Great weather, no wind, plenty of fish, heavyweight winners, well over a thousand anglers on the water -- and always with that incomparable San Juan Island scenery as a backdrop. Very good stuff.
Those who believe that to fish a derby seriously you gotta put herring over the stern had their particular prejudice reinforced by first-place winner (21.52 pounds) Scott Fowler of Burlington. As he accepted his check for $15,000, Fowler said, "We fish bait, and it takes bait to catch big fish." The herring was plug cut, according to derby board chairman Jay Field, and the fish was caught at Point Lawrence on the derby's first day.
Second place and $5,000 went to Rich Olson of Everett, whose salmon weighed 19.42 pounds. Jay Murphy of Puyallup was third, winning $2,500 for his 19.1-pound salmon.
Last year's first-place fish was slightly larger than Fowler's, at 21.7 pounds, but the 256 total fish weighed was a record for the event and far outclassed 2012's total of 211 chinook.
Jennifer Payne of Friday Harbor won the Women's Division, with a 14.69-pound blackmouth, while Seth Baumgarten of Mercer Island nailed the Youth Division, at 16.52 pounds. Field said every youngster entered took home a prize.
There seemed to be no particular hot spot Saturday or Sunday. The catch was pretty well scattered over most of the productive spots, Field said, and even those who managed to camp on the banks before the early-morning ebb took fish.
A new addition to the derby was enthusiastically received, Field said. "GAFFF," the Great Anacortes Fishing Film Festival, made its debut with home video fishing footage to entertain the 500-plus in attendance.
Winner of the Pro Division was charter owner and radio show host Rob Endsley of Gig Harbor, Wash., and Craig, Alaska. Winner of the Amateur Division was Jim Ramos of Sedro-Woolley, while Steve Chamberlin was voted by the audience as the Silver Horde Anglers' Choice winner for his geat action footage and sound track.
The derby -- a sellout every year -- is sponsored by the Fidalgo-San Juan Islands Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers, and proceeds fund scholarships to benefit young adults pursuing careers in fishery management or a related field. The derby has disbursed more than $163,000 in scholarships and grants during the past six years.
Kids' spring fishing
Put a kid and a fishing rod together and you create a great thing. Toward that end, the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club, Puget Sound Anglers, has announced its spring schedule of free or low-cost trout fishing events for youth in the Everett area. The events are co-sponsored with other state and local organizations.
First up, April 17, is a kids' trout fishing class at Silver Lake's Sullivan Park in south Everett, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The $5 class covers all the basics novice anglers should know to fish trout successfully in our local lakes. For pre-registration call Everett Parks and Recreation at 425-257-8300, ext. 2.
Next is a free kids' trout pond, April 27-28, at the Evergreen Recreation and Sportsmen's Expo at Evergreen Fairgrounds in Monroe. Trout left from the event, sponsored by Les Schwab and the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Youth Organization, will be placed in Lake Tye.
May 4 brings the popular kids' fishing event at Jennings Pond in Marysville's Jennings Park. It will run from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Open to youth 5 to 12 years old, fishing is free but sponsors ask that a can of food be donated at the event for a local food bank. There will be a one-fish limit until noon, when it opens to all kids and has a 5-trout limit. The event is co-sponsored by John's Sporting Goods, Marysville Parks, Kiwanis and others.
May 11 is the Silver Lake kids' fish-in at Sullivan Park. It runs 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for children ages 4 to 14 years. The event is free this year, but pre-registration with EvParks is required by calling 425-257-8300, ext. 2. There's a 600-kid limit, and ESSC spokesman Jim Brauch said it will fill up.
On May 18 is the kids' fishing event at north Gissberg Pond, Twin Lakes County Park, adjacent to the west side of I-5 at Smokey Point, north of Marysville. It's free, open to ages 5-14, and there's no registration required. Hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Everett Club stocks this one heavily and usually includes a nice scattering of big 'bows in the 2- to 5-pound class. The North Pond is, by law, open to juveniles only.
Cabela's Tulalip greets the 2013 spring fishing season with a selection of free fishing seminars, presented by local experts. Dates are April 13-14 and times are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Highlights include: Finding fish with Lowrance (Nick Kester); getting into trout fishing (Ryan Bigley); lingcod 101 (Gary Krein); targeting early season kings (Nick Kester); preparing for summer steelhead (Jim and Jennifer Stahl); reading trout water and fly casting for all ages (Federation of Fly Fishers); tuna fishing for the advanced angler; and a fly casting walk-in clinic with the FFF.
While there, check out the 2013 Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand-prize boat/trailer package.
For a full schedule of seminars and other Fishing Classic events, visit www.cabelas.com/tulalip or call 360-474-4880.
The fishery for late-run winter steelhead on the Cowlitz has produced pretty well recently. A state creel check last week tallied 45 boat fishermen with 17 steelhead. Bank anglers didn't fare as well, and only a sprinkling of spring chinook was recorded.
Columbia Basin trout
A bunch of lakes in the Columbia Basin opened to early trout fishing on April 1, and state biologist Chad Jackson in Moses Lake gives a rundown on a few of them:
The Pillar-Widgeon chain, in the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, should be fair to good for rainbow. North and South Teal, among the "seep lakes" south of Potholes Reservooir were rehabilitated in 2010 and restocked each year since with rainbow fry. Many of those fish will be in the 12-inch range this year and fishing on both lakes should be good.
Dry Falls Lake near Coulee City is a selective-gear "quality" lake which should offer some of the best early-season action in the area, especially for catch and release anglers. It's a one-fish limit water, but anglers average close to 10 trout per trip when catching and releasing, Jackson said. Most are 12 to 14 inches, but the lake carries a fair percentage of larger trout to 20 inches or better, plus a few brown and tiger trout to spice the mix.
Jackson said Upper and Lower Hampton are always popular, but are suffering from an infestation of nuisance fish and scheduled for rehab this fall. They hold a few large trout for those with the patience to work for them, Jackson said.
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