By Wayne Kruse Herald Columnist
Last week’s 11th running of the Roche harbor Classic Salmon Derby in the San Juan Islands looked for a while like a training session for the one-meter chinook pursuit, but when the snow, rain and wind let up, anglers in the high-profile tournament had boated some dandy blackmouth and earned gold.
Andy Holman of Friday Harbor went home with the $10,000 first-place money for a very nice chinook of 20.2 pounds, an additional $1,000 for the largest Friday fish, and $3,000 more for hanging a Mercury on his transom. Second place and $5,000 went to Pat Federspiel of Bellevue, at 16.2 pounds, and third to Frank Finch of Friday Harbor, worth $3,000, at 15.12 pounds.
The best boat weight, a two-day total of 10 fish weighing 78.8 pounds, went to Craig Haugen, Brian James and Tim Melton, all of Bellingham. The trio split the $2,000 prize.
The derby was a sellout, with an entry list of 100 boats and 344 anglers, who weighed 172 fish. Last year’s big fish was a blackmouth of 16.7 pounds, the best boat weight 80.12 pounds, and a total of 196 fish were weighed in.
Snow or no snow, it’s Derby Daze hereabouts. Up next is the Olympic Peninsula Winter Blackmouth Classic, alias the “ironman derby” for its often wintry weather, Feb. 15, 16 and 17. It pays $10,000 for first place, and covers 500 square miles of fishing water out of Port Townsend, Gardiner, Sequim, Port Angeles and Freshwater Bay. Tickets are $40 for one or all three days. The only ticket outlets on this side of the pond are Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood and Outdoor Emporium in Seattle. Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s (425-743-9505) said Wednesday morning he still had lots of tickets for this derby, as well as for others upcoming.
Tickets can also be purchased online at www.gardinersalmonderby.org or www.facebook.com/salmonderby.
If the huge area of the Peninsula affair is a little daunting, try the next event in line, the 28th annual Bill Hayes Hot Plug’s Blackmouth Derby on March 1, out of Stanwood. This long-running little derby is friendly and easy to handle, and will pay somewhere around $2,000 (50 percent of total entry fees) for first place, 20 percent for second, 15 percent for third, and 10 percent for fourth. Two entrants will be drawn for $100 cash prizes and Anacortes Derby tickets. Open fishing water includes Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 only, all weather.
Last year’s winner, Derek Schneider, nailed a 16-pound, 5-ounce blackmouth and took home $2,125.
Tickets are $50, available at Stanwood Eagles, Elger Bay Grocery, Camano Marine, Holiday Sports, John’s Sporting Goods and Ted’s Sport Center, until 2 p.m. Feb. 28.
The Everett Blackmouth Derby is scheduled for March 22, and the big Anacortes Salmon Derby for March 30-31. The Anacortes event is almost always a sellout, and tickets have been on sale since Feb. 1. If you’re interested, best get one soon, at: Holiday Sports, Ace Hardware (Anacortes and Friday Harbor), LFS, Outdoor Emporium, Sportco, Ted’s Sport Center, or John’s Sporting Goods.
Perhaps the Marine Area 9 winter blackmouth fishery has been a little too good. Salmon managers on Monday cut the hatchery chinook limit in Area 9 from two fish daily to one.
“We’ve counted more fish so far this season than were counted at the same point in previous years,” said Ryan Lothrop, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. “After reviewing the catch estimates, it was clear we needed to take action to control the fishery’s impact on stocks of concern.”
According to preliminary estimates, anglers had kept or released 1,676 chinook in Area 9 as of Feb. 2.
All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein of Everett said that while the success rate in Area 9 had tapered off a bit, there were still fish to be had. Point No Point and Double Bluff have been producing a nice fishery for blackmouth averaging 8 pounds or so, Krein said. Nick Kester, another All Star Charters skipper, has been doing well using Coho Killer and 3-inch Kingfisher Lite spoons in greens and green/white, behind a flasher, near bottom in about 100 feet of water
Recreational smelt dipping opened Saturday, for the first time in three years, on the Cowlitz River. The short season will allow dip nets from 6 a.m. to noon each Saturday through March 1, with a daily limit of 10 pounds.
Fishery managers from Washington and Oregon also approved a similar schedule on the Sandy, in Oregon, and a limited gillnetting fishery on the lower Columbia. The three fisheries are designed primarily to gather basic biological data on smelt (eulachon) which were listed as threaatened from northern California into B.C. under the federal ESA.
Last Saturday’s opener was “lightly attended, and no smelt were taken,” according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. But Hymer said birds, seals and sea lions were seen working below the Astoria bridge, and it’s possible smelt are staging there, waiting for optimal water conditions.
Cody Clark at Bob’s Sports in Longview, 360-425-3870, is available to answer questions. The firm also sells smelt nets, Clark said, with different models going roughly $40 to $60.
Hymer said a handful of spring chinook have been taken in the Multnomah Channel on the Oregon side of the Columbia near Portland/Vancouver, and are probably early returning Willamette fish in the mid-teens. The upriver (as opposed to lower river tributary) run of springers is predicted this year at 227,000 fish, compared to last spring’s actual return of 123,000 fish, nearly double. That should mean good fishing, if the estimates are anywhere close, but Hymer said peak action probably won’t occur until about mid-March through the April 7 closing date. That closing date could be, and often is, adjusted as the run develops.
Boat show drew well
The Seattle Boat Show drew two percent more attendees this year than last, despite having one day at the end of the show lopped off to celebrate the Seattle Seahawks and the Super Bowl. Some 51,684 folks attended the 2014 show (in nine days), compared to 50,653 (in 10 days) last year.
“Closing the show a day early was absolutely the right decision,” said George Harris, president of the Northwest Marine Trade Association.
Black bear applications due
Hunters interested in black bear must purchase and submit an application to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by midnight Feb. 28, to be eligible for a permit applicable to specific areas of western and eastern Washington. A drawing will be held in mid-March for 383 permits in western Washington and 314 east of the mountains. Permit winners will receive notification in the mail no later than March 31. Applicants may also check drawing results at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.
To apply for a permit, hunters must purchase a special permit application and a 2014 hunting license that includes bear as a species option. These can be purchased online at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/, by calling 866-246-9453, or at any license vendor statewide.
Kapowsin tree farm? Call Hancock Forest Management first, at 800-782-1493, to find out what areas are open. Hunters chosen for the Copalis hunt must obtain a Recreational Use Permit from Rayonier at 855-729-4868.