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Yuasa Looks Back At 2019 Salmon Seasons, Towards 2020’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

The holiday “to do” list has pretty much taken priority over getting out on the water, but if you’re like me that also means it’s time to reassess salmon fisheries in 2019 and start thinking about what lies ahead in 2020.

I had a chance to chat with Mark Baltzell, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound salmon manager, and Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager, who provided insight about the future and a somewhat forgetful past.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“I believe the best way to describe Puget Sound salmon fisheries overall in 2019 is a mixed bag,” said Baltzell. “We had some unexpected good salmon fishing and returns while others were as poor as the preseason forecasts had predicted.”

“Summer chinook fisheries were for the most part better than we expected despite the reduced seasons,” Baltzell said. “Early on we saw some really good chinook fishing in May and June in southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 13 south of the Narrows Bridge).”

It wasn’t uncommon for Area 13 anglers during those months to hook into a limit of early summer hatchery kings, 10 to 18 pounds with a few larger, off Point Fosdick and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Fox Point in Hale Passage, northwest corner at the Sand Spit, Toy Point and Concrete Dock “Fox Island Fishing Pier.”
In the past few years, central Puget Sound (Area 10) starting in June has become a hot bed for resident coho – 2- to 4-pounds – and this past summer was no exception to the norm. On certain days you’d find hundreds of boats from Jefferson Head to Kingston and in the shipping lane.

“We had a coho fishery in Area 10 from June through August that was really good and has turned into a successful early summer salmon fishery,” Baltzell said.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery within Area 8-2 opened in June and was another location that proved to be fairly decent for early summer kings in the 10- to 15-pound range.

When July rolled around the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) opened for hatchery kings and was off and on for much of the summer.

The San Juan Islands (Area 7) had a brief hatchery king fishery from July 1-31, which saw plenty of fishing pressure and a much higher than expected success rate.

Preliminary WDFW data during the July Area 7 fishery showed 5,310 boats with 11,739 anglers kept 3,019 hatchery kings (10 wild fish were illegally retained) along with 451 hatchery and 982 wild chinook released. The best fishing period occurred from July 1-14. WDFW test fishing showed the Area 7 legal-size chinook mark rate was 84.6 percent and overall mark rate was 78.6.

The summer hatchery king fishery in northern and central Puget Sound (Areas 9 and 10), started off poorly from July 25-28 due to extreme low tides. Once the tidal fluctuation improved as more dates were tacked onto the fishery catch rates picked up rapidly.
During an 11-day fishing period from July 25 to Aug. 4, the success rate in Area 9 was a 0.23 fish per rod average with a total of 7,779 boats with 17,147 anglers keeping 3,446 hatchery chinook (six unmarked were illegally retained) and released 1,124 hatchery and 756 wild chinook plus 697 coho kept and 747 released. WDFW test fishing showed the legal-size chinook mark rate was around 88.0 percent.

The Area 10 hatchery chinook fishery was open daily July 25 through Aug. 16 and a total of 7,606 boats with 15,900 anglers kept 3,200 hatchery chinook (17 wild were illegally retained) and released 994 hatchery and 1,579 wild chinook plus 2,013 coho kept and 463 released. WDFW test fishing showed the legal-size chinook mark rate was around 50.0 percent.

Summer hatchery chinook action in south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) stumbled out of the gates when it opened July 1 and was peppered with a few glory moments until it closed Aug. 25 for chinook retention. In Area 11, an estimated 12,264 boats with 22,818 anglers from July 1-Aug. 25 retained 212 chinook and released 164 hatchery and 465 wild chinook.

“We saw a lot more legal-size chinook in Puget Sound than the FRAM (Fishery Regulation Assessment Model) had predicted and more legal hatchery fish around than we had seen in past years,” Baltzell said.

In general, the wild chinook stock assessment seemed to be somewhat better in some parts of Puget Sound. Places like the Tumwater Falls Hatchery in deep South Sound even had a few nice 20-pound females return.

Heading into late summer, the Puget Sound pink returns were off the charts good here and there while other pink runs were downright dismal. Salmon anglers chasing pinks managed to find some excellent fishing from mid-August through September.

“In some places it seemed like we had twice the abundance of pinks and others didn’t get as many as we had thought,” Baltzell said. “The Puyallup did really good and a decent number of pinks pass(ed) over the Buckley fish trap and was up into the historical day numbers. But, the Skagit and Stillaguamish weren’t so good for pinks and it was the same for coho too.”

“At this point were going to be OK in places like the Snohomish for coho,” Baltzell said. “Both the tribes and state did all the things necessary to help ensure we’d exceed our hatchery coho broodstock (goals), and that did eventually happen.”

Other locations like the Green River met coho broodstock goals although that didn’t occur until late last month. In Hood Canal, the Quilcene early coho return came back less than half the preseason expectation and the size of jack coho was much smaller.”

“There was a size issue throughout the Puget Sound area and the lower returns had us taking a precautionary move to a one coho daily limit,” Baltzell said. “It was the right move in retrospect and helped us move more coho into the rivers.”

The mid- and southern-Puget Sound and Hood Canal chum forecast of 642,740 doesn’t appear to be materializing and at this point WDFW downgraded the run to almost half the preseason expectation.

“It is really hard for us as fishery managers to pinpoint the cause for all of it,” Baltzell said. “We can point the finger to marine survival and conditions in the ocean like the warm blob that sat off the coast up to Alaska for a while. We also know the Canadian sockeye runs tanked this year and saw it in our own like Lake Washington that virtually got nothing back.”

The ocean salmon fisheries from Neah Bay south to Ilwaco between June 22 through Sept. 30 encountered a mixed bag of success.

“Fishing was pretty much what I expected it to be,” Beeghly said. “The chinook fishery was slow except up north off Neah Bay where it was pretty good this past summer. The majority of chinook we see in ocean fisheries are headed for the Columbia River and their forecasts were down so the poor fishing came as no surprise.”
Close to a million coho were forecasted to flood the Columbia River this past summer and that too was a downer.

“The coho fishing wasn’t quite as good as I had expected, but we saw some decent fishing at Ilwaco and Westport,” Beeghly said. “The Columbia coho forecast didn’t come back like we originally thought but better than the past three or so years. The hatchery coho mark rate was lower than anticipated.”

Coast wide only 51.1 percent of the hatchery coho quota of 159,600 was achieved, and 41.4 percent of the chinook quota of 26,250 was caught.

Areas north of Leadbetter Point saw a coho mark rate of somewhere under 50 percent and Ilwaco where data was still being crunched might come out to be a little higher than that.

Once the fish arrived in the Lower Columbia at Buoy 10 it appeared the catch of hatchery coho fell well short of expectations with a lot of wild fish released although some glory moments occurred early on.

Coastal and Columbia River chinook forecasts should come to light around the Christmas holidays. The Pacific Fishery Management Council preseason meeting will occur in mid-February. That is just ahead of when Oregon Production Index coho forecasts will be released.

As Baltzell rubbed the crystal ball looking into 2020 it still remains pretty foggy at this point but general expectations aren’t rosy.

“It would be fair for me to say that I wouldn’t expect anything much better in 2020 than what we saw in 2019,” Baltzell said. “We have no forecast information at this point but I wouldn’t expect a rosier outlook as far as chinook goes for next year.”

State, federal and tribal fishery managers in 2020 will be faced with a lot of same wild chinook stock issues as in recent past years like mid-Hood Canal and Stillaguamish. Add on top of that killer whale orca issues as well as the pending Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan that has been looming a dark cloud for the past three years with no end in sight just yet.

“If I had to gauge things out my gut reaction is we’ll likely have to take a more cautionary approach again next year,” Baltzell said.

The WDFW general salmon forecast public meeting will occur Feb. 28 at the DSHS Office Building 2 Auditorium, 1115 Washington Street S.E. in Olympia. The first North of Falcon meeting is March 16 at the Lacey Community Center and the second meeting is March 30 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will determined April 5-11 at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, WA.

Final summer ocean salmon sport fishing catch data

Ilwaco (including Oregon) – 44,297 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 4,018 chinook (56% of the area guideline of 7,150) and 53,377 coho (67% of the area sub-quota of 79,800).

Westport – 23,465 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 2,336 chinook (18% of the area guideline of 12,700) and 20,221 coho (34% of the area sub-quota of 59,050), plus 700 pinks.

La Push – 2,076 from June 22 to September 30 caught 449 chinook (41% of the area guideline of 1,100) and 1,752 coho (43% of the area sub-quota of 4,050), plus 206 pinks. Late-season fishery October 1-13 saw 240 anglers with 164 chinook (64% over the fishery guideline) and 16 coho (16% of the fishery quota).

Neah Bay – 10,116 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 3,895 chinook (75% of the area guideline of 5,200) and 6,223 coho (37% of the area sub-quota of 16,600), plus 869 pinks. Chinook retention closed July 14.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Dungeness crab fishery reopens in Areas 8-2 and 8-1

The east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has reopened daily for Dungeness crab fishing through Dec. 31. WDFW says crab abundance remains good indicating that the quota could be increased in-season. Crab pots must be set or pulled from a vessel and is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

Dungeness crab fishing is also open daily through Dec. 31 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 4B, 5 and 6); San Juan Islands (Area 7); and northern Puget Sound (Area 9 except waters north of the Hood Canal bridge to a line connecting Olele Point and Foulweather Bluff).

NW Fishing Derby Series hits refresh button in 2020

After 17 wonderful years since the derby series began in 2004, we’ve decided it’s time for a change and rebranded it to the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series.”

Our hope is that anglers will like the direction as we diversify the fish species our events target while boosting the number of derbies to 20 in 2020 up from 14 events in 2019.

New events are the Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby on May 23; For the Love of Cod Derbies in Coos Bay/Charleston areas and Brookings, Oregon March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively; Father’s Day Big Bass Classic on Tenmile Lake at Lakeside, Oregon on June 21-22; and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan on April 18-19.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The highlight is a chance to enter and win a $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Escape HT boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. One of our newest sponsors of the derby – Shoxs Seats (www.shoxs.com) – has provided a pair of top-of-the-line seats that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas.

The good news is anglers who enter any of the 20 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package!

A huge “thank you” to our other 2020 sponsors who make this series such a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Scotty Downriggers; Burnewiin Accessories; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronics; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; Lamiglas Rods; 710 ESPN The Outdoor Line; Salmon & Steelhead Journal; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2 (already 50 percent of tickets have been sold as of Nov. 13); Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. A new website is currently being designed and will be launched sometime in mid-December but for now, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

In the meantime, take a break from holiday shopping and hit up a lake or open saltwater areas for a feisty fish tugging on the end of your line.

I’ll see you on the water!

Whidbey, Camano Waters Reopening For Crabbing

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

Two marine areas of Puget Sound will reopen for recreational crab fishing beginning Thursday, Nov. 28, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

MARINE AREA 8-2, WHERE LOGAN, CHAD, KYLE AND PAYSON HAULED THESE DUNGIES, WILL REOPEN FOR WINTER CRABBING ON THANKSGIVING . (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Waters reopening to recreational crabbing on Nov. 28 are Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay) and Marine Area 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner).

Recent evaluations of these fisheries show signs of continued good crab abundance, indicating that the quota could be increased in-season, and the recreational fishery could reopen.

In each area, crabbing will be allowed seven days a week through Dec. 31. Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6 1/4 inches. Crabbers may also catch six red rock crab of either sex per day with a minimum carapace width of 5 inches, and six Tanner crab of either sex with a minimum carapace of 4 1/2 inches. Additional information is available on WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

Crabbers must have a Puget Sound Dungeness crab endorsement to harvest Dungeness crab from Puget Sound. All Dungeness crab caught in the late-season recreational fishery must be recorded immediately on winter catch record cards, which are valid through Dec. 31. Winter catch record cards are free to those with crab endorsements and are available at license vendors across the state.

Winter catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb.1, 2020.  For more information on catch record cards, visit WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/licenses/fishing/catch-record-card/dungeness.

$1,000 On Offer For North Sound Island Land Owners To Allow Hunting

Washington wildlife managers are offering landowners in San Juan and Island Counties up to $1,000 to allow hunters onto their property this fall, part of a bid to also reduce North Sound islands’ large blacktail population and help out other native flora and fauna.

HUNTERS WITHOUT LAND, RELATIVES OR INS WITH LOCAL PROPERTIES OWNERS HAVE A HARD TIME FINDING ACCESS TO HUNT BLACKTAIL DEER IN SAN JUAN AND ISLAND COUNTIES, BUT A WDFW OFFER OF UP TO $1,000 FOR LANDOWNERS WITH 5 ACRES OR MORE AIMS TO MAKE MORE AVAILABLE. JD LUNDQUIST TOOK THIS BUCK ON THE FAMILY HOMESTEAD ON ORCAS ISLAND A COUPLE SEASONS BACK. (HUNTING PHOTO CONTEST)

With no predators outside of the occasional one that swims over, little public land and few local hunters, “deer are overbrowsing native vegetation, which means less habitat for other species,” according to district wildlife biologist Ruth Milner.

Of particular concern is the Island marble butterfly, once believed to be extinct but which depend on mustard flowers for key parts of its lifecycle. According to WDFW, deer also like to munch on the plant when other browse is unavailable.

A WDFW-PROVIDED IMAGE SHOWS AN ISLAND MARBLE BUTTERFLY ON A YELLOW MUSTARD PLANT, WHICH THE INSECT LAYS ITS EGGS ON AND THE LARVAE FEED ON AFTER HATCHING. (WDFW)

So the state agency is calling on people with at least 5 acres to get in touch with state private lands access manager Rob Wingard (360-466-4345, ext. 240; Robert.Wingard@dfw.wa.gov) to learn if their land might qualify.

The offer includes Whidbey, Camano, Orcas, San Juan, Lopez, Shaw, Blakely and the rest of the islands in the two counties.

A BLACKTAIL DOE STOPS BY THE WALGAMOTT-ECKSTEIN CAMP AT SPRAWLING MORAN STATE PARK ON ORCAS ISLAND, THE SINGLE LARGEST LANDHOLDING IN THE ARCHIPELAGO WHERE DEER ARE ALSO SMALLER THAN THEIR MAINLAND COUSINS . (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Unless you own land or have an in with someone who does, there are only very scattered parcels of public or semi-public land to hunt here.

Unfortunately, when nearly 1,800 acres on Orcas Island’s Turtleback Mountain were acquired more than 10 years ago, organizations involved in the purchase decided to bar hunting there.

Funds for WDFW’s offer come from the U.S. Farm Bill and are unfortunately only available for this fall’s season.

A HIKER LOOKS OVER A BALD, PART OF A PRESERVE IN THE SAN JUANS THAT ALLOWS HUNTING. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The agency says that owners can specify the number of hunters who can access their property, as well as when and where, but wouldn’t be able to pick and choose who could or couldn’t come on.

They would be protected from liability and be able to coordinate with the agency to get the best fit between their land and hunters.

“It is a win-win-win for the islands,” said Wingard in a press release. “If a property meets the criteria for a safe and productive hunt, we can work together with landowners to help native species, reduce islanders’ problems with deer and traffic hazards, and provide a unique experience for hunters seeking new places to find plentiful deer.”

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Oysters Reseeded At 2012 Penn Cove Oil Spill Site; Rec Harvest Expected In 2-3 Years

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

Earlier this month, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) contracted with the Hood Canal Oyster Company to plant Pacific oysters on public tidelands at West Penn Cove off Whidbey Island.

WDFW EXPECTS THESE BABY OYSTERS TO BE HARVESTABLE IN A FEW YEARS. (WDFW)

This is the first of at least three oyster plantings to compensate for the recreational shellfish harvest closures that occurred during the response to a 5,000-gallon oil spill in May 2012, caused by the sinking of a fishing vessel in Penn Cove. Details about that incident are available at https://incidentnews.noaa.gov/incident/8446#.

Working with the Washington Department of Ecology, Department of Health, and other members of the Resource Damage Assessment Committee, WDFW conducted a study to determine the amount of lost shellfish harvest opportunity caused by the oil spill incident. The study concluded that 1,996 harvest days were lost, with a monetary value of $97,722.

The owner of the sunken vessel was billed for these damages, but payment was never received. WDFW made a claim to the National Pollution Fund Center, as allowed under provisions of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, to secure funding to restore shellfish populations.

“This is the first time we have made a successful claim to the National Pollution Fund Center for lost recreational harvest opportunity,” said Don Noviello, WDFW oil spill planning and response specialist. “Preventing oil spills is the best solution for preserving our natural resources, but we are happy that we have been able to get funding and take actions to compensate shellfish harvesters for the 2012 Penn Cove oil spill damages.”

Oyster planting is performed by spreading oyster shells that are seeded with larval oysters. The planted oysters grow in place to legal size and will mature and be ready to harvest in two to three years. By 2021, shellfish managers expect these plants to add approximately 300,000 harvestable oysters to the Penn Cove recreational fishery.

Recreational oyster harvesters are required to shuck oysters on the beach and leave shells at the same tide height where they were harvested. Leaving shells on the beach increases the ability for new oysters to colonize the area. The legal daily limit for recreational oysters is 18 per person, with oysters eaten on the beach counted toward the daily limit.

For more information on shellfish harvesting in Washington, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/places-to-go/shellfish-beaches.

Fort Casey Ramp Damaged During Winter Storm But Still Usable

Heads up, Whidbey Island halibut and lingcod anglers: If you launch at Fort Casey for this week’s openers, you won’t have floats to tie up to after putting your boat in or while taking it out.

THE DECEMBER WINDSTORM BROKE A WOODEN BREAKWATER AND WAVES POUNDED THE FLOATS AT THE FORT CASEY STATE PARK BOAT RAMP. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

A December storm pummeled a breakwater and broke a piling for the floating docks, which were also damaged, at the water access site next to the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry terminal dock.

Brett Payne, a Washington State Parks ranger for the middle part of the island, says you can still put in and take out. It just will be less convenient without the piers.

ANOTHER VIEW OF THE STORM IMPACTING THE BOAT RAMP FROM THE BLUFF AT FORT CASEY. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

He said that his agency is working to get a permit to put in a temporary dock, though it may take some time to get that go-ahead.

Payne said that because of the damage, complexities of permitting and funding needed, it could be a year before the ramp is back to how it was before the storm.

AFTER THE STORM. (WASHINGTON STATE PARKS)

In the meanwhile, anglers and other boaters are being asked to be patient and courteous with one another as this year’s fishing seasons begin.

Wednesday, May 1, marks the lingcod opener and Thursday, May 2, is the first halibut opener of the season in Marine Area 9, which the Fort Casey ramp provides access to.

Later in the month shrimping opens and then in July crabbing will be a go.

In late July these waters will open for hatchery summer Chinook, while coho will be going in late August and September.

Everett, Whidbey Blackmouth Fishing To Close After Weds.

THE FOLLOWING IS AN EMERGENCY RULE-CHANGE NOTICE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

Salmon fishing to close in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2

Action:  Closes marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 to angling for salmon.

BLACKMOUTH FISHING OUT OF THE EVERETT AREA BETWEEN WHIDBEY AND CAMANO ISLANDS WILL CLOSE AFTER THIS COMING WEDNESDAY. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date:  April 11 through April 30, 2019. 

Species affected: Salmon.

Location:  Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner).

Reason for action: Preliminary estimates indicate that the total encounters of chinook salmon is approaching the fishery guideline and encounters of legal-sized fish have exceeded preseason predictions. The fishery is being closed to avoid exceeding the allowable limit of total encounters including both retained and released fish, and to control impacts on stocks of concern while ensuring compliance with conservation objectives.

Additional information: For specific regulations, anglers should consult the 2018-19 Washington Sports Fishing Rules pamphlet available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Yuasa: Lots Of Midwinter Blackmouth, Shellfishing Ops; Ode To Jensen’s Smokehouse

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!

 

8-1, 8-2 Blackmouth Limit Dropping To 1 A Day Starting Feb. 2

THE FOLLOWING IS A WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE

Action:  Reduces the daily limit for salmon to one fish.

ANGLERS WHO LIKE TO FISH FOR WINTER BLACKMOUTH IN MARINE AREAS 8-1 AND 8-2 OFF CAMANO AND THE EASTERN SIDE OF WHIDBEY ISLANDS WILL SEE THE LIMIT DROP TO ONE HATCHERY CHINOOK A DAY STARTING FEB. 2. ROSANNA LEHMAN CAUGHT THIS NICE ONE IN 8-1 LAST MARCH ON A SPOON IN COPCAR BEHIND A GREEN FLASHER. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Effective date:  Feb. 2 through April 30, 2019.

Species affected:  Salmon.

Locations:  Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner).

Reason for action:  Based on current catch estimates, there is not sufficient salmon available to maintain the fishery through the planned season if the daily limit remains at two fish. The change to a one-salmon daily limit is needed to meet conservation objectives and increases the likelihood that the winter fishery will remain open for the entire season.

Additional information:  Anglers are reminded to release all coho and wild chinook in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2. Chinook minimum size is 22 inches.

Good, Bad News From Search For Invasive Green Crabs In Straits, Sound

Crews searching for invasive European green crab along Washington’s saltwater shores recently were relieved to find only one during a recent survey at a Whidbey Island site, but it’s a different story at the tip of the North Coast.

EUROPEAN GREEN CRAB COLLECTED AT DUNGENESS NWR IN 2017. (ALLEN PLEUS, WDFW)

Nearly 400 have been found at Neah Bay since last fall, the largest concentration discovered so far on the US side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and northern Puget Sound.

The unwanted shellfish have also been reported at Dungeness Spit, with 96 collected last year and 42 so far this year, according to a report in the Sequim Gazette, Westcott Bay on San Juan Island, Padilla Bay and southern Sequim Bay.

Efforts to remove the crabs are being led by state, tribal, university and federal agencies.

The worry is that if green crabs establish a sustaining population, they could damage eelgrass pastures — so important for our salmonids and other fish — and clam beds.

Last year, two were found at Lagoon Point on Whidbey, the first inside the mouth of Admiralty Inlet — the primary entrance to the Central and South Sound and numerous potential sites for colonies to take hold — and during a follow-up search last week, a third turned up.

Kelly Martin at Washington Sea Grant blogged that the 57.5mm-long male appeared to be from the same age-class as the two others, and between that and the lack of others found was “a relief.”

“Green crab still have a presence in the lagoon at Lagoon Point, but their population has not exploded since last fall,” Martin wrote, adding that monitoring will continue.

Genetic work suggests that the crabs at Dungeness did not come from Sooke, across the Straits on the southern shore of Vancouver Island, but their larvae drifted in from a source somewhere else on the West Coast.

A WSG map shows dozens upon dozens of locations in Puget Sound and Hood Canal south of Lagoon Point with a high or moderate suitability for the species.

To learn how to spot green crabs and differentiate them from juvenile Dungies and red rocks, as well as find out more about the efforts of WSG’s Crab Team, go here.