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

 

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.

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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

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

Hippa Island: Helijets, Huge Chinook & Coho!

One of the enduring charms of hunting and fishing, one of the things that keeps you coming back year after year is that every now and then you experience something that is completely unexpected, out of the ordinary and inspiring. Now, if you have a trip that provides you one of the aforementioned experiences each day of the excursion… then you my friend have had the trip of a lifetime. If all this happens in a luxury destination and your wife happens to be with you… Well, before I wear you out with superlatives, let me tell you the story.

Any fishing trip that starts with a smiling spouse in a Helijet is off to a great start and my wife Kathy is already enjoying herself and we haven’t even lifted off yet!

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…and what a flight it would be. British Columbia’s Queen Charlotte Islands are a largely untouched wilderness and the view from WestCoast Resorts Helijet is beyond description so… you’ll have to make do with this shot…

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Once we got to Hippa Island and met the lodge staff and Fishing Instructors, we couldn’t wait to get down to the boats that are all rigged and ready to fish!

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On our first trip from Hippa Island out to the grounds, we were greeted by a group of Risso’s Dolphins. Think of a Harbor (or more correctly Dahl’s) Porpoise on steroids and you’re getting close. I’ve never seen a group of these flying in “formation” like this before and it was a very unexpected treat!

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I’m guessing the same baitfish that attracted those dolphin were the same critters that held these jumbo coho and we caught and released several before we kept these three on our first afternoon.

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Back at the lodge… Ok, back at the bar at the lodge, we can watch the other guests come in while we enjoy a beverage…or two…

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The next morning, we had just got the gear down and BOOM! Kathy was into a big one that took some blistering runs and would not let us see him for a good ten minutes!

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When we did see him, I knew at once that Kathy had her first tyee on and I couldn’t get that slab in the net fast enough!

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Kathy’s first ever tyee pulled the lodge scale down to the 31 pound mark and we both knew that we were in the middle of a very special trip!

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How about a pair of 15 pound coho for a morning bite? The Canadian non-resident possession limit is four chinook and four coho in addition to two halibut, six lings and a pile of rockfish which adds up to a whole bunch of fish to bring home!

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When you add all that fish up multiplied by the 40 guests in the lodge…

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…and get it loaded in the Helijet for the trip back to the airport, it’s one impressive sight!

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Once the morning mist burns off, we lift off the helipad…

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…and are treated to our last look at WestCoast Resorts Hippa Island lodge, fishing instructors and staff who have attended to our every need for the entire trip! Truly a special group of people that enjoy what they do and appreciate the very special place they get to do to work and live.

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When you consider the remote locations of WestCoast Resorts Haida Gwaii operations, the fact that the lodges, specially built on barges spend the winter in the Frasier River and are towed up to Hippa Island and Englefield Bay fully refurbished and re-stocked each spring, you begin to gain a grasp of the scope of this massive annual undertaking. Add to that the fact that each lodge is a stand alone luxury hotel, restaurant, bar and fish processing facility that is only accessable by boat or helicopter and now, hopefully you see what a special place this truly is.

WestCoast Resorts has created a opportunity that only exists for three months a year and will provide you with a four day experience that will provide a feast of seafood and a lifetime of memories. Here’s hoping you’ll consider joining us on our next trip to this piscatorial paradise

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

The Washington Tuna Classic 2016

Tuna fishing is a little like getting bit by a tick: It gets under your skin and you hope you don’t get the “disease”…

If it weren’t for my former on-air partner, Seattle Seahawk Pro-Bowler Robbie Tobeck and SaltPatrol.com’s John Keizer, my tuna condition would likely have not progressed from acute through chronic to terminal. However, my condition has now degenerated to advanced bait tank installations and after running my Weldcraft for the first time out of Westport over the Grays Harbor Bar I’ve now been observed by my wife ordering extra rod holders and cedar plugs on line. Terminal dude…Terminal.

Like others that suffer from a debilitating condition, it’s often helpful to seek comfort in the company of others with a similar affliction. So it should come as no surprise that a support group meeting should be in order. In this case the “support group” is known as the Washington Tuna Classic where nearly 70 angling teams seek to feed their addiction and feed others by donating all fish caught in this event to Northwest Harvest and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Preparing for a tuna run is a bit of an undertaking with fuel, ice and live anchovies and getting ready for a tuna tourney adds quite a bit to the equation. Regardless, the successful offshore run starts with a pile of preparation the evening before.

The evening before the Washington Tuna Classic the boat is in the harbor, fueled, iced and in tuna mode!

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After we pick up our load of live bait, we wait on the starting line for our check-in with Washington Tuna Classic Tournament Control and we’re underway!

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35 miles offshore, we drop the outriggers get  the gear down and get to searching for birds and jumpers.

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Having the bait tank in the middle of the deck is a huge advantage and allows a quick conversion from trolling to a vertical presentation with live bait and jigs!

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We managed to convert one of our trolling bites to a bait stop, ending up with five tuna on board. Heading into the weigh-in dock, it sounded like the entire fleet experienced tough fishing conditions and an even tougher tuna bite!

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Our five albacore put us on the board and we were hoping for a top ten finish among the 70 angling teams competing in this event! Left to right, Team Evinrude is Robbie Tobeck, John Keizer, myself and Donald Auman.

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At the Award Ceremony, MC’d very expertly by Kevin Lanier, the leaderboard was revealed and Team Evinrude ended up with a 9th place finish with our five fish bag of 103.70 pounds!

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The 2016 Washington Tuna Classic Champs are team Reel Broke with a total of 127.38 pounds of tuna!

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Of course, no WTC podium would be complete without Mark Coleman’s Team All Rivers & Saltwater Charters and they finished a strong second with 125.5 pounds!

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A big thanks to Mitch King and all of the volunteers that make the Washington Tuna Classic the great event that it has become! 

Also, if it weren’t for John Keizer, Robbie Tobeck and Donald Auman we would not have enjoyed the success we experienced during this event. It was the first time that I had run my boat offshore for tuna and I’m fairly certain it won’t be the last.

The only way to ensure that you won’t get infected by the tuna disease is to stay inland and not venture out into the warm, cobalt blue water, far beyond…

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