It was back near the end of 1977. I was a much younger rookie working at the Washington Department of Fisheries when Deputy Director Frank Haw invited me to go winter blackmouth fishing on January 2, 1978.
I was shocked that he could consider going salmon fishing on that date 40 years ago as the UW Huskies were in the Rose Bowl, playing against their dreaded rival, University of Michigan. To make a decision to not watch the most important college football game of the year bordered on blasphemy!
But, when my lordship and mentor said, “Let’s go Floor,” I reluctantly said, “I’m in.”
We launched at the Narrows Marina on a cold, clear morning and navigated our way underneath the Narrows Bridge. We began drift mooching with plug-cut herring on an ebb tide near Point Evans. Wham! The winter Chinook were there and we easily boated our four fish up to 10 pounds in a few hours. I didn’t care if I ever watched another football game in my life as I became a blackmouth fishing convert.
Frank said, “Hey, let’s run over to the Tides Tavern (in Gig Harbor) and have something warm to eat and drink.” Now you’re talking my language! We had a hot bowl of chili chased by a booze burger and watched the Huskies (7-4) beat Michigan (10-1) 27-20, which was the icing on the cake. Yahoo!
Little did I know, 40 years later, that my experience with Frank Haw would imprint my professional life forever, as I remain on spin cycle over the opportunity to go salmon fishing at this time of year.
The beginning of a new year offers prime time for winter blackmouth salmon fishing. The San Juan Islands (Area 7) and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area 6) have been open for a month. Area 9 will reopen soon, after a short December closure following a wonderful November fishery. While the majority of our Pacific Northwest society might think winter salmon anglers are significantly disturbed, I beg to differ. As Frank Haw opened the door for me to get outside and off the couch so many years ago, I say the same to you: “Let’s go fishing!”
And if you like winter blackmouth fishing as much as this old cat, then you know about the table quality of these winter Chinook salmon. Bite for bite, it’s delicate, extremely mild, and moist. Excuse me as I’m tipping over in my chair!
It was just over a year ago when most of northern Puget Sound, the San Juans, and eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca were shut down as the result of zillions of undersized (22-inch) blackmouth everywhere. There was no escaping the phenomenon, as written in this space several times in the last 12 months.
The state ordered anglers to stop their pursuit of hatchery-produced Chinook salmon and to go find other forms of recreation. Businesses that rely on this important fall, winter, and spring sport fishery went into a tail spin.
Today, those small undersized Chinook salmon have another year under their belt which has resulted in stellar winter salmon fishing beginning last October in the San Juan Islands and carrying through to November in north Puget Sound and back to the Islands last month.
The message cannot be any clearer. Go fishing, dude, as this opportunity will not last all winter. From Port Angeles there’s Winter Hole, Freshwater Bay, and Protection Island. Go man, go! Same play for the San Juans, go man, go!
Here comes the Seattle Boat Show!
January also offers the annual Seattle Boat Show, January 27 through February 4. As reported in this space for years, I totally dig the Seattle Boat Show. From fiberglass and aluminum saltwater fishing boats, state-of-the-art marine electronics, fishing gear, to destination fishing lodges including the best saltwater fishing seminars in the universe, it’s an annual meltdown for this saltwater fishing junkie. The show runs for nine days with the opportunity to inhale the aroma of fiberglass and check it all out. I love it!
I’m getting outside in January. It’s prime time for winter blackmouth fishing in northern Puget Sound waters and tire kicking at the big Seattle Boat Show. See you on the water and at the biggest boat show on the West Coast, the Seattle Boat Show!