The annual free Bellingham area youth trout fishing derby, the first of five tests this year of young angling prowess, is set for Saturday, May 11, at Whatcom Falls Park.
The Northwest Washington Steelheaders, an independent sport-fishing club based in Whatcom County, continues this angling rite of spring that was originally started in the early 1950s by the Bellingham Sportsman's Club, which is now disbanded.
Action begins at 8:30 p.m. Saturday when contestants can sign in to compete in either of two age groups.
Youngsters up to age 9 fish from 9 to 10 a.m., with the winners receiving their prizes in a ceremony immediately following.
Youth ages 10-14, start plumbing the derby pond's depths at 11 a.m. for one hour, after which winners in boys and girls divisions of that age group get their prizes.
Much of the trove of goodies to be given away at this event is donated by local businesses, and the club also chips in for some of the top prizes. The club also will have free hot dogs and pop for participants.
Besides the prizes and refreshments, steelhead club members will be standing by on the bank to help any young hands who need help tying on or baiting a hook.
For this and other area kids fishing contests a horde of rainbow trout are raised and provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The derby pond is north of the Electric Avenue drive-in entrance to Whatcom Falls park, and parking is limited.
Participants also can get to the pond via the Silver Beach Road park entrance off Lakeway Drive and a stroll through the fish hatchery.
At least four more youth angling contests are regularly held during spring and summer here, including:
? The Lynden Kid's Fishing Derby, organized by the Camel Club of Lynden. A penned-off reach of Fishtrap Creek in Lynden City Park on Depot Road is the scene of this early June youth/trout set-to.
? The Howard Bowen Memorial Kids Fishing Derby, organized by American Legion Post 212 of Sumas. A section of Johnson Creek in Sumas's main city park is set up for this event.
? The Rudy Horat Memorial Bluegill Tournament, organized by the Borderline Bassin' Contenders Club. This fishing contest is held at Fazon Lake on a Saturday in mid-June.
? The Youth Division of the Bellingham Salmon Derby, organized by the Bellingham Chapter of Puget Sound Anglers. This year on July 12-14, youngsters choosing to fish this division pay no entry fee to compete for their own set of prizes.
GOING FOR DEEPER DELICACIES
Personal-use opportunities for shrimp (prawns and other species), lingcod and halibut open up in greater Puget Sound waters in May.
The spot shrimp or prawn fishery has been expanded, incorporating more days, especially in the west sub-section of Marine Area 7. The prawn schedule for northern inland waters is as follows:
? Marine Area 7 South and 7 East opened Saturday, May 4, at 7 a.m. for just the day. The fishery will resume on additional dates including May 8-11, May 15-18 and May 29-June 1.
? Marine Area 7 West opened May 4 at 7 a.m. for the day, and resumes Wednesdays to Saturdays each week until June 1. From then on, 7 West will be open Thursdays to Saturdays until Sept. 15, or sooner if the sport quota is reached.
? Marine Area 6 (except Discovery Bay shrimp district): Daily starting May 4 at 7 a.m. each day, continuing until Sept. 15 or sooner if sport quota is landed.
? Marine Area 8.1, 8.2, 9, 10 and 11: From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 4 and 8. Additional openings could occur if sport quota remains.
Halibut fishers in greater Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca waters have fewer open days this spring.
The "inside" season runs on weekly openings - generally Thursdays to Sundays - May 2-31, but do check the new Fish Washington regulations because there is a twist to the sets of open days in the last half of the month.
The 2013 hook and line opportunity for lingcod opened Wednesday, May 1, and runs through Saturday, June 15 with a one lingcod, a daily bag limit of one, 26 to 36 inches long. Between Tuesday, May 21, and Saturday, June 15, spearfishers may take one ling a day up to a maximum length of 36 inches.
Washington's four ocean coast sport fishery management zones are open for these fish and shellfish species in May as well.
Personal use fishing for salmon in Marine Area 7 and most other inland waters management zones is now halted. Saltwater haunts off western Whatcom County reopen for the summer on Monday, July 1.
Spring trout fishing opened the fourth Saturday in April in many hatchery-stocked lakes statewide. Included on that long list are four favorite Whatcom County rainbow waters: Padden, Silver, Toad and Cain lakes.
The start of summer stream trout fishing season is just short of a month off. Saturday, June 1, is the magic day for select streams that open specifically for trout and other gamefish.
Summer river fishing for salmon opens still later in the summer with the lower Nooksack set to start up for pinks July 16.
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.