A CHANCE TO scratch that saltwater salmon fishing itch begins today in Marine Area 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) with the opening of the winter blackmouth fishery.
Blackmouth, named for their dark gums and otherwise known as immature chinook, are year-round residents of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Hood Canal, preferring to stay inside rather than heading out to the Pacific Ocean to feed before returning to native streams and hatchery holes.
Blackmouth can be of wild or hatchery origin, but recreational anglers can only retain hatchery kings that are a minimum of 22 inches in length. The daily limit is two hatchery kings.
Marine Area 6â€™s blackmouth fishery will run through April 15.
â€śI know some guys have been going stir crazy waiting to get back on the water,â€ť said Brian Menkal of Brianâ€™s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim.
â€śHitting those spots like the 31-36 Hole, the Humps or off Protection Island [are good bets]. Itâ€™s just a matter of finding the fish.â€ť
Menkal said blackmouth are bottom dwellers much of the time, so keeping your gear on or near the bottom is advised.
â€śI recommend keeping a good eye on the depth finder,â€ť Menkal said. â€śSometimes theyâ€™ll climb the water column following a school of baitfish.â€ť
As for methods, itâ€™s a matter of watching the current and the weather.
â€śIf the current is light and the windâ€™s not blowing, lots of folks like to mooch herring or jig on a free drift,â€ť Menkal said.
â€śIf the current is moving strong, itâ€™s a good idea to troll Coho Killers [spoons], hoochies, anything like that. Just keep it to the bottom.â€ť
And itâ€™s good to note that immature doesnâ€™t necessarily mean small. Yes, there often are plenty of sub-legal â€śshakerâ€ť chinook early in the winter season, but anglers can bet there will be some in the 10-pound and above range. The winning fish in last yearâ€™s Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby weighed in at 16.85 pounds, so they are out there.
To the west, Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will open for blackmouth Feb. 16 and run through April 30.
To the east, Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is open for blackmouth through April 15 and Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) allows hatchery chinook retention through April 30.
Fly Fishers meet
Fly fishing in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and how to tie the Thunder Thighs Hopper fly will be discussed at this monthâ€™s meeting of the Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishers at 6 p.m. Monday.
The groupâ€™s meetings, open to all interested anglers, are held in the Campfire USA Clubhouse in Webster Park, 614 E. Fourth St., in Port Angeles the first Monday of every month.
For more information, contact Charles Whitney at 360-457-2799 or [emailÂ protected]
Fly Fishing Show
The Fly Fishing Show will be held at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th Street SW, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Fly-tying experts and authors such as Skip Morris, Gary Borger and more will be on hand. Also planned are destination seminars, casting demonstrations, exhibitor booths and classes with expert fly-anglers.
Tickets cost is $15 (cash only) for one day, $25 for two days. Children under age 5 are free as are Boy Scouts under age 16 in uniform. Active military with ID are $10.
Derby tickets at retailers
Ticket sales are underway in person at a host of North Olympic Peninsula retailers and online at www.gardinersalmonderby.org for the 2019 Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby, set Friday through Sunday, March 8-10.
Jefferson County retailers with tickets are: Four Corners Store, Quimper Mercantile, West Marine and the Fishâ€™n Hole in Port Townsend; Wild Birds Unlimited in Gardiner; Olympic Equipment Rentals in Port Hadlock and Fishing Supplies and Gear in Discovery Bay.
Clallam County retailers offering tickets are: Longhouse Market and Deli in Blyn; Brianâ€™s Sporting Goods and More in Sequim and Swainâ€™s General Store in Port Angeles.
Tickets are $40 at retailers and will be available until March 4.
Online ticket prices are $42.50 and can be purchased through March 6.
Brian Menkal of Brianâ€™s Sporting Goods and More will offer a two-part Introduction to Salmon and Steelhead River Fishing course at his store, 609 W. Washington St., No. 21 in Sequim, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday with part two following at the same time Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Menkal knows a ton of tips, tricks and locations and offers the course for $40 per person plus tax.
To reserve a space, phone 360-683-1950.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [emailÂ protected]