Big, feisty trout await battle with kids in fishing contest

Saturday, May 9 is the date set for the annual free Bellingham area trout fishing contest pitting youngsters against rainbows. The setting is Whatcom Falls Park kids’ derby pond.

The Northwest Washington Steelheaders now organize this angling rite of spring that was originally started in 1953 by the Bellingham Sportsmen’s Club.

Young trout enthusiasts will compete in two age classes, the up-to-age-9 group from 9-10 a.m. and the ages 10-14 group from 11 a.m.-noon. Contestants must register and obtain a entry/drawing ticket one half hour before their respective cast-off times.

Winners in both girls’ and boys’ divisions in each age group will receive their prizes in ceremonies taking place immediately upon the closure of each fishing period.

They earn the opportunity to pick from the prize collections based on the order in which they catch and enter their two-trout limit at the official derby record table.

Much of the treasure trove of outdoors and fishing gear to be won at this event is donated by local businesses with the club also chipping in to get some of the prizes.

Steelheader President Dave Bailey said the club is grateful for the generous contributions from Yeager’s Sporting Goods in Bellingham, Dave’s Sports Shop in Lynden and LFS Outdoors and Marine in Bellingham.

The club also will have free hot dogs and beverages for participants that are provided by Haggen Northwest Fresh Market at Barkley Village, said Bailey.

Besides the prizes and refreshments, steelhead club members are always on hand to assist any young hands who need a little help tying on or baiting a hook.

The City of Bellingham’s Parks and Recreation Department co-sponsors the Steelheader youth fishing derby, said Bailey. Bellingham’s Public Works Department also cooperates by temporarily limiting flows from Lake Whatcom during the event to make it easier for young fishers ply the derby pond.

For the Bellingham derby as well as other area kids fishing contests hefty rainbow trout are raised and provided by the Hatchery Division of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife with help from Bellingham Technical College students in the school’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Program. The BTC students also help get the derby pond set up.

The Whatcom Falls Park juvenile fishing pond is located north of the Electric Avenue entrance to the park where there is limited parking lot space. Participants also can get to the pond via the Silver Beach Road park entrance off Lakeway Drive at Kenoyer Drive and a stroll through the trout hatchery.

Parking is very limited inside the park, so it behooves contestants and their families to arrive early and be prepared for a walk. Taking the bus out to the park for the morning is a good strategy, however there’s limited cover in case of showers, so be sure to put a rain jacket or sweater in the family knapsack.


After an nine-month review and evaluation of detailed management plans for the Kendall Creek Hatchery early winter steelhead program, the National Marine Fisheries Service has determined the program will not adversely affect the recovery of ESA listed salmon and steelhead stocks in Puget Sound. Two other hatchery programs are included this finding.

The public comment period on this NMFS assessment and finding has been extended to Monday, May 4 due to a technical issue that affected the federal agency’s obligatory receipt of feedback prior to finalizing the decision.

Barring significant contrary factual information coming via public input that would affect that decision or third-party court action, this means the cultured production of non-native steelhead juveniles for release into the Nooksack River may continue.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to release the 2013-14 broods 165,000 hatchery steelhead smolts currently ensconced at Kendall Creek Hatchery as well as carry on the raising a similar number of 2014-15 brood steelhead fry to smolt size for release in May 2016.

These fish will be marked prior to their release by the removal or clipping of their adipose fins making them as surviving, returning adults identifiable as being eligible for retention in non-treaty recreational fishing as well as the focus of commercial, ceremonial and subsistence fisheries conducted by licensed members of tribes with treaty-ceded fishing rights.

State law prohibits the killing by non-treaty persons of wild or native steelhead anywhere in the state unless expressly allowed by special regulation.

A federal lawsuit brought by the Wild Fish Conservancy against State of Washington officials in 2014 and eventually settled out of court led to suspension hatchery steelhead production throughout Puget Sound because the state fish and wildlife department had not yet sought federal review, evaluation and approval under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act.

In July 2014 treaty tribes including Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe together with the state fish and wildlife department submitted three hatchery genetics management plans for steelhead production in the Nooksack, Stillagaumish and Dungeness rivers to NMFS for review and a determination of their compatibility with ESA protected stock recovery.

The anticipated finding is the culmination of that effort. To read the NMFS evaluation and pending action, download it from the Web via the URL https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-06927.

Comments may be sent to NMFS via: EWSteelheadHatcheries.wcr@noaa.gov. Include in the subject line of the email comment the following identifier: Comments on Early Winter Steelhead Hatchery Programs. When commenting on the draft environmental assessment, please refer to the specific page number and line number that is the subject of the comment.


This month be sure to stow the power puller and shrimp pots aboard on halibut forays to the west side of the San Juans.

Seventeen days have been added by state shellfish managers to the May schedule for personal use spot shrimping in Marine Area 7 West including the halibut deeps in Haro Strait.

Under a modification to the upcoming 2015 personal use spot shrimp season plan that was originally announced April 10, 7 West now will be available daily from Saturday, May 2’s opener.

The 7 West prawn opportunity now will coincide with flattie fishing days in those waters.

The initial season called for these waters to be open to spot shrimpers just 13 days in May, but managers, in looking at last year's catch profile, found that personal use (recreational) fishers did not land their allocation for that zone.

This addition will provide opportunity during the peak of the season say biologists, making it more likely the recreation set-a-side will be reached this year.

The new regulation for Area 7 West now stipulates that it will be open every day from the second of May for spot shrimp until the zonal prawn quota is reached or Sept. 15 whichever comes first.

A map showing the boundaries for Area 7 West can be found on page 134 of the 2014-15 Fishing in Washington regulations pamphlet or on line at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/shrimp/.

This rule change applies only openings for spot shrimp in Marine Areas 7 East and 7 South remain unchanged. The daily limit is 80 spot shrimp aka prawns.

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 bellinghamherald.com/outdoors-blog/.