Editor’s note: The following is Tony Floor’s monthly newsletter and is run with permission.
By Tony Floor, Fishing Affairs Director, Northwest Marine Trade Association
If you’re a frequent reader of The Seattle Times, Washington’s largest newspaper, you may have caught a farewell writing from Outdoor Editor Mark Yuasa (click HERE for story) last week. Mark’s writing of the outdoors, featuring fishing, shellfishing and related outdoor opportunities in the Pacific Northwest have been enjoyed by readers for over the past 25 years.
The Seattle Times goes back a few years, dating to the late 1890s when the paper went into circulation. Outdoor editors include Enos Bradner, popular writer Brad O’Connor and now Mark Yuasa who have delivered readers wonderful coverage of our outdoors and related opportunities for nearly the last 80 years.
Mark’s departure is clearly a loss for readers who have enjoyed his stories. The conclusion of his career at The Seattle Times was the result of a management decision which chose to eliminate coverage of activities affecting hundreds of thousands and close to a million readers interested in the outdoors, based on WDFW license data.
It’s hard to conclude that sport fishing does not make the cut anymore in the eyes of The Seattle Times management while recent economic measurements of boating and fishing alone in Washington is estimated at a $2.9 billion dollar industry. Confused? So am I.
Seattle Times outdoor reporter Mark Yuasa is the latest casualty of employees at the newspaper as their outdoor coverage was recently eliminated. Mark will clearly be missed.
The outdoors in the great Pacific Northwest is one of the important reasons why people move to this region of the country. We are not Oklahoma, the South or the Midwest, where our Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound provide open arms to countless saltwater and freshwater fishing activities. Salmon, lingcod, albacore tuna and halibut fishing highlight the outdoors saltwater fishing menu. Steelhead, trout, and many warm water species also generate huge interest for anglers who love to drown a worm in freshwater when seasons allow. Crabbing, shrimping, razor clamming, and steamer clams has been an outdoor tradition for many families dating back to an era before The Seattle Times began publishing newspapers.
But don’t look for coverage of these fishing/shellfishing opportunites in today and tomorrow’s Seattle Times. The state’s largest newspaper is suggesting coverage of these activities is no longer important in our ever-changing Pacific Northwest society. I beg to differ.
Thank you, Mark, for your work and effort to enlighten the thousands of readers who have followed your writings. You will be missed.
Pass the prawn cocktail sauce, please
Speaking of prawns, the annual season began in early May during incredible soft tides on May 6. Accounts of the ka-woosh sound of shrimp fishers dropping their pots at 7 a.m. on opening morning could be heard from Bellingham to Olympia, including the San Juans, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.
Reports from outdoor fishing stores such as Holiday Sports in Mt. Vernon, Cabela’s in Marysville and Lacey, along with Outdoor Emporium in Seattle, Sportco in Fife and Swain’s in Port Angeles suggest their cash registers were belching dark smoke as shrimp fishers bought new pots, shrimp pellets and related gear. May and June represent a peak time for this fishery as nearly 20,000 people invest time to pursue Washington’s largest shrimp species known as spot prawns. Spot prawn biologists suggest that people who actively pursue these yummy shellfish species (noted above) may run about 45,000 days or trips during the season. Seasons vary by area and knowing the rules in the area where a shrimper is considering fishing is very important. The basic limit is 80 prawns per person, however, in Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 7W (western San Juan Islands), the bonus limit of 120 prawns per day begins today (June 1), for the remainder of the season, seven days a week. Guess where I am?
Fishing for prawns has been lights out in Puget Sound, the eastern Straits and the San Juan Islands during the past month. Expect more of the same in June!
From a table fare perspective, spot prawns are off the chart. Shrimp burgers, shrimp omelettes, shrimp appetizers, shrimp salad, shrimp pasta, shrimp toothpaste, shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp, get my drift? I love it!
And, it’s a fishery where very little skill is required to be successful. I look for soft tides where the exchange is minimal, or, around slack tides. I like water depths in the 260-320 range where I fish in the San Juan Islands which is considered on the shallow side for spot prawns. Some prawn fishers set their pots in considerably deeper water in the 350-450 range which can be tricky, especially if the currents flow at more than a foot an hour during peak flow. Adding weight to pots is critical, similar to deep water crab fishing. Shellfish biologists suggest that a weighted pot should tip the scales at 30 pounds or more.
There has been a trend in recent years to fish with bigger rectangular pots with more doors for prawns to enter the pot. I am a believer. Some prawn fishers like the web-mesh Ladner nesting style pots made in British Columbia. These pots are popular in commercial shrimp fisheries from California to Alaska and come in three sizes. The thirty-six inch Ladner weighs 28 pounds which is a recommended weight when fishing around 300 feet in moderate tides.
Finally, there are a number of theories on the kinds of bait to use in shrimp pots. Some long-time prawn fishers make their own prawn bait cocktail. I go the easy way and purchase prawn bait pellets along with a liquid attractant oil mixed into the pellets. Very simple and it produces slam-o-rama!
Excuse me while I pull my shrimp pots which have been soaking for nearly two hours. Perfect! Now where did I set that jar of cocktail sauce! Down the hatch, baby. See you on the water!