Fish, Fur, Fowl: Hit and miss in the San Juans

By Ed Oldham

Since opening Feb. 1, Area 7 has been producing some nice fish. But over the last few days, it has been hit or miss proposition for most anglers.

The weather this past weekend was fantastic, so my best friend John and I headed out to give it a go on Saturday.

With the fantastic water conditions, we decided to give the banks a try. We left Cornet Bay a bit of a late due to my misplacement of a key downrigger component, but arrived at Eastern Bank before the tide change.

I was rather surprised to see more than two dozen boats out there. After talking to a few of them in passing, I realized that this weekend was the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby.

Once we arrived, I talked to another good friend that I mention a lot, D.J. Stevenson, and he said he had caught and released a halibut weighing approximately 40 pounds. He caught the fish on a salmon rod using knuckle buster reel and he said it was amazing. This is good news for those of us looking forward to the halibut season opener in April.

John and I trolled Eastern Bank from around 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., using most everything in the tackle box from coyote spoons to hoochies, and even an Atomic plug. The only fish we caught was on a green-glow coyote spoon trolled in 100 feet of water at a depth of 80 feet.

We trolled at depths ranging from 65 to 140 feet, and tried to keep our gear close to the bottom. We started to mark bait on the fish finder that was suspended about halfway in the water column, and adjusted our down riggers to troll just under the bottom of the bait ball.

We finally caught a small jack hatchery chinook at around 1:30 p.m. and thought maybe the action was going to heat up a bit, but it didn’t. We decided to head in but instead we went back to a time when we were two young boys in a small, 12-foot aluminum boat, fishing for greenling. So instead of calling it a day, we hit Lawson Reef for a bit of the light-tackle fishing.

On Sunday, the weather was even better, but the water was rough enough that fishing the banks would have been tough, so we headed over to Thatcher Pass.

The water was nicer over there, but the wind still made it difficult at times. We fished for about four hours, again trying different lures and depths, but the fish were just not biting, so we headed back in to enjoy the rest of the wonderful weather.

It was a weekend that I will remember for a long time.

Looking at the Discovery Bay Salmon Derby results, I can see the catch results were about the same — hit and miss. Eighty-four fish were weighed in on Saturday and 19 on Sunday. The top prize went to a 19.4-pound chinook. Second best weighed in at 18.6 pounds and third was 14.9 pounds.

With a $10,000 first prize at this year’s Anacortes Salmon Derby on March 29 and 30, anglers better hurry up and get their tickets now before they sell out.

There will only be 800 tickets sold this year so get them before they are gone. Visit for more information.

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