Tag Archives: tony floor

Carpenter Reappointed To WA Fish Commission, Retired PFMC Chief To Be Added

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will soon be back to full strength with the pending addition of a new member and reappointment of another to fill a recent departure.

Donald McIsaac, a retired longtime director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, has been appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the citizen panel that sets policy for and oversees the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

And Larry Carpenter, the vice chair, has been reappointed to Miranda Wecker’s seat.

“Their effective dates will be confirmed once we have received the required returned paperwork,” says Tara Lee, a spokeswoman in the Governor’s Office.

Tony Floor of the Northwest Marine Trade Association says he’s known McIsaac for over three decades, and worked with him promoting Willapa Bay in the 1980s. He termed McIsaac “an outstanding selection” and a “fair, open-minded guy.”

“He’ll instantly become a very important, experienced and knowledgeable biological voice” on the commission, Floor said.

IN A SCREEN GRAB FROM C-SPAN 3, DONALD McISAAC SPEAKS BEFORE A CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE IN JANUARY 2014. (C-SPAN)

PFMC, or the Pacific Council, manages fisheries off the West Coast, including salmon, and includes representatives from all three states.

When McIsaac retired after 15 years as its director, he was called “a very positive leader” by an Oregon board member, according to a 2015 article by the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

“Through his tenure, he has brought together staff that is very strong and supports the Council well. He’s been tireless in his dedication to the Council and Council process and making sure we have the resources to do good Council policy,” Dorothy Lowman told the Seattle-based organization.

Prior to that, McIsaac worked for the Washington Department of Fisheries and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as a field biologist.

These days he runs DMA Consulting, which advises clients on fishery conservation and management issues.

As for Carpenter’s reappointment, Frank Urabeck, a longtime sportfishing advocate, said he was among those who was pleased with it.

“That act alone gives the recreational fishing community some hope there is still a chance we can correct so much of what has gone wrong in recent years that resulted in significant erosion of sport fishing opportunity,” he said this morning.

Chief among Urabeck’s beefs is the loss of the Skokomish River salmon fishery, fueled by the state Chinook and coho hatchery.

LARRY CARPENTER. (WDFW)

Urabeck termed Carpenter, the former owner of Master Marine in Mount Vernon, as “the most accessible member of the commission” — Carpenter has been a frequent guest on 710 ESPN Seattle’s The Outdoor Line.

He said Carpenter is able to “work with all the players” and is the “most respected, most knowledgeable about fish management issues, and has the experience and capability to provide the leadership desperately needed right now.”

Technically, McIsaac is taking over Carpenter’s Western Washington position, and Carpenter is taking over Wecker’s Western Washington position.

Wecker announced her resignation late last month, and last weekend’s meeting was her last on the commission.

She had been on the board for 12 years, including a long stint as its chair, and her time was marked by thoughtful balancing of harvest and conservation.

“Nothing but gold stars for her,” praised Floor.

Her term was set to run through 2018; Carpenter will serve it out, and then, importantly, would need to be reappointed to remain on the commission.

Tony Floor On Buoy 10 Salmon, Retirement, End Of Column

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

One of the beauties of writing this monthly column is being able to pick and choose the content and let ‘er rip.

In the 13 years I’ve locked myself into my office for this monthly assignment here at Chateau Floor, staring at the computer screen, I allow my thoughts to produce words which ultimately, I hope, resonate with readers who might share the passion I breathe about the natural world.

TAHSIS B.C. IS KNOWN FOR WONDERFUL KING SALMON FISHING IN JULY AND AUGUST AS LONGTIME FISHING BUDDY AND COLLEAGUE PAT PATTILLO JOINED ME TO WELCOME THIS 28-POUND SLAB ABOARD. (TONY FLOOR)

Over the span of forty years working the fishing scene, which requires inhaling and exhaling saltwater fishing here in the Pacific Northwest, along with other fantastic places on this planet, it has been my professional and personal life. Do you think it’s a result of the way I’m living or what I’m stepping in? Bet heavy on the latter.

If I’m sounding a little melancholy in this writing, it’s because I am. Next month’s column will be a wrap on this endeavor as I prepare to enter the next chapter of my life – retirement.

It’s a little challenging for this cat to think about that change, starting with facing the reality of having to pay for my fishing addiction! Was that thud the sound of you dropping to your knees, babbling the words of mercy for poor Tony? I hope not. Or, might it have been the sound of jumping up and down, shouting elations that finally, The Truth is silenced? Regardless, beginning Oct. 1 you won’t find my columns in public restrooms anymore! Makes me think of Aretha Franklin belting out her famous song R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Tahsis B.C. is known for wonderful king salmon fishing in July and August as longtime fishing buddy and colleague Pat Pattillo joined me to welcome this 28-pound slab aboard.

Summers are too short in the Northwest. Many of us who have this addiction for chasing migrating Washington adult salmon live for every opportunity to get on the water, from Puget Sound to the mouth of the Columbia River, during what I call “show time”.

I’m burning up a cell phone about every week during the summer, making and receiving phone calls, learning about what’s hot and what’s not. Ever seen a cell phone melted in a pool of black and silver plastic? Now that’s a “hot bite” report that spins my wheels.

From July into August, Chinook salmon seem to be everywhere and clearly, some level of luck is involved in choosing the right heading to find the fish. Over time, I tend to stick with what works based on success or lack of success. That’s exactly why I pounded Ediz Hook in early July, followed by my annual trip to Tahsis, B.C. in the second week of the month, attempting to flush out big gorgeous king salmon from the kelp beds. Got a visual?

From Tahsis a few weeks ago, it was on to Neah Bay, fishing one of the most beautiful places in our state, Cape Flattery. King salmon southbound from Alaska and British Columbia are required to clear U.S. Customs at Cape Flattery as they make individual decisions to take a left, eastbound down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, or continue their southbound course along the Washington coast. A majority of these Chinook stocks are destined for the Columbia River, scheduled to arrive during the third week of August. Guess who will be there to meet them? Yo! Over here! Come to your daddy, sweetheart!

I’ve enjoyed great success fishing the entrance to the Columbia River in mid-August since my baptism to the fishery back in ’86. While ’86 established the all-time record of coho salmon returning to the Columbia of over 1.6 million fish, it was 1987 that really did me in. The Chinook salmon return back then was nearly 800,000 fish which represented the largest return since Bonneville Dam fish counts began in 1938. Good ‘ol 1938, huh?

In the last five years, the returns have blown ’38 out of the water, hovering around 900,000 to 1.2 million. There is no better show in town than the mouth of the Columbia in mid-August. Just like shooting ducks in a 55-gallon barrel – but not different.

My favorite spot is north of the mouth of the Columbia, about 3-5 miles in front of the town called Long Beach, trolling north and south in 25 to 50 feet of water through massive schools of anchovy. The technique is beyond simple. Tie your mainline to a diver, trailing 6-7 feet of 25 pound leader with tandem hooks, and thread on a fresh anchovy, available live in the Ilwaco boat basin, or a frozen herring. It all works!

I’m applying a fast troll speed at 3 to 3.5 miles per hour to get that bait spinning extremely fast, a tight drag to ensure the hook set on the grab with 13-15 pulls of mainline from your reel (two feet per pull). The results will be a takedown as if you’ve hooked an Amtrak. Big crushing bite, baby!

In the Columbia, I like fishing the “wing walls” on the Washington side of the river beginning early in the flood tide an hour or two after low slack. Green navigational markers are attached to pilings numbered 1 through 7, trolling into the current with 15-17 pulls. Some anglers prefer to hold their position with a downstream heading. I believe most of the king salmon entering the river are at mid-depth as they migrate upstream.

Once the incoming tide has completed about half its cycle, I’ll run upstream to Desdemona flats, immediately below the Megler-Astoria Bridge on the Washington side of the river, or continue above the bridge into Blind Channel. Blind Channel is simply a name applied to several underwater channels where Chinook salmon frequently hang on their journey upstream. In both areas, I’m zeroing in on 20-30 feet of water.

For these two areas, most anglers are using heavy sliding drop sinkers, anywhere from eight to 16 ounces, maintaining contact with the bottom or within a foot of the bottom. Get the net!

I am locked and loaded for major salmon fishing trips in August to the Washington coast. Salmon fishing won’t get any better following this month until next summer, so giddy up and time to make hay.

See you on the water!

Truth

‘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

Floor ‘Confused’ By End Of SeaTimes’ Regular Fishing Coverage, Offers Prawn Tips

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

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

If you’re a frequent reader of The Seattle Times, Washington’s largest newspaper, you may have caught a farewell writing from Outdoor Editor Mark Yuasa (click HERE for story) last week. Mark’s writing of the outdoors, featuring fishing, shellfishing and related outdoor opportunities in the Pacific Northwest have been enjoyed by readers for over the past 25 years.

The Seattle Times goes back a few years, dating to the late 1890s when the paper went into circulation. Outdoor editors include Enos Bradner, popular writer Brad O’Connor and now Mark Yuasa who have delivered readers wonderful coverage of our outdoors and related opportunities for nearly the last 80 years.

MARK YUASA BATTLING ONE ON THE SALT. HIS OUTDOOR REPORTING WILL APPEAR BIWEEKLY ON THE OUTDOOR LINE’S WEBSITE. (TONY FLOOR)

Mark’s departure is clearly a loss for readers who have enjoyed his stories. The conclusion of his career at The Seattle Times was the result of a management decision which chose to eliminate coverage of activities affecting hundreds of thousands and close to a million readers interested in the outdoors, based on WDFW license data.

It’s hard to conclude that sport fishing does not make the cut anymore in the eyes of The Seattle Times management while recent economic measurements of boating and fishing alone in Washington is estimated at a $2.9 billion dollar industry. Confused? So am I.

Seattle Times outdoor reporter Mark Yuasa is the latest casualty of employees at the newspaper as their outdoor coverage was recently eliminated. Mark will clearly be missed.

The outdoors in the great Pacific Northwest is one of the important reasons why people move to this region of the country. We are not Oklahoma, the South or the Midwest, where our Pacific Ocean and Puget Sound provide open arms to countless saltwater and freshwater fishing activities. Salmon, lingcod, albacore tuna and halibut fishing highlight the outdoors saltwater fishing menu. Steelhead, trout, and many warm water species also generate huge interest for anglers who love to drown a worm in freshwater when seasons allow. Crabbing, shrimping, razor clamming, and steamer clams has been an outdoor tradition for many families dating back to an era before The Seattle Times began publishing newspapers.

But don’t look for coverage of these fishing/shellfishing opportunites in today and tomorrow’s Seattle Times. The state’s largest newspaper is suggesting coverage of these activities is no longer important in our ever-changing Pacific Northwest society. I beg to differ.

Thank you, Mark, for your work and effort to enlighten the thousands of readers who have followed your writings. You will be missed.

Pass the prawn cocktail sauce, please

Speaking of prawns, the annual season began in early May during incredible soft tides on May 6. Accounts of the ka-woosh sound of shrimp fishers dropping their pots at 7 a.m. on opening morning could be heard from Bellingham to Olympia, including the San Juans, the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

Reports from outdoor fishing stores such as Holiday Sports in Mt. Vernon, Cabela’s in Marysville and Lacey, along with Outdoor Emporium in Seattle, Sportco in Fife and Swain’s in Port Angeles suggest their cash registers were belching dark smoke as shrimp fishers bought new pots, shrimp pellets and related gear. May and June represent a peak time for this fishery as nearly 20,000 people invest time to pursue Washington’s largest shrimp species known as spot prawns. Spot prawn biologists suggest that people who actively pursue these yummy shellfish species (noted above) may run about 45,000 days or trips during the season. Seasons vary by area and knowing the rules in the area where a shrimper is considering fishing is very important. The basic limit is 80 prawns per person, however, in Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and 7W (western San Juan Islands), the bonus limit of 120 prawns per day begins today (June 1), for the remainder of the season, seven days a week. Guess where I am?

PRAWNS BRIGHTEN A SHRIMP POT. (TONY FLOOR)

Fishing for prawns has been lights out in Puget Sound, the eastern Straits and the San Juan Islands during the past month. Expect more of the same in June!

From a table fare perspective, spot prawns are off the chart. Shrimp burgers, shrimp omelettes, shrimp appetizers, shrimp salad, shrimp pasta, shrimp toothpaste, shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp, get my drift? I love it!

And, it’s a fishery where very little skill is required to be successful. I look for soft tides where the exchange is minimal, or, around slack tides. I like water depths in the 260-320 range where I fish in the San Juan Islands which is considered on the shallow side for spot prawns. Some prawn fishers set their pots in considerably deeper water in the 350-450 range which can be tricky, especially if the currents flow at more than a foot an hour during peak flow. Adding weight to pots is critical, similar to deep water crab fishing. Shellfish biologists suggest that a weighted pot should tip the scales at 30 pounds or more.

There has been a trend in recent years to fish with bigger rectangular pots with more doors for prawns to enter the pot. I am a believer. Some prawn fishers like the web-mesh Ladner nesting style pots made in British Columbia. These pots are popular in commercial shrimp fisheries from California to Alaska and come in three sizes. The thirty-six inch Ladner weighs 28 pounds which is a recommended weight when fishing around 300 feet in moderate tides.

Finally, there are a number of theories on the kinds of bait to use in shrimp pots. Some long-time prawn fishers make their own prawn bait cocktail. I go the easy way and purchase prawn bait pellets along with a liquid attractant oil mixed into the pellets. Very simple and it produces slam-o-rama!

Excuse me while I pull my shrimp pots which have been soaking for nearly two hours. Perfect! Now where did I set that jar of cocktail sauce! Down the hatch, baby. See you on the water!

Tony

Latin Lessons, And Other Thoughts On Puget Sound Fishing, Circa 2017

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

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

I learned a new phrase a few weeks ago which is a Greek saying called “Carpe diem.”

It’s very strange; however, I like the meaning. Carpe diem means to seize the day and put little trust into tomorrow. When I think about the recent outcome a few weeks ago at the annual North of Falcon salmon season setting process, it causes me to want to head to a tattoo shop to have Carpe diem welded on my shoulder!

For those who know me, my attitude towards sport salmon fishing is to focus on what we can do, versus what we can’t do. And, for the second time in as many years, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has delivered a semi load of ‘can’t dos’ to the 2017-18 sport salmon fishing season, with emphasis on marine waters from Sekiu to Bellingham.

On the flip side, and to be fair to the North of Falcon outcome, there are a decent amount of ‘Can dos’ which are highlighted by significant improvements in central and northern Puget Sound catch quotas, especially for hatchery-produced Chinook salmon.

So, while you gather information on whether this year’s salmon season package is good or bad, it very much depends on where you like to fish, whether it’s the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Puget Sound, or all of the above. While you look for a smoking gun, you do not need to look beyond the end of your nose to find good ‘ol Mother Nature holding the gun. The El Niño of 2015-16, with the warm water mass of “The Blob”, caused havoc to salmon survival rates. Last year was the first year anglers were whacked with conservation-based restrictions delivered by Mother Nature. And 2017 will be the second consecutive year of paying the conservation price, which will likely be carried forward through 2018.

May means prawns in most Puget Sound waters as the season opens May 6. Shellfish biologists say this year’s test fisheries showed healthy numbers of spot prawns in most areas. Bob Cannon, Westport, pulled this pot loaded with spot prawns in the San Juan Islands during last year’s opener.

BELLA ANDERSON SHOWS OFF SEVERAL NICE SPOT SHRIMP BROUGHT OUT OF THE DEPTHS OF MARINE AREA 12 ON A PAST OPENER. SHE WAS OUT WITH HER GRANDMA AND GRANDPA, NANCY AND GENE BURDYSHAW. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Back at the turn of the 21st century, many saltwater salmon anglers, including this cat, believed mass marking of Chinook and coho salmon (removal of the adipose fin at salmon hatcheries) would lead anglers to target hatchery-produced fish in expanded seasons while releasing and protecting wild fish. That isn’t necessarily the case today, as expanded closures and sport fishing restrictions have resulted in reducing fishing opportunities in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands for the upcoming seasons despite the evolution of selective fishing for hatchery-produced fish.

Releasing wild Chinook and coho salmon isn’t good enough anymore, especially in the tribes view, which was agreed to by WDFW and witnessed by participants in the discussions between the two parties. Sport salmon fishing closures are becoming the choice of salmon managers in these annual negotiations versus relying on selective fishing. Just ask the sport salmon fishing community in Port Angeles and Sequim as their winter and spring blackmouth fishery for hatchery-produced fin-clipped Chinook salmon went from a five month season to six weeks.

Now that the 2017-2018 salmon season (May 1 through April 30) is set, I recommend careful examination of where you intend to fish for Chinook, coho and pink salmon in the months ahead. Similar to many other years, planning is critically important to opportunity and success.

And by the way, if I’ve left you scratching your head to this writing, HB 1647 is alive in the legislature which proposes to increase your sport salmon fishing license fees beginning April 1, 2018. The Northwest Marine Trade Association and other sport fishing advocacy groups have been working with WDFW, the legislature, and the governor’s office to see if a fee increase is really necessary. If the answer is yes, depending on who you ask, it is our priority to ensure sport fishing priorities and benefits are realized.

Here Comes the Spot Prawn Season

May 6 is just a few days away as serious prawn fishers should be putting the final touches in becoming gear ready for this annual blast. The tides on the opener are unbelievably fantastic as many of us who dig this fishery finalize our prawning plans. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, central and northern Puget Sound, along with Hood Canal look good as the result of test fishing by WDFW shellfish biologists. Even south Puget Sound has a robust population, according to the tests, however, there are ongoing challenges by some south Puget Sound tribes who do not support a sport fishery. Get over it.

I warmed up my prawn pots a few weeks ago in Esperanza and Tahsis Inlet on Vancouver Island where the season is open most of the year with a 200 prawns per day limit. Just like home but different.

Trailering a boat to Vancouver Island, or the Gulf Islands from Olympia is not a cake walk in time or expense. However, in my experience, Canada does a great job hosting thousands of Pacific Northwest anglers and the quality of fishing opportunities for salmon, marine fish and shellfish gives anglers an impression that we are welcome in their fisheries.

For several recent decades, Canada has recognized the economic importance of sport fishing which is very refreshing. As a result, they have adjusted their allocations between the troll and the sport fishing fleet increasing opportunity for anglers. And, with the current exchange rate favoring the strength of the U.S. dollar, why not add that card to your hand while developing your fishing strategy in the months ahead.

Sooke, Port Renfrew, Barkley Sound, Tofino, Nootka Sound, and Esperanza Inlet, to name a few. For the last 13 years, I have made the trek to Tahsis in early July to fish coastal waters including the north facing shoreline of Ferrer Island. All day long trolling naked herring off the kelp beds in 50-80 feet of water, down 30 feet on the downrigger, the king salmon go crunchie-munchie. Two kings per angler per day, four in possession. It’s a slam dunk! Sign me up for 2017!

Sort it out, Vernon, the summer salmon fishing season is coming and it’s time to finalize your plans. Carpe diem baby! See you on the water!

Floor: April Time To Rediscover Sekiu Blackmouth Fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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