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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

November 4, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Tony Floor’s Tackle Box filled with late fall fishing options

TonyFloorIlwacoKing.JPG

Here is Floor’s Tackle Box:

What is it about November for saltwater salmon anglers here in Washington that produces the thinking position? We’ve just enjoyed one of the biggest salmon seasons in memory and now what?

Fear not, there are options!

While I’m still on my hands and knees, trying to recover from a torrid pace on the saltwater chasing chinook and coho salmon from June through October, it’s important in this business to look ahead, like the ticking of time, for fishing opportunities in our great outdoors.

First, as you may have heard, the fall/winter crab season opened in mid-October excluding the Seattle and Tacoma (Areas 10 and 11) region. Sorry about that mid-Sound crabbers. You whacked your share of the Dungeness resource this past summer to a point of tipping over! In other words, yes, crabbing was good. More people discovered, re-discovered and collectively consumed the agreed upon allocation allowed by the State and the tribes. That’s a bad, bad boy/girl!

As I have reported in this space, many of us in the sport fishing industry have attempted to reach out to the quarter of a million Puget Sound crab license holders, encouraging them to know the crab fishing rules before you go. According to Puget Sound crab biologist Rich Childers, who is charged with the responsibility of managing the sport and commercial crab fishery, 47% of the sport crab license holders did not report their summer catch. The rules require crabbers to return their catch record cards to WDFW, or report their catch on-line throughout the month of September. During the fall/winter season, comparatively (mid-October to January 1st), only 35% of sport crab fishers did not report their catch (2011). Unfortunately, for those 47% who did not report their summer catch, they will be greeted by a $10 additional charge when purchasing their crab license for 2013. Do the math. A $10 fine applied to about 120,000 crabbers? Sounds like just over a million bucks added to the budget of WDFW to me.

Further, within that 47% who did not report their catches, a large share of the group are new crabbers. The stats, collected by WDFW through surveys, suggest the longer a crab fisher participates in the sport crab fishery, the higher the percentage of reporting.

So, back to the education campaign. Know before you go new crabbers! Report your catches at the end of the summer and fall season, or be $10 lighter in the wallet next year!

Many of our shellfish and fin fish resources are managed jointly for allocation and conservation purposes. When allocation numbers are achieved, bang, it’s game over for the season. For most of us, who want good crabbing and fishing into the future, it’s critical that catches are conserved, regulated and managed, in this case, by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Oh yeah, those guys.

In too many examples, it’s a thankless job. The commercials are never happy, anglers usually complain following restrictive management options, and the tribes… I’m not going there. Okay, just a little bit.

Fishing seasons, both commercially and recreationally changed back in 1974, when a Federal judge in Tacoma granted over 20 treaty tribes half of the annual catch of salmon and steelhead. That decision, in ensuing years was tested, retested and tested some more, on a variety of shellfish and other fin fish allocation issues. The outcome has always been the same as the 1974 decision marches on in time.

Today, some 38 years following the table being reset by the Federal court, the tribes have migrated into every fishery imaginable in western Washington short of harvesting barnacles.

Okay, back to November. Blackmouth fishing for fin-clipped hatchery produced chinook reopened this month in the Saratoga Pass region, Admiralty Inlet (Port Townsend) and all the way south to Olympia, including Hood Canal. We have battled long and hard for these selective fisheries, designed to give anglers fishing opportunity on hatchery produced stocks. However, historically, as most of us have learned living in the Pacific Northwest, the wind and rain can be tough.

In recognition of the blackmouth opening, Bayside Marine has a significant blackmouth tournament on November 3-4. I have fished in this tournament the last few years with KIRO Radio’s Tom Nelson and the fishing can be good. These fish typically average 8-12 pounds and fundamentally, you’ll do business fishing close to the deck, pulling a Silver Horde spoon, a white hoochie, an Ace High Fly and of course, a plug cut herring. On the deck dude, close to the dirt is where you’ll find most blackmouth cruising in overdrive.

Recently, a reader asked a question about the relationship of catching blackmouth on geographic contours that rise, versus contours that drop off into the abyss. I can provide you examples of successful chinook salmon fishing applicable to both tactics. On an uphill or downhill trolling approach, the presence of bait, pushed by the current is the common denominator.

While it is more challenging to fish uphill, depending upon the steepness or lack of steepness to the slope, if the baitfish are present, on the deck, you’ll do business. Chinook salmon are notorious, like duck hunters sitting in a duck blind, waiting for baitfish to be pushed onto their dining table. Same tactic on a falling slope. Follow the bottom as close as possible without burying your lead or downrigger ball into the dirt. Find the bait; find the chinook.

I apply this approach to the 30-plus years of fishing the banks in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca from late fall into spring. Terminal gear is not as important, in terms of which gear, versus presenting your offerings into the chinook kitchen, following the bottom as close as possible. Dig me?

So don’t even think about sitting on the sidelines, as some anglers consider November as halftime in this annual game called sport fishing. I’ll find time to drown a worm in Saratoga Passage in November in between dropping my crab pots in Hood Canal and South Sound. It’s just like what you would do in Alabama but different. See you on the water.

(Tony Floor is the Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and a former 30-year veteran of state Fish and Wildlife. NMTA advocates for and promotes recreational boating and fishing in the region.)

Click on Tony Floor’s Tackle Box to subscribe.

(Photo by Mark Yuasa. Pictured is Tony Floor and Clyde McBrayer both of Olympia with a nice chinook salmon caught at Buoy-10 near the Columbia River mouth in late August.)

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