Late-summer salmon fishing options heating up at places like Buoy 10 plus many others fish species on the bite Leave a reply
By Mark Yuasa
Chinook salmon runs are peaking in many places and it all boils down to knowing that when mid-August rolls around, time is working against us. While that’s the case there are options from the Columbia River to Willapa Bay and Westport and clear into southern Puget Sound.
“It’s tougher than I thought but there’s fish around,” said Tom Nelson, host of 710 ESPN The Outdoor Line who fished the Buoy 10 opener at the Columbia River mouth. “I would say that it’s fair, but just like Puget Sound this summer, if you’re not in the right place on the right tide and have the bait spinning perfectly, you aren’t getting’ bit.”
Reports on Sunday at Buoy 10 showed action had improved with decent catches reported by Austin Moser, owner of Austin’s Northwest Guide Service, who was fishing on the Astoria side of the big river. Look for an upswing as tides are better heading into this week.
Huge schools of anchovies are being pushed in and out on each tidal series from above the Astoria-Megler Bridge downstream to the deadline at Buoy 10. Those baitfish are so thick they’ll have your rod tip vibrating with excitement and hopefully a king or hatchery coho waiting to smash your bait or lure.
The estimated fall Columbia River chinook forecast is 420,450 (379,769 was actual return and 349,600 was forecast in 2019) and a mediocre coho run of 140,190 (212,333 and 611,300).
The lower projected run-size created a rather conservative season length at Buoy 10. It is open through Aug. 27 for chinook retention with a daily limit of one salmon (chinook minimum size is 24 inches and a hatchery coho minimum of 16 inches). Then from Aug. 28 through Sept. 22 there is a one hatchery coho only daily limit. Another brief window from Sept. 23-30 will allow anglers to keep one chinook or hatchery coho daily.
Many Buoy 10 anglers are banking on more fish arriving then expected since fisheries in southeast Alaska and British Columbia saw very light pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of Columbia River fall salmon stocks migrate north and are caught by sport and commercial fishing fleets. Only time “albeit short” will tell.
In the early mornings on a flood tide, boats zipping out of the Port of Ilwaco Marina should make a first quick pass along the Wing Walls, which are rows of rotting wooden pilings that are known to grab a lot of fishing gear but is also a place where hungry salmon with stage and grab your bait as well.
The Desdemona Sands area – a flat sandy bar exposed at low tides – is a mid- to late-flood tide show as salmon pass along the drop-offs on both sides of the channel.
The buoy line just off the town of Astoria where huge ocean-bound freightliners anchor just above the Astoria-Megler Bridge is a popular spot on a flood tide change. Below the bridge try just below the Astoria Marina to Fort Stevens State Park and west toward Hammond in a series of deep-water channels.
On the Washington side just above the bridge are three underwater channels that are passageways for migratory salmon/ Just downstream is the Church Hole off Fort Columbia State Park.
Locally, the hatchery king fishery ended Sunday (Aug. 16) in northern Puget Sound (Areas 9), but hatchery coho can be kept in Area 9.
There are a few options to chase late-summer hatchery kings in central Puget Sound (10) and south-central Puget Sound (11). Success has been slow to fair at Jefferson Head (still good for coho), Kingston, Richmond Beach area, south of Brace Point, Dolphin Point, south of Southworth ferry landing, the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park, Point Evans, Point Dalco off Vashon Island, entrance to Gig Harbor, Des Moines, Redondo Beach and Point Robinson.
In southern Puget Sound (13), look for hatchery kings at Gibson Point and Point Fosdick, Fox Point in Hale Passage, northwest corner at the Sand Spit, Toy Point and the Concrete Dock Fox Island Fishing Pier. Other deep southern sound spots to look for hungry kings are Nisqually Flats, Dover Point near Zangle Cove, Itsami Ledge, Dickenson Point, and Little Fish Trap Bay and Big Fish Trap Bay.
The San Juan Islands (Area 7) reopens Aug. 22-31 for hatchery chinook fishing with 206 chinook left in a quota of 1,562. Area 7 is currently open for coho only.
Shore bound anglers have opportunities to catch kings at Edmonds Pier, Des Moines Pier, Les Davis Pier and the Seacrest Pier in West Seattle. FYI: The Redondo Pier and Pier 86 in Elliott Bay are closed.
In Hood Canal, Quilcene Bay is open through Aug. 31 for a coho only fishery. This is a terminal type fishery and folks have the best success tossing Buzz Bomb or Point Wilson Dart jigs.
Terminal chinook fisheries like the Tulalip Bay, Bellingham Bay and Sinclair Inlet should offer fair fishing. Also, don’t forget to bring the Dungeness crab traps on days and locations that are open for fishing.
The only show left off the coast is Westport and La Push where king and hatchery coho fishing has been slow to fair at times. Tuna chasers should also start pointing their boats offshore along the blue water line located around 30 to 50 miles offshore.
In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the hatchery coho remains slow to fair at Sekiu and Port Angeles, but look for this to build as more migratory coho begin to appear as we head into next month.
Fishing for nibbles and bites
There is one spot shrimp option still available in the San Juan Islands for those looking to pull up a pot of these prized prawn-sized delicacies.
Marine Area 7 West – covering San Juan Channel, Speiden Channel, Stuart and Waldron islands – is open Aug. 20, 21, 22 and 23 during daylight hours for spot shrimp. The daily limit is 10 pounds of all species of shrimp with a maximum of 80 spot shrimp. Only pots with a minimum 1-inch mesh are allowed when retaining spot shrimp.
Trout chasers can still find some lakes freshly planted by WDFW. They include Mayfield Lake in Lewis County that received 2,205 rainbows on Aug. 12, plus another 2,466 on Aug. 5. In Mason County, Kokanee Lake was planted with 1,029 rainbows and on July 29, and in Lewis County, Mineral Lake got 6,000 rainbows and 4,000 brown trout to boost fishing prospects.
This is also prime time for yellow perch in Lake Washington located in the backyard of the Emerald City. The tasty fish are easily caught from the shore or boat, and the lake – which is 20 miles long and covers more than 22,000 acres – is excellent for yellow perch, rock bass as well as many other fish species.
Look for schools of yellow perch in shallow water, 15 to 35 feet, and close to the shoreline. They will school up in shaded locations just outside the cover of weed beds, milfoil, aquatic weeds and lily pads or under docks, piers and overhanging trees and brush.
Target Seward Park; Montlake Cut; Newport Canal; Newport Shores; Kenmore log boom and pier; Juanita Bay; Magnuson Park; Andrews Bay; Webster Point in Union Bay; Yarrow Bay in Kirkland; Gene Coulon Park in Renton; Mercer Island near Luther Burbank Park; and in South Seattle off Leschi Park, Madison Park, Stan Sayres Pits and Mount Baker Park. Lake Union around Gasworks Park are also good spots.
Other lakes to target perch are Sammamish; Kapowsin; Sawyer; Goodwin; Steven; American; Angle; Desire; Meridian; Samish; Whatcom; and Bosworth.
Lake Wenatchee continues to offer fair to good action for sockeye. Through Aug. 9, 41,554 sockeye have been tallied at Tumwater Dam and exceeded the 39,400 forecast. This is mainly a morning show and legal fishing hours each day are one hour before official sunrise until one hour after official sunset. Daily limit is four sockeye per angler with a minimum size of 12 inches. Selective gear rules (up to three single-point barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed, and knotless nets required) are in effect.
Dave Graybill, longtime central Washington outdoor radio host and writer of the Fishin’ Magician, reports Rufus Woods Reservoir is alive with nice triploid rainbow trout and walleye. He recently trolled near the three net pens with bottom bouncers and nightcrawlers and found decent action.
Heading to the coast, the Willapa Bay hatchery king fishery is something to not overlook this month and has a two adult salmon daily limit (release wild chinook). A forecast of 31,185 chinook should create some memorable times for anglers inside the bay’s deep channel that is dotted with red and green channel markers numbered from 2 to 27 (I like to fish markers 7 to 13). The markers start in the middle of the bay and run all the way to the Willapa River mouth. Target a flood tide to avoid foiling up your gear on eel grass and seaweed.
Look for the Westport Boat Basin docks now open for fishing to produce some opportunity for coho returning to local net pens. This fishery peaks next month and be sure to bring along some Dungeness crab traps.
The coastal, Strait and Puget Sound halibut fisheries are another option and it has been producing some decent on open fishing days. The all-depth halibut fishery at Ilwaco and Westport (Areas 1 and 2) are open Thursdays and Sundays only through Sept. 30 or until quota is achieved. Additional days may be added depending on catch and effort and includes Aug. 28, Sept. 4 and Sept. 11. La Push and Neah Bay (Areas 3 and 4) are open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only through Sept. 30 or until quota is achieved. Neah Bay on Makah Reservation and La Push on Quileute Reservation are closed to the public therefore access is allowed from other ports like Sekiu and Westport. Puget Sound (Areas 5 to 10) are open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only through Sept. 30 or until quota is achieved.