By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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Getting an up-close glimpse of derby winner Tyril Spence's 81-pound flattie just before the awards presentation was another thrill.
You'll have to remember I'm a novice at most everything fishing related, so that was the largest fish I've seen in person here on the North Olympic Peninsula.
A 160-plus pound marlin off the coast of Bali in Indonesia is atop my personally witnessed leaderboard.
Making it out of the packed parking lot and back to write the derby winner story may have been the most masterful feat of all.
I kid, I kid, but I might park along Marine Drive when I cover the event next year.
Total participation dipped a bit this year, with 564 entries compared to 617 in 2013.
As I reported in Monday's Peninsula Daily News, the average size of a top 10 fish in this year's derby dropped by almost 20 pounds from 76.6 in 2013 to 57.2 this year.
Port Angeles Salmon Club President Lee Hancock said the number of anglers and the number of fish caught was still strong.
“We had good tides and solid weather,” Hancock said.
“I don't have the official fish totals in front of me, but the catch number was good too.”
Anglers who stayed out past the 2 p.m. Sunday deadline also were rewarded.
“I heard there was a good strong bite that came on just after the derby, and a number of folks stayed out there catching fish,” Hancock said.
The anchoring technique, a common method of fishing for halibut in Alaska, has traveled down the Pacific Coast in a big way.
Spence landed the winner while anchored and so did runner-up Randi Owens of Sequim.
“There's a definite increase, a lot of people who drifted for halibut for years and years have made the change,” Hancock said.
“People are doing well, so I think we'll see a continued increase going forward.”
With such a wide fishing area, the catch wasn't really clustered in one general area, but Freshwater Bay west of Port Angeles and Green Point, where the top two fish were landed, were productive.
Creel reports last Saturday had 36 boats with 103 anglers coming in with 27 halibut at the Port Angeles west ramp, 16 boats with 24 anglers landing 23 halibut and 112 boats with 257 anglers bringing in 79 halibut.
Sunday showed 94 boats with 225 anglers coming back with 74 halibut at Ediz Hook, 38 boats with 96 anglers landing 35 flatties at the Boat Haven and 33 boats with 82 anglers landing 26 halibut.
Strong on the bottom
The fishing was strong last weekend for the halibut opener in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu).
Gary Ryan of Van Riper's Resort (360-963-2334) in Sekiu said boats were averaging about two halibut per boat.
They were also bringing aboard true cod and lingcod, thanks to a rule change by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that allows anglers to keep one each of those species if caught when fishing for halibut, provided you are fishing at a depth of 120 feet or more.
“Last year we had lots of anglers landing cod at deep depths and when you bring them up the bladder comes out and they are basically dead,” Ryan said.
“It was actually a good, common-sense decision to allow the cod to be kept this year.”
Strong minus tide action continues through Saturday so anglers will have to pick their times and find the right amount of structure to bring home fish.
“With these tides, 4 pounds of lead will maybe keep you on the bottom,” Ryan said.
So take his advice and bulk up on the weight you are sending down.
Chinook of good size
The selective hatchery chinook fishery is in the slow and steady build toward the summer salmon season.
Reports of some pretty good sized fish are coming in from Marine Area 3 (La Push and Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay) via commercial trollers working those areas according to Jerry Wright of Jerry's Bait and Tackle (360-457-1308) in Port Angeles.
“I've had some commercial fishing buddies tell me they are running into some good runs of fish, averaging about 12 to 18 pounds off LaPush,” Wright said.
“I think its shaping up to be a real solid salmon season.”
The hatchery chinook season starts back up Saturday and will continue daily through June 13.
“We will have that huge run of sockeye rolling in this summer too,” Wright said.
He offered up two preseason tips to catch sockeye.
“Those are just a dodger with a red hook and a glow bead,” Wright said.
“But the trick is you have to be up early, really early, to hit into them.”
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Outdoors columnist Michael Carman appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.