Tag Archives: sekiu

Yuasa: Silvers Are Gold In September

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

I wish there was a way to slow down how quickly summer comes and goes, especially with the memorable king salmon fishing we got to experience in some parts of Puget Sound.

And while we’re still relishing the “good old days” of the past few months, I can’t help but get geared up for silver being the gold medal winner in September and beyond!

AUTHOR MARK YUASA SHOWS OFF A NICE OCEAN-RETURNING COHO. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Coho salmon – often referred to as “silvers” for their distinct brightly metal-colored body – appear to have crossed the bridge of dire straits from the warm “blob” that plagued the North Pacific Ocean, and the drought-like conditions and warm water temperatures in river spawning grounds that led to a huge decline in salmon survival in late 2013 to 2015.

Puget Sound anglers who haven’t seen a viable early-fall silver salmon fishery since 2014 will be giddy to know that we’ve turned the corner and opportunities should be decent from the Strait of Juan de Fuca clear into southern Puget Sound.

WDFW biologists are predicting a coho return of 557,149 (249,174 wild and 307,975 hatchery) this season, which is down slightly from 595,074 (294,360 and 300,713) in 2017, but well above 2016 when coho runs tanked faster than the financial crisis in 2008.

Forecasts for the five Puget Sound wild coho stocks in 2018 that make or break our sport salmon seasons – Strait, Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and Hood Canal – are all up big time from years past.

The Skagit wild coho return forecast of 59,196 is up a whopping 350 percent over 2017’s return of 13,235 and up 564 percent of 8,912 in 2016. The Stillaguamish forecast of 18,950 is up 149 percent from 2017’s return of 7,622 and up 584 percent of 2,770 in 2016. The Snohomish will also see a big bounce back with 65,925 up 294 percent from a return of 16,740 in 2016.

When the salmon seasons were signed, sealed and delivered last April, the sport coho fisheries set by WDFW increased dramatically. In all, 30 weeks of total fishing opportunity was closed the past two years to address conservation issues of wild Puget Sound coho stocks and will reopen based on the stronger 2018 forecasts.

Some early indicators leading to this “happy face emoji” was the great June resident silver fishery in central Puget Sound (Area 10) that carried on well into August, and some early migratory coho began to show up in catches during the late-summer hatchery chinook fishery. In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Sekiu was also seeing some decent early hatchery coho action in late August.

Hatchery coho are fair game Sept. 1-30 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sekiu to Port Angeles (Areas 5 and 6). It is a given at this time the “no vacancy” sign will be flashing at resorts in the Strait and marinas will be filled to the brim with boats as hordes of anglers pursue feisty, big ocean-run coho.

In the San Juan Islands (Area 7) anglers can keep all coho through Sept. 30. The northern section of Whidbey Island’s east side (Area 8-1) is open through Sept. 30 for all coho, and the popular southern portion (Area 8-2) – Ports Susan and Gardner – are open until Sept. 23. Popular fishing spots will be from the south part of Camano Island clear down to the Shipwreck and Possession Bait House areas.

Shore-bound anglers can also get in on the action at the Bait House where coho were present when it opened last month. Other “go to” locations from shore are west side of Whidbey Island at Bush and Lagoon points, Fort Casey, Point No Point, Marrowstone Island, Point Wilson near Port Townsend, and various piers, docks and shorelines from Edmonds to Seattle and as far south as Tacoma.
The two marine areas that will be glittering with silvers are northern (Area 9) and central (Area 10) Puget Sound. Hatchery coho salmon fishing will be open in Area 9 through Sept. 30, and in Area 10 anglers can keep all coho through Nov. 15.

South-central (Area 11) and southern (Area 13) Puget Sound and Hood Canal (Area 12) are all open for coho through Sept. 30, and then each location remains open beyond that date for salmon fishing. Anglers should consult the regulation pamphlet for what salmon species you can target in each area.

Marine locations like Sekiu in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca were good coming into the end of last month as was popular coho places like east side of Whidbey Island from Mukilteo south to Shipwreck; Possession Bar; west side of Whidbey Island from Bush Point to Fort Casey; Jefferson Head; Edmonds oil dock; and Meadow Point south to West Point near Shilshole Bay.

Lastly, anglers will also have a chance to fish certain sections of the Skagit and Snohomish river systems – closed in 2016 and 2017 – for coho salmon in September.

2018-19 coastal razor clam outlook is a mixed bag

This coming fall, winter and spring will see some highlights and lowlights for coastal razor clams depending on what beaches you choose to dig.

WDFW have finished summer razor clam population assessments and places like Copalis, Mocrocks and Twin Harbors while Long Beach looks somewhat dismal and Kalaloch is still in a rebuilding stage.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Expect this to be a gap year for Long Beach where a loss of juvenile razor clams and poor digging success in 2017-18 will lead to another season of struggles where abundance levels are the lowest seen in the past 25 years.

One theory in the population decline is poor salinity levels on a good portion of Long Beach and freshwater run-off from the Columbia River aren’t favorable for young clams to thrive in.

Preliminary postseason estimates coast-wide from 2017-18 for 27 digging days showed 257,004 digger trips produced 2,731,461 razor clams for 10.6 clam per person average – the first 15 clams is a daily limit regardless of size or condition.

The good news is a marine toxin known as domoic acid – a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae that can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities – is very low.

The latest testing showed levels between 1 to 2 parts-per-million and the action level is 20 parts-per-million.

Fall and winter razor clam digs occur during evening low tides while spring-time digs occur during morning low tides.

Dates haven’t been determined by WDFW although looking at the calendar it appears the best low tides start date will occur on Oct. 26-29 and Nov. 8-10. Exactly how much digging time hinges on discussions between WDFW and tribal fishery co-managers.
State Fish and Wildlife plans to have the public comment review period should ready by the middle of September. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

NW Salmon Derby Series culminates this month with boat raffle

It has been a very busy summer with the NW Chevy Dealer truck and KingFisher boat traveling across the Pacific Northwest!

Angler turnout and fishing success has been delightful in July and August at the Bellingham PSA Salmon Derby; Big One Salmon Derby at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho; Brewster Salmon Derby; South King County PSA Derby; Gig Harbor PSA Derby; and Vancouver, B.C. Canada Chinook Classic.

SOME LUCKY ANGLER IS GOING TO WIN THIS BOAT THIS MONTH! (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Now it’s time to rev up the trolling motors for the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23.

We’ll be drawing the lucky name at Everett on Sept. 23 to win a grand-prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp and 9.9hp motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

I’m just as stoked about the weeks ahead filling the cooler with silvers like I was back in June for kings in Area 11 off Tacoma. I’ll see you on the water with a few cut-plug herring spinning fast off the stern of my boat!

 

More Details On Straits Salmon Bust: ‘Never Seen Somebody Run That Kind Of Gear’

More details are emerging about Tuesday’s jaw-dropping bust of a man allegedly fishing for salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca with five more lines out than allowed, six barbed hooks and with eight more fish on board than permitted — including five off-limits wild kings and wild coho.

WDFW REPORTS THAT THE MAN WAS IN POSSESSION OF FIVE WILD CHINOOK AND COHO, AND FIVE HATCHERY COHO. (WDFW)

“I’ve been on the marine unit since 2007. I’ve done thousands of boardings in that time. I’ve never seen somebody run that kind of gear off of a recreational boat,” Clallam County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Eric Munger told the Peninsula Daily News in a story out this morning. “It was set up like a commercial operation using recreational gear.”

OFFICER BRYAN DAVIDSON POSES WITH THE 23-FOOT MAXUM CABIN CRUISER, TRAILER, DOWNRIGGERS, FISHING ROD AND COMMERCIAL FLASHER-LURE COMBOS SEIZED FOLLOWING AN AT-SEA INSPECTION TUESDAY THAT TURNED UP EGREGIOUS FISHING RULES VIOLATIONS. (WDFW)

The paper reports the man is a 74-year-old Kitsap County resident who “didn’t say a whole lot” during the inspection around 1 p.m. by deputies and WDFW Officer Bryan Davidson 4 miles offshore.

His 23-foot Maxum Cabin Cruiser along with two downriggers he was running a regular fishing line and five commercial flasher-lure combos were seized.

“It was extremely egregious,” Sgt. Kit Rosenberger told the paper.

The ten salmon were all donated to the Port Angeles Senior Center.

The man also faces several thousand dollars in criminal and civil penalties if convicted. After WDFW wraps up its investigation, it will forward recommended charges to the Clallam County Prosecutors Office.

The matter will then be handled by a district court in Forks, according to the Daily News.

(WDFW)

Wardens Seize Boat, Gear Of Sekiu Angler Fishing 6 Lines And Caught With 10 Salmon

A 23-foot boat, pair of downriggers and fishing gear of a Strait of Juan de Fuca angler who allegedly egregiously violated the regs were seized by state fish and wildlife officers yesterday.

They say the man had six set-ups out, all of his hooks were barbed, and that he’d kept five times the daily limit — including five illegal-to-retain wild Chinook and coho.

All the salmon were donated to a local senior center and the man also faces several thousand dollars in criminal and civil penalties if convicted.

OFFICER BRYAN DAVIDSON POSES WITH THE 23-FOOT MAXUM CABIN CRUISER, TRAILER, DOWNRIGGERS, FISHING ROD AND COMMERCIAL FLASHER-LURE COMBOS SEIZED FOLLOWING AN AT-SEA INSPECTION YESTERDAY THAT TURNED UP EGREGIOUS FISHING RULES VIOLATIONS. (WDFW)

The case went down Tuesday off Sekiu when WDFW Officer Bryan Davidson and Clallam County Sheriff’s Office deputies spotted a man trolling alone, according to a Facebook post by state wardens.

What caught their eye was that he had a second downrigger deployed but without an accompanying rod.

When they asked him to reel up his gear for an inspection, he brought in the line attached to his first downrigger, but left that ball down deep.

The officers asked him to bring the ‘rigger up too, and he began to but stopped part way, so they had to ask again, after which the man complied “reluctantly,” they report.

He then unclipped a leader from the cable and officers saw it had a bungee attached to a flasher and lure.

The man then removed a second similar setup from the same downrigger line,” officers report.

When they asked him to bring up the other downrigger, it came up with three more bungee-flasher-lure rigs too! They were described as “commercial-type” trolling leaders.

Marine Area 5 is not among the few salmon fisheries where you can run a second line, let alone third, fourth, fifth and sixth ones.

The man then apparently volunteered that he had kept one hatchery coho, which he showed to the officers.

However, he hadn’t put it on his catch card, they allege.

Between the good bite in the Straits, all the gear the guy had down and his claim to have only one fish, the officers were a bit suspicious there might be more to the story.

“Officer Davidson again asked the man if he had any more fish aboard. The man denied having any more. Officer Davidson informed the man that he believed there were more fish on board. The man decided to come clean and told Officer Davidson that he indeed had more salmon and produced two garbage bags from the cabin of the vessel containing headed and gutted salmon,” WDFW reports.

Ten of ’em — a wild Chinook that couldn’t be retained, four wild coho that couldn’t be kept either, and five hatchery coho.

WDFW REPORTS THAT THE MAN WAS IN POSSESSION OF FIVE WILD CHINOOK AND COHO, AND FIVE HATCHERY COHO. (WDFW)

The daily limit in these waters is two salmon, fin-clipped silvers and sockeye only.

“Due to the egregiousness of the violations and the lengths the suspect had gone to accomplish his criminal activity, the vessel, fish and his fishing gear were seized for forfeiture to the state of Washington. The salmon were donated to the Port Angeles Senior Center, where they were much appreciated,” WDFW reports.

Meanwhile, we just might have our JOTM for the Octo-issue.

“The man will be cited with several gross misdemeanors for failing to submit his full catch of salmon for inspection when initially asked, retaining a closed season wild Chinook, and wild coho, fishing with barbed hooks in possession of salmon, using more than one line, in addition to several misdemeanors and infractions,” officers say. “Each closed season wild salmon conviction brings an additional civil penalty of $500, in addition to the criminal penalty.”

The game wardens gave a special shout out to the sheriff’s office for their interest and help.

OFFICER DAVIDSON AND CLALLAM COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE DEPUTIES BACK AT THE DOCK WITH THE BOAT. (WDFW)

Yuasa Excited By July’s Westside Chinook, Crabbing Ops

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

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

For salmon anglers, the thrill of a fish peeling line off the reel in July resembles a sugar rush, free-for-all in the candy store.

I’m hooked on that feeling and judging by the early signs we experienced last month in open salmon fishing areas, there’s enthusiasm in the air of what lies ahead from the coast clear into Puget Sound.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

I harken back to my early college days when summer was a three-month, job-free fishing affair with many fond memories created at a nearby lake, river or a marine area from Sekiu to Elliott Bay and many stops in between.

It was a great time when being young and willing to live on two hours of sleep just to be on the water by 4 a.m. and staying out until well after dark was simply a rite of passage. I confess it’s been more than three decades since those hey-days and while I can’t quite kick up the rpm’s like I did in the past, I still live for those glory moments.

A rush of early excitement occurred in June with the spotlight beaming brightly on south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma area (Marine Catch Area 11), central Puget Sound (10) and the Tulalip Bubble Fishery (8-2) where fishing took off right when it opened.

“This early part of the summer reminds me of what we used to see in the good old days,” said Art Tachell, the manager of the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma.

The catch estimates for south central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) since it reopened June 1 for salmon fishing are 756 fish retained under a catch quota of 5,344. Fishing action has been slow to fair for a mix of resident chinook, 5 to 8 pounds, and kings, 10 to 18 pounds, since the initial opener and the dogfish were thick off the Clay Banks at Point Defiance.

In Area 11, 448 boats with 718 anglers June 1-3 caught 242 hatchery-marked chinook and released 315 chinook for a total of 557 chinook encounters; and 1,042 boats with 1,520 anglers June 4-10 caught 512 hatchery-marked chinook and two unmarked chinook and released 666 hatchery-marked chinook for a total of 1,180 chinook encounters.

This year’s projection of 227,420 hatchery chinook migrating to Puget Sound is up 21 percent from the 10-year average and a 35 percent boost over last year.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca opened July 1 off Sekiu (5) for salmon, and Port Angeles opens July 3. Sekiu is the main intersection of fish runs heading east into Puget Sound and south to the Columbia River and beyond. In the past few years, Port Angeles has gotten off to a hot start and the hope is for another blissful season.

Many are licking their chops on what should be a “summer to remember” for hatchery kings in northern Puget Sound (9) and central Puget Sound (10).

The Area 9 summer hatchery king fishery has a 5,563 quota – which is a similar figure to the 2017 quota and up from 3,056 in 2016. Modeling by WDFW staff suggested this change would likely result in a shorter 2018 season given the forecast of increased hatchery chinook in the area.

“I’ll be happy if the Area 9 hatchery chinook fishery lasts two weeks,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “It was lights out king fishing at Midchannel Bank (last summer) and that seems the place to be when it opens in July.”

Many will focus their time in late July and August in Area 10 that has a cap of 4,743 hatchery chinook.

Shore-bound anglers can get in on the action with numerous piers scattered across Puget Sound that are open year-round for salmon. The Edmonds Pier has already been producing fish since early-June. The steep drop-offs around the Point No Point Lighthouse offer an easy cast to prime fishing holes.

The San Juan Islands are open until July 31 for hatchery kings, and switches to wild and hatchery kings from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3.

Hood Canal south of Ayock Point is open through Sept. 30 with a liberal four-hatchery chinook daily limit. The forecast is 57,558 up from 48,300 in 2017 with many kings destined for the George Adams and Hoodsport hatcheries.

The coastal chinook and hatchery coho fishery got underway on June 23 at Ilwaco (1), La Push (3), and Neah Bay (4). Westport (2) opened July 1 where salmon fishing is allowed Sundays through Thursdays. All areas close Sept. 3 or when the quota is achieved.

“We’ve had some decent success rates up north for the commercial trollers in Area 4 (Neah Bay and La Push), but pretty scratchy fishing in other areas to the south,” said Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager. “I’m expecting (the sport fishery) will start off a little slow, but we might find some fish up north in Area 4.”

Commercial trollers fishing off the coast since May reported the salmon are there one day and gone the next, according to Beeghly with nothing consistent and no huge schools of fish at this point.

“Based on what we forecasted for chinook returns this year we expect it to be a little slow this summer, but that doesn’t always indicate anything, and we will have to wait and see,” Beeghly said.

A downtrend in Columbia River salmon returns could result in mixed success for coastal anglers although “paper fish” forecasts have been proven wrong in the past, so watch for catch trends each week to see when’s a good time to go.

In between the Puget Sound salmon action, be sure to bring along the crab pots for a chance at some tasty Dungies!

Areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 12 are open through Sept. 3. Area 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh line and 5 are open through Sept. 3. Area 7 South opens July 14 through Sept. 30, and 7 North is open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30. Fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week only (closed on July 4). Areas 11 and 13 are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.

Lastly, some local rivers were bursting at the seams with kings and sockeye; and follow the trout plants in lakes at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Summer Dungeness crabbing underway

The highly popular Dungeness crab season has started in many Puget Sound areas and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay to Sekiu.

Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish manager says crabbing should be good this summer in marine waterways north of Seattle.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Fishing in open areas will be allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). The crab fishery is closed on July 4. South-central and southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.

The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca around Port Angeles (6); Deception Pass (8-1); Port Susan/Everett (8-2); northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9); central Puget Sound (10); and Hood Canal (12) are open through Sept. 3.

The western Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary to Sekiu (4 and 5) are open through Sept. 3.

The San Juan Islands/Bellingham (7 South) are open July 14 through Sept. 30, and the San Juan Islands “Gulf of Georgia” (7 North) are open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.

In all inland marine catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested in 2017 season was 9,285,912 pounds in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 in 2016.

This comes on the heel of an all-time record catch in 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

General Puget Sound rules are crab pots may not set or pulled from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crabbers must immediately write down their catch record cards after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches.

Fishermen may also keep six red rock crab of either sex daily, and each must measure at least 5 inches. For more information go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

Anglers start your motors! The PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby is July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby is July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Those will be followed by the Brewster Salmon Derby on Aug. 2-5; South King County PSA Derby on Aug. 4; Gig Harbor PSA Derby on Aug. 11; and the Vancouver, B.C. Canada Chinook Classic on Aug. 18-19.

It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about coho in September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is Sept. 22-23.

That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp and 9.9hp motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

Now it’s time for me to take that first bite of chewy goodness in a “PayDay” candy bar and bee-line out the door to see if I can score a fish or two. See you on the water!

New Procedure For Bringing Canadian-side Salmon Back To Sekiu, PA

Biggest misnomer in Northwest salmon fishing this season?

That Sekiu’s closed for coho.

While US waters are indeed off limits in September and October, not so the Canadian side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, making this über-fishy port a prime jumping-off point for intercepting silvers heading for Puget Sound and southwest British Columbia rivers.

YOU MIGHT SET A COURSE FOR SEKIU AFTER ALL THIS SEASON — RULES HAVE BEEN AMENDED TO MAKE IT EASIER TO LAND STATESIDE WITH SALMON CAUGHT IN CANADIAN WATERS. (NOAA)

Yes, you’ll have to bone up on the brand-spankin’ new rules for bringing fish back from the Great White North’s waters — and yes it’ll be worth it, thanks to a bigger forecast than 2016 when it was “on fire.”

Mark Yuasa, formerly of The Seattle Times, makes his debut in our pages with a September issue piece about heading Strait across for silvers.

“There isn’t a reason to say the town of Sekiu is closed while salmon fishing is thriving in Canada, and it’s so easy for an angler to still get out and fish,” Brandon Mason, owner of Mason’s Olson Resort (olsons-resort.com) in Sekiu, told Yuasa. “By boat it’s a short 7-mile (25- to 30-minute) ride to find some great fishing opportunities.”

In the lead-up to the fishery, WDFW has just issued an emergency rule-change notice that updates how to bring salmon landed in BC back to Sekiu.

To wit:

Amends Canadian-origin salmon transportation rule

Action: Changes the method for obtaining clearance for transporting Canadian-caught salmon into Washington waters from a Canadian phone line to an online form available on WDFW’s website.

Effective Date:  Effective 12:01 a.m., Aug. 16, until further notice.

Species affected: Salmon.

Location: Washington marine areas.

Reason for action: Canadian Customs and Border Security regulations related to requirement for obtaining a customs clearance number have recently changed. This regulation is needed to provide an alternate means for persons seeking to possess and/or land Canadian caught fish in Washington waters or ports of call.

Other information: Visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/canadian_catch.php to obtain a confirmation code. The form requests basic trip and contact information from the party leader that must be submitted prior to leaving Washington with the intent of fishing for salmon in Canada. The party leader will receive an email from WDFW with your confirmation code.

Information contact: Fish Program: Ryan Lothrop, (360) 902-2808; Enforcement Program: Dan Chadwick, 360-249-4628, ex 1253.

Floor: April Time To Rediscover Sekiu Blackmouth Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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