With a damp, dreary Memorial Day weekend in progress, it’s time to look north for the first indications of our actual chinook returns.
So why do we look north and what are we looking for? GREAT QUESTION!!! To answer that question, let’s have a quick review of what the University of Washington School of Fisheries catalogs as FISH 450: Salmonid Behavior and Life History.
As our juvenile chinook leave Puget Sound they “turn right” or head north to the rich oceanic pasture known as the Gulf of Alaska. Then, as they mature they eventually make their way back to the coast…and, bump right into Southeast Alaska!
So, it’s no secret that the tremendous salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska, the Queen Charlotte Islands, northern British Columbia and the west coast of Vancouver Island are, to a great extent, driven by salmonid production in Oregon, the Columbia River, coastal Washington and Puget Sound. Therefore, if you are looking at a real indication of what our actual returns are looking like, Southeast Alaska is the place to look!
After a winter of going blind pouring over forecasts, pictures of actual, huge summer chinook is indeed a sight for sore eyes! Our good friend Derek Floyd of Reel Class Charters in Sitka, Alaska has been providing ample evidence of what looks like a great summer salmon season here in the Pacific Northwest!
Other reports from coastal chinook fisheries have been extremely positive with the Washington coastal commercial troll fishery catching it’s quota in near record time, the west coast of Vancouver Island’s Nootka Sound Resort and the Queen Charlotte Islands beginning to percolate as well!
Still not convinced??? Check out Sherry Diehl’s 48.4 pound hog which is currently on top of the Sitka Salmon Derby leaderboard.
The Sitka Salmon Derby is a two-weekend event that ends this coming weekend (May 31 & June 1) and according to Derby officials, both the numbers of fish entered and average size of the chinook are up significantly from last year. In 2012, a 44 pounder took top honors in the event. This year?….a 40 pounder may fall outside the top ten.
Other significant -and unquestionably positive reports come from Rob Endsley of Prince of Wales Sportfishing. His contacts in Craig, Alaska (approximately 150 miles south of Sitka) have also reported chinook to the mid 40 pound range!
Keep in mind that this season marks the highest chinook Abundance Index since the Pacific Salmon Treaty mandated a coastal management plan for our chinook runs.
The reason for the high abundance index? Near record runs headed for the Columbia, the highest forecast of hatchery chinook bound for Puget Sound in recent memory and a bumper crop of Canadian chinook as well.
With reports like this I hope you can see what I’m seeing… One heck of a summer season!
Sharpen the hooks boys…sharpen the hooks!
The Outdoor Line
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