What distinguishes those eating fresh shrimp louie on the patio from those having to order it in restaurants? Mastering the subtleties of pot presentation.
If you're interested in the arcanities of spot shrimp fishing, you're in luck.
A free seminar by LFS Marine and Outdoors in Bellingham, from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 20, will prepare fishers for the 2013 May spot shrimp season and beyond.
A second LFS tutorial, at 9 a.m. that day, focuses on summer king salmon fishing in the San Juans, and one at 11 a.m. deals with May halibut fishing.
Slated to talk about these varied marine waters fishing subjects are four experts.
Presenting their primer for pursuing chinook salmon in Washington's northern inland waters are Cory Warnock, 2011 winner of the Bellingham Salmon Derby, and Jeff Marr.
Members of Puget Sound Anglers with considerable experience boating big kings, Warnock and Marr will present basics such as trip preparation, gear selection and set-up techniques, plus where the best fishing spots are.
Before you come, print out and bring a big map or chart of the San Juan Islands to circle and note the various locations (and best tides) for intercepting Puget Sound homing kings.
For in-depth discussion of Puget Sound flattie fishing, LFS Marine and Outdoors again presents nationally known writer and ardent fisher John Beath.
Co-author of "How To Catch Trophy Halibut" with Chris Batin and the solo writer of "Halibut Fishing Secrets," Beath brings an encyclopedic knowledge of halibut hook and line tactics.
Besides the usual halibut fishing basics, Beath will outline more localized information this year, and give an expert's description of boat anchoring techniques, chumming and the best lines to use when going really deep for "barn door" flatties.
LFS's Zack Miller is the day's spot shrimp fisher-in-residence, who's plumbed the San Juan Island depths for prawns for more than three decades.
With a shift in allocation policy this season that slides more of the catch to the personal use side of the ledger, shrimpers will have more May days to fish inland waters, including Washington's northernmost management zone, Marine Area 7, from Haro Strait to Bellingham Bay.
Depending on effort and harvest, the Sub-area 7 West zone could stay open to sport spot shrimping three days a week until Sept. 15.
LFS Marine & Outdoors' saltwater seminars will take place in the Squalicum Boathouse at Zuanich Point Park on Bellingham's waterfront. They're free, but reservations are required because seating is limited.
You can reserve one or more of the 150 or so chairs by calling LFS Marine and Outdoors at 360-734-3336 weekdays during business hours and signing up for any or all of the sessions.
HALIBUT SEASONS ANNOUNCED
With a recreational catch cap of 214,110 pounds, 2013's slate of sport halibut fishing openings was unveiled last week by Washington fisheries managers.
The season starts in early May. Recreational anglers plying inside waters will find fewer days open to jig for flatties, while those venturing into one coastal management area will enjoy an angling schedule with two weekend days.
State fisheries managers say that as a result of an increase in participation and effort in 2012, the Puget Sound sport catch exceeded its allocated poundage.
While inside marine areas have been granted the same quota as last year, in anticipation of continued increased effort, five days were trimmed from this year's main Puget Sound season, and the number of Strait of Juan de Fuca zone fishing days have been reduced from 2011's duration.
In Marine Area 1, the southernmost zone on Washington's coast, 2011 anglers left 4,000 pounds of their catch allocation in the depths. An adjustment for this year won't grant more time overall, but will slide the weekly halibut fishery into the weekend, which presumably will allow more participation.
All halibut fishing areas will have a one-fish daily limit, with no restriction on size. Anglers may possess a maximum of two fish in any form, and must record their catch on a WDFW catch record card.
Here are this year's inside waters sport halibut fisheries, by management area:
--- Marine Areas 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10: Open Thursdays- Saturdays May 2-4 and May 16-18; Thursday-Sunday May 23-26, Memorial Day weekend; and Thursday and Friday, May 30-31.
-- Marine Area 5: Open Thursday-Sunday May 23-26, Memorial Day weekend; Thursday-Saturday May 30-June 1; and Saturday, June 8.
-- Marine Areas 11, 12, 13 in southern Puget Sound will be closed to halibut fishing this year, to protect threatened and endangered rockfish species.
For coastal areas, the season unfolds as follows:
-- Marine Area 1 (Columbia River): Fridays-Sundays starting May 3, until 80 percent of the quota is achieved. If the early season quota (80 percent of the quota) is not obtained prior to Aug. 3, the fishery will continue three days per week, Fridays-Sundays, until the remaining quota is taken or until Sept. 29, whichever comes first. The early quota is 9,516 pounds; the late quota is 2,379 pounds.
-- Marine Area 2 (Westport): Marine Area 2's fishery starts May 5, Sundays and Tuesdays for three consecutive weeks. The area-wide fishery will be closed May 26 and 28. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will open the following Sunday and/or Tuesday and continue until the quota is reached, or until Sept. 29, whichever occurs first. The northern near-shore area will open May 5 and continue seven days per week until the near-shore quota is reached or until Sept. 30, whichever occurs first. The quota for the area-wide fishery is 40,739 pounds; the quota for the northern near-shore fishery is 2,000 pounds.
-- Marine Areas 3 and 4 (La Push and Neah Bay): Halibut fishing starts May 9, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 18. If enough fish remain, the fishery will re-open May 30 and/or June 1 and possibly on additional Thursdays and Saturdays, depending on the amount of quota available until the quota is reached or Sept. 28, whichever occurs first. The combined quota for both areas is 108,030 pounds.
-- In Marine Areas 1-4, seasons will continue until the sub-area quotas are reached.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission (United States and Canada are its members) is the controller of the exploitation of North Pacific halibut.
The panel annually sets poundage quotas for management zones from California to the Bering Sea based on observed population trends. Quotas are set not only for halibut fisheries but for commercial ventures going after other fish species that catch halibut as well.
The share for all fisheries in Washington waters and off its coast is included in the IPHC's Regulatory Area 2A allocation.
A catch-sharing plan brokered by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council further splits that number among treaty and non-treaty interests in Washington, with tribal fishers harvesting for both commercial sale as well as ceremony and subsistence.
The non-treaty quota also is divided among commercial and personal use fisheries and that recreational catch allotment is apportioned still further between Washington outside or ocean fisheries and inland waters opportunities.
Each jurisdiction must demonstrate its competence at holding its fisheries to each year's allocated poundage.
NORTH CASCADES SNOW REMOVAL
Washington State Department of Transportation crews have cleared about 23 of the 44 miles of snow-covered North Cascades Highway.
On the Methow or east slope, WSDOT maintenance personnel began clearing State Route 20 up from Early Winters gate (at milepost 178) Monday, March 25, and by the end of Thursday the lead machine, a Kodiak snow-blower, had punched through to the Cutthroat Lake Road at Milepost 167.
The Skagit side crew got a week's head start on the west-slope portion of the northern tier route and by Thursday, March 25, had exposed about 14 miles of blacktop above the Diablo gate (milepost 134) up to Granite Creek Bridge (milepost 148).
For reference, Rainy Pass, Highway 20's west summit (and the actual Cascade Range watershed crest on the route) is at milepost 157.5, while Washington Pass, the higher and easternmost of the twin summits, is at milepost 162.5.
This week's plan calls for westside operators to continue drainage work on their open section of the road, while on the eastside beginning Monday, crews will tackle the avalanche-burdened Cutthroat Ridge section of road.
To tackle this tougher stretch with its 11 avalanche chutes, the eastside machinery lineup was bolstered Thursday by the arrival of a D-6 bulldozer and a front end loader.
Pushing uphill, working under the steep, slide-prone slopes, crews Monday will be joined by WSDOT's avalanche specialists, who normally work on the state's year-round trans-mountain routes to the south, with their snow cat.
Another Kodiak snowblower, normally stationed at Stevens Pass, also is expected by Tuesday to join the attack, once it is set up to chew into Highway 20's more compact snow.
Although another 20 inches of snow fell on the area during the last major storm, just before the onset of reopening work, the snowpack and avalanche accumulations found at the first of this month were less than in past several years.
Barring equipment breakdowns, another severe storm or illness in the work crews, a reopening of the highway in time for the Saturday, April 27, trout fishing season is still on the table.
There's enough optimism in the wind this spring that Okanogan trouting enthusiasts living here can even start picking out destinations for opening day pilgrimages.
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 at http://pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.