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
We are lucky to live in an area of the country where anglers have a legitimate chance to catch salmon year-round, and much of that is accomplished by a program requiring hatchery chinook and coho to be adipose fin clipped prior to release.
Washington has the largest hatchery production on the planet, which annually pumps out more than 200-million juvenile fish in hundreds of state, tribal and federal hatcheries. Since the mid-1990s mass-marking has played a critical role with salmon management to keep sustainable fisheries open while doing our due diligence of recovering wild salmon stocks.
HAPPY BLACKMOUTH ANGLER. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)
A recent Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) memo to Governor Jay Inslee dated May 1, 2018 showed Puget Sound hatchery and wild chinook populations have increased by 14 percent over the past 10-years. Returns of just hatchery chinook to Puget Sound over the last 10-years have increased by 24 percent.
Hatchery production helps an angler identify between an unmarked wild fish versus a hatchery fish, and if it wasn’t for this type of technology, we’d likely be taking up another sport like golf or lawn bowling.
I beg to differ and pick salmon fishing for my pure enjoyment! After all feeling the tug of a hard-fighting salmon is way more satisfying than aimlessly hitting – along with my wicked slice – a golf ball.
Soon after the holiday parties concluded, three key marine areas (central and northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands) reopened their doors Jan. 1 to some of the best winter blackmouth – a term commonly given to chinook for their dark gumline – fishing.
“What we’re seeing (in Area 7) is some pretty good fishing, but nothing great and I’ve heard of fish in all the top-20 usual spots around the islands,” said Derek Floyd, owner of Anglers Choice Fishing Charters in Anacortes.
Included in those top picks are Clark and Barnes Islands; Sucia Island; Parker Reef; West Beach; Spring Pass; Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Point Thompson; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.
By far the most hysteria involving winter chinook was central Puget Sound (Area 10) which closed on Jan. 20.
“We saw an unprecedented catch per angler effort with close to half-a-fish per rod,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “We had incredible success and turnout.”
WDFW staff indicated it was some of the best fishing seen in Area 10 for the past several years and the good weather was also a factor for early closure – fishing was supposed to be open through March 30.
WDFW preliminary estimates and fishery projections indicated the Area 10 total encounter guideline of 2,997 chinook had been achieved with 738 boats and 1,561 anglers catching or releasing 3,351 fish (734 were kept).
I’ve said it once before, and I’ll say it again that making fishing plans sooner than later will guarantee you more time on the water. It’s a new era where catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) will dictate the length of seasons.
In the San Juan Islands (Area 7) winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters, and midway through last month they were at 8 percent or 859 encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook. Areas 7 and 9 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.
The chinook fishery on the east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has a total encounter of 5,474, and was at 29 percent or 1,597 encounters. Areas 8-1 and 8-2 have a one hatchery chinook daily limit. WDFW plans to provide regular catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.
In Puget Sound, seek out chinook at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.
Other areas open for winter chinook are south-central Puget Sound (11); Hood Canal (12); and southern Puget Sound (13).
Whatever fishing location whets your appetite just be sure to find the baitfish (herring and candlefish) and you’ll likely find hungry chinook in the mix.
Lastly, I’d go fishing sooner than later as most areas could close in a moment’s notice if catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches) are achieved. WDFW plans to provide updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html.
The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. All three areas have a one hatchery chinook daily limit.
Anglers can also make plans to fish for winter chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay (Area 6) when it opens Feb. 1 through April 15 and Sekiu (Area 5) from Feb. 16 through April 30.
If bottom-fishing gets you excited then mark March 8 on your calendar because that’s when Ilwaco, Westport and La Push opens for lingcod.
Other important dates are Feb. 27 when WDFW unveils their salmon forecasts during a public meeting, 9 a.m., at the Lacey Community Center. Other dates include North of Falcon meetings on March 19 at the DSHS Building in Olympia and April3 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will be adopted by the Pacific Fishery Management Council on April 11-16 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Sonoma, Calif.
Iconic Greenwood smokehouse closes its doors
After 34 years, the iconic Jensen’s Old-Fashioned Smokehouse in Greenwood, has shuttered its doors but hopefully this isn’t the last we’ve seen of this highly popular store where anglers have gotten their catch custom smoked in a variety of delicious ways.
“It has been a privilege to serve many of my customers over the years, and if I could redo my life, I’d do it all over again,” said Mike Jensen, owner of this family business in North Seattle since 1985. “I’ve gotten phone calls from people as far away as New Jersey who’ve said our smoked salmon is the best. Those kinds of comments really helped save the day and were very gratifying.”
JENSEN’S SMOKEHOUSE WAS IN BUSINESS ON GREENWOOD AVENUE IN NORTHWEST SEATTLE FOR 34 YEARS, SMOKING AS MUCH AS 3,000 POUNDS OF SALMON A DAY DURING PEAK SEASON. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)
Jensen – whose parents started a smokehouse in Bremerton many decades ago – says keeping his business going has been very tough the last five years where he employed up to 25 workers at peak periods from summer through fall. During slow times they’d produce about 300 pounds of smoked products per day, but during busy months they’d generate about 3,000 pounds daily.
“Hiring workers has been difficult in recent years as well as other issues like wage increases so I just felt it was time to retire,” said Jensen who is 64. “My wife (Kathy) retired a couple years ago and our 30-year anniversary is coming up (in February) so this is a nice way to launch into our next decade of marriage and walk into the sunset.”
Running the business hasn’t been easy as his wife and their home is located at the Lake Limerick Country Club near Bremerton. This meant Mike spent weekdays away from home and his beloved family.
“We love to play golf and pickleball, go on long hikes and water ski on the lake, and now I’ll get more time to do those kinds of special things,” Jensen said. “I’d also like to travel south in the winter to warmer places where I won’t hear my teeth chattering.”
Jensen’s commitment to his company was a family affair. Over the years, his son Scott and two daughters Mariah and Theresa helped with bookkeeping and the front counter and prepped and packaged products. Each of his kids have moved onto other successful ventures, but all learned how a company functions at the family smokehouse.
Their custom work was beloved by customers as fish or meat/poultry products were hand cut, filleted and each batch brined then hot or cold smoked with care that included specialty toppings like garlic and pepper. Double pepper was one of my favorites! Each of the finished products were then vacuum-sealed and date stamped for freshness.
They also sold products to retail grocery stores like QFC, Uwajimaya and to vendors at Pike Place Market. Their closing will leave a void in the smoked seafood industry.
“It’s a pretty serious disappointment that we couldn’t keep the business going,” said Jensen where his 34-year-old company has stood in a building erected in 1955.
The building is expected to be demolished by 2020 and replaced with a four-story townhome although current Jensen employees are trying the reopen the business for 12 months and then hopefully relocate elsewhere.
“It has been an honor to serve the community for so long and I’m glad for what I have accomplished in life,” Jensen said.
Dig into this shellfish news
There’s nothing more fun then digging up your favorite shellfish during the winter time especially when oysters are in prime eating condition.
The only overriding factor is that winter low tides occur in the dark so packing along a powerful lantern coupled and flashlight or headlamp is vital when hitting your favorite Puget Sound and Hood Canal beach.
In Whatcom County, Birch Bay State Park in Whatcom County is open year-round for shellfish and is a great oyster beach. In Jefferson County, Shine Tidelands State Park is an excellent beach for Manila, littlenecks and butter clams. Belfair State Park located in Mason County is productive for mainly oysters.
In Hood Canal, Dosewallips State Park is excellent choice for oysters and clams. Eagle Creek near Lilliwaup is a good spot for oysters. Point Whitney Lagoon and Tidelands and Wolfe Property State Park are decent for clams and oysters. In Kitsap County, Port Gamble Tidelands has acres of clams. The Quilcene Bay Tidelands is a good clam digging spot. Decent oyster beaches are Triton Cove, Twanoh State Park and West Dewatto.
Best upcoming low tides are Feb. 1-5; and Feb. 15-22. For tides, go to http://www.saltwatertides.com/dynamic.dir/washingtonsites.html.
Remember all eastern mainland beaches from Everett into southern Puget Sound are closed due to unsafe pollution levels. For details, go to WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/beaches/2019_ps_clam_oyster_seasons.pdf.
Be sure to follow all the shellfish rules, daily limits, and gathering etiquette such as filling-in all holes, shucking all oysters and leaving shells on the beach where you found them.
For emergency closures, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the DOH website at www.doh.wa.gov Check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov
Here are next dates for those looking to hit the coast for razor clams (WDFW usually gives final notice on openings a week before each series of digs): Feb. 1, 4:48 p.m. is plus-0.2 feet at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Feb. 2, 5:28 p.m. is 0.0 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 3, 6:04 p.m. is -0.1 at Twin Harbors and Copalis. Other tentative dates are Feb. 15, 3:11 p.m. is 0.4 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Feb. 16, 4:08 p.m. is -0.3 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Kalaloch; Feb. 17, 4:59 p.m. is -1.0 at Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 18, 5:46 p.m. is -1.4 at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Kalaloch; Feb. 19, 6:31 p.m. is -1.5 at Twin Harbors; Feb. 20, 7:14 p.m. is -1.3 at Twin Harbors; and Feb. 21, 7:56 p.m. is -0.8 at Twin Harbors.
Word on NW Salmon Derby Series
We’ve just wrapped up the first two derbies in the series – Resurrection Salmon Derby and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic – and each was a great success with a good turnout and plenty of winter chinook around to catch.
THE GRAND PRIZE BOAT FOR THE 2019 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)
Another successful boat show ends Feb. 2 with many getting their first looks at the sleek grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors who make the derby series a success 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.
The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.
Next up in the derby series is the sold-out Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/). That will be followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/); and Everett Blackmouth Derby March 16-17 (http://www.everettblackmouthderby.com/).
There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22.
For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
I’ll see you on the water!