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March 2018

The feeling of excitement started to build in the middle of last month when the days were getting a little longer, spring felt just that much closer, and most of all more fishing options are now coming into play throughout the Pacific Northwest.
It was back during the Seattle Boat Show – our most successful in attendance and boat sales – after logging 90-plus miles on my sneakers and putting in 12- to 15-hour days where people came up to chat with me on all things fishing. But, in particular it was one man who said, “Hey you’re Mark Yuasa and I just loved your columns, but miss you not being in the newspaper.”
I replied, “Well thank you for the kind words, but no need to miss out on my column.”
That drew a rather perplexed look, which in turn I told him you can still find me in places like the Reel News and other outdoor publications. His response was “Wow that is great and I’m stoked! So where should I go fishing in the next couple of months?”
That last comment got his head swirling faster than a jig fluttering to the bottom of Puget Sound as I spoon fed him with plenty of fishing choices.

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Rob Endsley host of the KIRO/ESPN Outdoor Line on 710 AM holds up a nice hatchery chinook he caught during the Friday Harbor Salmon Classic.

Even if you could stay “Sleepless in Seattle” there wouldn’t be enough time to hit every spring-time fishery on the must do list, but there’s no doubt with a little homework that an angler who uses their free time wisely can score an A+ in the fishing gradebook.
In order to keep everyone’s grade above the standards here are the possibilities for success.
After months of delays, the northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 9, 8-1 and 8-2) finally reopened for hatchery chinook.
It appears hitting the pause button did work to some extent as the catch of sub-legal chinook – those under the 22-inch minimum “keeper” size limit – were less abundant as they had been way back before the Christmas holidays.
The first few days of the fishing season – which began on Feb. 16 – saw nasty weather with winds 10 to 30 knots blowing, but by President’s Day (Feb. 20) the situation calmed down enough that anglers managed to dial-in on success.

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Places like Possession Bar have been producing some fair to good action for hatchery chinook since it reopened.

Hit the usual spots like Possession Bar, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Point No Point, Marrowstone Island; Double Bluff off south west side of Whidbey Island; Hat Island at the “racetrack”; Columbia Beach; Onamac Point; and Elger Bay.
Still on top of list, but not quite as grand as it had been in January are the San Juan Islands (Area 7) where catches of nice-sized fish were still coming from places like Thatcher Pass; Peavine Pass; Speiden Island; Spring Pass; Obstruction Island; Clark and Barnes Islands; Parker Reef; Point Thompson; Peavine Pass; Doughty Point; Obstruction Pass; Waldron Island; Lopez Pass; and Presidents Channel.
Even more exciting is the fact that the Strait of Juan de Fuca comes into play for hatchery chinook this month.
Sekiu in the western Strait harkens me back to the “good old days” of salmon fishing, and it’s open March 16 through April 30. The good news here is that don’t expect any premature closure with hungry chinook from the Caves to Eagle Point, and west from Slip Point-Mussolini Rock area to Pillar Point. The eastern Strait off Port Angeles to Freshwater Bay is another stop off for chinook through April 15.
Closer to Seattle, the doors to salmon fishing in central Puget Sound (Area 10) have closed, but south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) and Hood Canal (Area 12) are open through April 30, and southern Puget Sound is open year-round.
This month also marks a special time for coastal communities who come out of a winter slumber as the bottom-fishing season kicks into high gear.
Ilwaco, Westport and La Push for opens lingcod and other bottom-fish on March 10. Bottom-fish fishing west of the Bonilla Tatoosh Island line off Neah Bay also opens on March 10, and east of the line is currently open year-round. The lingcod fishery on northern coast opens April 16.
Many will begin to make regular trips to the Lower Columbia River in pursuit of spring chinook. The 2018 forecast is 166,700 upriver spring chinook, which is 90 percent of recent 10-year average return. That is compared to 160,400 forecasted in 2017 and an actual return of 115,822, but somewhat down from 2016’s 188,800 and 187,816.
Spring coastal razor clam digs will be down somewhat from previous years, but mark your calendars for tentative dates set through April.
Final approval will depend on further marine toxin testing, which will likely be announced a week before each scheduled dig series.
Digs in March occur during evening low tides after 12 p.m. while those in April are during morning low tides until 12 p.m. or until times noted below.
Dates are: March 2-3 at Mocrocks; March 16 at Copalis and Mocrocks; March 17 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; April 19-20 at Mocrocks; April 21 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 1 p.m.; and April 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks, digging hours will be extended to 2 p.m.
More digging dates could occur later this spring if sufficient clams remain available to harvest.
The Puget Sound salmon forecasts were released on Feb. 27, and those who’d like to get involved with this rather arduous process should take a seat at some of the upcoming meetings.
Early word on the street is that fishing seasons could resemble last season, but it’s still too early in the game to know exactly how things will pan out. For a list of other meeting dates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

First three events in Salmon Derby Series start off with decent action

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Thousands of anglers converged to San Juan Islands for three salmon derbies – part of the NMTA’s NW Salmon Derby Series – since the New Year with good catches and decent weather conditions.
The Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 8-10 had 100 boats with 329 anglers that weighed-in 122 fish (winning fish was 19.15 pounds).
In Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20 had 100 boats with 357 anglers weighing in 179 chinook (winning fish was 17 pounds, 11 ounces). The Resurrection Derby on Jan. 5-7 saw 102 boats with 334 anglers reeling-in 50 hatchery chinook (winning fish was 18.28 pounds).
There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada. Next up is Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 9-11, and Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 17-18.
Check out the grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader trailer. It is fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo. Drawing for the boat will take place at conclusion of derby series. For details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
Lastly, it was super great meeting everyone at the Seattle Boat Show where our combined net attendance for all three locations was 52,928, up 2.1 percent over last year. Indoor attendance at CenturyLink Field Event Center over all nine days of the show was 46,938, up 0.8 percent compared to last year.
On that note, I’ll see you on the water very soon!


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January 2018

It’s the start of 2018, and there are plenty of on-water salmon fishing activities to ring in during the New Year!
If you catch my drift this isn’t a time to sit back on the couch in front of a fireplace or TV as winter chinook fishing is hitting full-stride, and the table quality of these fish are like non-other to be had on the BBQ grill.
Keep in mind closing dates on many fishing areas mentioned below could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for both sub-legal and legal-size chinook that often make or break if anglers can fish for hatchery-produced salmon. This unfortunate situation came to fruition in November for two northern marine areas when the sub-legal catch skyrocketed.
On that note, my word of advice is to go sooner than later, which will likely guarantee you more time on the water.
The San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Area 7) opened Jan. 1 with fishing allowed through April 30 for hatchery chinook.
Let me stand on my soap box, and preach to you about island chain being as close as you can get to awesome scenery and wildlife viewing that is very similar to Alaska’s coastline. And let’s not forget there’s a decent chance to catch a quality large-size chinook just minutes from nearby boat ramps or marinas.
A good gauge on success in the islands will occur when anglers hit the water for the Resurrection Salmon Derby – part of the NMTA’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series – on Jan. 5-7 in Anacortes at Cap Sante Marina. This is followed by Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 18-20. For details, go to
NW Salmon Derby Series.

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Be sure to catch the sunrise at Sekiu when it opens for salmon fishing on March 16.

Closer to Seattle is central Puget Sound (Area 10), which has been quietly producing some fair to good action at places like Southworth, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Manchester, Rich Passage, West Point, Jefferson Head and Point Monroe. The closure date for 10 is Feb. 28.
Back in mid-November, northern Puget Sound (Area 9) fell victim to the huge sub-legal chinook (fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit) encounter rate and was shut-down until further notice.
Area 9 was scheduled to reopen for hatchery chinook from Jan. 16 through April 15. Look for blackmouth at places like Possession Bar, Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Foulweather Bluff, Pilot Point, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend and Scatchet Head.
Areas 8-1 and 8-2 – eastside of Whidbey Island – also experienced a set-back in November, and was supposed to reopen sometime this month and could happen concurrent to the Area 9 opener. Keep an eye out for an announcement on this situation by WDFW very soon.
Don’t overlook, south-central (Area 11), Hood Canal (Area 12) and southern Puget Sound (Area 13), which are all open now through April 30.
Other winter chinook fisheries on the “must go” list are western Strait (Area 5) from March 16 to April 30; and eastern Strait (Area 6) from March 1 to April 15.

New Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan proposed

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My son Tegan Yuasa with a nice winter chinook he caught in San Juan Islands in 2017 could be a thing of the past if the proposed Puget Sound chinook harvest management plan becomes a reality.

Salmon politics started brewing on Dec. 1 when fishery managers released the 368-page Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.
This fishing plan – sent to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries for review – and guides conservation and harvest of Puget Sound chinook salmon from the ocean clear into inner-marine waterways takes effect from 2019 through 2029.
The controversial plan has raised issues and many in sport-fishing industry are concerned that the plan could adversely affect sport salmon fishing opportunities.
There is an 18-month public comment period, and this will surely be a hot topic of many debates in the months to come. To view the comprehensive plan, go to Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan.

Seattle Boat Show drops anchor Jan. 26-Feb. 3 at three locations

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The Seattle Boat Show from Jan. 26 through Feb. 3 is the one-stop place to get your fix on hundreds of fishing boats, informative seminars, and state-of-the-art gear and electronics.
There will be 55 free fishing seminars, and more coverage on a variety of new topics by top-notch experts that will provide anglers with the most in-depth wealth of knowledge on how to catch fish across the Pacific Northwest. For a complete list of all fishing and boating seminars, go to https://seattleboatshow.com/seminars/.
This will also be a time when visitors can check out the NW Salmon Derby Series grand prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. The fully-rigged boat comes with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronic Stereo.
There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at conclusion of the Everett Derby in September or November. For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
I’ll see you on the water or at the biggest boat show on the West Coast, the great Seattle Boat Show!


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December 2017

A close peek at calendar made me wince as the holidays are in full-swing with 24/7 Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel and malls filled to the gills with shoppers.
While that is all near and dear to my heart, I’ve also got this holiday free-time addiction called “salmon fishing.”
No matter what kind of remedy I seek, it just keeps hooking me into getting on my boat. On some mornings, I’ll even tow the boat to the ramp, sniff the air for wind and then make a game-time decision.
In past seasons, December wasn’t just filled with mistletoe bliss, but earmarked a time to go chinook fishing and bring back a couple nice salmon fillets for the holiday dinner table.
Yet, here we are right in middle of another holiday rush, and the choices to wet a line for salmon are rather slim pickings.
Bummed you ask?
We can gripe why December salmon fishing isn’t up to snuff or look at viable options to keeping a rod-and-reel in hand. I unanimously choose the latter.
A top choice is the Clay Banks off the Point Defiance Park area in Tacoma – part of south-central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) open through April 30 – which is often teeming with baitfish, hungry hatchery chinook and protected from prevailing southerly winds.
Tops on my radar screen is central Puget Sound (10), which for the moment is open through Feb. 28, unless an emergency closure shuts it down.

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Guy Mamiya who caught a 9 pound, 15 ounce hatchery chinook off Salty’s Restaurant leads the Tengu Blackmouth Derby held every Sunday in Elliott Bay through Dec. 31.

Here one can find plenty of action at places like Allen Bank off the southeast side of Blake Island; west side of Blake Island; Restoration Point; Rich Passage; Yeomalt Point; Southworth; Manchester; and northwestern tip off Vashon Island.
Keep your eyes open at other spots like Hood Canal (12) and southern Puget Sound (13). Further down the pipeline is when the San Juan Islands (7) reopen Jan. 1 just in time to ring in the New Year!
Winter Dungeness crab fishing also remains open daily in some marine areas through Dec. 31, and this can turn you into a “rock star” at the holiday dining table as guests devour a big bowl of fresh cracked crab. It’s time to get on this one!
Look for crab around Whidbey Island; northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula; Camano Island; Mukilteo area; Holmes Harbor; Hat Island; Port Angeles Harbor; Strait of Juan de Fuca; and San Juan Islands. Remember due to a downtrend in crab abundance locations south of Edmonds and Hood Canal – Marine Catch Areas 10, 11, 12 and 13 are closed this winter.

Early salmon fishing closures for Areas 8 and 9

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This nice pair of hatchery chinook were caught at Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend in early November before the Area 9 closure on-board the boat of Tom Nelson, host of the Outdoor Line on KIRO 710 AM.

Rewind to Nov. 1 when alarm bells rang left and right, as news came out that encounter rates of sub-legal chinook – those under the 22-inch minimum size limit – were much higher than anticipated.
It was then WDFW fishery managers took a cautious approach to close the seasons on Nov. 13 – two-weeks earlier than planned in northern Puget Sound (9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), which was supposed to stay open through April 30. A decision to close them was inevitable to keep the fishing machine humming again sometime after the New Year.
Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreational salmon manager said: “In 2015, we had a lot of sub-legals in fisheries, and we don’t want to impact our winter fisheries happening later on. Most agree that we wait until these fish grow larger, and have a more predictable opportunity.”
I’ve been a huge fan of selective salmon fishing for winter blackmouth dating back more than two decades when state fisheries began mass-marking hatchery salmon.
Their objective was to increase opportunities for sport anglers by being able to distinguish the difference between wild unmarked and adipose fin-clipped chinook in fisheries open at certain periods of the year.
While that was all fine and dandy, a decision by state fishery managers a while back to begin assessing ongoing salmon encounters of both sub-legal and legal-size fish, now makes or breaks if anglers can fish for hatchery-produced salmon.
Each marine area has an “encounter ceiling.” As each area nears the ceiling they’re often faced with premature closures especially when the sub-legal catch skyrockets like it did last month.
This has been a hard pill to swallow by anglers especially since millions of dollars are spent by state, tribal and federal agencies to produce and fin-clip hatchery chinook and coho. The lifecycle of these fish is to constantly feed and grow, and eventually get caught. But, since it’s considered a mixed stock of wild and hatchery fish, and with a Puget Sound ESA listing you get the big picture of the situation.
Data taken from Nov. 1-5, showed 495 boats with 889 anglers in Area 9 kept 240 legal-size chinook and released 1,137 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 1,377 fish. The guideline for encounters is 11,053 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.
From Nov. 1-5, 98 boats with 172 anglers in Area 8-1 kept 52 legal-size hatchery chinook (plus five unmarked wild fish kept) and released 67 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for a total encounter rate of 124 fish. In Area 8-2, 165 boats with 315 anglers kept 50 legal-size hatchery chinook and released 65 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for 115. The guideline for encounters in both areas is 5,492 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.
From Nov. 1-5, 73 boats with 162 anglers in Area 10 kept eight legal-size chinook and released 10 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 18 fish. The guideline for encounters is 5,349 fish putting the fishery at 73 percent for sub-legals and 9 percent at legal-size fish.

NW Salmon Derby Series debuts 2018 boat and schedule

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The Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Derby was held Nov. 4-5 that drew 499 anglers who caught 109 chinook averaging 6.22 pounds (146 fish were caught last year averaging 6.55 pounds). About 70 percent of the fish were caught on first day due to the lousy weather conditions by second day. The winner was Adam Burke who caught an 11.89 chinook and took home a check for $4,000.
The winner of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand prize $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft boat with Honda motors went to Gary March of Worley, Idaho who fished earlier this summer in The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene. In all more than 4,000 anglers were entered in 14 derbies. The story on March is truly a must read, and can be found at http://nmtablog.blogspot.com/2017/11/northwest-salmon-derby-series-grand.html.
Looking toward 2018 we’ve got some exciting news as we introduce a derby to the series, and our new grand prize boat will be a KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on a EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronics Stereo – a $65,000 value.
The 15 derbies in the series starts off with the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 5-7 in Anacortes.

Here is the 2018 Northwest Salmon Derby Series schedule:
•Resurrection Salmon Derby January 5-7
•Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Jan. 18-20
•Friday Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 8-10
•Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 9-11
•Everett Blackmouth Derby March 17-18
•Bellingham Salmon Derby July 13-15
•The Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29
•Brewster Salmon Derby August 2-5
•South King County PSA Derby August 4
•Gig Harbor PSA Derby August 11
•Vancouver, B.C., Canada Chinook Classic August 18-19
•Edmonds Coho Derby September 8 (Depends on season setting process)
•Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby September 8
•Everett Coho Derby September 22-23 (Depends on season setting process)
•Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby November 3-4
(The 2018 schedule is subject to change)
For additional derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

Dig into more coastal beaches

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The next round of coastal razor clam digs have been approved for Friday through Monday (Dec. 1-4) during evening low tides only.
Digging will be open Dec. 1 at Copalis (minus-0.3 feet at 4:42 p.m.); Dec. 2 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.); Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.); Dec. 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.); and Dec. 31 Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (-1.2 at 5:12 p.m.).
Diggers will find a mixed bag of razor clam sizes – diggers must keep the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition – and the key is if you’re finding small ones in a certain area of the beach don’t be afraid to move to another spot, according to Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.
Despite the a mixed bag it looks like razor clam diggers are finding oodles of clams on coastal beaches.
“The most recent digs (Nov. 2-5) went well, and we had 27,770 digger trips with 366,484 clams dug,” Ayres said. “That comes out to 13.2 clams per person.”
A breakdown by beaches showed Twin Harbors had 5,268 diggers Nov. 3-5 with 73,215 clams for an average of 13.9 clams per person; Copalis had 4,904 with 52,541 Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 for 10.7; Mocrocks had 3m229 with 47,354 Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 for 14.7; and Long Beach had 14,371 with 193,373 Nov. 3-5 for 13.5.
“The crowds were lighter than we had projected and I’m sure the weather forecast scared away some from turning out,” Ayres said. “The exception was Long Beach, which had more than expected, and the folks did quite well. Down the road we might need to back off at Long Beach, but the other beaches were fine.”
After just two series of digs, Long Beach has harvested 36 percent of the total allowable catch for the entire season.
Another dig is planned on Dec. 31, and more digs for January and February will be announced very soon.
Ayres pointed out they’re not seeing any issues with marine toxins like domoic acid, and are likely past the sensitive time of the year.
“We will go ahead with next digs planned in December, and then reassess to make sure we have enough clams for digs after the New Year and in spring,” Ayres said.
Diggers should check for updates on next digs by going to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.