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Peninsula Daily News
THERE'S MONEY SWIMMING out in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Port Angeles becomes the center of halibut fishing on the North Olympic Peninsula, if not the entire state of Washington, this weekend.
Hundreds of anglers are expected to participate in the Port Angeles Salmon Club's 13th annual halibut derby, which takes place Saturday and Sunday.
The popular derby will award $20,000 worth of cash prizes to the top 30 halibut caught by ticket holders within the U.S. waters from Low Point to the base of Dungeness Spit.
The angler who catches the biggest fish will receive $5,000, second place gets $2,500, and third place takes home $1,500.
The cash amounts taper off from there.
For instance, the sixth largest halibut will earn its captor $1,000, and the 10th biggest fish is worth $500 — all the way down to $135 for the 30th-place fish.
Last year, Jeff Reynolds became the first two-time winner in the history of the derby with a 112-pound halibut. He was the only angler to catch a halibut that exceeded 100 pounds.
Reynolds would have to be the favorite to win again this year. And not just because of his two-timing status.
Reynolds is also a regular on the Port Angeles Salmon Club's monthly salmon and halibut derby ladders at Swain's General Store. (Including this month's derby, with a 150-pound halibut.)
Derby tickets cost $40, and can be purchased through today at Swain's General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles and Brian's Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim.
Tickets can also be purchased at derby headquarters, the Port Angeles Yacht Club (1305 Marine Dr. in Port Angeles), today and Saturday.
To be eligible, every person in every boat must have a derby ticket.
Bob Aunspach of Swain's and Brian Menkal of Brian's Sporting Goods and More both said that ticket sales had been slow by mid-week, but that's fairly normal for a derby.
Many participants wait until right before the derby to buy a ticket; they want to make sure the weather will be conducive to halibut fishing.
And it should be.
Wind is the biggest nuisance to halibut fishing, but only “light wind” shows up in the forecast.
“It looks like it will be a good weekend,” Aunspach said.
Because this is a holiday weekend, the halibut fishery will be open an extra day, through Sunday, in Marine Areas 5 (Sekiu), 6 (Port Angeles, Sequim) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet).
Anglers who prefer to avoid the mass of humans chasing halibut money, can fish for big uglies near Sequim (west of the base of Dungeness Spit), or in Port Townsend or Sekiu.
After a week off, the halibut fishery reopened last week in Marine Areas 6 and 9.
It wasn't as hot as the opening week, but many fish were still caught.
“The opener was just outstanding,” Menkal said.
“It's a hard act to follow.”
The reopening started off hot Thursday, and then tapered off by Saturday.
It seems knowledge has been power for anglers chasing mighty halibut.
“The same guys getting them are the ones getting them,” Menkal said.
“They know the spots and have been at it longer.”
Aunspach made the same observation.
“Certain guys got it figured out,” he said.
Neah Bay shut down
Bad news for Neah Bay.
Joey Lawrence of Big Salmon Resort (360-645-2374) in Neah Bay said the state Department of Fish and Wildlife informed the resort Thursday that the halibut fishery in Marine Area 4 will be shut down because it has reached its catch quota.
“We're pretty bummed about it. That was devastating news for us,” Lawrence said.
Halibut fishing is always good for business, and Big Salmon had scheduled its 10th annual halibut derby for next Saturday.
This will be the first time the derby has been canceled. Lawrence said the resort schedules the derby for the weekend following the Port Angeles derby to avoid dueling derbies.
Lawrence speculated that the closure was a result of the short chinook fishery, which was open in Neah Bay for the first time in 15 to 20 years.
“I think it was a double-edged sword; it was too difficult to separate the salmon fisher from the halibut fishers,” Lawrence said.
Not all is lost — or has been taken away — from Neah Bay.
It still has incredible lingcod and sea bass fishing, and salmon fishing opens June 22.
Start crossing your fingers that the state will magically find some extra quota like last July when it planned to close Marine Areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) to recreational bottomfishing.
The closure was delayed five or six weeks. In this case, Neah Bay would be fine with just one extra week of halibut.
Menkal reports that the Sol Duc River is producing springers and a few summer-run steelhead.
As for lake fishing, Lake Leland remains a good spot for trout, and many kokanee have been caught at Lake Sutherland.
Finally, the news that came about three weeks later than expected: Fishing on Anderson Lake has been shut down due to the reemergence of dangerous toxins.
Waters West is 15
Waters West, a full-service fly fishing shop in downtown Port Angeles, is celebrating its 15th anniversary through the end of the month.
In honor of its 15 years, Waters West (140 W. Front St.) currently has everything on sale from 15 to 40 percent off.
They are also holding the following events:
■ Saturday, May 25: Spey casting class.
Learn how to cast and fish a spey rod for steelhead, salmon and trout with Curtis Reed on the Forks area rivers.
The cost of the class is $95.
■ Sunday, May 26: Free fly tying demonstration at the store from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Learn from John Gort how to tie chironomid patterns for lake fishing.
■ Wednesday, May 29: Free fly casting clinic at Lincoln Park from 4 to 6 p.m.
This clinic is for all ability levels, and will help fly fishers improve their casting before the steelhead opener Saturday, June 1.
For more information, phone Waters West at 360-417-0937 or visit www.waterswest.com.
The North Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association will hold a fund raising banquet Thursday, June 13, at 5 p.m. at the John Wayne Marina.
Tickets are $65 per person or $120 per couple, and include a one-year membership to the Coastal Conservation Association and a dinner catered by Mike McQuay of Port Angeles' Kokopelli Grill.
There will be live and silent auctions.
The Coastal Conservation Association is a grassroots organization of fishermen dedicated to the restoration of wild salmon and steelhead runs.
For more information, phone John Albiso at 360-928-1073 or email@example.com for tickets.
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Outdoors columnist Lee Horton appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at email@example.com.