The winter blackmouth season opened locally to lukewarm expectations on Nov. 1, and results pretty much lived up to the low bar — not a disaster by any means, but pedestrian at best.
Avid angler Tom Nelson, a University of Washington Fisheries School grad and a pretty fair salmon fisherman, worked outer Possession Bar on the opener and reported hitting a shaker every 10 yards and one decent fish of about 7 pounds.
“We stayed on the bar and hit one other fish we probably could have kept,” Nelson said, “but we should have gone on up to Midchannel (Bank) or Marrowstone, or one of those spots farther north.”
Almost any lure would have worked on the Bar, he said, but he recommends a small spoon such as the Coho Killer, behind a Gibbs Highliner flasher. If shakers continue to bother, try switching to plugs.
All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein found the same situation on the bar and changed to plugs early on. He fished three days straight after the opener and boated four legal blackmouth each day. He spent two days on Possession and, because of wind, the third day in Area 8-2. He said he nailed one legal off Columbia Beach and lost another near Langley.
Krein has anecdotal evidence that using larger plugs will both catch legal blackmouth and discourage the schools of 18- to 21-inch sublegals in the area.
One day he used 5-inch plugs, caught four legals and released 10 shakers. The next day, he went to 6-inch plugs, caught four legals and released seven shakers. All the plugs were Tomics, Nos. 600 or 603, white/mother of pearl. “Troll just a little faster when using plugs,” Krein said.
Krein, like Nelson, heard that Midchannel Bank was putting out larger fish and showing lots of bait and fewer shakers, so bait or spoons should work well there — maybe Coho Killers in black/white, green/white, or “white lightning.”
Krein has been a sportfishing activist for years, and he sat in on a state Department of Fish and Wildlife conference call Monday afternoon concerning the large numbers of sublegal chinook said to be suffering hooking mortality (presumably) in the north Sound, and what to do about it.
“Nothing happened,” he said. “They (department salmon managers) didn’t have any hard data to use. They were working solely on stories coming in about people running into lots of shakers.”
Krein said the department indicated it would work up some statistics and hold another conference call Thursday (today).
The leaner, meaner Everett No Coho Blackmouth Fishing Derby hit the water shortly after the Nov. 1 winter blackmouth opener, drawing fewer participants and weighing significantly smaller chinook. It pulled a field of 499 adult anglers and 47 youth, and weighed 109 fish (100 adult, nine youth). By comparison, the 2016 derby sold 564 adult tickets and weighed 146 blackmouth. This year’s catch averaged 6.22 pounds, last year’s, 6.6.
Last year’s first-place winner of $4,000, caught by Lance Husby of Marysville, weighed 15.6 pounds, compared to the 2017 first-place fish, caught by Adam Burke of Everett, at 11.89 pounds. Second and $2,500 went to Timothy Quinn of Camano Island, at 11.24 pounds, and third, worth $1,000, went to Lilaine Leonardo of Bothell.
All Star Charters skipper Nick Kester put up $200 for the largest blackmouth caught by a Snohomish High School alum (Nick’s from Snohomish, by the way), and a $200 prize went to an active duty military member.
The team event drew 57 anglers on 20 teams, and why are we not surprised that the winning team, “Big Kahuna,” included Lance Husby, Troy Moe, Derek Floyd and Scott Bumstead?
At the top of the youth list was Alex Davis, with a nice chinook of 9.28 pounds. Second went to Kozmo Zajac, third to Wyatt Johnson, and fourth to Wyatt Haskell.
The state earlier closed the lower portion of the Samish River to fishing — from the mouth to the I-5 bridge — anticipating the number of returning fall chinook would be below that needed to meet egg-take goals. The department has reopened the river now that chinook broodstock collection needs have been met.
Cast and blast
If you’re headed toward the Columbia Basin for some waterfowl or upland bird hunting, you may want to throw a couple of fishing rods in the rig, just in case. Autumn is one of the best times of the year to fish Potholes Reservoir for a number of different species, and Grant County puts up the best duck and goose numbers in the state, year in and year out. MarDon Resort, on the reservoir’s southwest corner, can provide guided and non-guided hunts, water or field, layout blinds or pits, and well-scouted fields with decoys.
Meseberg Adventures (doing business as “The Duck Taxi”) has offered quality hunting since 1972, and has 15,000 acres of leased private land at its disposal.
Walleye, Crappie and bass are the target species currently. Try walleye off the mouth of Crab Creek or on the “humps” near Goose Island in 20 to 30 feet of water. Troll a Slow Death hook with or without a Smile Blade, and half a nightcrawler, behind a 2-ounce bottom walker.
Crappie action has been very good, right off the MarDon dock, with lots of limits coming in, to 12 inches. Drop shot a Gulp minnow, or nose hook it on a 1⁄16-ounce jig head.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing continues good across the reservoir, especially along the face of the dam, Goose Island, and the face of the sand dunes. Use football heads and Hula grubs, crankbaits, drop shot baits, and 5-inch grubs on 3⁄8-ounce jig heads.