Tag Archives: strait of juan de fuca

More Details On That Giant East Strait of Juan de Fuca Halibut

No, Tom Hellinger won’t be sharing his secret halibut spot anytime soon, though he does offer a hint.

“I can give you the coordinates,” says the 59-year-old Puget Sound angler who hooked a true barndoor late last month. “All the way on the bottom.”

SCREENSHOTS FROM A VIDEO SHOT BY ANGLER TOM HELLINGER’S DAUGHTER ALEISHA HELLINGER FROM THE ROOF OF THE BOAT SHOW THE FINAL STAGES OF TOM’S BATTLE WITH THE 79-INCH HALIBUT AND CELEBRATION IMMEDIATELY AFTER BRINGING IT ABOARD. (ALEISHA HELLINGER)

But the Whidbey Island resident is sharing more details of his remarkable catch, a 6 1/2-plus-foot-long halibut estimated at between 254 and 265 pounds.

“It’s pretty humbling to catch a fish like that,” says Hellinger, who likened it to harvesting a trophy bull elk. “They’re pretty majestic.”

Though unofficial, the fish is within 25 to 35 pounds of the state record, caught out at Swiftsure Bank in the late 1980s.

“I was really blessed to be part of that and have my kids be there,” Hellinger adds.

They were out somewhere on the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday, May 27.

With his daughter Aleisha Hellinger, son Caleb Hellinger and fishing partner Luke Reid all angling off the back of the 24-foot Hewescraft, Hellinger went up to the bow.

“I told the kids I was going to catch the big one,” he says.

LUKE REID, ALEISHA HELLINGER, TOM HELLINGER AND CALEB HELLINGER POSE WITH TOM’S BIG CATCH AS WELL AS LUKE AND ALEISHA’S 30- AND 40-POUNDERS FROM THE SAME TRIP. (TOM HELLINGER)

With him he took an Okuma SST halibut rod paired with a Tica reel he’d picked up on sale at a boat show and strung with 80-pound T.U.F. Line.

“The cheapest rod and reel on the boat,” Hellinger jokes in a salty three-minute video Aleisha shot.

With a whole black-label-sized herring and large pink squid on a 10/0 Gamakatsu off a spreader bar and nylon leader on the business end, he used 50 ounces of weight to keep the rig on bottom in 100-plus feet of water.

Hellinger says it was only about five minutes after he began fishing that the bait got the interest of something big.

“He set up hard on it,” Hellinger recalls. “He took 50 to 60 yards of line, just ripped it off. I had to thumb it to stop it, then set the hooks again.”

He says the fish felt solid, “like being hooked into a wall.”

TOM HELLINGER POSES WITH HIS BARNDOOR-SIZED HALIBUT, A FISH HE WAS BOTH “GRATEFUL AND THANKFUL” TO CATCH. (TOM HELLINGER)

Calling Caleb over, he handed the rod to him with some instructions.

“I’ve got a nice fish on, so work him nice and slow,” Hellinger counseled. “We’ll see what comes up.”

He said it took about 40 minutes for Caleb to bring the halibut up to the surface.

“It came up like the mothership — flat, flat as could be. Everybody had that ‘oh, my gosh’ moment. This is a barndoor.”

The initial attempt at getting a harpoon into the fish failed.

“The fish came out of the water immediately. I’ve never seen one do that. It did a 180 and ran down the side of the boat and snapped off the harpoon line,” Hellinger says.

He coached Caleb to let it run, but soon his son said he couldn’t fight it any longer and for his father to take the rod back.

“My pleasure,” Hellinger responded.

THE CREW AND THE HALIBUT. (TOM HELLINGER)

This has been a pretty good halibut season for the longtime employee of Freeland’s Nichols Brothers shipyard, with five between he, Aleisha and Reid — “five times more than usual.”

“I consider it fortunate to get one a season,” Hellinger says.

He says there have been some strings of years with none, and that with Washington’s tightly controlled fishery — with its preplanned and staggered retention days that don’t always align with good weather — he’d even been considering whether it was worthwhile any longer to chase them.

But now, with a big one on, Hellinger found a good spot along the gunnel and fought the seabeast for another 40 minutes, the fish’s movements telegraphing up the line and down the rod into his arms.

“It’s a different feel, like a magic carpet ride. When you hook up, you can feel that undulating swimming motion” that differentiates the flat-sided fish from others like large dogfish, he says.

Where the halibut had come up belly down the first time, now it rose head up as its fight waned.

They took another shot at it with the harpoon, and this time the halibut came at the boat.

“It was something else, like a whitewater event, waves coming over the gunnel,” he says.

As Reid and Caleb stood by with gaffs, Aleisha urged caution and encouragement from the boat’s roof as she took a video of the scene.

Both men then got good purchases with their meathooks, and with a three-count, they slid the halibut over the rails into the stern, where it thrashed blood over the white deck.

The celebrations began immediately with high fives, hugs, whoops of joy — and more than a little disbelief about what this was that they’d just fought out of the depths twice.

Indeed, there still be monsters here, and the Hellinger halibut is just the latest bit of evidence that also includes a series of Straits 200-pounders caught in 2010, the 11-foot Hanford Reach sturgeon, the Tripod Buck, the Scablands Buck, the Fife Buck

As they inspected the fish, Hellinger says they saw that his hook had bent to within 15 degrees of being straightened.

“If we hadn’t got him when we did …,” he says, recalling other hooks over the years that have cracked.

Hellinger admits to taking some flak on a Facebook page that he should have let the fish go. An article last year in the Peninsula Daily News by outdoor reporter Michael Carmen shows that that’s common whenever big halibut are landed here.

But this one also led a good, long life and was able to contribute to the gene pool multiple times over the decades.

Even as we’ll never know exactly how heavy Hellinger’s halibut was because of the impossibility of finding a certified scale during the back half of Memorial Day Weekend — a search detailed in the Whidbey News-Times, which broke the story of the catch — it is safe to say that based on standard length measurements for halibut, his single 78 3/4-inch-long fish accounted for more than 1% of the entire Puget Sound poundage landed over the May 11, 13, 25 and 27 openers, according to WDFW stats. It’s also more than 10 times as heavy as this season’s average flattie here.

Hellinger says its head weighed 42 pounds alone. The fish yielded 140 pounds of fillets, he told Q13, as well as 1 1/2 pounds of coveted halibut cheek meat.

“I was just really thankful and grateful,” Hellinger says. “You don’t really realize how rare that is. Big fish are rare. To be an hour from my home and catch something like that is special.”

Salmon Fishing Closures Announced In BC Waters Across From Washington

Canadian salmon managers have announced a series of closures and reduced Chinook limits in British Columbia saltwaters across from Washington and up the coast, bids to help out orca whales and conserve fish stocks.

A large swath of the northern half of the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Renfrew — opposite Neah Bay — to just west of Sooke — across from the Joyce area west of Port Angeles — will be closed to all salmon and finfish angling from June 1 to September 30.

(DFO)

Waters northwest of Orcas Island in the Gulf Islands and off the mouth of the Fraser River will also see Chinook closures.

(DFO)

“These measures include closures that will help increase the availability of this critical food source for southern resident killer whales,” the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement. “The closures will take place in three key foraging (feeding) areas.”

While the goal is to reduce fishing boat traffic, it wasn’t clear what might be being done about all the other vessels using the same waters.

DFO also announced that daily limits are being chopped in half on the north coast.

Overall, Canada’s two-pronged move aims to reduce commercial and recreational catches by 25 to 35 percent to boost numbers of kings returning to southern BC’s Fraser River and northern BC’s Skeena, Nass and other streams.

On the former front, it’s part of an international effort to help out struggling orcas.

(DFO)

It follows Washington’s closure of Chinook retention in the San Juan Islands in September, a good month to fish for Fraser-bound fish that are also preyed on by orcas.

WDFW also implemented new voluntary go-go zones along the west side of San Juan Island, a key feeding area for the giant marine mammals, but which were panned by a local angler as a feel-good move that doesn’t address root causes of the orcas’ plight — too few Chinook anymore.

DFO’s moves were also met with skepticism from the Sport Fishing Institute of BC.

“It is clear to see that decisions have been made to appear as though they will make a significant difference to the recovery of SRKW although there is little or no evidence of this,” the organization said in a statement. “While the recreational community has indicated a willingness to participate in measures that can lead to recovery of Chinook (and SRKW), the measures announced today are much more restrictive than the department itself explained was necessary to satisfy conservation objectives.”

SFI said that habitat, predator and “strategic enhancement” work for Fraser Chinook has “gone no where (sic)” and asked whether DFO really thought it could restore runs through the “now tiny exploitation rate associated with recreational fishing? Chinook and all those that depend on them deserve solutions and investment.”

Reacting to the developments, Nootka Marine, located further up the west coast of Vancouver Island from the closure zone, tweeted out a link to regulations for Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet.

DFO says the Straits, Gulf and Fraser mouth closures will be monitored “to assess the effectiveness.”

A WDFW official says besides the state’s closing of September Chinook retention and the voluntary stay-away areas, no more fishing measures to benefit orcas are anticipated to be implemented this year.

 

Yuasa Reviews Washington 2018 Salmon Seasons, Looks Ahead To Halibut, Shrimping

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 months are flying by faster than a coho hitting your bait in the prop wash.

It felt like “Yesterday” – an ode to a classic Beatles song – when we gathered in Lacey on Feb. 27 to see what the salmon forecasts had in store for us. Now a season package is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – did you say Stevie Wonder? – for anglers to digest and begin making plans on where to wet a line.

The process known as “North of Falcon” (NOF) culminated April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon, and I was on-hand as a sport-fishing observer.

JUSTIN WONG HOLDS UP A NICE KING SALMON HE CAUGHT LAST SUMMER IN THE OCEAN OFF WESTPORT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

When proposed seasons came to light in mid-March it was like a feisty trophy king tugging on end of a line, which after a long battle unhooked itself at the boat causing the lead weight to smack you right in the eye.

While grief and a swollen black eye set in, you might have been down in the dumps. But, my mantra has been to never whine about what you can’t do or lost (the trophy king in paragraph above), and more on making the most of the present moment.

Life throws you lemons so make sweet lemonade because if you don’t your head will go into a swift-moving tidal tail-spin and turn your fishing line into a messy tangled web of hurt.

The initial good news is environmental conditions – El Nino, warm water temperatures, a “Blob” and droughts – that have plagued us with restrictions going back to 2015-16 appear to be in the rear-view mirror.

Secondly, was the warmth (albeit mixed feelings by some NOF attendees) of unity and transparency between user groups despite a usual difference in opinions over how the whole pie of sport, tribal and non-tribal fisheries was divvied up.

These are signals of “baby steps” in a complicated process that long has been filled with arguments, bitterness, cultural indifference, protests and a fight over that “last salmon” dating back to Boldt Decision.

The true litmus test of how long this “hand-holding” philosophy will last between all parties is essential as we move forward to ensure our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon runs will be around for generations to come. Even more so as we carry the torch of a long-term Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan to the federal fishery agency’s table later this year, which will dictate how we fish from 2019 to 2029 and beyond.

“Now that we’ve finished this process we need to work on being responsible with conservation, habitat issues and simply change our philosophy to create a long-term management plan,” Ron Warren, the WDFW salmon policy coordinator said at conclusion of Portland meetings.

While being mindful of that briny future, let’s go over highlights of our fisheries at hand.

A positive are extended seasons – something that hasn’t happened for several years – for hatchery coho in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) from July through September, and non-select coho in central Puget Sound (Area 10) from June through mid-November. The Puget Sound coho forecast is 557,149.

Another shining star is a South Sound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017.

The northern Puget Sound summer hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,563 – a similar figure to 2017 – and is expected to last one-month when it opens in July.

The elevated forecast is a blessing when south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens June 1 especially in popular Tacoma-Vashon Island area. A central Puget Sound hatchery chinook fishery starts July 16 with a cap of 4,743. Area 10 has a coho directed fishery in June at popular places such as Jefferson Head-Edmonds area.

A hatchery king season opens at Sekiu on July 1, and Port Angeles on July 3. Both switch to hatchery coho in mid-August through September.

A summer king fishery in San Juan Islands (Area 7) opens July to August, but September is chinook non-retention.

Late-summer and early-fall coho fisheries will occur in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 11, 12 and 13.

On coast, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay open daily starting June 23, and Westport opens Sundays to Thursdays beginning July 1. Hatchery coho quotas are same as 2017 although chinook quotas are down a decent amount. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1.

On freshwater scene, a sockeye forecast of 35,002 to Baker River is strong enough to allow fisheries in Baker Lake from July 7-Sept. 7, and a section of Skagit River from June 16-July 15.

The Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open Sept. 16 for coho. Sections of Skykomish, Skagit and Cascade open for hatchery chinook beginning June 1. For details on seasons, visit WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Bounty of May fishing options

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp during a season that begins May 5.

“I am more positive this year on our spot shrimp projections than the last couple of years,” said Mark O’Toole, a WDFW biologist who is retiring May 18 after an illustrious 36 years with the department, and many thanks for your valued input on shrimp and other fish policies!

BIG PRAWN-SIZE SPOT SHRIMP COME INTO PLAY IN THE MONTHS AHEAD AROUND THE PUGET SOUND REGION. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In general, last year was another good season with relatively high abundance,” he said. “The catch per boat ended up being higher for all areas.”

Look for good shrimping in Strait; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; central, south-central and northern Puget Sound; and Hood Canal. Test fishing conducted this spring showed marginal abundance in southern Puget Sound.

Hit pause button on spring chores since trout fishing in statewide lowland lakes is now underway.

Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist says 460,000 trout went into Puget Sound region lakes on top of 500-plus statewide lakes planted with 16,840,269 trout – 2,171,307 of them are the standardized size averaging about 11 inches compared to 8-inches in past seasons.

If you prefer a large-sized halibut then head out on May 11. The Washington catch quota is 225,366 pounds down from 237,762 in 2017, and a bump up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014. Dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait/Puget Sound are May 11, 13, 25 and 27. Depending on catches other dates are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Ilwaco opens May 3 with fishing allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Once you get your halibut fix add some black rockfish and lingcod to the cooler. Ilwaco, Westport, Neah Bay and La Push are open for both, and some Puget Sound areas are open for lingcod.

NW Salmon Derby Series hits pause button

While we take a break from a spectacular winter derby series be sure to keep sight of the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15.

2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES GRAND PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

More great news is Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8 and Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23 – the largest derby on West Coast – are likely back on “must do” list. In mean time, check out derby’s grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp motor and 9.9hp trolling motor at Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show on May 17-20 at Cap Sante Marina. The $65,000 boat also comes on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m sprinting out the door with rod in hand so see you on the water!

Details On Washington’s 2018 Salmon Fisheries

THE FOLLOWING IS THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE BREAKDOWN OF 2018 SALMON FISHERIES

Puget Sound
Below is key information for Puget Sound salmon fisheries this year. More details will be available in the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

CENTRAL PUGET SOUND SUMMER CHINOOK ANGLERS CAN LOOK FORWARD TO A QUOTA OF OVER 10,000 HATCHERY KINGS LIKE THIS ONE SHERRYL CHRISTIE CAUGHT AT BUSH POINT IN 2016. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton): Marine Area 9 will be open July through September with a chinook quota of 5,563 fish, which is similar to last year’s quota. Marine Area 10 is scheduled to be open June through mid-November for coho fishing with hatchery chinook retention allowed mid-July through August. The chinook quota for Marine Area 10 is 4,743 fish, up significantly from 2017.

Baker Lake sockeye: The forecast for sockeye returning to Baker Lake is strong enough to allow for a lake fishery, open July 7 through early September, and a fishery on the Skagit River.

North Sound freshwater: Anglers will have the opportunity to retain wild coho in the Nooksack River and coho in the Skagit and Cascade rivers, where gamefish fisheries have been restored this year.

Skokomish River: A portion of the Skokomish River remains closed to non-tribal fishing this year, due to an ongoing dispute over whether the river is part of the Skokomish Reservation. WDFW will continue to work with the Skokomish Tribe to resolve the matter. The closed area includes the section of river from the Tacoma Public Utilities power lines (near the mouth of the river) upstream to the Bonneville Power Administration power lines (upstream and west of Highway 101).

Marine areas 8-1 and 8-2: Both areas will be open to fishing for coho in August and September. The areas will re-open to fishing for hatchery chinook in December.

Marine Area 7: Anglers can fish for chinook and coho in Marine Area 7 beginning July 1. The area closes after Labor Day to chinook retention but remains open for coho fishing through September. The area re-opens for salmon fishing in January.

Marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait): Both areas open in early July (July 1 in Marine Area 5, July 3 in Marine Area 6) for hatchery chinook and hatchery coho. Anglers can retain hatchery chinook through mid-August and hatchery coho through September. Marine Area 6 reopens Feb. 1 while Marine Area 5 reopens Feb. 16 for hatchery salmon.

A WDFW CHART OUTLINES MARINE AREA FISHERY TIMING FOR CHINOOK AND COHO. (WDFW)

South Sound freshwater: Anglers will have the opportunity to fish for coho in Minter Creek beginning Oct. 16. Strong hatchery chinook returns are expected to several south Sound rivers this year.

Southern Resident Killer Whales: The governor and NOAA Fisheries have instructed WDFW to take steps to help recover killer whales. In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are also limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in these areas critical to the declining whales.

Washington’s Ocean Waters (Marine areas 1-4)
More details on these fisheries will be available in the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Catch quotas

The Pacific Fishery Management Council approved a recreational chinook catch quota of 27,500 fish, which is 17,500 fewer fish than 2017’s quota of 45,000. The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, also adopted a quota of 42,000 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery – the same as last year’s coho quota.

Fishing seasons

Recreational ocean salmon fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will be open daily beginning June 23 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push), and 4 (Neah Bay). Marine Area 2 (Westport) will be open Sundays through Thursdays beginning July 1.  All areas will close Sept. 3 or when the catch quota is met.

In marine areas 1, 2, and 4, anglers can retain two salmon, only one of which can be a chinook. Anglers fishing in Marine Area 3 will have a two-salmon daily limit. In all marine areas, anglers must release wild coho.

Coastal fisheries including Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay
Below is key information for coastal salmon fisheries this year. More details will be available in the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Grays Harbor Area

The Area 2-2 Humptulips North Bay chinook fishery begins in August and runs through Sept.15.

The Area 2-2 East Bay coho fishery begins two weeks later than 2017 and is scheduled Oct. 1-Nov. 30.

The Chehalis River spring chinook fishery is scheduled May 1-June 30 while the jack fishery in the lower river runs Aug. 1-Sept. 15.

The Humptulips River is scheduled to be open for salmon fishing Sept. 1-Nov. 30, about two months fewer than last year. Anglers can keep one wild chinook during the month of September but must release wild chinook the remainder of the fishery.

Willapa Bay Area

The season in Willapa Bay (Area 2-1) is similar to last year and is scheduled Aug. 1-Jan. 31. Anglers can keep three adult salmon, one of which may be a coho.
The freshwater rivers in the Willapa Bay area have similar seasons to 2017. Anglers may retain one wild coho.

Columbia River
Below is key information on the major Columbia River salmon fisheries this year. More details will be in the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in June.

Summer fishery

The summer season on the mainstem Columbia River from the Astoria-Megler Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open from June 22 through July 4 for hatchery (adipose fin-clipped) summer chinook. Bonneville Dam to Hwy. 395 near Pasco is open from June 16 through July 31. The daily limit will be two adult hatchery salmonids. All sockeye must be released.

Fall fisheries

During fall fisheries, anglers fishing from the same boat may continue fishing for salmon until all anglers have reached their daily limits in the following areas of the mainstem Columbia River:

  • Buoy 10 salmon fishery will be open from Aug. 1 through Aug. 24 for chinook retention.  The daily limit is one salmonid (chinook, hatchery coho or hatchery steelhead). From Aug. 25 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two salmonids, but chinook must be released and no more than one hatchery steelhead may be kept.
  • Rocky Point/Tongue Point line upstream to the Lewis River will be open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 2 for chinook retention. The daily limit is one adult salmonid. From Sept. 3 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two adult salmonids, but chinook must be released and no more than one hatchery steelhead may be kept.
  • Lewis River upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open Aug. 1 through Sept. 14 for chinook retention. The daily limit is one adult salmonid.  During Sept. 15 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two adult salmonids, but chinook must be released and no more than one hatchery steelhead may be kept.
  • Bonneville Dam upstream to the Hwy. 395 Bridge at Pasco will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily limit of two adult salmonids with no more than one chinook and no more than one hatchery steelhead.

Sockeye, chum and jacks

Columbia River anglers are reminded that retention of sockeye and chum salmon is prohibited. Catch limits for jack salmon – salmon that return at a younger age – follow typical permanent regulations and will be listed in the 2018-19 pamphlet.

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AND THE NORTHWEST INDIAN FISHERIES COMMISSION

With low returns of chinook and coho salmon expected back to numerous rivers in Washington, state and tribal co-managers Tuesday agreed on a fishing season that meets conservation goals for wild fish while providing fishing opportunities on healthy salmon runs.

The 2018-19 salmon fisheries, developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty tribal co-managers, were finalized during the Pacific Fishery Management Council’s meeting in Portland, Ore.

Information on recreational salmon fisheries in Washington’s ocean waters and the Columbia River is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/. The webpage also includes information on some notable Puget Sound sport fisheries, as well as an overview of chinook and coho fishing opportunities in the Sound’s marine areas.

A variety of unfavorable environmental conditions, including severe flooding in rivers and warm ocean water, have reduced the number of salmon returning to Washington’s rivers in recent years, said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program.

In addition, the loss of quality rearing and spawning habitat continues to take a toll on salmon populations throughout the region, where some stocks are listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, he said.

“It’s critical that we ensure fisheries are consistent with ongoing efforts to protect and rebuild wild salmon stocks,” Warren said. “Unfortunately, the loss of salmon habitat continues to outpace these recovery efforts. We need to reverse this trend. If we don’t, salmon runs will continue to decline and it will be increasingly difficult to develop meaningful fisheries.”

WDFW’S RON WARREN AND NWIFC’S LORRAINE LOOMIS SPEAK DURING A RARE BUT WELL-ATTENDED STATE-TRIBAL PLENARY SESSION LAST WEEK ON WESTERN WASHINGTON SALMON. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A bright spot in this year’s salmon season planning process was a renewed commitment by Indian and non-Indian fishermen to work together for the future of salmon and salmon fishing, said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

“No fisherman wants to catch the last salmon. We know that the ongoing loss of habitat, a population explosion of hungry seals and sea lions and the needs of endangered southern resident killer whales are the real challenges facing us today. We must work together if we are going to restore salmon to sustainable levels,” she said.

Low returns of some salmon stocks prompted state and tribal fishery managers to limit opportunities in many areas to protect those fish.

For example, recreational anglers will have less opportunity to fish for chinook salmon in both the Columbia River and Washington’s ocean waters compared to recent years. Tribal fisheries also will be restricted in certain areas to protect weak stocks.

In meeting conservation objectives for wild salmon, the co-managers are limiting fisheries in areas where southern resident killer whales are known to feed. The adjustments will aid in minimizing boat presence and noise, and decrease competition for chinook and other salmon in areas critical to the declining whales.

Details on all recreational salmon fisheries will be provided in the 2018-19 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, which will be available in late June.

For information on tribal fisheries, contact the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (http://nwifc.org/).

Yuasa: Salmon Fisheries, Fishery Planning Mark April Doin’s

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

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

April 2018

This is a very busy time of the year with plenty of salmon fishing options, and many are also making summer plans as 2018-19 seasons are being finalized this month.

Before we chomp away at what the crystal ball has in store for us, let’s focus on spring-fling fishing plans that involve lots of chinook fishing fun. The San Juan Islands and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca have been the main focal point for hatchery chinook especially at places like Coyote, Partridge, Hein, Eastern, Middle and McArthur banks.

KYLE MADISON SHOWS OFF A DERBY-WINNING BLACKMOUTH CAUGHT IN MARCH. THE 16.85-POUNDER TIED FOR FIRST AT THE OLYMPIC PENINSULA SALMON DERBY AND SCORED THE PORT ANGELES ANGLER $2,000. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

In the San Juan Islands fish are biting at Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Speiden Island; Spring Pass; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Doughty Point; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.

The San Juan Islands in Area 7 are open through April 30; and depending on which side of the outer banks you’re fishing on the closing date is either April 15 in Area 6 or April 30 in Area 7.

Even more exciting is the fact that Strait of Juan de Fuca has awakened from its winter slumber.

I love the throwback feeling you get when you drive into the town of Sekiu, and this is by far one of my favorite places to target in spring with options to fish on both sides of a tidal exchange. The doors on this fishery remains open through April 30.

On a low tide, look for baitfish schools and hungry chinook nipping on their heels at the Caves just outside the Olson’s Resort jetty, and then point your boat west to Eagle Point and Hoko Point.

On the flood tide, head east to Slip Point buoy – then mooch or troll – your way down toward Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine and even further to Pillar Point.

Those who don’t want to travel that far should wet a line in northern Puget Sound, which is open through April 15. Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Possession Bar, Double Bluff off south Whidbey Island, Point No Point and Pilot Point have been the go to places.

Another locale quietly producing decent catches is south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) in Tacoma. Hood Canal (Area 12) is open through April 30, and southern Puget Sound is open year-round.

Other great spring-time options are Columbia River spring chinook, bottom-fishing for lingcod and black rockfish or razor clam digging off the coast, and statewide trout and kokanee fishing.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve hit the pause button on derby series with March ending on a high note!

The Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 9-11 saw one of the largest number of tickets sold in some years – 857 compared to 739 last year, plus 232 fish weighed-in.

A tie for top fish was Micah Hanley of Mount Vernon and Kyle Madison of Port Angeles with a 16.85-pound hatchery chinook worth $10,000 and $2,000 respectively. Top prize in a tie-breaker goes to whomever caught the fish first. The total fish weight was 1,891 pounds and fish averaged 8.15 pounds.

The Everett Blackmouth Salmon Derby on March 17-18 saw 125 boats with 383 participants hitting the water and 130 weighed-in. First place went to Sam Shephard of Tulalip with a 11.82-pound fish, which earned a prize of $4,000.

Next up is Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 hosted by the Bellingham Chapter of PSA.

Be sure to check out grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat at the PSA Monroe Sportsman Show on April 20-22 (http://monroesportsmanshow.com/). It is powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Drawing for the boat will take place at conclusion of derby series. For details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

2018 salmon season setting process update

Final salmon seasons will be adopted at Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting on April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon.

After six weeks of this setting process, negotiations between the state and tribes seem to paint a brighter picture on what anglers can expect in 2018-19 although chinook and coho returns are still in recovery phase after several years of poor ocean and weather conditions.

As of press time for this publication, there was some very early concepts of possibilities, and if all the stars align we could see Puget Sound coho fishing coming back into the mix during late-summer and early-fall from Sekiu clear into Puget Sound. Summer chinook fishing options will closely resemble last year’s package with a few expansions.

Ocean fisheries also came to light, and it could be leaner for chinook and coho although sometimes abundance doesn’t relate to ocean availability so there’s a lot of guessing in terms of what will pan out.

Tentative opening dates at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay will either be June 23, June 24, June 30 or July 1. A general closure date is Sept. 3 or however long it takes for quotas to get eaten up at each port. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery will open Aug. 1.

One hot topic is the killer whale situation as WDFW and federal agencies deal with human interaction on local waterways. WDFW is looking for ways to avoid this, and has proposed various ideas like a sport-fishing closure along the west side of San Juan Island in the summer that has drawn some resistance by those attending the North of Falcon meetings.

Many find the whole process befuddling, and while it’s easy to get discouraged I take the approach to be mobile with my tow vehicle and boat; actively take part in the season-setting process; and be an advocate for salmon recovery.

You can groan about what isn’t happening in your neck of the woods or you can high tail it to where the fishing is good albeit the coast, Puget Sound, Strait or connecting inner-waterways.

Meeting conservation objectives and getting the right folks at WDFW to spearhead the policy front is also of upmost importance as well as maximizing selective salmon fisheries to provide opportunity while protecting poor wild chinook and coho runs.

I’ll get off my soap box as it’s time to go fishing. 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.

‘Let The Party Begin!’ Floor On Start Of Washington July Chinook Season

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

As a lifelong saltwater salmon angler in the Pacific Northwest, I wait for July 1st seemingly all year long. In a perfect world, it would be July 1st every day as the summer salmon season opens from the ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca and throughout the San Juan Islands for Chinook salmon. Let the party begin!

My first imprinting of king salmon fishing in Washington began 55 years ago when my dad purchased our first salmon fishing boat. It was a 1960 16-foot Uniflite, made in Bellingham and powered with a 35-horse Evinrude. This boat, with its soft white hull and turquoise top, had fins in the back, dude, like a ’57 low-rider Cadillac. It was so ugly, passengers in our boat were issued Alfred E. Neuman masks. Ugly! Got a visual? The hull was as flat as a piece of plywood with a 4-inch keel. All my teeth fell out on our first fishing trip.

MY DAD’S FIRST SALMON FISHING BOAT, A 16-FOOT UNIFLITE. JUST LIKE TODAY’S SALTWATER FISHING BOATS – BUT DIFFERENT! (TONY FLOOR)

My Dad bought the one-year-old boat from a guy who worked at Hanford around one of several nuclear reactors. I was convinced he was radioactive and the boat, I believed, if tested, would set off a geiger counter like a pin ball machine on 220 volts!

During those early salmon fishing years, my dad towed the boat to Sekiu in early July for fishing vacations every year while growing up. It was a blast even though we caught each other more often than an occasional king salmon. I emphasize the word few.

Today, some 50-plus years later, I am back fishing the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Port Angeles, trolling along Ediz Hook with a longtime fishing buddy from Sequim, Mike Schmidt.

MIKE SCHMIDT, SEQUIM, HOISTS HIS LIMIT OF 20-POUND KING SALMON CAUGHT OFF EDIZ HOOK IN PORT ANGELES EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO ON THE JULY 1, 2016 OPENER. (TONY FLOOR)

Exactly one year ago from today, we were working our flashers and Coho Killer spoons while trolling west on a morning outgoing tide in 110 feet of water from the Coast Guard station west to the “Winter Hole.” Thinking about it gives me goosebumps as that day three of us brought 15 kings to the boat, taking the six hatchery fish we wanted. The following day, on July 2nd, Mike and I hooked 10 kings and kept the four “keepers” we could, or wanted. It was just like those early days at Sekiu – but different.

July is game day. It’s a time in a Pacific Northwest angler’s playbook where it all goes into motion. Reservations are locked, the boat and equipment is in perfect fishing condition and the trailer is ready to lay down some miles. It’s time to fish.

One of the challenges about July king salmon fishing is where to go. Westport, La Push, Neah Bay, Sekiu, Port Angeles and the San Juans are all open.

Similar to picking a selection from the dinner menu at a favorite restaurant, go with what works for you during the first two weeks of the month. My choices in early July are Port Angeles and Freshwater Bay. As we move forward in time toward the second week of July, I’m headed for Neah Bay, as king salmon migrating down the Washington coast and the Columbia River transition through the Neah Bay region.

Since 1977, I have primarily focused on fishing the kelp beds east and south of Cape Flattery, looking for quality king salmon dining on schools of sandlance abundant around the kelp. Mercy! Another takedown! Somebody please stop time!

In mid-July, as in recent years, salmon anglers will witness the kickoff to the central and northern Puget Sound Chinook fisheries (marked hatchery Chinook only). From the north end of Vashon Island north to Pt. Wilson and Port Townsend, I anticipate very good Chinook fishing beginning July 16 as the Chinook salmon guidelines (quotas) have been nearly doubled since last year. The traditional hot spots of Possession Bar, Kingston and especially Mid-Channel Bank at Port Townsend should be on fire. Find the bait and you’ll find the kings. If you’re not fishing any of these areas on July 16 and you can see Puget Sound, please refrain from dialing 911 as you witness water on fire. Baby, I love it when that happens.

This fishery is especially important to stay-cationers who live in the central and northern Puget Sound region. Expect an epidemic from salmon anglers who will be calling in sick, reporting something in their eyes and can’t see going into work!

For the northern Washington fisheries, which include anglers from Mt. Vernon, Anacortes and Bellingham who fish the San Juan Islands, the green flag also drops on July 1. As veteran anglers will tell you, the Islands can be inconsistent from day to day, making it challenging to find where Chinook salmon are holding. Recognized fishing spots like Obstruction Pass, the buoy on the south end of Cypress Island, Boulder Reef and Eagle Bluff in the eastern San Juans are notorious for kicking out summer king salmon.

For this old cat, Port Angeles, Tahsis, B.C. and Neah Bay are on my menu for the first two weeks of July, followed by Mid-Channel Bank off and on during the last two weeks of the month. By the end of the month, I’ll be doing that zombie walk again, hopefully with Chinook salmon on my breath. Somebody pinch me.

See you on the water!

Tony

WDFW Sets 2017 Puget Sound Spot Shrimp Season

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Recreational spot shrimp fishing will open May 6 in Puget Sound under seasons announced today by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

This year’s Puget Sound shrimp fishing seasons are generally similar to those in 2016 although there will be shorter seasons in some areas of south Puget Sound due to very large catches last season, said Mark O’Toole, a shellfish biologist for WDFW.

(COURTESY KEVIN KLEIN)

Puget Sound recreational shrimp season opening days are:

Hood Canal Shrimp District (Marine Area 12): Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 6, 10, 17 and 20.

Discovery Bay Shrimp District (Marine Area 6): Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 6, 10, 17 and 20.

Marine Areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 6 (excluding Discovery Bay Shrimp District): Open daily beginning May 6. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

Marine Areas 7 East and 7 South: Open daily May 6-21.

Marine Area 7 West: Open daily beginning May 6. The recreational spot shrimp season closes when the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.

Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, and 9: Open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on May 6 and May 17.

Marine Areas 10 and 11: Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 6.

Marine Area 13: Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 6 and 20.

In areas 4, 5, 6, and 7 (East, South and West) start times will be one hour before sunrise.

Additional dates and times will be announced if sufficient quota remains after the initial fishing days scheduled above. For the latest information on sport shrimp seasons, or for a description of marine areas, visit WDFW’s Recreational Shrimp Fishing website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/.

Also known as prawns, spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound and may grow up to nine inches in length. In all areas of Puget Sound, fishers are limited to 80 spot shrimp per day during the month of May. A valid 2017-18 fishing license is required to participate in the fishery.