Bellingham PSA Salmon contest six days away

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 7, 2012 

Tickets for the Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers’ annual family salmon fishing contest, July 13-15, are still on sale at area outlets.

They include Clearwater Marine Services, on Home Road off West Bakerview Road; Dave’s Sports Shop, at the Fairway Shopping Center in Lynden; Holiday Sports Center, off Highway 20 in Burlington; LFS Marine and Outdoors, off Roeder Avenue in Bellingham; and Yeager’s Sporting Goods, on Northwest Avenue in Bellingham.

Only 500 of the $50 (full-price) tickets to the contest are available and they can be purchased until 5 p.m. Thursday, July 12.

This derby also has a division for kids age 12 and under, who may fish and compete for the youth prizes for free if accompanied by a paying adult. To be eligible they do have to register as derby participants.

Youngsters who buy a full-price ticket may compete for adult prizes.

CASH AND MORE

The top three heavyweight salmon will earn their catchers $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000 prizes. Two $500 prizes will go to anglers who enter salmon closest to two pre-determined secret weights.

Besides the cash, there’s a broad array of additional merchandise and services prizes, including British Columbia fishing trips at Ucluelet and Nootka Sound, certificates good for a free boat haul out at Seaview Boat Yard and a $600 fiberglass repair from B&J Fiberglass.

The three kids’ division prizes are a Sony Playstation, an iPod and a mountain bike, and there are many more prizes for other young fishers.

The derby awards ceremony is set for 1 p.m. Sunday, July 15, at the Harbor Center Building near Gate 10 and the main boat launch at Squalicum Harbor.

CONTESTANTS ELIGIBLE FOR MORE

Additional prize money could come to anglers placing money fish in the Bellingham PSA and Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series.

Mercury Marine, the exclusive engine sponsor of the 2012 salmon derby series, has put up cash prizes of $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 for first, second and third place finishers whose boat’s main propulsion is a Mercury engine.

All purchasers of adult derby tickets for this contest earn an automatic drawing entry in the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s annual derby series boat giveaway in September.

This year’s grand prize package includes a 21-foot River Hawk boat, a Mercury four-stroke 150 horsepower engine and a tandem axle Karavan boat trailer plus Scotty Downriggers, a suite of Lowrance electronics and a dual stereo system.

People need not buy a derby ticket to enter the boat giveaway. Anyone can fill out a NWSDS raffle ticket at the derby headquarters during the event or log onto http://northwestsalmonderbyseries.com/ and fill out a survey form to enter the drawing.

RULES BY WHICH TO FISH

The full set of rules governing this fishing contest are posted online at the Bellingham PSA chapter’s Web site: http://bellinghampsa.com/derby.htm.

Contestants must abide by all state salmon fishing regulations and have a valid Washington fishing license and a salmon catch record card (Rules 1-g & h).

In July, Marine Area 7 fishable waters are open for the taking of up to two salmon a day, although only one may be a chinook 22 inches or longer. Both clipped (hatchery) and non-clipped (probably wild) kings can be kept in July.

All persons of angling age aboard boats fishing in the contest must have a derby ticket for all to be eligible (Rule 1-i).

Only salmon caught in the open sections of Marine Area 7 and landed between 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 13, and 12 p.m. Sunday, July 15, will qualify for this event.

Official weigh-in stations will be 4-7 p.m. Friday, 2-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-noon Sunday at Squalicum Harbor ramp in Bellingham and 10 a.m 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, near the harbor office. TIPPING THE SCALES

With the advent of modern wireless Web links it’s possible to track fortunes in this derby from day to day if not moment to moment on a cellphone.

The size of a salmon is not always an indicator of how it will place in the competition. Therefore, it’s probably a good idea to get a candidate weighed in sooner rather than later after its boated.

Certainly the bigger a king is the better chance it has of placing, but twice in the past five years fish in the mid- 20-pound range have won this event.

Top fish in this period was a 39-plus-pounder landed in 2009. Last year’s first place chinook was a 34.5 pounder caught by Cory Warnock.

A benchmark for the kid’s division winning salmon is 21 pounds (2009 and 2010), however, in 2007 the top youngster-caught king was a 13.5-pounder.

The 2011 event set both PSA Bellingham derby and Northwest Salmon Derby Series records for most overall fish caught with entrants weighing in a total of 265 chinook in 2½ days of effort. SOME WATERS A NO-NO

Early this summer, to protect arriving wild spring and summer chinook heading for north sound rivers, so-called marine terminal areas, estuary waters into which these rivers empty will stay closed to either salmon angling or all personal use (recreational) hook and lining.

These no-fishing zones include:

 Greater Bellingham Bay (in Marine Area 7, opens Thursday, Aug. 16).

 Skagit Bay/Saratoga Passage (all of Marine Area 8-1, opens Wednesday, Aug. 1).

 Port Susan (in Marine Area 8-2, opens Wednesday, Aug. 1).

 Port Gardner (in Marine Area 8-2, opens Wednesday, Aug. 1).

 South Rosario/East Straits (in Marine Area 7, opens Monday, Oct. 1).

You’ll find an Area 7 map on page 108 of the Fish Washington regulations.

Closure of fishing in the otherwise lucrative south Rosario Strait waters, lying generally south and southeast of Lopez Island, for the bulk of the summer season is intended to modulate chinook sport catches.

Also, not all of Marine Area 8-2 waters are closed this month. The Tulalip Terminal Area is open in July and is one of the few areas where the state’s two-pole endorsement now applies in saltwater.

The greater Bellingham Bay closure lifts in time for the arrival of fall stock hatchery chinook bound for Samish Hatchery and the lower Nooksack River.

SHORT LIST FOR BOTTOMFISH, TOO

For about a decade, the focus of summer saltwater angling in Puget Sound has been on homeward bound salmon.

The now-shortened annual halibut and lingcod opportunities are history, while the 2010 closure of fishing to conserve Puget Sound rockfish continues.

But while the keeper list of marine finfish this time of year has shrunk, if you want to go after other food-fish, cabezon, pacific cod, pollock and surfperch remain on the menu.

CLOSE-IN CHINOOK HAUNTS

In July for Bellingham salmon anglers, especially those in smaller, open boats, there are some traditional close-in haunts for fair-weather or short-day excursions.

They are:

 Carter Point: One of those borderline spots at the southern tip of Lummi Island. Its deep waters are closed on the east side (Bellingham Bay) and open on the west. Be sure when you flirt with the line there you stay on the “right” side.

 Point Migley: Waters at Lummi Island’s north end are similarly bisected by a boundary line, although when salmon anglers work that area they stay outside anyway, where the bottom is rocky.

 Alden Bank: A submarine rise due west of Sandy Point that seems to get far less attention than it once did. It has nicely tapered, relatively smooth slopes from the submerged summit that permit contour trolling at various depths, especially around slack tides.

 Lummi Rocks: Just south of the center point on Lummi Island’s Rosario (west) shore. There is a deep inside channel as well as an outer, broken rocky bottom with lots of eddies to draw in bait fish and thus chinook. The outside can be a downrigger ball-grabber, though.

 Cypress Head: On the mideast shore of Cypress Island’s Bellingham Channel side. It has a significant tide rip associated with full ebb and flood tides, which makes the in-shore eddies at Eagle or Deepwater harbors attractive to trollers.

 Eagle Bluff: The northernmost of two iconic salmon fishing haunts on the west side of Cypress Island. The bottom off the bluff and into the cove is rocky, but those who tease the maximum depth trolling the loop there are most likely to tie onto a king at some point.  Tide Point: The other well-known westside Cypress Island site. Salmon trollers often ply waters on either side of it in loops during tide changes. Indications of baitfish schools are a sure sign that chinook are or will be present.  Cherry Point: Along Whatcom County’s main western shore. It doesn’t get the attention from chinook anglers it once did, but when coho begin showing up, trolling its open waters are certain to be productive. Fair weather here isn’t always a good indicator of fishability, either. With all the Strait of Georgia’s fetch, clear sky westerlies here can rile these waters.

FURTHER OUT

The San Juan Islands themselves are renowned for their salmon hotspots, although they require crossing some open waters that can blow up even on clear, sunny summer days.

Keep the volume up on the VHF radio or eavesdrop a conversation dockside and you’ll likely hear names such as Point Lawrence (Orcas), President Channel, Point Doughty and Lover’s Cove, all associated with Orcas Island.

Also likely to be mentioned are Point Caution, Limekiln and Cattle Point, landmarks by which some waters around San Juan Island are known.

Turn Point, Skipjack Island, Boundary Buoy, Sucia Island and its “Hummer Hole,” Matia Island and Thatcher Pass also produce salmon.

Each has its sweet spot (a period during the daily tide cycle) when the likelihood of hooking up with a big king increases. That information is hard won by those who have it, and, thus, more difficult to elicit.

But among the tried and truisms governing saltwater salmon fishing in general here that you will be told are to look for schools of bait, keep your chosen terminal tackle (lures or herring baits) in the water and offer them (troll or mooch) in a range of depths.

BENEFITS TO SALMON

A non-profit organization, the Bellingham PSA chapter contributes each year’s derby net proceeds to one of a number of this area’s fisheries enhancement and educational programs.

To date, $35,000 has been donated.

Past recipients have included Bellingham Technical School’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Program, which operates the Maritime Heritage Center Fish Hatchery, and Lynden Christian High School’s salmon studies and hatchery program, started by extraordinary instructor Harlan Kredit.

Bellingham PSA meets for dinner and a program every third Wednesday of the month in Bellingham at Nicki’s Bella Marina Restaurant at Squalicum Harbor.

Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald’s outdoors correspondent, since 1983 has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that now appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him athttp://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.

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