Tag Archives: nmta

WDFW License Bills Moving Again As End Of Regular Legislative Session Nears

After hibernating for the past two months, WDFW’s fee bills have woken up and are moving again, but what will emerges from the den that is the Washington legislature remains to be seen.

Both the House and Senate versions include the 15 percent increase to fishing and hunting licenses and extend the Columbia River salmon and steelhead endorsement, but also contain sharp differences that will need to be reconciled before the end of the session.

“This is pretty intense, from zero bills moving to two bills moving,” said Raquel Crosier, WDFW’s legislative liaison, this morning.

The upper chamber’s bill would sunset the angling fee hike after six years, extends the endorsement two years instead of four like the House, and would not allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to impose surcharges to keep up with rising costs.

That’s different from the Senate’s Operating Budget proposal, released earlier this month without any fee increase or the endorsement and which leaned on General Fund instead.

The lower chamber’s bill, which like the House Operating Budget proposal had the hike and endorsement, would limit the commission’s fee-raising authority to only cover costs lawmakers add to WDFW’s gig and no more than 3 percent in any one year.

Though the Senate version presents something of a fiscal cliff in 2025, the fee increase would produce $14.3 million every two years, the endorsement $3 million.

As for WDFW’s big hopes for a big General Fund infusion to pay for its myriad missions, improve its product and dig out of a $31 million shortfall, any new money it receives will likely be allocated for orcas instead, and that is putting the onus squarely on passing a license increase.

The sudden activity on the fee bills after February’s twin hearings comes with the scheduled Sunday, April 28 end of the session and follows a House Appropriations Committee public hearing yesterday afternoon and an executive session in the Senate’s Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee this morning.

During the House hearing on HB 1708, representatives from the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association and Coastal Conservation Association along with some anglers — all still smarting from the Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Columbia fishery reforms vote early last month, some at louder volumes than others — voiced opposition to the fee bill though generally said they wanted a fully funded WDFW.

NMTA’s George Harris was among those trying to “thread that needle,” saying he couldn’t support the increase because he didn’t believe the agency had followed through on the reforms or mark-selective fisheries.

SPEAKING IN OPPOSITION TO THE FEE BILL DURING THE HOUSE HEARING ON MONDAY APRIL 22 WERE JASON ZITTEL OF ZITTEL’S MARINA NEAR OLYMPIA WHO SAID THE BURDEN OF FUNDING WDFW COULDN’T CONTINUE TO BE PUSHED ONTO LICENSE HOLDERS WHEN THE PROBLEMS ARE STATEWIDE … (TVW)

… AND CARL BURKE, REPRESENTING NMTA AND NSIA, WHO SAID THAT WHILE ANGLERS PROVIDE SIGNIFICANT FUNDING TO WDFW, “THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER.” (TVW)

Speaking in favor of full funding, however, was Ron Garner, statewide president of Puget Sound Anglers, member of the WDFW budget advisory group that did a deep dive into the agency’s finances and part of the governor’s orca task force.

“This is not enough money for the agency, and one of the problems is, if we do take this $30 million hit or don’t get the $30 million, what hatcheries are going to get cut next?” Garner said.

WDFW has identified five that could be and which together produce 2.6 million salmon, steelhead and trout.

He said where other state agencies had recovered from General Fund cuts due to the Great Recession, WDFW hadn’t.

“To keep them healthy and the outdoors healthy, we really need to fund it,” Garner said.

RON GARNER OF PUGET SOUND ANGLERS VOICED SUPPORT FOR A FULLY FUNDED WDFW DURING THE HEARING … (TVW)

… AND TOM ECHOLS OF THE HUNTERS HERITAGE COUNCIL SAID IT WAS THE FIRST TIME IN HIS SEVEN YEARS WITH THE UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION THAT IT WAS SUPPORTING A FEE BILL, SPECIFICALLY THE HUNTING SIDE, SAYING THEY BELIEVED IT WAS “TIME TO SUPPORT THE DEPARTMENT’S DIRECTION.” (TVW)

Both committees ultimately gave their versions do-pass recommendations after adopting several amendments, which overall mainly dealt with fallout from the Columbia vote.

The House bill now tells the citizen panel to work with Oregon’s to recover salmon and steelhead in the watershed and WDFW to “work to maximize hatchery production throughout the Columbia River, reduce less selective gear types in the mainstem of the Columbia River and improve the effectiveness of off-channel commercial fishing areas.”

“I support fully funding WDFW so that we can restore hatchery production and restore our fisheries,” said prime sponsor Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) this morning.

And in his natural resources committee earlier today, Chair Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) substantially altered the Senate fee bill, SB 5692, to address those Columbia issues.

An effect statement says his amendments:

  • Specifies Columbia River fishery reforms including improving the selectivity of recreational and commercial fisheries, prioritizing main stem recreational fisheries, and transitioning gill net fisheries to enhanced off-channel areas.
  • Restricts main stem gill net fisheries, effective July 1, 2019, to not exceed six days per year for salmon and steelhead below the Bonneville dam.
  • Directs the DFW to establish an observer program to monitor at least 10 % of the nontribal gill net salmon and steelhead catch on the Columbia River.
  • Directs the DFW to fund activities that maintain or enhance current recreational and fishing activities with fees from recreational fishing and hunting, and expires the requirement on July 1, 2025.
  • Authorizes the DFW to approve trial fisheries for the use of alternative gear for the mark-selective harvest of hatchery-reared salmon and to establish permit fees by rule for alternative gear fisheries.
  • Authorizes the use of pound nets to harvest salmon on the Columbia River and sets the license fee at $380 per year for a resident and $765 for a nonresident

Without getting too wonky and in the weeds, the differences between the House and Senate fee bills must be concurred on, passed by the legislature and signed by the governor before any hike goes into effect. It would be the first since 2011.

WDFW’s Crosier forecasted some “tough conversations in the coming five days” as lawmakers will have to come to an agreement on outstanding policy issues including the Columbia, hatcheries, predators and more, and how to fund her agency.

“I’m feeling optimistic,” she said. “I think this is the closest we’ve gotten. There’s motivation (by legislators) to get something passed, and fees will be a big part of it.”

And without getting too high up on my stump, the end package will also need to show hunters and anglers that there is a better future ahead from the negative malaise currently gripping the state’s sportsmen as more than a century and a half of habitat loss, hatchery production reductions, increasing ESA listings and fishery restrictions, social media, and, simply put, other legislative priorities have come home to roost, most obviously in the plight of starving southern resident killer whales that might also symbolize today’s opportunities.

Yuasa: Salmon Fishing, Season Negotiations, Rainbow Releases Highlight April

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 2019

Spring breathes new life into the world around us and is nature’s way of saying it is time to dust off the fishing gear for plenty of options happening right now and in the not so distant future.
First off there’s still time to hook into a winter chinook from the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 5 and 6) clear into Puget Sound and Hood Canal (7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 11, 12 and 13) and prospects on some fishing grounds have taken a turn for the better with some bigger-sized springers up to 20 pounds.

THERE ARE BLACKMOUTH TO BE CAUGHT IN PUGET SOUND WATERS THIS MONTH. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

In eastern Strait (6) the catch limit was increased from one to two hatchery chinook daily and in the western Strait (5) it remains two hatchery chinook daily. In San Juan Islands (7) it will stay at one hatchery chinook daily. WDFW plans to look at possibly increasing the limit in northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1, 8-2 and 9) from one to two sometime in April so be sure to check to emergency regulations posted on their website.

In northern Puget Sound catches have been good one day and lousy the next. Target Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Point Wilson; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.

Other marine areas worth a look are south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma-Gig Harbor area; Hood Canal; and southern Puget Sound.

The western Strait, east side of Whidbey Island and southcentral Puget Sound and Hood Canal are open daily for winter chinook through April 30; eastern Strait, San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound are open daily through April 15. Southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

The length of seasons in some marine areas are dictated by catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (minimum size limit is 22 inches).

In eastern Strait the winter fishery can’t exceed 5,473 total chinook encounters, and through March 29 they were at 48 percent or 2,632 encounters. In San Juan Islands it is 10,735, and they were at 75 percent or 8,022 encounters.

Off the east side of Whidbey Island it is 5,474 encounters, and they were at 73 percent of 3,977 encounters. In northern Puget Sound it is 8,336 encounters, and they were at 60 percent of 4,970 encounters. WDFW provides catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

If bottom-fishing gets you excited then head to Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay where catches have been excellent. The halibut fisheries in some marine areas begins on May 2.

Salmon season setting meetings ongoing

Carving out salmon fishing seasons is the hot topic of conversation and a final decision will come to light at the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif., on April 11-16.

THE 2019 SUMMER SALMON SETTING FESTIVAL KNOWN AS NORTH OF FALCON WRAPS UP IN APRIL. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The North of Falcon meetings will wrap up Tuesday (April 2) and it appears there will be more coho to catch and chinook fisheries should resemble 2018 although constraints of certain wild chinook stocks like Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal will play a factor in what goes down for 2019-2020 season.

Fishery managers indicate chinook stocks are still recovering from several years of drought and dire ocean conditions so don’t expect an uptick until 2020 or later.

In Puget Sound, 670,159 coho are forecasted to return compared to 557,149 in 2018. The chinook forecast is 246,837 (217,042 are of hatchery origin and 29,796 are wild) compared to 255,219 (227,815 and 27,404) in 2018. However, the expected marginal coho run to Snohomish river system will likely mean very minimal if any fishing in the river itself.

The Puget Sound pink forecast of 608,388 won’t generate any bonus catch limits as they’re still in recovery mode. The Puget Sound fall chum return is 1,035,835 and should provide some decent late-season action.

The Lake Washington sockeye continue to struggle and the forecast in 2019 is 15,153 but Baker Lake is pegged at 33,737. Brett Barkdull, a WDFW northern Puget Sound biologist indicated Baker will have a season that mirror’s last summer.

WDFW created a potential “wish list” of several added sport fisheries in the 2019-2020 season.

Mark Baltzell, a WDFW lead salmon policy manager, says there could be a couple weekends in August for a summer fishery – one targeting chinook – in inner-Elliott Bay. This is due to a good return of 25,794 chinook to the Green/Duwamish and this has been a rarity for the past several seasons with a brief fishery in 2017.

On the table is a “bubble salmon fishery” in lower section of Area 11 in May from Point Defiance down to the Narrows Bridge and up into Gig Harbor area or open all of Area 11 in May.

Central Puget Sound (10) could be open in June for a resident coho fishery, which produced good catches of 2- to 3-pound fish in 2018 and a later start (it opened on July 16 in 2018) for the hatchery-mark chinook fishery in Area 10 to push the quota-directed season closer to the Aug. 16 closure date.

Others include an expanded fishing opportunity around Minter Creek in southern Puget Sound. A non-select coho opportunity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) and northern Puget Sound (9), which seems unlikely given the fact that some Puget Sound and Thompson River, British Columbia, coho stocks are still stuck in a rut.

Ron Warren, the WDFW head salmon policy manager, said his department has a proposal for a summer Skokomish River chinook fishery on the table to be reviewed by tribal co-managers. This fishery has been closed for three years over a dispute about land ownership on the river’s shoreline bordering the reservation.

There are three alternative ocean sport fishing season options that reflect good hatchery coho fishing and a somewhat mediocre chinook fishery similar to 2018.

The high-end option is 32,000 chinook and 172,200 hatchery coho with opening dates either June 15 or 22; middle is 27,500 and 159,600 on either June 22 or 29; and low is 22,500 and 94,400 on either June 16 or 29.

The coho return for Columbia River is a robust 1,009,600 compared to a 2018 forecast of 349,000 and an actual return of 230,700. Along the Washington coast the coho return forecast is 401,538 up dramatically from 270,756. The Columbia River 2019 fall chinook forecast of 340,400 is better than the 2018 actual return of 290,900 but down from the preseason forecast of 365,600. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Look for trout to generate prime spring options

The warm weather mid-way through last month is a sure sign that spring is in full bloom and that means thousands of anglers will be soaking their favorite colored Power Bait for the statewide lowland lakes’ trout opener on April 27-28 or even sooner for that matter.

TROUT ARE STOCKED IN A WESTERN WASHINGTON LAKE. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

WDFW hatchery crews are working overtime right now planting millions of trout and kokanee into 553 lakes and ponds across the state. The standardized catchable-sized trout is now 11 inches compared to 8-inches in previous seasons and anglers should find about 2.17-million of these trout lurking in lowland lakes, plus another 126,200 “jumbo” trout measuring 14 or more inches long.

If you’re itching to go fishing right now, then take advantage of hundreds of year-round lakes that have or will be planted this spring.
“The early plants in year-round lakes is all about timing as the cormorants – a large diving bird with a voracious appetite for planted trout – are known to get a lot of the fish,” said Justin Spinelli, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound regional biologist. “In our world it is something we deal with, and we’ll do our best to ensure they don’t get eaten up too badly. We’ll start ramping up our plants in lakes.”

Just to get an idea of where the WDFW hatchery trucks under Spinelli’s watchful eyes have been spinning their wheels one needs to look no further than Ballinger Lake on the Snohomish-King County line west of I-5 where on March 26-27 they planted a whopping 9,002; Kapowsin, 26,684; Spanaway, 18,012; Meridian, 16,815; and Lawrence, 20,102.

Other recent eye-popping trout plants include Battle Ground Lake, 4,600; American, 2,522; Black (Thurston County), 12,095; Blue (Columbia County), 4,025; Bonney, 1,050; Cassidy, 3,534; Duck, 850; Fiorito, 4,004; Gibbs, 741; Gissburg, 2,002; Green, 10,010; Horseshoe, 2,900; Island, 2,038; Kitsap, 4,830; Klineline, 5,515; Alice, 1,531; Bradley, 1,000; Ketchum, 2,000; Kokanee, 3,016; Louise, 1,000; Sawyer 1,500; Lost (Mason County), 4,912; Offutt, 5,000; Rattlesnake, 3,504; St. Clair, 6,000; Steilacoom, 5,000; and Swofford, 9,050.

Here are the total estimated plants that will occur in year-round lakes:

In King County try Alice (3,600 trout planted in March-April), Beaver (7,000 in April), Desire (8,000 in April), Green (13,500 in March-May), Meridian (16,700 in March), Morton (5,500 in April), North (9,500 in April) and Rattlesnake (3,500 in March).

In Snohomish County try Ballinger (9,000 in April), Tye (3,500 in April-May), Blackmans (1,500 in April), Flowing (6,800 in April-May), Gissburg Ponds (4,000 in March-April), Ketchum (2,000 in March), Lost (1,500 in March), Panther (1,500 in March), Roesiger (3,000 in April), Shoecraft (6,500 in March) and Silver (8,000 in April).

In Mason County try Spencer (12,644 in April-May) and Island (4,400 in April). In Thurston County try St. Clair (24,000 in April-May) and Black (39,350 in March-April). In Pierce County try Tanwax (5,500 in April-May), Spanaway (18,000 in March) and Bonney (1,020 in March). For weekly stocking updates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

The first five derbies in the series are in the books and each saw a very good turnout of anglers with plenty of winter chinook around to catch.

THE 2019 GRAND RAFFLE PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 16-17 had 125 boats with 402 anglers catching 109 hatchery chinook. Winner was Ben Rosenbach with a 13.63-pound fish worth $3,000 that he caught off Hat Island. Next up: Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

Be sure to check out the grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics.

The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water!

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

Floor: April Time To Rediscover Sekiu Blackmouth Fishing

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

I’ve got the Cheshire Cat grin on my face as I’m sitting in front of my computer screen thinking about the month of April.

Just over my shoulder, most of us have survived in some form, the fire and damnation of the last few months, whether it be the ongoing battles in the legislature, early blackmouth fishing closures in too many marine areas, or the dreadful winter weather of rain, snow and relentless winds. It will be a winter I will easily forget.

And now, with April here, we are looking down the barrel of the ongoing salmon fishing season negotiations in the North of Falcon process, which will try any angler’s patience.

While we wait for the final decisions to be made at North of Falcon that determine our fishing opportunities, I’m thinking about the high road of laying the wood to a hatchery-produced blackmouth before the final chapter of this year’s season slides onto the bookshelf. Clearly, as dictated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, it’s been a winter season filled more with what you can’t do, versus what you can do. Don’t get me started.

Big Sekiu blackmouth are not uncommon during April as Brett Ferris, Tumwater, hoists this nice 15 pound Chinook caught in Clallam Bay. Put me in coach! (NMTA)

For the last four years, I have re-discovered quality fishing at Sekiu in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca during the month of April. It has been money for this salmon angler.

While I have witnessed everything from slow catching to lights-out fishing at Sekiu in April, the quality of the fish is impressive. Most of the blackmouth in the Straits of Juan de Fuca are beginning to sexually mature and will evolve into summer and fall kings bound for Puget Sound hatcheries. I like it when that happens.

The Sekiu fishery performs on both tides as these maturing fish will go on and off the bite throughout the day. On an ebb, I like to start my troll near the Cave, immediately west of Olson’s Resort, working water from 100-140 feet, attempting to troll my gear in the bottom five feet of the water column. I’ll continue the troll pattern west down to Eagle or Hoko Point and repeat, taking note of where I find schools of feed (usually herring). Shortening the distance of my troll patterns to stay on top of the bait is a money strategy.

When the tide floods, I like to set up around Slip Point immediately east of Clallam Bay and troll east, past Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine and all the way to Cod Fish Bay. It is very rare to see any boats in either direction fishing this region. I might troll a quarter mile or so, in the same depths noted above until “Boom – blackmouth hook-up!” I continue the troll pattern and another “Boom!” as an April quality blackmouth just ate my worm!

It has been my experience that just about anything works in this fishery. Whole and plug-cut herring, Silver Horde traditional spoons or even a white hoochie will get the job done. Ace Hi-Flies are also in the repertoire for this fishery. Mix it up and see what works best.

When I’m fishing three anglers, I’ll put two twelve pound downrigger balls near the deck from each side of the boat, and drop the third rod out the back to mid-depth. Last year my biggest fish, a high-teener, came off the mid-depth rod.

The fact of the matter is that the Sekiu fishery does not take a high fishing skill level to get the job done. And the bottom is extremely forgiving, both east and west, composed of sand and mud. Anglers who are rewarded simply just have to have gear in the water and the fish will come.

Sekiu is not easy to get to. It’s a four hour drive towing my boat from my digs in Olympia. I do not fish Sekiu for a day trip. Considering the distance, I go for several days.

There are two fishing resorts in Sekiu. Olson’s, located on the very west end of town, and Van Riper’s, about a quarter mile east of Olson’s. Most rooms have a gorgeous view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Van Riper’s has a few rooms located 20-30 feet from the water with docks immediately out front and a boat ramp. Perfect!

My message is plain and simple. I have no intention of sitting around lighting my hair on fire with thoughts of limited fishing opportunities. I’m headed for Sekiu and that grin on my face is becoming permanent. See you on the water!