July 1st has been the mark of our local Puget Sound waters opening for salmon fishing, its been disappointing since they closed the inner Elliot fishery for a myriad of reasons, but that didn’t stop us from getting out to drop some crab pots in search of some Summer Dungeness for the 4th of July barbeque. Thao T. and Chett P. joined me for the 4 am launch from Alki to drop the pots and downriggers in search of crab and salmon. We achieved both, but not so good for the expected salmon take since all our fish were the wrong species.
Last year, Phil K. shared with me a good spot that he and his buddy Rob D. found crab and alot of them. So naturally, it was my first point to hit since I had alot of bait stored up all year long in the deep freeze and also some nice fresh King salmon carcass and heads that I saved from our Westport trip a few weeks ago. I find that there is nothing better than fresh salmon head, and filleted carcass that works better for Dungess crab. I’ve tried Turkey, chicken, other fish such as Sole, Flounder, Cod, shrimp, and even trout, but if you can access fresh salmon carcass it seems to draw in the crab. It was a big tide swing, so I didn’t expect for the salmon fishing to be lights out since there was alot of water moving and the bait would be flushed out and or holding tight to the sheltered locations.
It was a 11’7″ high at 2:08 am, and a -2’6″ at 9:27 am which might have been ok for the crab, but wasn’t holding my breath for salmon. I wanted to fish Manchester as I’ve read about this place for winter blackmouth and its been known as a proven fishing grounds due to the abundant bait that lives here. Its sheltered well from the wind, has a nice level bottom with few obstructions other than the multitude of crab pots that we had to weave and dodge on our trolling path. Here is some more information from Salmon University about Manchester:
Chart courtesy of Captn. Jack’s www.capjack.com
Click on chart for bigger view
||Jig & Mootch area
Over the past few years, Manchester pops up more and more frequently among top winter spots for Central Puget Sound salmon fishing.
This Kitsap Peninsula workhorse sometimes takes a back seat to its well-known cousins Jeff Head just to the north, and Pt. Defiance to the south, but prudent anglers know Manchester provides consistent winter blackmouth action right up to the April 10th closer.
Manchester inlet is one of the most reliable, wind sheltered and close by fisheries for winter blackmouth and is a quick boat ride from Elliott Bay, Tacoma or Bremerton.
This area is good fishing for one simple reason, it holds lots of bait and all good anglers know if you find the bait you will find blackmouth. It’s a really short run from Elliott Bay and about 11 miles from Gig Harbor by water.
This area was a real salvation last year when Pt. Defiance died off and before Mid Channel Bank heated up.
One of the great things about fishing Manchester is you’re not restricted to one area, if the bite is off that day you have several other close by options.
WHERE TO FISH: The majority of the fish will be taken between the fuel dock, and the turquoise boathouse located a mile just to the south. This troll or drift for moochers puts out the majority of the fish. The bottom is gently sloping in this area with a relatively smooth bottom, no big ledge or points. This makes mooching a good bet in the 90-100 ft water. Trollers will catch fish out in the deeper water here targeting suspended bait schools that attract the local blackmouth in to feed.
TIDE CHANGE: Like most locations in this area the ebb tide seems to be the most favorable. You can catch fish on either tide, and normally the bite will happen 2 hours on either side of a tide change.
Its almost like fishing a bank, the bottom is nice with few obstructions to hang up on so you can really get the downrigger balls right down there where Mr. Blackmouth lives.
I have seen days here where all the boats were limited in a couple of hours, last year I had a day where we caught & released over 15 legal size fish in 5 hours of fishing.
Seals can be a problem here, so be aware when lots of boats start to show up, so do the salmon belly eaters.
This time of the year blackmouth normally run from the just legal fish up to 10 pounds and of course there are always a few in the teens taken every year.
TROLLERS: Work the long trolling path from Orchard Point towards the Navy Fuel dock then in toward Manchester boat ramp and on down south about a mile. This area stays relatively flat with only a couple of humps. The majority of the bait holds in the 90-120 ft water here.
When the bottom starts to come up turn east towards Blake Island and follow this ledge out until the bottom starts to drop off, then it’s a simple turn back North to complete the circle back to Orchard Point and do it again. Pay close attention to the fishfinder when you make the turn north, the bait tends to move up to the mid water depths here and the fish will follow, target just under the bait ball with the rigger, this is where the fish will be feeding.
I had my best luck last year on a green glow HotSpot flasher with 35-40 inches of Ande leader to a green Grand Slam Bucktail fly. Use 30-50 pound test Ande leader to give that fly lots of action, blackmouth like a quicker bait then summer chinook.
If the fly isn’t getting the job done try a small fire cracker size herring in a anchovy helmet with 42 inches of Ande leader behind a hotspot flasher. You can get by with 20-pound test on this setup as the helmet has its on action in the water.
MOOCHING: The best mooching happens between the Fuel Dock and the Manchester ramp, there is also a great mooching on the North end of Blake Island the shallow bank here can really producer for moochers. The top mooching water is in 80-120 ft. Fish just off the bottom, with 10-12 pound Ande leaders and a tight spinning cutplug herring. Use only the amount of lead you need to stay in contact with the bottom.
BOAT LAUNCH: There is a new ramp at Manchester, it has a dock and it is only 5 minutes from the best fishing. The parking lot however, is small and won’t hold many rigs.
For the Seattle crowd the Don Armeni boat ramp in Elliot Bay is a straight shot across the Sound from Manchester. There is also a small ramp in the city center of Port Orchard and at Evergreen City Park in Bremerton.
IF THE BITE IS OFF: Head south to Southworth and then run over to Allen Bank. At Southworth there’s a great hole just north of the ferry terminal. Troll the ledge here or move in close and pitch a herring in toward the beach and drift down the ledge.
The better producing tackle here is the Grand Slam bucktail or a white Coho Killer for trollers.
ALLEN BANK: Is a great piece of salmon holding water that runs south off the southwest corner of Blake Island north of Vashon outward to perfect blackmouth holding water.
This is a big drift, and almost always there are some fish around waiting to hammer tight spinning bait, even when the Manchester fishing turns off. The blackmouth can be caught here on either tide but the best action is on the ebb. Start on the south end of the bar in the 130 ft water and drift with the current north up across the bank.
Top action will be in the 90-120 ft water, with almost all the fish being taken just off bottom.
Manchester and the Central Puget Sound stays open until April 10th, after that the season will depend on North of Falcon season setting process in early April.
TACKLE: Trollers will want a supple of Glow HotSpot flashers, Grand Slam Bucktails and Coho Killer spoons.
Moochers will want to run 10-15 pound test Ande main lines, with long 10-12 pound test, 8-9 foot Ande leaders, with a selection of 2-6 oz mooching sinkers. Size your hooks to the bait. Insure the herring has a drill bit like spin in the water.
Even though the Blackmouth hang around here, we were hoping to find some resident Coho as well, but that would not be as successful as the Blackmouth bite. I rigged up three rods with different colored flasher and spoon combinations: Cookies and Creme Q-Point UV flasher with White Lightening Coho Killer, Green Dragon with Kitchen Sink, and Purple Haze with Cookies and Creme Coho Killer. We covered all the depths from 140′, 100′ and 80′ of cable while moving between 3-4 mph to keep the cable angle at 45 degrees to give the lures plenty of movement and action. First fish came within 30 minutes, a wild Blackmouth that I released. Second fish Thao pulled up, and hatchery Blackmouth that we posed for a quick photo and then released. Chett was salivating for the opportunity and then it happened, pulse pulse the rod tip bounced and the drag was peeling out as the big King gave head shakes. I gave Chett instruction on how to fight the fish, but in the scramble for the rod he felt the fish for a few moments and then it popped off! Either it was operator error or a bad hookset, or both, but we never saw that fish, which was likely a very nice one due to the fact that it self released from the clip and was giving some nice runs. Chett would be in disbelief but it was probably warranted as this was his first time in a boat in the Puget Sound, so perhaps beginners luck avoided our boat this time.
We decided that we would check the pots after this and was disappointed with our pulls, out of 5 pots that we left out only had 4 crab to show for the morning efforts. Back they went down and hopefully the incoming tide would mark a change with the activity. We decided to check out Allen Bank but it was so windy and choppy, and the fact that we didn’t mark any bait told us that we needed to head back to Manchester for some more passes. We did pick up two more resident Blackmouth, all in all fun, but not what we were looking for in our search, but the guys left with smiles on their faces since it was their first time seeing how salmon could be caught from gear.
We decided to wrap up and check out pots and re-bait them, it was a good thing since we took 2 limits of Dungeness and a few nice Red Rock crabs. They fellas were happy at least we got something for the dinner table. It was my nieces birthday party that evening so I steamed up 4 of the crab and it was a nice way to celebrate with family and friends the season opener and her birthday.
July 2nd, 2012
Dad and I would return the next day since crabbing is open from Thursday to Mondays and I was hoping a good overnight soak would allow for better results. In the past I’ve had crab pots stolen and or violated from people that wanted crab in non-conventional methods, but this spot I haven’t worried about the pots or the crab as there is little competition and its a bit out of reach from most theives. We launched the boat around 9:30 after a 30 minute run we found the pots exactly where they were positioned from the day prior without having any one disturbed. Upon the first pull I noticed that the pot was heavier than normal, and to our surprise found it full of legal sized males, not one had to be thrown back nor were there any females in the bunch. We were optimistic that we’d get our limits, as we pulled the other pots, it was the case. The largest crab measured 7 3/4″ across the shell and very nice crab for the sound, and hopefully very tasty. In the past, we’ve always boiled the crab whole since some of my family members enjoy the crab butter but I saw this interesting video of how to kill and clean live crab, I might give it a try as it might speed up the cook time and be easier and cleaner to eat and enjoy.
This guy reminded me alot of the Kodiak locals, brash, and rough with the cigarette in his mouth, haha! I need to plan a trip back there in the future.
I might clean half the crab this way and boil up the other half, it’ll be nice to enjoy some Baby back ribs, freshly steamed Dungeness, Westport King Salmon Gravlax, and I have one pack of smoked Alder Pink Salmon from last year that I’ll make a nice dip. The weather is looking to be promising, so we’re excited to share and enjoy with our family and friends. Happy 4th of July everyone!