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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

January 10, 2014 at 8:08 AM

San Juan Islands the hotspot for winter chinook fishing


(Photo courtesy of Kevin Klein)

Here is a San Juan Island salmon fishing report by Kevin Klein, a member of the Friday Harbor Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers:

With a month to go, tickets for the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic are going fast this year. Only 25 spots left as of this report. This event, held on February 7th and 8th, is the next stop on the Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

First Prize is $10,000. Total prize money is $25,000, with a $30,000 bonus for any fish caught over 30 pounds. Yeah.

Tickets are on sale now at Kings Marine in Friday Harbor for the 10th annual Frank Wilson Memorial Blackmouth Derby. This local tournament goes from February 1 to April 13th. Prizes will be given out each week for biggest fish, and a $1000 grand prize awarded for biggest fish at the end. Weigh in is at Kings Meat Dept. in Friday Harbor.

Fishing for Blackmouth has been very productive in the Islands. Salmon are being caught all over. No one place seems to be the hot spot. This is a good time to poke into fishy looking spots that maybe you haven’t tried before.

Troll close to the bottom in 90 to 130 feet or often deeper. Unless I’m in a real rocky, grabby spot, I’ll have the counter on my downrigger matching the depth of the water, or more. For example, if I’m fishing in 100′ of water, my counter will read 100′ to 115′. The deeper the water you’re fishing, the more cable you’ll have to let out to touch bottom. On the subject of cable, I still use wire, and a black box to induce a slight positive charge.

I’m using 12lb balls, and feel that’s sufficient, although a lot of guys use 15lbs and even heavier. I like a round ball, compared to some of the large finned, or pancake balls on the market. From personal experience, and time on the water, I just feel that you get better tracking, and less drag and swing with a round ball. Shoot for 25 to 45 degrees of swept back cable angle, and you should be fine. I used to pay more attention to speed. I look at angle more now, although I’m still trying for that sweet spot between 1.5 and 2.5 mph, depending on current.

As far as terminal tackle, I have been able to consistantly catch Winter Chinook on hardware. I troll a lot of Silver Horde Tailwaggers and 3″ Spoons, one on each side. This gives me a smaller presentation on one side and a larger presentation on the other, both with different actions. Let the fish decide what they want to bite that day.

And bite they usually will. These fish are looking for bait, and looking to feed. Find the bait, usually find the fish.

Speaking of bait, hardcore herring and ‘chovie pullers do very well in this fishery. I have the ultimate respect for guys who can tune a helmeted herring, strip, or cut plug. My philosophy is: Don’t mess with bait if you don’t have to. Buying it, keeping it cold, brined, and fishing effectively all take time and effort. In some fisheries, bait will absolutely out fish hardware. This just isn’t one of them. But over time, you too will find what works for you.

So, get out on the water, and take advantage of the great fishing for these hatchery Blackmouth. It’s a good way to dial in your Salmon skills, while bringing home some of the best eating fish there is. Who knows, maybe your name will be atop the leader board in one of these high profile, big money tournaments. It’s all time on the water.




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