Coastal chinook fisheries off to decent start at Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay, and coho mostly a no show

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.”

Beeggly 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

The Lake Washington sockeye returns are off to a fast 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.”

Through this past Thursday, a total of 19,139 sockeye were counted at the Ballard Locks. Single-day counts were 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.

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

The 2017 Salmon Forecasts!

A sure sign of spring after a long winter is the annual arrival of our salmon forecasts and the “North of Falcon” meetings. Interest in the season setting process has never been higher due to last year’s lack of agreement between the State and Tribal co-managers. This delay in agreement virtually closed down all of western Washington’s waterways until nearly Memorial Day and is a situation that no one wants to repeat. Fortunately, our coho have bounced back from the critically low (and very inaccurate) 2016 forecasts. In addition, our chinook numbers are up significantly buoying hope for a good season in 2017!

After watching the numbers for a number of years (never mind how many…) I’ve found that you can “call some shots” by digging into the forecast numbers. The WDFW, DFO Canada and The PFMC (Pacific Fisheries Management Council) work very hard to get their chinook and coho abundance estimates out in a timely manner. These figures take some pouring through to find the real “meat” but don’t worry, I’ve done all the leg work for you right here!

2009-2016 Selected Preseason adult Chinook Forecasts (in thousands)

Stock                       2010     2011       2012       2013       2014       2015       2016   2017
Willapa fall                31.1       36.8        45.2         27.1        32.4        35.1      39.5   38.5
Hoh fall                      3.3        2.9           2.7           3.1          2.5         2.5          1.8    2.7
Nooksack/Sam         30.3      37.5         44.0        46.5        43.9       38.5        27.9   21.2

Skagit summer        13.0      15.9          9.6         13.2        18.3        12.3        15.6   16.2

Stillaguamish wild     1.4         1.9          0.9           1.3          1.6          0.5         0.3     0.4

Snohomish Wild        9.9         7.4          2.8          3.6          5.2          4.1         3.3     3.4
Snohomish Hatch     5.6         5.1         3.9           6.8          5.4         3.2          5.0      4.7
Tulalip Bay               3.4         3.5        5.9          10.9          4.7         1.3          1.4       5.2

S Puget Wild           12.7        8.9          8.9           5.2          4.8         6.5          4.5      4.7
S Puget Hatch         97.4      118.6       95.8       101.9       101.4     91.1        43.1    80.3

Hood Canal Wild      2.4           2.1         2.9            3.3          3.5        3.1         2.3     2.4

Hood Canal Hatch   42.6        38.3       43.9         65.7        80.6     58.9       42.7     48.3

Stock total:        253.1k    278.9k   266.5k     288.6k     304.3k   257.1k  187.4k  229.6k

We’re looking at a chinook forecast that thankfully, has bounced back a bit from 2016. The number that jumps out to me is the aggregate of South Puget Sound hatchery stocks coming in at nearly double of last year’s forecast. The most concerning stocks are the Stilliaguamish (400 wild chinook) and Issaquah/Cedar/Sammamish (4,670 hatchery and 948 wild) which will most certainly be deemed “driver stocks” with regard to crafting our summer chinook opportunities. Need another bright spot? The Skagit & Nooksack/Samish checks in with a solid forecast which should drive a very strong Marine Area 7 summer chinook season. However, as was the case last year, most of the wrangling & hand wringing will definitely occur over the Marine Area 9 & 10 selective chinook seasons in July.

.
2009-2016 Preseason Adult Coho Forecasts (in thousands of fish)

Stock                   2010      2011         2012       2013        2014       2015   2016  2017
Straits Wild           8.5         12.3           12.3       14.8          14.5        3.4      4.7   14.7
Straits Hatch         7.8         12.7           18.6       15.4         15.3         8.8     3.7    11.5
Nook/Sam W        9.6          29.5           25.2      45.4          20.8        28.1    8.9   13.2
Nook/Sam H        36.0         45.7           62.8      49.2          61.7       50.8    28.7  45.6

Skagit Wild          95.9        138.1          48.3     137.2        112.4      121.4   8.9    13.2

Skagit Hatch        9.5          16.2           14.9       16.3         15.8        19.5     4.9     7.5

Stilly Wild            25.9         66.5           45.5        33.1        32.4         31.2    2.7     7.6

Stilly hatch           5.4           0.6             4.1          3.1          3.1            0        0       1.5

Snohomish W       99.4      180.0         109.0     163.8         150       151.5   16.7   107.3

Snohomish H       24.5        80.4           80.5      111.6        78.1         53.8     1.8    51.6

S Sound Wild       25.3        98.9           43.1       36.0         62.8         63.0    9.9    20.2

S Sound Hatch    186.4      173.3         162.9     150.9       172.7      180.2   27.1  102.3

Hood Wild             33.2        77.5           73.4       36.8         47.6        61.4    35.3   93.8

Hood Hatch          51.2         72.1           62.6       68.6         82.7       108.4   83.4   60.7

Key stocks tot  320.8k   916.0k      628.6k    783.2k    869.2k   891.5k   236.7k  550.7k

 

It does not take a PhD in Fisheries Biology to see that we’ve also bounced back on the coho front. In fact, the coho returned large and numerous last year with good spawning conditions and hopefully we’re going to work our way out of the 2015 drought conditions.

Lake Washington sockeye anglers may have another year to wait with only 77,290 headed for the Ship Canal but a look north to the Baker River gives 47,000  bright, red reasons to be encouraged about the Baker River reds.

Keep in mind that these numbers are but the “raw material” that the co-managers will use to craft our local seasons and only by attending the North of Falcon meetings can you have an impact on the process. We will keep you posted here but I sincerely look forward to meeting some of you….at the meetings!!!

For a schedule of the North of Falcon meetings near you hit WDFW’s North of Falcon page.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

Catch More Kokanee with these Useful Tips

Kokanee are one of the best eating fish to catch-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With temperatures finally starting to warm up it’s time to pull the boat out of winter storage and rig the rods for kokanee!

These tasty landlocked Sockeye are already starting to fill stringers on many Eastern Washington lakes and Southwest Washington reservoirs. Here are a few tips that have put a lot of Kokanee in my boat over the years.

Specialty rods that are limber will increase landed fish-Jason Brooks

Fishing rods need to be specific to this fishery. A 7 ½ foot rod with an ultra-light action is needed to help keep the fish hooked. Kokanee have exceptionally soft mouths and a fast-action rod will usually pull the hook free. Not only should you use lightweight rods, but also spool the reel with 8 or 10-pound test monofilament which will stretch and helps land more fish. The 8 foot Daiwa DXSK802L Kokanee trolling rod is an excellent choice for a this and so is it’s little brother the 7’6″ DXSK762L.

Dodgers and mini-squids are a top producing combo-Jason Brooks

Dodgers and lures need to be “teamed up” for the day’s fishing. The Double D dodger by Mack’s lure along with a Cha Cha mini-squid is a top Kokanee set-up. When using the 9 inch dodger shorten the leader to 8-12 inches to impart some whipping action on the fly or squid behind it. For the smaller 4 inch dodgers I like to pair them up with a Double Whammy wedding ring spinner and a longer leader of 24 inches. Both of these set-ups are designed to be used at slow speed, around 1 mph, which is about perfect for early season Kokanee fishing. Later in the year kick up your speeds to 1.5 mph and switch to a Sling Blade style dodger.

Shoepeg Corn  with added scents tipped on any lure increases bites-Jason Brooks

Corn is a must! White Shoepeg corn for some reason is an absolute must for Kokanee fishing. Corn naturally has a lot of oil in it and attracts Kokanee. To increase your bites substantially though soak your corn overnight in Pro-Cure bait oils along with some Wizard Kokanee Killer Korn Magic which toughens the corn and adds bite stimulates.

Kokanee are sensitive to sunlight, fish deep on bright days-Jason Brooks

Kokanee are very light sensitive. On bright sunny days you will find the fish at deeper depths and it is easier to locate fish during the early morning hours before the direct sunlight hits the water. On cloudy days the fish will be closer to the surface. Downriggers help keep your gear at the right depth once you find the fish.

New from Brad’s is the Kokanee Cut Plug-Jason Brooks

Try something new! Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear have come out with a smaller “Kokanee” cut plug. Just like the bigger versions, they are a hinged plug that allows you to fill the cavity with scents and come rigged with tandem red hooks. You can also get a two pack of un-rigged plugs. The one thing that these baits allow you to do is fish different speeds as they work well from the slower early-season fishing to the faster speeds that work better when the water warms up. These plugs can be fished bare or trailing 36 inches behind a dodger or in-line flasher.

Lake Chelan and Lake Roosevelt are already on fire for Kokanee and it won’t be long before the some of the top lakes in Western Washington start heating up for Kokes. It’s been a long winter and I’m pretty excited to get out there and test out some new Kokanee gear that’s been piling up on my fishing work bench!

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line – Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

Seven Ways To Get Your Salmon Season Off to a Swift Start!

By Tom Nelson

Well, “show season” aka “winter” is fast fading in the rear view mirror and after several full days of seeing the latest and greatest the fishing industry 2017 has to offer, I’ve boiled down the vast array of choices to these top of the line items that will get you off on the right fishy foot this season!

Daiwa Four-Carrier J Braid: A whole lot of anglers who’s opinions I sincerely respect are moving toward a spool of 65lb braid with a 20-foot top shot of 25 lb test mono for their mooching and trolling reels. The Daiwa J Braid in particular has less flexibility and stretch than most braids and more abrasion resistance making it a great choice for salt or river salmon fisheries!

Silver Horde’s Two Face Spoons: Kelly Morrison of SIlver Horde noticed that most of the “hot spoons” that anglers had the pleasure of fishing have had one thing in common: some type of paint finish on the “back” or concave side. Silver Horde has capitalized on this trend by finishing both sides of the very popular -and effective- Kingfisher Lite and Coho Killer series of lightweight trolling spoons.

CANNON Terminator Kit: Are you still carrying around a box of crimps and a pair of specialty pliers that you rarely use for anything else? Here’s the thing: as soon as you crimp your cable, you’ve damaged it and the clock is ticking. Here come the wire frays and then “POP” another expensive ball, release and rigging has just become habitat. With Cannon’s nylon Terminator, the wire is cushioned in the channel of the loom and you’ll enjoy significantly longer wire life, saving you money and fishing time!

Pro-Cure Downrigger Dynamite: There’s little question of the deadly effectiveness of Phil Pirone’s proprietary blend of amino acid bite stimulants which is the backbone of the industry’s leading Brine-n-Bite herring brine. Realizing that artificial trolling lures could benefit from the same chemistry, a mixure of herring, anchovie and sardine was spiked with amino acids and BOOM! You’ve got Downrigger Dynamite. Give it a drag. It will get you bit…

Daiwa LEXA 300 Linecounter: It’s simply about time that someone came up with a line counter that’s out of the way, easy to see and palms like a genuine low-profile reel. Introducing the Daiwa LEXA 300 LC. High speed slick with a butter smooth drag, don’t underestimate the power of it’s oversize gears and 21-pound drag system. As great as this reel is, I can’t wait to see the LEXA 400 LC ’cause it will be the best reel at Buoy Ten this August!

Gamakatsu Big River Open-Eye Siwash Hooks: Now available in a wider variety of sizes, you’ll be able to find these replacement hooks to fit any size spoon, plug or lure you care to rig. Benefitting from Gamakatsu’s magnificent curvature and shape of their popular Octopus hooks, these Big River Siwash are a definite upgrade for the questionable “original equipment” hooks that are all to often furnished with our favorite lures.

SIMRAD NSS 16 evo 3: All I could say was “Wow” when I saw the speed and layout of this behemoth! Processor speed is no longer an issue, nor is screen space as custom splits are a fingertip selection away. In addition to the Simrad DNA of a fully integrated Auto-Pilot, there’s a “Hot Key” that you can program to your favorite function. The screen is the brand new SolarMAX™ HD display technology that delivers exceptional clarity and ultra-wide viewing angles, combined with an all-weather touchscreen and expanded keypad for total control in all conditions.

There’s lots to get your attention this season and there’s no reason to wait! Try out some of this gear now so it will be familiar to you come our busy summer seasons and we’ll see you on the water!

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com

5 Quick Tips for Trophy Steelhead

Rob Endsley with a Trophy Steelhead

by Jason Brooks

Big wild steelhead are starting to show in our Northwest rivers. This means it’s time to go fishing folks. Here are five quick tips to make your trip better.

Use bigger gear to fight bigger fish-Jason Brooks

  1. Upsize your gear – Once you set the hook and realize you have a big steelhead it’s nice to know you can handle that fish and fight it to the bank. Use heavier mainlines and leaders as well as a stout rod. This helps you land the fish as well as release a fish that isn’t exhausted.

Pink worms are very effective for big fish-Jason Brooks

  1. Forget the Bait –  Instead of using bait which tends to cause higher mortality, switch to other tactics such as spoons, plugs, spinners, rubber worms and beads.

Scents attract fish as well as cover unwanted smells-Jason Brooks

  1. Use Scent – Bait gets swallowed but scent attracts fish to your gear and helps cover any unwanted smells. Apply Pro-Cure Super Gel to leaders, weights, and swivels and soak yarnies in Pro-Cure bait oils. Yarnies can be just as effective as bait and wild steelhead won’t swallow them.

Bobber dogging is an great way to increase your catch rate-Jason Brooks

  1. Learn to Bobberdog – This technique allows you to fish all different kinds of water without making adjustments. It is simple, you’ll lose less gear, and it’s highly effective. Hawken Fishing makes an entire line of Aero Floats designed specifically for bobber-dogging. Spend some time learning this technique and you’ll be able to easily target trophy steelhead holding water. 

Ted Schuman admires a trophy steelhead about to be released-Jason Brooks

  1. Take a Camera – Big fish are in our rivers and if you land that “fish of a lifetime” then take the time to snap a few photographs to preserve the memories. Remember to keep the fish in the water until the camera is ready.

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

Let’s Go Ice Fishing!

Grandpa Al Brooks with Adam and Ryan enjoying a day ice fishing on Roses Lake-Jason Brooks

Let’s Go Ice Fishing!

by Jason Brooks

The recent cold temperatures have thickened the ice and a winter pastime is creating memories once again. Ice fishing is going strong in Eastern Washington with the trout bite being consistent on Roses Lake near the tiny town of Manson. Those that prefer to catch a mess of perch are doing really well on Moses Lake and don’t forget Fish Lake near Leavenworth.

Ryan Brooks waits for a bite through the ice-Jason Brooks

The fishing is fairly simple, just chop or auger a hole in the ice and drop your baits down towards the bottom where the water temperatures are a little warmer. Look for areas where other anglers have found previous success, as shown on the ice with places where fish have flopped around and froze, or by watching anglers on the ice.

A rainbow trout coming through the ice-Jason Brooks

Ice fishing is one of those activities that is more of a novelty than a “must catch a limit” fishery. Have fun out on the ice but realize that it is cold, windy, and if you take the kids along they might not want to sit out there for very long. To make it more comfortable I like to take a lawn chair and a piece of carpet. The carpet makes it so you won’t be sliding around all the time and it really helps keep your feet warm.

Just enough freshly frozen trout for dinner-Jason Brooks

For gear, a standard, light action Daiwa trout rod works well, but so do those tiny “ice fishing” rods you find in the mid-west. They are very sensitive as the bite is light with the cold waters. Spool the small reel with 6 pound Platinum Izorline monofilament. When trout fishing it is best to use a leader with the weight tied at the bottom and the hook tied off of the leader between the weight and the swivel. I prefer to use a 1/4 ounce bell weight and size 10 bait holder hooks. Common baits are powerbait, single salmon eggs, or my favorite-salad shrimp cured overnight in Pro-Cure’s “Shrimp and Prawn” cure. For perch, jigging is the way to go, and it also works great for trout fishing too. Use a small jig, like a 1/8 ounce or smaller Mack’s Lure Glo-Getter that is UV enhanced. Tip the jig with a piece of worm, shrimp, or maggots. I also use a lot of scent when ice fishing no matter the type of fish as this attracts the lethargic fish and turns on a bite. Try Anise and Garlic scents as they seem to work really well ice fishing.

Adam Brooks and our Vizsla Lucy use carpet to keep their feet warm on the ice-Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks – Outdoor Line Blogger