Emily Matthiesen
An otter shows off a starry flounder catch in Sequim Bay in April. The North Olympic Flounder Pounder derby in Port Angeles on June 8 will pay out the top five heaviest fish with a $3,000 first-place prize.

OUTDOORS: Flounder derby makes debut June 8 in Port Angeles

Cash prizes totaling $5,500 going to the top five flatfish

A MARINE AREA 6-centered fishing derby with a twist on species is set for June 8, which also coincides with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Free Fishing Weekend June 8-9.

North Olympic Flounder Pounder will make its debut as a derby, with cash prizes totaling $5,500 going to the top five flatfish. The biggest flatfish of all will take home the $3,000 first-place prize.

Entry fees are $30, and everyone on board a boat older than 12 must be registered for the derby. Children younger than 12 only need to register if they intend to fish. If they are spectators only, they do not need to register.

Fishing will begin at dawn (5:14 a.m.) and is enforced by the honor system. Weigh-in will begin at noon at the Port Angeles Boat Haven and the weigh station will close at 3 p.m.

All fishing must be done from a watercraft — boats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, float tubes, etc., are all legal. No fishing from shore. Anglers may launch from anywhere but must fish in Marine Area 6 and must travel by water to the weigh station.

Any legally caught flounder, sole, sandab, turbot or other flatfish (excluding halibut) is eligible.

Awards will be presented on the Port Angeles Maritime Festival’s main stage in the boat haven parking lot at 4:30 p.m.

To register, visit https://tinyurl.com/PDN-FlounderDerby24.

Derby advice

Quilcene’s Ward Norden, a former fisheries biologist and retired tackle maker, offered up some predictions on what species will end up in the top spot, the potential for state-record catches and some advice on rigging up for these flatfish.

“I think it is remarkable how generous the prizes are,” Norden said. “The derby will of course be won by a starry flounder, which get up to nearly 20 pounds.

“Surprisingly, our state record for starry flounder is quite low (9.5 pounds), so it would be easy to beat, but rock sole is very high (more than 4 pounds). I catch English sole all the time and there is no record at all for that species. The record for Pacific sand dab, the tastiest of all, is also low (1.5 pounds), but last fall, we had one for dinner that was 50 percent bigger.

“The rules for the derby require landing the fish from a boat in the boat haven, but that will discourage the canoe/kayak anglers that are invited because prime areas are quite a distance away.”

Norden has long advocated for more folks to figure out how good flatfish angling is in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

“The price of a ticket seems a little high for such a new thing, but it is a great concept for familiarizing people to the most underutilized but tastiest foodfish sports anglers have for year-around angling,” Norden said.

Anglers looking for a simple setup can follow this advice.

“Floundering is the simplest and cheapest marine fishery we have to get started in,” Norden said. “All that is required is a medium weight freshwater rod/reel combo with 10-pound test line, a handfull of 3/8- to 1/2-ounce jigheads, and some 3- or 4-inch Powerbait or Gulp soft plastic minnows or worms.”

Norden said this is a close-to-shore fishery.

“You only need to fish nearshore in water less than 50 feet deep,” Norden said. “Take your time setting the hook since flounder have small mouths, and have a really sharp fillet knife on hand.”

Norden also said Port Townsend Bay, out of the legal boundaries for this derby in Marine Area 9, would be a good setting for a future derby.

“The [Fishin’ Hole] gas dock, being only a few hundred yards from prime flounder habitat, would be a much better location,” Norden said.

Free fishing

Anglers can fish for many species without a license during the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s annual Free Fishing Weekend June 8-9.

Any fish requiring a catch record card (including sturgeon, salmon, steelhead and halibut) and all shellfish will still require a license on Free Fishing Weekend.

All other species open for harvest can be harvested without a license.

During Free Fishing Weekend, anglers do not need a Vehicle Access Pass or a Discover Pass when parking on Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources or state park lands.

For emergency regulations and up-to-date fishing rules, visit https://tinyurl.com/PDN-EmergencyRegs2324.

Free day in forests

U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Region will waive entry fees at most day-use recreation sites in national forests across Washington and Oregon on June 8 in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day.

The fee waiver applies to day-use fees at trailheads, picnic areas, visitor centers and other recreation sites across the region’s 17 national forests and grasslands. Other fees, such as those for camping, cabin rentals or special permits, will remain in effect.

________

Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at sports@ peninsulanews.us.

Emily Matthiesen
An otter shows off a starry flounder catch in Sequim Bay in April. The North Olympic Flounder Pounder derby in Port Angeles on June 8 will pay out the top five heaviest fish with a $3,000 first-place prize.
Emily Matthiesen An otter shows off a starry flounder catch in Sequim Bay in April. The North Olympic Flounder Pounder derby in Port Angeles on June 8 will pay out the top five heaviest fish with a $3,000 first-place prize.

Emily Matthiesen An otter shows off a starry flounder catch in Sequim Bay in April. The North Olympic Flounder Pounder derby in Port Angeles on June 8 will pay out the top five heaviest fish with a $3,000 first-place prize.

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