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).

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.

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

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

Tegan Yuasa admires a nice catch of chinook salmon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nibbles and bites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Look to the Upper Columbia For Summer Salmon Action

Shane Magnuson helps me show off a dandy king I landed fishing with him at Chelan Falls. (Dave Graybill Photo)

By Dave Graybill

No other season attracts more anglers to the upper Columbia River than when the summer-run and sockeye salmon seasons open on July 1st every year. While most salmon seasons are announced by Emergency Regulations on the upper Columbia, the summer-run salmon earned a permanent listing in the Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet over a decade ago. This is the time of the year anglers can count on visiting Central Washington and expect to find excellent numbers of Chinook salmon to fill their coolers.

The first place that salmon anglers focus their attention is above Priest Rapids Dam. There are a couple of spots that some anglers will troll in the early season, such as right above the dam and off the mouth of Crab Creek near Schwana. The biggest crowd will be found right below Wanapum Dam. Here boats circle around in what is known as the “Toilet Bowl” where hordes of early-arriving kings stack up before entering the fish ladder and moving on up river. Anglers also encounter returning sockeye salmon, and they can be seen surfacing in waves along the face of the rip rap bank. It is not unusual for sockeye to be taken on gear intended for kings.

Most of the boats will be trolling Super Baits behind flashers below Wanapum. Some will fish lighter sockeye gear on a couple of rods after the morning bite has slowed. The fishing will be good here starting July 1st and for many weeks, until the bulk of the early-returning Chinook and sockeye have passed on to the upper river. There is a much-improved staging and parking area right below Wanapum. Still there can be a very long line of boats waiting to launch before daylight on opening day. There is also a very good launch on the opposite shore, on Huntzinger Road below the dam. When running up to Wanapum, take special care and watch for shallow, rocky reefs. There is a small area on the west side of the river where boats will troll for salmon just above Wanapum Dam, and a few will even fish the east side of the river below the Vantage Bridge. This is near the junction for the road to Mattawa. There is a launch in the town of Vantage, and at the State Park on the west side of the river below the Vantage Bridge.

The next major fishing locations for summer-runs and sockeye are on the Columbia at Wenatchee. There are good areas to find Chinook scattered “between the bridges” on either side of the river here. There is excellent access to the river via improved launches. One is at the base of Orondo Street, and is free of charge. Another is at Confluence State Park, where a Discovery Pass and launch fee is required. Walla Walla Point, below the mouth of the Wenatchee River, is one of the best-known fishing spots for Chinook. Sockeye and Chinook are also taken below Rocky Reach Dam. When the fish are really pouring through this area and over Rocky Reach Dam there are many kings and sockeye taken above Rocky Reach. Anglers launch at Lincoln Rock State Park (Discovery Pass and launch fee required), which is on the Douglas County or east side of the river, and run over to troll the west shore along the highway to Entiat and Chelan. In recent years the fishing for Chinook has been very good for summer-run salmon off the mouth of the Entiat River.

I struggle to hold up one of the two kings that Shane Magnuson and I landed at Chelan Falls. (Dave Graybill Photo)

Rapidly becoming a favorite of salmon anglers, particularly in the early season, is Chelan Falls. Located just below the Beebe Bridge, with PUD parks with free launches on both sides of the river, this spot is loaded with kings. Success has been very good here in recent years, and there is lots of good water for trolling Super Baits behind flashers on downriggers or with lead balls. One of the reasons that Chelan Falls has become popular is the high ratio of hatchery origin fish in catches. This is due to the net pen releases of smolt in the Chelan River channel. Another benefit of fishing this area is that it is about a 15- to 20-minute run up to Wells Dam. When sockeye are returning in good numbers, the fishing is very good, particularly in the big eddy on the north side of the river right below the dam.

Wells Dam is an excellent place to fish for kings. Anglers will troll off the bar below the dam and the big eddy on the opposite side of the river also produces very good catches of salmon. There is an excellent launch accessed from the highway that leads to Pateros. Some sockeye are taken above the dam and fishing for Chinook is very good when big numbers of fish are crossing over Wells Dam.

The crown jewel of salmon fishing on the upper river is the Brewster Pool, where the Okanogan River enters the Columbia. The Okanogan is a shallow, slow moving river and in the summer it gets very warm. When it enters the Columbia it creates a “thermal barrier” that keeps the salmon from moving up into the Okanogan. Kings continue to move up into the Brewster Pool from the lower river and stack up in the colder water of the Pool. Thousands of fish are milling around in this area, and are easy prey to anglers. Sockeye also prefer this colder water and join the kings in their wait for temperatures to drop in the Okanogan before they make their way up the river and on to their spawning grounds in British Columbia.

I love this shot of an angler scooping a nice king from the water at Chelan Falls. (Dave Graybill Photo)

This thermal barrier is one of the reasons that the Brewster Salmon Derby, which takes place the first weekend in August every year, is so popular. The success rate for anglers that participate in this derby is the best for salmon derbies anywhere. To learn all about the derby, visit www.brewstersalmonderby.com.

Something that salmon anglers should know that makes this particular season special on the upper Columbia is that it is the first return of four-year old Chinook salmon that were released from the Colville Tribal Fish Hatchery at Bridgeport. These will add to the numbers of fish available to anglers in the Brewster Pool and on up the river where they meet their final barrier on the Columbia River, Chief Joseph Dam. Summer-run Chinook season is a selective fishery, with barbless hooks required and wild fish must be released. Not only will the fish returning to the Colville Hatchery add to the numbers of fish in the Brewster Pool, they are all adipose fin clipped, keepers. The opportunity for catching a king and keeping it is significantly higher this year in the Brewster Pool and the river up to Chief Joseph Dam. There is the potential for a rule change affecting the Brewster Pool that may make fishing here even more attractive to anglers. Watch the department’s web site for this change.

The techniques that are used throughout the Columbia River, in all of the locations I have mentioned don’t vary much. There are some that stick to the tried and true plug cut herring, and those that really know how to properly cut and prepare herring have success. By far the most popular method being used at this time for catching kings is with the Super Bait. Some use the old, banana-shaped style and more and more anglers are using the newer plug cut version. Super Baits come in wide variety of colors, but some of the more popular are the Hot Tamale, Lemon Lime and Rotten Banana. There are others that work very well, so have a good selection when you hit the water. The advent of the Super Bait made it possible for anglers that had no experience with herring to become successful salmon anglers, and has increased the sport catch on the upper Columbia considerably.

Super Baits are designed to open on a hinge and are stuffed with tuna fish. The lure has vents on the sides to allow the scent of the tuna to leech out. Anglers prefer oil-packed tuna and then apply scent and mix it. There are a variety of scents available and one of the most popular in our area is made by Northwest Bait and Scent. These are based on the formula originally developed by my brother Rick Graybill many years ago. There are a number of scents that can be mixed, even in combination with others to create an irresistible attractant to salmon.

These are trolled behind a flasher, and most anglers are using the ones made by Pro-Toll. The fin on the bottom end of the flasher allows the flasher to turn at even an slow speed and it also gives a consistent action to the flasher. It is recommended that at least a 42-inch leader be used from the flasher to the bait. This set up can be trolled on downriggers or with lead balls. When trolling with flashers behind downriggers, put the flasher 12 to 15 feet behind the ball. Trolling speed will vary with river current, but flashers with Super Baits can be trolled over 2.0 mph. Many anglers like to see a one second throb on the rod when trolling flashers. Most anglers prefer rods of 10 ½ feet with large capacity-line, counter reels for consistent placement of baits behind the boat.

When targeting sockeye, anglers scale down their tackle. Lighter rods and reels and lines are all used. A typical sockeye set up is a small dodger and short leader to double hooks which are closely tied together. Bait is allowed on the Columbia and jarred shrimp are very popular. On the Brewster Pool it is typical to start the day at 20 feet deep and drop down as the day brightens. Many place their dodgers just 10 to 20 feet behind the downrigger ball. Trolling sockeye set ups on lead balls is becoming popular, too.

I have produced several videos on both Chinook and sockeye fishing on the upper Columbia. I would suggest that you visit my web site at www.fishingmagician.com and go to the Fishing TV Page. By going to the archives and looking for videos posted in June and July you will find many devoted to salmon fishing. You can also do a search at www.youtubedavegraybill and find all the videos I have produced.

I am really looking forward to this year’s salmon season on the upper Columbia. Although other seasons have been disappointing on the river, this one could be outstanding for those who fish above Priest Rapids Dam.

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

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


By Mark Yuasa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sockeye outlook elsewhere

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Yuasa

Outdoor Line Blogger

710 ESPN Seattle

 

Catch More Springers in High Water!

Spring Chinook are highly prized no matter how hard it is to catch them-Jason Brooks

by Jason Brooks

With record high water and water clarity the color of mud it’s been hard to get excited about spring Chinook fishing. That is until you realize that it’s already mid-April and the fish are in the river. Regardless of the water conditions this is our chance to catch the worlds best eating salmon before they head to their natal streams. The main Columbia and most of its tributaries are flowing high this spring but here are some tips on how to fish for Springers while we can.

Double up on in-line flasher’s like Big Al’s from YBC attracts fish in muddy water-Jason Brooks

Double up! Its no secret that trolling Big Al’s Fish Flash with a trailing herring is a top producer for springers. With low visibility use two of the in-line flashers to create even more flash. Buzz Ramsey of Yakima Bait Company explained that the fish are attracted to the flashing of the rotating flashers so in very low visibility waters he will put two of them end to end to create even more flash.

Brined and Dyed baits with UV finish on a shorter leader will catch more fish-Jason Brooks

In low visibility water the double flashers draw the fish and if you use the standard 48 inch leader the fish simply won’t see the bait. Instead shorten the leaders to 24-30 inches.

Ultraviolet light is radiated from the “electromagnetic spectrum” of light that “glows”. You and I can’t see it but the fish can. Many lures come with UV enhancements and on dark days using lures, flashers, and bait dyes with UV can attract fish. In high water this can make a bite turn on. Use cures such as Pro-Cure’s Brine-n-Bite Complete with UV on your herring and UV dyes such as Bad Azz bait dye don’t hurt either.

High water means fish will be on the move so trolling can be more productive for suspended fish-Jason Brooks

Trolling in high water can put you in front of more fish, as the fish are on the move and can be scattered. During normal flows it’s common to sit on anchor for the outgoing tide and on smaller rivers anchoring on seams and current breaks can work well. With the extreme high water we have right now, however, the fish are on the move and trolling can produce more fish than “sitting on the hook”. Keep in mind that the fish are not always right on the bottom and in slack waters they’ll suspend so it’s a good idea to stagger the rods at different depths while trolling.

Regardless if a storm is coming or a sunny day is forecasts, get out and fish!-Jason Brooks

Get out and fish! Regardless of tides, high water, rain, wind, or any other excuse that you’re using to stay home, the Spring Chinook season is very short so get out and wet a line!

Buzz Ramsey is no stranger to springer fishing on the Columbia River and regardless of the conditions you’ll find him out there on the river on a daily basis trying new color patterns and techniques. All the hard work paid off with this nice springer for Shirley Sanchotena on a recent outing.

Shirley Sanchotena and Buzz Ramsey are all smiles with Shirley’s Springer caught during high water that bit a herring on a short leader trailing two Big Al’s Fish Flash-Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line Blogger
710 ESPN Seattle

www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

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