The first of many summer salmon opportunities begins June 1 for hatchery kings around the Tacoma/Vashon Island area Leave a reply
Contributed by Mark Yuasa
The first of many summer salmon fisheries begins in south-central Puget Sound (Marne Area 11) on June 1 – that’s just one week from now – and anglers can expect many blissful days on the water.
To help anglers decide where to go in the coming months, I’ve broken down where to expect the best fishing results and salmon forecasts.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers have carefully created fisheries while recognizing conservation concerns in Puget Sound for stocks such as the Stillaguamish and Snohomish rivers.
The Puget Sound wild Chinook forecast in 2022 is 28,992 which is up slightly compared to the 2021 forecast of 26,918 but still 40 percent down from the 10-year average. Hatchery Chinook drive the sport fisheries and the 2022 forecast is 201,059. That is down compared to 2021 forecast of 202,185 but up slightly to the 10-year historical average.
The Puget Sound-wide hatchery and wild coho forecasts show a little sign of improvement compared to 2021 although they’re still recovering from drought issues in 2015 and 2017. The recent 10-year average for hatchery coho is up 61 percent and the wild coho is up 29 percent.
The combined 2022 Puget Sound hatchery and wild coho forecast is 636,952 (387,722 hatchery and 249,230 wild) compared to 614,948 (369,059 and 245,889) in 2021; and 504,604 (341,895 and 162,709) in 2020.
On the coast, coho returns – mostly bound for the Columbia River – will likely have another stellar season. The 2022 forecast is 1,225,900 (1,732,900 was the forecast and 1,114,500 was the actual return in 2021).
The predicted 2022 fall Chinook return is 484,900 fall Chinook and is a smidge higher than the 2021 actual return of 481,300 but below the forecast of 580,800.
Kicking off the early-summer salmon fisheries is a hatchery-marked Chinook season in south-central Puget Sound (Marine Area 11) that opens June 1 and is broken into two different segments.
“We are really excited to be able to offer early June opportunities to South Sound anglers (in Marine Area 11) this year,” Dr. Kirsten Simonsen, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) Puget Sound Recreational Salmon Manager said in a news release.
The June 1 opener is more than two weeks earlier compared to 2021 and prior to that had been closed in June since 2018.
The first half of the Marine Area 11 season opens daily from June 1-30 with an allowable catch quota of 580 hatchery-marked Chinook. The total encounter limit is 432 wild Chinook and 752 sublegal Chinook.
The second half is open daily from July 1 through Sept. 30 with an allowable catch quota of 2,816 and a total sublegal encounter limit of 3,373 during this timeframe.
State fishery managers indicate the two summer segments were modeled separately due to the stock composition found in Marine Area 11 during June and the July to September time periods.
“Modeling the season as an aggregate could potentially have put us above exploitation limits for some stocks,” Dr. Simonsen said. “By keeping the Marine Area 11 fishery as two separate, distinct parts, we can meet all of our management objectives for stocks of concern and were able to add time on the water in June. So really it’s a win-win.”
Dogfish can be an issue during summer in Marine Area 11 so most anglers will use a salmon jig like a Point Wilson Dart, P-Line Laser Minnow, Buzz Bomb, Dungeness Stinger and Crippled Herring in glow, chartreuse, pearl-white, green-nickel, blue-pearl or blue-gold patterns. Weight and size depend on the current and wind so be sure to pack along a variety of jigs.
Trolling with downriggers or a meat-line is effective using a plug, spoon or plastic hoochie squid. Option three is a whole or cut-plug herring but expect to burn through a lot of fishing leaders as pesky dogfish will ruin your gear.
Look for salmon at the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; the breakwater off the Tacoma Yacht Club; the “flats” outside of Gig Harbor; Girl Scout Camp in Colvos Passage; outside of Quartermaster Harbor; Dolphin Point on northeast side of Vashon Island; Browns Point; Dash Point; Apple Redondo Beach; Point Robinson; and Point Dalco on southwest side of Vashon Island. Note: Commencement Bay.is closed to salmon fishing from June 1 through July 31.
Another fun fishery occurs in central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) for resident coho which opens June 16-July 13 for resident coho only averaging 2 to 4 pounds.
Try the shipping lanes between Jefferson Head and Kingston; the Edmonds oil dock to Richmond Beach; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; and east side of Bainbridge Island.
A location now open for kings is the Tulalip Bay Terminal Fishery where fishing is allowed each week from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only through Sept. 7, and then weekends only from Sept. 11-26. There could be intermittent closures from July 15-Aug. 15. The Tulalip area is also open Sept. 12-27 (weekends only).
Southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) is open year-round for salmon. Look for early-summer hatchery Chinook in June at Point Fosdick and off Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point and Fox Point. From July 1-Sept. 30 the Area 13 hatchery Chinook minimum size limit is 20 inches.
Off the coast, La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) are open for salmon retention beginning June 18; Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) on June 25; and Westport (Marine Area 2) on July 2. All areas are scheduled to remain open until Sept. 30 or until quotas are met, with species and size restrictions dependent on the area.
On the Columbia River, a limited summer Chinook fishery from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam opens June 16-22 with a two hatchery-marked Chinook daily limit. The summer Chinook fishery from above Bonneville Dam to Tri-Cities is open June 16-July 31. Sockeye retention is off limits in both areas of the Columbia mainstem.
Central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) shifts to a hatchery-marked Chinook and coho fishery from July 14 through Aug. 31. Retaining hatchery Chinook could close sooner if the 3,966 quota is achieved (3,718 in 2021 and 4,100 in 2020).
For summer kings in Area 10 hit Kingston; Jefferson Head; Richmond Beach to Edmonds oil dock; eastside of Bainbridge Island from Point Monroe to Skiff Point and Yeomalt Point; Lincoln Park south Brace Point off West Seattle; Allen Bank off Blake Island; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; and Southworth.
Look for summer hatchery kings fishing to ramp up in the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7) and northern Puget Sound (Marine Area 9) beginning July 14, and this is a slightly earlier opener than the past several years.
In Marine Area 7 fishing is open July 14-16 only and additional days may be added based on in-season updates. It is wise to go on the initial opener to guarantee time on the water as the Marine Area 7 Chinook quota of 1,800 (up from 1,382 in 2021 and 1,562 in 2020) is likely to get gobbled up fast.
In Marine Area 9 fishing is open July 14-16 and possibly July 21-23, and then open daily from July 28-Aug. 15 if enough of the 4,700 Chinook quota (4,700 in 2021 and 5,600 in 2020) remains.
Popular locations for summer Chinook are Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Point Wilson; Marrowstone Island; Fort Casey, Bush Point, Lagoon Point and Double Bluff off westside of Whidbey Island; Point No Point; Possession Bar; and Pilot Point.
The western Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu (Marine Area 5) opens July 1-Aug. 15 for hatchery-marked Chinook and coho. The fishery could close sooner for Chinook retention if the 3,890-catch quota (4,077 in 2021) is achieved.
At Sekiu look for summer kings off “The Caves” a ¼ mile stretch of shoreline near the breakwater at Mason’s Resort in Clallam Bay; Slip Point; Kydaka Point; Mussolini Rock and Little Mussolini Rock; Eagle Point; “Slide” area; Coal Mines; and Pillar Point.
The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca around Port Angeles (Marine Area 6) – west of a true north/south line through the #2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook – opens July 1-Aug. 15 for hatchery-marked Chinook and coho. The Chinook retention fishery could close sooner if the 6,050 quota is achieved (4,769 in 2021). The area east of the of the boundary is open July 1-Aug. 15 for hatchery-marked coho only.
Try for summer Chinook west of Port Angeles off Ediz Hook, the humps and Winter Hole in Strait, Freshwater Bay, and Crescent Bay to mouth of Whiskey Creek.
A salmon fishery well worth a try this summer is Hood Canal south of Ayock Point (Marine Area 12) open from July 1-Sept. 30 for coho and hatchery-marked Chinook with a bonus daily limit of four and a minimum size limit of 20 inches.
The San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7) is set to open Aug. 16-Sept. 30 for hatchery coho only. Northern Puget Sound (Marine Area 9) opens daily from Aug. 16-Sept. 25 for hatchery-marked coho only. Be sure to check for emergency regulations and changes on the WDFW website.
In the western Strait of Juan de Fuca at Sekiu (Marine Area 5) fishing is open Aug. 16-Sept. 28 for hatchery-marked coho. The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Area 6) is open Aug. 16-Sept. 28 for a hatchery-marked coho fishery.
Inner-Elliott Bay opens for kings from Aug. 6-9 and additional openings may occur, and it is open Aug. 20-31 for coho only.
The southern-most part of southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) is open year-round for salmon usually good in mid- to late-August around the Nisqually Delta Reach area, Anderson Island and Johnson Point near Olympia. From July 1-Sept. 30 the Area 13 hatchery Chinook minimum size limit is 20 inches.
Elsewhere, the eastside of Whidbey Island (Marine Area 8-1) is open Aug. 1-Oct. 9 for a coho only fishery.
The eastside of Whidbey Island (Marine Area 8-2) is open Aug. 13-Sept. 19 south and west of a line between the Clinton and Mukilteo ferry docks for hatchery-marked coho only. Possession Point and the Shipwreck/Browns Bay locations are usually good for coho in late August and September.
In Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) north of Ayock Point is open Sept. 1-Oct. 31, but anglers must release all Chinook and chum. Quilcene Bay only is open Aug. 1-31 for a fishery directed at coho only.
There are also other terminal fisheries in several marine areas like Sinclair Inlet, Hoodsport Hatchery Zone and Bellingham Bay as well as piers open year-round for shore-bound anglers.
Thousands of anglers will beeline to the highly popular Buoy 10 late-summer salmon fishery on the Lower Columbia River mouth when it opens Aug. 1-24 with a two-hatchery-salmon daily limit (only one Chinook), followed by all Chinook from Aug. 25-Sept. 7. A three hatchery-marked coho daily season begins Sept. 8-30.
Further up the Columbia River from the west end of Puget Island to Warrior Rock, is open Aug. 1-Sept. 7 for two salmon (hatchery-marked coho only and one Chinook only) and reopens Oct. 1 with the same species rule limits. The area from Warrior to Bonneville Dam is open Aug. 1-Sept. 13 and a daily limit of two salmon (hatchery-marked coho only and one Chinook only.
(Mark Yuasa is a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Communications Consultant and longtime local fishing and outdoor writer.)