Marine Area 7, the San Juan Islands, opened for winter blackmouth fishing Monday and runs through the end of April. The limit is one hatchery chinook daily. However, that season could be cut short for any number of reasons, including the presence of a too-high percentage of under-legal fish.
“We’re hoping blackmouth will be larger than they were in Area 9 when it closed,”said Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington.
The San Juan Islands have traditionally produced one of the top success rates on winter blackmouth in the state.
Marine Areas 8-1 (north half of Saratoga Passage, Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan, Port Gardner and the south portion of Saratoga Passage) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet; Possession Bar) remain closed until state Department of Fish and Wildlife salmon managers decide the sub-legals hooked incidentally late last year have either grown to legal length or left for happier climes.
John said there were plenty of fish available when 8-1, 8-2 and 9 closed, they just weren’t quite big enough. And by now that could bode well for the Islands’ fishery.
Most Area 7 anglers will be fishing inside Rosario Strait early in the season, at spots such as Fidalgo Head, Reef Point and Lopez Flats, John said. For most fishermen, the choice of terminal tackle will be either bait or spoons. The 3-inch Coho Killer or Kingfisher spoons in “white lightning” or “Irish cream” would be good choices.
John said plugs have been making a comeback of sorts the past couple of years, and not just as a go-to technique to discourage shakers.
“We’ve seen an uptick in plug sales,” he said, “and plugs have been money winners in at least three or four recent derbies.”
Most Island fishermen will launch at Washington Park, west of Anacortes, or Cornet Bay, in Deception Pass State Park. Those putting in at Cornet Bay are mostly headed for the offshore banks, John said — Salmon Bank or Hein Bank, if the weather allows, or maybe Lopez Flats.
The banks usually fish better in February and March, he said, and early fish there sometimes tend to be small.
Meanwhile, Area 10 (Edmonds, Seattle) remains open through the end of this month for one hatchery chinook and is a fair bet at Jefferson Head and the Kingston area for just-legal blackmouth.
The Puget Sound crab season closed Dec. 31 and recreational crabbers have until Feb. 1 to report their winter catch to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Non-compliance results in a $10 “administrative fee” (read “fine”) being applied to the next license purchase.
Crabbers can report their catches online or send their catch record cards to WDFW CRC Unit, P.O.Box 43142, Olympia, Wash., 98504.
While most Puget Sound streams have dropped to low, bony conditions, the next wet spell could bring at least fair steelhead fishing to local rivers. Austin Heyer at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville (just south of the Woodinville Costco) said the current return of winter steelhead to the Snohomish River system may be a little stronger than earlier predicted.
“Fishing has been pretty good at times, for those who can hit the best water at the best time,” Heyer said, “and that usually means the Skykomish at Reiter Ponds or the Wallace, right after high water.”
Three Rivers runs an on-going steelhead derby this time of year, and the current entry list includes 70 steelhead through last week. The first-place fish so far is an 11.79-pounder.
That’s sort of impressive, all things considered. The derby is free to enter, started on Dec. 1, and will award quality gear after Jan. 15.
Heyer said both sides of the Reiter Ponds fishery produce about equally well, and that there is no night closure in effect now. Float/jig seems to be the preferred tackle setup, using white, pink, orange or “nightmare” (black/red) jig colors.
“The hatchery steelhead boom through the rivers so fast that about the only chance we have at them is at the terminal fisheries – Reiter, Wallace, Tokul Creek,” Heyer said.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife has put together a squid web page, with suggestions on where and how to jig squid, how to clean and prepare, and a list of recipes. Visit www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid.
From the Strait of Juan de Fuca to south Puget Sound, recreational squid fishing in Washington is available to sport anglers year around, although the best time to catch squid is during the fall and winter months. A nighttime sport that requires simple, inexpensive fishing tackle, squid jigging requires only a lighted pier, such as that at Edmonds.
Humboldt squid are the big boys, encountered occasionally off the coast by tuna fishermen. They can grow to a length of 7 feet and weigh close to 100 pounds. They are considered good eating and are subject to commercial fisheries in Mexico.
Squid is lower in fat and calories than many other protein sources and is beautifully versatile. It can be used for appetizers, soups, salads or main dishes.
Here’s a basic recipe for pan-fried squid:
— Cleaned squid cut into 1-inch rings
— 2/3 cup bread crumbs, mixed with 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
— Milk or egg beaten with 1 Tbs water
— Your choice of oil: olive, peanut, vegetable, etc
— Dredge squid rings in flour, dip in milk (or egg) mixture, roll in crumb mixture. Allow to rest a few minutes to set crumbs. Fry quickly in oil until golden (about 1 minute on medium heat).