Splendid blackmouth fishing in San Juan Islands

  • By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
  • Wednesday, December 12, 2012 11:43pm
  • Sports

The San Juan Islands’ reputation as our premier winter blackmouth fishery remains unsullied after a weekend of great results for both expert and average salmon anglers.

The experts — 75 teams strong — fished the Resurrection Derby out of Friday Harbor and weighed in 200-plus hatchery chinook during the Friday-Saturday event, more than doubling last year’s count of 95 fish for 69 angler teams. The total boat weight cash prize of $1,000 went to the Troy Moe team, which weighed an incredible 93.56 pounds of chinook over the two days.

On Sunday, everyone else went fishing, aided no doubt by cellphone info from derby participants on where the fish and bait had been found. State Fish and Wildlife Department personnel contacted 23 anglers in 12 boats at the Washington Park public ramp in Anacortes with 18 chinook that day — numbers as impressive in their own way as those for the derby hot sticks.

According to derby chair Kevin Klein of the sponsoring Fidalgo-San Juan Islands Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers, the top derby prize of $10,000 went to the team of Bob Norling and Mark Shinman of Anacortes for a chinook of 15.67 pounds. Shinman is the secretary/treasurer of the popular Anacortes Derby, due up this spring.

Second place and $2,500 went to Kris Maudslin, Troy Unke and Mike Sorenson of Seattle at 14.68 pounds, and $1,500 for third to Kevin and Duane Zender at 14.46 pounds.

Only fin-clipped hatchery chinook are legal in this fishery, and Klein said all proceeds from the derby go to local salmon enhancement projects.

Jay Field of Anacortes, president of the sponsoring organization and owner of Dash One Charters, said the club is very pleased with the growing entry list for what he calls “our instant classic” derby. From 47 teams in 2010 to 69 last year and 75 in 2012 — at an entry fee of $400 — is, in his opinion, very successful growth.

“It’s a great event,” said Tom Nelson of Lake Stevens (see accompanying Pick of the Week). “Small town that really treats you right, scenic area, good fishing — a must derby in my book.”

Field said the first-prize blackmouth was caught Friday at Parker Reef, on whole herring, but that in general, fish were scattered throughout the islands. Nelson said most of the chinook that made up the winning boat total weight came from Lopez Flats, and that it seemed more wild (released) fish came from the western portion of the islands, and more hatchery fish from Rosario Strait spots.

“Rosario Strait was good,” Field agreed, “but President Channel and the north end of Orcas fished well, and the guys who ran out to the banks also caught fish.”

So were most of the larger blackmouth taken on herring?

“We didn’t keep stats,” Field said. “I know some fishermen say artificials will catch more fish and bait will catch bigger ones, but I don’t know that I believe that. I’ve seen a lot of big salmon caught on stuff other than herring.”

Salmon flicks

In conjunction with the Anacortes Derby mentioned above, organizers are planning the first annual Great Anacortes Fishing Film Festival (GAFFF) to take place in the event tent at Cap Sante Marina on March 29, which is the Friday of derby weekend. This video festival will replace the venerable pre-derby salmon seminar with angler-shot saltwater fishing footage.

“We want to energize and invigorate,” said Rob Endsley, Alaska charter operator and co-host of “The Outdoor Line” on 710 ESPN radio. “The old Friday-night seminar was a good thing, but in my opinion it’s become somewhat stale.”

The GAFFF is also a contest, and winning entries will be awarded trophies and prizes, including industry-leading GoPro cameras.

“The surfers and fly fishermen have been doing this for years, why not us?” derby organizer Jay Field said.

The contest will have two divisions, amateur and professional, and two categories, feature videos and how-to videos. For more information on contest rules and eligibility, visit www.anacortessalmonderby.com.

Razor clams

Razor clam fans will find some of the best tides of the winter during the current dig, which started Tuesday and runs through Sunday. Particularly attractive is a Saturday tide of minus 1.6 feet at 8:01 p.m., open on all coastal beaches except Kalaloch. Other tides remaining in the opening are: today, minus 1.9 feet, 6:29 p.m., at Twin Harbors only; Friday, minus 1.8 feet, 7:15 p.m., at all beaches except Kalaloch; and Sunday, minus 1.0 feet, 8:47 p.m., at Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Long Beach only.

State Fish and Wildlife Department clam manager Dan Ayres in Montesano said the best digging often occurs one to two hours prior to low tide.

For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.

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