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Winter Blackmouth Fishing by Tony Floor

 
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Hal C
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 5:21 pm    Post subject: Winter Blackmouth Fishing by Tony Floor Reply with quote

- Posted here with permission by Tony and NMTA - The Northwest Marine Trade Association, the oldest and largest regional boating trade organization in the nation.



New fisheries open up winter Blackmouth


December, how did that happen? Time seems to be screaming by and I am barely hanging on to the coattails of the time machine. Well, ready or not, it’s here and there’s plenty happening in the world of northwest sport salmon fishing.

When I think about December 1, it’s a date I have been waiting for since the salmon seasons were agreed upon last April. For the first time since 1998, the San Juan Islands open to winter blackmouth salmon fishing on December 1. Since 1998, this area has not opened until February 1. 1998 was the year several stocks of wild Puget Sound chinook salmon were listed under the ESA. Why? Plain and simple, all of the Puget Sound hatchery chinook salmon stocks are “marked” (fin-clipped) now, and, as the fishing rules suggest: two chinook per day, fin-clipped only. That is an increase from one fish per day, in place for the last 12 years.

Before I plunge into the San Juan Islands winter salmon fishery, a neighbor friend shared a recent editorial out of the Seattle Times with me, curious of my view. The editorial suggested the marine waterways including and bordering the San Juan Islands is transitioning a name change to the Salish Sea. The Salish Sea, according to the editorial, includes marine waters of the Strait of Georgia and Juan de Fuca, along with Puget Sound. This action for this name change is the result of Bert Webber’s effort, a marine biologist from Western Washington University, to have these three regions of water named under the same eco-system. Whatever.

As most of us know, Puget Sound was named by Capt. George Vancouver in 1792, who claimed the region in the name of Great Britain. He named Puget Sound in recognition of one of his officers, Lt. Peter Puget.

Lt. Puget has been gone for about 200 years, and assumedly resting peacefully in his homeland of England. However, this movement to change the name of this greater marine region to the Salish Sea might have George and Pete rattling their femur bones in their box! Don’t expect this writer to report about fishing experiences or expeditions to the Salish Sea.

I was introduced to winter fishing in the San Juan Islands back in the early 1970’s while attending Western Washington University at Bellingham. Teaming up with local anglers, I learned about the incredibly good winter fishing, concentrating on areas like Tide Point and Eagle Bluff on the west side of Cypress Island.


A few tips


Continuing to be intrigued by the consistency of fantastic catches of blackmouth in December and January in the Islands, I hooked up with “the master” Larry Carpenter, a well known boat dealer from Mt. Vernon who introduced me to another level of successful blackmouth fishing in the Islands. Larry’s technique to success is fundamental. He simply attaches his main line to the clip off a downrigger ball, with a single, plug-cut herring and 20 feet of line between the clip and his fast spinning bait, trolled at a slow speed. Dynamite! Absolutely lethal! I have been a convert for nearly 30 years.

The final ingredient to the recipe is to present this formula to a zone between 5-10 feet off the bottom, in most areas of the San Juans, and always, I repeat always, fishing with the current. Game over.

Every winter, and this one without exception, thousands of hatchery produced chinook salmon migrate and pasture in the San Juan Islands protected marine waters. A potpourri of food, from zooplankton to sandlance and herring are served up at meal time 24/7 to these growing winter chinook salmon in the Islands, which results in an incredible table quality chinook salmon filet, hot off the barbeque. Moist, juicy and red in color, the influence of this perfect diet offered from the Island’s refrigerator ranks as some of the best eating salmon produced from all marine regions, anytime, anywhere. Nothing worse than a convert and I am a convert.

Back in the 80’s and into the early 90’s, for about 15 years, Rosario Resort on Orcas Island hosted the annual Rosario Salmon Derby. Larry and I fished together in many of those years, and produced a lot of great fishing stories, well and alive in my memory bank today. While the Rosario Salmon Derby has been history, Roche Harbor has launched a new salmon derby this year during the same time frame as the old Rosario Derby, the first weekend of December, called the Texas Hold ‘Em and Blackmouth Salmon Derby, December 4-5, capped at 350 anglers at $100 a head. I am so there.

For this writer/angler, living in Olympia, a trip to the San Juan Islands to fish for winter blackmouth is something to get seriously fired up about. First, blackmouth populations have been very good during the ongoing seasons in marine waters south of the Islands. Second, regardless of the direction of the winter winds, there are plenty of places to find shelter in the Islands that also provide great numbers of fish. Third, the history of winter fishing success in the San Juans is about as solid as Mt. Rainier. Fourth, the quality of the fish is to die for. Fifth, you’ll find bigger fish, at this time of the year, in the Islands. And sixth, it is now open, for the fist time in 12 years. Dude, I am so gone.


Where to go


There are so many places to fish for winter blackmouth in the San Juan Islands. In the eastern region, I like Lopez Flats, Lopez Pass, Thatcher Pass, the SE shoreline of Blakely Island near Black Rock, Tide Point, Eagle Bluff, the buoy on the north end of Cypress Island, Peavine Pass, Obstruction Pass, Pt. Thompson and more. Get my drift? Inside the Islands, I like Humphrey Head at high water, Spring Pass on both tides, the Girl Scout Camp on the west side of Orcas, Pt. Doughty, Mail Bay on the east end of Waldron and Rocky Bay, on the northeast corner of San Juan Island. It’s virtually impossible to fish all of these locations in one day. But remember, there is a common denominator with blackmouth: find the bait, and you’ll find the fish. Blackmouth have ravenous appetites, similar to a hot dog eating contest. They are constantly on the move, looking for food, and consuming food.

So while millions of people are recovering from turkey day and black Friday, I am tying leaders, preparing for my first pilgrimage of the winter to the San Juan Islands. I consider it the day of Christmas shopping. Shopping for blackmouth in the San Juans, baby, and on to Roche. Let the Christmas parade begin. You can call me Santa and excuse me, I think I’m getting a bite! Merry Christmas everybody and see you on the water.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 19, 2010 1:34 pm    Post subject: Off to the San Juan's for Salmon Fishing Reply with quote

You can do the San Juan Shuffle by following Tony Floor's latest article...

http://www.boatersline.com/viewtopic.php?t=4012&highlight=
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