Early coastal razor clam summer assessments show a drop in abundance especially at Long Beach

Razor clam diggers last spring look for razor clam “shows” at Moclips Beach.

Coastal razor clam lovers will likely see a decline in clam populations for 2017-18 digging season.

State Fish and Wildlife biologists are in process of finalizing summer razor clam population assessments at Long Beach, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch. The exception is Twin Harbors that will undergo abundance surveys this coming week.

“Razor clam populations are down for most part on every beach, but in some cases it’s not too bad particularly at Mocrocks and Copalis,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager. “It looks like more of an average year after we’ve been riding on this great big band wagon for a while now.”

“Our real puzzle is Long Beach adult razor clam population, which is down considerably,” Ayres said. “We didn’t do a lot of harvesting (last season) and also had a bonus (25) clam daily limit. I would’ve guessed that there should’ve been a lot more clams there due to that.”

A batch of razor clams await to be cleaned after a successful outing at Copalis Beach last winter.

Ayres and his survey crews plan to go back soon to Long Beach, which covers a broad stretch of beach-line from Columbia River mouth north to Leadbetter Point.

“We’ll look at a couple spots at Long Beach again, but won’t do assessments on whole beach,” Ayres said. “We’ll probably never know for sure what happened to the clams although we suspect the southern part of (Long Beach) was affected by freshwater run-off. When salinity levels are lower and young clams don’t like that. This is my best guess, but still doesn’t account for the central and northern beaches.”

Long Beach was supposed to be a shining star last season with oodles of razor clams, but elevated levels of marine toxins known as domoic acid — a natural marine toxin produced by certain types of marine algae that can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities — had the beach closed virtually the entire season.

“We had hoped for a big banger of a season at Long Beach,” Ayres said. “During the brief (11) days of digging we saw good digging on northern end, but not so much on central section. It was a disappointment.”

Postseason estimates showed 77,778 digger trips on April 12-16 and April 26-May 1 (187,261 during 2015-16 season and 162,558 during 2014-15 season) at Long Beach yielded 1,555,113 clams (more than 2.61 million and 2.29 million clams respectively) for an average of 20.0 clams per person (14.0 and 14.1 respectively) clams per person. State fisheries bumped up the daily limit to first 25 clams dug person regardless of size or condition.

Tegan Yuasa (left) and Taylan Yuasa (right) try their luck for razor clams last winter at Copalis Beach.

With no clam surveys taken at Twin Harbors – one of more popular digging areas spanning from Grays Harbor south jetty at Westport south to Willapa Bay’s northern shore – until next week all we can do for now is look at 2016-17 season. Twin Harbors saw pockets of time where beaches were closed due to elevated levels of domoic acid although not nearly as dire as Long Beach.

Clam digging was open from Oct. 14-19, Nov. 17-19 and Nov. 26-28. Digging didn’t reopen until Feb. 7-12, Feb. 23-28 and March 7-13, and then in spring on April 5-9, April 12-16 and April 26-30.

In all Twin Harbors during 2016-17 season saw 62,893 diggers taking home 834,086 clams for a 13.3 clam per person average. The first 15 clams was a daily limit regardless of size or condition. Twin Harbors was completely shutdown in 2015-16 due to elevated levels of marine toxins.

To the north diggers should expect fairly good digging at Copalis Beach from Grays Harbor north jetty to Copalis River had a drop in razor clam populations, and Mocrocks Beach from Copalis River to southern boundary of Quinault Indian Reservation.

Exactly how much digging time at Copalis and Mocrocks depends on upcoming discussions with tribal fishery co-managers.

At Copalis from Oct. 14 through April 30 (33 total digging days), 82,108 digger trips (69,536 in 2015-16 season and 58,626 in 2014-15) saw a harvest of 1,040,193 clams (952,020 and 780,625 respectively) for 12.7 digger average (13.7 and 13.3 respectively).

At Mocrocks from Oct. 14 through April 29, 57,958 digger trips (70,747 in 2015-16 and 58,739 in 2014-15) had 686,628 (965,623 and 818,645 respectively) and harvested for 11.8 digger average (13.6 and 13.9 respectively).

The juvenile clam estimate at Kalaloch Beach on northern coast shows more than 100-million little guys sitting under the sand, but Ayres says many are very small pre-recruit clams tha won’t reach harvestable size for a while.

Diggers search for razor clams as the sun drops over the weatern horizon off Moclips Beach.

“We may have to wait a while to try to harvest them,” Ayres said. “We have around 190,000 adult-size clams which is less than half of what we had a year ago so it may be hard to make case until later on. This is lowest number of adult clams we have seen in past 25 years at Kalaloch. If you had density levels like this you’d have to search hard to find any (adult-size) clams.”

Hopes ran high for Kalaloch last season, which had been closed since 2011-12 season, and then saw a brief dig this past season on Jan. 8-9. That dig produced a paltry 1,410 clams for 637 diggers who averaged 2.2 clams per person.

During 2016-17, 68 digging days coast-wide produced 4,117,431 clams for 281,374 diggers trips compared to 4,665,743 clams with an effort of 327,545 during 2015-16 season.

So far this summer marine toxin levels for domoic acid remained under the 20 parts-per-million cutoff. Latest tests taken showed levels at 14.0 on July 12 at Long Beach; 8.0 on July 11 at Twin Harbors; 11.0 on July 25 at Copalis; and 11.0 on July 25 at Mocrocks.

Fall and winter razor clam digs occur during evening low tides while spring-time digs occur during morning low tides.

State Fish and Wildlife plans to have the public comment review period ready by early next month, and information will be posted at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

“We’ll probably set some digging time during the first part of October where we have a series of good low tides, but everything is dependent on further marine toxin testing,” Ayres said.

Ichiro Nakata of Mercer Island likes what he found in the sand during a night time dig at Copalis Beach.

Word on lost Puget Sound shellfish harvest opportunities

State Fish and Wildlife is looking for public opinion on a draft developed to make up for lost shellfish opportunities on Whidbey Island due to an oil spill from a boat that caught fire in 2012.

The area being looked at is Penn Cove, which was closed for shellfish for several weeks beginning in May of 2012.

“Calculating the value of these damages is a challenging process, but we think we have good data and rational to support our plan,” Don Noviello, with state Fish and Wildlife’s Oil Spill Team said in a news release.

If granted, the plan call for distribution of varying levels of oyster seeds at three beaches in the Penn Cove area over two seasons.

To view the plan, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/habitat/oil_spill/damage.html. Submit comments via email through Sept. 5 at PennCoveNRDA@dfw.wa.gov.

 

Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1, and don’t expect solitude at highly popular late-summer destination

While king salmon garner most of the attention at Buoy 10 look for some huge coho like this one hooked last August.

By Mark Yuasa

Year in and year out, the Lower Columbia River mouth near Buoy 10 has been deemed one of the top salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest and anglers will see an added caveat in later-summer.

Tony Floor, the director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association has made this is second home in late-summer since the mid-1980s, and indicates Buoy 10 usually produces decent action right when it opens.

State Fish and Wildlife says the projected catches at Buoy 10 will be around 22,100 chinook and 16,560 coho (including 1,500 release mortalities).

“I think realistically its tougher to predict this season and the best data is the forecast, which can be debated,” Floor said. “I believe them and have used them for 45 years, and the number this season is significantly down by 35 to 45 percent. The reality button is people should show patience.”

The good news is anglers will be allowed to keep wild and/or hatchery chinook daily, unlike last year when wild chinook needed to be released on Sundays and Mondays. During those two days last summer there was a big drop in effort as not many of the kings are hatchery-marked fish.

The fishing season will get underway on Aug. 1 through Labor Day (Sept. 4) with a daily limit of two salmon, and only one of which can be a chinook. The daily limit at Buoy 10 from Sept. 5 through 30 will be two hatchery coho, but all chinook must be released.

From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, the Buoy 10 rules allow anglers to keep two adult salmon daily, but coho must be hatchery-marked.

In-season considerations include a potential for allowing a chinook mark-selective fishery during all or part of the non-retention season from Sept. 5-30.

The red navigational buoy – known as Buoy 10 – is located just south of the Port of Ilwaco which marks the western boundary of this nearly 20-mile fishing area that heads east upstream to the Tongue Point-Rocky Point boundary above the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Just like last year, if you haven’t already booked moorage space don’t expect to any spaces as the Port of Ilwaco has filled their allotment in August. Anglers will still be able to get their boats in the water at various boat ramps, but be patient and expect long waiting times at the ramps.

The red navigational marker known as “Buoy 10” is a place many anglers flock to, but there are many other areas to fish at the Lower Columbia River mouth.

A Columbia River fall chinook forecast of 582,600 closely mirrors last year’s actual return (951,300 was forecast last year with an actual return of 643,300), and was the fourth largest on record but down significantly from the record runs in 2013 to 2015.

The all-time actual return record dating to 1938 was 1,268,400 adult chinook in 2013, which was 227 percent of the 2003-to-2012 average of 557,600 adult fish. In 2014, the actual return was 1,159,000, which was second-highest on record.

“We saw some of the biggest runs of the century (in 2013-2015), and now it has fallen down due to ocean conditions, El Nino and the blob,” Floor said. “But, despite all the rhetoric it is still a good choice, and the best timeframe will be the third week of August.”

The Columbia River coho forecast calls for 496,200 to arrive off the Washington-Oregon coast, compared to a preseason forecast of 549,200 last year and an actual return of 317,000.

That is a stark difference in comparison to a forecast of 1,015,000 in 2015 and an actual return of 322,100 and a forecast in 2014 of 964,100 with a return of 1,240,800.

The Columbia subtotal this season is 386,300 (380,600 last year and 223,100 actual return) – these are fish that turn the corner of southwest Washington and into the “Big-C” and doesn’t include the northern Oregon coast.

The Columbia forecast last year was 777,100 coho, but less than a third actually returned – 242,300. Poor ocean conditions and a lack of feed could have played a negative role.

The gear at Buoy 10 is fairly simplistic and consists of a weighted diver with a KoneZone- or Fish-Flash-type flasher tied to a leader with a whole or cut-plug herring in 30 feet of water.

Clyde McBrayer of Olympia hoists a beautiful king salmon caught just below the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Anglers will need to constantly check their herring as it will get tattered while being dragged along the sandy bottom or from the extremely strong tides. Spinners like a Toman’s Thumper Flex with a blade in red/white or chartreuse attached to a plastic squid or a Brad’s Super Bait Cut Plug lure.

In the early morning on a flood tide, plan to first stop along the Wing Walls – located outside of the Port of Ilwaco – and work your way up and down the river.

The Desdemona Sands (a flat sandy bar which is exposed at low tides) is a place to look at during a mid- to late-flood tide as fish move along the drop-offs. Many will also work the buoy line on the Oregon side up to the bridge, which has also become a very popular area.

Fish either above or below the Astoria-Megler Bridge during flood tide change because that is where the kings tend to hang as they get pushed in with the tide. Others will concentrate at the Church Hole off Fort Columbia State Park; and the northern tip of Fort Stevens State Park on the Oregon side west toward Hammond.

A newly discovered location this summer has been the channel leading out of the Port of Ilwaco marina where anglers were scoring on “dip-in” salmon.

The area is very diverse so if the bite is off at the mouth of the river, many will head out into the ocean along the 30-foot line just outside the surf off Long Beach near the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. This is a relatively easy place to fish when ocean conditions allow with anglers letting out 13 to 15 pulls of line (two feet per pull) with a diver or Fish Flash and a whole or cut-plug herring.

The best time off Long Beach is August as salmon stage before moving into the Columbia River, and it doesn’t matter on the tide or time of day as long as the fish are holding. On the surf line look on your depth-finder for huge anchovy baitfish schools.

If the batfish aren’t holding off Long Beach, then another option is the the ocean fishing grounds about 7 to 10 miles to areas west of the CR Buoy at depths of 50 to 80 feet, and ofen-times the Ilwaco charter boat fleet will venture even further to the 300-foot depth line.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife data from last season taken between Aug. 1 and Oct. 2 showed 5,018 boats with 15,701 kept 3,004 chinook (plus 1,332 released), 1,478 hatchery coho (plus 763 coho released) and 12 steelhead (plus two steelhead reelased) for 0.19 chinook per rod average and 0.09 on coho and 0.29 for both species.

The week-by-week catch per rod average was 0.11 for Aug. 1-7; 0.20 for Aug. 8-14; 0.22 for Aug. 15-21; 0.41 for Aug. 22-28; 0.50 for Aug. 29-Sept. 4; 0.48 for Sept. 6-11; 0.17 for Sept. 12-18; 0.13 for Sept. 19-25; and 0.16 for Sept. 26-Oct. 2.

The ocean outside the Lower Columbia River mouth produces very good catches of salmon.

Catches abound outside Buoy 10

The Rocky Point-Tongue Point line to the Lewis River/Warrior Rock line is open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 7 for chinook catch-and-keep, and then only hatchery-marked chinook may be kept from Sept. 8-14. Daily limit is two adult fish, and only one may be a chinook. Chinook retention will reopen Oct. 1 with a two fish daily limit of which two may be chinook.

The Lewis River/Warrior Rock line to Bonneville Dam will be open for chinook from this Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. The daily limit is two adult salmon of which two may be chinook.

In those two areas, state fisheries expect a catch (including release mortality) of 21,890 adult chinook (33,620 last year) and 1,040 adult coho (1,570 last year).

Areas from Bonneville Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco will be open Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 with a daily limit of two adult salmon. The catch expectation is 4,080 adult chinook.

Anglers on the boat may keep fishing until the catch limit is achieved for all aboard from Buoy 10 up to the Oregon/Washington border.

Shore fishing is option at Buoy 10

Both sides at the Lower Columbia River mouth have good shoreline fishing options where anglers can have a decent chance to catch a salmon.

The North Jetty on the Washington side is open daily when the marine area off Ilwaco or Buoy 10 areas are open for salmon. The daily limit and minimum size restrictions follow the most liberal of either of these areas. A saltwater or combination license is required to fish from the North Jetty.

On the Oregon side, anglers on an incoming tide can cast from long sandy stretch of beach-line along Clatsop Spit west of Hammond in the State Park. Most will cast a Blue Fox or Mepps spinner attached to a 30-inch leader with a one ounce banana weight to run it off the bottom. Other will use a number 5 or 6 bell-body red or orange lure with a small Nickle-blade dodger.

Willapa Bay another worthwhile destination

Buoy 10 isn’t the only later-summer option to catch salmon, and just north is Willapa Bay near Tokeland and from the towns of Raymond down to South Bend along Highway 101.

Not only does the Willapa River system host a good number of chinook, but the Columbia River chinook tend to dip-in at Washaway Beach.

The Willapa system itself is expecting a good run of 32,674 (36,200 was forecast last year) hatchery kings for a total run of 36,805, and has seen an increased hatchery production with boosted runs since 1988. This shallow water fishery will be good from August and peaks usually around Labor Day weekend. has seen an increased hatchery production with boosted runs since 1988.

More than a decade ago, the best fishing occurred along the shallow surf line at Washaway Beach on the outer perimeter of Cape Shoalwater, which is the major migration highway for salmon.

Now the fishery has shifted inside the bay’s deep channel and is dotted with red and green channel markers numbered from 2 to 27. The markers start in the middle of the bay and run all the way to the Willapa River mouth, and it is here where the salmon park before heading into the Willapa River salmon hatchery and some to the spawning grounds.

The preferred technique is to slowly troll in water 10 to 25 feet deep using a 6-ounce drop sinker ball on a three-way sliding swivel attached to a chartreuse green Kone Zone flasher and a 6-foot leader laced with a cut-plug herring.

Be sure to keep your bait about 1-2 feet off the bottom, smack dab in front of the fish’s face.

Salmon move in and out of the bay to feed on baitfish pushed in by the tides. Stay away from big tidal flows as grass that gets pushed into the bay can make it virtually impossible to keep off you gear.

 

Columbia River Catch and Release Sturgeon

by Jason Brooks

The lower Columbia river that separates Oregon and Washington is a super-highway for salmon and steelhead. As fall runs approach most anglers set up and wait to intercept fish. A single take-down makes everyone on board excited but what if there was another fishery where you can catch over a dozen or two fish that are measured in feet instead of inches using simple techniques on the same waters; there is and its sturgeon fishing!

Bruce Warren and Ryan Brooks with a Columbia River sturgeon-Jason Brooks

The lower Columbia is full of sturgeon and thanks to a well-regulated fishery with a long catch and release season you can go out with minimal gear and catch fish all day long. This past week my son Ryan and I joined Chris Kelly and his son Nathan and fished with Bruce Warren of Fishing for Fun Guide Service (253) 208-7433.

The morning’s Sun rising over the Columbia-Jason Brooks

Using two large sand shrimp wrapped onto a Gamakatsu 6/0 Big River barbless hook tied to a 40-pound lead of Izorline’s clear XXX we made sure to soak the baits with Pro-Cure bait oil. The mainline was 65-pound braid spooled onto a level wind reel and a stout 7’8” rod rated for 12-40 pounds. A 16-ounce pyramid weight on a slider kept our bait right on the bottom.

Sand shrimp soaked in Pro-Cure on a 6/0 Gamakatsu Big River barbless hook-Jason Brooks

The bites were surprisingly light. A tap of the rod tip and a few pulls, then you set the hook by swinging the rod upriver and reeling down at the same time. It took about a dozen bites for us to get the technique down and then the catching began.

Chris Kelly and his son Nathan with Guide Bruce Warren-Jason Brooks

As the sun rose we moved to a few other spots. Bruce doesn’t like over fishing any one place, even though all of the fish were safely released. Most of the sturgeon were between 35 and 45 inches with the largest fish of the day measuring 46 ½ inches at the fork landed by Chris Kelly and his son Nathan doing a team effort.

The biggest fish of the trip measured just shy of 5 feet-Jason Brooks

At the end of the day we pulled back into the marina and briefly talked to the fish checker. Out of a half a dozen boats only one summer Chinook was reported as being caught. He asked if we caught anything and when I replied we landed 18 fish in less than four hours he looked at me and knew that we were sturgeon fishing. Adding that this was about normal for a few hours. We didn’t see any other boats on the water during our entire trip while sitting on anchor for sturgeon.

Chris Kelly fighting one of the eighteen fish we caught in just a few hours with Guide Bruce Warren-Jason Brooks

Bruce Warren is one of the best lower Columbia guides I fish with. Not only does he provide a safe and successful trip but he is willing to share his techniques and make sure you know how to catch fish. He mentioned that this fishery will be great for several more weeks as long as the water temperatures are warm and there is a good current.

Guide Bruce Warren of Fishing for Fun Guide Service casting out the heavy set-up -Jason Brooks

We fished through a tide change but as long as the water was flowing downstream we were catching fish. So while you await the fall salmon and steelhead runs head to the Columbia and sit on anchor and do some sturgeon catching or give Bruce a call and he’ll be happy to take you out and show you how it’s done.

Jason Brooks

The Outdoor Line Blogger

Jason Brooks Photography

Decent hatchery king action expected when central and northern Puget Sound opens this Sunday

John Martinis, owner of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett and his son with a nice catch of hatchery kings from northern Puget Sound.

The inner-marine waterway salmon fisheries will begin in earnest this coming Sunday (July 16) when northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) open for the much anticipated hatchery king fishery.

“The increased quota for the mark-selective fishery is primarily due to the larger run size we forecasted, and there should be more hatchery chinook which extrapolates to good fishing,” said Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreational salmon manager. “I also think the mark rate will be pretty high.”

In northern Puget Sound the hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,599 compared to 3,056 in 2016; and central Puget Sound Sound will have a catch quota of 2,166 compared to 1,395 in 2016.

Both areas will be open for hatchery-marked kings this Sunday (July 16) through Aug. 15, but could close sooner if the catch quota is achieved.

On paper, the Puget Sound outlook for summer chinook shows an uptick with a forecast of 193,962 (166,235 are hatchery and 27,727 are wild) compared to 165,150 forecasted last summer.

“We feel pretty solid about this year’s salmon fisheries, and more comfortable than the past years,” Lothrop said. “We did a lot of double- and triple-checking on our forecasts, and there’s a lot more data on chinook that would make the forecast actually materialize.”

The hatchery jack chinook returns last year indicate a strong return of four-year-old chinook coming back this summer, which makes up the bulk of the sport catch.

A good portion of this summer’s chinook return originates from southern Puget Sound where 80,400 hatchery and 4,700 wild fish are predicted to arrive. A breakdown of major South Sound hatchery production includes 8,219 in Carr Inlet, 18,341 in Deschutes, 22,669 in Nisqually and 1,229 in Chambers Creek.

The northern Puget Sound chinook forecast is 53,209 with a slight improvement on Stillaguamish of 1,500 (500 last year); Snohomish is 8,200 (8,300); Skagit is 16,200 (15,500); Nooksack is 21,200 (27,900); and Tulalip is 5,300 (1,400).

If there is any indication on how catches could fare one should look at what is happening n fisheries right now in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, south-central Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and Strait of Georgia in British Columbia.

“Area 11 (south-central Puget Sound) has been solid lately,” Lothrop said. “There is some early evidence that folks are running into chinook in Area 10 (central Puget Sound which opened July 1 for hatchery coho only).”

Christine WIlmsen holds a catch of resident coho salmon.

Port Townsend typically gets off to a hot start, and since the area didn’t open early on July 1 for a coho only fishery that might make the bite decent.

King catches off Port Angeles have also been fairly good of late, fair to good in the San Juan Islands and very good in southern portions of B.C. waters with many of those fish being hatchery-marked kings. The positive news is those fish are most likely of Puget Sound origin since Canada doesn’t mass mark any of their kings.

“A couple of surprises we might have and I anticipate we’ll catch quite a few hatchery coho judging from the big numbers of coho we had seen this winter in South Sound,” Lothrop said. ‘I’ve also heard of reports of more pink salmon caught in Area 11 already.”

“For better or worse it is only a two salmon daily limit, and no bonus pink limits, but it will be realistic to get a limit of mixed salmon species and you won’t have to spend all day fishing,” Lothrop said. “The pink numbers will start to increase as the summer progresses and right out of the gate on July 16 anglers should consider getting some hatchery coho or pinks if the bite goes off for the kings.”

Look for thousands of anglers to turnout when inner-Elliott Bay opens for a three-day king fishery on Aug. 11-13. This fishery will allow a chance at 16,362 chinook destined for the Green River (13,988 are of hatchery origin). The inner-bay will be open Fridays to Sundays only from Aug. 18-20 and Aug. 25-27 for hatchery coho and pinks only. Places like Pier 86 in Elliott Bay and the Seacrest Boathouse Pier will also give up a fair share of kings during the summer, both of which are open Aug. 1 through Sept.15 with a one king daily limit.

The terminal hatchery-marked chinook and coho fishery in Sinclair Inlet is currently open through Sept. 30. In this area anglers will need to release wild chinook and coho from Aug. 1 through Sept. 15.

The summer hatchery king fishery has been anywhere from spotty to fairly good along the northern side of Vashon Island south to Tacoma since it opened on June 1. Dogfish have been a huge problem for baitfish anglers.

Places like Southworth, Dolphin Point, Point Robinson, Three Tree Point, Brace Point, Colvos Passage, outside of Gig Harbor, south side of Vashon Island and Point Defiance Park in Tacoma from the Clay Banks east toward the Slag Pile are all “good to go” fishing bets in the next couple of months especially later in August as the South Sound bound kings appear in bigger numbers.

Looking further ahead anglers should expect some decent coho fishing in central (Area 10) and south-central Puget Sound (Area 11), which will both be open through Oct. 31. It will be a hatchery-marked coho only fishery in central Sound while all coho and hatchery-marked chinook may be kept in south-central Puget Sound.

“I anticipate basically in Area 10 on southward ought to have good coho opportunity in late August , and September and October,” Lothrop said. “It will fare better than expected as there will be a lot of areas where the fish aren’t fished on (to the north) like they have in the past. There should be a good combination of opportunity for what the coho forecasts look like.”

This year’s Puget Sound coho return is 590,336 (300,696 are of hatchery origin and 289,640 are wild) compared to 255,403 (166,589 and 87,350) in 2016.

Benny Wong of Seattle holds up a hatchery chinook caught in central Puget Sound.

BY THE NUMBERS FOR 2016 NORTHERN PUGET SOUND (AREA 9)

(No two seasons are alike, but here is just a glimpse of how success fared last year during the selective hatchery-marked king fisheries)

July 16-17 – 1,520 boats with 3,416 anglers retaining 894 hatchery-marked chinook (six wild fish illegally kept), and released 2,003 hatchery-marked and 842 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 3,746.

July 18-24 – 3,058 boats with 6,186 anglers retaining 1,265 hatchery-marked chinook (three wild fish illegally kept), and released 2,833 hatchery-marked and 1,196 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 5,297.

July 25-31 – 1,930 boats with 3,967 anglers retaining 618 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 1,384 hatchery-marked and 586 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 2,588.

Aug. 1-4 – 742 boats with 1,342 anglers retaining 195 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 436 hatchery-marked and 185 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 816.

Season total from July 16 to Aug. 4 – 7,250 boats with 14,911 anglers retaining 2,972 hatchery-marked chinook (nine wild fish were illegally kept), and released 6,657 hatchery-marked and 2,809 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 12,448.

BY THE NUMBERS FOR 2016 CENTRAL PUGET SOUND (AREA 10)

July 16-17 – 604 boats with 1,350 anglers retaining 106 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 122 hatchery-marked and 85 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 313.

July 18-24 – 860 boats with 1,752 anglers retaining 134 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 153 hatchery-marked and 107 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 394.

July 25-31 – 1,028 boats with 1,952 anglers retaining 196 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 224 hatchery-marked and 156 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 576.

Aug. 1-7 – 1,084 boats with 2,060 anglers retaining 244 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 279 hatchery-marked and 195 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 718.

Aug. 8-14 – 1,014 boats with 1,949 anglers retaining 335 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 383 hatchery-marked and 268 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 986.

Aug. 15 – 99 boats with 2172 anglers retaining 31 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 36 hatchery-marked and 25 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 93.

RCAW Derby – Five boats with 12 anglers retaining five hatchery-marked chinook, and released six hatchery-marked and four wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 15.

South King County PSA Derby – 33 boats with 67 anglers retaining 33 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 38 hatchery-marked and 26 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 97.

Season total from July 16 to Aug. 4 – 4,726 boats with 9,314 anglers retaining 1,085 hatchery-marked chinook, and released 1,241 hatchery-marked and 866 wild fish for a total estimated chinook encounter of 3,192.

Mount Baker looms in the background of Baker Lake where sockeye fishing is expected to be good later this summer. Photo courtesy of David Kim.

Nibbles and bites

The Lake Washington sockeye count hit 98,146 surpassing the 77,292 pre-season forecast! Through Sunday the run was still behind 119,496 in 2006 when the last sport fishery occurred.

Recent single-day counts were: July 9, 4,777; July 8, 4,721; July 7, 5,496; July 6, 2,126; July 5, 5,562; July 4, 7,466; July 3, 5,411; July 2, 6,286; July 1, 4,481; June 30, 3,877; June 29, 5,585; June 28, 3,614; June 27, 4,665; June 26, 4,319; June 25, 3,482; June 24, 2,797; June 23, 4,342. Spawning goal is 350,000, but late word is fisheries officials could drop it to 200,000 if the run nears that mark. Now tracking between 150,000 and 200,000. Look for it to peak this week. Fingers crossed!

According to Aaron Bosworth a state fisheries biologist they ran a model to see what the end of season run would look like at it was hovering at 149,000, but he noticed the counts were still holding in there and while nothing was hitting the 10,000 single-day counts they saw 6,000-plus fish day which is pretty good. He said it might be higher at more like 150,000 or 200,000. He says it still too soon to say which way this run will go, and didn’t see any evidence the run is peaking just yet.

The state and tribes were talking this past week about trying to finalize that 200,000 fish spawning threshold and wanted to finish that up as soon as possible if the counts continue to climb toward that updated magical number.

One more week should give us a lot more information Bosworth said. “It started to come in early this summer, and in 2013 and 2015,” he said. “I think in those two years it came in really early and they thought it was a huge run and then it petered out to 150,000 and 180,000 which is still a decent return.”

The timing on the returns seems a lot earlier than historical figures show, and Bosworth thinks this run is kind of similar and he just doesn’t see it going big like in 2006. But it is certainly a strong year and a good return to the hatchery and he’s definitely excited about that.

Up north the Baker River fish-trap has 4,663 sockeye and 2,714 transferred to Baker Lake (which is now open for fishing, but was somewhat on the spotty this past weekend). Counts: 545 on 7/9; 546 on 7/8; 663 on 7/7; 645 on 7/6; 315 on 7/5; 318 on 7/4; 395 on 7/3; 179 on 7/2; 122 on 7/1; 53 on June 30; 152 on 6/29; 213 on 6/28; 150 on 6/27; 132 fish on 6/26; 74 on 6/25; 49 on 6/24; 34 on 6/23; 25 on 6/22; and 14 on 6/21. The pre-season, state and tribal biologists produced an estimate run of 47,000.

The Skagit River fishery is open, but closed July 11 to avoid gear conflict with tribal fisheries. Netting dates may change so checkhttps://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/.

“Sockeye fishing got a little better in the Skagit River, but not spectacular,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “The so-so fishing had more to do with clearer water conditions instead of the bad conditions. In fact we’ve got four foot of visibility. It is a beautiful steelhead green color, and that doesn’t equate to good plunking conditions.”

“It will take the fish we do plant on those a couple of days to acclimate, and they aren’t very bitable,” Barkdull said. “If I were to look at the opener it would be like finding a needle in the haystack. They aren’t late coming back and last year was incredibly early. In most years the peak of the run is July 16 and around half of the fish will arrive right around that time frame. We are just on the beginning of the front end of the run. I’d say the third week of this month is when the fishing will really turn on at Baker Lake.”

 

Retired state fisheries regional director Bob Everitt may have caught a new state Pacific sanddab record

Ichiro Nakata of Mercer Island holds up a small flounder he caught off Possession Point. Retired state fisheries regional director Bob Everitt has set a possible new state record for a sanddab flounder he caught on July 1 off Jefferson Head.

Something mighty fishy has been happening in Puget Sound, and it deals with one tiny bottom-dwelling sea creature that often gets no respect in the sport-fishing world.

Just a short while ago – on May 25 to be exact – the state record for a Pacific sanddab was set by Juan Valero of Seattle who caught a 1.00 pound fish off Possession Point in northern Puget Sound.

Now it looks like that newly established record could be in jeopardy after recently retired Bob Everitt, the former Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife director for the Region Four Mill Creek Office, could have broken the record during a fishing outing on July 1.

While unofficial until verified by WDFW, Everitt who spent 33.7 years as a state fisheries employee, was out fishing with Danny Garrett, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, off Jefferson Head where the duo was mooching for resident coho salmon and seeking out Dungeness crab on the opening day in Marine Catch Area 10 (central Puget Sound).

“It was Everitt’s first day of retirement from our department, and he was super excited,” Garrett said. “I’ve never mooched for salmon before so I wanted to try and catch a coho. We had only hooked a couple of (dogfish) sharks and a few sanddabs, and gave it just an hour or two while we soaked our crab pots.”

“We weren’t taking anything too seriously, and it was around 4 p.m. when (Everitt) hooked not just one but two sanddabs on each of his (tandem) hooks,” Garrett said. “After he caught it I told him we should get it weighed because I knew it was bigger (than the previous record) just by looking at it.”

Everitt and Garrett followed all the procedures to make it an official state record (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/records/) by immediately taking it a grocery store that had a certified scale.

“It weighed 1.22 pounds and was 14 inches long, and that would edge out the record fish caught by Valero by .22 pounds,” Garrett said. “(Everitt) has been a fixture with the state agency, and what a great way to kick off his retirement.”

While unofficial until official, the soon-to-be record is being processed by WDFW, and an announcement along with a picture should come to light very soon.

 

 

Coastal salmon fisheries off to decent start, coho mostly a no show; and early Lake Washington sockeye counts are soaring

Tegan Yuasa admires a nice catch of chinook salmon.

The coastal salmon fishery started off on a high note this past weekend at Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay, and many are also gearing up for the Westport opener this coming Saturday.

“What we’re seeing at Ilwaco is interestingly all chinook in the catch, and a lot of people with their one-chinook (daily) limit,” said Wendy Beeghly, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon manager. “People are having trouble finding coho. I heard up north they’re seeing more chinook than coho although they did have coho in the catch, plus some pinks which is pretty early.”

Beeghly said the average catch was a fish per person at La Push and Neah Bay or could even be a little higher after all the data is tallied. The average size at La Push, Neah Bay and Ilwaco was 8 to 12 pounds with some bigger ones too.

“It is not great weather conditions, but not terrible although it might get worse during the week,” Beeghly said. “Apparently we’ve got windy weather coming (northwest winds are forecasted at 15 to 25 mph Monday through Wednesday).”

Clyde McBrayer of Olympia holds a 25-plus pound king caught in the ocean off Ilwaco that was bound for the Columbia River.

A Columbia River fall chinook forecast of 582,600 resembles last year’s actual return (951,300 was forecast last year with an actual return of 643,300), and was the fourth largest on record although down significantly from record runs in 2013 to 2015.

“We’ve had some strong chinook returns in past years, and those are the bread-and-butter of our fisheries,” Beeghly said. “The Columbia chinook returns look slightly below average. I would expect coho returns to be OK and nothing on fire.”

Ocean king fisheries will be driven by a lower river hatchery chinook stock of 92,400 and Bonneville Pool hatchery chinook stock of 158,400 – better known as “tule chinook” – that are mainly caught off Ilwaco, Westport and later in summer at Buoy 10 near the Lower Columbia River mouth.

The tule are a lower river hatchery run is close to recent five-year average, and Bonneville Pool hatchery run is predicted to be the second highest return since 2004.

The all-time actual return record dating back to 1938 was 1,268,400 adult chinook in 2013, up from 227 percent of the 2003-to-2012 average of 557,600 adult fish. In 2014, the actual return was 1,159,000, which was second-highest on record.

On the table this summer is a sport chinook catch quota of 45,000 fish, which is 10,000 more fish than 2016’s quota of 35,000 chinook. A quota of 42,000 hatchery-marked coho for this summer’s sport fishery is about 23,100 more fish than last year’s quota of 18,900 coho.

Writer Mark Yuasa holds up a king salmon caught in the ocean.

The Ilwaco catch quota is 21,000 hatchery-marked coho and 13,200 chinook; Westport is 15,540 hatchery-marked coho and 21,400 chinook; La Push is 1,090 hatchery-marked coho and 2,500 chinook; and Neah Bay is 4,370 hatchery-marked coho and 7,900 chinook.

The ocean non-tribal commercial troll fisheries opened in May, and after a lull during the brief season it recently started to show signs of life.

“The troll fishery slowed way down for about three weeks, and that is not all uncommon to see, but just this past week it really started to pick back up,” said Beeghly. “It looks like a new batch of fish are coming through, and we’ve seen some bigger fish up north (off Neah Bay).”

Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay are currently open for salmon fishing, and Westport opens Saturday (July 1). Fishing will remain open daily at all four coastal ports through Sept. 4 or until quotas are caught, whichever comes first.

The daily limit at Neah Bay and La Push is two salmon of either chinook or hatchery-marked coho. The daily limit at Westport and Ilwaco is two salmon, but only one may be a chinook. The chinook minimum size limit is 24 inches and the hatchery-marked coho minimum size is 16 inches.

The entrance to the Port of Ilwaco will be one of the areas that takes center-stage this summer for thousands of salmon anglers trying their luck off the coast.

Catches weren’t great last summer with an average at Westport of 0.81 chinook per rod during the first week of August; 0.49 at Neah Bay; 0.10 at La Push; and 0.56 at Ilwaco.

Many overlook premier summer king fisheries off La Push and Neah Bay. Make plans to trek in mid-July to La Push and Neah Bay where kings and other salmon species either head into the Strait of Juan de Fuca or continue their journey south along the coast.

The trend in recent years for kings occurs along the 30-foot line just outside the surf in the ocean off Long Beach near the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. This is a relatively easy place to fish when ocean conditions allow with anglers letting out 13 to 15 pulls of line (two feet per pull) with a diver or Fish Flash and a whole or cut-plug herring.

The best time off Long Beach is August as salmon stage before moving into the Columbia River, and it doesn’t matter on the tide or time of day as long as the fish are holding. On the surf line look for huge anchovy baitfish schools.

NOTE: A lesson learned last summer was if the fish aren’t showing at Long Beach don’t waste too much time plowing an empty field. We moved south just about five miles, and payoff turned out to be money in the pocket.

A party of Westport anglers hold up their bounty of kings caught in the ocean off Grays Harbor.

As the summer progresses in late summer and early fall salmon fishing will shift to the Buoy-10 area at the mouth of the Columbia River and up and beyond the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

The Buoy-10 king salmon season is open Aug. 1 through Sept. 4 then shifts to coho only from Sept. 5-30. Look for this to blossom by the middle of August although in past years the fish have shown up right from the start.

The Desdemona Sands (a flat sandy bar which is exposed at low tides) is a place to look at during a mid- to late-flood tide as fish move along the drop-offs. Many will also work the buoy line on the Oregon side up to the bridge, which has also become a very popular area.

In the early morning on a flood tide, plan to first stop along the Wing Walls – located outside of the Port of Ilwaco – and work your way up and down the river.

Anglers are still holding out hope that a Lake Washington sockeye fishery will occur later this summer. Pictured are a group of anglers who had luck in the south-end of the lake during the last time a fishery occurred in 2006.

Nibbles and bites

Lake Washington sockeye returns are off to a really robust start, but many are under cautious optimism since this is just the early stages with the peak of the run occurring around July 4.

“It is off to a strong start, but when you look at the run two years ago they came in early and it seemed like a big run only to eventually even out at the end,” said Aaron Bosworth, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “My suspicion is we’re on track for something like that, but it is still too soon to know. It could be as high as 190,000, but that could change dramatically as we move forward.”

Total so far this season is 29,760 slightly ahead of 29,159 in 2006 when the last sport fishery occurred. Pre-season forecast was 77,292.

Single-day counts were: 3,482 on June 25; 2,797 on June 24; 4,342 on June 23; 2,230 on June 22; 2,071 on June 21; 2,448 on June 20; 2,563 on June 19; 1,964 on June 18; 2,124 on June 17; 2,039 on June 16; 1,359 on June 15; 1,201 on June 14; 352 on June 13; and 728 on June 12.

Fishery workers have been collecting samples of sockeye at the Locks, and had no problem gathering their 200 fish.

“The fish are in really good condition, and there seems to be a lot of large five-year-old fish,” Bosworth said. “Last year we were supposed to see more big fish, but we didn’t, and maybe they stayed in the ocean as age four fish and are now coming back as age five fish.”

The outgoing fry migration of this summer’s adult returning fish was an above average number of both wild and hatchery produced sockeye fry.

The spawning goal is 350,000, but recently fisheries managers have agreed if the run exceeds 200,000 then they could possibly open a fishing season on the state’s second largest freshwater watershed. Keep your fingers crossed on this one!

John Martinis owner of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett and his son kneel besides a nice catch of hatchery kings.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sekiu to Port Angeles opens for hatchery kings on Saturday (July 1) through Aug. 15, and last summer the eastern portion got off to a hot start.

“We had some spectacular days around Port Angeles when it opened last summer, and I’ll be there for the opener,” said Tony Floor, the director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

Sekiu in the western Strait will remain open from Aug. 16-31 for a fishery that targets mainly pinks and hatchery-marked coho.

While there won’t be a bonus catch limit for pinks, anglers in the eastern Strait can keep two additional sockeye salmon in a daily limit. The problem is you’ll need to figure out how to catch them as they’ve been rather tricky to get to bite. Commercial trollers in the ocean have success using bare red hooks or small hootchie rigs has been the new “go to” way when fishing in places like Baker Lake.

The Army Corp of Engineers made a mistake (and we are all entitled to those) on the Columbia River shad count at Bonneville Dam on June 19 as a malfunction in their counting system tallied the wrong figure.

They revised the total single-day from 497,738 to 247,366. That’s still not a shabby daily count, just not the near record proportions as originally thought. That was followed by another 246,596 shad on June 20, and 148,872 on June 21. That brought the total season count to 1,310,094. The highest single-day counts were in 2003 with 506,724 on June 5 and 520,664 on June 6.

Fishing off the Washington bank just below Bonneville Dam has been excellent. Some groups of anglers last week had close to a hundred fish when sampled.  Fish are reported to be good sized.  A popular fishing location, Steamboat Landing Dock in Washougal, is closed and will be opened in the future after repairs are made.

The elusive geoduck like this being held by Taylan Yuasa can be found on many beaches of Puget Sound and Hood Canal especially during extreme low tides during summer.

The most extreme low tides of the summer are happening right now, and that means Puget Sound shellfish seekers targeting the elusive deep-dwelling geoduck should find excellent opportunities as well as for a variety of other clams and oysters.

Low tide: Monday, minus-3.0 feet at 1:05 p.m.; and Tuesday, -2.2 at 1:53 p.m. Next series of low tides are July 7, -1.0 at 9:10 p.m.; July 8, -1.3 at 11:07 a.m.; July 9, -1.4 at 11:42 a.m.; July 10, -1.5 at 12:17 p.m.; and July 11, -1.3 at 12:54 p.m. Those will be followed by even more lower tides on July 20, -1.5 at 8:48 a.m.; July 21, -2.4 at 9:39 a.m.; July 22, -2.8 at 10:27 a.m.; July 23, -3.0 at 11:15 a.m.; July 24, -2.7 at 12:01 p.m.; -2.1 at 12:47 p.m.; and July 25, -1.1 at 1:32 p.m.

Diggers should note that all eastern mainland beaches from Everett south into southern Puget Sound are also closed for shellfish due to unsafe pollution levels. Before heading to a beach, call the marine biotoxin hotline at 800-562-5632 or visit the website at www.doh.wa.gov. Also check the state fisheries hotline at 866-880-5431 and website at http://wdfw.wa.gov. State Fish and Wildlife offers a good interactive shellfish map at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/beachreg.

 

 

Puget Sound Dungeness crab remain bountiful this summer, but will see a decline south of Seattle

Writer Mark Yuasa and Tony Floor hold up some nice Dungeness crab caught in southern Puget Sound.

By Mark Yuasa

The Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries have been riding on a high note the past few years, and while nothing should skip a beat this summer there could be a dip in success in portions of Puget Sound mainly south of Seattle.

“In general summer crabbing should be good when it opens, but abundance will be down in (Marine Catch) Area 13 (southern Puget Sound), and parts of 11 (south-central Puget Sound), 10 (central Puget Sound), and 8-1 and 8-2 (east side of Whidbey Island),” said Don Velasquez, a state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound regional shellfish biologist.

Those looking to get a jump start can begin setting pots this Friday (June 16) at Neah Bay east of the Tatoosh-Bonilla line (Area 4), Sekiu (Area 5) and south-central Puget Sound (Area 11), while Hood Canal (Area 12) and south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff (a portion of Area 9) opens June 24. The vast majority of others marine waterways will open July 1, except two areas of the San Juan Islands that will open later in the summer to protect molting crab.

“This cooler spring has shifted when crab are molting, and could have affected numbers during our test fisheries,” Velasquez said. “Looking at what we’ve seen so far taking place compared to the past few years, the Dungeness crab population is down in some areas. We haven’t gotten any information on crab abundance from Strait of Juan de Fuca or Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) yet.”

Velasquez pointed out that red rock populations are plentiful everywhere, and they seem healthy especially around the Puget Sound region south of Seattle.

In all, the state harvest Puget Sound-wide (includes Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca) in 2016 for Dungeness crab was 5,295,000 pounds for sport and non-tribal fishermen, and of that the sport catch total was 2,381,000 pounds. Tribal fishermen caught 5.350,000 pounds. The total catch between all three parties was 10,645,000 pounds.


This comes on the heels of an all-time record catch in 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.

In 2013, recreational crabbers pulled in 2,103,589 pounds (2,315,833 caught by non-tribal fishermen), and 4,726,024 pounds caught by tribal fishermen for a total of 9,145,446 pounds. In 2012, it was 2,575,863 (2,601,945) and 5,164,423 for a total of 10,342,231. In 2011, it was 1,854,956 (2,574,496) and 4,323,974 for a total of 8,753,426.

In 2016, the sport Puget Sound crab endorsement was 223,443 down from 232,621 in 2015.

“During the odd-numbered years license endorsement sale seems to be higher due to pink salmon run, and I assume it will go up this year,” Velasquez said.  “Crab endorsement license sales are relatively stable.”

The summer — mid-June through September — sport fishery continues to have the highest participation level with 88.7 percent of the yearly sport catch, according to state Fish and Wildlife catch data.


Crab fishing dates announced

In all areas of Puget Sound, crabbing will be open Thursdays through Mondays of each week (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Areas opening first from June 16 through Sept. 4 are south-central Puget Sound (Area 11); and Neah Bay east of Tatoosh-Bonilla line (Area 4) and Sekiu and Pillar Point (Area 5) in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca.

That will be followed by Hood Canal (Area 12) and south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff (a portion of Area 9) opening from June 24 through Sept. 4.

The eastern Juan de Fuca Strait (Area 6); east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2); northern Puget Sound (Area 9); central Puget Sound (Area 10); and southern Puget Sound (Area 13) all open from July 1 through Sept. 4.

The San Juan Islands/Bellingham (Area 7 South) opens July 15 through Sept. 30, and San Juan Islands Gulf of Georgia (Area 7 North) is open Aug. 17 through Sept. 30.

Pots may not set or pulled from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crabbers must write down their catch on record cards immediately after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishermen may also keep six red rock crab of either sex daily, and each must measure at least 5 inches. For more information, visit the state fisheries website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Photo courtesy of Chef Taichi Kitamura owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura in Seattle.

Dungeness Crab Chawanmushi “Steamed Egg Custard” Recipe

Chef Taichi Kitamura owner of Sushi Kappo Tamura in Seattle loves fishing and the outdoors, and is well known for his victory in Beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network.

Tamura’s use of sustainable seafood on the menu at his restaurant located along Eastlake Avenue in Seattle sets him apart from many other Japanese restaurant establishments.

Kitamura was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, and opened his first restaurant Chiso in 2001.

Ingredients

Three large eggs

Two cups of seafood or chicken stock “dashi”

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Two teaspoons of soy sauce

One teaspoon of sake

One teaspoon of mirin (sweet cooking sake)

Five ounces of cooked Dungeness crab meat

One ounce of sliced shiitake or matsutake mushroom

One ounce of blanched spinach

Writer Mark Yuasa holds up a nice Dungeness crab caught in southern Puget Sound.

Procedure

In a large mixing bowl, mix the eggs, stock, salt, soy sauce sake and mirin together. Strain the egg mixture through a sieve.

Chef Taichi Kitamura’s chawanmushi “egg custard” is a tasty side dish to any meal.

Place the crab, mushroom and spinach into small heat resistant cups or ramekins, then pour the egg mixture over them to fill 3/4 of the cups. Cover with aluminum foil individually.

Place the cups in a steamer with water already boiling and steam 10 to 15 minutes.

Check to see if it’s done by using a bamboo skewer. When the clear broth comes out when poked with the skewer, carefully remove them from the steamer.

QUICK BITES

SKYKOMISH RIVER: The water level is up a little up, but has a nice light green tint of color, great visibility and it’s in great shape. According to the WDFW escapement report they’ve collected 609 summer steelhead through June 1 and four more through Thursday at Reiter Ponds, and total egg take to date is 357,000. The Wallace Hatchery also collected 1,029 summer steelhead through June 1 and 38 more summer-runs through Thursday. On Sky from the Wallace River mouth to the confluence a fair number of hatchery chinook were lurking with verified catches of kings weighing 20 and 27 pounds. Those are some nice beefy fish. Reports also indicate 245 summer chinook have arrived in the Wallace Hatchery through this past Thursday.

HOOD CANAL: The spot shrimp fishery reopens from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14 with a daily limit of 80 spot shrimp.

EDMONDS FISHING PIER: The only salmon show in Area 9. Word has it that seven or eight kings were caught this past week and most were in the 10 to 15 pound range. It is a one chinook daily limit, and they can be wild or hatchery. Most are casting and retrieving 1 ½ to 2 ½ ounce jigs like Point Wilson Darts, Dungeness Stingers or a Crippled Herring in green-pearl or pearl, and white or black and silver. Remember only single barbless hooks are allowed so take those treble hooks off.

TULALIP BUBBLE FISHERY: Average of one chinook for every 8 eight boats of late with most hatchery kings running 9 to 13 pounds with a few in the high teens up to 20 pounds. Open Fridays through noon Mondays only each week and there a closure on June 17 for a tribal ceremonial fishery. These are Wallace River stocked chinook, and are a better quality, earlier timed returning fish. Plus they’re better biting fish.

COASTAL SALMON PREVIEW: The ocean salmon season begins on June 24 at Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay and on July 1 at Westport. Early word was the non-tribal commercial troll fishery got off to a rocking start last month, but has petered out since then. Wendy Beeghly the state fisheries coastal salmon manager says of late it really slowed down, and the best spot for trollers is still off Westport. She said this isn’t anything to worry about from the sport fishing perspective, and it is not unusual for it to slow down, and truly not indicative of things to come this summer. One caveat to this is the inside fishery up in Canada had already met their chinook catch quota, and they are still fishing on the outside in the ocean areas.

KOKANEE BITE: Lake Stevens has been a buzz kill this season, and numbers of kokes just aren’t there like in past years. Many believe the treatment work to rid the lake of milfoil and algae could have taken a toll of the aquatic life – krill that kokes feed on – and it’s just not as rich with nutrients. If Stevens is your game, I’d go elsewhere, and a good alternative and where fishing has been productive is Lake Samish and we’ve seen some fairly good reports also coming out of Lake Cavanaugh.

LOWER COLUMBIA SHAD: Dam fish counts at Bonneville ramped up the past few days for shad. They totaled a whopping 38,253 on Wednesday and then climbed to 42,917 on Thursday for a season total of 161,562. That means it’s now time to head south. Word has it that the fishing is quite good in the fast rips and high water flows below Bonneville. The shad are stacking up really thick below the dam. Beads are your best way to catch them, but others will toss flies on a size 4 hook, shad darts, wobbling spoons and small silver finished spinners.

COLUMBIA SALMON: The mid- and upper-Columbia River from McNary Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco; Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco to I-182 Bridge at Richland near Columbia Point; and from the I-182 Bridge to Priest Rapids Dam will be open June 16-30 for hatchery chinook, sockeye and steelhead fishing. The daily limits are different for each three areas so check regulations on the WDFW website.

COLUMBIA STEELHEAD: A downer is the poor forecasted summer-run steelhead return of 130,700 – which is the lowest since 1980 – and has prompted state fisheries to further restrict fishing seasons. The projection is especially weak for wild steelhead returning to the Snake River and Upper Columbia above Priest Rapids Dam. Much of this can be blamed on the drought-like conditions these fish faced in 2015 as well as warm water from the Blob in the Pacific Ocean through 2016. From June 16 through Oct. 31, the daily catch limit is one hatchery-marked steelhead and a night closure on Lower Columbia from the Megler-Astoria Bridge to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco; Cowlitz below the Lexington Drive/Sparks Road bridge; Lewis from the confluence with the East Fork Lewis River; Wind below Shipherd Falls; Drano Lake; and White Salmon below the county road bridge. In August, all steelhead must be released in those five tributaries and on Columbia from Buoy 10 to The Dalles Dam. Drano Lake will also be closed to steelhead retention from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30. The Columbia will be closed for steelhead fishing from The Dalles Dam to John Day Dam in September; John Day Dam to McNary Dam during September and October; and McNary Dam to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco in October and November. Salmon and steelhead fishing is closed through July 31 from Columbia mouth to the Megler-Astoria Bridge.

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

 

Sockeye countdown begins in many areas with Skagit River fishery opening soon


By Mark Yuasa

The salmon watch has commenced for sockeye – one of the first summer migrating salmon species – making the long journey back from the ocean to natal streams and lakes.

This has many anglers organizing their gear to fish the Skagit River and Baker Lake where 47,000 sockeye are forecast to return somewhat down from 55,054 last year.

“The sockeye return forecast is pretty similar to two years ago, and that was a good year for fishing,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

The three-year-old sockeye returnees are coming off a juvenile outmigration of 939,879, but more importantly a two-year-old outmigration of 787,650 that makes up the majority of adult sockeye returning this summer.

“If we used the median age specific from smolt to adult survival rate historically the ocean age two fish is 5.1 percent, and the age three fish is 1.2 percent,” Barkdull said. “The survival rates for sockeye are all over the map. It is like throwing a dart into the middle of dart board and hoping it is good year.”

In the last few years, ocean age two-year-old sockeye had a survival return rate between 12 percent and 1 percent, which indicates it was all over the dart board.

Mount Baker looms in the background of Baker Lake where sockeye fishing is expected to be good later this summer. Photo courtesy of David Kim.

“If you look at run timing there already should be fish in the river when it opens,” Barkdull said. “It does change from year-to-year, but the best two weeks of fishing should be last week of June and first week of July when a lot of fish are passing through. That is based on a normal run curve.”

The first sockeye opportunities will begin on the Skagit River from Memorial Highway Bridge to Gilligan Creek, which opens  June 11 through July 15 (closed June 28-29, July 6-7 and July 11 to avoid gear conflict with the tribal fishery).

With all the snow in the hillsides above the river, anglers can expect plenty of glacial runoff, and high water and flows now through early summer.

“Based on one data point when we had really high water the river fishery seems to be better wit those types of conditions, and terrible when we don’t have much runoff and low water levels,” Barkdull said.

That river fishery will be followed by Baker Lake opening July 8 through Sept. 7 with the typical peak being in late-July and early-August.

Last year’s lake fishery experienced one of those strange seasons when there wasn’t any time you could take day-to-day success to the bank.

“There was a lot of inconsistency at Baker Lake last summer, and the fish didn’t seem to be holding in upper locations of the lake like they usually are,” Barkdull said. “The fish were scattered around in different areas. It appeared the majority of sockeye had vacated a particular area, and moved back down toward the dam. It was really a matter of fishing in the right place at the right time last year.”

Like any fishery moving around will be a key to success so if you don’t mark much on the fish-finder head to another location.

Two young anglers are all smiles after catching a Baker Lake sockeye. Photo courtesy of David Kim.

“In the past it wasn’t like that and people didn’t have to do much searching, but last year the fish used the whole reservoir,” Barkdull said. “It kept people guessing a little bit more than in the past. Surprisingly during our creel surveys last year, I would say on average the fishing was just as good last year as it was in previous years.”

The key to tracking when the best fishing occurs in the lake is to follow the fish trucking on WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/sockeye/baker_river.html.

Baker sockeye were first introduced from an artificial enhancement that started in 1896 when the state built a hatchery on Baker Lake. The natural run at that time was estimated to be approximately 20,000 fish, which was way before the dams were built.

Success of sockeye returns is based on improved juvenile fish production. Puget Sound Energy work crews have a huge fish barge collector anchored above Lower Baker Dam on Lake Shannon. This draws migrating juvenile salmon unto a funnel where they’re held until being transferred below the two dams and released to begin their outmigration.

Since the 1920s, annual adult sockeye returns averaged 3,500, and then by the early 1980s it dropped off the charts and hit an all-time low of 99 fish in 1985.

Also, anglers looking forward to the chinook salmon fishery – opening this Thursday (June 1) through July 15 in the Skagit River from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to Cascade River Road Bridge and the Cascade River from mouth to Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge.

“There’s chinook already in the river, no question, and we have fish in the hatchery,’ Barkdull said.

Sockeye outlook elsewhere

Dave Graybill holds a sockeye he caught from Wanapum area of the Columbia River. Photo courtesy of Dave Graybill.

 

All eyes will also be glued to the Columbia River sockeye returns, and to a lesser degree on the Lake Washington returns situated in the backyard of the Emerald City.

The Columbia River return this summer is 191,200 – 137,000 to Okanogan River and 54,200 to Wenatchee River.

“The Columbia return is a strong run-size on paper and not a record return, but sockeye are definitely a challenge to forecast,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “Last year we had a forecast of 100,000 and ended up with 350,000 so we can only hope that something similar materializes this summer.”

Hymer says on a positive note high water like we’re currently seeing this spring will help boost the sockeye fishery as they tend to migrate closer to shore allowing bank anglers along the lower river below Bonneville Dam better chances to target them.

“We could see decent catches this year, and that is good news for anglers from the lower areas (below Bonneville Dam) clear upstream to Okanogan area,” Hymer said.

The Lake Wenatchee fishery will open around the third week of July, and is based on sockeye passage at Tumwater Dam and mainstem Columbia River Dams. The spawning goal is 23,000 fish so any above that will be free game for sport anglers.

The Lake Washington forecast is 77,292, which falls well short of the 350,000 escapement goal before any fishing can be discussed. It will make for great viewing at the Ballard Locks fish ladder viewing window beginning as soon as early June, but highly unlikely a fishery will occur.

But, with that said due to unpredictability of sockeye returns don’t count out a Lake Washington fishery until an in-season peak run-time happens in early- to mid-July.

State Fish and Wildlife is still developing the fishing regulation pamphlet for 2017-18, and should be available soon online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ or at local tackle shops.

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

 

Central Oregon High Lakes Trout and Kokanee Outlook

The sun shines on Diamond Peak that sits above Crescent Lake and the large expanse of the Diamond Peak Wilderness. (Troy Rodakowski)

By Troy Rodakowski 

Lake fishing season is upon us once again. Oh yeah baby…….crisp morning air, warm sun, great camping, barbequing and lots of fish for the cooler. That’s what many of us anglers look forward to come June. A few of us enjoy this time of year when we can get out of town, forget the daily stresses of work, and wet a line in the Cascade Lakes of Central Oregon. The 2017 season looks to be quite good with action peaking possibly a few weeks later than normal. Snowpack was above normal this season with many storms showing up well into the month of May. This year, anglers will need to keep a close eye on snow melt as well as boat launch and campground openings.

The Lake Review:

Crescent Lake is predicted to be slow early this year with some of the best catches of kokanee in June. Kokanee here will have better size than most other lakes around with most averaging in the 10 to 14 inch range. Of course, there is also some good lake trout fishing to be had here if an angler is patient and fishes some of the drop-offs near the bottom.

According to district fish biologist Eric Moberly of Bend, Oregon (541-388-6145) “Kokanee and trout fishing should be good during the 2017 season at Odell Lake.” The best time to fish here for kokes is at dawn and dusk. Most fish will range from 11-13 inches in size. Lake trout fishing should also be good here although Moberly is quick to point out, “Be careful when identifying the difference between lake trout and bull trout. Lake trout have a deeper forked tail with spots on their dorsal fins with white and cream colored spots on their bodies.” He advises to play it safe and release all fish without spots on their dorsal fin.All bull trout are federally listed as threatened since their numbers are extremely low. Any bull trout that are caught must be released unharmed. Also, be advised that fishing has been closed within 200 feet of the mouth of Odell Creek to protect these fish.

Lake trout are a popular species found in several of the high Cascade Lakes. (Troy Rodakowski)

When fishing at Wickiup Reservoir it would be smart to go after brown trout here. Kwik fish, Krock lures, Rapala’s, Wedding Rings, and flashers all work well at Wickiup. I prefer the willowleaf blade style in these locations. The lake is at 100 percent of capacity right now with most of the large browns are caught fairly early in the season. There are also some very nice sized rainbow trout available in Wickiup. “Target shallow water flats early in the season and river channels once the water begins to warm,” says Moberly. Kokanee numbers should be fair this year with many fish scattered early in the season. They will begin to school up near the creek channels once the weather warms in early June.

Even though brown bullhead have taken over many sections of the southeastern part of the reservoir largemouth bass can still be found amidst the many willow flats. Bass fishing should improve once the weather warms. There is no size or bag limit on warm water game fish here. Wickiup is located off of the Cascade Lakes Highway (NFR 46).

The author shows off a few kokanee and a brown from Paulina Lake. (Troy Rodakowski)

Paulina Lake is located in the Newberry Crater off of Highway 97 near LaPine. This lake provides a great opportunity for brown trout of all sizes. The best fishing for them is late in the day around the edges in more shallow water. Paulina is also a great lake for Kokanee with the early mornings usually providing the best action. These fish range in size from 9-12 inches. There is a five trout daily limit which includes kokanee of which one trout may exceed 20 inches.

East Lake, also located near Highway 97 and the Newberry Crater provides some very interesting opportunities for anglers. The lake is kokanee, rainbows, and brown to keep anglers busy. Fair to good catches of rainbows usually occur early in the season because of planting efforts by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Rainbows are stocked intermittently throughout the year, as well.

Rainbow trout are targeted by anglers throughout the Cascade zone using many methods. Fly fishing is one of the most effective. (Troy Rodakowski)

Finally, Crane Prairie Reservoir will offer great fishing for rainbow trout, brook trout, and largemouth bass. It is advised to limit your harvest of wild trout in this fishery. Hatchery fish are clearly marked with either a clipped adipose fin or left or right ventral clips. Fish will be scattered early with the best brook trout fishing available both early and late in the season. Moberly is also quick to point out that there are some very large kokanee here if an angler puts in some time with the right gear. Of course, dawn and dusk are the best times to fish for kokanee in Crane. Using small spoons and spinners work quite well here. Also, wet and dry flies have produced some good results for rainbows as has fishing night crawlers on the bottom. Anglers looking for bigger brookies should concentrate on working structure. There are also a few largemouth found here in the willow areas especially early in the season when the water first warms up.

The River Review:

Deschutes River, from Behman Falls upstream to Wickiup Reservoir should be fair for brown trout. Moberly points out, “that there will be good opportunity for hatchery stocked bows in the upper stretches.” From Billy Chinook Lake upstream to Behman Falls anglers should see fair fishing. Browns and red band trout are the fish found in this stretch of water. Look to fish in locations where springs enter the river. Anglers should have some of their best results from Steelhead Falls downriver.

The Crooked River below Bowman Dam has had some excellent fishing for red band trout the past couple of years. Numerous overnight and day use areas are available on BLM lands. The Chimney Rock segment of the Wild and Scenic Crooked River  is located about 15 minutes south of Prineville off of Hwy 27. With recent high water levels I expect the Crooked to fish better during the months of June and July after the flows drop down.

Most of these lakes and reservoirs have resorts available with several amenities including campgrounds, boat rentals, restaurants, and lodging. I highly recommend checking with the local resorts prior to heading to your final destination.

If you’re lucky enough to get into the Kokanee here’s one of my favorite all time recipes for cooking them up:

One of my favorite Kokanee Recipes (See Below)

Uncle Bob’s Grilled Kokanee

-Start grill on medium low to medium heat.
-Use cookie sheet lined with a layer of foil.
-Place Kokanee on foil.
-Set cookie sheet on grill. (The foil is to insulate the bottom of the fish from too much heat.)

Mix together the following……
20 % olive oil
40 % Teriyaki sauce
40% honey bbq sauce.
Stir.

-When Kokanee have cooked a few minutes, slip fork under skin, and remove top layer only. Do not disturb the bottom.
-Drizzle sauce mixure liberally on exposed fish.
-Shake on a little Johnnys seasoning and lightly pepper.
-Continue to grill at low-medium temp until fish is done.
-Serve promptly while warm.

Troy Rodakowski
Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

Brook’s Top 5 Trout Lures

By Jason Brooks

Nearly 2.3 million catchable sized trout have been recently planted in lakes all across Washington. 

Now that opening day of the lowland lakes fishing season has passed the crowds are starting to subside but the fish are still readily biting. I spent this past weekend on one of my favorite lakes with great success. Here are a few lures that worked for us that will work for you too!

A feisty trout is a lot of fun to catch-Jason Brooks

These are my top five lures for getting these early season rainbow trout to bite:

-1/4 ounce Silver UV Cripplure by Macks Lure
-Brown Smile Blade Fly by Macks Lure
-Black and Silver 1/4 ounce Roostertail by Yakima Bait Company
-F4 Flatfish by Yakima Bait Company
-Kokanee Cut Plug by Brads

The Author’s top trout-catching lures-Jason Brooks

I’ll either flat line the spinners and spoons or I’ll place a  ¼ ounce to ½ ounce split shot a few feet in-front of the other lures to get them down a bit. When you’re fishing any of these lures for trout be sure to troll slow.

To rig the new Kokanee Cut Plug tie two size 8 Gamakatsu painted octopus hooks and then slide a rubber bobber stop by Beau Mac on the leader, which comes with a small bead. The bead acts as a bearing for the cut plug and really lets it spin freely. By using the rubber bobber stop you can adjust the set-back of the hooks to catch those short-biting fish. And last but not least be sure to add a bunch of scent to the cavity of the Brads Super Bait. The scent cavity is designed specifically for adding scent and it works great!

Rigging the new Kokanee Cut Plug-Jason Brooks

Using a Super Gel or bait oil by Pro-Cure attracts trout that might otherwise not want to move around in the colder water. Top-producing Pro-Cure scents for me are Rainbow Trout, Crawfish, and Trout and Kokanee Magic.

Adding scents to your lures increases your catch-Jason Brooks

There are 2.3 million reasons why you should hit your local lake for trout in the coming weeks. The opening day crowds are gone and there are still plenty of hungry fish around.

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle
Jason Brooks Photography