Meet Mark Yuasa

Fishing write for the Seattle Times

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For a Pacific Northwest kid who grew up fishing and enjoying the outdoors and then discovered writing would be his calling, getting the gig as the outdoors and fishing writer for a major Northwest paper would have been the ultimate goal. And that’s exactly how things worked out for Mark Yuasa, who started fishing at six years old, attended the University of Washington and mentored under the Seattle Times’ outdoor writer.

His first feature story was about Linc Beppu, the owner of Linc’s Tackle Shop in Seattle, which is one of the oldest mom-and-pop tackle shops in Seattle. The story chronicled his life, including the time he spent in an internment camp during World War II and how he and other Japanese Americans returned after the war and made salmon fishing an integral part of their culture. Yuasa was hooked.

Sea: What kind of boat do you have for fishing?
Yuasa: I have a New Bay 18-foot boat — the company used to be in Bellingham many years ago before it went out of business — with a Yamaha outboard motor. It does the job on inside marine waterways, in the big lakes and along the coast.

What boat would you like to own if money was no object?
I would like to own a 20-plus-foot Parker or Grady White, the Mercedes Benz of fishing boats!

How long have you been an angler?
I have been fishing since I was six years old. My father, Jerry, took me trout fishing at Green Lake on opening day, and I still have the picture of me holding a stringer of fish.

Do you have a favorite fishing story from your youth?
I remember getting up early in the morning when I was a kid, eight to 10 years old, and going with my grandfather to various boathouses in Puget Sound, such as Ray’s Boathouse in Shilshole Bay — where the now-famous Ray’s Boathouse Restaurant resides — and launching our boat on the sling into the deep, dark waters and heading out right in front to look for king salmon. I caught my first salmon while fishing with my grandfather and grandmother (George and Mary Yuasa) at Sekiu in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca. We rented a boat at Olson’s Resort and were trolling near Pillar Point when I hooked a nice eightpound coho salmon, which was my first salmon.

What is your favorite fish to catch in the Pacific Northwest? Why?
I enjoy pursuing king salmon. They are one of the most difficult salmon species to catch. They fight hard when hooked, make deep dives to the bottom, jump every so often, and can reach well over 50 pounds. The largest king I caught was on the Kenai River in Alaska; it weighed 43 pounds. The biggest I’ve caught in Washington was 28 pounds, at Willapa Bay on the south-central coast. We are lucky to have, in recent years, some fairly good king runs coming back to the Columbia River each summer.

What is the most underrated fish in Puget Sound?
I would have the say the chum salmon, not for taste, but pound for pound they put up a hard fight when hooked. They act like a king salmon in that they make deep dives and use head shaking moves, but they also jump out of the water like a coho salmon.

Any insider tips on baits or secret spots?
Not really. I am an old-school angler. Even with modern electronics and downriggers, I still stick to the art of mooching. Simply put, you use a standard salmon rod and reel, hooked up to a banana weight and a leader tied to either a cut-plug or whole herring bait. Drop the bait down to the bottom and reel it up, working the entire water column. The technique enables you to control when you feel the bite and set the hook on the fish. Mooching originated from the Japanese Americans fishing in Puget Sound before and soon after WWII.

How has the salmon stock been in the past few years around Puget Sound?
In this day and age, you need to be flexible in how you fish for salmon. Despite many closures each year, which vary from year to year, you need to be flexible. As my friend Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs with the Northwest Marine Trade Association in Seattle, says, “Rule number 1 is you fish where the fish are at.”

For example, this past summer my favorite salmon fishing spot right in front of Seattle — central Puget Sound — was closed due to poor chinook salmon returns, so I focused my attention on northern Puget Sound, Westport and the mouth of the Columba River. You need to be able to pull your boat to where the better returning fish runs are if you want to catch fish!

Have you seen any steps taken for conservation?
There have been many steps taken to improve salmon runs, such as hatchery production and conservation closures to make sure certain salmon stocks rebuild, and I am all for that.

What is the biggest obstacle for anglers in the Pacific Northwest?
Working toward salmon recovery with all constituents — sport anglers, nontribal commercial and tribal fishermen — is the key to making this whole thing work for the better. It seems year after year at the salmon season–setting process meetings that everyone is out to get that last fish. We have a precious resource in our state and a re lucky enough to have what I consider some of the best fishing opportunities, which can rival those to the north in British Columbia and Alaska.

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