Catch More “B” Run Coho this Holiday Season

by Jason Brooks

Brian Chlipala with a “Christmas” Coho-Jason Brooks

With all of the rain predicted this week and warmer temperatures making for swollen rivers that means that the “B” run Coho will be arriving!

Fish have been trickling in for the past few weeks, pushing in with the last of the chums. Now that the wet weather is here the late returning Coho will only get better once the rivers become fishable. Here are a few tips on increasing your catch on these big “Christmas” Coho.

Wrapped plugs in high and off-color water are deadly for late Coho-Jason Brooks

Backtrolling Plugs

In high water look for moving fish along soft edges. This is where pulling plugs can really put a lot of fish in the box. K-15 Kwikfish, Yakima Bait Company Mag-Lip 3.5’s and 4’s, or Brad’s Killer Fish K14’s wrapped with a piece of herring or tuna belly are great producers in high water. Bright colors such as double Trouble, Fickle Pickle, and Mad Clown are top producers for Coho.

Use spinners, plugs, and spoons for low visibility and high water conditions-Jason Brooks

Throw Hardware

While the waters are high and off color using a bright spinner, spoon, or even throwing and retrieving plugs like the Brad’s Wigglers, Wiggle Warts, or Yakima Bait Fat Wiggler’s can make for fast action. Coho are known to be aggressive and in waters where visibility is limited be sure to use bright colors with a metallic finish. Vibrax size 5 spinners are a mainstay when it comes to catching coho in off colored water.

Jigs twitched in backwaters and under logs are hard to beat for B run Coho-Jason Brooks

Twitching Jigs

Late Coho like to stack up in backwaters and soft-water pockets. Twitching jigs has become one of the most popular techniques for the slow water where these fish hold, but don’t overlook “drift twitching” which is twitching jigs in current. Look for logs and trees where the water is only a few feet deep. As you float by these areas toss in a jig and give it a twitch. My “go to” twitching jigs are Mack’s Lure Rock Dancer made of bucktail so they can withstand the toothy hook-nosed bucks. Try black and purple or cerise and black in 3/8 ounce. Another great twitching jig is the Aero Jig from Hawken Fishing. They come in both 1/2 ounce and 3/8 ounce sizes and are lethal twitching jigs in the river.

Use a heavy dose of scents and add some bait to jigs in high water-Jason Brooks

Scent It Up

Don’t forget to use a lot of scent, especially when the water is still high and visibility is low. Pro-Cure Super Sauce or Super Gels hold on in the turbulent waters. Shrimp is one of the most productive scents but also give bloody tuna, salmon egg, herring, or anchovy a try. Tip your jigs with a piece of raw prawn or sand shrimp tail and wrap your plugs with a sardine fillet to add more scent.

Check the river conditions before you go-Jason Brooks

Know When and Where To Go

Keep an eye on the current river graphs and the forecasts for river levels. Once your favorite salmon river peaks and starts to drop the fish will be on the move. If the rivers drop back down to historical means then look for fish in the back eddies, coves, and sloughs. If the water is still above the mean level then target the seams and travel lanes, such as along the soft grassy edges where the fish will be on the move.

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line Blogger
www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

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.

 

Catch More Salmon in Low Water

by Jason Brooks

With a dry summer and now a fall that is extending the dry season our rivers are extremely low. But even with the skinny water the salmon need to get to the spawning grounds and are entering with each new tide. What might seem like lock-jawed fish it can be very frustrating to get the fish to bite. Here are a few tips to consider when fishing low water and making the most of the conditions to catch more fish.

Finding where the fish are holding is key in low water conditions-Jason Brooks

Find “pocket water” which are small areas with structure. They can be as simple as a small run with sunken logs that the fish will use for cover. Floating eggs along the structure to fish that are hiding will allow you to target biting fish.

Downsize your baits when the water is low-Jason Brooks

Smaller baits. Instead of fishing the standard “golf ball” sized bait switch to smaller egg clusters and the 18 count sand shrimp or jus the tails of the dozen count. The low water means you don’t need a large bait and the smaller baits allow you to use a smaller hook size which will penetrate easier and quicker to a fish that isn’t grabbing it very hard.

Concentrate on smaller areas where fish will use structure such as sunken logs to hide-Jason Brooks

Find shade, find fish. The low water and bright sunny days means the fish will seek cover and if you look into the underlying areas below overhanding tree limbs you will find fish resting in the shade. Cast well upstream and float into the fish so not to spook them out of the holding area.

Hiring a Pro-Guide to learn new ways to fish your favorite river will increase your catch rate-Mike Ainsworth (First Light Guide Service)

Hire a guide. Yes, we know that hiring a guide to learn a new river is the quickest way to increase your knowledge of the watershed. But even on rivers that you already know how to navigate hiring a guide also teaches you how to fish during different water conditions. This past week I floated the Humptulips and it was at an all-time low flow. As we passed Mike Ainsworth of First Light Guide Service (206-817-0394) he smiled and let us know that his clients had already caught several low water salmon in a spot that most other anglers pass by.

Get out and fish when you can and adjust for the water conditions, which is how I landed this fall Chinook earlier this week-Jason Brooks

Don’t wait for the rains to come. Instead adjust your fishing techniques and where to look for the fish. Head out and enjoy this great fall weather as the rain and cold will come soon enough.

Jason Brooks

The Outdoor Line Blog Writer

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

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

 

Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor receive top billing for autumn salmon fishing

Karyl Beyerle of Olympia with a 20 pound king. Big fish like this can be found at places along the inner-coast waterways and estuaries in fall. Credit photo to Tony Floor.

By Mark Yuasa

Now that ocean salmon fisheries have concluded, it’s time for anglers to shift attention to estuaries and lower tributaries as fish migrate upstream heading into autumn.

One area garnering plenty of notice lately is Willapa Bay where a king forecast of 36,805 (32,674 are of hatchery origin) have started to appear in catches, and fishing has been decent since it opened on Aug. 1.

“I give high marks as we head into (September), and the main herd of the local king run typically peaks historically around Labor Day,” said Tony Floor, the director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.

“When WIllapa opened on first of August they had one of their best early fisheries ever, and that can be based on Columbia River kings dipping into the Washaway Beach area (located west of Tokeland),” Floor said. “The first 10 days were very good and it has cooled off since but still kicking out some fish.”

Salmon fishing this past Saturday during the Willapa Day Salmon Derby was good with some anglers hooking multiple fish between Channel Markers 13 and 19 during the mid-day incoming tide.

The hatchery chinook fishery will continue to produce glory moments now through the end of this month.

Those will be followed on the heels of what should be a very nice return of coho from the middle of this month through October. The forecast is 91,718 (54,998 are of hatchery origin) compared to 67,609 (28,093) last year.

On the bigger tidal exchanges grass can be a problem for anglers and will foul up fishing gear.

“I’ve heard the grass was minimal early on, but as we have these long hot summer days the grass has become more problematic in the past week to 10 days,” Floor said. “Grass is horrific on the ebb tide, and worse on bigger tide exchanges. The best way to avoid this is by fishing during the softer tidal series.”

This is a shallow water fishery so letting out 12 to 16 pulls of line at depths of 15 to 25 feet is key to get your presentation spinning just off the sandy bottom. Gear is similar to the Buoy-10 salmon fishery where an angler will use a five- to seven-ounce drop sinker attached to a three-way slip swivel with a Kone Zone flasher to a six- to eight-foot leader and cut-plug or whole herring.

Willapa Bay is open now through Jan. 31 with a six fish daily limit and only three may be adults. Minimum size limit is 12 inches, and release wild chinook. The two-pole endorsement is allowed.

The non-tribal commercial gill-net fishery gets underway on Sept. 16, and word to the wise is avoid going when the nets are in the water. For a netting schedule, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/commercial/salmon/season_setting.html.

Moving up the coast, Grays Harbor is another fall salmon fishery that is definitely worth trip when it opens on Sept. 16, and while chinook are off-limits look for this spot to produce big, brawny coho that can reach in upwards of 20 pounds.

The Grays Harbor coho forecast is 86,398 (50,043 are of wild origin) compared to 27,841 last year, which is a remarkable turn-around. On the other-hand the chinook outlook of 21,824 (5,362 are of hatchery origin), but will allow an in-river fishery in Humptulips River that opened on Sept. 1.

“I would anglers who plan to fish Grays Harbor is to be very knowledgeable with the rules as they change from year-to-year,” Floor said.

Just as a refresher on the rules right now the Humptulips North Bay fishery is open through Sept. 15 with a daily limit of two salmon combined, and release wild coho. The eastern Grays Harbor fishery opens Sept. 16 through Nov. 30 with a daily limit of two salmon combined, and only one wild coho may be retained and release all chinook.

Another fun coho-only fishery in early fall is the Westport Boat Basin which is open through Jan. 31, but the best action usually occurs now through October. The daily limit is six salmon, and no more than four may be adult fish. Release chinook, no night fishing and an anti-snagging rule is in effect. Only single-barbless hooks may be used.

The boat ride from the Westport Marina to the main fishing ground takes about 15 minutes along the harbor’s south channel toward an area off the Johns River mouth. Start at the “Goal Post” – a set of rotting wood pilings – near entrance marker off the Johns River.

Plan on trolling in an easterly direction where a trough runs east and west along the shoreline toward the Chehalis River mouth. Many will use Stearns Bluff, a landmark hillside east of the Johns River as the ending spot.

The gear is a six-ounce drop sinker attached to a three-way slip swivel with a Kone Zone flasher to a six-foot leader and a whole or cut-plug herring. Simply let out 12 to 16 pulls of fishing line — since this is a shallow water fishery at depths of 15 to 25 feet — and make sure your bait is spinning just a foot or so off the sandy bottom.

Constantly check your gear as the harbor can be loaded with eel grass mainly on a low tide when its pulled away from shore.

“Fish don’t like salad on your bait,” according to Floor.

The action occurs during the flood tide, but there can be brief bites on the ebb tide too. Getting out at the crack of dawn is how it works at Grays Harbor, and here it’s all about tides.

There are three major boat launches in Grays Harbor, and the four-lane ramp at Westport is the most convenient. Next is a small two-lane ramp ideal for smaller boats just inside the Johns River. Both are best to access the south channel.

The other is the 28th Street launch in Hoquiam just inside the Chehalis River mouth, and is best to access the north channel fishery.

Use caution when running your boat from any of the launch sites, and always be sure to follow the channel markers as there are many shallow sandbars (especially at low tide) where you can ground a vessel. Also be aware of large ships traveling to and from the ocean.

Mark Yuasa
Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christine WIlmsen holds a catch of resident coho salmon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nibbles and bites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Graybill’s Central Washington Fishing Update

I am showing off the king I caught on opening day of salmon season at Chelan Falls. I was with Shane Magnuson, of Upper Columbia Guide Service.

by Dave Graybill

I had a fantastic week of fishing. My adventures included another trip to Banks Lake for walleye, spending opening day of salmon season with Shane Magnuson at Chelan Falls, and even an afternoon at Evergreen Reservoir for smallmouth bass.

I spent Tuesday at Banks Lake with Lars Larson, the Coulee Dam Chamber auction winner, and his guest Jim Harrington. They met me at the Northrup launch at 8 and we took off in search of walleye. I tried the area behind Steamboat Rock and didn’t find any fish, so we ran down to the bay below the mid way launch.

Lar Larson holds up one of the walleye he caught while trolling crank baits with me on Banks Lake.

We fished a mix of Dutch Fork Lures Turtle Back spinners in the Blue Tiger pattern and Slow Death Hook rigs. We picked up three in this bay and then I switched to crank baits. We started just above this bay and were into fish right away. I think the first fish we got was a smallmouth, but we only got one more. The walleye were in here and were hitting my Flicker Shads in the silver with black back, perch pattern and the bright chartreuse. I was trolling at about 2 mph in 15 to 17 feet of water. We were using the size 7s, and if I got into 14 feet of water we would get weeds. We picked up seven more walleye here and a whopper perch that we kept.

This is really a fun way to get walleye and I was glad that the crank bait bite was working for us that day. The walleye we got averaged about 15 inches. I know there are bigger ones in Banks we just didn’t get them this day.

Shane Magnuson and I have a long-running tradition of spending the opening day of salmon season together. For at least eight years I have joined him with whatever group he has put together to celebrate the salmon season on the upper Columbia. This year we spent the morning at Chelan Falls. This has become the “hot spot” for salmon anglers, and produces a very high ratio of hatchery reared fish.

We were using lead balls, with Pro-Troll flashers and a mix of Super Baits and Hilebrandt spinners. As Shane predicted the first two fish came on a Mountain Dew Super Bait. He made a round of checking baits and changing leader lengths and wham, my rod went off. We all knew it was a good one, the way it fought, and it was. He then turned the boat driving duties over to Cody Luft, who will be running a boat for him this season. Shane was checking something in the back of the boat when the rod next to him bounced, and he got to land a salmon, which is a rare thing as he is always at the tiller. After a short break I jumped ship and the group headed up to Wells Dam. Here they trolled for kings, too, and got two more, for a total of six kings on opening day!

When I left Shane and his group that were heading up to Wells Dam, I drove down to Evergreen Reservoir to meet Tom Verschueren, my brother in law, and Jerry Day at Evergreen Reservoir. I fished here with Tom last year, and he had a blast catching smallmouth. He is breaking in a new boat and wanted to try it out on Evergreen.

Jerry Day had a great day for his first time bass fishing. At Evergreen Reservoir he caught smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and even a walleye!

Using the launch at the east end and then started down the south shore. We were casting Senkos in the watermelon with red flake or the 3-inch in brown cinnamon. We were catching smallmouth, but our baits were constantly being pecked at by small perch. I had heard that the perch population in Evergreen had really taken off, but I had no idea there would be so many of them. They were everywhere, and all about three or four inches. We managed to hook them even with the 4-inch Senkos. I really think we would have done better on the smallmouth if the perch weren’t hitting our baits.

Don’t get me wrong, though, we had a blast. We got 20 or so smallmouth and some of them were 2-pounders. Both Tom and I saw one flash past his Senko behind the boat that had to be 3 or 4 pounds. This was Jerry Day’s first time bass fishing and he had a hot rod. He not only caught the most and biggest smallmouth, he also landed a walleye on his Senko, and a largemouth bass and pumpkin seed. It was a great day to be on Evergreen. Although it was over 90 degrees we had enough of a breeze to keep it comfortable. I hope the tigermuskie take care of the exploding perch population in Evergreen. Bass fishing would improve as a result.

Now that the summer-run salmon season is underway, it is time to plan for the salmon derbies in the region. The first one to come up is the 6th Annual CCA Wenatchee River Salmon Derby. It will be held from Friday, July 14th through Saturday, July 15th. There is a mandatory driver’s meeting on Thursday, July 13th at 6 p.m. at the Eagles Hall on Wenatchee Avenue. The boundary for the derby is from Rock Island Dam to below Wells Dam. Entry free is $60.00. This is a very well-run derby and grows every year. To register on-line and learn all the details visit www.wenatcheesalmonderby.com.

The next derby is the 12th Annual Brewster King Salmon Derby. The derby will be held from Friday, August 4th to Sunday, August 6th. There is a free seminar the night before the derby at the area next to the boat launch in Brewster, starting at 6 p.m. This is easily the biggest derby with the largest amounts of cash and prizes awarded each year. There are only 275 tickets sold for this derby, and they sell out every year. Ticket sales end on July 31st, so don’t miss the deadline. Tickets are $50.00 for adults, $20 for youth under the age of 15, and kids age eight and under are free. You can register on-line and get all the details on the derby by visiting www.brewstersalmonderby.com.

This is the first year of the return of the release of summer-run salmon from the Colville Tribal Hatchery in Bridgeport. This will mean more hatchery fish available to anglers, and good fishing above the Brewster Pool.

I am very eager to get back out on the water this week. It may be for salmon on the Columbia or walleye on Banks Lake. I sure hope I run into you there on the water!

Dave Graybill
Outdoor Line Blogger – North Central Washington
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle