Good blackmouth fishing in the San Juans

  • By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
  • Wednesday, December 26, 2012 11:52pm
  • Sports

There’s a pretty good winter blackmouth fishery under way in the San Juan Islands — if you can get to it. Christmas festivities and windy weather cut down participation over the weekend, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington, but for those Viking types who hit the water anyway, the fishing was productive.

Better bets, according to John, would include areas inside Rosario Strait: Eagle Bluff/Tide Point, down to Kellett Ledge, and Thatcher Pass. Staying closer to the Washington Park ramp, Fidalgo Head was also holding fish. For more sheltered water, John said, try Lopez Pass or Decatur Bay.

Island blackmouth seem to be running a little larger than usual this winter, with more fish showing in the 8- to 12-pound range, and shakers haven’t been a particular problem.

John said small spoons have been popular, in UV greens, glows and purple, along with herring, either plug cut or fished with a helmet. Use green bait for cutting, or red for fishing whole.

State Fish and Wildlife Department checks Friday at the Washington Park ramp in Anacortes tallied five anglers in three boats with five chinook, and on Saturday, 12 anglers in six boats with three fish.

Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 are open through the winter, but weather conditions have also hampered fishing in these local waters. Gary Krein, owner of All Star Charters in Everett, said Columbia Beach and the Bait Box, both along the east side of Whidbey Island, have been putting out a few fish, and that Area 10 is also a fair bet, off Jefferson Head. Area 9, including Possession Bar, reopens Jan. 16.

State personnel at the Camano State Park ramp on Saturday checked 10 anglers in five boats with three blackmouth. At the Port of Everett ramp on Sunday, it was five anglers in three boats with two blackmouth.

The east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca has been at least a fair bet, when weather allows. Checks Sunday at the Port Angeles Boat Haven showed four fishermen with two chinook, and at the Ediz Hook public ramp, 14 fishermen with 4 fish.

Tackle shop closing

Hook Line &Sinker is calling it quits. The Smokey Point tackle shop is selling out its stock at a 20-percent discount through Saturday, then will close its doors for good. Owner Darrel Kron was not available for comment Wednesday, but employee Jeff Yaskus said the wolf in the room — the new Cabela’s store down the road — probably was not to blame.

“A combination of things,” he said, “including the economy, ever-shorter seasons and less fishing opportunity, particularly the sturgeon situation.”

The address is 17306 Smokey Point Drive, No. 18. The phone number is 360-651-7304.

New Year’s Eve clam dig

Can you imagine 20,000 people out on the ocean beaches in the dead of winter and the black of night, digging razor clams? A certain percentage of the state’s population calls it fun, according to state clam manager Dan Ayres in Montesano, and the New Year’s Eve dig is always one of the best-attended of the year.

The tide isn’t a great one for this year’s edition, but if the surf is down and the weather is decent, digging should be good and the crowd substantial, Ayres said. Dates and tides for the upcoming series are as follows: Dec. 28, minus 0.3 feet, 6:42 p.m., at Twin Harbors only; Dec. 29, minus 0.3 feet, 7:15 p.m., Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; Dec. 30, minus 0.2 feet, 7:47 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks and Copalis; and Dec. 31, 0.0 feet, 8:20 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Mocrocks and Copalis.

Ayres said the last dig was tough, with generally poor weather and high surf, but that the average of about 13.5 clams per person (a limit is 15) wasn’t bad, all things considered.

Best beaches for the upcoming dig? Those north of Grays Harbor, Ayres said, both for larger clams and abundance.

“If I were going to take my family out, I’d head for Mocrocks or Copalis,” he said.

Tentative digs through February include: Jan. 8-14; Jan. 25-27; Feb. 7-12; and Feb. 23-24. The best tides in that two-month stretch will be Jan. 10, minus 1.3 feet, at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Copalis; and Jan. 11, minus 1.6 feet, at all beaches except Kalaloch.

Steelhead numbers

State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said the numbers of adult winter steelhead returning to lower Columbia River tributaries is a mixed bag so far. Returns to the Cowlitz Hatchery are down substantially, at 490 fish in the trap compared to 1,067 at this date last year. Same with the Lewis hatchery — 241 compared to 557 last year. The Kalama hatchery fares better, however, with 124 adults back this winter compared to 30 fish in 2011 at this point.

Do your paperwork

Hunting and winter crab reports are coming due, carrying a $10 fine to be added to next year’s licenses if they’re not submitted by the deadline. Winter crab closes Monday and the catch reports must be in to the Department of Fish and Wildlife by Feb. 1. Mail your card to WDFW CRC Unit, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, 98501, or report online, Jan. 1 to Feb. 1, at

Hunting reports for bear, deer, elk and turkey are due by Jan. 31, but if submitted by Jan. 10, the person submitting will be included in a drawing for five deer permits and four elk permits in various areas of the state.

Hunters can report by phone, 877-945-3492, or online at Hunters should be prepared to give the game management unit they hunted and their individual WILD identification number.

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