(REPORT COURTESY KEVIN KLEIN, PUGET SOUND ANGLERS SAN JUAN ISLANDS, COASTAL CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION NORTHSOUND
“Best fishing in the San Juans in 30 years!”
That is the take from many long time anglers around the Islands. Favorable ocean conditions have contributed to an absolute flood of mammoth kings in our waters. And get this….many of the biggest fish are of hatchery origin.
Last weekend’s Bellingham Salmon Derby, July 8-10, put on by Bellingham Puget Sound Anglers, surpassed all expectations with a turn out of around 350 participants. A total of 265 fish were weighed in. That is amazing, but also consider many smaller fish were released by those looking for a derby winner. And the top 5 salmon were all over 30 lb.s.
The winning chinook of almost 35 lbs was caught by Cory Warnock of Bellingham. He split $5000 with teamates Jeff Marrs of Anacortes and Andy Holman of Friday Harbor.
These guys have been lurking around the top placings on the Northwest Derby Series for awhile, but this is their first win. That’s one more thing that makes the Series so cool — watching long time participants finally put the big one in the bag. I was fishing the same hole on Saturday when they landed the winner. I had one on about the same time that took me on four big deep runs, only to sit just out of sight under the boat for a good 5 minutes. My forearm was burning as I had what I knew was a derby placer in a stalemate.
The big king sulked deep, and I couldn’t budge him. A few seals lurked around watching, but must have figured this fish was too big to mess with. I finally got the popped Q-cove flasher to where I could see it, but the black back of the fish was still only a shadow. Just as I was thinking about how I was going to play the rest of the battle, the barbless Kingfisher Hoochie hooker pulled out of it’s mouth and all the tension went out of me and the rod.
I don’t think you ever forget losing a big fish in a derby, but it makes you want to enter the next one even more.
Congratulations to all for a great event. This derby also has a lot of great prizes they give away, and a large kid’s division. Proceeds go to local salmon enhancement projects. the top three placings were:
Cory Warnock, 34.85, $5000
Shawn Ensley, 31.95 $2500
Kip Smith, 31.50 $1000