Here is Floor’s Tackle Box:
Ahhhhhh, another year in the rear view mirror, and another year ahead. And the beat goes on.
How was 2012 for you? Catch a lot of fish? As I think about where I have been in the outdoor world during the past year, I’m feeling good about the grin on my face. A big blackmouth spring, a trip into my past fishing world at Freshwater Bay, trips to Sitka, Prince of Wales and Whale Bay aboard the Wily King. King salmon. Lots of king salmon. And then back home for a wild July, August and September. It was another fantastic fishing year for king and coho salmon, here in the Pacific Northwest.
One of my goals in life is to continue to learn as much as I can about the great saltwater fisheries of this region. When my time comes to liftoff for destinations unknown, and friends and relatives come to pay their respects, I do not want anyone to say, “You know, Tony should have fished more.” I am right on course. Remember, none of us are going to get out of this alive.
Back in my late 20’s, as I began my career at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I had the magnificent privilege to be introduced to the natural world by people like Frank Haw, my mentor and now 80, who is the only person I have witnessed walk on water. This guy is the true personification of class, personality, charisma and smarts. Just like me but different. Frank Haw is a legend. While his odometer registers 80, he thinks, moves and fishes like someone in his 50’s. I further believe, he knows where Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth is located, but he won’t tell me. The alternative for me is to fish more.
Listening to the news lately, regarding the fiscal cliff, democrats and republicans, an unstable stock market, same sex marriages, who shot who and you get my drift as it can suffocate our minds.
You gotta be kiddin’ me. Thank God for the natural world. While I’m not mocking important issues in our society, it’s so easy to get sucked up in all of these issues and lose sight of why we live here.
For me, the natural world is my office. How cool is that! “Oh honey, I won’t be home for a few days as I need to do a story about winter blackmouth fishing in the San Juan Islands.” And as my cousin has been heard saying, “Dude! That is not a job!” I beg to differ.
As I put 2012 into perspective and toss it into the fishing history archives of my mind, I’m looking ahead to 2013 and examining the fishing crystal ball for the year. I like what I see. Winter blackmouth populations, especially in north Puget Sound and the San Juans appear to be good, maybe very good. That’s a great sign.
Take for example last month’s Resurrection Salmon Derby out of Friday Harbor. Somewhere around 75 boats in the two-day tournament caught a little over 200 fin-clipped, hatchery-produced chinook salmon. That represents the largest catch results in the three-year history of this tournament. The Resurrection Salmon Derby, under the leadership of Kevin Kline of Friday Harbor, donates proceeds from the tournament to local chinook salmon hatchery production. In essence, a direct investment into their fishing future. Bingo! Great job, Kev, and thanks for giving back to the resource. You get it.
I’ve also seen some preliminary 2013 chinook and coho forecast information from the Columbia River system. While not as strong for chinook as the last two years, it is still above historical averages. And coho salmon appear to be similar to 2009, which is above the last two years. Swigging Red Bull yet? You’ll need it come August. The entire summer forecast information will unfold in the next few months. Giddy-up.
Speaking of August, this year, being an odd-numbered year is what we call a pink year. Am I suggesting salmon anglers are all fishing in pink garb this year? Probably not, but it is a hip color coming off Breast Cancer Awareness month, not too long ago.
Pink salmon, dude; humpies, coming home to Puget Sound and the Fraser River like November rain. Ever seen it rain humpies? You will next August as millions of them migrate from the Pacific into local waters. “Hey Floyd, start playing that Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon album.”
Bottom line, 2013 is shaping up to be another potentially strong salmon scene here in the Northwest. Speaking of beats, the beat goes on. Never too early to start tying leaders.
As I start thinking about tying my leaders, January means the Big Seattle Boat Show to me, the biggest boat show on the west coast. If you consider yourself a long-time reader of this column, then you’re familiar with my rantings about the Seattle Boat Show. Mark your calendar for January 25th through February 3rd. I love it. The smell of fiberglass in the morning, cool fishing boats, free fishing seminars which I believe, is one of the last and best free lunches anywhere. The fishing seminars feature the best of the best, downloading information to help you be more successful for all applications of salmon fishing, crabbing, albacore, halibut, lingcod and rockfish. Check it out at www.SeattleBoatShow.com. It will be time very well spent.
On the political fish front, there has been a lot of fire and very little smoke from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. Yep, the Commission has recognized the importance of the sport fishing industry relative to the Puget Sound shrimp fishery by changing the allocation between sport shrimpers and commercial shrimpers. Thanks to the Commission for demonstrating the political will to do the right thing.
And, in a grueling, grind-it-out negotiation with the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, non-Indian gillnets will be finally phased out over the next three years in the mainstem of the Columbia River. This is a big deal, and may be one of the biggest fish management decisions affecting how salmon are caught in the Columbia during the last 40 to maybe 80 years.
Professionally, I have been appalled, especially since four stocks of Columbia River chinook salmon were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act back in the late 90’s, that gillnets have been allowed to continue to operate. These curtains of death, as some call them, kill chinook, coho and steelhead, indiscriminately, since the fishing gear is unable to identify the difference between a hatchery produced, fin-clipped salmon and a wild ESA protected stock. These fishing practices fly in the face of conservation and it’s a shame that it’s taken so many years to ban them from the mainstream of our state’s largest river.
Kudos to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission for again, doing the right thing. Ditto for the Oregon Commission. And I’m throwing in a tip of my hat to Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber for pulling up his bootstaps and showing leadership to protect our wild salmon and steelhead too.
So don’t let what you see out your window slow you down to getting outside in January. There are things to do, places to go, and fish to be caught. And if you’re looking for me, I’ll be in my office. 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.)
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(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.)