By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
Several different story lines made last weekend’s Everett Bayside Marine Salmon Derby a particularly interesting one.
First was the size and quality of the event itself. Some 200 ticket holders entered about 50 fish — a catch rate far superior to last year’s 30-plus fish for 250 entrants. If you need an indicator of the strength of the local 2011 winter blackmouth fishery, this event makes it look at least a little more promising than the dismal 2010 season.
Second was the fact that the $2,000 first prize winner, Glen Helton at 15.52 pounds, was aboard Bill “Hot Plug” Hayes boat, according to local charter skipper Gary Krein. Hayes won the event last year with a fish from Saratoga Passage, and rumor has it that this winner was caught in Elger Bay or, if not, than almost certainly from somewhere up the Camano shoreline to Rocky Point.
Hayes is an expert on the Saratoga Passage fishery, according to Krein. “He lives on Camano and has fished that water for 30 or 40 years,” Krein said. “He’s a good fisherman, and he knows every hole and ledge and eddy in the area. Tough to beat that kind of experience.”
Third, a winner-take-all team event was initiated this year, and local expert TJ Nelson assembled a boatload of highliners, determined to nail the $1,100 prize. Put Nelson, a trained fishery biologist; Jay Field, a charter skipper from Anacortes; Rob Endsley, a charter skipper in Alaska; and Tony Floor, longtime Washington salmon fisherman and ex-state Fish and Wildlife Department employee in the same red boat, and you have a formidable opponent.
Nelson had reason to be hopeful, since his boat placed four fish on the individual Bayside ladder last year, but nothing in the big money.
“Poor TJ,” Krein said. “He landed a nice fish off Baby Island Saturday morning, then ran out to Posession Bar on the high tide change and put three more keepers in the box. That left him in first place at the end of day one, with 28.3 pounds on the board. If he could have caught just one more keeper on Sunday, he would have taken the money.”
But he didn’t, losing out to the team of Dave Buckley and Dave Pitcher, at 31.1 pounds total for the two days.
Second place for TJ, and zero bucks. Nelson hosts The Outdoor Line on 710 ESPN Radio Saturday mornings, and you can catch the whole sad weekend scenario, complete with photos, on http://blog.theoutdoorline.com.
Krein said about half the derby fish came from areas 8-1 and 8-2, and half from Possession Bar. Elger Bay was good, the Baby Island/Greenbank area was good, and Possession produced well on the outgoing tide.
Individual second place went to Dave Buckley, at 13.82 pounds; and third to Richard Gaw at 13.78 pounds.
See the full ladder at www.baysidemarine.com.
State checks at the Port of Everett ramp on Sunday showed 160 anglers with 12 chinook and six chums, and at the Camano Island State Park ramp it was 35 fishermen with 7 chinook.
Too good to be true
A little over a month ago, a fisherman weighed an enormous brown bullhead from Lacamas Lake in Clark County and applied for state record certification. The 28.1-pound fish dwarfed the previous record of 11.04 pounds caught in an unnamed Snohomish County lake in 2000 and the vast majority commonly taken in many lowland lakes at only a pound or two in weight, if that.
Brown bullheads are Western Washington’s only native “catfish,” but 28-pounders they ain’t.
So, upon further review, as the current saying goes, the call on the field was overturned.
“Genetic sampling found this fish to be a channel catfish,” said state biologist Joe Hymer in the agency’s Vancouver office. “While it’s a nice-size fish, the state record channel cat is 36.2 pounds, caught Sept. 6, 1999, by Ross Kincaid, in I-82 Pond No. 6, Yakima County.”
Chums on the canal
The popular beach fishery for chums each fall, on Hood Canal in front of the Hoodsport Salmon Hatchery, is underway. Checks there last week showed 46 fishermen with 24 salmon, and the catch rate should get even better over the next two or three weeks. These fish darken rapidly, of course, so if you’re looking for smoker material, get ‘em while they’re relatively fresh.
The Northwest Chapter, Washington Waterfowl Association, holds its 2011 duck and goose calling contest Saturday at Skagit Arms in Burlington, leading off with a duck calling seminar by five-time state champion Shane Rossen, free to the public, at noon.
Competion is as follows: Pee Wee (youth 9 or under, free entry), 1 p.m.; Junior Duck (youth 10 to 16, $15 entry), 1:30; Open Duck, $25 entry, 2 p.m.; Two-person duck, $50 entry, 3 p.m.; Competition Duck, $40 entry, 3:30 p.m.; Snow Goose, $25 entry, 4:30 p.m.
Skagit Arms is adjacent to Holiday Sports, just west of I-5 at the Anacortes/Burlington exit. For directions, call the gun shop at 360-588-4672. For information on the seminar or the competition, call Rone Brewer at 206-595-7481.
Winter steelhead season cometh, and just in time is a free clinic on river steelhead and salmon fishing presented by the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club, Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Floral Hall in Forest Park, Everett. Techniques, tackle, and the best info available on local rivers. Call Everett Parks at 425-257-8300, Ext. 2.
A couple of days of below-20-degree temperatures in the Columbia Basin have brought prime duck hunting conditions, according to Mike Meseberg, owner of MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir. Open water is reduced, birds fly better, and it’s just plain huntin’ time.
More corn in the north Basin each year than ever before, Meseberg said, tends to hold birds longer, and he said mallards and pintail are showing up in top numbers.
“Remember that the Canadian nesting surveys this year indicataed the highest waterefowl count in 42 years,” he said.
Major game land acquisition
The Washington Fish and Wildliffe Commission has approved acquisition of 7,711 acres of wildlife habitat in Kittitas County which, with the 2,675 acres acquired last year, will make a major addition to the state’s Oak Creek Wildlife Area northwest of Yakima. Part of this year’s acquisition was purchased from The Nature Conservancy, and part from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The property will be managed with support from TNC, RMEF and a coalition of public, non-profit and tribal land managers to share the estimated $123,500 annual operation and maintenance costs.