-plus statewide lakes planted with 16,840,269 trout – 2,171,307 of them are the standardized size averaging about 11 inches compared to 8-inches in past seasons.

If you prefer a large-sized halibut then head out on May 11. The Washington catch quota is 225,366 pounds down from 237,762 in 2017, and a bump up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait/Puget Sound are May 11, 13, 25 and 27. Depending on catches other dates are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Ilwaco opens May 3 with fishing allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Once you get your halibut fix add some black rockfish and lingcod to the cooler. Ilwaco, Westport, Neah Bay and La Push are open for both, and some Puget Sound areas are open for lingcod.

NW Salmon Derby Series hits pause button

While we take a break from a spectacular winter derby series be sure to keep sight of the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

More great news is Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8 and Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23 – the largest derby on West Coast – are likely back on “must do” list. In mean time, check out derby’s grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp motor and 9.9hp trolling motor at Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show on May 17-20 at Cap Sante Marina. The $65,000 boat also comes on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m sprinting out the door with rod in hand so see you on the water!

Yuasa: Salmon Fisheries, Fishery Planning Mark April Doin’s

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

April 2018

This is a very busy time of the year with plenty of salmon fishing options, and many are also making summer plans as 2018-19 seasons are being finalized this month.

Before we chomp away at what the crystal ball has in store for us, let’s focus on spring-fling fishing plans that involve lots of chinook fishing fun. The San Juan Islands and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca have been the main focal point for hatchery chinook especially at places like Coyote, Partridge, Hein, Eastern, Middle and McArthur banks.

KYLE MADISON SHOWS OFF A DERBY-WINNING BLACKMOUTH CAUGHT IN MARCH. THE 16.85-POUNDER TIED FOR FIRST AT THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA SALMON DERBY AND SCORED THE PORT ANGELES ANGLER $2,000. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

In the San Juan Islands fish are biting at Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Speiden Island; Spring Pass; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Doughty Point; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

The San Juan Islands in Area 7 are open through April 30; and depending on which side of the outer banks you’re fishing on the closing date is either April 15 in Area 6 or April 30 in Area 7.

Even more exciting is the fact that Strait of Juan de Fuca has awakened from its winter slumber.

I love the throwback feeling you get when you drive into the town of Sekiu, and this is by far one of my favorite places to target in spring with options to fish on both sides of a tidal exchange. The doors on this fishery remains open through April 30.

On a low tide, look for baitfish schools and hungry chinook nipping on their heels at the Caves just outside the Olson’s Resort jetty, and then point your boat west to Eagle Point and Hoko Point.

On the flood tide, head east to Slip Point buoy – then mooch or troll – your way down toward Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine and even further to Pillar Point.

Those who don’t want to travel that far should wet a line in northern Puget Sound, which is open through April 15. Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Possession Bar, Double Bluff off south Whidbey Island, Point No Point and Pilot Point have been the go to places.

Another locale quietly producing decent catches is south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) in Tacoma. Hood Canal (Area 12) is open through April 30, and southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

Other great spring-time options are Columbia River spring chinook, bottom-fishing for lingcod and black rockfish or razor clam digging off the coast, and statewide trout and kokanee fishing.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve hit the pause button on derby series with March ending on a high note!

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 9-11 saw one of the largest number of tickets sold in some years – 857 compared to 739 last year, plus 232 fish weighed-in.

A tie for top fish was Micah Hanley of Mount Vernon and Kyle Madison of Port Angeles with a 16.85-pound hatchery chinook worth $10,000 and $2,000 respectively. Top prize in a tie-breaker goes to whomever caught the fish first. The total fish weight was 1,891 pounds and fish averaged 8.15 pounds.

The Everett Blackmouth Salmon Derby on March 17-18 saw 125 boats with 383 participants hitting the water and 130 weighed-in. First place went to Sam Shephard of Tulalip with a 11.82-pound fish, which earned a prize of $4,000.

Next up is Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 hosted by the Bellingham Chapter of PSA.

Be sure to check out grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat at the PSA Monroe Sportsman Show on April 20-22 (http://monroesportsmanshow.com/). It is powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer, and 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/.

2018 salmon season setting process update

Final salmon seasons will be adopted at Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting on April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon.

After six weeks of this setting process, negotiations between the state and tribes seem to paint a brighter picture on what anglers can expect in 2018-19 although chinook and coho returns are still in recovery phase after several years of poor ocean and weather conditions.

As of press time for this publication, there was some very early concepts of possibilities, and if all the stars align we could see Puget Sound coho fishing coming back into the mix during late-summer and early-fall from Sekiu clear into Puget Sound. Summer chinook fishing options will closely resemble last year’s package with a few expansions.

Ocean fisheries also came to light, and it could be leaner for chinook and coho although sometimes abundance doesn’t relate to ocean availability so there’s a lot of guessing in terms of what will pan out.

Tentative opening dates at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay will either be June 23, June 24, June 30 or July 1. A general closure date is Sept. 3 or however long it takes for quotas to get eaten up at each port. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery will open Aug. 1.

One hot topic is the killer whale situation as WDFW and federal agencies deal with human interaction on local waterways. WDFW is looking for ways to avoid this, and has proposed various ideas like a sport-fishing closure along the west side of San Juan Island in the summer that has drawn some resistance by those attending the North of Falcon meetings.

Many find the whole process befuddling, and while it’s easy to get discouraged I take the approach to be mobile with my tow vehicle and boat; actively take part in the season-setting process; and be an advocate for salmon recovery.

You can groan about what isn’t happening in your neck of the woods or you can high tail it to where the fishing is good albeit the coast, Puget Sound, Strait or connecting inner-waterways.

Meeting conservation objectives and getting the right folks at WDFW to spearhead the policy front is also of upmost importance as well as maximizing selective salmon fisheries to provide opportunity while protecting poor wild chinook and coho runs.

I’ll get off my soap box as it’s time to go fishing. See you on the water!

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!

Yuasa: Late Winter’s Time To Chase Sound, Straits Blackmouth

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

For myself and many others who truly enjoy catching salmon, being on the water is a 24/7 affair.

Hooked you say? Yes, that’s an obvious light bulb popping up above your head moment. In fact, if I’m not actually on the water, it’s a sure bet I’m thinking or daydreaming about hooking a fish. I’ll confess there was a time – pre-kid’s era – when 100-plus days of wetting a line annually was a reality.

During my “Wonder Years” the main mode of transportation to Lake Washington from our Seward Park neighborhood was a bicycle. My buddies and I would backpack our fishing gear, a container of worms dug up the night before and food – usually a generous supply of soda pop and junk food. It was all us fishing junkies would need to spend a day on the dock or shoreline.

MY SON TEGAN YUASA AND I WITH PAIR OF A NICE WINTER CHINOOK WE CAUGHT IN SAN JUAN ISLANDS ON JAN. 5, 2018. FISHING REMAINS DECENT FOR LARGE-SIZED CHINOOK THROUGHOUT THE ISLAND CHAIN. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

As I got older this progressed to catching a bus to Elliott Bay, and stopping at the many downtown Seattle tackle shops. While baiting our hooks we’d peer down into the emerald colored water at huge pile perch lurking below the wooden planks under Piers 54 and 55 adjacent to Ivar’s Acres of Clams and the Fisheries Supply Company. Summer salmon fishing trips with my grandparents out of Ray’s Boathouse or to Sekiu also became more frequent.

Fast forward to my college days when I bought an aluminum boat with a 1950s Evinrude outboard motor. It was our gateway to Puget Sound salmon and local trout lakes.

Today, almost half a century later, I’m just as stoked, still a kid at heart and thoughts of salmon leaping around me swims through my mind constantly! I get out as much as I can although there are times when house chores, traveling, working or shuttling kids to sporting events will take precedence.

Putting the would’ve and could’ve aside, my immediate plans in February and March include making time to pursue winter hatchery blackmouth – immature resident chinook.

From south-central Puget Sound in Tacoma to northern Puget Sound off Whidbey Island, and San Juan Islands to Strait of Juan de Fuca are likely fishing holes for hungry blackmouth chasing baitfish schools. That just gets my heart fluttering faster and me eager to push the throttle down just a tab more on the boat!

This past month the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff and sport-fishing advisory board recommended hitting the pause button on reopening northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 9, 8-1 and 8-2) until Feb. 16 (original opening date was Jan. 16), and this was no doubt a wise decision. If you recall, these closed sooner than expected in November due to lots of sub-legal chinook – fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit – appearing in catches.

Test fishing last month still showed a spike of sub-legals. In Area 9 the average marked fish size was 20.07 inches and maximum size was 24.43; Area 8-1, 14.30 and 25.39; and Area 8-2, 17.04 and 22.13.

Delaying the openers should provide a more quality fishery in late-winter and early-spring when larger fish begin to appear. Unless guidelines are achieved sooner than expected Area 9 will stay open through April 15, and 8-1 and 8-2 will be open through April 30.
Meanwhile there are options to keep the 365-day fishing season mantra alive and well.

Top of list is San Juan Islands (Area 7) where catches of nice-sized fish are standard since it reopened on Jan. 1. Area 7 hatchery chinook were averaging 22.55 inches with a maximum size of 27.56.
Top spots are Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Spring Pass; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Peavine Pass; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

Fishing in central Puget Sound (Area 10) was fair from Kingston to Jefferson Head, and south along Bainbridge Island to Southworth. WDFW also raised the daily catch limit for hatchery chinook from one to two until it closes on Feb. 28. Average marked chinook in Area 10 was 18.23 inches with a maximum size of 26.63.

Lastly, don’t overlook south-central (Area 11), Hood Canal (Area 12) and southern Puget Sound (Area 13), which are open until April 30.
Further down the pipeline are two other “must do” chinook fisheries in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca off Sekiu (Area 5) from March 16 to April 30; and eastern Strait off Port Angeles (Area 6) from March 1 to April 15.

Sekiu brings me back to the “good old days” and is doorway to chinook fishing nirvana. Due to its relative remoteness and distance from Seattle plan on spending a few days, and you’ll no doubt be rewarded with nice blackmouth. I’ll have more on Sekiu in my next column!

Hundreds of anglers converged to San Juan Islands for Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 5-7, and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20 – both are part of the NMTA’s NW Salmon Derby Series.

The Resurrection Derby saw 102 boats and 334 anglers reeling-in 50 hatchery chinook. First place was Jason Squibb with an 18.28-pound hatchery chinook using a green hotspot flasher and green needlefish hootchie off Pointer Island.

In Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, 100 boats and 357 anglers caught 179 hatchery chinook. Robert Enselman took first place with a 17 pound-11 ounce fish.

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Next up is Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 8-10, and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 9-11.

(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, click on this link Northwest Salmon Derby Series.
It was great meeting everyone at the Seattle Boat Show, and I’ll see you on the water very soon!

 

Yuasa: ‘Winter Chinook Fishing Hitting Full Stride’

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 the start of 2018, and there are plenty of on-water salmon fishing activities to ring in during the New Year!

If you catch my drift this isn’t a time to sit back on the couch in front of a fireplace or TV as winter chinook fishing is hitting full-stride, and the table quality of these fish are like non-other to be had on the BBQ grill.

BE SURE TO CATCH THE SUNRISE AT SEKIU WHEN IT OPENS FOR SALMON FISHING ON MARCH 16. (MARK YUASA)

Keep in mind closing dates on many fishing areas mentioned below could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for both sub-legal and legal-size chinook that often make or break if anglers can fish for hatchery-produced salmon. This unfortunate situation came to fruition in November for two northern marine areas when the sub-legal catch skyrocketed.

On that note, my word of advice is to go sooner than later, which will likely guarantee you more time on the water.

The San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Area 7) opened Jan. 1 with fishing allowed through April 30 for hatchery chinook.

Let me stand on my soap box, and preach to you about island chain being as close as you can get to awesome scenery and wildlife viewing that is very similar to Alaska’s coastline. And let’s not forget there’s a decent chance to catch a quality large-size chinook just minutes from nearby boat ramps or marinas.

A good gauge on success in the islands will occur when anglers hit the water for the Resurrection Salmon Derby – part of the NMTA’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series – on Jan. 5-7 in Anacortes at Cap Sante Marina. This is followed by Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20. For details, go to NW Salmon Derby Series.

Closer to Seattle is central Puget Sound (Area 10), which has been quietly producing some fair to good action at places like Southworth, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Manchester, Rich Passage, West Point, Jefferson Head and Point Monroe. The closure date for 10 is Feb. 28.

Back in mid-November, northern Puget Sound (Area 9) fell victim to the huge sub-legal chinook (fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit) encounter rate and was shut-down until further notice.

Area 9 was scheduled to reopen for hatchery chinook from Jan. 16 through April 15. Look for blackmouth at places like Possession Bar, Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Foulweather Bluff, Pilot Point, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend and Scatchet Head.

Areas 8-1 and 8-2 – eastside of Whidbey Island – also experienced a set-back in November, and was supposed to reopen sometime this month and could happen concurrent to the Area 9 opener. Keep an eye out for an announcement on this situation by WDFW very soon.

Don’t overlook, south-central (Area 11), Hood Canal (Area 12) and southern Puget Sound (Area 13), which are all open now through April 30.

Other winter chinook fisheries on the “must go” list are western Strait (Area 5) from March 16 to April 30; and eastern Strait (Area 6) from March 1 to April 15.

New Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan proposed

Salmon politics started brewing on Dec. 1 when fishery managers released the 368-page Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.

This fishing plan – sent to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries for review – and guides conservation and harvest of Puget Sound chinook salmon from the ocean clear into inner-marine waterways takes effect from 2019 through 2029.

AUTHOR MARK YUASA WORRIES THAT THE OPPORTUNITY TO CATCH WINTER CHINOOK IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS “COULD BE A THING OF THE PAST IF THE PROPOSED PUGET SOUND CHINOOK HARVEST MANAGEMENT PLAN BECOMES A REALITY.” (MARK YUASA)

The controversial plan has raised issues and many in sport-fishing industry are concerned that the plan could adversely affect sport salmon fishing opportunities.

There is an 18-month public comment period, and this will surely be a hot topic of many debates in the months to come. To view the comprehensive plan, go to Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.

Seattle Boat Show drops anchor Jan. 26-Feb. 3 at three locations

The Seattle Boat Show from Jan. 26 through Feb. 3 is the one-stop place to get your fix on hundreds of fishing boats, informative seminars, and state-of-the-art gear and electronics.

There will be 55 free fishing seminars, and more coverage on a variety of new topics by top-notch experts that will provide anglers with the most 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 will also be a time when visitors can check out the NW Salmon Derby Series grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. The fully-rigged boat comes with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronic Stereo.

THE 2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (NMTA)

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at conclusion of the Everett Derby in September or November. For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water or at the biggest boat show on the West Coast, the great Seattle Boat Show!

 

Shopping For Fishing Ideas? Yuasa Shares December Ops, Plus 2018 NW Salmon Derby Sched

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

A close peek at calendar made me wince as the holidays are in full-swing with 24/7 Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel and malls filled to the gills with shoppers.

While that is all near and dear to my heart, I’ve also got this holiday free-time addiction called “salmon fishing.”

GUY MAMIYA WHO CAUGHT A 9 POUND, 15 OUNCE HATCHERY CHINOOK OFF SALTY’S RESTAURANT LEADS THE TENGU BLACKMOUTH DERBY HELD EVERY SUNDAY IN ELLIOTT BAY THROUGH DEC. 31. (COURTESY MARK YUASA, NMTA)

No matter what kind of remedy I seek, it just keeps hooking me into getting on my boat. On some mornings, I’ll even tow the boat to the ramp, sniff the air for wind and then make a game-time decision.

In past seasons, December wasn’t just filled with mistletoe bliss, but earmarked a time to go chinook fishing and bring back a couple nice salmon fillets for the holiday dinner table.

Yet, here we are right in middle of another holiday rush, and the choices to wet a line for salmon are rather slim pickings.

Bummed you ask?

We can gripe why December salmon fishing isn’t up to snuff or look at viable options to keeping a rod-and-reel in hand. I unanimously choose the latter.

A top choice is the Clay Banks off the Point Defiance Park area in Tacoma – part of south-central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) open through April 30 – which is often teeming with baitfish, hungry hatchery chinook and protected from prevailing southerly winds.

Tops on my radar screen is central Puget Sound (10), which for the moment is open through Feb. 28, unless an emergency closure shuts it down.

Here one can find plenty of action at places like Allen Bank off the southeast side of Blake Island; west side of Blake Island; Restoration Point; Rich Passage; Yeomalt Point; Southworth; Manchester; and northwestern tip off Vashon Island.

Keep your eyes open at other spots like Hood Canal (12) and southern Puget Sound (13). Further down the pipeline is when the San Juan Islands (7) reopen Jan. 1 just in time to ring in the New Year!

Winter Dungeness crab fishing also remains open daily in some marine areas through Dec. 31, and this can turn you into a “rock star” at the holiday dining table as guests devour a big bowl of fresh cracked crab. It’s time to get on this one!

Look for crab around Whidbey Island; northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula; Camano Island; Mukilteo area; Holmes Harbor; Hat Island; Port Angeles Harbor; Strait of Juan de Fuca; and San Juan Islands. Remember due to a downtrend in crab abundance locations south of Edmonds and Hood Canal – Marine Catch Areas 10, 11, 12 and 13 are closed this winter.

Early salmon fishing closures for Areas 8 and 9

This nice pair of hatchery chinook were caught at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend in early November before the Area 9 closure on-board the boat of Tom Nelson, host of the Outdoor Line on KIRO 710 AM.

Rewind to Nov. 1 when alarm bells rang left and right, as news came out that encounter rates of sub-legal chinook – those under the 22-inch minimum size limit – were much higher than anticipated.

It was then WDFW fishery managers took a cautious approach to close the seasons on Nov. 13 – two-weeks earlier than planned in northern Puget Sound (9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), which was supposed to stay open through April 30. A decision to close them was inevitable to keep the fishing machine humming again sometime after the New Year.

Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreational salmon manager said: “In 2015, we had a lot of sub-legals in fisheries, and we don’t want to impact our winter fisheries happening later on. Most agree that we wait until these fish grow larger, and have a more predictable opportunity.”

I’ve been a huge fan of selective salmon fishing for winter blackmouth dating back more than two decades when state fisheries began mass-marking hatchery salmon.

Their objective was to increase opportunities for sport anglers by being able to distinguish the difference between wild unmarked and adipose fin-clipped chinook in fisheries open at certain periods of the year.

While that was all fine and dandy, a decision by state fishery managers a while back to begin assessing ongoing salmon encounters of both sub-legal and legal-size fish, now makes or breaks if anglers can fish for hatchery-produced salmon.

Each marine area has an “encounter ceiling.” As each area nears the ceiling they’re often faced with premature closures especially when the sub-legal catch skyrockets like it did last month.

This has been a hard pill to swallow by anglers especially since millions of dollars are spent by state, tribal and federal agencies to produce and fin-clip hatchery chinook and coho. The lifecycle of these fish is to constantly feed and grow, and eventually get caught. But, since it’s considered a mixed stock of wild and hatchery fish, and with a Puget Sound ESA listing you get the big picture of the situation.

Data taken from Nov. 1-5, showed 495 boats with 889 anglers in Area 9 kept 240 legal-size chinook and released 1,137 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 1,377 fish. The guideline for encounters is 11,053 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.

From Nov. 1-5, 98 boats with 172 anglers in Area 8-1 kept 52 legal-size hatchery chinook (plus five unmarked wild fish kept) and released 67 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for a total encounter rate of 124 fish. In Area 8-2, 165 boats with 315 anglers kept 50 legal-size hatchery chinook and released 65 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for 115. The guideline for encounters in both areas is 5,492 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.

From Nov. 1-5, 73 boats with 162 anglers in Area 10 kept eight legal-size chinook and released 10 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 18 fish. The guideline for encounters is 5,349 fish putting the fishery at 73 percent for sub-legals and 9 percent at legal-size fish.

NW Salmon Derby Series debuts 2018 boat and schedule

The Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Derby was held Nov. 4-5 that drew 499 anglers who caught 109 chinook averaging 6.22 pounds (146 fish were caught last year averaging 6.55 pounds). About 70 percent of the fish were caught on first day due to the lousy weather conditions by second day. The winner was Adam Burke who caught an 11.89 chinook and took home a check for $4,000.

The winner of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand prize $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft boat with Honda motors went to Gary March of Worley, Idaho who fished earlier this summer in The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene. In all more than 4,000 anglers were entered in 14 derbies. The story on March is truly a must read, and can be found at http://nmtablog.blogspot.com/2017/11/northwest-salmon-derby-series-grand.html.

Looking toward 2018 we’ve got some exciting news as we introduce a derby to the series, and our new grand prize boat will be a KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on a EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronics Stereo – a $65,000 value.

The 15 derbies in the series starts off with the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 5-7 in Anacortes.

Here is the 2018 Northwest Salmon Derby Series schedule:

•Resurrection Salmon Derby January 5-7
•Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Jan. 18-20
•Friday Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 8-10
•Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 9-11
•Everett Blackmouth Derby March 17-18
•Bellingham Salmon Derby July 13-15
•The Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29
•Brewster Salmon Derby August 2-5
•South King County PSA Derby August 4
•Gig Harbor PSA Derby August 11
•Vancouver, B.C., Canada Chinook Classic August 18-19
•Edmonds Coho Derby September 8 (Depends on season setting process)
•Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby September 8
•Everett Coho Derby September 22-23 (Depends on season setting process)
•Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby November 3-4

(The 2018 schedule is subject to change)

For additional derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

Dig into more coastal beaches

The next round of coastal razor clam digs have been approved for Friday through Monday (Dec. 1-4) during evening low tides only.

Digging will be open Dec. 1 at Copalis (minus-0.3 feet at 4:42 p.m.); Dec. 2 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.); Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.); Dec. 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.); and Dec. 31 Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (-1.2 at 5:12 p.m.).

Diggers will find a mixed bag of razor clam sizes – diggers must keep the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition – and the key is if you’re finding small ones in a certain area of the beach don’t be afraid to move to another spot, according to Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Despite the a mixed bag it looks like razor clam diggers are finding oodles of clams on coastal beaches.

“The most recent digs (Nov. 2-5) went well, and we had 27,770 digger trips with 366,484 clams dug,” Ayres said. “That comes out to 13.2 clams per person.”

A breakdown by beaches showed Twin Harbors had 5,268 diggers Nov. 3-5 with 73,215 clams for an average of 13.9 clams per person; Copalis had 4,904 with 52,541 Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 for 10.7; Mocrocks had 3m229 with 47,354 Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 for 14.7; and Long Beach had 14,371 with 193,373 Nov. 3-5 for 13.5.

“The crowds were lighter than we had projected and I’m sure the weather forecast scared away some from turning out,” Ayres said. “The exception was Long Beach, which had more than expected, and the folks did quite well. Down the road we might need to back off at Long Beach, but the other beaches were fine.”

After just two series of digs, Long Beach has harvested 36 percent of the total allowable catch for the entire season.

Another dig is planned on Dec. 31, and more digs for January and February will be announced very soon.

Ayres pointed out they’re not seeing any issues with marine toxins like domoic acid, and are likely past the sensitive time of the year.

“We will go ahead with next digs planned in December, and then reassess to make sure we have enough clams for digs after the New Year and in spring,” Ayres said.

Diggers should check for updates on next digs by going to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.