By Wany Kruse Special to The Herald
Some 820 salmon fishermen working the Olympic Peninsula Derby over the weekend enjoyed not only decent weather — in an event usually hammered by wind and rain — but also weighed a record 351 winter blackmouth. That catch destroyed the previous record of 248 fish set in 2011, and the 217 weighed last year. Weather and catch taken together made the three-day derby unarguably the best in recent memory, according to organizer Dan Tatum.
The Peninsula grapevine had been circulating good fishing reports for weeks prior to the derby, Tatum said, helping to attract the second-largest crowd in the event’s history. And while the wind kicked up a little on Saturday morning, conditions settled down later in the day and for the Sunday and Monday anglers.
Top dollar went to Jerry Thomas of Mount Vernon, who nailed a 15.9-pound chinook and a check for $10,000. That was a little under last year’s first-place fish, a 17.6-pounder caught by John Otness of Tacoma. Lauren Selvig of Port Orchard took second and $2,000 for a fish of 14.8 pounds. Third and $1,000 went to Don White of Hansville at 14.35 pounds.
The Lampers clan from Snohomish/Granite Falls fared best among local anglers: Ron Lampers in 12th spot at 12.5 pounds, Ray Lampers in 15th at 11.95 pounds, and Ryan Lampers, 45th, at 10.05 pounds. Joe Pyburn of Snohomish finished 27th with a fish of 10.8 pounds.
Tatum said seven of the top 10 fish were caught in Discovery Bay or off Port Townsend.
Proceeds from the derby benefit emergency services in the area, and Tatum said the organizing committee is proud of the number of derby tickets that went to the Wounded Warriors program.
Halibut derby change?
Norm Metzler mentioned while talking about the Olympic Peninsula derby that his group, the Port Angeles Salmon Club, is considering changing its spring halibut derby to a salmon event somewhere down the line. Metzler is a longtime club member and organizer of the halibut derby, and an avid angler on the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca.
I thought the PA Halibut Derby was a big success, Norm?
It is, Metzler said, but it can be argued that a salmon derby out of Port Angeles (which was a fixture there back in the day) would attract a wider range of anglers, including more young people, and better involve the community.
Next up on the saltchuck is Bill Hayes’ Hot Plug’s Derby on March 2, the 27th annual running of the small, local event based in Stanwood. It usually draws a field of around 80 fishermen, according to organizer Ed Keller (425-308-9437).
Tickets are $50 and are available until 2 p.m. March 1 at the Stanwood Eagles, Elger Bay Grocery, Camano Marine, Holiday Sports, John’s Sporting Goods, and Ted’s Sport Center. First place wins 50 percent of the total entry fees ($1,400 last year); second, 20 percent; third, 15 percent; and fourth, 10 percent.
Last year’s winning blackmouth weighed 11 pounds, 4 ounces, Keller said, and was caught off the north end of Camano Island. He said perhaps 60 percent of the derby’s money fish traditionally come from the Camano side of Saratoga Passage, and 40 percent from the Greenbank side. Top tackle choices are usually squid, in apple core or spatterback, he said, and Coho Killer or Coyote spoons in white/green, green glow, and cookies ‘n cream patterns.
There are a lot of blackmouth north of us, in the San Juans, and west of us, around Port Townsend, but All Star Charters owner Gary Krein of Everett said there doesn’t seem to be many fish in local waters. At least not right now.
“It’s been tough,” Krein said. “A lot of shakers, and we’re working hard to put a legal fish in the box. That makes two or three winters in a row where the winter blackmouth season in central Sound has been really challenging.”
Krein said the long run to Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend probably offers the best fishing in the area, but that Possession Bar and Double Bluff are both putting out a fish or two. Small lures are best right now, he said: Coho Killer spoons or the 3-inch Kingfisher Lite.
Winter steelhead on the fly
Cabela’s is offering a free seminar on swinging flies for winter steelhead from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday at the Tulalip store. The expert on hand will be Dennis Dickson of Dickson Outfitters. Dickson is a fly-fishing guide and fisheries biologist. He will discuss fly patterns, techniques and the Northwest winter steelhead fly fishing scene in general. The presentation is free, but space is limited. To preregister, call 360-474-4880.
Jigging has been good recently at the Oak Harbor marina, according to Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361).
Anacortes tickets going fast
Steen also warned anglers interested in fishing the March 30-31 Anacortes Salmon Derby that the event almost certainly will be a sellout again this year. More than half the 1,000 available tickets sold in the first week, Steen said, so if you’re interested, best wrap up a slot ASAP.
For more outdoors news, visit Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.