By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
What has been an excellent winter blackmouth season in the San Juan Islands continued over the weekend with a record catch at the two-day Roche Harbor Salmon Classic.
A total of 196 fish were weighed during the sellout event, an all-time high. The first-place chinook, a nice 16.7-pounder taken by Pete Nelson of Shaw Island, was worth $10,000 in prize money. Second place and $5,000 went to Carter Whalen of Friday Harbor for a fish at 16.4 pounds while third and $3,000 went to Brock Warin, also of Friday Harbor, with a fish at 15.12 pounds.
An upscale, for-profit derby, the Roche Harbor event solicits 4-angler teams at an entry fee of $700 per boat.
Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said the money fishers were reasonably close-mouthed about where and on what, but said the word is that the best fishing — perhaps 85 of the fish weighed in the derby — was found in the area centered on the northwest corner of Waldron Island.
Rumor had it, John said, that the largest two or three chinook came from the Spieden Island/Spring Pass area.
Bait accounted for many of the larger fish, generally speaking, but Coho Killer spoons also produced for the derby participants, John said.
Persistence paid off Feb. 4 for Phil Coylar, a 56-year old Chelan businessman and longtime Lake Chelan sport fisherman, when he took a half-hour to deftly play and boat what will almost certainly be formally recognized as a new state record Mackinaw (“lake trout”). His big mac, at 35 pounds, 10 ounces, will likely edge out the current 35-pound, 7-ounce record Mackinaw, also caught in Lake Chelan, in 2001.
Coylar hooked his fish at about 270 feet — not particularly deep for Chelan macs — on a u-20 purple Flatfish and 18-pound test line, near Kelly’s Resort off the south shore. A very knowledgeable fisherman, Coylar knew he had a possible record, but needed a set of certified scales. Guide and outfitter Anton Jones, also of Chelan, was on the dock when Coylar came in and suggested he try the local clinic. Medical staff there cooperated, offering a digital scale normally used to weigh babies, and the huge trout was officially weighed.
Washington State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Travis Maitland later checked the fish out, weighing it again and measuring the length at 441/2 inches, and the girth at 28 inches.
“Because it was so close to the existing record, I decided to ultrasound the fish, just to make sure no weight had been added,” Maitland said.
All the paperwork has been completed and sent to Olympia, but there is no expected problem with establishing the fish as a new state record.
“I’ve heard that Hooked On Toys (a tackle shop in Wenatchee) sold out of purple flatfish almost instantly (when) the word got around,” Maitland said.
Jones, the outfitter, said Coylar’s lure was a 31/2-inch U-20 MPPT purple Flatfish with a chartreuse lip, not a lure large enough, you would think, to tempt a fish that size. But it’s not much smaller than one Jones uses regularly on his charters — a 41/4-inch T4 purple glow Flatfish. Jones’ largest Mac in year of running Darrell &Dad’s Family Guide Service is a fish of 28 pounds, 9 ounces.
“I wasn’t too surprised to see them with a record,” Jones said. “Those guys are good fishermen and have caught a lot of big lakers over the years.
“But I was planning to fish that same slot the next day,” he said, ruefully.
Jones said that the period from late January through February and into March is “big fish time” above what is called “the narrows.”
Ice fishing possibilities
It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter, so ice fishermen will have to be doubly cautious about choosing a lake with good, solid ice. Chelan district state biologist Travis Maitland said frostbite anglers have been working Fish Lake, north of Leavenworth, and taking mixed bags of perch and rainbow. Some of the larger perch have been in the 11- to 12-inch range, Maitland said.
Roses Lake, just north of Manson, has been producing ice fishing results as well, rainbow and some nice perch, plug the occasional brown and tiger trout.
Other possibilities for ice fishermen, according to biologist Bob Jateff, include Davis, near Winthrop, for rainbow to 11 or 13 inches; Patterson near Winthrop for perch and kokanee; Leader, near Omak, for bluegill, black crappie, bass, perch and rainbow; Big and Little Green, near Omak, for rainbow to 13 inches; Rat, near Brewster, for rainbow and browns to 15 inches; Palmer, near Loomis, for perch to 10 inches and kokanee; and Sidley/Molson, near Oroville, for rainbow 11 to 14 inches.
The next coastal razor clam dig coming up, assuming safe conditions, is Feb. 23, a plus tide of 0.3 feet at 5:12 p.m.; and Feb. 24, plus 0.1 feet at 5:47 p.m. Both digs take place on Long Beach and Twin Harbors beaches.
The only eight rivers in the state where anglers can keep native-stock steelhead (one per license year) open for unclipped fish on Saturday: Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.