Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club member and derby volunteer Jim Brauch said the event drew 94 participants, an uptick from 2012's 80-plus entrants, and they weighed 27 fish. That's not a bad total, considering how slow local saltwater has been in recent weeks. A state Fish and Wildlife Department creel check Saturday at the Port of Everett launch contacted 139 anglers in 50 boats with just four chinook.
The better fishing, as is usually the case this time of year, was found in the western portion of the derby area. Brauch said Midchannel Bank was the major money-fish producer -- four of the top six fish came from between there and Useless Bay, although Greenbank, Elger Bay and Hat Island put out fish as well. Possession Bar was in the wind and difficult to fish.
State checks at the Ediz Hook public ramp on Friday showed 28 fishermen with 17 blackmouth.
"Bait was the most productive technique," Brauch said, "but fish were caught on Coho Killers, Kingfisher spoons, and Tomic plugs."
The top fish, all cleaned weight: Donald Hovner, 14.56 pounds; Troy Moe, 14.36; Spencer Worley, 12.99; Cory Bartlet, 9.87; Josh Neff, 9.73; Jeff Punis, 9.69; Brandon Robachaux, 9.56; Steven Yip, 9.51; Scott Bunstead, 9.39; and Nick Vanveem, 8.21.
The top two fish were dandies. They would have been 16- or 17 pounders, with innards aboard.
When I was 20 and avidly fishing steelhead on the Skagit River with my father, spring was our favorite time of year. Sunshine and warmer temperatures were one draw, naturally, but the main course was the run of big, Sauk/upper Skagit native fish waiting in the holes and the slots to tear you limb from limb. The only 20-pound steelie it has ever been my pleasure to hook and play to the boat was taken from the Skagit's eyeball hole in March, on a No. 4 flame orange Spin N Glo. We usually put our small boat in at Rockport and drifted down to Faber Ferry or even Concrete in those days, reveling in clean water and big fish.
Spring on the Skagit was a magic place and a magic time.
Then came all the well-documented troubles of the 1970s, '80s and '90s, and for a while the spring fishery went to catch and release.
Finally, four or five years ago, it was cut completely. Many of us mourned its passing.
Now a group has formed with the intent of persuading the state (and the feds) to bring that C&R wild-stock steelhead fishery back to the big river. The idea originated with several fly fishermen, but it's not primarily a fly-fishing movement. Retired state biologist Curt Kraemer, angler, Marysville resident and steelhead expert, has become sort of the group's de facto "face," and says any angler with an interest in restoring the February-March-April C&R fishery is welcome.
Kraemer, and a number of other knowledgeable and longtime Skagit fishermen, are convinced various factors have fallen into line to allow a solid return of this run of wild fish several years down the line, and that the state should be asked to put together a management plan for that eventuality, which would include a catch-and-release recreational fishery.
The group calls itself "Occupy Skagit." It has called for a sort of "wade in" on April 6, probably at Rockport about 9 a.m., where interested folks will gather for the cause, hang out for a couple of hours, launch a boat or not, do a little practice casting and, most importantly, sign a petition the group can carry to wildlife commissioners and say "Look here -- more than 500 fishermen want you to consider the possibility of a wild-stock steelhead fishery on the Skagit, when the run is healthy enough."
Some of the details are still hazy, but will be updated on the Occupy Skagit facebook page, Kraemer said.
He also warned that this is a longish-term project, in which state fishery managers must be persuaded to work out a plan with federal agencies, under the Endangered Species listing of Puget Sound steelhead runs.
"It can be done," he said. "A good example is the popular summer selective chinook fishery in Marine Area 9. A compromise involving endangered chinook was worked out there to allow a fin-clipped fishery since 2009."
Chelan more than Mackinaw
Landlocked sockeye salmon, or kokanee, have long been a popular sport fishery on Lake Chelan, but almost entirely among the local angling population. The past few years, however, with increasing interest around the state in the species, more westsiders have been looking into Chelan's burgeoning fishery, and looking particularly at the large average size of the fish involved.
Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service (509-687-0709; firstname.lastname@example.org) said kokanee are just starting to come on, and they're averaging a hefty 15 to 17 inches. Imagine two or three of those dudes on the barbecue.
Unlike many kokanee lakes, successful Chelan anglers are working the edges, not out in "blue water."
"Work over depths of 50 to 100 feet," Jones said, "trolling a Mack's Double D dodger trailed by an orange or pink Mini Cha Cha Squidder. Bait with Pautzke's Fire Corn just above the squid."
He said the bite is usually off and on, so work the area hard when you find the fish. A trolling speed of about 1.1 to 1.3 mph works best.
Free upcoming seminars at Cabela's Tulalip store include the following:
Today, 7:30 to 9 p.m., Women's Intro to Handguns. Preregister by calling 360-474-4880.
April 3, 6-7:30 p.m., Fly Tying University -- The Carey Special, in the Conference Center.
April 17, 6-7:30 p.m., Fly Tying University -- Halfback Nymph, in the Conference Center.
For a full schedule of upcoming seminars, and/or more information, call 360-474-4880 or go to www.cabelas.com/tulalip.
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