The final Tengu Blackmouth Derby, one of the most challenging and longest running salmon derbies, is this Sunday in Elliott Bay, and catches have been paltry this season.
This past Sunday, only 22 anglers managed to scratch just one salmon a 6 pound, 14 ounce hatchery chinook caught by Gary Wong.
“The winner was caught off the Elliott Bay Marina late in the morning,” said Doug Hanada, the Tengu Derby Club president. “Members reported finding very little bait and just a few shakers where ever they fished in the bay.”
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, 17 chinook, four chum and one coho have been caught. The Wong family (Benny, Justin and Dennis) have tallied a whopping 10 of the 17 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. this Sunday, 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.