Fishing derbies across the Northwest have had a rough year, with pandemic precautions continuing to scrap events, including an important one out of Reedsport on the lower Umpqua that would have been held this Labor Day Weekend.
“We tried to pull it off, but the risk of spreading the Covid virus is just too great,” said Rick Rockholt, secretary of the Gardiner, Reedsport, Winchester Bay Salmon Trout Enhancement Program.
But two big Puget Sound salmon events are still a go this month, albeit without the usual popular and well-attended awards ceremonies, as well as with one other major twist.
The Northwest Fishing Derby Series grand prize boat – which is usually raffled off at the culmination of the Everett Coho Derby – will not be given away until the end of 2021’s tour.
That word came out earlier this week from organizers with the Northwest Marine Trade Association, reversing an earlier decision this summer that the boat would be awarded as usual and then their series would go into “hiatus” next year and not come back until 2022 at the earliest.
I reported that in our September issue based on a conversation with NMTA President George Harris, but well after press deadline a new plan was announced.
In an email to sponsors, Karsten McIntosh, NMTA’s communications manager, said the Grow Boating Committee and board voted to hold onto the Kingfisher 2025 Escape, motor, trailer, fishing equipment and electronics package worth $75,000 “for another year to allow the derbies that didn’t happen this year to (hopefully) have a chance at entering to win the boat next year,” as well as fulfill sponsorship obligations that were derailed by the pandemic.
After late March’s Everett Blackmouth Derby was held but without an awards ceremony (winners could pick up their prizes later), a slew of Northwest Fishing Derby Series events were cancelled.
This year had been set to see major expansions too – an increase to 20 derbies, events on Oregon’s Coast, and incorporation of kokanee, lingcod and bass – as the series pivoted away from being just about salmon.
“We are excited to have this second chance and think it will work especially well in that many of the derbies that did happen this year, namely our winter Chinook salmon derbies, will not be happening next year due to winter salmon fishing closures and the derbies that didn’t get to happen this year, we hope will be able to return next year,” said McIntosh.
Those blackmouth derbies fell by the wayside after bruising North of Falcon salmon season negotiations with tribal comanagers saw North Sound waters closed for resident kings in winter 2020-21.
McIntosh offered that holding the series over two years would “balance out the entries.”
Buying a ticket for any of the events automatically puts your name in the hat for a chance at the boat. For two years in a row, anglers who fished The Big One Salmon Derby on Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene were drawn, with 2019’s winner having fished the Edmonds Coho Derby.
Speaking of, it’s coming up quick. Put on by the Puget Sound Anglers Sno-King Chapter, it will be held Sept. 12 (edmondscohoderby.com) and features a top prize of $2,500 for biggest silver.
Note that this year fishing is only allowed on Marine Areas 9 and 10 and only hatchery coho can be weighed in.
After that comes the Everett Coho Derby (everettcohoderby.com) Sept. 19-20 and a $5,000 first-place prize.
According to rules posted by the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club and Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, entrants can only enter one coho a day from open waters to include Areas 9 and 10 and freshwaters in Snohomish, Skagit and King Counties. The list of river options is much shorter this year due to closures in the Snohomish system.
The Everett event’s awards will be smaller, as organizers say that due to the pandemic and resulting tough business climate they decided against asking for money and prizes from supporting companies.
But they also “felt that it was important to proceed with the derby to maintain some sort of normalcy” in these “trying times.”
To address social distancing, they cancelled the usually exciting Sunday afternoon awards ceremony and big-fish winners will be mailed their checks, while anglers whose large coho score them prizes can pick them up Monday, the 21st, at Bayside Marine in Everett.