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Yuasa: Fishing Hits ‘Full Throttle’ In May; Planning Guide For Summer Salmon

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

May 2019

The month of May is a pleasant time. Flowers are in full bloom. The weather is improving. Days are getting longer. But, it’s also a time when fishing hits full throttle for a wide variety of fish and anglers can start making plans for summer salmon fisheries.

First off there’s nothing better than a batch of steamed spot shrimp on the dinner table and the season for these denizens of the deep gets underway on May 11 for most areas of Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“It will likely be an average spot shrimp season,” said Don Velasquez, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish biologist. “In general, last year was a fair to good season.”

Spot shrimp are the largest – averaging 8 to 12 inches long – of more than 80 shrimp species in local marine waterways, but only seven are commonly caught by anglers. Most are lurking at depths of 30 to 300 feet.

The western Strait (Area 5) is open daily beginning May 11; and eastern Strait (6) is open Thursdays to Sundays of each week beginning May 11. Each area will close once the catch quota is achieved. The Discovery Bay Shrimp District (within 6) will be open May 11, 15 and 29 and June 1 from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. each day.

The San Juan Islands in Area 7 South is open May 11-12, May 16-19 and May 23-24; Area 7 East is open daily May 11-12, May 16-19, May 23-26 and May 30-June 2; and Area 7 West is open Thursdays to Sundays each week beginning May 11 and closes once the catch quota is achieved.

The east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) is open May 11 and May 15 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Northern Puget Sound (9) is open May 11 and May 15 from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. each day.

Elliott Bay (within 10) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; central Puget Sound (10) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-11 a.m.; and south-central Puget Sound (11) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.

Hood Canal (12) is open May 11, 15 and 29 and June from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Southern Puget Sound (13) is closed for the 2019 season due to low abundance levels of spot shrimp.

In all Puget Sound areas, the daily limit is 80 spot shrimp per person during the month of May. Additional dates and times will be announced if quotas aren’t achieved.

Velasquez points out traps can be set one hour before official sunrise during any open period in Marine Catch Areas 4, 5, 6 (except for the Discovery Bay Shrimp District), 7 East, 7 South, and 7 West only. As an example, one hour before sunrise is approximately 4:40 a.m. on May 11.

WDFW conducted test fishing for spot shrimp and the northern section of Hood Canal around Seabeck showed an increase but was weak in the Hood’s central section.

“Area 7 West saw a slight increase in pounds per trap from last year,” Velasquez said. “Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10 is pretty average compared to what we’ve seen in past years.”

Last year, the total sport harvest of spot shrimp was 194,863 pounds and the non-tribal commercial take was 97,578 pounds for a total of 292,441 pounds. Sport and non-tribal commercial fishermen split a 300,000-pound spot shrimp yearly catch quota with 70 percent going to the sport fishery. The tribal fishery has a 300,000-pound catch quota.

Bottom-fishing also takes centerstage with lingcod opening May 1 in most areas of Puget Sound and Strait; and halibut on May 2 off the coast and Marine Catch Areas 5 to 10. The coastal lingcod and rockfish fishing season have been going strong since it reopened back in March.

The statewide halibut quota of 277,100 pounds is up from 225,366 in 2018 (237,762 in 2017, and 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014). Anglers should go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut for more information on additional dates and regulations.
For those who still want to get their fix on hatchery chinook then head to southern Puget Sound south of the Narrows Bridge where fishing is open year-round.

Cutbacks to some 2019-2020 salmon fisheries

The salmon seasons on the coast for coho are the shining beacon of light compared to 2018 but major cutbacks were numerous to Puget Sound fisheries.

State, federal and tribal fishery managers met last month at Rohnert Park, California, to set fisheries and those cuts occurred after WDFW became more focused on the Puget Sound chum issue instead of focusing on important chinook and coho opportunities and wild chinook stocks of concern.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The delay virtually slammed the door of a normal public involvement during the North of Falcon meeting in Lynnwood on April 3 when only two hours was devoted to the Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries discussion.

“While it’s often a frustrating process, I have never seen a year that involved the public less than this cycle,” Carl Nyman, a WDFW Puget Sound recreational fishing advisor and President of the Charter Boat Association of Puget Sound said in an NMTA news release. “For the first time since I have attended, there were no initial set of proposed fisheries modeled for public comment.”

The news release went on to say all the vital public input during this complicated process on salmon fishing season preferences that reflect social and economic consequences of WDFW’s decisions was moved out of reach for most constituents to California. Hopefully it was a “lesson learned” and the WDFW staff and their nine-member commission will look at this differently in the immediate future before we head into a Black Hole of no return.

Lost fishing opportunity ranges from weeks to months closed but represents about half of the 2018 season for the most popular summer and winter chinook fisheries in the Strait, San Juan Island, and northern, central south-central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11).

Cuts include closing all salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands (Area 7) in August and January; closing western Strait (5) for hatchery chinook for two weeks in February; closing eastern Strait (6) in February; closing east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) in December and January; delaying the northern Puget Sound (9) summer hatchery chinook fishery until July 25 (last year it began on July 16) plus a smaller quota of 3,491 compared to 5,400 in 2018 and closing fishing in January; central Puget Sound (10) summer hatchery chinook fishery opens July 25 (last year it opened July 16) and will likely be reduced by two to three weeks under a smaller quota of 3,057 compared to 4,473 in 2018; and south-central Puget Sound (11) closed June 1-30 with a reduced quota of 2,805 hatchery chinook (5,030 in 2018) and closed October through December.

Moving past the dire situation will be some great salmon opportunities off the coast and a few other inner-marine and freshwater locations.

“We came up with a plan for the mark coho fishery in Area 9 to flip it and make it non-select in October to expand more time on the water if the in-season numbers show it’s a possibility,” said Mark Baltzell, the WDFW Puget Sound recreational salmon manager.

Baltzell also says the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers are open Sept. 1-30 with a one coho daily limit. If the run is larger than predicted they could liberalize the season around the first week of October. This will be done through data collected in a test fishery.

WDFW and PFMC also developed a more liberal ocean salmon fishery for hatchery coho due to an expected higher return of Columbia River-bound fish while chinook is still in a recovery mode.

“We are very optimistic for coho and you have to go back to 2015 since we’ve had any good coho fishing,” said Wendy Beeghley, the WDFW head coastal salmon policy manager.

The total allowable sport and non-tribal commercial catch is 190,000 hatchery coho up considerably from 47,600 last year; and 52,500 chinook down slightly from 55,000. The Columbia River coho forecast is 1,009,600 compared to 349,000 in 2018.

Ilwaco has a 79,800 hatchery coho quota (21,000 in 2018) and a 7,150-chinook quota (8,000 in 2018); Westport is 59,050 (15,540) and 12,700 (13,100); La Push is 4,050 (1,090) and 1,100 (1,500); and Neah Bay is 16,600 (5,370) and 5,200 (3,024).

Salmon fishing opportunities:

(Here is a glimpse of what anglers will find in 2019-20 and for more refer to the WDFW regulation pamphlet or go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/)

• All four coastal ports – Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Ilwaco – will be open daily from June 22-Sept. 30 or close once each area’s catch quota is achieved. Daily limit at Ilwaco and Westport is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook. Daily limit is two salmon at La Push and Neah Bay. The La Push bubble fishery will be open Oct. 1-13.

South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) closed June 1-30 but open July 1-Sept. 30. Salmon fishing closed Thursdays and Fridays. Once quota is met fishing will be open daily with a two coho daily limit and non-retention of all chinook.

Inner-Elliott Bay opens for chinook on Aug. 2 to Aug. 5 at 12 p.m. Additional weekend openings are possible if in season data shows a stronger return.

East side of Whidbey Island (Area 8-2) opens Aug. 16-Sept. 15 for hatchery coho from Mukilteo/Clinton to Area 9 northern boundary. Area 8-1 is open for coho in October.

• The Skagit River from Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek) is open for spring chinook from May 1-31; Stillaguamish is open Sept. 16-Nov. 15 for coho; Skykomish is open for hatchery chinook the Saturday before Memorial Day through July 31; and Minter Creek is open for salmon Sept. 15-Dec. 31.

Baker Lake opens for sockeye starting July 6 and a sockeye fishery on the Skagit River opens June 16. The Baker Lake sockeye forecast is 33,737.

Buoy 10 near the Lower Columbia River mouth opens Aug. 1-20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention; and is open from Aug. 21-Dec. 31 for a hatchery coho directed fishery (release all chinook and wild coho).

San Juan Islands (Area 7) is open July 1-31 for hatchery kings and has been an early-season hotspot the past several years so put in as much time before the August closure. The preseason prediction of legal-size chinook encounters in Area 7 is 3,622 and WDFW manages this fishery as a season from beginning to end. Coho become fair game Sept. 1-30.

Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery within Area 8-2 is a hatchery salmon directed fishery and the season remains status quo from last year. If forecasts hit the bullseye action could be decent when it opens June 1 (closed on June 15 for a tribal ceremonial fishery) through Sept. 2. Fishing is allowed from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only. Then it switches to a Saturday and Sunday only of each week from Sept. 7-29.

Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) from Sekiu to Port Angeles opens July 1-Aug. 15 for a hatchery-marked king fishery. For the past several years, the eastern Strait has been a worthwhile journey on the opener with areas from Sekiu to Freshwater Bay coming on by mid-July. Look for coho and pink action to ramp up from Aug. 16-Sept. 30. The preseason legal-mark encounter for chinook in Area 5 is 8,294 and WDFW ensures it doesn’t exceed 9,953. In Area 6, WDFW will manage the fishery as a season from beginning to end.

Statewide opening day of trout fishing was a success with plenty still to catch

While the weather was somewhat windy for the statewide lowland lakes trout opener on Saturday that didn’t stop thousands from trying their luck at catching fish.

“Everyone I talked to said that fishing was really good, but the winds were pretty blustery across the state late (Saturday) morning, which probably shortened some people’s trips somewhat,” said Steve Caromile, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish program manager. “Many places, there seemed to be an early morning bite.”

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The windy weather Saturday afternoon many have been a hinderance but those who fished Sunday found a much different picture with warmer temperatures, sunny skies and a few extra snappy trout.

In general, it appears success rates were decent overall, and popular lakes on west- and east-sides were crowded with anglers tossing just about everything from Power Bait, worms, salmon eggs, marshmallows, flies, spoons, gang-flashers and spinners.

Caromile said catch rates and harvest numbers per angler were right on par with last year’s opening day.

Top Puget Sound region lakes where anglers averaged good catches were: Langlois (one derby fish and largest was 12.4 inches); Cottage (boats more successful than bank anglers and largest was 15.5 inches); Margaret (one derby fish and many five-fish limits); Pine; Erie (largest was 17.5 inches); Bosworth; Echo (Maltby); Howard (11 holdover trout caught and largest was 17.5 inches); Ki (largest was 17 inches); Storm; Wagner; Silver, Whatcom County (many limits, excellent pancake feast by Ferndale Kiwanis); McIntosh; Carney; Silver, Pierce, (lots of 15- to 17-inch carryovers), Aberdeen; Horseshoe; Sandy; Panther; Haven; and Wooten.

In eastern Washington, many reports indicated windy weather put a damper on fishing, but some trout were the larger carryovers ranging from 16 to 21 inches long.

Even better news is that anglers who missed out or overslept on the opener will be happy to know that with 15 million-plus trout planted in more than 500 statewide lakes and ponds there should be plenty of fishing love to spread around for months to com.

“There will be plenty of fish left, and fishing will be good for another few months until the water warms up,” Caromile said. “Some lakes will continue to get small amounts of fish for a few more weeks.”

WDFW TROUT CHECKS

King County: Cottage, 44 anglers with 55 trout kept for 1.3 fish kept per rod average and 90 total fish released for 3.3; Langlois, 45 with 107 for 2.4 and 440 for 12.2; Margaret, 22 with 57 for 2.6 and 100 for 7.1; Pine, 15 with 27 for and 52 for 5.3.

San Juan County: Cascade, 33 with 20 for 1.5 and 48 for 2.1.

Skagit County: Erie, 29 with 19 for 3.3 and 97 for 4.0; McMurray, 51 with 16 for 1.9 and 99 for 2.3; and Sixteen, 51 with 12 for 1.8 and 91 for 2.0.

Snohomish County: Bosworth, 47 with 78 for 1.7 and 110 for 4.0; Echo (Maltby), 20 with 59 for 3.0 and 30 for 4.5; Howard, 21 with 53 for 2.5 and 53 for 4.2; Ki, 34 with 77 for 2.3 and 58 for 4.0; Martha (Alderwood Manor), 26 with 47 for 1.8 and 29 for 2.9; Serene, 16 with 22 for 1.4 and 15 for 2.3; Stickney, 18 with 37 for 2.1 and 15 for 2.3; Storm, 38 with 76 for 2.0 and 70 for 3.8; and Wagner, 14 with 34 for 2.4 and 59 for 6.6.

Whatcom County: Cain, 34 with 117 for 3.4; Silver, 143 with 417 for 2.9 and 284 for 4.9; and Toad, 43 with 67 for 1.6 and 44 for 2.6.

Klickitat County: Horsethief, 15 with 30 for 2.0 and four for 2.3; Rowland, 37 with 108 for 2.9 and 68 for 4.8; and Spearfish, eight with 22 for 2.8 and three for 3.1.

Lewis County: Carlisle, 55 with 34 for 0.6 and 224 for 4.7; and Mineral, 80 with 189 for 2.4 and 239 for 5.4.

Thurston County: Clear, 51 with 131 for 2.6 and 41 for 3.4; Deep, six with nine for 1.5 and four for 2.2; Hicks, 23 with 42 for 1.8 and eight for 2.2; McIntosh, one with one for 1.0 and five for 6.0; Pattison, seven with 12 for 1.7; Summit, six with 11 for 1.8 and 10 for 3.5; and Ward, nine with 18 for 2.0.

Pierce County: Bay, eight with 14 for 1.8 and three for 2.1; Carney, two with seven for 2.0 and seven for 5.5; Clear, 31 with 84 for 2.7 and 14 for 3.4; Jackson, one with three for 3.0 and two for 5.0; Crescent, 14 with 30 for 2.1; Rapjohn, 10 with 20 for 2.0 and four for 2.4; Ohop, six with 14 for 2.3 and six for 3.3; Silver, 16 with 42 for 2.6 and 36 for 4.9; and Tanwax, 12 with 22 for 1.8 and 17 for 3.3.

Grays Harbor County: Aberdeen, 59 with 95 for 1.6 and 208 for 5.1; Inez, 36 with 22 for 0.6 and 19 for 1.1; Sylvia, 23 with 44 for 1.9 and eight for 2.3; Bowers, 27 with 27 for 1.0 and four for 1.1; and Failor, 52 with 144 for 2.8 and 58 for 3.9.

Pacific County: Black, 43 with 33 for 0.8 and 18 for 1.2.

Jefferson County: Sandy Shore, 35 with 92 for 2.6 and 106 for 5.7; Silent, seven with 21 for 3.0 and 12 for 4.7; and Tarboo, 47 with 98 for 2.1 and 89 for 4.0.

Kitsap County: Bucks, 25 with 40 for 1.6 and 27 for 2.7; Horseshoe, 23 with 81 for 3.5 and 51 for 5.7; Mission, 30 with 94 for 3.1 and 80 for 5.8; Panther, 14 with 49 for 3.5 and 36 for 6.1; Wildcat, 20 with 83 for 4.2 and 20 for 5.2; and Wye, three with four for 1.3 and one for 1.7.

Mason County: Benson, 21 with 48 for 2.3 and six for 2.6; Don (Clara), 19 with 77 for 4.1 and five for 4.3; Devereaux, 23 with 33 for 1.4 and 102 for 5.9; Haven, five with 25 for 5.0 and 34 for 11.8; Howell, five with 16 for 3.2; Limerick, 33 with 39 for 1.2 and 86 for 3.8; Magee, 18 with 32 for 1.8 and eight for 2.2; Phillips, four with three for 0.8 and 12 for 3.8; Robbins, 18 with 61 for 3.4 and eight for 3.8; Tiger, 20 with 76 for 3.8 and five for 4.1; and Wooten, 24 with 49 for 2.0 and 150 for 8.3.

Ferry County: Ellen, 14 with 11 for 0.8 and 19 for 2.1.

Pend Oreille County: Diamond, 26 with 25 for 1.0 and 16 for 1.6.

Stevens County: Cedar, 49 with 95 for 1.9 and 36 for 2.7; Mudgett, 22 with 23 for 1.0 and 17 for 1.8; Rocky, 19 with 24 for 1.3 and 13 for 1.9; Starvation, 38 with 93 for 2.4 and nine for 2.7; and Waitts, 23 with 37 for 1.6 and 21 for 2.5.

Spokane County: Badger, 39 with 76 for 1.9 and 33 for 2.8; Clear, 35 with 25 for 0.7 and five for 0.9; Fishtrap, 45 with 67 for 1.5 and 15 for 1.8; Williams, 48 with 109 for 2.3 and 276 for 8.0; West Medical, 36 with 29 for 0.8 and 10 for 1.1; Fish, 66 with 68 for 1.0 and 46 for 1.7.

Grant County: Vic Meyers, 12 with nine for 0.8; Warden, 60 with 86 for 1.4 and 11 for 1.6; Blue, 34 with 91 for 2.7 and three for 2.8; Park, 48 with 141 for 2.9 and five for 3.0; and Deep, 46 with 83 for 1.8 and seven for 2.0.

Chelan County: Wapato, 64 with 204 for 3.2 and 85 for 4.5.

Douglas County: Jameson, 40 with 111 for 2.8 and 21 for 3.4.

Okanogan County: Pearrygin, 26 with 37 for 1.4 and five for 1.6.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve hit the pause button in the derby series although the boat has been making its rounds to various seminars and other fishing promotions.

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 Burnewiin accessories; 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. It is trailered with a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.
Next up is the Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

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’m filled with spring fishing excitement and will see you on the water!

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.

Anacortes Boat And Yacht Show Set For May 16-19 At Cap Santé Marina

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE NORTHWEST MARINE TRADE ASSOCIATION AND ANACORTES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

After coming off a highly successful launch of the Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show in 2018, hopes are running high for the upcoming show on May 16-19 at the Port of Anacortes’ Cap Santé Marina that is projected to have more than 300 boats on display. The Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and Anacortes Chamber of Commerce have teamed up for this show set in one of region’s most popular boating areas.

AFTER ITS LAUNCH LAST SPRING, THE ANACORTES BOAT AND YACHT SHOW WILL RETURN TO THE CAP SANTE MARINA IN MID-MAY. (RON IBSEN)

“There is lots of strong energy from exhibitors as we head into the second annual Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show,” said Katie McPhail, the NMTA’s Boat Show Director. “I look forward to seeing how far we can grow in our second year. There is momentum for growth and a lot of potential!”

At the show attendees can soak in the sights of in-water and shore-side boats ranging from trailer-sized to premier yachts situated in the marina. Boats for sale include new and brokerage types in the water at the marina, and at nearby boatyards – Banana Belt Boats and Inside Passage Yacht Sales – located just south of the marina with free bus shuttle service. The huge 10,000-square foot shoreside tent will be filled with an array of boating accessories and electronics.

(RON IBSEN)

There will be a 50-percent Salmon for Soldiers’ ticket discount for active military and veterans during everyday of the show; and the Boat Show University at Cruiser’s College in the Marine Technology Center. Visitors can take part in the 50/50 Salmon for Soldiers’ Raffle that offer veterans fishing opportunities designed to help reduce stress while creating new relationships with others who love fishing.

In 2018, the show exceeded expectations with an attendance of 5,214 that included visitors from 15 different U.S. states as well as Canada and featured 287 boats on display set in the heart of a beautiful waterfront community and gem of all marinas.

(RON IBSEN)

“After last year’s successful show and the growing interest in boating, we’re excited about the upcoming event,” said Kelly Hawley, owner of Tom-n-Jerry’s Boat Center Inc. and Master Marine Boat Center Inc. in Mount Vernon. “The layout is much nicer than last year and will be much easier for potential buyers and current boat owners to navigate.”

Anacortes is conveniently situated between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia with more than 40 marine-related businesses to cover every boater’s wants and needs. Details: https://anacortesboatandyachtshow.com/.

(RON IBSEN)

Tickets

Cost is $10 for adults; $15 for unlimited pass; youth 17-and-under are free; 50-percent off for current military and veterans every day of show; and Yacht Club Members get in free on Thursday and Friday. E-tickets are on sale and include a 12-month subscription to Sea Magazine and/or Boating World.

Hotel, Shopping and Dining

Accommodations are available for all price ranges with several offering pristine views of the surrounding waters. Attendees who stay at participating hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast locales will receive one free ticket per adult guest per stay to the show. For details, go to https://anacortes.org/.

Things to do

There are many sights to see, places to shop and restaurants from casual to fine dining. The Anacortes Farmers Market happens on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vendors offer farmers produce, food and vibrant art plus live music. After the show, head over to Swinomish Casino & Lodge or take a hike and soak in sunset views at Mount Erie Park, the highest point on Fidalgo Island. Other activities include exploring nearby Washington Park and Deception Pass State Park; whale watching with local charter-boat businesses; having a picnic or strolling at Storvik Park or Seafarers Memorial Park; or viewing the Anacortes Mural Project on Commercial Avenue.

In Passing Out Of Committee, Washington Nontribal Gillnet Phaseout Bill Reduced To Columbia

UPDATED, 3:17 P.M., FEB. 22, 2019 WITH A NEW PARAGRAPH FIVE WITH DETAILS ON THE SENATORS’ VOTE

Washington lawmakers reduced the scope of a bill phasing nontribal gillnets out of state waters, limiting it to the Columbia in passing it out of committee this afternoon just ahead of a crucial cutoff.

An amendment from prime sponsor Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) also shortened the timeframe for implementing SB 5617‘s ban from 2023 to 2021 and trimmed the buyout phases from three to one.

A SCREEN SHOT FROM TVW SHOWS STATE SENATORS DURING TODAY’S COMMITTEE VOTES ON A BILL THAT WOULD PHASE OUT NONTRIBAL GILLNETTING IN THE COLUMBIA RIVER. (TVW)


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Pointing to the volume of public comment both for and against the original bill during a hearing before the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) applauded her fellow senator for tweaking it and said it matched the policy WDFW already has in place for the big river.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) agreed, saying it was essentially codifying those rules, and called for a vote on Salomon’s amendment and then for a do-pass recommendation, both of which passed on a voice vote with only one nay heard on the TVW broadcast.

Legislative staff did not return a call inquiring about the vote tally, but subsequent to this story being published it has been posted on the legislature’s webpage that four recommended it pass (Sens. Van De Wege, Salomon, Rolfes and Judy Warnick), two against (Sens. John McCoy and Shelly Short) and one without recommendation (Sen. Jim Honeyford).

This was the last scheduled meeting for the committee before tomorrow’s first legislative cutoff deadline of the session, so it was do or die for the bill.

“This has a long way to go, and we have to stay focused and keep working all the way to the end of session,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who had been rallying support for it in recent days.

She was also among the 47 who signed in on the bill one way or the other at that hearing earlier this month, and says that even though it was amended, it still “fulfills a critical component of the Columbia River harvest reforms by calling for an end to mainstem nontreaty gillnetting and providing for a buyout.”

State fishery managers in Washington and Oregon had agreed to reform fisheries on the shared river, but that has been thrown into doubt in recent years, with the southern state backing away and some elements not being as effective as expected. A recent letter from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown seems to indicate she is still supportive of the changes championed by former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Others who spoke up in favor before the committee on Feb. 12 included George Harris of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who said that conserving and protecting salmon for starving killer whales was important, as well as representatives from Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear, Clark-Skamania Flyfishers, Coastal Conservation Association and Zittel’s Marina near Olympia, among others.

But there was also considerable pushback from gillnetters, seafood processors and several tribal nations too.

Otis Hunsinger, a commercial fisherman, detailed how he tried to move his operations from the Columbia to Puget Sound to get away from the issues there but they were now following him.

“You think we’re not going to fight. We’re going to fight,” added John Hunsinger of Astoria, who argued it would take away jobs.

According to a fact sheet from NSIA, the only nontribal gillnet fishery on the Columbia focuses on fall Chinook and occurs above the Lewis River to avoid impacts on ESA-listed lower river tules.

In pointing to the bill’s 27 cosponsors — more than half the members of the state Senate — Hamilton said she was grateful “for their recognition that nontreaty gillnets are a problem for wild salmon and steelhead, for orca and for the economy, especially when there are alternatives.”

As amended, SB 5617 also directs WDFW to:

  • “Establish a selective gear incentive program that seeks to avoid harvest of non-target species”;
  • And “develop a fee for permits issued for the taking of salmon under the trial or experimental fishery permits.”

Hamilton said that she appreciated the committee’s work on the bill, as most introduced in the legislature don’t receive a hearing let alone pass out of their crucial first committee.

(Tomorrow, time permitting, the Olympia Outsider™ plans to provide an update on how things stand, including a recently introduced bill that would require WDFW to review the status of wolves in Washington and determine whether a change was warranted at the statewide and regional levels.)

“Finally, we thank all of the NSIA members who took the time to phone and write the committee emphasizing the importance of this bill for their employees, and thank our allies at Northwest Marine Trade Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, The Associations of Northwest Steelheaders, and the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association for doing the same. It takes a village, and NSIA businesses are thankful for these partnerships,” she said.

To become law, the bill must first pass its next Senate committee, the full chamber, the House and be signed into law by the governor.

WDFW Fee Hike Bills Get Support During Public Hearings, But Concerns Raised Too

Washington lawmakers heard arguments for and not-quite-fully-against on a pair of bills that would increase fishing and hunting license fees by 15 percent during public hearings held late this week.

While nobody spoke out directly in opposition to HB 1708 or SB 5692, a representative for the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association and Northwest Marine Trade Association said the organizations were concerned about them.

“If I leave you with one message today, it is this is not about the money,” said Carl Burke. “We’ve always been willing to pay to play. However, we should not continually — consumptive users — be asked to provide more monies for less opportunity. It’s just that simple.”

He also said the industries needed predictable seasons and more effective inseason management to make decisions on how much inventory they should carry on their shelves and boat lots.

Poor ocean conditions in recent years have made managing salmon and steelhead fisheries very complex for WDFW.

NSIA AND NMTA LOBBYIST CARL BURKE SPEAKS BEFORE SENATORS DURING A PUBLIC HEARING ON A BILL THAT WOULD INCREASE FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSE FEES. (TVW)

And Burke spoke to policies being worked on by the Fish and Wildlife Commission and WDFW that he said put recovery of ESA-listed Columbia salmon runs at risk, a reference to fishery reforms that are now being reconsidered and which has directly led to another bill in the state legislature, SB 5617, which would phase out nontribal gillnets.

He said that lawmakers would be getting a letter more fully outlining NSIA’s and NMTA’s issues and promised to work collaboratively on the bills.


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“We want a well-funded department. We also want a department that is responsive to the public and the needs of the resource. I hope you will look within the budget and fee increase process to make the focus on improving recreational fishing opportunities,” Burke stated.

Scott Sigmon of the Coastal Conservation Association said his organization was officially signed in as “other,” and that CCA’s potential support was linked to increased hatchery production, tying recreational angling fees to recreational fisheries, better fisheries management, and banning nontribal gillnets in salmon waters.

But most of the testimony yesterday afternoon and this morning before the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks and House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committees, respectively, was in full support of the bills.

Tom Echols, representing the Hunters Heritage Council, said WDFW “deserves support of this bill since they haven’t had an increase since 2011.”

Since then, the agency’s budget has seen a growing “structural” deficit in which funding hasn’t kept up with all the things piled onto its plate.

Along with provisions benefiting youths and new sportsmen and -women, the bills include new licensing packages, including a Washington Sportsperson option, “which I will be buying,” said Echols.

It combines Hunt Washington (deer, elk, bear, cougar, small game, migratory bird permit and authorization, plus two turkey tags) and Fish Washington (combo fishing plus two-pole, Dungeness and Columbia endorsements) and would run $245.20, plus dealer fees.

The two options otherwise would run $172.64 and $72.56, pre fee.

While all individual licenses would go up in cost by 15 percent, thanks to Fish and Wildlife Commission concerns, anglers would only end up paying a maximum of $7 more, hunters $15 more.

A LEGISLATIVE ANALYSIS SHOWS HOW MUCH MORE INDIVIDUAL WDFW FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSES WOULD COST UNDER THE FEE INCREASE BILL. (WASHINGTON LEGISLATURE)

HHC’s support marks a reversal from 2017 when they were a “no” on that year’s fee hike proposal.

On the fishing side, Jonathan Sawin, skipper of the Cormorant and representing both the Westport and Ilwaco charter boat associations, said he supported the bills as written “so we can continue to have great fisheries on Washington waters.”

Bob Kratzer, vice president of the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association and Forks-area salmon and steelhead guide, said that WDFW is “hamstrung” by budget issues when it comes to hatchery production and enforcement of fish and wildlife laws.

He said that he routinely goes to meetings and hears agency staffers say they don’t have enough money for this or that.

“It’s about time we gave them more money so they can afford it,” he said.

“It’s a new day, we have a new director, I’m willing to give that guy a shot,” said Kratzer.

MEMBERS OF THE CHOUSE RURAL DEVELOPMENT, AGRICULTURE, & NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE LISTEN AS REP. JOEL KRETZ ASKS A QUESTION DURING A HEARING ON A BILL THAT WOULD INCREASE FISHING AND HUNTING LICENSE FEES. (TVW)

When Jim Unsworth’s 2017’s fee increase bid went down in flames, legislators gave WDFW a $10 million General Fund bump but also “homework,” in new Director Kelly Susewind’s words, to review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan.

Out off that came the Budget and Policy Advisory Group, and last week 13 member organizations sent lawmakers a letter urging them to boost WDFW’s budget sharply, with three-quarters of that coming from the General Fund and one-quarter from the proposed license increases.

“To succeed, the Department requires at least $60 million above its present funding (not including expected orca recovery needs), half to fix the shortfall created by the state legislature in the last biennium, and half to invest in the future by helping correct inequities and the damage caused by a decade of underfunding,” the letter stated.

Signees included critical fishing and hunting organizations such as Puget Sound Anglers, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Mule Deer Foundation and Ilwaco Charterboat Association, plus nine other conservation, fishing and environmental groups.

(They also asked for $12.9 million for fish and wildlife conservation and $4.2 million for habitat improvements, “the most underfunded components of the Department’s work,” to be included in WDFW’s operating budget.)

Others testifying in front of lawmakers on Thursday and Friday in favor of the fee bills included Bill Clarke of Trout Unlimited, who was a BPAG member and said it had been interesting to dig into WDFW’s finances.

“Many things have recovered since 2009 — price of housing, the stock market, Seahawks football, Husky football, etc. What’s not recovered is the department’s budget. Their general fund support is not recovered. They’ve had a modest increase, and that’s about it,” Clarke said.

TU also supported the 2017 proposal.

Also appearing before the legislative committees to voice their support were Jen Syrowitz of the Washington Wildlife Federation, Lucas Hart of the Northwest Straits Commission and Aaron Peterson of the Regional Fisheries Coalition.

The bills would also allow the Fish and Wildlife Commission to make small increases to license fees to account for inflation starting two years from now, and Clarke noted that with other state oversight boards already having such authority it made sense for WDFW’s to as well.

Still, Randy Leduc, an avid Centralia angler and CCA member, did express concern that that role would move from the legislature’s bailiwick to the commission.

The House version of the bill was dropped by Rep. Brian Blake, an Aberdeen Democrat.

I’m happy to sponsor the bill and bring it forward. I think there’s been a rigorous process going through the agency’s budget,” Blake said in speaking in support of it.

Still, you could hear the worry from his fellow South Coast representative, Jim Walsh, an Aberdeen Republican.

Walsh asked, would he hear complaints afterwards from his constituents about the fee hike if he supported it?

WDFW’s Susewind could only say that yes, he would, as we sportsmen are just generally against higher prices, but that the agency is responsive to concerns about paying more for less.

“We hear that loud and clear. We’re committed to working on it, continue working on it. Frankly, in order to provide sustainable or hopefully improving opportunities, we really need an adequately funded agency to do that and so that’s what we will put a lot of this money towards is trying to provide that,” Susewind said. “But there will always be people who don’t support a fee. I would be foolish to say otherwise.”

The fee increase bills have a long, long, long way to go before they go into effect. They must be approved and reconciled by representatives and senators and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee. If they are, the hikes and license package options would go become effective 90 days after this legislative session ends, scheduled for April 28 but later is always possible if recent years are any indication.

Editor’s notes: To read the actual fee hike bills, go here and here. For what the hell it all means in plainer English, nonpartisan legislative analysis of the bills are available here and here. And to view the TVW broadcasts of both committees’ public hearings on the bills, go here and here.

Yuasa: Lots Of Midwinter Blackmouth, Shellfishing Ops; Ode To Jensen’s Smokehouse

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

We are lucky to live in an area of the country where anglers have a legitimate chance to catch salmon year-round, and much of that is accomplished by a program requiring hatchery chinook and coho to be adipose fin clipped prior to release.

Washington has the largest hatchery production on the planet, which annually pumps out more than 200-million juvenile fish in hundreds of state, tribal and federal hatcheries. Since the mid-1990s mass-marking has played a critical role with salmon management to keep sustainable fisheries open while doing our due diligence of recovering wild salmon stocks.

HAPPY BLACKMOUTH ANGLER. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

A recent Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) memo to Governor Jay Inslee dated May 1, 2018 showed Puget Sound hatchery and wild chinook populations have increased by 14 percent over the past 10-years. Returns of just hatchery chinook to Puget Sound over the last 10-years have increased by 24 percent.

Hatchery production helps an angler identify between an unmarked wild fish versus a hatchery fish, and if it wasn’t for this type of technology, we’d likely be taking up another sport like golf or lawn bowling.

I beg to differ and pick salmon fishing for my pure enjoyment! After all feeling the tug of a hard-fighting salmon is way more satisfying than aimlessly hitting – along with my wicked slice – a golf ball.

Soon after the holiday parties concluded, three key marine areas (central and northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands) reopened their doors Jan. 1 to some of the best winter blackmouth – a term commonly given to chinook for their dark gumline – fishing.

“What we’re seeing (in Area 7) is some pretty good fishing, but nothing great and I’ve heard of fish in all the top-20 usual spots around the islands,” said Derek Floyd, owner of Anglers Choice Fishing Charters in Anacortes.

Included in those top picks are Clark and Barnes Islands; Sucia Island; Parker Reef; West Beach; Spring Pass; Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Point Thompson; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

By far the most hysteria involving winter chinook was central Puget Sound (Area 10) which closed on Jan. 20.

“We saw an unprecedented catch per angler effort with close to half-a-fish per rod,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “We had incredible success and turnout.”

WDFW staff indicated it was some of the best fishing seen in Area 10 for the past several years and the good weather was also a factor for early closure – fishing was supposed to be open through March 30.

WDFW preliminary estimates and fishery projections indicated the Area 10 total encounter guideline of 2,997 chinook had been achieved with 738 boats and 1,561 anglers catching or releasing 3,351 fish (734 were kept).

I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again that making fishing plans sooner than later will guarantee you more time on the water. It’s a new era where catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) will dictate the length of seasons.

In the San Juan Islands (Area 7) winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters, and midway through last month they were at 8 percent or 859 encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook. Areas 7 and 9 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.

The chinook fishery on the east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has a total encounter of 5,474, and was at 29 percent or 1,597 encounters. Areas 8-1 and 8-2 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit. WDFW plans to provide regular catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

In Puget Sound, seek out chinook at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.

Other areas open for winter chinook are south-central Puget Sound (11); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).

Whatever fishing location whets your appetite just be sure to find the baitfish (herring and candlefish) and you’ll likely find hungry chinook in the mix.

Lastly, I’d go fishing sooner than later as most areas could close in a moment’s notice if catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) are achieved. WDFW plans to provide updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.

The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. All three areas have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.

Anglers can also make plans to fish for winter chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay (Area 6) when it opens Feb. 1 through April 15 and Sekiu (Area 5) from Feb. 16 through April 30.

If bottom-fishing gets you excited then mark March 8 on your calendar because that’s when Ilwaco, Westport and La Push opens for lingcod.

Other important dates are Feb. 27 when WDFW unveils their salmon forecasts during a public meeting, 9 a.m., at the Lacey Community Center. Other dates include North of Falcon meetings on March 19 at the DSHS Building in Olympia and April3 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will be adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council on April 11-16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Sonoma, Calif.

Iconic Greenwood smokehouse closes its doors

After 34 years, the iconic Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse in Greenwood, has shuttered its doors but hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this highly popular store where anglers have gotten their catch custom smoked in a variety of delicious ways.

“It has been a privilege to serve many of my customers over the years, and if I could redo my life, I’d do it all over again,” said Mike Jensen, owner of this family business in North Seattle since 1985. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people as far away as New Jersey who’ve said our smoked salmon is the best. Those kinds of comments really helped save the day and were very gratifying.”

JENSEN’S SMOKEHOUSE WAS IN BUSINESS ON GREENWOOD AVENUE IN NORTHWEST SEATTLE FOR 34 YEARS, SMOKING AS MUCH AS 3,000 POUNDS OF SALMON A DAY DURING PEAK SEASON. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Jensen – whose parents started a smokehouse in Bremerton many decades ago – says keeping his business going has been very tough the last five years where he employed up to 25 workers at peak periods from summer through fall. During slow times they’d produce about 300 pounds of smoked products per day, but during busy months they’d generate about 3,000 pounds daily.

“Hiring workers has been difficult in recent years as well as other issues like wage increases so I just felt it was time to retire,” said Jensen who is 64. “My wife (Kathy) retired a couple years ago and our 30-year anniversary is coming up (in February) so this is a nice way to launch into our next decade of marriage and walk into the sunset.”

Running the business hasn’t been easy as his wife and their home is located at the Lake Limerick Country Club near Bremerton. This meant Mike spent weekdays away from home and his beloved family.

“We love to play golf and pickleball, go on long hikes and water ski on the lake, and now I’ll get more time to do those kinds of special things,” Jensen said. “I’d also like to travel south in the winter to warmer places where I won’t hear my teeth chattering.”

Jensen’s commitment to his company was a family affair. Over the years, his son Scott and two daughters Mariah and Theresa helped with bookkeeping and the front counter and prepped and packaged products. Each of his kids have moved onto other successful ventures, but all learned how a company functions at the family smokehouse.

Their custom work was beloved by customers as fish or meat/poultry products were hand cut, filleted and each batch brined then hot or cold smoked with care that included specialty toppings like garlic and pepper. Double pepper was one of my favorites! Each of the finished products were then vacuum-sealed and date stamped for freshness.

They also sold products to retail grocery stores like QFC, Uwajimaya and to vendors at Pike Place Market. Their closing will leave a void in the smoked seafood industry.

“It’s a pretty serious disappointment that we couldn’t keep the business going,” said Jensen where his 34-year-old company has stood in a building erected in 1955.

The building is expected to be demolished by 2020 and replaced with a four-story townhome although current Jensen employees are trying the reopen the business for 12 months and then hopefully relocate elsewhere.

“It has been an honor to serve the community for so long and I’m glad for what I have accomplished in life,” Jensen said.

Dig into this shellfish news

There’s nothing more fun then digging up your favorite shellfish during the winter time especially when oysters are in prime eating condition.

The only overriding factor is that winter low tides occur in the dark so packing along a powerful lantern coupled and flashlight or headlamp is vital when hitting your favorite Puget Sound and Hood Canal beach.

In Whatcom County, Birch Bay State Park in Whatcom County is open year-round for shellfish and is a great oyster beach. In Jefferson County, Shine Tidelands State Park is an excellent beach for Manila, littlenecks and butter clams. Belfair State Park located in Mason County is productive for mainly oysters.

In Hood Canal, Dosewallips State Park is excellent choice for oysters and clams. Eagle Creek near Lilliwaup is a good spot for oysters. Point Whitney Lagoon and Tidelands and Wolfe Property State Park are decent for clams and oysters. In Kitsap County, Port Gamble Tidelands has acres of clams. The Quilcene Bay Tidelands is a good clam digging spot. Decent oyster beaches are Triton Cove, Twanoh State Park and West Dewatto.

Best upcoming low tides are Feb. 1-5; and Feb. 15-22. For tides, go to http://www.saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/washingtonsites.html.

Remember all eastern mainland beaches from Everett into southern Puget Sound are closed due to unsafe pollution levels. For details, go to WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/2019_ps_clam_oyster_seasons.pdf.

Be sure to follow all the shellfish rules, daily limits, and gathering etiquette such as filling-in all holes, shucking all oysters and leaving shells on the beach where you found them.

For emergency closures, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the DOH website at www.doh.wa.gov Check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov

Here are next dates for those looking to hit the coast for razor clams (WDFW usually gives final notice on openings a week before each series of digs): Feb. 1, 4:48 p.m. is plus-0.2 feet at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Feb. 2, 5:28 p.m. is 0.0 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 3, 6:04 p.m. is -0.1 at Twin Harbors and Copalis. Other tentative dates are Feb. 15, 3:11 p.m. is 0.4 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 16, 4:08 p.m. is -0.3 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Kalaloch; Feb. 17, 4:59 p.m. is -1.0 at Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 18, 5:46 p.m. is -1.4 at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 19, 6:31 p.m. is -1.5 at Twin Harbors; Feb. 20, 7:14 p.m. is -1.3 at Twin Harbors; and Feb. 21, 7:56 p.m. is -0.8 at Twin Harbors.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve just wrapped up the first two derbies in the series – Resurrection Salmon Derby and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic – and each was a great success with a good turnout and plenty of winter chinook around to catch.

THE GRAND PRIZE BOAT FOR THE 2019 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Another successful boat show ends Feb. 2 with many getting their first looks at the sleek 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 who make the derby series a success 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.

Next up in the derby series is the sold-out Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/). That will be followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/); and Everett Blackmouth Derby March 16-17 (http://www.everettblackmouthderby.com/).

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22.

For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
I’ll see you on the water!

 

Sportsmen’s And Boat Show Season Arrives In The Northwest

Congratulations, Jason Bauer, you’ve died and gone to heaven.

True, heaven will look a lot like the state fairgrounds in midwinter, but on the flip side there are scones – not to mention a giant walleye tank and the smells of alder smoke and cooking meat hanging in the air.

WALLEYE ARE AN INCREASINGLY POPULAR GAME FISH IN THE NORTHWEST AND WILL BE FEATURED IN A GIANT FISH TANK AT THREE UPCOMING SPORTSMEN’S SHOWS. (ERIC ENGBRETSON, USFWS, VIA FLICKR, CC 2.0)

Bauer, if you don’t know him, is an award-winning Northwest barbecue “pitmaster” and he’s also a longtime bugeye fisherman who once operated the site Northwestwalleye.com.

Both of his favorite pursuits will be on full display at the big Washington Sportsmen’s Show (Jan. 23-27) at the State Fair & Events Center in Puyallup, where Bauer will be coordinating cooking competitions between closely observing the inhabitants of Walleye Alley.

Both exhibits are firsts, and the latter will feature pro anglers giving talks, tackle on hand to buy, and more.

Trey Carskadon of O’Loughlin Trade Shows in Portland and Tacoma, which puts on this and two other similar events, expects the new fish tank to be a big deal, given recent issues with salmonid returns, but it’s also part of updating each season’s shows to keep them fresh and exciting.

“Our battle cry for this year’s spate of shows is ‘new,’” Carskadon notes.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that that is also what the organizers of other boat and sportsmen’s shows slated for Central Washington, Southwest Oregon, the Inland Northwest and elsewhere aim for as well as they seek to boost their foot traffic.

“One of the comments we hear often is ‘It’s the same old show,’” says Carskadon. “It never is, but we’ve taken those comments to heart and really shaken things up for 2019. Most years see at least a 30 percent turnover in exhibitors and features, but looking ahead we’ve moved folks around, added new features, exhibitors and personalities.”

Just as important, the shows are also something like the social event of the year for Our Tribe. At no other time do so many of us come together, and in a way that is comforting for the enduring strength of our heritage and pastimes. I dare say that those who put on the shows share the bond.

“We’re celebrating the ‘outdoor recreational culture,’” says Joe Pate, who has a quartet of shows in Southwest Oregon and Northern California.

All told, there are more than two dozen across the greater Northwest. Wherever you live, there’s one within an hour or two of you. Here are some of this year’s highlights from them:

NORTHWEST TACKLE MAKERS are excited about Walleye Alley and the 20 to 30 fish that by special state permit will be lurking in the big tank on loan from Berkley.

Buzz Ramsey at Yakima Bait was lining up local guides and national experts to give seminars and working on a handout that will include their top tips and a map showing the area’s best waters.

“If people are interested in walleye, this will be the place to be,” says Ramsey.

MIDWEST WALLEYE EXPERTS JOHNNIE CANDLE (PICTURED) AND MARK ROMANACK WILL BE AMONG THE EXPERTS GIVING DEMONSTRATIONS AT THE O’LOUGHLIN SHOWS’ WALLEYE TANK. LOCAL GUIDES SCHEDULED TO APPEAR INCLUDE CODY HERMAN, KEITH JENSEN, SHANE MAGNUSON, AUSTIN MOSER, SHELBY ROSS, WILLIE ROSS AND TOURNAMENT ANGLER LEELAND LAFERTY. (JOHNNIE CANDLE)

Bob Loomis at Mack’s Lure in Wenatchee sees it as a chance to get more anglers chasing a new species at a rough time for more celebrated local fish stocks

“Our walleye fishery is an outstanding fishery that the state and retailers totally overlook,” he notes.

While also a salmon and steelhead angler, Loomis says Washington needs to look at “other” markets besides the big two “to help give them a little breathing room.”

Last year’s Kokanee Tank is on hiatus after some of the fish spawned and the others died, but Carskadon says it should be back for 2020 with a new crop of kokes and a tank better suited to the species’ needs.

“Kokanee and walleye fisheries can take the pressure off of the salmon/steelhead portion of the markets for a while in order to continue to get license sales, sell guide trips, gas, food, lures, etc., sustaining markets, not putting them out of business,” asserts Loomis.

Walleye Alley will also be at the truly humongous Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show (Feb. 6-10) in Portland.

In another first, this year’s Puyallup show will feature the shindig’s inaugural Outdoor Cooking Competition, which runs all five days of the event, with the first dedicated to a 12-team game meat contest.

Jason Bauer says his “partner in crime” pitched the idea to O’Loughlin last year and they will be coordinating the competition along with cooking and grilling demonstrations and food sampling.

“We’re stoked,” says Carskadon. “Some big names are aboard and coming from around the country to show their grilling skills and serve up seminars on how to do it at a level that’s well beyond most backyard grillers. Winners from this event advance to other national events.”

The Portland show will have a new backyard barbecue feature, he says.

As for other new attractions, Carskadon says that Garmin is not only unveiling a totally new product – “I don’t know what it is other than something ‘big’ is promised” – but will have a Tech Center at Puyallup and Portland for GPS and marine electronics and seminars.

And the new Kayak Fishing Pavilion at Puyallup will include experts detailing how to get started, rigging up and destinations, along with retailer booths, he says.

SPEAKING OF WATER-BASED recreation, the Seattle Boat Show gets up on plane for a Jan. 25-Feb. 2 run at two locations in the Emerald City, CenturyLink Field Event Center and South Lake Union.

Besides something like 1,000 boats of all types on display, the show is known for its topnotch seminars, and this year’s features even more than ever. All totaled, more than 200 will be held, with nearly 80 of those focused specifically on fishing and crabbing, up from 55 last year, says Mark Yuasa at the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

BOAT SHOWS ALLOW PROSPECTIVE BUYERS TO KICK THE TIRES, PER SE, ON HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT MODELS. SEATTLE’S BIG DOIN’S COMBINES THAT WITH GREAT SEMINARS FROM EXPERT ANGLERS AND CRABBERS. (SEATTLE BOAT SHOW)

“There will be 14 speakers (12 in 2017 and 10 in 2016) and five that are new to this year’s show. They are Mike Surdyk with Raymarine Electronics; Capt. Kent Alger, owner of Guides NW; and Hobie Kayak pro-staff ambassadors David Nguyen, Hung Nguyen and Keith Creameans,” he says.

The “all-star line-up” will cover a wide variety of topics designed to help watercraft-born anglers up their game on salt- and freshwaters alike, Yuasa says.

NMTA plans to hold a second boat show in Anacortes (May 16-19), and other watercraft events will occur in Portland (Jan. 9-13), Spokane (Jan. 26-Feb. 16), Vancouver, BC (Feb. 6-10) and Richland (May 2-5).

And along with ocean boats, guides, clam gear and more, the Saltwater Sportsmen’s Show (Feb. 23-24) will feature Charles Loos (known as “Tinman” on Ifish) and the Coast Guard’s Dan Shipman on safe boating and kayaking at sea.

“Whether you run on powerboats, kayaks or personal watercraft, you’ll gain actionable knowledge to keep your vessel and crew safe in our challenging ocean,” says organizer Marie Keene of OCEAN, the Oregon Coalition for Educating Anglers.

ATTENDEES OF THE SALTWATER SPORTSMEN’S SHOW IN SALEM INSPECT SHELLFISHING EQUIPMENT AT THE TWO-DAY MID-FEBRUARY EVENT. (SALTWATER SPORTSMEN’S SHOW)

JOE PATE OF Exposure Shows proudly says that his venues in Eugene (Feb. 1-3), Roseburg (Feb. 15-17), Medford (Feb. 22-24) and Anderson, California (March 1-3) offer the same features as the big boys, just on a smaller scale, but he also likes to spice things up.

On hand each day at all four will be the all-female Lumberjills and their Chics with Axes show. While the act has actually been around for 25 years and was founded by Tina Scheer of Survivor: Panama and Nat Geo’s Ultimate Survival Alaska! – who will also be in attendance – it will be making its Oregon debut and is sure to be a hit.

Also at his own booth at each show will be five-time mixed martial arts champion Tim Sylvia, whose Hit Squad Outdoors show recently made the move to the Sportsman’s Channel. Pate jokes that at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, Sylvia is about as big as the biggest of the grizzlies he also plans to bring in to all four venues.

Of course there’s also the 15th Annual Southern Oregon Head and Horns Competition, free to enter with paid show admission. The top prize at each show is a Bushnell riflescope, while all competitors are in the running for a two-night stay at Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville.

Along with a BB gun range and fish pond, there’s also an archery shooting gallery for the kids, plus log furniture displays, expert demonstrations and more.

IN CENTRAL WASHINGTON, Merle Shuyler says he has a few new items for his shows in Tri-Cities (Jan. 18-20), Yakima (Feb. 15-17) and Wenatchee (Feb. 22-24), including the first annual Yakima Bait Yard Sale at the middle event.

“They will have for sale thousands of different Yakima Bait products at rock-bottom prices. This will include many of their more popular lures and fishing accessories,” says Shuyler.

A 24-foot-high climbing wall will give budding Alex Honnolds a chance to practice at Yakima and Pasco, while Gerry Reyes and Flat Out Fishing’s fish-fighting simulator is scheduled for the latter, he says. Replacing the retiring Cee Dub “Butch” Welch at the Outdoor Cooking Camp is Richie Harrod of Harrod Outdoors and he will be at the Pasco and Wenatchee shows.

“The West Texas Rattlesnake Show will be at all three of our shows and I believe that it will be the first time that this traveling rattlesnake show has been to the state of Washington,” Shuyler adds. “Dave Richardson is the handler and there will be several performances each show day. These entertaining presentations are geared for the entire family and offer educational as well as comedy aspects of handling wild rattlesnakes.”

AND IN SPOKANE and a little later in winter, the Big Horn Adventure Show – the granddaddy of ’em all in the Northwest at 59 years – promises a few new items and several popular ones that are returning during its March 21-24 run.

Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young measurers will be on hand to tape hunters’ trophy bucks and bulls as well as shed antlers for prizes.

Along with kid- and family-friendly activities – note that the 24th is free entry for children 13 and under – organizers are also trying to attract more women to the outdoors through a special offer that includes a goodie bag.

“Friday night’s ‘Ladies Night’ will be bigger and better going into our third year,” says Wanda Clifford of the venerable Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, which puts on the show. “This year we have a special ‘Ladies Night’ Big Horn Hat for sale.”

The West Texas Rattlesnake Show will also be slithering its way into Spokane, but if you’d rather have your own hands-on fun, there will be daily camping contests.

“This competition will find contestants setting up a camp and packing a backpack with the right survival items,” says Clifford.

Each day’s winner will score $1,000, but for those who’ve had their fill of roughing it, an entire building will be full of RVs to see.

WHICHEVER SHOW OR shows you go to this season, you’re bound to see new things while surrounded by fellow Northwest sportsmen. Whether you walk away with good deals on gear, a top prize for a big rack, or a sack of scones, you’re sure to have had a good time.

Editor’s note: For a full schedule of this year’s shows and links to each, go here.

Yuasa: Blackmouth Fisheries, Seattle Boat Show, Derbies Highlight January

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

It’s time to hit the “refresh button” as we ring in the New Year with plenty of fishing choices, a chance to participate in a NW Salmon Derby Series event or, tops on the list, taking in the 72nd Seattle Boat Show.

I’m feeling reinvigorated just thinking about all the places to go, events to see and fish to catch, if you catch my drift!
First off there’s no need to winterize your boat in the Pacific Northwest especially with the salmon fishing opportunities that abound right now from the San Juan Islands to Olympia.

AUTHOR MARK YUASA IS EXCITED ABOUT 2019’S POSSIBILITIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The winter chinook fisheries hit full-stride when it opened today (January 1) for winter hatchery chinook at the highly-popular marine fishing grounds of northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Areas 7, 9 and 10).

Three key ingredients to make your outing a success is finding schools of baitfish (herring and candlefish) since blackmouth are hard-wired on feeding. That means it’s important to stay on top of baitfish and if you drift off them be sure to rev up the main motor and move right back to that same location.

The second tip is to not keep your presentation near the surface or at mid-water column depths like you often would do in the summer-time. These fish tend to hang right off the bottom digging their noses in the sand for bait like candlefish or picking off schools of herring. Keep your bait moving up and down the water column and let it soak for a little bit on or near the bottom before reeling it back up. If using downriggers set them at multiple depths and be sure one of the lead balls is bouncing right off the bottom.

Third is knowing a winter blackmouth’s habit during tidal movements and it isn’t necessary to be out on the water at the crack of dawn as you would during the summer. These fish are more predictable so if the bite occurred at a certain time of the day, it’s most likely they’ll do the same the following day only an hour later. Understanding their tendencies and where fish are hanging out on certain tides will lead to better success.

David Stormer, the WDFW Puget Sound Recreational fisheries manager says to keep in mind closing dates could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches).

The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates around Jan. 11.

In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates for 9 and 10 around Jan. 18.

All three areas will begin with a one hatchery chinook daily limit.
My word of advice is to go sooner than later, which will likely guarantee you more time on the water.

Salmon predictions roll out soon

We’re still a couple months out before anglers get their first glimpse of 2019 salmon forecasts but here’s early insight on pink salmon that return during odd-numbered years.

“We are just starting to get the spawning surveys and forecasts compiled,” said Marisa Litz, the WDFW pink and chum salmon biologist. “What we know for pinks is that a lot of fry can produce a lot of fish. Pinks are known to produce a lot of fry even coming off low returns. We won’t know for sure what 2019 holds but if we get that type of production we may see somewhat of an uptick in pinks.”

The pinks seem to be a very prolific fish, the run doubled from 1997 to 1999 although it is not a guarantee nor a consistent situation. It was like 1991 when 500,000 pinks returned and then soared to 1-million by 1993.

“It is something to be cautiously optimistic about,” Litz said.

WDFW and tribal co-managers are in the process of completing drafts for all salmon returns and the pink draft estimate for 2017 wasn’t very rosy.

“The pink runs are very boom or bust and we can see some pretty dramatic changes,” Litz said. “The total pink return was 480,858 pinks in 2017 (down from preseason forecast that year of 1,150,522) and to give you some context this is the lowest run size we’ve seen since 1997.”

In terms of a run-size and prior to 1997 you’d have to go all the way back to 1975 to see a lower run than that. Litz pointed out the 2017 pink return puts it in the top three lowest runs in the past 40 years.

For the past 15 years pink returns have steadily increased with more than a million returning in 2013, which was a record setting year.

“We had a lot of flooding and drought conditions in 2015,” Litz said. “That summer rivers were extremely low, and the spawning channels were very narrow when the pinks arrived. Then we had big floods and scouring of spawning beds and that wiped out a lot fish.”

The reductions from 2015 to 2017 was drastic, especially in the freshwater production environment, but the marine production was also hampered with a blow to the arm by the “Blob” – a mass of warm water that wreaked havoc on the Pacific Ocean ecosystem.

Here is a look at how some Puget Sound pink returns fared in 2017:
The Dungeness River had a pink return of 356,000 in 2015 and was 20,000 in 2017; Nooksack was 335,000 to 35,000 (96,218 was preseason forecast); Skagit was 411,000 to 86,000 in 2017 (85,600); Hood Canal was 646,000 to 39,000 (229,440); Puyallup was 800,000 to 100,000 (382,391); and Nisqually was 200,000 to 9,000 (21,463).

“The Green pink return was just getting started and new to this river system and we had close to 100,000 in 2013,” Litz said. “It appears the run is there to stay; we had about 50 percent less come back in 2017 (118,689) to what we saw in 2015.”

The Fraser River pink return was estimated at more than 8-million in 2017 and run-size ended up being 3,616,000 with an escapement goal of 6-million. That actual return was the second lowest since 1965.

Anglers got an early peek at Columbia River salmon return predictions last month that don’t look very rosy for spring and summer chinook and sockeye, and all are down from the 10-year average.

A total of 157,500 spring chinook are forecast to return down from a forecast of 248,520 last year and an actual return of 176,642. The upriver-bound total is 99,300 down from 166,700 last year and an actual return of 115,081.

Lower Columbia tributaries are also taking a hit with Cowlitz at 1,300 (5,150 forecasted in 2018 and actual return of 4,000); Kalama, 1,400 (1,450 and 2,300); Lewis, 1,600 (3,700 and 3,200); Willamette, 40,200 (53,820 and 37,441); and Sandy, 5,500 (5,400 and 4,733).

The Upper Columbia summer chinook return is 35,900 down from 67,300 last year and an actual return of 42,120. As for sockeye it is 94,400 down from 99,000 and 210,915.

Other news from the Big-C showed a 2018 fall chinook prediction of 376,000 and preliminary returns are about 75 percent of the forecast. The good news is bright jack chinook appear improved compared to 2017 and tule jack are similar to 2017.

The 2019 fall chinook outlook show bright stocks similar, and tule stock less than the 10-year average. Poor ocean conditions the past several years will likely hinder returns in 2019.

The 2018 Columbia coho return is about 35-percent of the preseason forecast of 213,600. The good news is jack coho returns are much improved over recent years and are about 50-percent greater than the recent 10-year average.

Other salmon nibbles and bites

Anglers who ventured off the coast managed to find good coho fishing this past summer while the king fishing never really took off.

“We had a pretty darn good coho fishery coast-wide and had a couple places close, which reached their coho quota early and while that is never good news what it means is that we caught fish,” said Wendy Beeghly, the WDFW coastal salmon manager. “Chinook fishing was slow everywhere last year. It makes sense since chinook returns weren’t very good in the Columbia River.”

Beeghly noted the coho seen in sampling were healthy, bigger and fatter so that was encouraging.

“While we can’t provide anything definitive just yet, what we saw with coho last season was good news compared to prior years and we all hope that what lies ahead will be good,” Beeghly said.

Federal fisheries managers are also reporting that environmental conditions in the ocean are improving, salmon productivity has made a turn for the better and the food chain is on the mend.

“The coho response to those factors should be a lot quicker than chinook which take some time and are slower to recover,” said Ryan Lothrop, a WDFW salmon specialist for the Columbia River region.

WDFW will present their salmon forecasts at the end of February in Olympia. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will approve final salmon seasons April 9-16 in Rohnert Park, CA.

Seattle Boat Show drops anchor soon

The Seattle Boat Show – the largest boat show on the West Coast – is Jan. 25 through Feb. 2. This is your one-stop shop for checking out hundreds of fishing boats, informative fishing seminars, and state-of-the-art gear and electronics.

There will be 78 free fishing seminars (up from 55 last year), and more coverage on a variety of new topics by top-notch experts that will provide an in-depth wealth of knowledge on how to catch fish across the Pacific Northwest. For a complete list of all fishing and boating seminars, go to https://seattleboatshow.com/seminars/.

This is also a great time for visitors to check out the NW Salmon Derby Series grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It will be on display in the West Hall at the Master Marine Boat Center.

THE NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES’ GRAND PRIZE BOAT WILL BE ON DISPLAY AT THE HUGE SEATTLE BOAT SHOW COMING UP JAN. 25-FEB. 2. (NMTA)

The fully-rigged boat comes with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics Stereo. Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success include Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; 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 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

First up are the now sold-out Resurrection Salmon Derby Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby); and Friday Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 7-9(http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/.

Those will be followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/); and Everett Blackmouth Derby March 16-17 (http://www.everettblackmouthderby.com/).

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett CohoDerby on Sept. 21-22. For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water or come say “hi” at the great Seattle Boat Show!

 

The Point? There’s A Lot Of Good Spots For Winter Blackmouth — Yuasa

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

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

The holidays are a time where one needs to not only enjoy all the food and festivities, but to soak in the fun and enjoyment of what the Pacific Northwest fishing scene has to offer.

Instead of constantly fretting about what goes under the Christmas tree let us have a sneak peek at what you can find swimming around Puget Sound and other waterways in the weeks and months ahead.

LOGAN SMITH DID WELL ON THE DECEMBER BLACKMOUTH OPENER IN MARINE AREA 8-2. FISHING WITH HIS DAD, CHAD, THEY ALSO CAME IN WITH A SECOND RESIDENT CHINOOK PLUS SIX DUNGENESS CRABS. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Many salmon anglers are waiting to ring in New Year’s Day by hitting the winter chinook opener on Jan. 1 in northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Areas 7, 9 and 10), but you can get a jump start on bringing home a fresh salmon from some other locations.

Hatchery chinook for the holiday dinner table are free game right now in south-central Puget Sound (11); the east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).

Top choices include the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; Point Dalco on south side of Vashon Island; Elger Bay; Camano Head; Hat Island; Onamac Point; Fox Point; Point Fosdick; Anderson Island; Lyle Point; and Devil’s Head and Johnson Point.

A good sign is the WDFW fish check from Sunday (Nov. 25) at the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma that showed nine boats with 12 anglers taking home five chinook and one chum.

Another great way to gauge how success will be since chinook fishing in Areas 8-1 and 8-2 has been closed for quite a long time – since early spring of 2018 to be precise – is the Everett Salmon & Steelhead Club and Puget Sound Anglers Salmon Derby on Saturday and Sunday (Dec. 1-2). The derby headquarters is Bayside Marine in Everett. Cost for the Everett Steelhead & Salmon Club’s side pot is $10 per angler, and Puget Sound Anglers side pot is $100 per boat. Weigh-in station is the Everett boat launch on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday between 12:30-1 p.m. You must be in line by 1 p.m. There will be a potluck on Sunday. Details: 425-530-0017 or 4salebydavemiller@gmail.com or 425-501-4024 or 206-730-0469 or rgarner@aol.com.

The sleeper spot that doesn’t garner as much attention during the winter is Hood Canal (Area 12). Look for hungry blackmouth around Misery Point, Hazel Point, Pleasant Harbor, Toandos Peninsula, Seabeck Bay and Seal Rock.

Those who hold out for the New Year’s Day festivities should try Possession Bar; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Jefferson Head; West Point; Point Monroe; Southworth; and Allen Bank off Blake Island.

In the San Juan Islands put your time in around Waldron Island; Parker Reef; north side Orcas Island; Rosario Pass; Tide Point; Decatur Pass; Obstruction Pass; McArthur Bank; Point Lawrence; and Thatcher Pass.

If you get my “point” there’s a lot of “points” mentioned in the previous three paragraphs to get on the water during the holidays. No “point” pun intended!

Keep in mind that encounter rates and catch guidelines will dictate how long each area stays open so I’d go sooner than later.

In Area 7, WDFW set the bar of not exceeding 3,176 total unmarked chinook encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In Area 9, the encounter ceiling prediction is 10,004; and in Area 10 it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates between Jan. 11 and 18.

Those heading out before Dec. 31 should bring along some crab pots to set in some parts of Puget Sound. Marine areas open daily are Strait of Juan de Fuca east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line to Port Angeles; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; and a section of northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff.

Word on Tengu Blackmouth Derby

There is a small group of anglers who brave the elements every winter during the Tengu Blackmouth Derby – an event that began shortly after World War II in 1946 – that is held on Elliott Bay.

Normally the derby (the oldest in Puget Sound) starts during October when Area 10 opens for winter hatchery chinook.

However, this year’s non-retention of chinook delayed the event to coincide with the Jan. 1 reopener of Area 10.

(TENGU BLACKMOUTH DERBY CLUB)

The derby has been tentatively set to be held on Sundays from Jan. 6 through Feb. 24 at the Seacrest Boathouse (now known as Marination) in West Seattle.

“We’re trying to figure out specifics related to the derby like costs, logistics and if Outdoor Emporium can sell our derby tickets for us,” Doug Hanada, the Tengu Derby president, said of what will be the 73rd year of the derby.

The derby is named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth, and just like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.

Last year, a total of 18 blackmouth were caught and the winning fish of 9 pounds-15 ounces went to Guy Mamiya. Justin Wong had the most fish with a total of five and followed by John Mirante with four fish.

To further test your skills, only mooching is allowed in the derby. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted.

In past years, the derby runs from 6 a.m. until 11 a.m. every Sunday. Hanada was checking to see if rental boats and motors will be available this season. Last year, the membership fee was $15 and $5 for children age 12-and-under.

Halibut fishery blooming this spring

The Pacific Fishery Management Council wrapped up meetings in San Diego during early November to decide halibut fishing dates that will enable anglers to make preliminary plans although catch quotas won’t be finalized until later next month.

The tentative halibut fishing dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) are May 2, 4, 9, 11, 18, 24 and 26; and June 6, 8, 20 and 22. At Westport (2) the tentative dates are May 2, 5, 9, 12 and 24.

At Ilwaco (1) the opening dates will be decided through consultation with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife although the Washington subarea dates proposed are May 2, 5, 9, 12, 24 and 26.

If quota remains the Ilwaco subarea would reopen two days per week (Thursday and Sunday) after May 26.

Additional fishing dates could be added to an area if their sport catch quotas aren’t achieved.

The IPHC will meet Jan. 28-29 in Victoria, B.C. to set catch quotas from California north to Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.

Exciting news for 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series

The 2019 NW Salmon Derby Series calendar has been set with 15 events from January through November of 2019.

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).

I’m really stoked about our new grand prize boat valued at $75,000, which is a Weldcraft Rebel 202 Hardtop Series from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered by a Yamaha 200 and 9.9hp motors on an EZ Loader Trailer.

Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success are Raymarine Electronics; Dual Electronics; WhoDat Towers; Scotty Downriggers; Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco/Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

There is a full-blown list of places to go during the holidays so take a break from the frenzied shopping sprees, mall madness and giftwrapping chores to go out and fish.

I’ll see you on the water!

November Weather Schmeather — Too Much To Do This Month On Westside: Yuasa

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

This is the time of the year when anglers often deal with torrential rainfall and windy weather situations. Tack on a lack of fishing opportunities for Puget Sound winter chinook and you just might think November is a lost cause.

Such distress could have you crying out the “sky is falling” like Chicken Little aka “Henny Penny,” but no need to dig that deep into the abyss as there are places to go and fish to catch.

KAYAK FISHING GURU BRAD HOLE SHOWS OFF A CHUM SALMON. (BRAD HOLE)

First and foremost are chum salmon who don’t get the respect despite being one of the hardest-fighting salmon species often ripping line off the reel like an angry king.

A preseason fall chum forecast of 1.2-million – 543,000 destined to central, south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 10, 11 and 13) and another 500,000 heading to Hood Canal (12) – should be reason enough to get anglers hungry for something other than a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

“The chum run this season is decent and similar to preseason forecasts the last couple of years although northern Puget Sound returns – Nooksack, 77,152; Stillaguamish, 21,640; and Snohomish, 26,091 – are poor,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist.

A look back to 2017, revealed central, south-central and southern Puget Sound had a return of 584,420 chum; Hood Canal, 1,060,763; Nooksack-Samish, 45,028; Skagit, 7,108; Stillaguamish, 3,749; and Snohomish, 2,707.

“November is when the recreational fisheries really get going at Whatcom Creek (in Bellingham), Hoodsport (in Hood Canal) and Kennedy Creek (in Totten Inlet),” Litz said. “Look for a later timed chum run in Chehalis and Satsop (river systems).”

Estuarial locations are prime staging spots like Johns Creek in Oakland Bay; Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet; Curly Creek near Southworth; North Bay near Allyn; Perry Creek in Eld Inlet; McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park; and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

Recent WDFW fish checks showed 27 anglers Sunday (Oct. 28) caught 27 chum at Hoodsport in Hood Canal; six anglers caught Sunday (Oct. 28) three at John’s Creek estuary in Oakland Bay near Shelton; and four anglers Saturday (Oct. 27) caught two at Kennedy Creek estuary in Totten Inlet.

In marine areas, anglers will target chum at Jefferson Head; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; Point Monroe; Allen Bank off Blake Island; Southworth; Colvos Passage; Point Dalco off south side of Vashon Island; Point Defiance Park at Clay Banks off Tacoma; Anderson Island; and Fox Island.

Hitting a “trifecta” is a possibility in south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 11 and 13) for a coho, chum and hatchery chinook. Note: In Area 13 you must release wild coho.

Those looking ahead should put Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2 (east side of Whidbey Island) on the “must do list” which reopens Dec. 1 through April 30 for hatchery-marked chinook. WDFW has set a preseason chinook encounter prediction of 5,473 for both areas. The fishery could shutdown if the encounters exceed 80 percent.

Lastly, don’t forget to bring along your crab pots as some areas of Puget Sound are also open daily through Dec. 31 for Dungeness crab.

Late-season trout are viable option

More than 147,000 rainbow trout will be planted in many statewide lakes to keep the good times rolling through the winter holidays.

“Some lakes in (Puget Sound) region will be getting thousands of trout,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist.

Beaver Lake is receiving three allotments of 700 to 800 rainbow trout averaging 1 ½ pounds apiece. The first occurred in mid-October, and others are scheduled around Nov. 20 and Dec. 20.

“Instead of dumping all the fish in at one time we have spread out the plants to make the fishery less of a “circus-like” atmosphere and will allow folks to catch fish well into January and beyond,” Spinelli said of the year-round 60.3-acre lake located on the Issaquah Plateau.

WDFW is ramping up plants at Gissburg Ponds and Tye in Snohomish County; Campbell, Clear and Grandy in Skagit County; Black, Long and Offutt in Thurston County; American and Tanwax in Pierce County; and Anderson in Jefferson County.

“We will also stock Lake Goodwin (northwest of Marysville) in mid-December and this has developed into a nice winter trout fishery,” Spinelli said.

For a list of stocked lakes, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/fall-into-fishing/. To view the WDFW weekly plants, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Razor clam season off to a good start

The coastal razor clam season opened last month with very good digging success.

From Oct. 11-13, 9,545 diggers coast-wide had 139,005 razor clams. Diggers averaged 14.8 at Twin Harbors; 14.7 at Copalis; and 14.2 at Mocrocks. The daily limit is the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition.

Digging was spotty to fair on Oct. 25 and 27 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Oct. 26 and 28 at Twin Harbors and Mocrcocks and that was due in part to rough surf and breezy conditions.

All digs are reliant on testing for a marine toxin known as domoic acid — a natural marine toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. A high amount of marine toxins can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in adequate quantities. WDFW usually gives final approval one to two weeks prior to each series of digs.

Tentative dates are Nov. 8, 10, 23 and 25, and Dec. 7, 9 and 20 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 9, 11 and 22, and Dec. 6, 8, 21 and 23 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Nov. 24 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Dec. 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclam.

2019 NW Salmon Derby Series

The 2018 NW Salmon Derby Series ended on a high note and plans for 2019 include 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. We should have an announcement soon on our new boat/motor sponsor!

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).

For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

While many are getting their holiday shopping lists, and dinner or party plans in order, I’ll be gathering my rain gear and heading out the door to my favorite fishing or razor clam spots.

After all there’s nothing like a feisty chum tugging on the end of your fishing line or digging up a batch of tasty razor clams from a coastal beach!