The first edition of the fish and wildlife department's 2014 fishing contest calendar is out and as of Thursday, Feb. 6, 166 sport fishing derbies and tournaments around the state have applied for and been issued permits.
More are expected and each must, at a minimum, meet Washington's rules and regulations governing hook and line contests on game fish populations to be sanctioned.
For those anglers whose event horizons are significantly further out, knowing when fishing contests are planned helps to avoid the inevitable longer waits and limited parking at public access areas.
As always large- and smallmouth bass are the focus of the lion's share of this years events but there are a small number that are making either walleye or tiger muskies their money fish.
Seven hatchery steelhead contests have registered this year with six one-day events in January (on peninsula rivers with winter-run stocks) already completed and the remaining one, on the Grande Ronde targeting summer-run hatchery steelies, running through Saturday, March 22.
Nine of the 166 currently registered and permitted contests are oriented toward trout or other smaller gamefish species.
Here in Whatcom County three waters (Lake Whatcom, Terrell and Samish), so far, have a total of nine contests slated that are organized by four separate sponsoring clubs.
Our local independent group of warm-water fishing enthusiasts, the Borderline Bassin' Contenders are backing five contests, Washington State Pond Jumperz Bass Club, a Skagit County-based group, is organizing two of these events (both 'opens' with a 20-boat limit), the Northwest Bassmasters and Washington Bass Association (Kirkland, WA) are promoting the other two.
Seven of these Whatcom County hook-and-line contests are limited entry affairs for club members only while two are open tournaments welcoming all comers whether they are formally affiliated with the sponsor or not, willing to pay the entry fee whether they are formally affiliated with the sponsor or not.
The first tourney up is the Borderline Bassin Contenders two-day Lake Terrell club contest the last weekend of March.
BBC also will open and close the Lake Whatcom fishing season in two-day tussles with its smallmouth bass that are set for the last weekend of April (opening day) and the final weekend in October (five days before closing). Would-be boat-borne contestants on Whatcom must be sure their craft is legal to launch on the City of Bellingham's water supply by have them inspected and certified to be free of invasive aquatic species.
Though they're not posted yet, expect to see permits issued for the Northwest Washington Steelheaders May kids trout derby in Bellingham as well as the Camel Club's Lynden Kids Derby in Fishtrap Creek and the Sumas American Legion Post No. 212 kids derby on Johnson Creek usually held on consecutive Saturdays in June.
To date only two open-entry events in nearby Skagit County have been given the go-ahead by state officials. They are a May contest for bass on Big Lake and a July joust for Clear Lake's largemouth, both sponsored by the Washington State Pond Jumperz.
Resisting the glitz, glitter and gleaming fiberglass of the high-speed bass fraternities of the South and Midwest, the Pond Jumperz are an old-fashioned electric motor and small tin boat type club which run their contests along those lines. Contestants must compete in boats without outboard motors.
This month with warm-water species still hunkered down, next up on the 2014 list is a through-the-ice trout fishing contest set for Saturday, Feb. 15, on Okanogan County's Sidley and Molson lakes east of Oroville in the Kettle Highlands near the Canadian Border.
Grant County in Central Washington leads the way with 39 registered contests (including 14 open events). Nineteen of those set for lanky Banks Lake.
West of the Cascades, King County's two biggest natural freshwater lakes, Washington and Sammamish, will be major stops on many tournament trails this year with 10 and eight contests, respectively, currently scheduled.
FISHING CONTEST ON LINE
These web sites have information pertinent to fishing contests and their proponents.
For a complete rendition of fishing contest regulations and forms for applying and reporting: wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/fishing_contests/
For the regularly updated list of contests statewide: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/index.html#2014_anchor
For the Washington State Pond Jumperz: pondjumperz.com/
For the Washington Bass Association: www.washingtonbassclub.com/
GETTING JIGGY ... FOR SMELT
The 49th annual LaConner Smelt Derby is set for Saturday, Feb. 22, at the historic pioneer port town on Swinomish Slough in Skagit County.
It's more of a social event for the merchants and a way to blow the stink off after winters indoors but among the payoffs are a $100 kids' prize for the biggest smelt.
During the 8 a.m.-4 p.m. festivities, besides the slough side fishing pole work, there are pancakes (and more) for breakfast and hotdogs for lunch. To get the blood stirring there are 5K and 10K runs and to get young artistic juices flowing there's fish painting.
The smelt jigging has done on a number of private business docks behind channel-side First Street firms or from several docks and moorage piers in the public marina at the north end of town.
It's not necessary to have a state fishing license to catch smelt as long as you stick to just dropping smelt into your bucket. If you choose to enter herring, flounder and other finny critters and are age 15 and up, you need some form of a 2013-14 fishing license.
There's also a 10 pound per person daily limit for smelt, probably not likely to be exceeded here,as well as a rule that caps the number of hooks on the business end of the line at nine single-point or three treble point.
HATCHERY WINTER STEELHEAD UPDATE
As of Thursday, Feb. 6, Western Washington state and cooperative hatcheries have reported the following hatchery winter steelhead returns and egg-takes. The deadline for obtaining adult fish to spawn was Friday, Jan. 31. For reference there are comparisons to last year's escapements in the same time-frame.
Maritime Heritage Center Hatchery (Whatcom Creek): 20 adults, no eggs taken. Same time in 2012: one adult.
Kendall Creek Hatchery (North Fork Nooksack River): 163 adults with 232,000 eggs taken (goal is 190,000 eggs). Same time in 2012: 62 adults, 92,000 eggs taken.
Marblemount Hatchery (Cascade River (Skagit)): 85 adults with 163,143 eggs taken (goal is 250,000 eggs). Same time in 2012: 185 adults, 263,000 eggs taken.
Whitehorse Hatchery (North Fork Stillagaumish River): 161 adults, 193,831 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 155 adults, 227,890 eggs taken.
Tokul Creek Hatchery (Snoqualmie River (Snohomish)): 412 adults with 541,903 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 701 adults, 657,373 eggs taken.
Soos Creek Hatchery (Green River): 116 total adults with 153,500 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 127 adults: 144,000 eggs taken.
Dungeness Hatchery (Dungeness River): 15 adults with 13,500 eggs taken as of Tuesday, Jan. 21. Same time in 2012, 41 adults: 43,000 eggs taken.
Bogachiel Hatchery (Bogachiel River (Quillayute)): 859 adults with 316,400 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 2,273 adults, 306,000 eggs taken.
Humptulips Hatchery (Humptulips River): 529 adults with 225,920 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 871 adults, 229,750 eggs taken.
Forks Creek Hatchery (Willapa River): 358 adults with 204,000 eggs taken as of Tuesday, Jan. 21. Same time in 2012: 644 adults, 200,000 eggs taken
Cowlitz Hatchery (Cowlitz River): 638 adults with no eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 873 adults, no eggs reported taken.
Merwin Hatchery (Lewis River): 96 adults with 86,200 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 242 adults, 148,000 eggs taken.
Skamania Hatchery (Skamania River): 253 adults with 212,800 eggs taken. Same time in 2012: 228 adults, 231,800 eggs taken.
Doug Huddle, the Bellingham Herald's outdoors correspondent, since 1983, has written a weekly fishing and hunting column that appears Sundays. Read his blog and contact him at pblogs.bellinghamherald.com/outdoors.