MATT SCHUBERT’S OUTDOORS COLUMN: Port Angeles Halibut Derby to draw big crowds this weekend

THE CONDITIONS COULDN’T be much better for derby weekend.

The fishing, on the other hand, may be something all together different.

After three weekends of flatty fishing in Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), there is no definitive plan of attack for the Port Angeles Salmon Club’s 11th annual Halibut Derby on Saturday and Sunday.

The bait is scattered, and so are the fish.

Whatever spot heats up one day (e.g., Green Point last Friday), is just as likely to go cold the next.

“There’s fish coming from every direction,” Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles said.

“There’s no consistency to any of it. [There’s] no concentrations of any kind of bait. We just don’t have it here this year.”

Word around the docks last week was that Green Point was the spot.

Geoff Meredith of Puyallup hooked a 178-pounder fishing those flats west of Dungeness Spit on Friday, and several other success stories made the rounds as well.

But when Randy Jones of Venture Charters (360-895-5424) in Sequim tried to chase down those good reports Thursday, he came away empty handed.

“Green Point could be the answer, it was just moving too much this morning,” Jones said. “I know it was the answer last week.

“That’s why I thought maybe [Dungeness] Spit might be good. But I went all the way from the end of the Spit to Green Point and marked one [fish] on the screen. That’s not worth it.”

Only part of the Green Point area is included in the derby boundaries, which run from Low Point all the way to the base of Dungeness Spit.

Derby hours run from daylight to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with a total of $20,000 in prizes up for grabs.

The top fish on the ladder earns $5,000.

Last year, Port Angeles angler Ken Kirkman’s 88-pound beauty was big enough to beat out a field of 688 anglers.

If the first three weeks of fishing around the Port Angeles area are any indicator, however, it will probably take something larger than that to stay at the top of the ladder this year.

Several fish weighing more than 100 pounds have been caught within the derby boundaries thus far.

That included a 120-pounder caught somewhere around 31-36 Bank on Thursday.

“There’s probably been more big fish this year [than last year],” Aunspach said. “Not the same quantity by no means, but the size.”

Derby tickets cost $40 to fish one day or two and can be purchased at Swain’s General Store.

The Port of Port Angeles has waived launch fees in promotion of the derby.

Cash prizes will be distributed immediately after the event concludes Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Port Angeles Yacht Club.

“The tides are good, the water looks good, everything looks favorable this weekend for the derby,” Aunspach said. “It’s going to be a good weekend.

“I guarantee you there’s going to be plenty of fish caught.”

Far east

Confusion hasn’t been unique to the Port Angeles halibut scene this month.

Just as many anglers have been scratching their heads out near Port Townsend and Sequim the past three weeks as well.

“It depends on who you talk to,” Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim said. “The same guys seem to be getting them, but a lot of guys are going scoreless out here.

“I’ve got some guys ready to throw in the towel.”

Jones has covered water all around Dungeness Spit this year and has yet to get a true pulse on the fishery.

“I’m not sure where to go,” Jones said. “The first two weeks it seemed like we never got the same fish in the same spot. All I know is what doesn’t work.

“Now we may actually break down and do Dallas Bank.”

That area has been known to spit out a few monsters in recent years.

But like most of the eastern portion of Area 6 and all of Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), it’s hardly been automatic.

Eric Elliott of the Fish-N-Hole (360-385-7031) in Port Townsend said he hadn’t heard much other than that “last week was slow.”

Perhaps that could change on these last three days of fishing.

Area 6 and 9 are set to close to halibut after Sunday.

Western ways

Once next weekend rolls around, the focus for flatty folk will shift west.

While Area 5 (Sekiu) opened Thursday for the first time all year, Area 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) reopen next Thursday and Saturday for the final time.

If things go as well as they did last Saturday on the coast, those last two days could be very productive.

“The ones I’ve seen and talked to got their limits for halibut and bottom fish,” Dean Crittenden of Big Salmon Resort (360-645-2374) in Neah Bay said.

“The way it went, it should go pretty good next week.”

Many anglers cleaned up fishing the southwest corner of the halibut/bottomfish closure area off the coast. There were also a few that cleaned up near Swiftsure and the Garbage Dump, according to Crittenden.

The first day of fishing at Sekiu ended up producing a few decent fish as well, Donalynn Olson of Olson’s Resort (360-963-2311) in Sekiu said.

“We’ve had people cleaning halibut down there, nothing huge, 71 pounds was our biggest that came in,” she said.

“They are getting some in about 60 feet of water just straight out, some off Slip Point and out toward the [Sekiu] river.

“They haven’t been having to go that far.”

Lake update

Anderson Lake just might stick around for a while.

Toxin levels remain below harmful levels and have not risen in the past two weeks at the Jefferson County Lake, according to Greg Thomason of Jefferson County Environmental Health.

Thus, the lake that has closed by early June each of the past five years will likely continue to be fishable for the next few weeks.

The same goes for Leland and Gibbs lakes, which have also had toxic blue-green algae problems in the past.

“Everything still looks good,” he said. “All very low [in toxicity]. Although, we still have toxic species present in all three lakes.

“And, as far as we know, there is still no visible blooms.”

Of course, just because Anderson is open doesn’t mean you have to fish it.

From what’s been reported so far this spring, Sandy Shore may actually be the best bet for lake anglers.

“Sandy Shore and Leland seem to be the top producers,” Menkal said. “I haven’t heard anything from Anderson.

“It’s been pretty quiet.”

Shrimp stuff

Hood Canal shrimpers are likely down to their final pulls.

Harvesters will get an additional date to target spot shrimp in the Peninsula’s crustacean capital Wednesday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The season has been steady, with shrimpers averaging about 4.3 pounds per pot during the first four openers.

Lower than expected turnout, however, resulted in a smaller total catch, hence the extra harvest date.

Shrimpers averaged 4.2 pounds per pot during the last opener on Wednesday.

That was down slightly from a season-high average of 4.8 pounds per pot during the May 14 opener.

Also . . .

■ A series of morning minus tides will expose Peninsula beaches starting next Wednesday.

While these won’t be quite as dramatic as the ones that hit the area a week ago, the tides should be good enough for shellfish diggers to have a field day.

■ The Port Townsend Angler will hold an introductory clinic on salt water fly fishing for trout and salmon this Sunday.

Students will learning the basics of casting and study presentation and fly selection for sea-run cutthroat trout and coho salmon.

Rods and reels will be supplied if needed. Cost is $55 per guest.

For more information, contact the Port Townsend Angler at 360-379-3763.

■ The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking nominations through June 3 for its new Puget Sound Hatchery Action advisory group.

Nominations must be submitted in writing to Heather Bartlett by mail: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501; or email at heather.bartlett@dfw.wa.gov.

For more information, contact Bartlett at 360-902-2662.

■ Clallam County Streamkeepers will be accepting and training new volunteers during the month of June.

The stream monitoring program is looking for volunteers to help collect stream health data, perform data entry and analysis and conduct education and outreach programs.

To register or inquire, phone Streamkeepers at 360-417-2281, or email streamkeepers@co.clallam.wa.us.

■ Washington Trails Association will gather an all-day work party at Lower Big Quilcene Trail this Sunday and Tuesday.

Volunteers will be helping to construct a re-route near the Bark Shanty bridge, which was destroyed during the winter by the river.

Pre-registration must be done 48 hours in advance. To pre-register, contact Washington Trails at 206-625-1367 or visit www.wta.org.

■ Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society will lead a birding trip to Lost Mountain Saturday, June 11, at 8 a.m.

Birders will run into all manner of breeding birds, including sapsuckers, MacGillvray’s warblers, house wren and purple finch.

A group will meet at Greywolf Elementary School, 171 Carlsborg Road, near Sequim before carpooling to DNR land off Olsen Place.

■ The Klahhane Club is taking on new members for its year-round hiking group on the Peninsula.

Hikers must do four “get acquainted” hikes, meet a sponsor for the membership application and finish six “qualifying” hikes within six months of applying.

Dues are $12 annually — $9 if you receive the newsletter via computer — with a one-time initiation fee of $13.

For more information, visit klahhaneclub.org.

Send photos, stories

Want your event listed in the outdoors column?

Have a fishing or hunting report, an anecdote about an outdoors experience or a tip on gear or technique, why not share it with our readers?

Send it to me, Matt Schubert, Sports Department, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone, 360-417-3526; fax, 360-417-3521; email matt.schubert

@peninsuladailynews.com.

__________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays and Fridays.

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