By Terry W. Sheely
Mid-Channel Bank, located just outside Port Townsend Bay at the entrance of Puget Sound, is the gathering place for some fantastic late winter/early spring blackmouth fishing.
Top fishing takes place not on Mid-Channel Bank itself, which is located between Marrowstone Point and Fort Worden Lighthouse, where the water here is only 50-60 ft. deep. The prime water is on the outside of the bank, where you’re looking for an average depth of 120 ft. Most of the fish will be in 90 to 140 feet of water. You won’t find many fish suspended this time of the year. Most of them will taken within a couple of cranks right on the bottom.
This place is known for some spectacular jigging, especially if the fish are concentrated on the Bank feeding on candlefish. Pt. Wilson Darts are the top producing jigs here. Mooching small cut plug herring red label size with smaller hooks or a candlefish, if you can get some, will score on large winter blackmouth here too. Top jig and mooching fisheries take place but you need to keep your eyes on the sonar and move back on the bait piles when you drift off. Top jigging happens on the tide change.
Having fished here many years as a charter captain, I can tell you there is no way to beat a downrigger for consistently producing salmon. Being able to troll a lure on the bottom covering large amounts of water at Mid-Channel is going to produce fish.
The trick is, when I say on the bottom that’s what I mean. Many times I will lower my downriggers down to where the weight is making contact with the bottom, start trolling and then take the boat out of gear, bump the weight along the bottom for a few seconds then put it back in gear. This tactic can really get a stubborn blackmouth to hit a lure.
Top lure for this fishery is and has been, year after year, the Silver Horde Coho Killer spoon. The main reason is the salmon feed is candlefish (sand lance) around the Mid-Channel area. This small spoon is a clone for a small candlefish and is just deadly on the blackmouth salmon when rigged 40 inches behind a Pro-Troll flasher with a liberal coating of Pro Cure Super Jell Anchovy or Bloody Tuna scent applied to it. The large 12-15 pound blackmouth just inhale them.
The other proven setup is a Gold Star Needlefish size squid. Rig this with 40 inches of 50-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader behind a large 11” Pro-Troll lighted flasher. I use two 4/0 Mustad hooks on the squid.
Top downrigger fishing on Mid-Channel seems to happen during a good tidal movement, not during the tide change. Troll with the tide and when you reach the end of the troll pickup your gear then run back up and repeat the process. I keep an eye on my Lowrance Carbon sonar and move in or out on my depth line when I mark fish. Best trolling speed is 2.5 to 3 MPH. Best trolling speed indicator is your downrigger wire, keep it at 40-45 degree angle why trolling and you are golden on the correct speed.
Launch your boat right in Port Townsend at the boat basin; it has a great two-lane ramp and dock. If you have a smaller boat Ft. Worden State Park ramp just north of town is a good bet and real close to the fishing.
Port Townsend is pretty much right in the path of some strong winds that can come without warning, especially the prevailing westerly winds, and some strong south winds during the winter months. When this happens there are other options.
Try trolling off Pt. Hudson, located close to town, across to Marrowstone. I have taken many fish during windy days when you can’t fish the Bank. Motor mooching a herring just off the town waterfront can score fish too.
Port Townsend has several other close by blackmouth areas, including Mats Mats Bay located just to the south through the cut between Port Townsend and Marrowstone Island. Trolling out in front of the bay in 120 ft. of water has always been a good winter bet. The back side of Marrowstone, north of Lip Lip Point off of Craven Rock, can hold some decent fishing too. Again stay in the 100-130 ft. right on the bottom.
Marine Area 9. Check WDFW web site for current Area 9 opening and closings.
Tackle to Bring:
11” Pro-Troll glow or the new lighted flashers, Coho Killer spoons, Needlefish squids, Pt. Wilson Darts in assorted sizes.
Lodging & Charters:
Harbor Side Inn 1-800-942-5960 (next to the boat ramp)
The Discovery Bay Salmon Derby will be held 9-11 March. Tickets are $40.00 per angler. This is a great event with fishing taking place in Marina Area’s 6 & 9. First place is $10,000. Once again Team Lowrance will be fishing this event and Lowrance will be donating a Sonar/GPS as a prize.
For more information or to buy tickets visit: gardinersalmonderby.org.