Sales were approaching 60 teams as of Wednesday, according to Anacortes businessman and charter owner Jay Field. The entry list for the 2010 derby reached 47 teams, which weighed an outstanding 120 fish, and last year 69 boats weighed in a so-so 96 blackmouth.
Field said it will take a chinook around 20 pounds to win the heavy money -- not a difficult prediction considering the 2010 first-place fish, caught by Lance Husby of Marysville, weighed 19.3 pounds, and the 2011 top blackmouth came in at 22.3 pounds for the team of Walt and Tom Vanwingerden of Bellingham.
Field said productive spots for derby anglers probably will include Rosario Strait, the north end of Orcas Island, Parker Reef, Sucia Island and President Channel, among others. Participants will be using about an equal mix of bait and lures, with few dogfish in the area to limit the use of herring.
Field said good lure choices would include the smaller 3.0 Kingfisher and Coho Killer spoons, squid, and Ace High flies and, while he said color isn't all that important, "a little glow on dark days doesn't hurt at all."
State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Dana Base in Eastern Washington said there's still a lot of buzz in the deer-hunting community about the huge 9x10 buck mulie taken the third weekend in October by Pete Fochesato of Arlington.
"Scott Fitkin, the district wildlife biologist for the Okanogan, was manning the Winthrop check station when the deer came through, and he said it was the largest mule deer he's seen in 17 years on the job," Base said.
The big buck weighed 280 pounds hanging, and had an antler spread of 33 inches, Base said.
The animal came out of the Tripod burn north and east of Winthrop, scene of the 175,000-acre Tripod fire six years ago. Biologists knew the high-quality browse springing up after the fire was attracting deer and recommended the area to hunters prior to this fall's seasons.
"Fitkin said the buck was only 41/2 years old, unusual for a deer that size and probably a function of the quality feed," Base said.
Photos of the trophy animal can be seen on NW Sportsman magazine's web page, nwsportsmanmag.com, Base said, with a link to "Tripod Buck."
Although tough weather conditions have been keeping most local salmon anglers on the beach recently, there's pretty good fishing available on Possession Bar. Gary Krein of All Star Charters in Everett said he likes the "tin shed" area on the bar's south tip, and said plugs or spoons will both produce. Plugs, however, help keep the number of shakers to a minimum, Krein said.
Most fish aren't large, going from just legal to 4 or 5 pounds, but the numbers are still better than spots farther north in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2. Fishing along Saratoga Passage traditionally improves, particularly for larger blackmouth, as the winter season progresses.
State creel checks at the Port of Everett ramp on Friday, a break in the weather, tallied 16 fishermen in nine boats with four chinook.
The next razor-clam dig on the coastal beaches will be a six-day event starting Monday at Twin Harbors, then expanding to include three of the four remaining beaches. Tests have confirmed that clams at all four beaches are safe for human consumption, according to state clam manager Dan Ayres in Montesano.
A good light source will be necessary for evening digs, Ayres said, and considering recent weather conditions, diggers should be prepared for wind and rain.
Tides and open beaches are as follows:
Monday, minus 0.1 feet at 5:16 p.m., Twin Harbors; Tuesday, minus 0.3 feet at 5:52 p.m., Twin Harbors; Wednesday, minus 0.4 feet at 6:27 p.m., Twin Harbors; Nov. 29, minus 0.4 feet at 7:01 p.m., Twin Harbors and Long Beach; Nov. 30, minus 0.3 feet at 7:35 p.m., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Dec. 1, minus 0.1 feet at 8:10 p.m., Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks.
Columbia Basin pheasant hunting has been pretty fair so far this year, according to regional wildlife biologist Rich Finger in the state's Ephrata office. "We don't run formal harvest surveys, but anecdotal evidence suggests success rates have been pretty good," he said.
Grant County ranks No. 1 in the state in total pheasant harvest, and the highest concentrations of wild birds in the county can probably be found on public land between Potholes Reservoir and the town of George. Mixed bags of wild and released birds are available along lower Crab Creek, Gloyd Seeps, the Quincy area and the Dry Falls unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area complex.
For wild birds, try the dense thickets of Russian olive and cattail along Frenchman Hills and Winchester wasteways, Finger said, where a good dog will increase your odds greatly.
Some hunters feel the pheasant release sites are the only areas where they can successfully harvest birds, Finger said, but the numbers don't support that opinion. In 2011, some 2,850 pheasant were released in Grant County, while the total harvest was 13,245 birds. Thus, released birds would have made up, at most, 22 percent of the total harvest.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
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