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 holidays are a time where one needs to not only enjoy all the food and festivities, but to soak in the fun and enjoyment of what the Pacific Northwest fishing scene has to offer.
Instead of constantly fretting about what goes under the Christmas tree let us have a sneak peek at what you can find swimming around Puget Sound and other waterways in the weeks and months ahead.
LOGAN SMITH DID WELL ON THE DECEMBER BLACKMOUTH OPENER IN MARINE AREA 8-2. FISHING WITH HIS DAD, CHAD, THEY ALSO CAME IN WITH A SECOND RESIDENT CHINOOK PLUS SIX DUNGENESS CRABS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)
Many salmon anglers are waiting to ring in New Year’s Day by hitting the winter chinook opener on Jan. 1 in northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Areas 7, 9 and 10), but you can get a jump start on bringing home a fresh salmon from some other locations.
Hatchery chinook for the holiday dinner table are free game right now in south-central Puget Sound (11); the east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).
Top choices include the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; Point Dalco on south side of Vashon Island; Elger Bay; Camano Head; Hat Island; Onamac Point; Fox Point; Point Fosdick; Anderson Island; Lyle Point; and Devil’s Head and Johnson Point.
A good sign is the WDFW fish check from Sunday (Nov. 25) at the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma that showed nine boats with 12 anglers taking home five chinook and one chum.
Another great way to gauge how success will be since chinook fishing in Areas 8-1 and 8-2 has been closed for quite a long time – since early spring of 2018 to be precise – is the Everett Salmon & Steelhead Club and Puget Sound Anglers Salmon Derby on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 1-2). The derby headquarters is Bayside Marine in Everett. Cost for the Everett Steelhead & Salmon Club’s side pot is $10 per angler, and Puget Sound Anglers side pot is $100 per boat. Weigh-in station is the Everett boat launch on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday between 12:30-1 p.m. You must be in line by 1 p.m. There will be a potluck on Sunday. Details: 425-530-0017 or firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-501-4024 or 206-730-0469 or email@example.com.
The sleeper spot that doesn’t garner as much attention during the winter is Hood Canal (Area 12). Look for hungry blackmouth around Misery Point, Hazel Point, Pleasant Harbor, Toandos Peninsula, Seabeck Bay and Seal Rock.
Those who hold out for the New Year’s Day festivities should try Possession Bar; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Jefferson Head; West Point; Point Monroe; Southworth; and Allen Bank off Blake Island.
In the San Juan Islands put your time in around Waldron Island; Parker Reef; north side Orcas Island; Rosario Pass; Tide Point; Decatur Pass; Obstruction Pass; McArthur Bank; Point Lawrence; and Thatcher Pass.
If you get my “point” there’s a lot of “points” mentioned in the previous three paragraphs to get on the water during the holidays. No “point” pun intended!
Keep in mind that encounter rates and catch guidelines will dictate how long each area stays open so I’d go sooner than later.
In Area 7, WDFW set the bar of not exceeding 3,176 total unmarked chinook encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In Area 9, the encounter ceiling prediction is 10,004; and in Area 10 it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates between Jan. 11 and 18.
Those heading out before Dec. 31 should bring along some crab pots to set in some parts of Puget Sound. Marine areas open daily are Strait of Juan de Fuca east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line to Port Angeles; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; and a section of northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.
Word on Tengu Blackmouth Derby
There is a small group of anglers who brave the elements every winter during the Tengu Blackmouth Derby – an event that began shortly after World War II in 1946 – that is held on Elliott Bay.
Normally the derby (the oldest in Puget Sound) starts during October when Area 10 opens for winter hatchery chinook.
However, this year’s non-retention of chinook delayed the event to coincide with the Jan. 1 reopener of Area 10.
(TENGU BLACKMOUTH DERBY CLUB)
The derby has been tentatively set to be held on Sundays from Jan. 6 through Feb. 24 at the Seacrest Boathouse (now known as Marination) in West Seattle.
“We’re trying to figure out specifics related to the derby like costs, logistics and if Outdoor Emporium can sell our derby tickets for us,” Doug Hanada, the Tengu Derby president, said of what will be the 73rd year of the derby.
The derby is named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth, and just like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.
Last year, a total of 18 blackmouth were caught and the winning fish of 9 pounds-15 ounces went to Guy Mamiya. Justin Wong had the most fish with a total of five and followed by John Mirante with four fish.
To further test your skills, only mooching is allowed in the derby. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted.
In past years, the derby runs from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. every Sunday. Hanada was checking to see if rental boats and motors will be available this season. Last year, the membership fee was $15 and $5 for children age 12-and-under.
Halibut fishery blooming this spring
The Pacific Fishery Management Council wrapped up meetings in San Diego during early November to decide halibut fishing dates that will enable anglers to make preliminary plans although catch quotas won’t be finalized until later next month.
The tentative halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) are May 2, 4, 9, 11, 18, 24 and 26; and June 6, 8, 20 and 22. At Westport (2) the tentative dates are May 2, 5, 9, 12 and 24.
At Ilwaco (1) the opening dates will be decided through consultation with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife although the Washington subarea dates proposed are May 2, 5, 9, 12, 24 and 26.
If quota remains the Ilwaco subarea would reopen two days per week (Thursday and Sunday) after May 26.
Additional fishing dates could be added to an area if their sport catch quotas aren’t achieved.
The IPHC will meet Jan. 28-29 in Victoria, B.C. to set catch quotas from California north to Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.
Exciting news for 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series
The 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series calendar has been set with 15 events from January through November of 2019.
First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).
I’m really stoked about our new grand prize boat valued at $75,000, which is a Weldcraft Rebel 202 Hardtop Series from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered by a Yamaha 200 and 9.9hp motors on an EZ Loader Trailer.
Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success are Raymarine Electronics; Dual Electronics; WhoDat Towers; Scotty Downriggers; Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco/Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
There is a full-blown list of places to go during the holidays so take a break from the frenzied shopping sprees, mall madness and giftwrapping chores to go out and fish.
I’ll see you on the water!