Tag Archives: MARK YUASA

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/.

Yuasa: Blackmouth, Chums, Razor Clams, More On Tap This Month

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

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

In the blink of an eye summer has ended, and while fall is ushering in iffy weather and waning daylight hours that shouldn’t stop anglers from venturing out on the water.

First and foremost are the decent chances this month to hook a winter blackmouth in northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9), eastside of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), central Puget Sound (10); south-central Puget Sound (11); and southern Puget Sound (13).

CENTRAL PUGET SOUND’S MARINE AREAS 8-1, 8-2, 9 AND 10 ARE NOW OPEN FOR BLACKMOUTH. TEGAN YUASA, THE AUTHOR’S SON, GOT IN ON THIS NICE HAUL OF WINTER FEEDER KINGS. (MARK YUASA)

Many charter-boat owners and sport anglers will tell you this is their favorite time of year since blackmouth – a term used for a chinook’s black gum-line – are wired to constantly feed on schools of herring and candlefish.

In other words: “Find the bait and you’ll likely find a hungry blackmouth!”

Places like Possession Bar, Point No Point, Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Jefferson Head, West Point, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Hat Island, Baby Island, Clay Banks off Point Defiance, Camano Island and Southworth all come to mind with a plethora of other hot spots layered in between.

Another school of thought that makes this salmon fishery so much fun is the blackmouth’s predictability since the best bite is based on tidal influence. The payoff: If they bit the day before at a certain time frame, it’s very likely they’ll still be there the day after only an hour later into a tidal series.

Those planning on heading out for the Wednesday opening day of winter chinook fishing in northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) will likely find lots of chinook under the 22-inch legal-size limit.

According to WDFW test fishery folks who have been plying the water in advance of tomorrow’s opener have found on average the chinook were 2-inches smaller than last year during the same time frame in Area 9. Even the three legal-size chinook were just BARELY over 22 inches.

In northern Puget Sound they encountered two legal-marked chinook, one legal-unmarked, 14 sub-legal marked and two sub-legal unmarked.

In central Puget Sound they encountered one legal-unmarked and three sub-legal marked.

This may be of concern since the fisheries could close if the chinook guideline is achieved.

Get over the crabbiness by pulling in a pot of Dungies!

To make the winter holiday feast even more appealing is the fact you can set pots again for Dungeness crab in open Puget Sound areas now through Dec. 31.

While summer crab fishing was less than stellar those who dropped pots in the “zone” filled them up with plenty of Dungies. Word has it since reopening on Oct. 7 the crab have started to fill out and are much more meatier as they fatten up for the winter.

Look for good crabbing around Whidbey Island, northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula, Camano Island, 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.

Dog days of fall upon us!

The good news for salmon anglers is two-fold as the chinook fishery reopens in some local marine areas, but the bigger news is what looks to be an extremely strong chum return.

“It appears we’re at the beginning of a stronger than forecasted chum run for Hood Canal and South Sound,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) chum salmon biologist.

THIS FALL’S CHUM SALMON RUN IS COMING IN STRONGLY; PETE SERGEEF HOISTS A NICE ONE CAUGHT OFF JEFF HEAD LAST YEAR. (MARK YUASA)

Sport anglers at Hoodsport in Hood Canal saw some good catches of chum this where 53 anglers on Oct. 29 had 124 chum, and 67 on Oct. 28 had 150.

Likewise catches from commercial boats in central and south-central Puget Sound and Hood Canal were scoring good catches too.

“We had our initial (purse seine and gill-net) openings last week and this week, and based on our (catch per unit effort) they’re among the largest we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Litz said.

Early boat ticket reports showed some as high as 4,000 chum per commercial boat on Oct. 18, and it appears they remained steady this past week.

“We had several purse seiners in Hood Canal and South Sound filling up their holds, and catching a lot of good quality bright chum,” Litz said. “Of course, it is still too early, and we haven’t changed any of our preseason run-size forecasts just yet.”

The total fall chum return is 1,070,968, and a breakdown of that figure shows 492,892 for Hood Canal and 291,357 for South Sound rivers and streams.

Other fall chum forecasts are 109,337 for Nooksack/Samish; 6,966 for Skagit; 5,981 for Stillaguamish; 20,53 for Snohomish; 141,893 for central Puget Sound; and 2,061 for Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many rivers are closed to all salmon fishing to protect weak returning stocks. Check the WDFW pamphlet for what is open and/or closed to fishing.

“This is still the early stage of chum returns, but all indications show we’re going to exceed that based on the catches the last few weeks,” Litz said. “We’ve had pretty atrocious returns of pinks, and issues with chinook and coho so to see this chum return likely exceeding expectations is great news.”

WDFW and tribal fishery managers are assessing chum forecasts, and will likely start having conversations to consider increasing the run-size very soon, which could be as soon as this week.

Chum salmon – better known as dog salmon for their ferocious-looking jawline at spawning time – are also one of the hardest-fighting fish a sport angler will hook, and they can weigh up to and over 20 pounds with most averaging 8 to 15 pounds.

Anglers pursuing chums will have plenty of opportunities along some of the more traditional fishing holes, which will give up decent action in the weeks ahead with the peak usually occurring around Thanksgiving.

Popular locales are the estuaries off Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, Johns Creek and Canyon Creek in Oakland Bay, Chico Creek estuary in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek estuary near Southworth.

Other good places to try for chum are North Bay near Allyn, Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

The heavy rain in past couple of weeks has pushed a lot of the early chums toward estuaries where they’ll stage before up into rivers and streams.

A bobber and anchovy or small firecracker-sized herring is the most productive way to catch fish, but tossing flies, spinners, jigs and spoons will also catch their fair share of fish. In this fishery many believe the color chartreuse is the “must have” color in your tackle gear to catch chums.

The strong abundance of chum also bodes well when northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) reopens for blackmouth on Wednesday (Nov. 1). Anglers at places like Possession Bar and Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Kingston, Pilot Point and Port Townsend should find their decent share of fish to catch.

Can you dig it?

Coastal razor clam diggers searching for the prized bivalves at Mocrocks. Fall and winter may bring harsh weather, but diggers can find hot digging.

If you can dig this news as much as I dig it, be sure to add razor clams to the cornucopia of holiday meals. Hint: Think clams instead of turkey or ham or better yet all three for a surf-and-turf celebration.

Digging is open during evening low tides on Thursday (Nov. 2) and Saturday (Nov. 4) at Copalis; Friday (Nov. 3) and Sunday (Nov. 5) at Mocrocks; and Friday through Sunday at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.

Diggers are reminded that the dig on Nov. 5 is when we set the clocks back one hour. Low tides are plus-0.1 feet at 6:03 p.m. on Thursday; minus-0.7 feet at 6:47 p.m. on Friday; -1.2 at 7:31 p.m. on Saturday; and -1.4 at 7:16 p.m. on Sunday.

Other coastal razor clam digs tentatively planned are Dec. 1 at Copalis; Dec. 2 and 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Dec. 31 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. The season openers on Oct. 6-7 lured 28,300 diggers with an average of 12.5 clams per digger – the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily limit. A breakdown showed Long Beach seekers averaged 11.9; Twin Harbors, 12.4; Copalis, 13.3; and Mocrocks, 12.6. Average size was 4 to 5 inches with bigger clams at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.
The only thing holding back future digs are a passing grade for marine toxin testing conducted prior to each series of digs. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

On freshwater scene, state fisheries plans to plant about 260,000 catchable-sized trout to boost holiday fishing in Puget Sound and Southwest Washington year-round lakes.

Issaquah’s Beaver Lake got a plant of 800 jumbo-sized trout last month with 800 more going in right before Thanksgiving. Then just before Christmas another 800 will be added to zest up the holiday fishing fun. Check WDFW’s website for latest statewide trout plants at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby and more

Next up on the Northwest Salmon Derby Series is Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby this weekend (Nov. 4-5). This year’s grand prize – an $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft 220 OceanPro powered with Honda 250- and 9.9-horsepower motors on an EZ-Loader Tandem axle galvanized trailer – will be given away at the derby in a raffle drawing to one lucky person.

SOME LUCKY NORTHWEST SALMON ANGLER’S GOING TO WALK AWAY WITH THIS GREAT BOAT AT THE CONCLUSION OF THIS WEEKEND’S EVERETT NO-COHO BLACKMOUTH DERBY. (NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES)

We’ve also got plenty more exciting surprises coming up in 2018 for the derby series so stay tuned as we get amped up on forthcoming news.

Lastly, I’m drafting The Seattle Boat Show fishing seminars, and we’ve got new additions to spice it up when the show drops anchor Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 at Century Link Field and Event Center. It’s a one-stop get all the tips on where and how to catch fish from some of the best experts in Pacific Northwest.

Floor ‘Confused’ By End Of SeaTimes’ Regular Fishing Coverage, Offers Prawn Tips

Editor’s note: The following is Tony Floor’s monthly newsletter and is run with permission.

By Tony Floor, Fishing Affairs Director, Northwest Marine Trade Association

If you’re a frequent reader of The Seattle Times, Washington’s largest newspaper, you may have caught a farewell writing from Outdoor Editor Mark Yuasa (click HERE for story) last week. Mark’s writing of the outdoors, featuring fishing, shellfishing and related outdoor opportunities in the Pacific Northwest have been enjoyed by readers for over the past 25 years.

The Seattle Times goes back a few years, dating to the late 1890s when the paper went into circulation. Outdoor editors include Enos Bradner, popular writer Brad O’Connor and now Mark Yuasa who have delivered readers wonderful coverage of our outdoors and related opportunities for nearly the last 80 years.

MARK YUASA BATTLING ONE ON THE SALT. HIS OUTDOOR REPORTING WILL APPEAR BIWEEKLY ON THE OUTDOOR LINE’S WEBSITE. (TONY FLOOR)

Mark’s departure is clearly a loss for readers who have enjoyed his stories. The conclusion of his career at The Seattle Times was the result of a management decision which chose to eliminate coverage of activities affecting hundreds of thousands and close to a million readers interested in the outdoors, based on WDFW license data.

It’s hard to conclude that sport fishing does not make the cut anymore in the eyes of The Seattle Times management while recent economic measurements of boating and fishing alone in Washington is estimated at a $2.9 billion dollar industry. Confused? So am I.

Seattle Times outdoor reporter Mark Yuasa is the latest casualty of employees at the newspaper as their outdoor coverage was recently eliminated. Mark will clearly be missed.

The outdoors in the great Pacific Northwest is one of the important reasons why people move to this region of the country. We are not Oklahoma, the South or the Midwest, where our Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound provide open arms to countless saltwater and freshwater fishing activities. Salmon, lingcod, albacore tuna and halibut fishing highlight the outdoors saltwater fishing menu. Steelhead, trout, and many warm water species also generate huge interest for anglers who love to drown a worm in freshwater when seasons allow. Crabbing, shrimping, razor clamming, and steamer clams has been an outdoor tradition for many families dating back to an era before The Seattle Times began publishing newspapers.

But don’t look for coverage of these fishing/shellfishing opportunites in today and tomorrow’s Seattle Times. The state’s largest newspaper is suggesting coverage of these activities is no longer important in our ever-changing Pacific Northwest society. I beg to differ.

Thank you, Mark, for your work and effort to enlighten the thousands of readers who have followed your writings. You will be missed.

Pass the prawn cocktail sauce, please

Speaking of prawns, the annual season began in early May during incredible soft tides on May 6. Accounts of the ka-woosh sound of shrimp fishers dropping their pots at 7 a.m. on opening morning could be heard from Bellingham to Olympia, including the San Juans, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

Reports from outdoor fishing stores such as Holiday Sports in Mt. Vernon, Cabela’s in Marysville and Lacey, along with Outdoor Emporium in Seattle, Sportco in Fife and Swain’s in Port Angeles suggest their cash registers were belching dark smoke as shrimp fishers bought new pots, shrimp pellets and related gear. May and June represent a peak time for this fishery as nearly 20,000 people invest time to pursue Washington’s largest shrimp species known as spot prawns. Spot prawn biologists suggest that people who actively pursue these yummy shellfish species (noted above) may run about 45,000 days or trips during the season. Seasons vary by area and knowing the rules in the area where a shrimper is considering fishing is very important. The basic limit is 80 prawns per person, however, in Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 7W (western San Juan Islands), the bonus limit of 120 prawns per day begins today (June 1), for the remainder of the season, seven days a week. Guess where I am?

PRAWNS BRIGHTEN A SHRIMP POT. (TONY FLOOR)

Fishing for prawns has been lights out in Puget Sound, the eastern Straits and the San Juan Islands during the past month. Expect more of the same in June!

From a table fare perspective, spot prawns are off the chart. Shrimp burgers, shrimp omelettes, shrimp appetizers, shrimp salad, shrimp pasta, shrimp toothpaste, shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp, get my drift? I love it!

And, it’s a fishery where very little skill is required to be successful. I look for soft tides where the exchange is minimal, or, around slack tides. I like water depths in the 260-320 range where I fish in the San Juan Islands which is considered on the shallow side for spot prawns. Some prawn fishers set their pots in considerably deeper water in the 350-450 range which can be tricky, especially if the currents flow at more than a foot an hour during peak flow. Adding weight to pots is critical, similar to deep water crab fishing. Shellfish biologists suggest that a weighted pot should tip the scales at 30 pounds or more.

There has been a trend in recent years to fish with bigger rectangular pots with more doors for prawns to enter the pot. I am a believer. Some prawn fishers like the web-mesh Ladner nesting style pots made in British Columbia. These pots are popular in commercial shrimp fisheries from California to Alaska and come in three sizes. The thirty-six inch Ladner weighs 28 pounds which is a recommended weight when fishing around 300 feet in moderate tides.

Finally, there are a number of theories on the kinds of bait to use in shrimp pots. Some long-time prawn fishers make their own prawn bait cocktail. I go the easy way and purchase prawn bait pellets along with a liquid attractant oil mixed into the pellets. Very simple and it produces slam-o-rama!

Excuse me while I pull my shrimp pots which have been soaking for nearly two hours. Perfect! Now where did I set that jar of cocktail sauce! Down the hatch, baby. See you on the water!

Tony