Gary March of Worley, Idaho, was not having a great year. He entered The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene in late July, but according to the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA), did poorly. Then came a mule deer hunting trip to Fort Peck Reservoir in northeastern Montana, and an outdoorsman’s worst nightmare.
“I was in an area that didn’t have cellphone coverage, and nine miles from the boat launch when I lost control of my truck and boat, and went off a 30-foot embankment,” March said. “There was damage to the boat, but the truck was totaled. It took me several days to get the trailer fixed before I could get it home.”
While waiting for repairs in Jordan, Montana, he sat in his hotel room and noticed three voice mails on his cell phone. They were from the NMTA’s Karsten McIntosh with great news: March’s name had been randomly drawn on Nov. 5 at the Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Derby from more than 4,000 anglers following the conclusion of the 2017 West Marine Northwest Salmon Derby Series.
March had won the grand prize, a fully equipped 22-foot Hewescraft OceanPro boat, with Honda motors and trailer, valued at about $85,000.
And here’s where the story gets really weird.
The boat that went off the remote road behind March’s truck in early November was also a 22-foot Hewescraft OceanPro.
“McIntosh called me, told me I won the boat and I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” March said.
March’s name was entered into the derby series drawing after the Lake Coeur d’Alene event as part of a fishing promotion program directed by the NMTA that encourages boating and fishing in the Northwest. In 2017, the series included 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. For each derby an angler competes in, he or she gets one entry into the drawing for the grand prize boat held at the final derby in the series.
March, who is retired, had fished the derby for more than 20 years, but took a few years off before entering the 2017 event with his wife, Claire. Now, with a new waterfront home on Lake Coeur d’Alene, March plans to spend more time fishing, and maybe beating his personal best chinook of 24.9 pounds.
The Hewescraft is the 14th grand prize boat, motor and trailer package given away since the Series was created in 2004, according to the NMTA. This year’s boat is powered by a 250-horsepower Honda and a 9.9-horsepower Honda trolling motor, on an EZ Loader tandem axle trailer. The boat came fully equipped with top of the line extras, including Raymarine electronics, Scotty downriggers and a Dual Electronics stereo.
Oh, yes. March’s longtime nickname among his friends?
New dates for Peninsula Derby
The Gardiner Salmon Derby Association has changed the dates for its 2018 Olympic Peninsula Derby from its traditional Presidents’ Day weekend in February to March 9-11. The change was necessary because of the scheduled late opening of Marine Area 6. The derby includes the 500 square miles of Marine Areas 6, 7 and 9.
The event offers a $10,000 first prize, and ticket prices remain $40 for one or all three days and are available at participating merchants through March 5 (John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, and Outdoor Emporium in Seattle are the only two outlets on this side of the pond). Online tickets cost $42.50 and are available at www.gardinersalmonderby.org.
Second place is worth $2,000 and third, $1,000. There also will be four mystery fish prizes of $500 each.
It’s limited to 100 boats and tickets are going fast for the Resurrection Derby, Jan. 6-7, out of Anacortes. First place is worth $10,000; second $2,500 and third, $1,500. Tickets are available online at www.resurrectionderby.com. The event is sponsored by the Fidalgo-San Juan Islands Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers and proceeds benefit salmon enhancement in the islands.
The forecast for spring chinook returns to three lower Columbia tributaries are out. Here are the expected numbers:
Cowlitz, 5,000 adult chinook compared to a return of 14,000 last year and about half of the recent 10-year average.
Kalama, 1,400 projected compared to a return of 2,500 last year and similar to the recent 10-year average.
Lewis: 3,600 projected compared to a return of 2,400 last year and the highest projection since 2007.
Drones for wildlife research
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with University of Montana wildlife researchers to test the use of a drone to document the presence of moose calves in northeast Washington. The survey, which takes place this month, covers public and private lands in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Spokane counties, with the permission of Hancock Forest Management, Stimson Lumber Co., and Inland Empire Paper Company.
The flight schedule was chosen to avoid weekends and most major hunting seasons, only during daylight hours, no higher than 400 feet, and not over people or buildings.
Rich Harris, a Department of Fish and Wildlife scientist, said the drone should complete the calf count in a safer, shorter and less-expensive manner than the use of a helicopter, and be less stressful to moose than traditional ground monitoring because moose have no overhead predation threats.
Harris said that if the process proves successful, drones may be used for other wildlife research in the state.