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 feeling of excitement started to build in the middle of last month when the days were getting a little longer, spring felt just that much closer, and most of all more fishing options are now coming into play throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It was back during the Seattle Boat Show – our most successful in attendance and boat sales – after logging 90-plus miles on my sneakers and putting in 12- to 15-hour days where people came up to chat with me on all things fishing. But, in particular it was one man who said, “Hey you’re Mark Yuasa and I just loved your columns, but miss you not being in the newspaper.”
I replied, “Well thank you for the kind words, but no need to miss out on my column.”
That drew a rather perplexed look, which in turn I told him you can still find me in places like the Reel News and other outdoor publications. His response was “Wow that is great and I’m stoked! So where should I go fishing in the next couple of months?”
That last comment got his head swirling faster than a jig fluttering to the bottom of Puget Sound as I spoon fed him with plenty of fishing choices.
Even if you could stay “Sleepless in Seattle” there wouldn’t be enough time to hit every spring-time fishery on the must do list, but there’s no doubt with a little homework that an angler who uses their free time wisely can score an A+ in the fishing gradebook.
In order to keep everyone’s grade above the standards here are the possibilities for success.
After months of delays, the northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 9, 8-1 and 8-2) finally reopened for hatchery chinook.
It appears hitting the pause button did work to some extent as the catch of sub-legal chinook – those under the 22-inch minimum “keeper” size limit – were less abundant as they had been way back before the Christmas holidays.
The first few days of the fishing season – which began on Feb. 16 – saw nasty weather with winds 10 to 30 knots blowing, but by President’s Day (Feb. 20) the situation calmed down enough that anglers managed to dial-in on success.
Hit the usual spots like Possession Bar, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Point No Point, Marrowstone Island; Double Bluff off south west side of Whidbey Island; Hat Island at the “racetrack”; Columbia Beach; Onamac Point; and Elger Bay.
Still on top of list, but not quite as grand as it had been in January are the San Juan Islands (Area 7) where catches of nice-sized fish were still coming from places like Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Speiden Island; Spring Pass; Obstruction Island; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Peavine Pass; Doughty Point; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.
Even more exciting is the fact that the Strait of Juan de Fuca comes into play for hatchery chinook this month.
Sekiu in the western Strait harkens me back to the “good old days” of salmon fishing, and it’s open March 16 through April 30. The good news here is that don’t expect any premature closure with hungry chinook from the Caves to Eagle Point, and west from Slip Point-Mussolini Rock area to Pillar Point. The eastern Strait off Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay is another stop off for chinook through April 15.
Closer to Seattle, the doors to salmon fishing in central Puget Sound (Area 10) have closed, but south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) and Hood Canal (Area 12) are open through April 30, and southern Puget Sound is open year-round.
This month also marks a special time for coastal communities who come out of a winter slumber as the bottom-fishing season kicks into high gear.
Ilwaco, Westport and La Push for opens lingcod and other bottom-fish on March 10. Bottom-fish fishing west of the Bonilla Tatoosh Island line off Neah Bay also opens on March 10, and east of the line is currently open year-round. The lingcod fishery on northern coast opens April 16.
Many will begin to make regular trips to the Lower Columbia River in pursuit of spring chinook. The 2018 forecast is 166,700 upriver spring chinook, which is 90 percent of recent 10-year average return. That is compared to 160,400 forecasted in 2017 and an actual return of 115,822, but somewhat down from 2016’s 188,800 and 187,816.
Spring coastal razor clam digs will be down somewhat from previous years, but mark your calendars for tentative dates set through April.
Final approval will depend on further marine toxin testing, which will likely be announced a week before each scheduled dig series. Digs in March occur during evening low tides after 12 p.m. while those in April are during morning low tides until 12 p.m. or until times noted below.
Dates are: March 2-3 at Mocrocks; March 16 at Copalis and Mocrocks; March 17 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; April 19-20 at Mocrocks; April 21 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 1 p.m.; and April 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 2 p.m.
More digging dates could occur later this spring if sufficient clams remain available to harvest.
The Puget Sound salmon forecasts were released on Feb. 27, and those who’d like to get involved with this rather arduous process should take a seat at some of the upcoming meetings.
Early word on the street is that fishing seasons could resemble last season, but it’s still too early in the game to know exactly how things will pan out. For a list of other meeting dates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/
First three events in Salmon Derby Series start off with decent action
Thousands of anglers converged to San Juan Islands for three salmon derbies – part of the NMTA’s NW Salmon Derby Series – since the New Year with good catches and decent weather conditions.
The Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 8-10 had 100 boats with 329 anglers that weighed-in 122 fish (winning fish was 19.15 pounds).
In Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20 had 100 boats with 357 anglers weighing in 179 chinook (winning fish was 17 pounds, 11 ounces). The Resurrection Derby on Jan. 5-7 saw 102 boats with 334 anglers reeling-in 50 hatchery chinook (winning fish was 18.28 pounds).
There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Next up is Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 9-11, and Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 17-18.
Check out the grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer. It is 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.
Lastly, it was super great meeting everyone at the Seattle Boat Show where our combined net attendance for all three locations was 52,928, up 2.1 percent over last year. Indoor attendance at CenturyLink Field Event Center over all nine days of the show was 46,938, up 0.8 percent compared to last year.
On that note, I’ll see you on the water very soon!