With the January closure of many of Washington’s Marine Areas, the biggest opener for blackmouth, or resident chinook salmon as they are also called, is pushed back to February 1st. This also means that the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, which includes three big winter salmon derbies in Marine Area 7, will happen the first three weeks of February and include the Resurrection Salmon Derby, the Friday Harbor Salmon Classic, and the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic. Notably, Area 7 is limited to retention of hatchery clipped fish during this season, so all the derbies will be under these rules.
This will mean a lot of time on the road for many anglers in a three-week stretch if they plan on fishing all three derbies. It seems like there is always the possibility of wind in the forecast for derbies at that time of year, but the payoff in prize money has gotten big enough that the grind may be worth it. With that said, let’s dive into a breakdown of tournament time!
First up on the docket for the 2020 Northwest Salmon Derby Series is the Resurrection Derby based out of Anacortes. This sold-out event started in 2010 and is produced by the Fidalgo-San Juan Islands chapter of Puget Sound Anglers fishing club. It takes place February 1st and 2nd and will see 100 boats with a maximum of four anglers on each boat competing for a first prize of $12,000.
This tournament was founded to honor the old Rosario derby, where heavyweight anglers from all over would come to test their skill in a foul weather derby.
There are lots of tales and lots of memories made in the last ten years. Stories about late-night Christmastime shenanigans and pub crawls in Friday Harbor, the tournament’s original location, continue to be told.
There was the story about blowing the lid off the yacht club there, too. There were beautiful days on the water and some big fish caught. Brutal weather and scratch fishing. It’s all part of the game. The main attraction is just getting anglers together and sporting friendly competition among some of the best salmon fisher people around.
Next up is the Friday Harbor Salmon Classic that takes place February 7th & 8th, and is also already sold out. With a whopping $20,000 for first place, this is a big boy and girl derby with a large portion of the proceeds going to benefit a great cause, Salmon for Soldiers. Tournament founders Jimmie and Rustie Lawson have turned this competition into something really special.
Friday Harbor is one of the best places anywhere to have a salmon tournament. I must admit I’m biased because these folks are good friends and everyone involved is great.
And finally, the last derby of the series is the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on February 14th and 15th. With nearly $30,000 in prize money, this is a big gun too, and yes, you guessed it, it’s also sold out!
I’ve been on the winning team twice in this derby, and I can tell you from firsthand experience, it’s a total rush to win! The first win was in 2006, and there was a huge windstorm that kept many boats on the dock. It came down to the very last minute but we caught the winning (actually a tie) fish. The stuff of legends and I’ll never forget it!
The second win was in 2014, when I got to see my good friends Andy and Carol Holman beside me on the podium. Roche Harbor’s Debbie Sandwith, Kevin Carlton, and Bill Shaw all work together to make this derby super special. Anyone entered in these three derbies are eligible to win the grand prize: a $75,000 Kingfisher boat and trailer, courtesy of the Northwest Marine Trade Association Northwest Salmon Derby Series. And that beats working!
After three years of writing Kevin’s Catch for Northwest Yachting, this will be my last column. It’s been a really good experience, and I hope I’ve inspired readers to make fishing a part of your adventures on the water.
I’m still going to be at Inside Passage Yachts, matching great folks up to great boats, but my schedule and commitments have limited my time. Northwest Yachting is the preeminent publication of all things boating on the West Coast, so I know you are in good hands moving forward.
Until I see you out on the water, let’s all have fun, catch something yummy from the ocean, and let’s go fishing!