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Late winter San Juan fishing tests anglers’ skills

By Kevin Kline

My wife Vicki was happy for me that I weighed in the first fish of the Wilson Derby, but bummed she didn’t get to go with me. I promised her we’d go on Saturday, and she would catch an even bigger fish than mine. Well, for once I was right. She reeled in this beautiful 18.72lb Chinook to take the lead. That’s a great fish this early in the tournament, and one I sure wish we’d had a couple weeks ago in the Roche Derby.
My wife Vicki was happy for me that I weighed in the first fish of the Wilson Derby, but bummed she didn’t get to go with me. I promised her we’d go on Saturday, and she would catch an even bigger fish than mine. Well, for once I was right. She reeled in this beautiful 18.72lb Chinook to take the lead. That’s a great fish this early in the tournament, and one I sure wish we’d had a couple weeks ago in the Roche Derby.

Blackmouth fishing continues to be fair in the ‘Juan’s. Silver Horde 3” Kingfisher Spoon’s have been hot for us. Make sure and keep those hooks extra sharp, as spoons have a tendency to torque out of a fish’s mouth more than a bait rig or hootchie.
I lost a very big fish last weekend on a small spoon. The Chinook hit pretty soft, although it did trigger the release clip. And, I bury the line deep in the clip. I want that fish’s head to snap around, and the hook to bury when it comes up against that release. It usually works, but regardless of what you do, you will lose some fish.
This one felt heavy, but hadn’t taken any line. It came up to the surface way out…a sign of a potential pig. It was too far out for me to see how big it was, but it made a massive boil on the surface. I slowly reeled it toward the boat, keeping steady pressure and just easing it in. I leave the kicker in gear until the end of the fight, to help keep as much slack out of the line as possible.
Well, it didn’t like the looks of the boat. The fish started screaming out line…straight down. Yeah, this is a good fish, I thought, as a little smile crept across my mug. If you spend much time fishing by yourself, you’ll have these little private conversations in your head…”c’mon fish, c’mon line, c’mon hook, just everybody stay together now”.
Silver Horde spoons have been productive. The size of the bait has been varied, but from 3” to 4” Kingfisher Lite’s, you can usually match the size of lure to the feed that’s around.
Silver Horde spoons have been productive. The size of the bait has been varied, but from 3” to 4” Kingfisher Lite’s, you can usually match the size of lure to the feed that’s around.

The big King sulked deep, and I could feel it’s bulk pulsing in the dark water. In an instant, the hook pulled lose, and all the tension went out of the line. Awwwman…from the high of an adrenaline rush, to the crash of said adrenaline leaving the body in a hurry. The one that got away. Who knows how big it was?
Vicki Klein shows off a pair of 12-13lb cookie cutter Blackmouth that rounded out a limit. Our total boat weight on Saturday would have taken the Roche as well. Oh, well, can’t complain. Not one little bit.
Vicki Klein shows off a pair of 12-13lb cookie cutter Blackmouth that rounded out a limit. Our total boat weight on Saturday would have taken the Roche as well. Oh, well, can’t complain. Not one little bit.

This may have been one of the true giants we see come through the Island’s this time of year. It could have been a Chinook of 30, 40, 50lbs, that make a rare appearance in San Juan Channel in the winter. I’ve encountered a few. No one is sure where they are headed. Early Skagit? Fraser Spring? Or maybe some lost dreadnought from the Columbia. A remnant of the June hawgs,  perhaps?
That’s really what they look like. The mighty travelers that made the swing up through the Gulf of Alaska, then back down the coast to their home river, then hundreds of miles up into British Columbia to spawn. Perfect specimens, with bullet heads and long bodies, grown to outsized proportions. One hundred pounds plus. Now blocked by the dams, but maybe some vestiges remain. We can hope…and release carefully if by chance we get to encounter royalty. The Kings of Kings.
 I weighed in the first fish of the 2016 Frank Wilson Memorial Blackmouth Derby, a chunky 15.32lber. Although I knew that wouldn’t hold through the 10 week tournament for the $1000 top prize, I thought maybe it would be good for the $50 weekly prize provided by King’s Marine in Friday Harbor. Alas, not so fast, boy-o.
I weighed in the first fish of the 2016 Frank Wilson Memorial Blackmouth Derby, a chunky 15.32lber. Although I knew that wouldn’t hold through the 10 week tournament for the $1000 top prize, I thought maybe it would be good for the $50 weekly prize provided by King’s Marine in Friday Harbor. Alas, not so fast, boy-o.

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