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Area 7 San Juan Islands Report



Bottom Fishing From Boat
Mostly Sunny
All Day

This is a three-day trip report for halibut (didn't really get to try), Lings, and shrimp:

Drove to Whidbey Wednesday with the intention of launching my buddy’s boat that evening and mooring it at a friend’s private dock. This way we wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle and rush of launch and retrieve each day. My buddy had recently replaced the exhaust risers on the boat and hadn’t had a chance to test them out before our trip. We got the boat ready and went to launch about 6p. After idling at the marina for a few minutes we noticed the risers were getting hotter than they should, so after much debate we decided to abort and pull the boat for inspection. Our suspicion was the impeller in the outdrive was not working right, but couldn’t be sure. This meant we would not be fishing for Thursday morning halibut, but we wouldn’t be stranded on a boat out on the water either.

We wanted to run our theory by the marine mechanic my friend frequents before we tore into the outdrive, so at 8am Thursday we hauled the boat over there and he was fortunately available. He wasn’t so sure that is was the impeller, but offered to open it up and check it out for us. I was relieved as I wasn’t really excited about pulling the lower unit apart.

About 2p we dropped back in and he said that it was indeed the impeller, which was replaced and ready to go. So, we drove straight away to the launch at Cornet Bay. We tested the boat out around the bay for a while and decided that it was performing much better, so most likely was good to go. But, my friend was still a little leery, so we spent some time fishing around the bay trying to catch Sand Dab for Lingcod bait. We caught a couple small sculpin, but no Sand Dab. The boat had been running for over an hour now, so decided to head out and try outside Deception Pass. The first couple areas were quiet and we lost some gear, so decided to venture farther out. Made it to Lawson Reef (east end) and the boat was running great. The weather was phenomenal and the water smooth. We dropped some jigs and I got a fish on the first pass! It was a Ling just shy of 26”. To small, but my first Ling ever, so very exciting. We tried that drift a few more time without any more action, so decided to head over to a beach off Whidbey and spend the last hour of our day trying for halibut. We dropped our herring rigs in 100’ of water and let them sit. The current was slow, so we just drifted along the shore. We did see a whale surfacing near us. Not sure what type, but it was big. Apparently they’ve been hanging out the last few days off the beaches of Whidbey, according to someone we ran into at the launch. We packed it in at 7p with no apparent hits, but my friend’s herring was half gone when we pulled up our gear, so maybe he had something nibbling on it.

Halibut fishing was closed Friday, so for various reasons we decided not to get up at 4a on Friday to be on the water at first light. I only sort of regret that now, but a full night’s sleep was nice too. We got his kids off to school and then launched the boat about 7:30a. An absolutely gorgeous day. We headed out to Lawson Reef to try our luck again. Had lines in the water by 8a. and within minutes caught a small Ling. This is atypical of our previous fishing trips. From then until 11a we were consistently catching Lings. Every drift we were getting multiple hits. We even had a double ! Unfortunately everything was too small, but talk about fun. We’ve never had that kind of action on any previous trip. My buddy did get one rock fish on one of the drifts too.

We had to pick up his dad at Cornet Bay at 11:30, so we headed back to Deception at 11. That took longer than expected, so we didn’t get back on the water until 12:30. Since we didn’t get any Lings that were larger at east Lawson we decided to try the other west side instead. We got a couple more small lings and an 18” Cabazon (kept) out there, but the action was slower. We moved to Davidson Rocks off Lopez Island, but the current was to fast by then to fish effectively, so we moved into the shelter of Lopez to try some rocks between the small islands there. We immediately caught a couple small Lings, but no other hits. We tried a deeper slot and my buddy got a bigger Ling that was 24”. No matter how we trieed we could only catch smaller fish. I did catch and Irish Lord that looked like a twin to the Cabazon, but only a different color (red). Decided not to keep it. The current was slowing, so tried Davidson again, but only resulted in a few bites and nothing caught. Moved back to west Lawson again and briefly had something bigger on, but lost it and no other hits. Hit east Lawson one more time and caught a couple more small Lings, but finally called it quits at 5:30. We took the boat home and loaded up all the shrimp gear.

We got up at 3:30 on Saturday in order to be on the road at 4am. We knew the launch would be a zoo due to being opening day for shrimp and a halibut day too. We left the house at 4:10 and were down the road 3 miles when we realized we forgot the electric pot puller in the garage….D’oh!

Now we were on the road at 4:25….so much for being prepared. Got to the launch about 4:45 and were 10th in line, but the line was moving quickly as everyone knew what they were doing. When we went to launch, the electric winch on the trailer wouldn’t work! We pulled back up the launch and fiddled with it. We got it working just enough to launch the boat. The wind had come up overnight and the seas were not nearly as friendly as the last two days (which were crazy nice).

We motored out to the shrimping grounds and found a spot in the slew of boats (at least 200 boats by 6a!) and dropped our four pots. The water was pretty rough, so we decided to just suck in next to the islands and try for Lings again. We made a few passes and caught some rock fish, another Irish Lord, and a small Ling. My friend did briefly have something bigger on, but it popped off. After a couple hours the wind had picked up and a fog had rolled in making conditions tougher, so decided to go retrieve the pots. It took a bit to navigate all the various floats/boats in the fog, but found our gear and pulled the first one. There were 123 shrimp in the first pot. A very good yield! We could only keep 240 between the three of us. We got that pot cleaned up and stored. When we pulled the second pot it had 120 shrimp….we were done and still had two pots left. We didn’t count the shrimp in the next two pots, but there were at least 100 per, so probably around 450+ for a two-hour soak. What a haul! Sad to throw so many back.

The wind had definitely picked up and the seas were rougher, so headed back towards Deception to look for calmer water. Stopped at one end of Lawson reef and tried a pip jig while drifting across. Had a fish on briefly that spit the hook. Decided to keep going to the east side of Lawson and try some more. The water was noticeably calmer on the east side, so dropped some jigs and worked our way over the reef. I hooked an undersized ling. We got some more bites, but nothing more to the boat. The wind was starting to pick up and knew we’d need to address the electric winch problem, so called it quits before noon. On the way back to the launch we hit some very rough water that sent a couple waves over the bow of the boat (no small feat in a 24’ Bayliner!) Back at port we couldn’t get the electric winch to work at all, so my buddy had to drive the boat onto the trailer, which thankfully worked on the third try. Then it was on to home safe and sound.

Until the next time!


5/15/2019 6:05:43 AM
Hey Bent, Shrimping is on my bucket list. Thanks for a good read. Andy
5/15/2019 7:01:23 AM
Thanks! It's a lot of fun if the weather is nice and it's not super crowded. Having a pot puller is almost a MUST. We used to do it years ago by hand, then tried the anchor buoy method and now use a Scotty pot puller which is barely adequate, but is hands down better than the other two methods! Hope you get a chance to give it a try some day soon.
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Available Guide

Available Fishing Guide:
Website: SJM Guide Service

Phone: (509) 435-6486