March (Salmon) Madness!
March means spring has sprung and salmon will be sought (and hopefully caught) in Northwest salt waters and rivers. While many will just start thinking of taking the boat out of storage, we’ll already be on the fishy forage! Spring Chinook from the Columbia River and Washington and Oregon’s various tributaries are the absolute best tasting salmon on the planet.
If you’re not set up for fishing rivers, this is a great opportunity to hire a guide. These prized fish fight hard, and as mentioned before, are unparalleled as table fare. Make March a special salmon month with a little “springer” madness. It will most likely begin a tradition you will look forward to all year.
A quick internet search will bring up many reputable guides. Fishing methods vary, but all are fun and can be productive. You’ll most likely be in a large open sled or drift boat, so make sure and dress for the Northwest’s winter/spring conditions. Then sit back and let your guide put you on the fish!
Winter Chinook will still be on the feed in local waters. In the San Juans, we usually see some larger spring fish show up in March. These Chinook aren’t blackmouth, but early returning juggernauts with tight scales and purple/chrome flanks. Not too many years ago, a few fish around 30 lbs. hit the docks during the month of March. While we may not see many of these, hatchery blackmouth should still be available for some tasty takes.
Roche Harbor’s Salmon Derby kicked off the weekend before the Seattle Boat Show. This was the 15th annual event, and it just keeps getting better. Windy conditions made fishing tough, but a good time was had by all. Bob Enselman of Stanwood, Washington, took the first prize of $10,000 with his team of locals. Their top hatchery winter Chinook weighed in at a respectable 17.11 lbs. Our own Vicki Klein (aka my wife) of Team Parker Boats NW tied for fourth overall in the tournament and won top fish of all female anglers.
The Friday Harbor Salmon Classic took place February 9 and 10. The top prize of $15,000 went to Trent Kies with a beautiful 19.15-lb Chinook. Proceeds from the tournament will go to the nonprofit Salmon for Soldiers. Lindell Yachts and Inside Passage Yacht Sales also donated $5,000 to Salmon for Soldiers, an organization that gets returning vets fishing.
This is a great event and a very good time. The weather and fishing were pretty darn good for this one. That’s the last of the Marine Area 7 trio of winter derbies.
Up first this month on the Northwest Salmon Derby circuit is the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby. This longstanding event takes place March 9 to 11. Top prize for the biggest whopper is a whopping $10,000! Go to gardinersalmonderby.com for more info. Next is the Everett Blackmouth Derby March 17 and 18. This tournament is put on by Puget Sound Anglers, and prospective participants can visit their website for info (pugetsoundanglers.com). Both derbies put entrants into the running for the Derby Series top prize of a brand new boat!
Washington’s North of Falcon salmon season setting process will be in full swing through March. This will be an interesting year, with the resignation of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Jim Unsworth in January and the controversial 10-year Chinook Management Plan that was signed and then walked back. The plan could have shut down salmon fishing in most marine areas in the state. I would strongly recommend that anyone who is interested and involved in salmon fishing in the Northwest do their own reading and research on fishing issues to educate yourself.
Then, if possible, attend a North of Falcon meeting that is open to the public. Information for meeting times and dates are on the WDFW website at wdfw.wa.gov.
Another great way to learn and get involved is to join recreational fishing groups such as Puget Sound Anglers (PSA). PSA has many chapters around the state and conducts monthly meetings that usually delve into fishing advocacy issues plus have a “How to Fish” component. Go to pugetsoundanglers.org for more info.
Next month we will touch on opportunities to catch spot prawns, ling cod, and halibut…oh my! Until then, march right down to the boat, spring into action, and go get some!