The third week of the Tengu Blackmouth Derby, one of the most challenging and longest running salmon derbies, was held this past Sunday in Elliott Bay, and 22 anglers only managed to catch two blackmouth.
“It was slim pickings,” said Doug Handa, the Tengu Derby Club president. “The top blackmouth came from Fourmile Rock with second place coming from the Elliott Bay Marina. Members reported marking very little bait and fish in these locations but still lost good fish with persistent effort banging the bottom. Not many shakers caught as well from all areas within our boundaries.”
Winner of week three was Steve Nitta with a 5 pound-13 ounce chinook, and second place went to Justin Wong with a 5 pound-6ounce chinook and his third fish of the season.
Justin’s dad Benny Wong has the largest fish of the season with a 7 pound-11 ounce chinook.
So far this season, seven chinook, four chum and one coho have been caught. The Wong family (Benny, Justin and Dennis) have tallied a whopping four of the seven blackmouth.
Last year, the 10-week derby produced 23 legal-size (more than 22 inches long) hatchery-marked chinook for 46 anglers. The best fishing came in the second half of the season with 27 anglers Dec. 9 catching three, including the derby winner; 29 on Dec. 16 had four; 30 on Dec. 23 had five; and 28 on Dec. 30 had three.
In good years, it is not uncommon to have 50 to 100 fish weighed in for the season, but catches have dropped off since 2009. The record-low catch total since the derby began in 1946 was four fish in 2010, and the record catch was 234 in 1979.
The derby was named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth. Like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.
In the derby, only mooching (fishing using a banana-style lead weight to a leader with a herring) is allowed. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted.
The derby is held from daybreak to 11 a.m. every Sunday through Dec. 29 at the Seacrest Boathouse in West Seattle. Cost is $15, and $5 for kids under age 12. Rental boats are $65, and $85 for boat and motor. Details: 206-324-7600.