Tag Archives: Lingcod

Northwest Fishing Derbies Contracting, Expanding With Times

As organizers of a Thanksgiving-week-long steelhead derby are cancelling their event, fishing for different species is being added to a salmon series.

Signs of the times?

“We do think the inconsistency of the fish counts has had an impact on that,” Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Kristin Kemak reportedly said about a recent decision to call off the Snake Clearwater Steelhead Derby, apparently for good.

DURING MUCH BETTER TIMES FOR BIG B-RUN STEELHEAD, INLAND NORTHWEST ANGLERS FLOCKED TO LEWISTON TO FISH IN THE THANKSGIVING-WEEK-LONG DERBY. (BRIAN LULL)

At one time, the event was billed as the “nation’s largest steelhead derby” and it attracted anglers from wide and far to catch B-runs that pushed towards the 20-pound mark.

“It was once a major fundraiser. Now the efforts we put in to host the event outweigh the financial benefit of doing so,” Kemak also said, according to Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune who broke the news.

TABLES AWAIT PARTICIPANTS IN 2013’S SNAKE CLEARWATER STEELHEAD DERBY, WHEN IT WAS SPONSORED BY A LEWISTON CHEVROLET DEALER. (BRIAN LULL)

Recent years have been tough on the event due to poor returns of steelhead up the Snake. That’s led managers to institute bag limit reductions, closures, reopeners, and 28-inch maximums to protect B-runs, typically larger than A-runs, which only spend a year in the salt.

This season there’s a blanket closure on all fishing for steelhead — even catch-and-release — on the Clearwater and Washington and Idaho’s Snake up to the Couse Creek boat launch in Hells Canyon. The B return is forecast to come in at just 4,500, including 1,700 unclipped fish, and is the lowest on record back through at least 1984, with less returning than hatchery broodstock goals and “no surplus to provide a fishery,” per IDFG.

Above Couse Creek the limit is one hatchery fish a day, 28 inches or less, with anglers required to stop after retaining it or a fall Chinook.

BRENDA BONFIELD OF CUSTOMWELD SPEAKS DURING 2013’S DERBY CEREMONIES. A POSTER BEHIND HER DESCRIBES THE DERBY AS THE “NATION’S LARGEST” FOR STEELHEAD. (BRIAN LULL)

The chamber of commerce instead plans to hold an outdoor cookoff on Saturday, Nov. 16, according to Barker.

Meanwhile, the Northwest Salmon Derby Series announced some “big news” yesterday, including a substantial expansion into the Beaver State.

We’re hitting the refresh button on 2020 series and it will be renamed the ‘Northwest Fishing Derby Series’ that will likely include a spring-time lingcod derby in Oregon and a kokanee-trout derby on Lake Chelan, plus a couple more additions,” Mark Yuasa of the Seattle-based Northwest Marine Trade Association wrote in his monthly newsletter.

Next year’s schedule already lists a pair of late March lingcod and rockfish derbies out of Charleston and Brookings, as well as the recently rejuvenated Slam’n Salmon Derby in the latter port.

The dozen and a half or so events in the series are typically run by local clubs, but entry into any one automatically puts your name in the hat for the derby series’ grand prize, a brand-new boat, with Yuasa announcing that 2020’s will be a KingFisher 2025 Hardtop.

The winner is traditionally drawn at the late September Everett Coho Derby and this year’s $75,000 boat-trailer-electronics package was won by Trevor Everitt.

The series, of which Northwest Sportsman is a sponsor, has also been victim to uncertain runs in recent years, with local sponsors having to call off the Edmonds and Everett events due to coho closures, and organizers of the Brewster derby unsure they could hold theirs — until nearly the last minute in the case of this year.

For those local fishing clubs, it hurts to lose key fundraisers.

With low fall Chinook runs expected on the Oregon Coast, the U Da Man Fishing Tournament decided to cancel their October salmon derby on Yaquina Bay back in June instead of pressure the run, even as doing so would “severely” deplete the organization’s funds to do other fish-friendly projects.

UDM still plans to raffle off a drift boat to try and raise money for those.

Undoubtedly as salmon and steelhead runs come out of the current downcycle, derbies will expand and new ones will come online, but for the moment, some are falling by the wayside while others are looking to embrace other species.

Offshore Lingcod, Other All-depths OR Bottomfish Fair Game Starting Sept. 3

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Anglers will be able to fish for bottomfish at any depth beginning Tuesday, Sept. 3. 

LINGCOD LIKE THIS ONE CAUGHT BY ROGER GOODMAN OUT OF NEWPORT ARE FAIR GAME DEEPER THAN 40 FATHOMS (240 FEET) OFF THE OREGON COAST STARTING SEPT. 3. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

The rule limiting fishing to inshore of 40 fathoms, which keeps yelloweye rockfish mortality below the annual limit, was originally scheduled to run through the end of September. However, fishery managers have determined that enough 2019 yelloweye rockfish quota remains to remove the seasonal depth restriction early this year. 

The move to all-depth fishing in early September will give anglers more opportunity to head offshore for lingcod and other bottomfish. In addition, a shift of some fishing effort to deeper waters may reduce incidental catch of nearshore species such as copper rockfish, which has already reached the annual limit.

“A lot of anglers really look forward to the fall all-depth bottomfish season, especially for offshore lingcod,” said Maggie Sommer, ODFW marine fisheries manager. “Opening to fishing at all depths at the beginning of September this year should allow anglers to take advantage of this additional opportunity while weather and ocean conditions remain good.”

This change also means that all-depth halibut anglers may retain bottomfish on the same trip, since this is allowed when the sport bottomfish and halibut fisheries are both open at all depths.  

For more about bottomfish regulations, visit https://myodfw.com/sport-bottomfish-seasons

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Fort Casey Ramp Damaged During Winter Storm But Still Usable

Heads up, Whidbey Island halibut and lingcod anglers: If you launch at Fort Casey for this week’s openers, you won’t have floats to tie up to after putting your boat in or while taking it out.

THE DECEMBER WINDSTORM BROKE A WOODEN BREAKWATER AND WAVES POUNDED THE FLOATS AT THE FORT CASEY STATE PARK BOAT RAMP. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

A December storm pummeled a breakwater and broke a piling for the floating docks, which were also damaged, at the water access site next to the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry terminal dock.

Brett Payne, a Washington State Parks ranger for the middle part of the island, says you can still put in and take out. It just will be less convenient without the piers.

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE STORM IMPACTING THE BOAT RAMP FROM THE BLUFF AT FORT CASEY. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

He said that his agency is working to get a permit to put in a temporary dock, though it may take some time to get that go-ahead.

Payne said that because of the damage, complexities of permitting and funding needed, it could be a year before the ramp is back to how it was before the storm.

AFTER THE STORM. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

In the meanwhile, anglers and other boaters are being asked to be patient and courteous with one another as this year’s fishing seasons begin.

Wednesday, May 1, marks the lingcod opener and Thursday, May 2, is the first halibut opener of the season in Marine Area 9, which the Fort Casey ramp provides access to.

Later in the month shrimping opens and then in July crabbing will be a go.

In late July these waters will open for hatchery summer Chinook, while coho will be going in late August and September.

Cannon Beach Ocean Patrol Finds Big Overlimit Of Lings

Five people stopped off Oregon’s North Coast were criminally cited for going way over the limit on lingcod and rockfish as well as retaining undersized fish, and apparently it wasn’t their first time doing so.

A CROPPED OREGON STATE POLICE IMAGE SHOWS THE OVERLIMIT CATCH OF LINGCOD AND ROCKFISH. (OSP)

“The boat owner said that they had done this before, and if he had seen the troopers coming from further away, he would have dumped all of the extra fish overboard,” reported state fish and wildlife troopers in their latest newsletter.

The incident occurred during a joint OSP-WDFW ocean patrol from the mouth of the Columbia River south to Cannon Beach.

Somewhere off the popular seaside destination, the crew spotted a fishing boat and decided to make contact with it.

As they approached, one occupant of the boat tossed a couple lings overboard, according to OSP, and when they came alongside troopers also saw “multiple undersized lingcod on the deck.”

The quintet claimed that those fish and some in a cooler were the only catch of the day, but a consent search turned up many more.

In the holds were 37 lings, 16 of which were under the size limit – the daily limit is two, 22 inches or better – and 22 rockfish, according to troopers.

“The anglers were found to be 27 lingcod over their daily limit and six rockfish over their limit,” OSP reports.

The five received criminal citations for exceeding daily limits on lingcod and marine fish, and retaining undersized lings. The fish were seized.

The case is similar to one reported here last year in which four individuals checked at the Hammond Marina were criminally cited for being 54 over the limit on rockfish, and one of them for keeping a too-short ling and an off-limits cabezon.

Seized fish are typically donated to local food banks.

Washington Coast Bottomfish, Lingcod Angling Opens March 9 With Good News

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WSHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Washington state’s fishing seasons for coastal bottomfish and lingcod will open March 9 under new rules that reflect stronger growth in two rockfish species in recent years.

FINE FIXIN’S FOR FISH AND CHIPS – SALTWATER ANGLERS AND CAPT. KERRY ALLEN HEFT A MIX OF BLACK ROCKFISH AND LINGCOD HOOKED OFF THE EVERGREEN STATE’S ROCKIER NORTHERN COAST. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

State fishery managers say those rules will provide new fishing opportunities for rockfish, Pacific cod, whiting, sole, lingcod, cabazon, and more than a dozen other bottomfish species in ocean waters.

Anglers can catch up to nine bottomfish per day – including up to seven rockfish, two lingcod, and one cabezon – plus three additional flat fish, under rules adopted by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for the upcoming season.

Heather Hall, WDFW coastal policy coordinator, outlined several changes since last year that will provide new fishing opportunities for bottomfish anglers:

  • Fewer depth restrictions: In coastal areas where depth restrictions are in place, anglers will have about one extra month to fish in deeper waters. This is largely due to a higher federal incidental catch limit for yelloweye rockfish, which are rebounding more quickly than expected.
  • Canary rockfish: Anglers can now retain up to seven canary rockfish a day, up from two in previous years. This species is now considered healthy after a 19-year federal rebuilding process, so the previous species-specific sublimit is no longer necessary.
  • Cabazon: The size limit for this species has been removed on the north coast in Marine Area 4 (west of Bonilla-Tatoosh), and the daily limit in all coastal marine areas will be one per day.

Of these measures, Hall said none will boost fishing opportunities more than a decision made last December by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to increase the sport fishery’s incidental catch limit for yelloweye rockfish. The new limit is 17,196 pounds, compared to 7,275 pounds last year.

That action was based on a stock assessment conducted by the NMFS that showed that the yelloweye population is growing faster than previously estimated.

“This is the biggest increase in the incidental catch limit since the council began its rebuilding plan 17 years ago,” Hall said. “Not only is the stock more productive than previously thought, but the rebuilding process benefited from action taken by anglers to use descending devices and improve the survivability of rockfish that must be released.”

Because yelloweye rockfish are still the focus of a federal rebuilding plan, anglers must release any of those fish they intercept, Hall said. However, year’s higher allowable incidental catch limit will increase fishing opportunities for other bottomfish in deepwater areas.

New fishing rules approved for the coming season vary by area from north to south:

  • Marine Area 4 (west of Bonilla-Tatoosh line): The higher yelloweye rockfish limit will allow WDFW to open the lingcod season March 9 – consistent with other coastal marine areas and a month earlier than last year.
  • Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay, west of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line): The 20-fathom depth restriction won’t take effect until June 1, giving anglers more than three extra weeks to fish for lingcod and other bottomfish in those areas. In addition, anglers fishing seaward of the 20 fathom line in July and August on days open to recreational salmon fishing will be allowed to keep yellowtail and widow rockfish for the first time since 2005.
  • Marine Area 2 (Westport): The 30-fathom depth restriction will be in place from March 9 through May 31, two weeks less than in previous years. Similar to past years, lingcod retention will be allowed seaward of 30 fathoms on days open to the recreational halibut fishery. The deepwater area will then be open from June 1 through June 15, giving anglers the opportunity to target lingcod in that area.

Deepwater fishing rules will remain unchanged in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), because WDFW does not impose depth restrictions in those waters. However, anglers will be allowed to keep lingcod on halibut trips during the entire halibut season rather than just during the month of May.

More information on Washington’s 2019 bottomfish season is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/creel/halibut/.

NMFS Touts Economic Boost, Expected Catches From Rebuilding West Coast Groundfish Stocks

THE FOLLOWING IS A NEWS STORY FROM THE NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE

The successful rebuilding of several West Coast groundfish stocks that declined precipitously nearly three decades ago is now opening the way for increasing recreational and commercial fishing opportunities for many of the West Coast’s most delicious and nutritious fish species.

FEDERAL FISHERY OVERSEERS SAY THAT MANAGEMENT AND COLLABORATION HAS LED WEST COAST GROUNDFISH STOCKS TO REBUILD FASTER THAN EXPECTED, LEADING TO INCREASED ANGLING OPPORTUNITIES. (NMFS)

NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast Region published a new rule this week that increases catch limits and eases fishing restrictions for many West Coast groundfish, including rockfish, such as Pacific Ocean perch; flatfish, such as petrale sole; and roundfish, such as Pacific cod and sablefish. Groundfish represent one of the West Coast’s most important recreational and commercial fisheries, earning some $140 million annually for commercial fishermen who catch them with a variety of gear, including trawls, longlines, pots (traps), and baited hooks.

West Coast communities will see an increase of about 900 jobs and $60 million in income in 2019, according to an economic analysis of the new harvest rule. Recreational anglers will take about 219,000 more fishing trips, most of them in southern California with some in Oregon and Washington.

The collapse of several West Coast groundfish in the late 1990s led to severe fishing cutbacks so these stocks could rebuild, greatly curtailing a mainstay of the coastal economy. The groundfish fleet had to limit fishing even for the other more abundant groundfish stocks to avoid unintentional catch of the overfished stocks.

Through careful science-based management and collaboration among fishermen, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, tribes, West Coast states, and NOAA Fisheries, many stocks, including canary rockfish, bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish, and Pacific Ocean perch, rebounded faster than expected and are now fully rebuilt. Research and stock assessments by NOAA Fisheries’ Northwest and Southwest Fisheries Science Centers documented the resurgence, opening the way for more harvest opportunities. Others, such as cowcod and yelloweye rockfish, have been found to be rebuilding much faster than anticipated.

AN ODFW DIVER FILMS A CANARY ROCKFISH OFF OREGON. (ODFW)

Those continued collaborative and scientific efforts made higher annual catch limits possible for many groundfish species for 2019 and 2020. This will increase recreational and commercial fishing for bocaccio, darkblotched rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch, lingcod north of the California/Oregon border, and California scorpionfish. The new rule also reduces depth restrictions for recreational fishing and increases trip limits for fixed-gear fishermen.

The changes are expected to boost commercial and recreational fishing revenues, with sport anglers expected to take thousands more fishing trips off the West Coast as a result. Their spending on motels, meals, charter trips, and more is expected to boost recreational fishing income coast-wide by about $55 million, with the largest increases in California.

The harvest rule changes also promote quota trading among fishermen in the Shore-based Individual Fishing Quota Program, also known as the Groundfish Catch Share Program, which will help them make the most of the new fishing opportunities. The changes will also allow increased catches of underutilized species, such as yellowtail rockfish, lingcod, chilipepper rockfish, and Pacific cod.

Although the bycatch of Chinook salmon in the groundfish fishery is low and is expected to remain low, this new rule adds tools for NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council to respond quickly to address any unexpected changes in the amount of bycatch.

All of this good news for fishermen is also good news for fans of healthy and delicious fish. Groundfish provide lean protein and are a good source of omega-3s. West Coast groundfish, including Dover sole, sablefish, and lingcod are versatile fish available year-round that lend themselves well to a variety of preparations.

Week On The Water Yields Sturgeon, Halibut, Ling, Rockfish Fillets, Lots Of Fun

Editor’s note: The following blog was written and submitted by Dave Anderson

by Captain Dave Anderson

The 20th of May was the beginning of a fishing-packed week for not only myself but also family and friends. My father-in-law Maury and I rolled down to Astoria to go sturgeon fishing with Bret Dickerson, owner of Columbia River Sport Fishing.

We met up and left the dock by 5:00 a.m. on Monday the 21st. After a short run out of Astoria we were setting lines just as the sun was starting to rise above the trees. It wasn’t even five minutes and we had sturgeon hammering baits!

GUIDE BRET DICKERSON HOLDS MAURY KINCANNON’S FIRST STURGEON, CAUGHT IN MID-MAY IN THE COLUMBIA ESTUARY. (DAVE ANDERSON)

First fish we brought to the boat was just short of the slot limit. A few minutes later we had another dandy sturgeon on the end of the line. This fish ended up being Maury’s first sturgeon and it was a keeper!

For another hour or so this went on with great action. We hit a bit of a lull as the tide was turning, but it quickly turned around about an hour and a half before the 2:00 p.m. closure.

At 2:00 pm, the closure hit and lines were in just as the wind machine turned on. We ended up with a handful of keepers and our group couldn’t have been happier!

THERE’S MORE TO ASTORIA THAN BUOY 10 SALMON, AS DAVE ANDERSON WILL ATTEST. THE WATERS HERE ARE GOOD IN LATE SPRING FOR STURGEON FISHING, AND THIS YEAR’S RETENTION SEASON CONTINUES WITH TWO MORE OPENERS, JUNE 2 AND 4. (DAVE ANDERSON)

Jump forward a few days to Thursday afternoon. I headed out to one of my favorite places on the coast of Washington – La Push. This is where I met my friend Captain Kerry of Offshore Northwest to take a group of my friends fishing. This has become an annual trip in which we typically fish the second week of the La Push halibut season.

THE SUN SETS OVER JAMES AND LITTLE JAMES ISLANDS, AT LA PUSH, A GOOD LAUNCH POINT FOR MORE REMOTE WATERS ON WASHINGTON’S NORTH COAST. (DAVE ANDERSON)

Friday morning we ran out in a fairly lumpy ocean to make our 30-mile run to the grounds. We hit pay dirt immediately and had great action with lingcod and filled the boat quickly with limits of quality fish.

After moving around a bit we found a good patch of aggressive halibut. We ended up with early limits on both lingcod and halibut. Captain Kerry and I had a good chuckle when we looked at our watches and said to each other, “It’s only 8:45!”

ANDERSON WITH A TASTY LINGCOD. (DAVE ANDERSON)

Saturday we were able to sleep in before heading out to grab limits of sea bass. Not too far out of La Push we found a good patch and we were reeling in doubles after doubles of feisty sea bass! These fish are so fun to catch you can’t help but giggle like a little kid while reeling them in over and over.

Sunday morning we were greeted with a beautiful ocean! It was probably one of the best halibut ocean conditions a person could ask for. Cruising at 34 knots it took us under an hour to get to the grounds. Once we got there we started picking away at our fish. It wasn’t nearly as fast and furious as Friday, but we ended up reeling in a good grade of halibut and lingcod and headed back to the barn by 11:30 a.m.

A GOOD GRADE OF HALIBUT FOR THE CREW. (DAVE ANDERSON)

The best action this past weekend came off the good ol’ Montana Dave-built 13-inch-by-3/4-inch pipe jig with a 12/0 Mustad treble hook. Bait also worked, but the pipe jig definitely outproduced the bait!

All in all it was a fantastic week of fishing! I love being able to take advantage of the great resources the Pacific Northwest has to offer! Being able to spend time on the water and have fun with friends and family, I can’t ask for anything better! Life is good!

DAVE ANDERSON’S PIPE JIGS, THE MAKING OF WHICH WAS FEATURED IN THE MAY 2016 NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN RIG OF THE MONTH. (DAVE ANDERSON)

The Story Behind That Huge Lingcod Speared Off Oregon Sunday

Imagine you’re holding your breath 40 feet down off Oregon’s chilly Central Coast and the ginormous lingcod — one with a toothsome smile as big as your head — that you’ve just shot with your speargun pulls you backwards.

Into its cave.

That’s the situation Josh Humbert found himself in last Saturday.

HENRY BRIAN CHAMBERLAIN EMERGES FROM THE OREGON SURF WITH A 42-INCH-LONG LINGCOD HE SPEARED ON THE LAST DAY OF THE 2017 BOTTOMFISHING SEASON. (PHOTO BY JOSH HUMBERT, INSTAGRAM: @JOSHHUMBERT)

Humbert is among the Beaver State’s elite free-diving spearfishermen, as well as a photographer, and his images (@joshhumbert on Instagram) graced a July feature in Northwest Sportsman on the tight-knit community.

How that struggle between man and sea beast nearly 7 fathoms below the surface might have played out we’ll never know because as the lingcod thrashed, pulling Humbert towards its lair, the small barb or “flopper” on the pole spear he was using pulled through the ling’s cheek, and the fish was lost.

“If it had been a full-sized [barb] (about 2 inches), as well as being far enough away from the tip, it would have held for sure,” Humbert says.

But that is not the end of the story.

The next day, Sunday, the final day of Oregon’s bottomfish season, Humbert and friend Brian Chamberlain returned for another go at the ling.

With a slightly higher tide and 8 feet of visibility, they had to make numerous dives of up to a minute and a half as they searched for more than half an hour to find the ling and its cave.

“We were diving an offshore reef with no nearby land bearings to line up on, so just locating the cave was a small victory,” Humbert wrote on an Instagram post.

Eventually they rediscovered it and Chamberlain speared the ling on his first dive.

Chamberlain’s “fish of a lifetime” and “biggest lingcod any of us has ever seen,” as his friend said, taped out at 42 inches, which would put it around 31 pounds, according to one chart.

That’s definitely on the upper end for Oregon lings, which on rare occasions grow to as big as 4 feet. ODFW’s Eric Schindler says that of 63,564 randomly sampled by his crews since 2008, only 97 have been bigger, and he notes most anglers release those that big.

According to Maggie Sommer, the agency’s marine fishing manager, the state’s lingcod stocks are considered healthy and are being fished at nowhere close to concerning levels. She says the biomass is at 58 percent of “virgin,” or unexploited levels, and says that it could be fished down to 40 percent and still provide enough for sustainable fisheries and ecosystem functions.

“There are plenty of big, spawning females. That’s the reason there’s no upper size limit on lingcod,” Sommer says.

ODFW closed bottomfish season as of this Monday after quotas for black rockfish, yelloweye rockfish — which inhabit similar habitats and eat the same things as lings — and cabezon reached their quotas due to excellent fishing this year.

There is no quota on lingcod and they’re otherwise open year-round with a daily limit of two 22 inches or larger.

As for Humbert’s initial shot on the ling, a mere flesh wound.

“We saw the wound from the previous day on the fish and couldn’t believe how well it had closed up,” he noted.

Responding to comments on our initial Facebook post of the photo of Chamberlain and the ling, Humbert said he planned on eating “a big piece with friends this weekend.”

Bon appetit, you guys earned it!

Now Serving Fish ’N Chips

Washington state’s bountiful ocean coast offers a mix of tasty bottomfish in spring.
By Jeff Holmes

Fine fixin’s for fish and chips – saltwater anglers and Capt. Kerry Allen heft a mix of black rockfish and lingcod hooked off the Evergreen State’s rockier northern coast. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Fine fixin’s for fish and chips – saltwater anglers and Capt. Kerry Allen heft a mix of black rockfish and lingcod hooked off the Evergreen State’s rockier northern coast. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Next week when a good friend and his lovely, player-hater wife co-celebrate their birthdays with a big dance party in their new shop, I’m frying, grilling and baking 30 pounds of  halibut, lingcod and rockfish left over from an especially productive 2015 season. Without trying, I’ll probably make a lot of friends at the party while clearing freezer room for 2016’s ocean bounty. Like most of you, I love eating white-fleshed ocean fish, and I could make you a long Bubba-Gump list of dishes. For modest prices often cheaper than sled or drift boat seats, bottomfish charters offer safe and fun fishing yielding big bags of snow-white fillets. For us Northwesterners, the Pacific can be a U-pick fish market where the freshest fish and greatest thrills and memories can be had. Charter prices are often eclipsed by the value of fish taken home when considering retail prices. Pike Place Market brings up the distant rear for quality of Northwest seafood experiences, and charter fishing with fish and chips on the brain is easily on the list of quintessential, must-do Northwest outdoor experiences.
April marks the beginning of bottomfishing opportunities in Washington with the opening of deep-water lingcod fishing for the month’s last two weeks. Typically the only limiting factor to catching big lings out of Washington ports during April is weather, and not too many operators bother. But some do, and private boats also get in on the action closer to shore by fishing jetties and nearshore reefs that have repopulated with bottomfish through the winter months. A friend of mine and his buddies and family make an annual trek to Neah Bay in April to fish the protected waters all the way out to Tatoosh Island, and they do very well fishing over reefs that have seen no pressure in six months. April may not be prime-time ocean fishing season yet, but it is a clear wake-up call with some advantages and excellent payoffs in fillets.

The eagerly awaited halibut season won’t open off the coast until next month, but it should yield good catches, as this nice haul from an All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ express boat exemplifies.(ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

The eagerly awaited halibut season won’t open off the coast until next month, but it should yield good catches, as this nice haul from an All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ express boat exemplifies.(ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

FROM ILWACO AT the mouth of the Columbia River, north to Neah Bay and beautiful Tatoosh Island, Washington’s coastline offers four ocean ports from which to pursue bottomfish. Early-season ocean angling often goes overlooked, what with spring Chinook mania, trout season, and the reawakening of warmwater fish. A sometimes cantankerous ocean also limits popularity, but getting ahead of the game for early bottomfish means scores of clean, firm fillets. Much of my annual bounty every year comes from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, but a significant portion comes off the coasts of Washington, sometimes Oregon. One could easily collect all the fish he or she might ever want or need without visiting our friends to the north, and this is especially true of black rockfish and lingcod. Stocks of both tasty species are robust in both Northwest states, especially so in Washington. There, fishery managers allow a daily limit of 10 black rockfish and two lingcod. The poundage adds up fast after a few trips, and whacking limits of these tasty fish on light gear is a lot of fun and sometimes results in incidental catches of salmon and halibut, retention opportunities for which typically commence in May.
I make a point to fish the early season every year, even if it means the loss of a spring Chinook or morel mushroom weekend. Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay offer excellent fishing, and I have fished them all and I  recommend them all. My usual choice is Westport because of the ease of getting there and because I really like All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ guiding program. But when I fish in April, it’s usually for big lingcod, and always with one of the skippers who licks his chops for a chance at big deepwater lings: Mike Jamboretz of Jambo’s Sportfishing. His immaculate 37-foot boat, the Malia Kai, is good in big water, making him a great bet for early in the year when the ocean is still sometimes sporty. The Washington  Department of Fish and Wildlife allows Jamboretz and other early-season enthusiasts the last two weekends of April and a little over a week in May to chase lings in waters deeper than 20 fathoms (120 feet). He is an extremely good lingcod skipper, with high-end specialized tackle and the most advanced bank of electronics I’ve seen in a sport boat. He’s a bottomfishing specialist with a two-year-plus wait to fish halibut during Washington’s short season. Similarly, his deepwater lingcod trips fill quickly, but it’s definitely worth calling him. After almost three years of waiting, I got out for halibut last year with him, followed by a stop at the deepwater ling reefs, which are fair game later in May on halibut days. I went home with a nice halibut and two lings over 20. Every time I’ve booked with him in April for lings, we’ve laid out a very nice class of fish on the deck by day’s end, along  with limits of extra-tasty yellowtail  rockfish, a species that suspends in deep water near the ling haunts. Neah Bay is worth the trip, and  services are available at Big Salmon Resort.

Capt. Mark Coleman calls new sonar that shows bottom composition “a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.” For more on that, see Randy Well’s South Coast column elsewhere this issue. (ALLRIVERSGUIDESERCapt. Mark Coleman calls new sonar that shows bottom composition “a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.” For more on that, see Randy Well’s South Coast column elsewhere this issue. (ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)ICE.COM)

Capt. Mark Coleman calls new sonar that shows bottom composition “a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.” (ALLRIVERSGUIDESERVICE.COM)

Westport, which is the most popular port on Washington coast, has the most operators and the  widest range of services. Westport’s boat basin is home to several excellent operations such as Deep Sea Charters, which has been running trips here for nearly six and a half decades, Westport Charters, which operates a fleet of eight boats from 40 to 55 feet in length, Ocean Sportfishing Charters, home of the Ranger and Capt. Don Davenport, and Capt. Dave McGowan of the Ms. Magoo. Offshore Northwest and Capt. Kerry Allen, and Tailwalker Charters  and Capt. Patrick Walker are here as well for part of the season, and there are many other options, so see charterwestport.com for more. And while you’re there, check out the annual fishing derbies, which began with lingcod in mid-March and pay out thousands of dollars in prizes for big salmon, halibut and tuna.

MY FAVORITE WAY to fish on the ocean is in fast boats with sporty gear. Lots of awesome Westport skippers will take you to the action and show you an amazing day of fishing and service in some badass boats. My personal choice for speed, versatility, kindness and dry sense of humor is All Rivers and Saltwater Charters’ Mark Coleman and his four express tuna boats.
“Our bottomfishing trip is especially cool because of our custom-built Defiance boats and the fact that we handle just six anglers,” says Coleman. “Once aboard we  travel very quickly to the best fishing zones and get right to fishing.”
Coleman and his skippers are able to rocket around, seeking out the best bite possible on the best class of fish, which often results in an extra-large class of black rockfish and very nice lings.
“We keep an eye on the inshore halibut season too,” says Coleman. “It’s open seven days a week until the quota is met, and we do catch a few each spring while targeting lings and rockfish.”
Although contrary to tradition, Coleman takes an ultralight approach with his gear. Because of the versatility of only fishing six anglers and being able to move fast from spot to spot, his clients can take the extra time to land the occasional nearshore halibut or very large lingcod or salmon on sporty gear.
“We recommend using the lightest tackle you can get away with to feel every bite and have the most fun at the rail,” says Coleman. “For us that usually means 7-foot Okuma spinning rods with Okuma RTX reels loaded with 50-pound TUF-Line braid. From the mainline we attach a 5-foot double-dropper-loop leader, loop on a couple shrimp flies, and a little lead. We have clients let out slowly to convince the rockfish to suspend higher and higher off the bottom and eventually under the boat for wide-open action. Clients tend to love this, and so do I.”
I’m a big fan of top-rated Raymarine electronics and learned about them by fishing with Coleman. Sitting in his pilothouse and reading the displays is almost like watching video of the bottom, even running at 30 knots.
“We rely exclusively on FLIR’s Raymarine electronics to guide us below the water line each day. Our team found that the new CHIRP sonar with DownVision by Raymarine not only improved our vision below the water, but now shows us bottom composition as well. That’s been a real game changer, because when locating good bottomfishing zones offshore from Westport, your spot is as much about what the bottom is made of as it is finding a significant rocky feature.”
All of the operators in Westport have excellent electronics and will get you on bottomfish, and there are lots of cool boats of varying designs. No matter what reputable operator you fish with, I highly recommend a trip to Westport – and Neah Bay, La Push and Ilwaco. All ports offer their own charm and advantages. Look to local chambers of commerce (westportgrayland-chamber.orgilwacowashington.com; forkswa.com; neahbaywa.com) for lodging, dining and tourist activities. If you’re an Oregonian reading this and don’t already know, your coastline is also an excellent place to catch bottomfish and take home a fat sack of fillets. Look to Astoria/Warrenton, Garibaldi, Depoe Bay, Newport, and more, and see the pages of this issue for charter choices to include Yaquina Bay Charters, Captain’s Reel Deep Sea Fishing, and Dockside ChartersNS

By midmonth, lingcod will be fair game up and down Washington’s coast. Some pretty big specimens are out there, with a 48-pounder the largest weighed during 2015’s seasonlong derby in Westport. Wyatt Lundquist slammed his hook home on this nice one while fishing aboard the Slammer, skippered by Rhett Webber, last year. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

By midmonth, lingcod will be fair game up and down Washington’s coast. Some pretty big specimens are out there, with a 48-pounder the largest weighed during 2015’s seasonlong derby in Westport. Wyatt Lundquist slammed his hook home on this nice one while fishing aboard the Slammer, skippered by Rhett Webber, last year. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)