By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
Fishing took a back seat to the scenery Friday and Saturday in the San Juan Islands as a truly gorgeous winter weekend stole the show from blackmouth fishermen entered in the high-profile 2012 Roche Harbor Salmon Classic. Flat, calm water conditions and warm, sunny weather combined with the always drop-dead beautiful island vistas to produce a memorable blackmouth derby, even though in several ways it was a curious event.
First, despite a lot of money on the line and a history of sellouts, organizers peddled just 85 of 100 available slots. Second, fewer anglers this year still managed to catch more fish — 93 for 293 rods vs. 68 for 337 rods last year.
More fish, certainly, but considerably smaller. This year’s $10,000 first-place winner would have placed sixth last year and so on down the line. Curious.
And the Derek Floyd salmon factory was at it again. The four-rod team of Derek and Julie Floyd of Camano Island, and Scott and Shannon Bumstead of Lake Stevens captured the best boat total weight prize of $2,000 for an aggregate of 44.13 pounds. They did the same thing last year, but the weight was a whopping 108.4 pounds. Derek Floyd, who runs Reel Class Charters out of Sitka, Alaska, for part of the year, won individual top money last year. with a fish of 28.1 pounds, and $1,000 in fifth-place money this year, at 14.2 pounds.
The team has thus banked $15,000 for four days of fishing over two years, and that ain’t bad work.
First place and the 10 grand this year went to Jason King of Bellingham, at 16.6 pounds; second and $4,000 to Brian Dennis of Lake Tapps and David Hodges of Friday Harbor, tied at 16.2 pounds; and fourth, worth $2,000, to Dale Nelson of Bellingham.
Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said most of the larger fish this year came from the Waldron Island/Presidents Channel area.
Next year’s Roche Harbor Classic is scheduled for Feb. 7-9.
Great weather over the weekend also pulled non-derby salmon fishermen out of the woodwork. State Fish and Wildlife Department checks Saturday at the Washington Park ramp west of Anacortes showed 61 anglers with three chinook, and on Sunday, 27 with six fish.
Closer to home, the best crowds of the winter season so far found at least fair results in Marine Areas 8-2 and 9. Checks at the Port of Everett ramp on Saturday tallied 88 anglers with seven chinook, and Gary Krein, owner/skipper of All Star Charters in Everett, said a few fish were being taken on outer Possession Bar, at Double Bluff, and at Point No Point. Nothing real hot, he said, but worth the ride, for blackmouth mostly in the 5- to 7-pound range.
Krein said the bar would be his choice, in 125 to 135 feet of water, pulling Kingfisher Lite spoons behind a breakaway flasher.
There are at least three more derbies of note on the horizon. First up is the big Olympic Peninsula event on Presidents’ Day weekend, Feb. 18-20, for an entry fee of $40, one day or all three, and offering a top prize of $10,000.
This event covers more water than any other Western Washington derby, and weigh stations will be sited in Port Townsend, Gardiner, Freshwater Bay, Sequim and Port Angeles. Tickets are available online at www.swainsinc.com (they’ll be mailed to you) and on this side of the Sound at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood and Outdoor Emporium in Seattle.
For more information go to www.gardinersalmonderby.org.
Next comes the local Bill Hayes Hot Plug’s Blackmouth Derby on Feb. 25, based in Stanwood. Small, feisty and one of the oldest events in the area, it takes place in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2, for an entry fee of $50. First place pays 50 percent of total entry fees, worth $2,100 last year.
Tickets are available at Stanwood Eagles, Elger Bay Grocery, Camano Marine, Hook Line &Sinker, Holiday Sports, John’s Sporting Goods and Ted’s Sport Center.
Last year’s Hot Plug drew 77 entrants, who weighed seven fish. The top prize went to Curt Schaffer and his 20-pound, 3-ounce blackmouth.
For more information call Ed Keller at 425-308-9437.
And while it’s a way off yet, don’t forget the Anacortes Derby, March 31-April 1, with $25,000 in guaranteed purse money. Tickets went on sale Feb. 1, and knowledgeable local salmon fishermen know you’d best get your tickets early or get left out. They’re available for $60 a head at LFS in Bellingham, Holiday Sports in Burlington, Ace Hardware in Anacortes, John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, Outdoor Emporium in Seattle and Sportco in Fife.
For more information, visit to www.anacortessalmonderby.com.
Spring chinook clinic
TJ Nelson, Lake Stevens resident and host of “The Outdoor Line” on ESPN radio, will be one of the speakers at a free, comprehensive, spring chinook seminar from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 25 at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle. A big run of springers is predicted back to the Columbia River this year, and the fishery has become one of the most popular in Western Washington.
Joining Nelly at the seminar will be Rich Mercado of Rich’s Northwest Guide Service and Eric Linde of Linde Sportfishing. There will be free raffle prizes, deals on tackle, and refreshments.
Outdoor Emporium is at 1701 Fourth Avenue South, a block from Safeco Field. For more information, call 206-624-6550 or visit www.sportco.com.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.