*Editors note: Updated to include reports on the halibut opener on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
ANOTHER HALIBUT OPENER is in the books with good catches reported by Neah Bay charter operators fishing in Marine Area 3 (La Push).
Ben Maxson of Windsong Charters (360-640-8728 or fishneahbay.com) and Tom Burlingame of Excel Fishing Charters (360-374-2225 or excelfishingcharters.com) headed out to an area called the shelf, also known as the southwest corner of the C-shaped closure that straddles Marine areas 3 and 4 (Neah Bay).
“What people like about fishing the southwest corner of the C closure, is that its actually a closer run out from La Push than Neah Bay, but its still one of the more common meeting places for all the guys,” Maxson said.
It’s also a productive patch of the open Pacific Ocean with a good-sized ledge dropping down to deeper water.
“We had some nice halibut, but I think they are still growing,” Maxson said.
“It’s early, we usually start fishing for halibut between the 12th and 15th of May.
“With the increased halibut quota and the dates extended into June, we expect they will get bigger and bigger.”
Maxson said the Wind Song limited on halibut and lingcod for its customers, and Burlingame reported the same.
“Our fish were between 20 and 35 pounds,” Burlingame said. “We had to return the biggest, probably a 50-pounder, because we already had our halibut limits and were fishing for lings.”
Burlingame said his customers were jigging.
“I mostly fish pipe jigs, a copper pipe that we put a hook,” Burlingame said.
“Just put them down there and they like to fight them.”
Maxson said the ocean provides a balance. While the halibut were of a good size, his customers caught a treasure trove of lingcod.
“We caught the nicest ling cod today collectively, that I’ve caught all year,” Maxson said.
And the two boats had some solid weather in which to fish, with fog and a little mist only appearing in the afternoon.
Pretty good for a May 2 opener.
Marine Area 5
The best results may have been found off Sekiu on Thursday.
Expert halibut angler and fishing author John Beath heard a good report.
“West of Pillar Point and Sekiu Area was very good today according to my buddy,” Beath wrote in an email. “[His boat] caught three between 50 and 70 pounds.”
Marine Area 6 report
Rougher weather and water conditions were found in Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca).
Sequim angler Dave Croonquist passed along a report.
“Tom Duttrey and I fished with Ron Casscles today,” Croonquist wrote in an email. “We did a number of long drifts in the Green Point area. Water was pretty choppy with some swells to 3 feet passing through the area. Winds were steady at around 8-to-10 knots most of the day with some gusts to the low ‘teens. Too much wind for us to comfortably anchor. Pretty strong tidal flow. Folks fishing Dungeness Bay area said the winds weren’t quite as strong inside the Spit and on the dogleg.
Low catch totals
Croonquist talked with state Department of Fish and Wildlife fish checkers back at the docks.
“Visits with the folks who were keeping track of fish were not very good,” Croonquist said. “At 3:30 p.m., the Port Angeles report was three fish for 34 boats and at least one fish in the yacht basin. The John Wayne report was six fish for 40 boats. All small, but one. Rumor has it the ocean fishery went pretty well.
“I don’t think there was much of a dent put in the Puget Sound quota of 77,500 lbs today.”
Scent does wonders
Brian Menkal of Brian’s Sporting Goods and More (360-683-1950) in Sequim had heard of at least two halibut caught “in a location I can’t disclose somewhere between Port Angeles and Sequim,” as of 11 a.m. Thursday.
“Mackerel, herring, squid, octopus, tuna bellies,” Menkal said.
“The big trick [to catching halibut] is using lots and lots of scent so they can smell foods a-coming and want to take a bite.”
He equated it to waiting for Sunday dinner.
“It’s like opening the kitchen door and you smell all that goodness coming out of the kitchen,” Menkal said. “The scent makes you hungry and it works the same for halibut.”
Jefferson County lakes
Temperatures are nearing the mid 50-degree mark in Jefferson County’s lowland lakes, according to Quilcene’s Ward Norden, a former fisheries biologist and owner of Snapper Tackle Co.
The warmer water temperatures have the planted trout active, very active.
“At these temperatures, I went out Monday afternoon hoping to find a little pre-spawn bass activity as this is the time to hook the big ones,” Norden said. “That activity might be going on but the hatchery trout seemed to attack every lure I threw, so a limit of trout was the best I could do after switching to a small shallow diving jerk-bait.
“As a bass fisher, I should probably wait a week or so to let those neurotic silvery things calm down.”
Special hunt permits
Norden, an avid hunter, also passed along a reminder that print copies of the state’s fall 2019 hunting regulations are now available at retail outlets.
“If you are applying for special hunts, the deadline is May 22, so start strategizing now,” Norden said.
The special hunt permits apply for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep and turkey seasons.
Fish and Wildlife will conduct a random drawing to select permit winners in June. Hunters who receive special permits qualify to hunt beyond the times and places authorized by a general hunting license.
To apply for a deer or elk special permit, hunters must purchase an application and hunting license, and submit the application with their preferred hunt choices. Applicants for mountain goat, moose and bighorn sheep do not need to buy a license before they submit.
Hunters can buy applications and licenses from license vendors statewide or at fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov. They must submit their applications on the website or call 1-877-945-3492 toll-free.
Anglers fishing the Quillayute and Sol Duc rivers must release all sockeye in a rule change beginning Monday.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said sockeye returns to Lake Pleasant and to other coastal waters were very low in 2018 and are expected to be low again this year.
This action will increase the number of sockeye returning to spawn in Lake Pleasant.
“The populations are something I would expect to turn around, but we need to lay off them and allow them some time to recharge,”
Region 6 fisheries biologist Mike Gross said.
“The Quinault Tribe has taken similar action to the south with the run coming back to Lake Quinault and I’m not sure about the population that returns to Ozette in Olympic National Park. I don’t think the lake is fished [commercially] by the [Makah] Tribe.”
Forks Kids Fishing
The annual Kids Fishing Day sponsored by the West End Sportsmen’s Club and Pacific Coast Salmon Coalition will take place Sunday from 6 a.m. to noon at the Bogachiel Rearing Pond.
All children 12 years and under may fish, there will be a special area for children 5 and under. There is a five fish limit and no catch and release, you catch them you keep them. No adult fishing but adults may assist if needed.
A limited number of poles are available to borrow also free bait. Snacks, hot cocoa and coffee will be available, donations are welcomed.
Special thanks to the PCSC, Bogachiel and Sol Duc Hatchery, WESC, Forks Elks Club, Edna Leppell, Forks Outfitters, West Waste and the many volunteers who assist with set-up, clean-up and running the event.
Menkal will offer his two-part Introduction to Salmon and Steelhead Fishing course at his store, 609 W. Washington St., No. 21 in Sequim, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday with part two following at the same time Tuesday, May 14.
Menkal knows a ton of tips, tricks and locations to fish around the North Olympic Peninsula and offers the course for $40 per person plus tax.
To reserve a space, phone 360-683-1950.