Share story

Here is Tony Floor’s Tackle Box report for April:

I leaned on Wikipedia this morning to understand the definition of April Fool’s Day. I didn’t learn a lot with the exception that the recipient of an April Fool’s prank or joke is the April Fool. The explanation didn’t change my life.

At my age, I’ve encountered plenty of fools in my life, which at times, includes the author of this writing, especially in my younger years. Today, as a saltwater salmon fishing junkie who has tossed a worm in the water here and there, some say it could be considered a fool’s game, chasing salmon to all ends of the earth.

Regardless, April is a wonderful time of year to be on the water, hot in pursuit of late winter blackmouth or spring chinook down in the southwest corner of our state. Right on schedule, especially during the last 10 years, salmon anglers have migrated to the lower Columbia River or some of its tributaries with their sights set on hooking one of the most revered species of salmon in the world. This reverence is particularly linked to their incredible table value, moist and oily, loaded with Omega-3 oils. A big spring chinook, say in the 20-pound class, contains about as much Omega-3 as a Saudi oil well. Bite for bite, I’ve witnessed guests at my dinner table chant OMG’s and claim they can see Paris from my deck. I’ve been somewhat skeptical about these claims, suspecting it was more accurately related to the brand of wine.

Now that you’re considering the quickest routes south to Cathlamet or other great spring chinook fishing zones upstream to the vicinity of the I-5 Bridge in Vancouver, I continue to look north, to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At this writing, on this April Fool’s Day, there are 10 fishing days remaining in the Strait featuring Port Angeles, Freshwater Bay, the banks in the eastern Strait and west to Sekiu. These 10 days are the conclusion of the 2014-15 winter blackmouth season and I’m investing one more shot to go north. Follow my thinking.

If you’re not blinking, quickly grab a tide book and look at the tides for April 4-5. Breathe, baby, breathe. Tides sweeter than chocolate. High water at daylight with a moderate ebb until the noon whistle blows. Excuse me while I hook up the boat and load the gear, I’m going back to Sekiu.

During the last three years, I’ve invested a weekend or two in late March and early April at Sekiu. The fishing for late winter blackmouth, averaging 8-12 pounds, has been awesome. In 2013 and 2014, the regs called for a one-fish chinook limit, either a hatchery fin-clipped fish or one unmarked. The regs changed this year to allow a two-fish chinook limit, hatchery only. Put me in, coach.

Don’t be surprised when you roll into Sekiu at this time of year and it looks like a ghost town. Winter blackmouth anglers have a number of options to consider throughout inland waters, and this option includes travel, precisely about four hours from my digs in Olympia. For me, traveling on a Friday and Monday, fishing the weekend, is worth the drive to enjoy a great blackmouth fishing area practically to myself. One year ago, at this writing, I was the only boat at Sekiu. Two years ago, I observed two other boats. These kinds of experiences are fabulous if quality fishing time and some level of solitude is important to your fishing time. It’s just like Buoy 10 but different!

Finally, considering fishing techniques, I’ll troll my gear in 120-140 feet of water. Targeting the bottom 5-10 feet of the carpet is money. I’ll troll a Sliver Horde spoon or a Coho Killer, with a 40-inch leader behind a flasher. “Naked herring,” whole or plug cut, 15-20 feet behind a downrigger ball is also lethal. Find the bait, and YOU WILL find the blackmouth.

Traditionally, April also heats up for bottomfish out of Westport on the Washington coast, as the lingcod season quietly opened on March 14. Biologically, lingcod are very aggressive in the spring following the spawning process in the late winter months. And the limit is two per day, along with a 10-fish black rockfish limit. Pass the tartar sauce please.

Most of the good rockfish and lingcod fishing habitat is north of Westport off pinnacles located offshore from Pt. Grenville. Pay very close attention to swell/wind wave conditions before you charge off to the ocean at this time of year.

I also love April for shellfish, particularly oysters, hardshell clams and razor clams. Many consider April and May as the best months of the year to harvest these bivalves, coming off leaner winter feeding months while they fatten up anticipating the summer spawn.

And April always delivers the conclusion of the new salmon season package following grueling negotiations among the tribes, state and stake holders. This package, published and available later this month in WDFW’s Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet, guides us to where we can fish by season and area.

Finally, beginning today, don’t forget to purchase your 2015-16 sport fishing license. I’m going fishing! See you on the water!

(Tony Floor is the Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and a former 30-year veteran of state Fish and Wildlife. NMTA advocates for and promotes recreational boating and fishing in the region.)