A magnificent 30-plus-pound chinook, caught on a 3-inch Kingfisher Lite spoon, did NOT win. A 21.72-pound chinook, caught on a boat with a leaking roof, owned by a fisherman who is not a guide, a charter owner, a tackle representative or a pro-anything, and who in fact is relatively new to competitive fishing, DID win, bless 'im.
The National Weather Service posted a small craft advisory on Friday for winds to 50 mph in the area and 1,000 ticket-holding derby entrants rolled their eyes and remembered last year's dirty weather. They then watched Saturday morning dawn to beatific music, incense and a flat calm.
Almost all the money winners at the Sunday awards ceremony came from places like Bellingham, Ferndale, Oak Harbor, Mount Vernon and Anacortes, proving that those sport fishermen north of us who brag that they own the San Juan Island blackmouth fishery are spot on. Except for one guy from Pateros, who must have been lost and looking for Lake Chelan.
So passed the 2012 version of arguably the classiest salmon derby on the west coast, its $15,000 first prize won by Ted Radke of Ferndale. Radke reportedly caught the big chinook in San Juan Channel, off Shaw Island, and had only the one strike all weekend long. Second place and $5,000 went to Mike McAuley of Bellingham, at 21.51 pounds, and in a first for this charitable event, he and his crew of Kirk Hawley and Pat Phillips donated $1,000 of their prize money back to the derby's scholarship fund. Third place and $2,500 went to Michael Beard of Oak Harbor, at 21.4 pounds.
John Keizer's Simrad boat hooked, played, photographed and released a 30-plus-pound unclipped king on a Q-Cove green/gold flasher and a 3-inch Kingfisher Lite "Irish cream" spoon. The fish was possibly an early Fraser River spring chinook.
Sunday blew a little, said derby coordinator Jay Field of Anacortes, but weather was generally good enough to allow anglers on Saturday to get out to MacArthur, Salmon and Hein banks. Some 211 fish were weighed -- good results compared to last year's meager take of 101 blackmouth -- and anecdotal reports had many of the larger fish, including the second- and fourth-prize winners, coming from the north side of the San Juans.
None of the larger fish came from the banks, said derby participant Tom Nelson, host of The Outdoor Line on ESPN radio, who chose not to sully the deck of "Big Red" with fish blood on either Saturday or Sunday.
"Most of the bigger fish were taken up north," Nelson, a Lake Stevens resident, said. "Places like Sucia, the north end of Orcas, Cowlitz Bay on the southwest side of Waldron Island, Thatcher Pass. If I had to recommend a spot for this weekend, I would say any of those, plus maybe President Channel, Parker Reef, or Point Thompson."
Nelson said a few derby fish were caught on cut plug herring, but a lot more on the smaller Silver Horde and Coho Killer spoons, or the new 2-inch Luhr Jensen Needlefish, all behind a flasher, fished right on the deck.
The proceeds from this derby fund scholarships to benefit young adults pursuing a career in fishery management or related fields. Organizers have disbursed over $127,000 in scholarships and grants in the past five years. For more information and photos go to www.anacortessalmonderby.com.
A repeat of last year's popular free halibut seminar will be held at Holiday Sports in Burlington on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. and featuring Mike Jamboretz of Jambo's Sportfishing. Jambo's been at the biz a while, and he'll share halibut and lingcod techniques and hot spots in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Neah Bay. Limited to 100 participants, so call 360-757-4361 to pre-register.
The recreational halibut season opens in marine areas 6 thru 10 on May 3.
Tickets are now on sale for the May 19th Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby, sponsored by the Snohomish Sportsmen's Club and the Lake Stevens Lions, at $20 a copy, free for kids 14 and under. Tickets, rules and more info at Greg's Custom Rods, John's Sporting Goods, Ted's Sport Center, Triangle Bait and Tackle, three Rivers Marine, McDaniel's Do It Center, Holiday Sports, and Hook Line & Sinker.
Substantial cash prizes in a lot of categories: $1,000 for largest kokanee and cash through 4th place; $500 for largest trout; $500 for heaviest kokanee limit of up to 10 fish, and $250 for 2nd place; $100 for largest kid's kokanee, and cash for 2nd and 3rd, which can be any species.
The 25th annual Stanwood Eagles Blackmouth Derby runs April 21-22, in marine areas 8-1 and 8-2, at an entry fee of $50 per person. Tickets and a flier are available at Hook Line & Sinker, Holiday Sports, John's Sporting Goods, Camano Marine, Elger Bay Grocery, and Stanwood Eagles. First place will be worth 45 percent of total entry fees, cash through 5th place, plus merchandise prizes. Five percent will be donated to Eagles charities.
For information call the Eagles at 360-629-3224, or Ed Keller at 425-308-9437.
Very good tides will make the upcoming coastal razor clam dig April 7-9 a top opportunity, assuming reasonable weather and surf conditions.
But remember you must be equipped with new, 2012-13 licenses, state Fish and Wildlife Department shellfish manager Dan Ayres warns, except for those under age 15, who dig for free.
Three beaches - Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch - will be open for morning digging all three days. Mocrocks will be open for two days, April 7-8, and Copalis for one day only, April 7.
Tides are as follows: April 7, minus 1.2 feet at 7:36 a.m.; April 8, minus 1.5 feet at 8:23 a.m.; and April 9, minus 1.5 feet at 9:11 a.m.
Ayres strongly recommends obtaining a new license before heading for the coast. Outlets there are limited and waiting in lines can be frustrating. Licens options range from a three-day razor clam license to an annual combination fishing license, which can be purchased online (https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov), by phone (1-866-246-9453) and from tackle shops and other retail license dealers around the state.
Ayres said the north end of Long Beach would be a good bet for both numbers and size, and that Mocrocks, particularly off the community of Pacific Beach, is always productive.
Skagit River sockeye
Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington said the word coming out of the North of Falcon process indicates expanded opportunity for Baker Lake sockeye in the Skagit River, including the lower river. Steen said if true, it would be a great opportunity for fishermen to target these fish from both the beach and by boat. The most popular technique, he said, will probably be to plunk smaller Spin N Glos with small sand shrimp.
Late run? High, cold, dirty water conditions? Miscalculation in pre-season run size estimates by Washington and Oregon salmon managers? Who knows, but the fact is that the spring chinook fishery on the lower Columbia has been pretty much a bust so far, at least as far as recreational catch rates go.
Through March 31, there were 50,200 angler trips made, and 1,671 chinook kept. That works out to about one fish for every 30 trips. More recently it was even worse, according to WDFW biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver -- on April 1-2, some 2,055 anglers had 30 chinook kept and 5 released.
For more outdoors news, visit Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
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