Mother Nature dropped the hammer on the three-day Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby over the weekend, with winds gusting to 50 mph — a tough go for small boaters.
So the fact that some 600 entrants weighed in 171 chinook (only those over 6 pounds were counted) wasn’t bad, even though it was substantially under the 249 fish caught in 2013’s record-setting tourney.
“Those were the toughest fishing conditions we’ve had in years,” said Dan Tatum, president of the Gardiner Salmon Derby Association. “The weather forecasts held down ticket sales, and some ticket holders decided not to go out, but everyone out there knows why our event is called the ‘Ironman Derby.’”
The weather doesn’t seem to bother anglers from the Mount Vernon area, however, as Skagit County highliners have taken home the $10,000 first prize two years in a row. Jerry Thomas won it last year, with a 15.9-pound chinook caught just west of Protection Island on herring. Larry Quesnell nailed the big one this year, 15.4 pounds, off Diamond Point, using orange herring with hood. Diamond Point is at the mouth of Discovery Bay, in the same general area as Protection Island.
Jay Campbell of Port Townsend took the $2,000 second-place prize at 15.25 pounds, and Geoffrey Cobb of Port Angeles boated a 14.25-pound fish for third and $1,000. The highest placing for a Snohomish County angler went to R.J. Lampers of Snohomish, who placed fifth.
Of the top-20 chinook on the board, 12 were caught in Marine Area 6, and eight in Area 9.
The derby promotes sustainable, hatchery-stock salmon fishing, and accepts only fin-clipped, hatchery chinook.
The very popular Anacortes Salmon Derby, scheduled for March 30-31, is limited to 1,000 tickets, and a check at a couple of outlets indicated about two-thirds have been sold. The event is always a sellout, so if you’re interested, best haul your tail to Holiday Sports, John’s Sporting Goods, Ted’s Sport Center, Ace Hardware (Anacortes and Friday Harbor), LFS, Sportco or Outdoor Emporium. First place is worth $15,000, and there are separate youth division and women’s division prizes.
Lots of fall chinook
As the North of Falcon season-setting process gets underway for 2014, more run predictions are coming out of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. One of the rosiest involves fall fishing on the Columbia River and its tributaries, where estimates say about one million coho are headed for the big river, along with 1.6 million fall chinook.
Biologist Joe Hymer at the state’s Vancouver office said that if the fall chinook figure pans out, it will be the largest return since at least 1938 and 25 percent larger than last year’s run.
About a million of those kings will be “upriver brights,” the fish anglers pursue in the Hanford Reach in September and October, and two-thirds of the run will be composed of hefty 4-year-olds.
Where are the smelt?
Last Saturday’s dip-net smelt opening on the Cowlitz River was better attended than the first, but still no smelt to speak of. The deliberately short season is scheduled to run this Saturday and again March 1, then close. It’s a crap shoot whether the fish will enter the Cowlitz from the Columbia while they’re available to recreational dip-netters.
Water temperatures appear favorable, according to biologist Joe Hymer (above), with the Cowlitz near 43 degrees, very close to the 42-degree water smelt prefer for their spawning run. The fishery is open 6 a.m. to noon, Saturdays through March 1, with a daily limit of 10 pounds per person, about one-fourth of a five-gallon bucket.
Jim Goerg, Lake Stevens resident and publisher of The Reel News, is putting together a couple of his popular fishing expeditions to Mexico’s Baja Peninsula this spring (his ninth year), complete as always with big fish, great weather, and a ton of fun. The first runs May 12-17 and is for new or returning readers of The Reel News, their families, friends and associates. The second, May 17-22, is a special trip for first responders: military, law enforcement, fire fighters, security (active or retired), family and friends. Offshore for marlin, sailfish, and Dorado; and nearshore for dozens of different species.
Accommodations are at the Hotel Palmas de Cortez, on Baja’s East Cape, Sea of Cortez, and includes a five-night stay, four days of fishing, and three meals daily. Call 425-334-8966 for more information.
Spring razor clams
The state Fish and Wildlife Department has released its list of tentative spring razor clam openings through April, which includes a shift on March 30 from winter’s evening digs to the more popular morning digs.
Dates, tides and beaches as follows: Feb 26, 4:15 p.m., minus 0.4 feet at Twin Harbors; Feb. 27, 5:04 p.m., minus 0.7 feet at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; Feb. 28, 5:49 p.m., minus 0.8 feet at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; March 1, 6:32 p.m., minus 0.7 feet at all beaches except Kalaloch; March 2, 7:13 p.m., minus 0.3 feet, Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; March 3, 7:53 p.m., plus 0.3 feet, at Twin Harbors; March 26, 3:52 p.m., plus 0.3 feet, at Twin Harbors; March 27, 4:48 p.m., plus 0.1 feet at Twin Harbors; March 28, 5:38 p.m., 0.0 feet at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; March 30, 6:53 A.M., minus 0.1 feet at Twin Harbors, Long Beach and Mocrocks; March 31, 7:39 a.m., minus 0.5 feet at Twin Harbors; April 1, 8:22 a.m., minus 0.7 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 2, 9:05 a.m., minus 0.6 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 3, 9:49 a.m., minus 0.3 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 14, 6:46 a.m., plus 0.2 feet at Twin Harbors; April 15, 7:24 a.m., minus 0.3 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 16, 8:03 a.m., minus 0.6 feet, at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 17, 8:43 a.m., minus 0.8 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 18, 9:26 a.m., minus 0.8 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; April 19, 10:14 a.m., minus 0.7 feet at Twin Harbors and Long Beach; and April 20, 11:06 a.m., minus 0.4 feet, at Twin Harbors and Long Beach.
The annual Long Beach Razor Clam Festival is April 19-20. Information is available at http://longbeachrazorclamfestival.com.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.