I have the Cheshire Cat grin on my face as I sit in front of my computer screen and think about the month of April. I reflect on the fire and damnation of the last few months most of us survived in some form, whether it is the ongoing battles in the legislature, early blackmouth fishing closures in too many marine areas, or the dreadful winter weather of rain, snow, and relentless winds. It will be a winter I will easily forget.
Now, with April here, we are looking down the barrel of the ongoing salmon fishing season negotiations in the North of Falcon process, which will try any angler’s patience. While we wait for the final decisions to be made at North of Falcon negotiations, which determine our fishing opportunities, I’m thinking about laying the wood to a hatchery-produced blackmouth before the final chapter of this year’s season slides onto the bookshelf. Clearly, as dictated by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, it’s been a winter season filled more with what you can’t do versus what you can do. Don’t get me started.
For the last four years, I have rediscovered quality fishing at Sekiu in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca during the month of April. It has been money for this salmon angler. While I have witnessed everything from slow catching to lights-out fishing at Sekiu in April, the quality of the fish is impressive. Most of the blackmouth in the Straits of Juan de Fuca are beginning to sexually mature and will evolve into summer and fall kings bound for Puget Sound hatcheries. I like it when that happens.
The Sekiu fishery performs on both tides as these maturing fish will go on and off the bite throughout the day. On an ebb, I like to start my troll near the Cave, immediately west of Olson’s Resort, working water from 100-140 feet and attempting to troll my gear in the bottom five feet of the water column. I’ll continue the troll pattern west down to Eagle or Hoko Point and repeat, taking note of where I find schools of feed (usually herring). Shortening the distance of my troll patterns to stay on top of the bait is a money strategy.
When the tide floods, I like to set up around Slip Point immediately east of Clallam Bay and troll east, past Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine, and all the way to Cod Fish Bay. It is very rare to see any boats in either direction fishing this region. I might troll a quarter mile or so, in the same depths noted above, until “Boom – blackmouth hook-up!” I continue the troll pattern and another “Boom!” as an April blackmouth just eats my worm!
It has been my experience that just about anything works in this fishery. Whole and plug-cut herring, Silver Horde traditional spoons, or even a white hoochie will get the job done. Ace Hi-Flies are also in the repertoire for this fishery. Mix it up and see what works best.
When I’m fishing three anglers, I’ll put two 12-pound downrigger balls near the deck from each side of the boat, and drop the third rod out the back to mid-depth. Last year my biggest fish, a high-teener, came off the mid-depth rod. The fact of the matter is that the Sekiu fishery does not take a high-level fishing skill to get the job done. The bottom is extremely forgiving, both east and west, composed of sand and mud. Anglers are rewarded by just putting gear in the water and watching the fish come.
Sekiu is not easy to get to. It’s a four-hour drive towing my boat from my digs in Olympia. I do not fish Sekiu for a day trip. Considering the distance, I go for several days. There are two fishing resorts in Sekiu. Olson’s, located on the very west end of town, and Van Riper’s, about a quarter mile east of Olson’s. Most rooms have a gorgeous view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Van Riper’s has a few rooms located 20-30 feet from the water with docks immediately out front and a boat ramp. Perfect!
My message is plain and simple. I have no intentions of sitting around lighting my hair on fire with thoughts of limited fishing opportunities. I’m heading for Sekiu and hoping that grin on my face is becoming permanent. See you on the water!