Tag Archives: Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club

Pugetropolis Coho Derbies, Salmon Series Raffle Boat On Tap

As summer nears an end, a pair of big Puget Sound silver salmon derbies appear on the calendar, with one also providing the venue for the annual raffling off of a $75,000 boat package.

This Saturday, Sept. 7, sees the Edmonds Coho Derby while the Everett Coho Derby goes down Sept. 21-22.

At the latter somebody who’s entered one of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series’ many events across the region this year will have their name drawn for a Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop with Yamaha 200- and 9.9-horse motors, EZ-loader galvanized trailer and more.

THE WINNER OF THE 2019 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND RAFFLE PRIZE, THIS BOAT AND ALL THAT COMES WITH IT, WILL BE AWARDED AT LATE SEPTEMBER’S EVERETT COHO DERBY. (NMTA)

For the past two years the package has been won by Idaho anglers who entered late July’s The Big One Derby on Lake Couer d’Alene, but who knows who will win the 2019 edition.

Anglers will be more focused on pulling the biggest coho out of local waters, but should note that while the southern portion of Marine Area 8-2 will be available for Edmonds event participants, it won’t be open during the Everett derby.

With federal fishery overseers classifying Snohomish coho as an “overfished” stock, state managers are trying to get as many wild and hatchery fish back to the system as they can.

Another saltwater option for both events is the Tulalip Bubble, which is open Saturdays and Sundays through September.

Recent WDFW catch reports do show silvers being caught inside Puget Sound, and more in the Straits.

The Edmonds Derby is put on by the Sno-King Chapter of the venerable Puget Sound Anglers organization, and features a $5,000 top prize for largest silver, $2,500 for second and $1,000 for third. Unlike the Everett derby, it is only held on saltwater. Last year’s winner was Bill Turner who weighed in a 10.1-pounder.

Today is your last day to buy tickets. For more, see edmondscohoderby.com.

ANGLERS LIKE MICHAEL RIAN (SECOND FROM RIGHT) WILL BE COMPETING TO CATCH THE LARGEST SILVER AT A PAIR OF DERBIES IN SEPTEMBER TO SCORE COLD, HARD GREENBACKS. FIRST UP IS THE EDMONDS COHO DERBY THIS SATURDAY, THEN COMES THE EVERETT COHO DERBY TWO WEEKENDS LATER. (EVERETT COHO DERBY)

AREA 8-2 IS WHERE 2018’s Everett Coho Derby winner caught his $10,000 fish in heaving seas, but you can bet that Michael Rian will just take his very specific strategy to nearby Area 9, Admiralty Inlet, the pipeline that will funnel hundreds of thousands of the bright salmon to Central, South and Deep South Sound streams.

He swears by 66 feet based on experiences in British Columbia and at last year’s derby.

“Our group … has caught a very high number of coho at that exact depth, and have tried to disprove the theory, and we keep losing!” he told me following last year’s win.

Rian used an orange-label herring in a Rhys Davis anchovy helmet in gold, green and chrome and tandem 2/O and 3/O barbless hooks on a 6-foot, 30-pound fluorocarbon leader behind an 11-inch flasher in gold green.

MICHAEL RIAN WON $10,000 AT LAST YEAR’S EVERETT COHO DERBY WITH THIS 13.27-POUNDER. (MICHAEL RIAN)

Last year was the first time the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club and Everett Steelhead & Salmon Club had been able to hold the derby since 2015 due to low returns and fishery closures. Over the past decade or so, Areas 8-2 and 9 have both produced three winning fish, Area 10 one and the Snohomish one (coincidentally also the largest, 18.16 pounds).

Proceeds benefit local fish projects, including the release of 80,000-plus coho fry annually.

To get ready for the event, check out John and Conner Martinis’s free “High Percentage Coho Fishing” seminar starting at 6 p.m., Weds., Sept. 19, at Everett Bayside Marine off of West Marine View Drive.

For more, see everettcohoderby.com.

Catch And Fun Both Up At Kids Steelhead Days II On The Sky

A trout pond added to the fun as young anglers also hooked and fought more summer-runs at the second Kids Steelhead Days on the Skykomish this past weekend.

Saturday’s event on the Reiter Ponds side of the famed North Sound river saw just under three dozen girls and boys attend, with Ava Kinder once again landing a chromer, just as she did during the inaugural event on June 1, the only one then.

AVA KINDER, DYILEN KENNEDY AND WESLEY CANNON SHOW OFF THEIR SUMMER-RUNS, CAUGHT AT JULY 6’S KID STEELHEAD DAY AT REITER PONDS ON THE SKYKOMISH. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

“We finished the day with about 10 fish hooked, three landed and a few of the lost fish were lost right at the bank just moments from the net,” reported Matthew Kennedy of Sky Valley Anglers.

Dyilen Kennedy and Wesley Cannon were the other two lucky steelheaders, while the trout pond proved to be a hit the whole way around.

“Nothing but happy kids and parents and lots of smiles and good memories for the kids,” Kennedy said.

ADDING A TROUT POND AT THE EVENT MADE FOR LOTS OF SMILES, ORGANIZERS REPORTED. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

His group along with the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club organized the series of events, with the final one for the summer set for the morning of Saturday, Aug. 3.

This second one combined angling with a fishing seminar for parents in hopes of inspiring the next generation of anglers.

“One the coolest parts of the day, besides the kids catching a few more and the hookups, was that with a little bit smaller of a crowd we were able to work more one on one with the kids and actually spend time teaching them and engaging in conversation with them while teaching,” said Kennedy.

MATTHEW KENNEDY (SECOND FROM LEFT) AND OTHER STEELHEAD SHARPIES VOLUNTEERED THEIR TIME AND SKILLS TO TEACH THE NEXT GENERATION. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

He said he’s looking forward to making next month’s finale the biggest and best yet.

“So far we are extremely happy with the way the event is going and our missions have been successful,” Kennedy stated.

For more, contact him at (206) 876-0224 or Elementmasonry@gmail.com.

AT A TIME WHEN THE FISH RUNS AREN’T AS BIG AS WE’D LIKE, IT’S GREAT TO SEE EVENTS LIKE THIS. (MATTHEW KENNEDY, SKY VALLEY ANGLERS)

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Yuasa: Dungeness, Chinook, Coho, Derby Dollars To Score In July

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

Summertime has arrived! The sun is shining bright and early! The weather is sweet! And nothing else is more satisfying than a fresh batch of steamed Dungeness crab!

A CRABBER HOLDS A COUPLE NICE DUNGENESS. MUCH OF PUGET SOUND AND THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA OPEN ON JULY 4 FOR THURSDAY-MONDAY SHELLFISHING, THOUGH MARINE AREAS 11 AND 13 AND THE SOUTHERN HALF OF AREA 12 ARE CLOSED DUE TO LOW NUMBERS. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Beginning on the Fourth of July ahead of the fireworks show, anglers will get their first crack at soaking pots for Dungeness crab east of Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary line (Marine Catch Area 4), Sekiu (5), Port Angeles (6), east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) and northern Puget Sound (9). The season is open through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

A reduction in the number of days open this summer in central Puget Sound (10) is due to an overage in last year’s catch quota. Crabbing is open July 4 through Aug. 3 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

Hood Canal (12) north of a line projected due east of Ayock Point opens July 4 through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). Areas south of Ayock Point are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.

In the San Juan Islands (7 South) opens July 11 through Sept. 30 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). San Juan Islands (7 North) opens Aug. 15 through Sept. 30 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

South-central Puget Sound (11) and southern Puget Sound (13) are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.

The big question is what anglers should expect once their pots hit bottom?

“Dungeness crab populations in the southern reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal have experienced stress in recent years,” said Bob Sizemore, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy manager. “Crabbing in the northern portions of Puget Sound has been very good and should be good again this year.”

A WDFW study from 2018 showed a sharp decline in south-central Puget Sound of 87.4 percent during a three-year period, and in southern Puget Sound it was 96.7 percent over a six-year timeframe.

Test fishing in 2018 showed no presence of Dungeness crab in the size range of 3.5 to 5.7 inches, indicating several year classes are missing. In general, test fishing in 2019 did show a slight improvement although nowhere near the levels to even consider opening the two southern-most reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal.

“Nobody harvested crab last year (in south central and southern Puget Sound) and the test fishery catch of legal-size crab per pot didn’t improve significantly (in 2019) so Mother Nature has the faucet still turned off at the other end,” said Don Velasquez, the WDFW head Puget Sound shellfish manager. “It takes about four years for crab to get to their legal-size and were still paying the price for what happened well before this year.”

In sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial fisheries during 2018 there was 9,225,000 pounds landed, which is down from 9,285,512 in 2017; 10,645,000 in 2016. The record catch occurred in 2015 when 11.8 million pounds was landed.

General 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 in Puget Sound must immediately write down their catch on record cards immediately after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

Summer salmon fisheries in full bloom this month

Salmon fishing options expand this month but be sure to carefully look at the regulation pamphlet since there’s a myriad of areas that are either open or closed to protect weak wild stocks of salmon.

Look for a short, but sweet hatchery chinook fishery in the San Juan Islands (Area 7), which is open July 1-31. The preseason prediction of legal-size chinook encounters in Area 7 during July is 3,622 and is managed by WDFW as a season from beginning to end.

CHINOOK RETENTION OPPORTUNITIES ARE ONGOING ON THE WASHINGTON COAST NOW, BEGIN IN THE STRAITS AND SOUND THIS MONTH, AND TRANSITION TO THE LOWER COLUMBIA RIVER NEXT MONTH. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Time on the water has dwindled dramatically in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) where hatchery chinook fishing opens briefly from July 25-28. The hatchery chinook quota of 3,501 is well below the 5,400 in 2018. WDFW will assess catches after July 28 to see if more chinook fishing is possible. Area 9 remains open July 25 through Sept. 30 for pink and hatchery coho.

Central Puget Sound (Area 10) is also open for hatchery chinook from July 25 – later than 2018’s July 16 opener – and closes Aug. 31 or until a quota of 3,057 (4,473 in 2018) is achieved. Area 10 then reverts to a coho and pink directed season from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know if you’re planning on targeting Area 10 summer kings is to go right when it opens to get in as much fishing time as possible. Those who want to get out into Area 10 right now should find some very good resident coho action, which has been off the charts since it opened last month for coho only.

Salmon fishing communities along the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Sekiu should see some glory moments for summer chinook.

Port Angeles (Area 6) is open July 1 to Aug. 15 for hatchery-marked chinook west of a true north/south line through Number 2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook (release chum and wild coho and chinook). A chinook release area from July 1 through Aug. 15 is east of a true north/south line through the Number 2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook (release all chinook, chum and wild coho). Area 6 is open for hatchery coho and pinks from Aug. 16 through Sept. 30 (release all chinook, chum and wild coho). Freshwater Bay is closed for salmon from July 1 through Oct. 31; and Port Angeles Harbor, Sequim Bay and Discovery Bay are closed for salmon from July 1 through Aug. 15.

Hatchery chinook fishing at Sekiu (Area 5) is open July 1 through Aug. 15 except closed in a section at Kydaka Point.

South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens July 1 (closed Thursdays and Fridays of each week). Early summer king fishing was decent last summer and hopefully anglers have a similar scenario despite a reduced quota of 2,805 hatchery chinook (5,030 in 2018). Be sure to go sooner than later to the Clay Banks and other nearby hotspots to ensure more time on the water. Once the chinook quota is achieved in Area 11 the fishery reverts to being open daily through Sept. 30 for coho and pinks only.

Hood Canal (Area 12) south of Ayock Point opens for hatchery chinook from July 1 through Sept. 30 and is one of the most underfished areas in our region.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) is open year-round for salmon and has a revamped minimum size limit on hatchery chinook of 20 inches through Sept. 30.

An expected 1,009,600 coho (349,000 was the forecast in 2018) – the largest return since 2014 – arrives off the Columbia River mouth and should be the bread winner for all coastal anglers. A mediocre chinook run will also provide some excitement at times.

All four coastal ports – Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Ilwaco – are open daily through Sept. 30 and closes once each area’s catch quota is achieved. The daily limit at Ilwaco and Westport is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook. The daily limit at La Push and Neah Bay is two salmon.

Like I said earlier check the regulation pamphlet for any changes to seasons or dates and also look at the WDFW eRegs at
https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations. I also post updates regularly on my Facebook page “Pacific Northwest Fishing and Outdoors.”

Kids Steelhead Day is July 6 at Reiter Ponds

The Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club and the Sky Valley Anglers are hosting a Kids Steelhead Fishing Event on July 6 at Reiter Ponds on the Skykomish River.

The event will also be held Aug. 3 and are open to all anglers age 14-and-under from 5 a.m. until noon with all the fishing gear – rod and reel – provided. A license isn’t required but each participant will need a salmon/steelhead catch card.

WDFW will block off the bank area from the pond outlet downstream 500 feet to the rapids between Reiter and the Cable Hole.

Sponsors also include Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood, Gibbs Delta, John’s Jigs, Pure Fishing, Element Outdoors, Dead Lead, Conti’s Custom Rods and Seaguar.

Reiter Ponds at 45300 Reiter Road is located off Highway 2 east of Gold Bar. Take Reiter Road for 2.5 miles and turn right onto a road that leads to the parking lot.

There will also be some activities along the shoreline for kids to participate in and WDFW employees will also be on hand. For details, call 206-876-0224 or email Elementmasonry@gmail.com.

NW Salmon Derby Series ramps up in July

The next route in the series offering diverse opportunities to catch fish along with some impressive picturesque scenery and maybe even winning some great prizes are the Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston will be making the rounds to each derby. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer.

The boat is 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.
Derbies on the near horizon are Brewster Salmon Derby, Aug. 1-4 (could be cancelled due to low chinook returns so stay tuned); South King County PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 3; Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 10; Vancouver, B.C. Chinook Classic, Aug. 17-18; and Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby, Aug. 31.

There is a total of 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia and drawing for the grand prize boat takes place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22.

In other related news, anglers can start looking at 2020 with dates finalized for Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

Now it’s time for me to head out the door to wet a line. I’ll see you on the water!

2nd Kids Steelhead Day Coming Up At Reiter Over Long Holiday Weekend

The second of three Kids Steelhead Days on the Skykomish is coming up Saturday, July 6, and this one will feature a trout pond.

“We hope to see an equal turn out if not a bit greater than the 67 kids last event,” says Matthew Kennedy of Sky Valley Anglers about June’s inaugural kids day.

RIVER WALGAMOTT WATCHES HIS BOBBER CAREFULLY DURING THE FIRST KIDS STEELHEAD DAYS AT REITER PONDS IN EARLY JUNE. TWO MORE EVENTS WILL BE HELD THIS SUMMER ON JULY 6 AND AUGUST 3. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The bank on the north side of the river from the Reiter Ponds outlet downstream several hundred feet will again be set aside for anglers from 5 to 14 years old from 6 a.m. to noon to try their hand at hooking summer-runs.

Kids do need a license and catch card, but those are available at dealers for free.

While there should be more steelhead around than earlier this month, when Ava Kinder landed the sole catch of the day, adding the trout pond should increase the success and fun for everyone.

It’s being provided by Sky Valley Trout Unlimited.

Kennedy’s organization will also hold a salmon and steelhead seminar, and he says that one of the goals is to “educate parents who are not active fisherman to not be afraid to take the kids fishing more often by teaching them rigging techniques and appropriate setups, etc.”

YOUNG ANGLERS FISH BELOW THE REITER PONDS OUTFALL IN HOPES OF HOOKING RETURNING HATCHERY SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Reiter Ponds (45300 Reiter Road) is located off Highway 2 east of Gold Bar. Take Reiter Road for 2.5 miles and turn right onto a narrow paved road that leads to a long parking area, then walk down past the ponds to the river.

This season’s three kids days (Aug. 3 is the final one) are cohosted by the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club.

They are sponsored in part by tackle shops such as Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville, Ted’s Sports in Lynnwood and Triangle Bait in Snohomish, as well as Beau Mac, Gibbs Delta, Ray’s Baits, John’s Jigs, Pure Fishing, Element Outdoors, Dead Lead, Conti’s Custom Rods, Seaguar and Holy Moly Outdoors.

“Our goal is if even one kid takes a interest and becomes a fisherman or a biologist and makes a career out of it, our mission was a success,” says Kennedy. “After all, they are the future and we depend on them to carry on our legacy and keep fish in our rivers for future generations.”

AVA KINDER SHOWS OFF HER SUMMER-RUN CAUGHT DURING JUNE 2019’S INAUGURAL KIDS STEELHEAD DAYS AT REITER PONDS ON THE SKYKOMISH RIVER. (JADE KANZLER)

To register contact him at (206) 876-0224 and elementmasonry@gmail.com.

Not So Fast That Fishing’s The Reason For Sultan Wild Steelhead Woes

The head of a longtime fishing organization is expressing disappointment with his local utility after it claimed summer angling is the reason wild winter-run steelhead aren’t recovering in part of a popular Western Washington watershed.

Mark Spada says that his Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club has “always had a good working relationship” with the county public utility district and has tried to work to improve fishing opportunities with them, but “(P)lacing blame on the recreational steelhead fisherman for a poor return is short sighted and unjustified.”

THE SKYKOMISH RIVER BETWEEN THE MOUTH OF THE SULTAN AND MONROE PRODUCES HATCHERY SUMMER STEELHEAD AND CHINOOK LIKE THESE CAUGHT ABOARD GUIDE SHEA FISHER’S BOAT DURING 2017’S OPENER, BUT A LOCAL UTILITY SAYS THE ANGLING RULES ARE ALSO IMPACTING NATIVE WINTER-RUNS. (THEFISHERE.COM)

Spada, who recently helped put on a kids fishing day a bit higher up in the Skykomish River, was reacting to stories in The Herald of Everett and on Q13.

Both pieces mostly shared the viewpoint of the utility, which operates a dam on a tributary of the Sky, the Sultan River.

While one reporter talked to a random angler on the water and the other to a regional fisheries manager, Spada felt PUD could have done a better job beforehand.

“I hope in the future you’ll look to work with the recreational community to find answers to difficult fish management questions, and not take the low road to incite public perception,” he wrote to Larry Lowe, a Snohomish County PUD fisheries biologist, yesterday morning.

A WDFW SALMONSCAPE MAP SHOWS THE COURSE OF THE SULTAN RIVER, WHICH DRAINS OUT OF SPADA LAKE AT THE SNOHOMISH COUNTY PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT’S CULMBACK DAM, POUNDS THROUGH A 13-MILE-LONG GORGE BEFORE HITTING FLATTER TERRAIN AND ENTERING THE SKYKOMISH RIVER AT THE TOWN OF SULTAN. (WDFW)

SPARKING THE SITUATION ARE DECLINING STEELHEAD RUNS and a recent statewide rule change that moved the opening day of fishing on the Skykomish from June 1 to the Saturday of the long Memorial Day Weekend as part of a WDFW regulations simplification drive.

In an email to Northwest Sportsman, Spada says he has fought for an earlier opener for years.

“The recreational fishing industry is in dire straits right now, and we need every single day of angling opportunity we can get,” he said. “(It) just makes good business sense to be open on a holiday weekend.”

With the scenic Skykomish the only summer salmon and steelhead bank and boat fishery of consequence in all of Western Washington this season, hundreds of anglers took advantage of the long weekend to get afield too, packing into the river’s accesses.

WDFW catch stats show that 338 were interviewed by creel samplers on May 25 and 26, including 259 at the Sultan River, Ben Howard and Lewis Street put-ins and take-outs, and another 79 up at Reiter Ponds.

Overall they kept 16 hatchery kings and 28 hatchery steelhead, releasing one wild king and 18 wild steelhead.

Not the world’s best fishing by any stretch, but those few wild steelhead are at the crux of PUD’s beef.

“We believe (angling rules) are impeding the recovery of these fish and they’re controllable, and we have to do all we can do,” utility natural resources manager Keith Binkley told The Herald‘s Julia-Grace Sanders.

PUD says it has spent $21 million of its ratepayers’ money to promote fish recovery in the Sultan River and that their monitoring shows 11 percent of the trib’s wild winter-runs are “still en route up the Skykomish” as of the old June 1 opener, and 26 percent as of this year’s late May opener, per the paper.

(The 2020 start of season would fall on May 30 because of how the calendar changes from year to year.)

THOSE SPAWNER FIGURES WILL RAISE EYEBROWS.

According to WDFW, greater than 95 percent of all wild winter steelhead in the Skykomish-Snoqualmie-Snohomish have already finished spawning by June 1.

Now, the Sultan is not the Sauk-Suiattle, home to large ice fields in the Glacier Peak Wilderness that keep those rivers colder longer and have led their steelhead to spawn later than any other stock in the state, but WDFW does allow that its fish do make redds later than others in the Snohomish watershed.

However, it’s unclear whether that timing has also been unnaturally skewed by cold water coming out of PUD’s Culmback Dam, which has been on the upper Sultan since 1965 and was raised 60-plus feet in 1984.

Up until recently, water was released “from the base of the reservoir, which is naturally colder than water near the top,” per the utility, but a modification now draws off and mixes in warmer surface water, making the river below the impassable dam more fish friendly.

COLD AND WARM WATER MIXES BELOW CULMBACK DAM ON THE SULTAN RIVER. (IMCO/SNOHOMISH COUNTY P.U.D.)

It follows on 2016’s removal of a PUD diversion dam that had blocked salmon and steelhead passage at river mile 9.7 since 1929.

Good on them for checking off federal dam-relicensing requirements and doing more for fish, but if WDFW stats are any indication, fisheries are likely coming in well below allowable impact rates.

NMFS allows the agency and the Tulalip Tribes to kill up to 4.2 percent of returning Endangered Species Act-listed wild steelhead during their hatchery-directed winter and summer seasons through this October.

This year’s native winter steelhead run came in well below forecast and it won’t be known for some time how many were impacted during the December-January-February season, but all of 1.9 adults died during the first two weekends of the summer fishery.

That’s based on the 19 caught and released, as required, and a standard 10 percent mortality rate on steelhead put back in the water.

According to WDFW, those nates were also mostly kelts — winter fish that had already spawned and were returning to saltwater.

(Scott Weedman of Three Rivers Marine in nearby Woodinville fished the opener and believes those wild fish were actually mostly summer-runs, probably headed to the forks of the Skykomish.)

With an estimated 1,000 back this year, the loss of those 1.9 fish amounts to a 00.19 percent impact rate out of the maximum of 4.2 percent.

A U.S.G.S. SATELLITE TOPO MAP SHOWS LOGGING INCHING TOWARDS THE STEEP CANYON OF THE SULTAN RIVER BELOW CULMBACK DAM. THE AREA WAS LAST CUT NEARLY 50 YEARS AGO, WITH DEBRIS FLOWS SEVERAL YEARS LATER DURING A LARGE STORM. (USGS)

NOW, I’M NOT SAYING THE SULTAN FISH AREN’T IMPORTANT, not for one second.

Having put in some pretty good growing-up years along its banks and in the hills above the paved end of Trout Farm Road, I’m more than a little partial to the system and I want to see its steelhead and coho returns blow up like the river’s pink runs did.

I’m also realistic.

Fishing seasons that have been going on for decades are not the reason wild steelhead are suddenly struggling in the watershed, nor keeping them depressed.

That’s primarily due to massive, long-term habitat alterations — logging, diking, developing — that have reduced spawning and rearing water for fish.

I know it’s not PUD’s land, but I sure hope they’re paying close attention to any proposed clearcutting above either side of the rain-prone gorge of the Sultan below their dam.

But then again, maybe it’s easier to take on minnows like fishermen and miners than the state’s massive 2×4 industry.

Then there’s increasing pinniped predation on outmigrating smolts and returning adults.

And let’s not forget 2015, The Blob year, which shriveled streams in the Skykomish system and probably is playing no small part in recent years’ low steelhead returns.

THE SULTAN FLOWS INTO THE SKYKOMISH. THE TRIB MAY PROVIDE A THERMAL REFUGE FOR FISH IN THE MAINSTEM LATER IN SUMMER DURING LOW-WATER YEARS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

EVEN SO, P.U.D. IS MAKING A BID TO TWEAK the fishing regs, asking WDFW to push its summer opener back to June 15, restrict the use of bait and limit angling at the mouth of the Sultan, per The Herald.

“We need to now, more than ever, be protecting these fish,” another PUD staffer told the paper.

WDFW’s ear is bent and they are mulling options.

Who knows what might come out of this, perhaps keeping the early opener above the Sultan or Mann Road Bridge, where hatchery steelhead predominate, and later below the mouth of the Sultan?

But that would also impact the summer king fishery, which is almost entirely between there and Monroe’s Lewis Street Bridge.

“That’s going to be the part that’s the biggest struggle — to protect steelhead and provide Chinook opportunity,” acknowledges Edward Eleazer, WDFW’s regional fisheries manager.

I don’t know how this one is going to end, but with how hugely important of a fishery the Skykomish has become in this day and age of shrinking opportunities, stay tuned.

Kids Turn Out In Good Numbers For 1st Of 3 Skykomish Steelhead Days

Saturday saw a great turnout at the first of this summer’s three Kids Steelhead Days on the Skykomish, an event highlighted by hot dogs, lots of helpers and a heckuva nice summer-run for Ava Kinder.

AVA KINDER SHOWS OFF HER SUMMER-RUN CAUGHT DURING THIS PAST SATURDAY’S KIDS STEELHEAD DAYS AT REITER PONDS ON THE SKYKOMISH. (JADE KANZLER)

Her 6.5-pounder might have been the only one landed by the 67 young participants, but everyone had a chance to try their luck at catching one of the Northwest’s premier sport fish in a top spot.

Organizer Mark Spada of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club reported there were a couple other missed opportunities too.

“Despite the lack of fish, all the kids seemed to have a good time, and we had lots of great help from parents and volunteers,” he said.

Spada’s club along with Matt Alexander and Sky Valley Anglers cohosted the event.

KINDER BATTLES HER FISH. (MARK SPADA, SNOHOMISH SPORTSMEN’S CLUB)

Through a WDFW e-reg, the north bank of the Sky from the Reiter Ponds outfall downstream a couple hundred feet was set aside for kids 14 and younger to fish from dawn till noon.

As their folks offered encouragement or helped, kids cast from the shore and from atop the boulders that dot this stretch, one that’s perfect for float fishing.

YOUNG ANGLERS FISH BELOW THE REITER PONDS OUTFALL IN HOPES OF HOOKING RETURNING HATCHERY SUMMER-RUN STEELHEAD. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

For those who didn’t have or bring their own gear, organizers had a number of rods set up for young anglers to borrow, along with replacement jigs, plus baits to try out too.

And expert anglers dudded up in waders stood by to free snags or offer replacement jigs.

AS KIRAN WALGAMOTT WATCHES HIS BOBBER, A VOLUNTEER UNTANGLES ANOTHER KID’S RIG FROM A SNAG. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Not far away, hot dogs and cold drinks were on offer too, and over by the rearing ponds proper where kids and parents signed in, freebie fish tape measures and Fish Washington stickers were available.

Back on the river, flows were below average, providing more room against the backdrop of invasive knotweed, and the weather was pretty much ideal, with the marine layer burning off by around 10 a.m.

Spada says that for the next kids day, slated for the first Saturday in July, the 6th, a trout pond might be added if more steelies don’t show.

The third is scheduled for Aug. 3. Kids need a free fishing license and catch card to participate.

“WE CAUGHT SEVEN FISH,” THE BROTHERS WALGAMOTT WOULD PROCLAIM BACK AT THE TRUCK, A TALLY THAT MIGHT NOT HAVE INCLUDED ANY FISH, BUT FOR SURE TWO HOT DOGS, TWO GATORADES, TWO PLATES AND A LEAF THEY REELED IN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Kids Steelhead Days Coming Up On The Skykomish At Reiter Ponds

Got a young’n who’s interested in steelheading and might like to tangle with a hot hatchery summer-run?

The Reiter Ponds side of the Skykomish River will host the first of three Kids Steelhead Days on June 1.

YOUTH STEELHEADERS WILL HAVE A GREAT CHANCE TO FISH PRIME WATER AT THE FIRST OF THREE KIDS STEELHEAD DAYS COMING UP THIS SEASON AT REITER PONDS ON THE SKYKOMISH RIVER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

All equipment will be provided and the event is open to anglers 14 and under from daybreak to noon.

“This could turn into a pretty cool kids event,” says Mark Spada of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, which along with Sky Valley Anglers is putting them on.

The others will be held on the first Saturdays of July and August, the 6th and 3rd, respectively.

Where in past years Reiter and the Sky opened June 1 for steelhead, it’s now a Saturday-before-Memorial Day opener (May 25 this year).

WDFW will reserve the bank from the ponds outlet downstream 500 feet to the set of rapids between Reiter and Cable Hole for kids during the events.

While it may be tough for Reiter rats to yield that water during some of the season’s best steelheading, there’s still a lot of fishable bank on the other side of the river as well as above and below there, plus it’s for a good cause.

“I had this idea to try and foster a new generation of steelhead fishermen. I never see any kids fishing steelhead any more, and not really any good places to take a kid to catch his first steelhead,” explained Spada. “I’m hoping this program will encourage young anglers to engage in this iconic fishery.”

Though kids 14 and under don’t need a fishing license, they do need a catch card whenever fishing for salmon and steelhead.

Matt Kennedy of Sky Valley Anglers says the events are meant to be as hands-on as possible.

“We want the kids fishing, the kids learning, we want them casting,” he says.

For kiddos who limit out or get bored with fishing, Kennedy says he’s also considering bringing a table for tying up jigs and building spoons and spinners.

WDFW officers will also be on hand.

“This is a great opportunity for the next generation of Washington state’s steelhead fishermen and fisherwomen to learn from experienced anglers,” said Jenni Whitney, the state district fisheries biologist.

A flier Kennedy and Spada put together announcing the kids days asks that folks register for the events (call 206-876-0224; email Elementmasonry@gmail.com), which will help determine how many adult volunteers need to be on hand.

Where Spada’s Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club has been around for 87 years, many with the legendary Bob Heirman close to the helm, for Kennedy, getting involved is about focusing his efforts on his home system, whether that be volunteerism, cleaning up the river’s banks and, in the future, guiding. He says he’d also like to hold kids days during the winter run.

Reiter Ponds (45300 Reiter Road) is located off Highway 2 east of Gold Bar. Take Reiter Road for 2.5 miles and turn right onto a narrow paved road that leads to a long parking area, then walk down past the ponds to the river.

Kids Steelhead Days sponsors include Ted’s Sports in Lynnwood, Gibbs Delta, John’s Jigs, Pure Fishing, Element Outdoors, Dead Lead, Conti’s Custom Rods and Seaguar.

13.27-pounder Wins Everett Coho Derby

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with more details on Michael Rian’s derby-winning catch.

A 13.27-pounder held on to win last weekend’s Everett Coho Derby, the first held in three Septembers due to fishery closures because of low forecasted returns.

And while the weather and salmon could have been more cooperative, organizers were still pleased to once again put on what is billed as the West Coast’s largest fishing derby.

“We got back to offering a coho derby, sold almost 1,700 tickets, weighed over 500 coho, and had a great event!” said organizer Mark Spada of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, which along with the Everett Steelhead & Salmon Club puts it on.

It also marked a return to awarding the Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand-prize raffle boat in September, with Joshua Stokes of Post Falls, Idaho, scoring the fully loaded King Fisher 2025 Falcon package valued at $65,000.

MICHAEL RIAN DETAILS HIS EVERETT COHO DERBY-WINNING CATCH DURING SUNDAY’S AWARD CEREMONIES. (EVERETT COHO DERBY)

MICHAEL RIAN OF North Bend was the lucky angler, catching his $10,000-derby-winning fish on Saturday morning, the bumpier but better of the two-day event.

A longtime fisherman who bought his first boat at 11 with money from lawn-mowing jobs, Rian said the North Sound is his home waters and that he has fished the Everett derby off and on over its 25 years.

For the 2018 edition, he and a fishing partner focused their efforts in the fishy southeastern corner of Marine Area 8-2, trolling from the Shipwreck north to Mukilteo. While their baits were down 50 to 90 feet, all the coho they hooked were at one precise depth, 66 feet.

“Our group of friends who fish each year in Canada has caught a very high number of coho at that exact depth, and have tried to disprove the theory, and we keep losing!” Rian noted.

On the business end was an orange-label herring in a Rhys Davis anchovy helmet in gold, green and chrome and tandem 2/O and 3/O barbless hooks on a 6-foot, 30-pound fluorocarbon leader behind 11-inch flashers in black moon jelly and gold green.

“With rain/heavy cloud cover, we chose dark-colored flashers and gear that would have better visibility given the low light conditions,” Rian said.

With the outgoing tide and strong southwesterly winds and wind waves, the crew decided to fish south to north.

“Everyone knows this about me, but I’m an o-dark thirty fisherman. You CAN’T leave early enough for me! We had gear in the water at 6:15 a.m.; the winning fish was netted at 06:44, and others followed shortly after,” said Rian, which only reinforced his theory that a solid percentage of salmon are caught at first light.

“We knew we had a good fish once it was hooked, but boating it proved challenging given the weather,” he recalled. “We were all business and focused, given the weather and the steady action in a short window of time. I did not realize the full size of the fish until we looked at it in the fish box a bit later. I have to say, both of our guesses were low! It was deceptively heavy.”

The plan for the weekend was to fish Saturday, then hit the Seahawks home opener against the Cowboys, but as Rian watched the online leaderboard that evening he decided to try and upgrade on Sunday. Fishing was a wash, in more ways than one, and Rian and his buddy came in to derby headquarters after hooking only one small silver.

“We waited – me nervously! – at the derby for the Sunday weigh-in cutoff to come, and really didn’t know I won until my name was announced. I’m still getting my head around it for sure, and it’s been an amazing experience,” he said.

When presented with an oversized check, Rian told MC John Martinis that he planned to use some of his winnings to buy new downriggers, music to the ears of Martinis, who runs an Everett tackle shop.

OTHER TOP FIVE finishers included Glen Velasquez of Everett, second,12.93 pounds, $5,000; Trevor Judson of Monroe, third, 12.81 pounds, $2,500; Roy White of Everett, fourth, 12.38 pounds, $1,000; and Brak Kelly of Redmond, fifth, 12.3 pounds, $500.

Of note, the top 16 fish were all bigger than 2015’s winning coho, an 11.31-pounder, while nine were larger than 2014’s, an 11.96.

The average size of the fish was also up, 7.04 pounds versus the anemic 4.54 pounds of three years ago. That season’s silvers were at sea during the height of The Blob and associated poor ocean conditions.

“The size (of this year’s coho) is consistent with major food sources becoming more plentiful,” noted North Sound state fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull. “Northern copepods were more plentiful, for instance.”

There have been good numbers of coho in Puget Sound and headed up the rivers, but the overall derby catch was just 548.

“The river fishing had been great all week, but on the weekend was very tough, for whatever reason,” Spada added. “I think this just proves what a lot of us already knew: Coho are a difficult fish to predict behavior. Weather changes seem to affect them more than any other fish. There were some very good fisherman who struggled, to say the least.”

This year’s derby had 1,694 adult and 201 youth participants.

In the kids division, it was literally neck and neck for first and second place.

Baron Kuehlwein and Alex Hotchkiss both came in with 10.79-pounders, but because Kuehlwein’s went on the scales two minutes before Hotchkiss’s he won $300 while Alex settled for second and $200.

BARON KUEHLWEIN HOLDS AN OVERSIZED CHECK LANDING THE FIRST-PLACE COHO IN THE KIDS DIVISION. (EVERETT COHO DERBY)

Madison Vanzandt came in third with a 9.11, good for $100.

So many more prizes were also given out — largest fish caught on Silver Horde, Dick Nite and Gibbs-Delta gear; best father-son and mother-daughter catches; youngest and oldest anglers to weigh fish; biggest landed by active duty military; fishermen from the furthest away; and more.

A DRONE IMAGE SHOWS THE CROWD GATHERING AT BAYSIDE MARINE AS THE EVERETT COHO DERBY AWARDS CEREMONY GETS UNDER WAY. (EVERETT COHO DERBY)

Proceeds from the derby benefit local fishery enhancement projects, including the rearing and release of salmon, nutrient enrichment and triploid trout stocking, as well as youths.

September Central Sound Coho Derbies Return, And So Do The Fish!

For the first time in three years, a pair of popular central Puget Sound salmon derbies will be held on their home waters.

Both the Edmonds and Everett Coho Derbies return after saltwater closures led to the scrapping or altering of the 2016 and 2017 editions and 2015’s were marked by unusually small fish, likely due to The Blob.

HARALD SCHOT HOISTS 2015’S WINNING EVERETT COHO DERBY FISH. (COURTESY HARALD SCHOT)

Even better, Puget Sound is seeing some pretty dang good silver fishing lately, with boats coming back to King and Snohomish County docks with better than a fish a rod.

First up is the Edmonds Coho Derby this Saturday, Sept. 8. Put on by the Sno-King Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers, it is set for 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. and features a top prize of $5,000.

Tickets are $30 per angler and can be purchased at area tackle stores such as Outdoor Emporium, Ted’s Sports Center, Three Rivers Marine and elsewhere, as well as online.

For more details, go to edmondscohoderby.com.

Then comes the big one, the Sept. 22-23 Everett Coho Derby, and this year marks its 25th anniversary.

Indeed, the derby was born in similar times back in 1993, when low runs limited that year’s fishing to just the Snohomish River and the waters off its mouth. A local sporting goods store manager approached the Everett Steelhead and Salmon and Snohomish Sportsmen’s Clubs to put on a derby, and history was born.

Earlier this summer, organizer Rich Braun said that past years’ sponsors were really stepping up in 2018.

In addition to $10,000, $5,000, $2,500, $1,000 and $500 cash prizes for the top five coho, there’s a team competition, plus prizes for the largest caught on certain products; from two different river systems; by father-daughter, father-son, husband-wife and all-female teams; from shore and kayak; by an active military member. The list literally goes on and on, and includes a truck valued at $45,000 for whomever catches the mystery weight fish.

BILLED AS THE LARGEST SALMON FISHING DERBY ON THE US WEST COAST BASED ON PARTICIPATION, THE EVERETT COHO DERBY FEATURES A FANTASTIC ARRAY OF CASH PRIZES AND AWARDS GIVEN OUT AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE LATE FALL EVENT. (EVERETT COHO DERBY)

Open waters include Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10 and open rivers and lakes in King, Skagit, and Snohomish Counties, but if the last three derbies are any indication, the winning fish will be caught somewhere off the southern end of Whidbey Island.

Those bit a purple haze squid/Ace Hi Fly combo behind a jelly crush flasher (11.31 pounds); purple haze flasher and hoochie combo (11.96 pounds); and a purple haze hoochie and Ace High Fly combo behind a purple flasher.

Sponsors include Silver Horde, Dick Nite, Scotty, Roy Robinson Chevrolet, Boat Insurance Agency and Everett Bayside Marine, among others.

For more info, see everettcohoderby.com.

And in another return to tradition, the Northwest Salmon Derby Series organizers will raffle off their grand prize boat – a fully loaded King Fisher 2025 Falcon package valued at $65,000 – at the Everett Coho Derby. Entering it or the Edmonds event automatically puts your name in the hat for a chance to win it.

For more, see nwsalmonderbyseries.com.

Bob Heirman Memorial Coho Derby Set For Early October

The legacy of a lifelong Snohomish County angler-conservationist will live on in a just-announced salmon fishing derby.

The Bob Heirman Memorial Coho Derby is set for Saturday, Oct. 7, on some of the late fisherman’s favorite rivers and features hefty prizes for one of his most coveted species.

“Bob single-handedly was responsible for more coho enhancement than every other program combined,” says Mark Spada, president of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, of which Heirman was the secretary for six decades. “He was tireless in his coho smolt planting in dozens of Snohomish County creeks.”

Heirman passed away in early May at the age of 84. He not only stocked streams but alpine lakes, and fished for salmon, steelhead and trout everywhere in the county from tidewater to foothills ponds to mountain tarns, compiling his stories and poetry in Snohomish My Beloved County: An Angler’s Anthology.

The derby will be held on the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie Rivers, typically Puget Sound’s most productive waters for coho, and October’s a good month to hit them.

Presented by 3 Rivers Marine & Tackle, it has a grand prize of $2,000, second-place prize of $1,000 and third-place prize of $500

Tickets are $25, and they’re available at 3 Rivers, as well as Ted’s Sports Center, Greg’s Custom Rods, Triangle Bait & Tackle and John’s Sporting Goods.

Cash prize sponsors include 3 Rivers, Triangle, Ted’s, Greg’s and John’s, as well as Bickford Ford and Dick Nite Spoons.

The derby benefits the club, among others.