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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 19, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Tengu anglers in Elliott Bay come up empty this past Sunday

The eighth 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 24 anglers scored a big zero on the water.

“A break in the weather didn’t help as (anglers) posted their first skunk of the year on Sunday,” said Doug Hanada, the Tengu Derby Club president. “There was a report by one of the hot sticks of losing a double-digit hatchery fish at the boat plus catching another one that was just short. Members ranged all over the Bay but found very little bait and even shakers were hard to come by.”

Justin Wong still holds onto the largest fish of the season with a 9 pound-7 ounce chinook caught on Nov. 24. So far this season, 16 chinook, four chum and one coho have been caught. The Wong family (Benny, Justin and Dennis) have tallied a whopping nine of the 14 blackmouth caught for the season.

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.

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