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
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.
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!