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.
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.
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!