Here is Tony Floor’s monthly Tackle Box:
Pass the calendar please and turn the page. Hey, fish homies! It’s officially 2014 and are you ready for another killer year of saltwater fishing and shellfishing (that’s crab and shrimp if you’re struggling to connect the dots)!
But you know as well as I do, that sitting around, waiting for the fish to come to you, is not in the cards. Winter blackmouth fishing, for example, is rocking in the San Juan Islands and during the months ahead, all the way through April as it has for too many years to count.
Early last month, I had the privilege of taking hydroplane racing legend Chip Hanauer winter blackmouth fishing in the San Juans with Derek Floyd (www.anglerschoicefishing.com) who fishes all winter out of Anacortes. Chip has a new video production, largely seen on YouTube called The Boat Guy, (www.TheBoatGuy.com). It’s Chip’s objective to become the face and voice of recreational boating. Step into my office, please.
The purpose of the San Juan Islands blackmouth video, is to introduce anglers to a region which is one of Washington’s saltwater salmon fishing gems, where immature chinook salmon, we call blackmouth, will become next summer’s king salmon. These blackmouth, likely for centuries, have pastured in a baitfish rich environment throughout the San Juan Islands in the dead of winter and into early spring.
We had a fantastic day, on the heels of a passing early winter storm when small craft forecasts were on the edge of upgradings to gale force on the day we went fishing. The forecast did not materialize. Soft, puffy white clouds seemed perfectly painted above the Islands, as we trolled for blackmouth on the west and east side of Rosario Strait. Kaboom, kaboom and more kaboom led to hooking 7 gorgeous winter blackmouth.
We lost two, released two wild chinook (hatchery produced, adipose fin clip only) and bonked a pair of 10 pounders and one at eight pounder which inhaled a whole herring or a small purple and silver Ace High Fly. I like Kaboom! Again and again, like a broken record, Derek delivers, just like Russell Wilson did in early December against the New Orleans Saints! This dude is for real.
Before saying farewell to 2013, it’s worthy to take a brief look back at the fishing year. Early in the year, blackmouth fishing was very good again, through most of the winter and into the early spring. For this angler, trips to the San Juans, the banks in the Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Salmon, Hein, Coyote, McArthur and Eastern Bank), Port Angeles, and Sekiu all lit up my catch record card like a winning ticket in the lottery. Sekiu, in particular, turned my head hard, in late March. Big, late winter blackmouth, as fast as you could catch them. Break-away flashers trailed 18-inches by a white hoochie, or a 3 ½-inch Coyote spoon were irresistible to 10-14 pound chinook salmon. I’m going back, for sure, this year.
I spent considerable time, fishing and writing about the marathon of hot summer fishing of 2013. La Push and Neah Bay in the ocean summer chinook fishery smoked. The Strait was incredible for kings carrying over to a memorable world class coho fishery in September. The north Sound, Mid-Channel Bank, Kingston, Possession, I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new. It was wonderful and I’m hopeful for a repeat in 2014, although the chinook and coho salmon forecasts are not available until later next month. King salmon, coho and pinks… it was great. Hope you got your share.
Was is a key word in this discussion as time has one gear, forward, more simply defined as today and tomorrow. So it’s a time of year, to start all over again, while many of us are trying to catch our breath from a fabulous year.
January is a great month to regroup and check out the new boats, motors, electronics, and of course the free fishing seminars at the Seattle Boat Show, which runs January 24th to February 2nd. As written in this space, I believe the fishing seminars are a home run piece to the biggest boat show on the west coast. Check out this year’s seminar lineup here.
It’s one of the best investments of time to become a more successful angler. KIRO radio’s big Tom Nelson, Capt. John Keizer, Capt. Gary Krien, and Capt. Keith Robbins, fishing legends, at least in their own minds, who collectively provide over a 100 years of fishing experience downloaded during these one-hour free fishing seminars. Dungeness crab fishing expert Clyde McBrayer will also be there, and Salmon University’s Tom Nelson, the old man of the sea, who will offer spot prawn shrimp fishing seminars for the first time at the show. In all, 60 free fishing seminars. Come on! Check it out at www.SeattleBoatShow.com. Be there, be square.
Looking ahead even further, the best of the best anglers in Puget Sound will gather at the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, February 6-8th. This is an awesome tournament, limited to 100 boats, up to four anglers per boat. It is a happening.
Debbie Sandwith, who manages the Roche Harbor Grocery store is the tournament director and she runs the event with her boot straps pulled up. Cash payout is up to $25,000 bucks, not including the side bet of $50 per angler. Three years ago, when Derek Floyd swept the table with the biggest fish in tournament history, he cruised home with $22,000 hanging out of his pockets. I like to hang out with dudes with big pockets. Dig me?
The Roche Harbor Salmon Classic tournament is followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, February 15-17th, known for the last 35 years as the Iron Man Derby due to challenging weather conditions, in some years.
It’s a three day event out of Discovery Bay which includes the fishing areas of the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (from Tongue Pt., near Port Angeles east) and the west side of Admiralty Inlet east to Double Bluff. Together, this encompasses 500 square miles of real estate. Traditionally, 800 anglers compete in this tournament and the largest hatchery produced chinook salmon pays $10,000 to the winner. Hmmmmm, I’m looking for more big pockets.
These two tournaments are the kickoff events to the 11th annual Northwest Salmon Derby Series, managed by the Northwest Marine Trade Association and yours truly. The grand prize boat, is a 22-foot River Hawk fishing machine, powered with a 150 and 9.9 Merc four-stroke sitting on a Karavan Trailer. The boat is rigged with a HDS-8 GPS/radar/depth sounder from Lowrance, Scotty electric downriggers and a Dual Stereo. Retail value is $62,000 and I will give it away, next September at the Everett Coho Derby. Pretty cool, huh?
This Derby Series thing continues to rock and roll. Fifteen tournaments (www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com), about 7,500 anglers in a year-long Series and one lucky angler, who attended one or more of the derbies in the Series, wins the boat, whether they catch a fish in a derby or not. It’s all about going fishing, getting on the water, and getting lucky. Do you feel lucky?
Ask Jason Edwards, from Arlington, who fished in last July’s Harbor Marine Salmon Tournament out of Everett. He just picked up his new $60,000 boat last month, with the biggest grin on his face as he rode into the sunset, boat in tow. That’s what I’m talking about!
So here we go, into a new fishing year. Stop by and say hi at the Seattle Boat Show. I’ll be there, tying leaders, gripping and grinning along with making plans to get on the water in 2014. And speaking of getting on the water, you might want to check out a new fishing website at NW Yachting magazine (www.NWYachting.com/category/fishing/). Happy New Year my friend and 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.)