By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
Three of western Washington’s more interesting saltwater fisheries open on inland waters over the next two weeks, and the day on which the three first align — Saturday, May 5 — presents the opportunity for an angling trifecta of sorts.
This bottom-fishing grand slam includes lingcod, which open May 1; Halibut, opening May 3; and spot shrimp, which open May 5.
The best inland ling populations by far are found in the San Juan Islands, and Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington says fishing in the islands is better than ever. “The slot limit (minimum and maximum lengths) imposed by the state several years ago has improved the fishery, without a doubt,” he said. “The downside is that if you get into an area with a lot of small fish, you have to move along.”
There are dozens of spots to fish along both sides of Rosario Strait, John said, as you look for isolated pinnacles and other rocky bottom structure. The north end of Orcas Island and neighboring Sucia are popular spots, particularly for weekend trips, and the south end of Lopez has a lot of structure. Closer in, Burrows and Allan islands put out fish
Deception Pass produces well early in the season each year, but can generally be fished only on a slack tide. John said Lawson Reef, directly out in front of Deception Pass, can be good, weather permitting.
Live bait — sand dabs and the like — are probably tops for ling, but herring is most popular, John said. Use a mooching sinker of 4 to 8 ounces on 3 to 4 feet of 30- to 40-pound leader.
Lead-head jigs of 4 to 8 ounces will also work, in white, black, brown or olive. “Or, if none of those is getting bit, go wild and try orange or chartreuse,” John said.
Since ling fishing is not allowed deeper than 120 feet, John warned those going after multiple species to hit halibut first. “If you have a ling in the boat and are fishing at 150 feet for halibut, you could have a problem,” he said.
Most of the banks on the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca produce good halibut fishing at times, but are open to the weather and often suitable only for larger boats. Hein Bank, Partridge, McArthur, the south end of Salmon Bank, can all be good, John said. Find a sand bottom and start your drift on top of the bank in, say, 80 feet of water, drifting off to 200 feet or so. Then crank it up and do it again.
Try big, purple or black label, herring, squid or mackerel, rigged with 12 to 24 ounces of lead — or up to 2 pounds, depending on the wind and tide. John uses a spreader bar, 80-pound main line, no more than 24 inches of 150- to 250-pound mono leader, and a very short break-off dropper, 30 to 40 pound test, to his weight. “And I like big hooks,” he said, “9/0 to 12/0 or so.”
Perhaps the best halibut fishing more easily accessible to fishermen from this area is Admiralty Bay on the west side of Whidbey Island. Run from Everett, or trailer to the launch next to the Keystone Ferry terminal, says John Martinis, owner of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett.
Admiralty and Mutiny bays don’t put out a lot of fish, but are consistent producers early in the season and offer a realistic chance at a really big halibut. The operative phrase is “early in the season,” Martinis says. “Don’t worry too much about a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ tide situation, just get out there on day one.”
Start fishing on an incoming tide right out in front of the ferry dock, he says, in 90 to 150 feet of water, and drift southeast, maybe two-thirds of the way across the mouth of the bay. Use herring, squid or octopus if the dogfish aren’t too bad or, if they are, go to plastics doused with scent.
Stanwood Eagles Derby
The Stanwood Eagles Blackmouth Derby over the weekend may not have been one of the spring’s larger events, but it produced some pretty good fishing and some really nice-sized money fish for anglers working marine areas 8-1 and 8-2. There were 98 participants, according to coordinator Ed Keller, and they weighed 27 chinook. First place and $2,205 went to Jody Erickson at 21.07 pounds; second and $980 to Steve Chandler at 20.04 pounds; third and $735 to Rich Welch at 17.10 pounds; and fourth, worth $490, to Jeannie Jaunese, at 14.10 pounds.
Charter owner Gary Krein said his contacts told him the first- and second-place fish came from the Greenbank/Baby Island area, and numbers three and four from the “racetrack” between Hat Island and Camano Head.
Relatively good blackmouth fishing continues both in the San Juans and along Saratoga Passage, according to recent checks by state Fish and Wildlife Department personnel. Some 47 anglers on Sunday at the Camano State Park ramp had 7 fish, and 26 at the Washington Park ramp west of Anacortes on Saturday had 10.
The big event coming this weekend on freshwater, of course, is Saturday’s traditional trout opener on the state’s lowland lakes. Recent warm temperatures have come at just the right time to put planted rainbow on the bite, and if the weather continues to cooperate, this could be a very good opener.
If you missed the rundown in Sunday’s Herald, top local lakes are expected to be, in order of preference: Lake Riley, Lake Erie, Heart Lake, Lake Ki, Lake Bosworth, Storm Lake, Martha Lake (Alderwood Manor), Lake Sixteen, Lake McMurray, and Lake Howard.
Year-around lakes which have also been planted and should produce good fishing over the weekend include Flowing, Blackman’s, Roesiger, Goodwin, Campbell, Clear and Lone.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.