By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
The weather forecast looks good, fishing has been relatively strong in the San Juan Islands this winter, and the big Anacortes Salmon Derby is once again a sellout. Mix those factors and add some interesting tides, and you have what could be a really gunnysack event this weekend.
The 2012 Anacortes Derby was an excellent one, weighing 211 fish and paying $15,000 to Ted Radke of Ferndale for a dandy 21.7-pounder, but this one could be better. If participants can play the tides correctly.
“There seems to be plenty of fish around,” said Jay Field, Anacortes resident and owner of Dash One Charters, “but the two tides involve a strong water exchange, and the first high is early — around 7 a.m. That means some folks won’t be able to get where they want to be by the first high slack — way up north, or out on the banks.”
Field said anglers should have a plan involving how to get to good water early Saturday morning, and a list of spots that traditionally fish well on a strong ebb.
“You’re looking at a 91/2-foot runoff,” Field said. “To me that means places like Point Lawrence or Tide Point. The larger flats and banks fish well, too, on a strong ebb — like Lopez Flats or Salmon Bank. Those will involve a lot of picking up and running, but they could be worth the trouble.”
Field said that by the end of the early ebb, good water will be available most everywhere in the islands, from Sucia to Hein Bank and Guemes Channel to Waldron Island.
“The low tide change will provide prime time fishing somewhere,” he said. “The trick is predicting where.”
Field said fishing was good last weekend, with a lot of fish taken in the mid-teens. Checks by state personnel on Saturday showed 44 anglers in 24 boats with 12 chinook. Field boated a 14- and 16-pounder over the weekend.
Herring or small spoons would be his terminal tackle choices, Field said. The 3.0 Kingfisher in green/chartreuse glow would be a good choice, on 5 feet of leader behind a flasher, fished on bottom. Trolling with the tidal run is the best way to go, but in the smaller spots, picking up and running back would waste too much time, Field said.
“There’s a lot of other stuff involved besides the fishing,” Field said. “You don’t want to miss the Friday night film festival, 5-7 p.m., at which the audience will be able to vote on the best homemade fishing video. We’ll award cameras and trophies, and the Silver Horde Anglers’ Choice Award.”
Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said if derby participants aren’t able to get out to the banks, or to some of the farther-north areas, closer-in spots which have been putting out fish include Reef Point on the southwest end of Cypress Island, Tide Point/Eagle Bluff, Thatcher Pass and Point Lawrence. Farther north, the north end of Sinclair Island would be a good bet.
“And if the weather should really go bad,” John said, “you might look inside Lopez Pass, around Frost Island or Humphrey Head, or along the west side of Orcas.”
Anglers looking for money fish like to go with bait, and John said there’s a lot of small stuff in the islands right now. Try a small herring or anchovy in a helmet behind a traditional flasher, or a cut plug behind a triangular in-line flasher such as the Fish Witch.
Squid advocates like the green glow, and John said small spoons to “match the hatch,” such as the Coho Killer, or the new 2-inch Kingfisher would be good choices. Early in the morning, he said, he likes glow gear, and then switches to UV when the light gets on the water.
Halibut seasons shorter
Puget Sound halibut fishing was good last year. Too good, in fact, so the number of fishing days this year has been cut back by state groundfish managers to make up for overharvest by sport fishermen in 2012. The recreational quota for in-Sound halibut is the same as last year, but this year’s seasons have been reduced by five days in the eastern region (Marine Areas 6-10) and nine days in the western region (Marine Area 5) to compensate for exceeding last year’s quota.
“Still, we made sure the seasons will open on the tratitional opening dates, so folks can plan their annual halibut trips well in advance,” said Heather Reed, coastal policy coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife,
The 2013 seasons are as follows:
Marine Area 5: From May 23-26, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. for Memorial Day weekend. From May 30 through June 1, it will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then will be open for one final day Saturday, June 8.
Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10: From May 2-4, the fishery will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 16-18, it will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. From May 23-26, it wil be open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday for Memorial Day weekend. It will also be open May 30-31.
Following the script of the past two years, the Columbia River spring chinook run is off to a slow start. Checks on the lower river last week showed a catch rate similar to the same period in 2012, but far fewer anglers. State creel checkers tallied one springer for every 18.4 rods at this point in 2012, and one for every 21.2 last week. That period in 2012 drew 955 boats; last week, 795 boats.
The season is scheduled to end on the lower river April 5, but with such a small percentage of the quota having been caught, an April 3 update meeting is likely to extend the fishery, as it did last year.
The new annual catch limit for white sturgeon statewide drops from five fish to two on Monday as the state moves to address falling populations in the lower Columbia. The change was originally scheduled to take effect May 1, but fish managers moved the start up to align with the license year.
Sport fishing for white sturgeon becomes catch and release only, statewide, next year.
Anglers who already have purchased a fishing license for the upcoming year should note that their catch record card has five boxes for recording sturgeon. Those cards are still valid, but once two boxes have been checked, the limit has been reached.
A strange thing happened on the way to an endangered species listing — the species in question showed up in numbers enough to boggle the mind.
A downturn in eulachon (“smelt”) numbers on the lower Columbia for a period of time prompted the Cowlitz Tribe to mount an effort to have the small fish listed under the ESA. It worked, and they were, a couple of years ago, marking an end to recreational dipping on the Cowlitz River. This year, there are so many smelt in the lower end of the Columbia that the seagulls don’t bother any longer to pick them up, the sea lions are glutted and so are the spring chinook. There are windrows of dead smelt along most of the Columbia beaches, clear up to the Sandy River in Oregon.
So will they be delisted and a season opened on them next winter? Not likely, knowing the glacial workings of the federal government, particularly with the cyclical nature of the fish and the question of whether they’re “really” back or not.