Recent salmon closures may be a downer, but other fun options around heading into Thanksgiving and beyond

Robbie Tobeck with a nice hatchery chinook he caught while fishing with Tom Nelson before the Area 9 fishery closed.

The marine chinook salmon fisheries this month have come to a screeching halt, after state Fish and Wildlife determined the sub-legal encounter rate was alarmingly high.

Salmon fishing is now closed as of Nov. 13 until further notice in Marine Catch Areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 (northern Puget Sound and entire eastside of Whidbey Island).

“Everyone wants to be cautious from what we’re seeing right now in Areas 9 and 10 (northern and central Puget Sound),” said Ryan Lothrop, the state Fish and Wildlife Puget Sound recreation salmon manager. “The sub-legal chinook (fish under the 22-inch minimum size limit) encounter rate hampered our winter fisheries in the past, and it looks like we’re seeing the same scenario this month.”

“We don’t want to put ourselves in a bad situation,” Lothrop said. “When we started test fishing a week prior to opening (on Nov. 1) we knew it wasn’t going to be very good. Then we started getting reports from Areas 8-1 and 8-2 that they were seeing similar things as in Area 9. In the past three years we haven’t been able to run a full fishery in 9 in November.”

From Nov. 1-5, 495 boats with 889 anglers in Area 9 kept 240 legal-size chinook and released 1,137 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 1,377 fish. The guideline for encounters is 11,053 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.

From Nov. 1-5, 98 boats with 172 anglers in Area 8-1 kept 52 legal-size hatchery chinook (plus five unmarked wild fish kept) and released 67 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for a total encounter rate of 124 fish. In Area 8-2, 165 boats with 315 anglers kept 50 legal-size hatchery chinook and released 65 sub-legal size hatchery chinook for 115. The guideline for encounters in both areas is 5,492 fish putting the fishery already at a staggering 88 percent for sub-legals and 12 percent at legal-size fish.

From Nov. 1-5, 73 boats with 162 anglers in Area 10 kept eight legal-size chinook and released 10 sub-legals for a total encounter rate of 18 fish. The guideline for encounters is 5,349 fish putting the fishery at 73 percent for sub-legals and 9 percent at legal-size fish.

“In 2015, we had a lot of sub-legals in fisheries, and right now we don’t want to impact our winter fisheries for those happening later on,” Lothrop said. “Most agree that we wait until these fish grow larger, and have a more predictable opportunity.”

The feedback state fisheries got from anglers and their sport-fishing advisory group is to pause for now, and keep the fishery open after the New Year when Area 9 reopens on Jan. 16.

In winter of 2015, state fisheries made some decisions that weren’t too appealing to anglers who found themselves seeing seasons opening and then facing emergency closures soon after.

“At least moving forward we’re ahead of the curve right now, and a stronger forecast this season has allowed us to have a better catch guideline,” Lothrop said. “It gave us more wiggle room, but no one wants it to get out of hand. Nobody wants to handle 10 to 12 sub-legal chinook to catch and keep one legal.”

For those with a hankering to wet a line you still have central Puget Sound (Area 10), south-central Puget Sound (11), Hood Canal (12) and southern Puget Sound (13), which are still open for salmon. Anglers will also be able to ring in the New Year when  the San Juan Islands will reopen on Jan. 1.

Dungeness crab can be caught via boat in many open marine areas, but wading for them is another popular way to catch them too! Here Brent Tsang of Mercer Island shows off one he caught at night off Whidbey Island.

Winter Dungeness crab fishing remains open daily in some marine areas, and look for them around Whidbey Island, northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula, Camano Island, Hat Island, Port Angeles Harbor, Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands. Remember due to a downtrend in crab abundance locations south of Edmonds and Hood Canal – Marine Catch Areas 10, 11, 12 and 13 are closed this winter.

The scoop on recent salmon derbies

There was also three major salmon derbies, which included the Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Derby on Nov. 4-5 that drew 499 anglers who caught 109 chinook averaging 6.22 pounds (146 last year averged 6.55 pounds). Of those about 70 percent of the fish were caught on Saturday due to the lousy weather conditions on Sunday.

The winner was Adam Burke who caught an 11.89 chinook who took home a check for $4,000. Second place went to Timothy Quinn of Camano Island with an 11.24-pounder, and earned a check for $2,500.

In third was Lilaine Leonardo of Bothell with a 10.93 chinook worth $1,000, and just edged out Troy Moe of Lake Stevens who took fourth place with a 10.90 pound chinook woth $500.

In the youth division, Alex Davis caught the largest chinook that weighed 9.29-pounds. The team division the winners were Big Kahuna— Derek Floyd, Lance Husby, Troy Moe and Scot Bumstead —  with an average weight of 8.52 pounds.

The winner of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series grand prize $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft boat with Honda motors went to Gary March of Worley, Idaho who fished earlier this summer in the The Big One Salmon Derby on Lake Coeur d’Alene. More than 4,000 anglers were entered into the 14 derbies held in 2017.

The Jacobsen’s Blackmouth Derby was held on Nov. 5, and despite the lousy weather they had 17 boats with 38 anglers out of Edmonds who braved the elements and caught three chinook.

Winner was John Laws of Lynnwood with a 6 pound-1 ounce chinook that warned him a Garmin 740 GPS Depthsounder. Second was Steve Klein of Everett with a 4.09 pound chinook and took home a Yeti Cooler; and third was Louie Yuhm with 3.13 pound chinook that pegged him a $500 gift certificate.

The long-standing Tengu Blackmouth Derby started on Nov. 5, and 13 anglers faced rough seas with no keepers, but lots of shakers and baitfish in Elliott Bay!

The derby began in 1937, and up until 2015 was held every season since the end of World War II. Last season just nine legal-size chinook were caught during the entire derby.

In the derby, only mooching (fishing using a banana-style lead weight to a leader with a herring) is allowed. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted. This winter the boundary has been extended to West Point.

The derby is held every Sunday through Dec. 31. Cost is $35 to join the club, and $5 for children 12-years-old-and-under. The derby starts at daybreak and ends each day at 11 a.m. The Seacrest Boathouse will be open at 6 a.m. every Sunday. Cost for rental boat from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. is $65, and $85 for boat and motor. Tickets are available at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle.

Loading up on razor clams

Those who trekked out to the coast for the most recent razor clams found success very appealing.

“The most recent digs went well, and we had 27,770 digger trips with 366,484 clams dug,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager. “That comes out to 13.2 clams per person (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily limit).”

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

The fact that the weather was crummy, wet and cold, Ayres says the ocean conditions weren’t too bad.

“The guys sent me a picture of perfect digging conditions (on Nov. 3), and then diggers struggled a bit on (Nov. 4), and then (Nov. 5) was good overall on all beaches,” Ayres said.

A breakdown by beaches showed Twin Harbors had 5,268 diggers Nov. 3-5 with 73,215 clams for an average of 13.9 clams per person; Copalis had 4,904 with 52,541 Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 for 10.7; Mocrocks had 3m229 with 47,354 Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 for 14.7; and Long Beach had 14,371 with 193,373 Nov. 3-5 for 13.5.

“The crowds were lighter than we had projected and I’m sure the weather forecast scared away some from turning out,” Ayres said. “The exception was Long Beach, which had more than expected, and the folks did quite well. Down the road we might need to back off at Long Beach, but the other beaches were fine.”

After just two series of digs, Long Beach has harvested 36 percent of the total allowable catch for the entire season.

Clam size was nice at Twin Harbors and Long Beach, but Copalis and Mocrocks had smaller size clams.

“You had to shop around to find the bigger clams at those two beaches,” Ayres said. “That means if you started to find smaller clams it might be wise to move around and look for the bigger ones.  The good news about the abundant smaller clams is that they will get bigger later in the season. On the other end we aren’t seeing the density of smaller clams at Twin Harbors and Long Beach, and so we’ll need to be careful on how we are harvesting on those beaches moving forward.”

Ayres pointed out they’re not seeing any issues with marine toxins lik domoic acid, and are likely past the sensitive time of the year.

“We will go ahead with next digs planned in December, and then reassess to make sure we have enough clams for digs after the New Year and in spring,” Ayres said.

Pending additional testing for marine toxins the next tentative dates are Dec. 1 at Copalis (-0.3 feet at 4:42 p.m.); Dec. 2 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.); Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.); Dec. 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.); and Dec. 31 Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (-1.2 at 5:12 p.m.).

Opt for trout instead of shopping on Black Friday

Why go holiday shopping when you can reel-in a nice batch of trout the day after Thanksgiving.

Anglers need to be aware that many of the lakes will be closed to fishing the Monday before Thanksgiving until Thanksgiving Day to get the fish planted.

Locally, Beaver Lake – measuring out at 60.3 acres – located in Issaquah is getting a plant of 2,400 jumbo-sized trout, and was already planted with 800 in October.

The next batch of 800 trout was expected to get another plant on Monday before Thanksgiving and another 800 fish just prior to Christmas.

The daily catch limit at Beaver will be five trout, and only two fish may be longer than 15 inches. Fishing is open year-round. Internal combustion boat engines are prohibited.

In Pierce County, American Lake will get 2,500 on Nov. 20; and Tanwax Lake another 1,000 on Nov. 20. In Thurston County, Black Lake is getting 3,000; Long Lake will receive 1,000 on Nov. 20; and Offutt Lake, 1,000 on Nov. 20.

In southwest Washington, seven lakes planted on Nov. 20 will also provide some bliss for anglers next week.

In Clark County: Battle Ground Lake, 2,000; Klineline Pond, 2,000. In Cowlitz County: Kress Lake, 2,000. In Lewis County: Fort Borst Park Pond, 2,000; and South Lewis County Park Pond, 2,000. In Klickitat County: Rowland Lake, 2,000.

 

Chum forecast likely to exceed one-million plus, which means great fishing in weeks ahead

The good news for salmon anglers is two-fold as the chinook fishery reopens in some local marine areas, but the bigger news is what appears to be an extremely strong chum return.

“It appears we’re at the beginning of a stronger than forecasted chum run for Hood Canal and South Sound,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) chum salmon biologist.

Sport anglers at Hoodsport in Hood Canal saw some good catches of chum this past weekend where 38 anglers on Oct. 21 had 25 chum, and 26 on Oct. 22 had 19.

Likewise catches from commercial boats in central and south-central Puget Sound and Hood Canal were scoring good catches too.

“We had our initial (purse seine and gill-net) openings last week and this week, and based on our (catch per unit effort) they’re among the largest we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Litz said.

Early boat ticket reports showed some as high as 4,000 chum per commercial boat on Oct. 18, and it appears they remained steady this past week.

“We had several purse seiners in Hood Canal and South Sound filling up their holds, and catching a lot of good quality bright chum,” Litz said. “Of course, it is still too early, and we haven’t changed any of our preseason run-size forecasts just yet.”

The total fall chum return is 1,070,968, and a breakdown of that figure shows 492,892 for Hood Canal and 291,357 for South Sound rivers and streams.

Other fall chum forecasts are 109,337 for Nooksack/Samish; 6,966 for Skagit; 5,981 for Stillaguamish; 20,53 for Snohomish; 141,893 for central Puget Sound; and 2,061 for Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many rivers are closed to all salmon fishing to protect weak returning stocks. Check the WDFW pamphlet for what is open and/or closed to fishing.

“This is still the early stage of chum returns, but all indications show we’re going to exceed that based on the catches the last few weeks,” Litz said. “We’ve had pretty atrocious returns of pinks, and issues with chinook and coho so to see this chum return likely exceeding expectations is great news.”

WDFW and tribal fishery managers are assessing chum forecasts, and will likely start having conversations to consider increasing the run-size very soon, which could be as soon as this week.

Chum salmon – better known as dog salmon for their ferocious-looking jawline at spawning time – are also one of the hardest-fighting fish a sport angler will hook, and they can weigh up to and over 20 pounds with most averaging 8 to 15 pounds.

Anglers pursuing chums will have plenty of opportunities along some of the more traditional fishing holes, which will give up decent action in the weeks ahead with the peak usually occurring around Thanksgiving.

Popular locales are the estuaries off Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, Johns Creek and Canyon Creek in Oakland Bay, Chico Creek estuary in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek estuary near Southworth.

Other good places to try for chum are North Bay near Allyn, Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

The heavy rain in past couple of weeks has pushed a lot of the early chums toward estuaries where they’ll stage before up into rivers and streams.

A bobber and anchovy or small firecracker-sized herring is the most productive way to catch fish, but tossing flies, spinners, jigs and spoons will also catch their fair share of fish. In this fishery many believe the color chartreuse is the “must have” color in your tackle gear to catch chums.

The strong abundance of chum also bodes well when northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) reopens for blackmouth on Wednesday (Nov. 1). Anglers at places like Possession Bar and Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Kingston, Pilot Point and Port Townsend should find their decent share of fish to catch.

In the meantime, for those who just can’t wait until the opener can get a jump start right now for chum and/or other salmon species in south-central and southern Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Central Puget Sound is also currently open for hatchery coho only. Many of these areas restrictions change on Wednesday (Nov. 1) so be sure to check the WDFW pamphlet for what types of salmon you can or cannot keep.

One of toughest salmon derbies begins soon

Once the free-for-all on winter hatchery-marked chinook gets underway on many marine areas, be sure to put down the 72nd annual Tengu Blackmouth Derby in Elliott Bay on your calendar starting this Sunday (Nov. 5) and will be held every Sunday through Dec. 31.

The derby began in 1937, and up until 2015 was held every season since the end of World War II.

Last season just nine legal-size chinook were caught during the entire derby. The largest fish was caught by Benny Wong of Seattle, and weighed 10 pounds-1 ounce. Coincidentally Wong caught the most fish for the entire season with three hatchery chinook.

A breakdown revealed three legal-sized hatchery chinook caught on Nov. 6; one fish (the season winner) on Nov. 13; one fish on Nov. 20; one fish on Nov. 27; one fish on Dec. 4; two on Dec. 11; and none on Dec. 18.

In the derby, only mooching (fishing using a banana-style lead weight to a leader with a herring) is allowed. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted. This winter the boundary has been extended to West Point.

Cost is $35 to join the club, and $5 for children 12-years-old-and-under. The derby starts at daybreak and ends each day at 11 a.m. The Seacrest Boathouse will be open at 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, and then 6 a.m. every Sunday after that. Cost for rental boat from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. is $65, and $85 for boat and motor. Tickets will be available at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle.

Word on squid jigging

That moves us into squid jigging and this weather outside is the perfect setting although it has been good for weeks now and I’m still hearing that places like the Seacrest Pier and along the Seattle waterfront are the go to spots. Most aren’t big like 4 to 5 inches.

High tide like tonight is a plus-10.6 feet at 6:11 p.m. so I’d be there on the pier hitting it hard from 4 p.m. and the few hours after the tide change. It is going to get progressively later as the week goes on into Thursday Oct. 27 before it switches back around. I’d also hit the Shilshole boat launch pier and A-Dock at Shilshole Marina as well as Edmonds, Kingston piers, on the west side try Waterman and Illahee piers, and down south try Des Moines, Les Davis, Dash Point and Redondo piers.

Chum are for stream watchers too

For those who don’t fish or just want to see all the chum moving into rivers and streams should take advantage of the action.

Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet offers by far the best sights of chum in spawning action. The creek is located off Highway 101, and is a small low-land stream that flows into southern Puget Sound. It is one of the most productive chum salmon production streams in the state. Chum begin appearing between mid-October and mid-December, and best viewing time is during the month of November. The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail provides a unique opportunity, and was created by the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group. There are easy access areas, multiple fish viewing platforms, interpretive signs and on-sight trail guides.

Chico Creek Salmon Park is located just above the culvert under Kitsap Golf Club Hill Road off Chico Way in Dyes Inlet. You can also see the fish on the bridge near the 19th Hole Tavern on Erland Point Road, and an access point at the end of Kittyhawk Drive.

Closer to Seattle, Piper’s Creek at Carkeek Park is a tiny watershed that offers good viewing of returning chum. The best viewing time is primarily from mid-November through mid-December, and peaks around first week of December. In late November there is often a free event called Carkeek’s Annual Salmon Celebration. For details, call 206-684-5999.

 

Squid jigging fun is a late-night fall and winter affair off Puget Sound piers

Jigging for squid in Puget Sound is often deemed a nocturnal fishing affair as the best action usually occurs in the middle of the night when the majority of people are sound asleep.

Those willing to take on this late-night fishery will reap the rewards by having piles of tasty deep- or pan-fried calamari for the dinner table, and the sheer fun and camaraderie of hooking up with oodles of these slimy creatures.

Don’t expect solitude when pursuing them as hundreds of others with fishing poles, colorful jigs and a high-powered portable lamp to light up the water below have been crowding piers along the Seattle waterfront, and from Edmonds south to Tacoma and across the sound at Bremerton since right after Labor Day when word got out the fishing had started to ramp up.

From late summer through the heart of winter-time, millions of squid return to Puget Sound, and gorge on small baitfish and crustaceans as they prepare to spawn.

While the best squid jigging usually occurs from late November to February it isn’t uncommon to catch them right now when the weather is much more tolerable, and packing along all the heavy clothing isn’t necessary.

“Squid jigging has been very off the Edmonds Pier and all the way down to the Tacoma-Narrows area,” said Mike Chamberlain, owner of Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood. “The good news is that you don’t have the bundle up like an Eskimo at this time of the season. The squid right now are the smaller summer type in the 4- to 5-inch range, and we should start to see some bigger ones soon.”

Chamberlain says he’s been selling plenty of jigs to customers in recent weeks as word has leaked out that jigging for squid is off the a decent early start, and should stay this way well into the winter.

Sorry, but you won’t find any of the mythical ship-wrecking types of “kraken” squid in our area nor the more popular giant Humboldt squid that travel the western coastal waters, and are known grow to 8 feet in length and weigh in excess of 100 pounds.

Squid in our neck-of-the-woods – to be more precise in Puget Sound marine waterways – are called Pacific squid or “market squid” and their average size is 5 to 12 inches.

Squid swim freely in huge schools, and have a very short lifespan of about 12 to 18 months.

For reasons not known, squid feed mainly at night and are attracted to light, but tend to hide in the shadows of darkness only darting out into the light to pursue their prey.

Since they tend to hang around the shorelines off public piers, catching them is pretty accessible and one doesn’t need expensive fishing gear.

Just about any fishing rod will work, but many prefer lighter more sensitive long-length type rod with a trout-like spinning reel. Use light weighted line of 5 to 6 pound test so you can feel the light tap or vibration of an attacking squid(s).

A weighted luminous plastic jig comes in a wide range of colors ranging in red, chartreuse, pink, blue, green, orange or nor no-color at all. Jigs don’t have “hooks” are each comes with an upward slanting sharp prongs.

Some use an unweighted lure attached to a one-ounce lead weight allowing them to be dropped down to the desired depth. Many anglers will also attach multiple jigs to the main-line, but regulations say no more than four lures may be used at one time.

Squid won’t actually bite the jig, but will wrap themselves onto the jig’s pin-like ends so keep steady upward pressure will keep them hanging on, and don’t give a squid any slack otherwise they’ll let go.

Anglers will raise the rod tip up to about 10 o’clock and then slowly lower the jig back down to make it resemble an injured fish.

Squid tend to school  just below the water’s surface to about 20 to 25 feet down, but it’s good to work you lure from top to bottom in the water column to find them.

Prime time to catch squid is during or right at high tide. While they often feed in darkness in the middle of the night, often times they’ll stay on the hunt into the early-morning hours just before daylight.

The most popular places to catch them are along the Seattle waterfront at Piers 57, 62, 63, 69, 70 or the Seattle Aquarium Pier.

The best Seattle location in past squid seasons has been Pier 86, but was closed this past summer until further notice due safety concerns. The Port of Seattle and state Fish and Wildlife are trying to determine the fate of the pier, since repairs to fix the cracked piers as well as failing electrical and water systems will be costly.

Other ideal locations are the Seacrest Boathouse Pier in West Seattle; Edmonds Pier; Des Moines Pier; Redondo Pier; A-Dock and Shilshole Pier; Point Defiance Park Pier; Les Davis Pier in Tacoma; Fauntleroy Ferry Dock; Illahee State Park Pier; and the Waterman and Indianola piers in Kitsap County.

A daily limit is 10 pounds or 5 quarts, and each angler must keep their catch in separate containers. A forage fish dip-net or hand dip net may be used; there is no minimum size limit for squid; and a state shellfish license is required for ages 15 to 69, and 70 and older will need a senior shellfish license.

State Fish and Wildlife has information on squid jigging at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/.

 

First coastal razor clam digs of fall season begin Friday, and expect a mixed bag of sizes

Four coastal beaches opening this Friday and Saturday for first digs of 2017-18 season.

Coastal razor clam lovers have go ahead to proceed on four coastal beaches this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 6-7) for the first digs of the 2017-18 season.

“Our summer assessments showed the amount of clams in general is down this coming season, but depending on the beaches it should be good,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager. “The latest toxin testing show clams are safe to eat so we can proceed as planned. The test at Twin Harbors was at 10 parts per million (cutoff is 20 ppm), and all the rest of the beaches were single digits.”

Digging will be allowed Friday (a minus-0.4 feet low tide at 7:49 p.m.) and Saturday (-0.7 at 8:33 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

Digging is usually best about an hour or two leading up to the low tide change, which means some of the digging period will occur during daylight hours if the skies are clear.

Ayres noted that marine toxin samplers found plenty of clams on beaches north of Grays Harbor especially at places like Mocrocks, and the majority are small, little guys measuring about 3 ½ inches. As is the case when the season opens in autumn those smaller clams are growing into the fishery, and will get bigger in time for the spring digs.

Sunsets can be dramatic during fall and winter evening low tides, and razor clam digging off coast should be decent. Photo by Mark Yuasa.

“The stock assessment gives us numbers, but it doesn’t give an overall sense of what is there,” Ayres said. “We didn’t have any problem getting clams during our assessments in particular at Mocrocks and Copalis.”

The news might not be so rosy for those heading to the southern coast where places like Long Beach lost of lot of clams. The likely downfall was sparse feed and nutrients, and the lower than normal salinity levels due to all the freshwater runoff in the Columbia River this summer. The clams leftover last spring were not fat clams at Long Beach so they also might be on the slimmer size.

Twin Harbors also saw a decline in the clam population, but to a slightly lesser degree.

Daily limit is the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition, and diggers must keep the first clams they dig, which means no high-grading. Each digger’s clams must be kept in separate containers.

During the upcoming season there will be a group of researchers from the University of Maryland interviewing recreational razor clam harvesters.

A federal grant by the school will have volunteers out on beaches seeking volunteers to conduct a paid interview for a survey on razor clam consumption and harvesting practices.

“Lynn Grattan, PHD MD researcher for the University of Maryland did a seven-year long-term study on tribal people who eat a lot of razor clams and is seeking answers to questions about people who consume more than 15 clams per month,” Ayres said.

While diggers don’t eat that many clams in a month, the Department of Health has a warning on their website at https://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Shellfish/RecreationalShellfish/Illnesses/Biotoxins/DomoicAcidinRazorClams.

“Part of this study is to determine the effect on people that could lead to long-term memory loss if they consume more than 15 clams a month even with small amounts of domoic acid,” Ayres said. “We don’t want to scare people, and in fact I’ve consumed more than 15 in a month, but in general most of us don’t so the likelihood of any ill effects is very minimal.”

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

Dates have been set through Dec. 31, and as mentioned above each series hinges on marine toxin testing before opening.

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

Other dates planned are:

Nov. 2 (0.1 at 6:03 p.m.) at Copalis; Nov. 3 (-0.7 at 6:47 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 4 (-1.2 at 7:31 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 5 (-1.4 at 7:16 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

Dec. 1 (-0.3 at 4:42 p.m.) at Copalis; Dec. 2 (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 3 (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; Dec. 4 (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 31 (1.2 at 5:12 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

For more information, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

Oregon opens northern beach for razor clam harvest

Just across the Columbia River on the Oregon side, Clatsop County beaches reopened this past Sunday after being closed since July of 2016, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported.

The closure was necessary due to elevated levels of marine toxins and a closure to protect newly set young clams from July 15 through Sept. 30 that occurs yearly.

Other Oregon beaches have remained open for razor clam digging, but Clatsop County beaches are the most popular spot and make up 90 percent of state’s harvest.

During the summer of 2016, diggers found a bounty of clams during a record year with the majority of diggers attaining their 15-clam daily limit.

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

When the beaches reopen it is likely that diggers will find a different scenario since surveys found abundance levels significantly lower since surveys began in 2004.

“In 2016, abundance peaked and surveys estimated 16 million razor clams in the 18-mile stretch between the Columbia River south jetty and Tillamook Head,” Matt Hunter, the ODFW’s Lead Shellfish Manager said in a news release. “This year, the estimate is just 3 million clams in that area.”

“These low numbers are troubling, as they mean Clatsop beaches haven’t seen a significant recruitment event for two years,” Hunter said.  “But this recruitment issue is not isolated to just Clatsop beaches. It’s being seen on the entire Oregon coast and for Washington beaches, too.”

Despite total numbers being down, diggers will find larger-sized clams averaging about 4 ½ inches with only a few clams smaller than 4-inches. Surveys showed clams distributed sporadically along the entire stretch of the beach.

“While razor clam numbers are lower this year, clams are quite large,” Hunter said. “To be successful, clammers should be diligent, choose the best low tides and actively ‘pound’ to get razors to show.”

The daily limit is the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition, and sorting or releasing clams isn’t allowed.

Before heading to an Oregon diggers should call 800-448-2474 or go to http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/ShellfishClosures.aspx.

 

Upcoming razor clam digs Oct. 6-7 on hold with more marine toxin testing necessary

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

By Mark Yuasa

Those making plans to hit the coast for razor clams Oct. 6-7 will have to hit the pause button until early next week when a final, final decision will come to light.

“I did have a conference call with state health (on Wednesday morning), and they have some concerns based on most recent test results and also data coming from (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for harmful algae blooms offshore,” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Ayres said state health has requested them to take another sample of clams from the four beaches this coming Monday (Oct. 2), and then get word out by late Tuesday on those results and if they can proceed with the digs.

The latest toxin testing this past Monday showed marine toxin levels for domoic acid were still below the cutoff threshold.

Once cleared the digs are Oct. 6 (a minus-0.4 feet low tide at 7:49 p.m.) and Oct. 7 (-0.7 at 8:33 p.m.) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

On the positive side, Ayres noted his samplers found clams all over two northern beaches especially Mocrocks although there are small, little guys mixed in. Some of those smaller clams are growing into the fishery, and will get bigger in time for the spring digs.

“The (summer) stock assessment gives us numbers (which appeared down from past years), but it doesn’t give an overall sense of what is there,” Ayres said. “We didn’t have any problem getting clams during our assessments in particular at Mocrocks and Copalis.”

The news might not be so rosy for those heading to the southern coast where places like Long Beach lost of lot of clams where feed was sparse and the salinity level dropped due to all the freshwater runoff in the Columbia River. The clams leftover were not fat clams at Long Beach in the spring so they also might be on the slimmer size.

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

Twin Harbors also saw a decline in the clam population, but to a slightly lesser degree.

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

Dates have been set through Dec. 31, and as mentioned above each series hinges on marine toxin testing before opening.

Other dates planned are:

Nov. 2 (0.1 at 6:03 p.m.) at Copalis; Nov. 3 (-0.7 at 6:47 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 4 (-1.2 at 7:31 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 5 (-1.4 at 7:16 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

Dec. 1 (-0.3 at 4:42 p.m.) at Copalis; Dec. 2 (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 3 (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; Dec. 4 (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 31 (1.2 at 5:12 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

For more information, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

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

Oregon reopens for razor clams

If you want to get a head start, just cross the Columbia River to Oregon’s Clatsop County beaches, which reopens this Sunday (Oct. 1) after being closed since July of 2016, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported.

The closure was necessary due to elevated levels of marine toxins and a closure to protect newly set young clams from July 15 through Sept. 30 that occurs yearly.

Other Oregon beaches have remained open for razor clam digging, but Clatsop County beaches are the most popular spot and make up 90 percent of state’s harvest.

Oregon beaches are tested twice a month to ensure clams and other shellfish are safe for human consumption.

Ayres noted the most recent tests taken Sept. 8 and Sept. 22 at Clatsop County beaches showed levels at 19 parts per million (ppm), which is a hair under the 20 ppm cutoff.

During the summer of 2016, diggers found a bounty of clams during a record year with the majority of diggers attaining their 15-clam daily limit.

When the beaches reopen it is likely that diggers will find a different scenario since surveys found abundance levels significantly lower since surveys began in 2004.

“In 2016, abundance peaked and surveys estimated 16 million razor clams in the 18-mile stretch between the Columbia River south jetty and Tillamook Head,” Matt Hunter, the ODFW’s Lead Shellfish Manager said in a news release. “This year, the estimate is just 3 million clams in that area.”

“These low numbers are troubling, as they mean Clatsop beaches haven’t seen a significant recruitment event for two years,” Hunter said.  “But this recruitment issue is not isolated to just Clatsop beaches. It’s being seen on the entire Oregon coast and for Washington beaches, too.”

While total numbers are down, diggers will find larger-sized clams averaging about 4 ½ inches with only a few clams smaller than 4-inches. Surveys showed clams distributed sporadically along the entire stretch of the beach.

“While razor clam numbers are lower this year, clams are quite large,” Hunter said. “To be successful, clammers should be diligent, choose the best low tides and actively ‘pound’ to get razors to show.”

The daily limit is the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition, and sorting or releasing clams isn’t allowed.

Shellfish testing is conducted twice per month. Before going call 800-448-2474 or go to http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/FoodSafety/Shellfish/Pages/ShellfishClosures.aspx.

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

Coastal razor clams cautiously pass first round of marine toxin testing with another round to go

Coastal razor clam enthusiasts are waiting for the green light on whether the first digs of the autumn season will come to fruition, and much of that hinges on marine toxin test results.

“We did our first run of results on Monday, and all the 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 — numbers were OK although a couple were in the 12 (parts per million) range (the action level is 20 ppm),” said Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

“There was a 12 (ppm) at Twin Harbors and 12 (ppm) at Copalis, which are higher than we’ve seen in a while and not sure if it’s a trend of what is to come,” Ayres said. “We will do the next required sample dig on Monday (Sept. 25), and should know those results by (Sept. 17).”

Two clean tests are required by state Fish and Wildlife for marine toxins before they can formally announce whether a digging series will occur.

Those first two digs are scheduled to occur on Oct. 6-7 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

Domoic acid test samples collected this past Monday:

Long Beach – Northern section was 6 ppm; two areas of the middle section was 8 ppm and 5 ppm; and southern section was 8 ppm. Twin Harbors – Northern section was 6 ppm; middle section was 10 ppm; and southern section was 12 ppm.

Copalis – Northern section was 9 ppm; middle section was 10 ppm; and southern section was 12 ppm. Mocrocks – Northern section was 7 ppm; and middle section was 4 ppm.

“If they are high again we may have to take another (third) sample and this will mean it could take a bit longer before we make the announcement,” Ayres noted. “We aren’t seeing a big spike in domoic acid yet and with the (cooler) weather it will cause a bloom to die off and haven’t seen that yet.”

The good news is that despite a decline of razor clam populations seen by state fisheries biologists during summer assessments it looks like diggers may see good digging prospects if it opens.

Sylvia Tsang of Mercer Island holds up a razor clam she dug from Mocrocks Beach last spring.

“My sampler said at Mocrocks there are clams all over the place, and there are small, little guys mixed in, and that is indicative of what we’ll see when they open,” Ayres said. “The stock assessment gives us numbers, but it doesn’t give an overall sense of what is there.”

“We didn’t have any problem getting clams during our assessments in particular at Mocrocks and Copalis,” he said. “And the tribes were reporting good catches, but some small clams. Some of those smaller clams are growing into the fishery, and will get bigger in the spring.”

The news might not be so rosy for those heading to the southern coast where places like Long Beach lost of lot of clams where feed was sparse and the salinity level dropped due to all the freshwater runoff in the Columbia River. The clams leftover were not fat clams at Long Beach in the spring so they also might be on the slimmer size.

Postseason estimates from 2016-17 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.

Clam digging in 2016-17 at Twin Harbors 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.

At Copalis in 2016-17 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).

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

At Mocrocks in 2016-17 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).

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.

Coast-wide 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.

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

Dates have been set through New Years Eve, and as mentioned above each series hinges on marine toxin testing before opening.

Digging dates planned so far:

Oct. 6 (minus-0.4 feet at 7:49 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Oct. 7 (-0.7 at 8:33 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

Nov. 2 (0.1 at 6:03 p.m.) at Copalis; Nov. 3 (-0.7 at 6:47 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 4 (-1.2 at 7:31 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 5 (-1.4 at 7:16 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.

Dec. 1 (-0.3 at 4:42 p.m.) at Copalis; Dec. 2 (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 3 (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; Dec. 4 (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 31 (1.2 at 5:12 p.m.) on Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks.

For more information, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

Time to start making plans to pursue fall kings in Hanford Reach area of Columbia River

Mark Yuasa (right) with guide Austin Moser of Austin’s Northwest Adventures holds up an upriver bright king caught in Hanford Reach area in mid-October of 2016.

By Mark Yuasa

For those like me who missed out on the Buoy 10 chinook fishery at the Lower Columbia River mouth last month, you can still score a second chance to catch those exact same fish about 375 miles upstream.

“The fish counts for chinook have really shot up at Bonneville and McNary dams this past week, and I’ve got a good feeling we should see fishing really improve up near Vernita very soon,” said Dave Graybill, a longtime outdoor radio host in central Washington.

“I fished the Columbia off the mouth of the Deschutes and Klickitat rivers, and we got into a pretty good bite,” Graybill said. “These fish are on the move and were fresh and very active to take our baits.”

While it is known that some of these king – better known as upriver brights – were picked off along the way, it is likely that many slipped by offering anglers another chance at encountering this decent return of 260,000 upriver bright chinook.

Boats troll up and down just off the Vernita boat launch.

Last year’s forecast was a bountiful figure of 589,000 although the actual return ended up being 406,600 headed to the Hanford Reach area in south-central Washington. Many anglers got spoiled after the 2015 return of 1.3 million, and runs between 250,000 and 500,000 are still very good.

The delightful news is 193,250 chinook had already passed Bonneville Dam through Sept. 14, and the tail-end of the king train is likely still somewhere down near  the mouth of the Cowlitz and extends way up to McNary Dam at Umatilla, Oregon where 25,274 were tallied to date.

Keep a close on eye on the fish counts at McNary and once the single-day counts hit around 5,000 to 9,000 it’s time to go! On Sept. 13, the count was 1,575 and by Sept. 14 it jumped to 3,861. It usually takes about five days for these fish to migrate to lower sections and around 10 days or so to reach the upper stretches.

The Hanford Reach area offers anglers one of the biggest late-autumn returns of kings along the entire West Coast, and also offers a chance to hook and release a boat-size sturgeon.

What gets in the way of migrating salmon to this neck of the woods (well more like farmland mixed in with arid, high bluffs, desert-like sagebrush lands) are four dams.

After clearing the fourth dam is a spectacular 51 miles of free-flowing river located between the Yakima River near Richland and Priest Rapids Dam located at River Mile 390.

The kings here are also known to be big bruisers averaging 15 to 25 pounds with some pushing 40 pounds.

I had a chance to fish in the middle of last October which is near the end of a run that peaks in late-September to early-October with friend Graybill of Leavenworth, Eric Granstrom of Wenatchee and Austin Moser of Austin’s Northwest Adventures in Wenatchee.

We launched from a rough gravel ramp just above Highway 24/Vernita Bridge on Columbia, and the fishing grounds are easy on the gas bill since the best fishing occurs right in front at a place known as the “King Hole,” which was a deep slot about 50 to 60 feet deep.

There are other fishing holes like the Hog Hole, and the Midway Drift and China Bar Drift located above King Hole.

Our tactics was to slow troll and back-bounce our Spin-N-Glos (a brightly orange-colored winged bobber) and a gob of salmon cluster eggs the size of a tennis ball plus Kwikfish lures wrapped with sardines and smeared in a sardine scent jelly against the current.

Look for this fishery to continue to blossom in the years to come as a big upriver bright chinook production program at Priest Rapids and Ringold, and the wild chinook runs to this area remain robust.

The Hanford Reach area still has strong numbers of fish coming back when you look at historical data. The spawning escapement of 60,000 at McNary has been easily attainable year in and out, and they’ve been able to meet their goals for more than a decade.

A report last week from Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist, indicated fishing was very slow, but did show some slight improvement.  State fisheries staff interviewed 126 boats with 262 anglers and 16 bank anglers (Ringold access area) and sampled 13 adult chinook and two jack chinook.

Through Sept. 10, 105 adult fall chinook and 10 chinook jacks have been caught in the Hanford Reach from 2,105 angler trips. Effort and harvest has been much lower this year compared to 2016.

The fishery from the I-182 Bridge to Rock Island Dam is open through Oct. 22, and from Rock Island to Wells Dam is open until Oct. 15. Be sure to check the regulation pamphlet for specifics.

Mark Yuasa
Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

 

Lake Washington yellow perch are abundant and an excellent late-summer fish to catch

Danny Garrett, the state Fish and Wildlife warm-water biologist, holds up a nice stringer of yellow perch he caught on Lake Washington. These later-summer fish are an easy catch and very abundant in the lake. Photo courtesy of Danny Garrett.

By Mark Yuasa

The yellow perch in Lake Washington are one of the most prolific fish species in Lake Washington, and for anglers they’re easy to find and extremely fun to catch.

“I recently took our marketing team out to fish for them, and we caught around 200 and never left our one spot,” said Danny Garrett, the state Fish and Wildlife warm-water species biologist.

“We caught a bunch in 8- to 10-inch range along with a couple over 10 inches,” Garrett said. “It is just so easy to catch them at this time of the year. I get super excited every August and can never talk enough about the perch fishery.”

Those sizes of yellow perch that Garrett and his group caught are typical of the catch in Lake Washington although a “jumbo-sized” fish of 12 inches or longer can often be found mixed into the schools of fish.

The shorelines along the bays of Lake Washington are filled with yellow perch.

State fisheries experts say it is only a matter of time before the official state record of 2.75 pounds caught by Larry Benthien at Snelson’s Slough in Skagit County on June 22, 1969 could be broken, and it likely may come from Seattle’s backyard urban watershed.

The basis for this statement is largely based upon the ample feed and lots of room for yellow perch to grow in Lake Washington  the second largest natural-bodied lake in the state.

“I don’t think we can keep up with the recruitment of yellow perch in Lake Washington, and even with the amount of fishing pressure we won’t make a dent on the population,” Garrett said. “The survival rate of perch are doing very well, and I’ve been doing surveys on the lake, and they dominate all the other warm-water fish species.”

Yellow perch – known for their colorful yellow, orange and brass-colored bodies with distinct olive-green, vertical triangular bars along each of their sides – spawn in April, and well ahead of many other warm-water fish species in the lake.

The female perch are the largest, and they tend to grow much faster (usually maturing in three to four years) and live long up to 8 to 10 years.

Yellow perch are the most abundant fish species in Lake Washington, and are very willing to take an anglers bait all-day long. Photo courtesy of WDFW.

“Unless we get a high die-off due to some type of fungal infection, I think they will be with us for a very long time in the lake,” Garrett said.

Perch won’t peel off line or leap out of the water like a salmon, but an all-day virtual nonstop bite will get any angler hooked on this enjoyable late summer and fall fishery.

‘On the day we fished it, we hung out in the Newport Canal and along the Newport Shores area just south of I-90,” Garret said. “There was 100s and 1,000s of perch schooling in the area, and when we’d reel in one you’d see 50 more perch chasing them up to the surface. It was amazing.”

Since the lake is huge – 20 miles long and covering more than 22,000 acres – it can seem a bit daunting to the newbie, but there are some simple tips to follow to find excellent success to catching yellow perch.

The best time to fish for yellow perch begins around July when the water heats up, and peaks in August through October. As the winter chill sets in by November, the bite all but ceases as the perch move out into very deep water.

Look for schools of yellow perch in shallow water, 15 to 35 feet, and close to the shoreline. They tend to hang in shaded spots just outside the cover of weed beds, milfoil, aquatic weeds and lily pads or under docks, piers and overhanging trees and brush.

A young angler tries his luck to catch fish and yellow perch off a dock.

“The fish feed throughout the day on snails, clams, crayfish and smaller invertebrates, and are a lot more active even in middle of afternoon and only hunker down at night when predators are out,” said Garrett who claims even during broad daylight they aren’t spooked by boaters or jet- or water-skiers zipping around.

“When we fished it a couple weeks ago they were active from 11 a.m. until we quit at 3 p.m.,” Garrett said. “You don’t have to be out there fishing early in the morning either. I also visited a bunch of piers and shorelines recently, and saw guys catching them right next to busy swim areas.”

Places to catch and gear to use for yellow perch

Popular locations to catch perch are Seward Park; Kenmore log boom and pier; Magnuson Park shoreline; Andrews Bay; Juanita Bay; Newport area; Webster Point in Union Bay; Yarrow Bay in Kirkland; Gene Coulon Park in Renton; Foster Island just outside the Montlake Cut; Mercer Island; and the docks off Madison Park, Stan Sayres Pits, Leschi Park and Mount Baker Park.

The gear to catch them is relatively simple using a light-to-medium-action fishing rod with a spinning reel attached to 4- to 6-pound test line.

“I keep two simple no-brainer options in the boat to catch perch, and while perch meat is awesome I haven’t gone in that direction,” Garrett said. “I use earth worms and a drop-shot (egg-style) weight, which is much easier than the three-way swivel technique. I will also use (Sniper Lures) Sniper Snubs – a colorful tiny 3-inch plastic worm. You really have to feel the very subtle strikes these fish make, and often the bigger 10- and 12-inch fish will just nibble at the bait, and are more finicky biters. Don’t set the hook hard when you first feel them bite, play with them a little bit and they’ll eventually strike the bait.”

The difference between an 8-inch and 14-inch yellow perch show the growth potential in Lake Washington. Some experts say the next state record could come from Seattle’s largest urban watershed. Photo courtesy of Danny Garrett, WDFW biologist.

Others will also use a skirted crappie jig, maggots and like previously mentioned by Garrett a small chunk of perch meat or even a perch eyeball works well.

While the main focus in Lake Washington are yellow perch the wide diversity of fish species enables an angler to switch gears and catch cutthroat and rainbow trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass and black crappie along with another abundant fish the “rock bass” a species of the sunfish.

“There are more rock bass showing up than in previous years, and guys are catching a lot of them,” Garrett said. “In places like the Ship Canal we have seen a 50-50 split of yellow perch and rock bass. They aren’t big on eating, but very fun to catch.”

Lake Washington isn’t the only yellow perch show in town, and good action can be found in lakes Sammamish; Beaver and Pine near Issaquah; Whatcom near Bellingham; Sawyer northwest of Black Diamond; Goodwin northwest of Marysville; Stevens east of Everett; American near Fort Lewis; Kapowsin southeast of Puyallup; Angle in Sea-Tac; Desire in Renton; Meridian in Kent; and Harts southeast of Yelm.

Yellow perch are also very tasty with a firm white-fleshed body.

“I would call them the little walleye and they’re actually related,” Garrett said. “They’re in the same wheelhouse in texture and flavor as a walleye, and I’d eat them all-day long.”

State Fish and Wildlife doesn’t have a daily catch or size limit on yellow perch in the majority of statewide lakes, but check the regulation pamphlet before heading out to fish for them. You can also find plenty of information on yellow perch, including a super great video with WDFW’s Danny Garrett by going to the link http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/Species/1849/.

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

 

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.