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

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 Secret To The Sound

Add Green To Your Diet!
By Chris Shaffer | 08/05/2012
Those of us fortunate to know Pautzke pro staffer and Outdoor Line co-host Duane Inglin on a personal level know nothing excites him more than being in “The Bait Lab” which has taken over a portion of his garage.

Knowing this, it was no surprise the Inglin arrived almost 30 minutes late to pick me up at the new Sea-Tac car rental facility two weeks ago.

“Sorry Shaf, I was doing some mixing. We are running herring in the morning and this bait is going to be awesome,” he told me, while opening the cooler and lifting a Ziploc bag filled with what looked like antifreeze.

I’m accustomed to seeing Inglin show me wild color combinations and wasn’t surprised to see this, even though we didn’t sell a green Nectar or Fire Brine. It’d been a year since we last made green Kokanee Fuel and I figured Inglin again had his measuring cups and Tupperware out. His drive to remain a leading Mixologist continues to burn.

“Do you see this green?” he asked me. “You like that, huh?”

Inglin had made the green herring and anchovies to be drug in the Puget Sound the following morning when we met Inglin’s co-host and saltwater guru Tom Nelson. The herring and anchovies were brought to imitate candlefish, the salmon’s main food source right now in The Sound, Nelson said.

“I don’t care what you are running in regards to hardware, it’s never going to be as effective as bait,” Nelson told me.

While lures remain common having a good looking bait is tough to beat.

“Anchovy are a soft belly bait and they like to blow out so a lot of guys don’t run them, but we brine them up with the Pautzke’s Fire Brine, which does a real nice job at firming them up, plus it has the UV properties, which is real important when you get those baits down,” Inglin added. “We’ve also done the same with red label herring.”

Inglin later revealed he mixed chartreuse and blue Fire Brine to achieve the perfect green.

“The key to successful bait trolling is having a tough and dependable herring down there and Fire Brine does that,” noted Nelson.

 

It proved to be our recipe to success that day.

And, it could be yours, too.

Editor’s Note: Co-hosts Duane Inglin and Tom Nelson can be heard on The Outdoor Line Saturday mornings on ESPN Radio 710 in Seattle. This week, Inglin’s newest Fire Blog will explain how to make your own green herring/anchovy.

Brine Your Way to Salmon Success!

With saltwater salmon fishing firing up along the West Coast now is a good time to talk about herring brines.  Brining herring before fishing it helps to toughen it up and can produce a more vibrant and shiny herring that catch more fish.  If your herring is soft and mushy it will either fall off the hook on its own or the first whack from a fish will take it right off the hook.  If your bait is tough enough to take a few wallops from a salmon before it commits to the bait the odds of hooking that fish go up substantially.

John Posey from Lamiglas Rods hooked this 48 lb Chinook with me after it played with his bait for almost a minute.  Had the bait fallen off on the first smack from this fish I’m sure the result wouldn’t have been the same!

Here’s a simple brine that I use to brine between 12 and 20 cases of herring each and every summer in Southeast Alaska.  We burn thru a ton of bait in our Alaska charter operation and since we buy the highest quality bait possible all we need to do is toughen it up a bit before fishing it.  The herring will begin toughening up within about an hour of adding them to this brine and I usually cut up between 4 and 6 dozen baits first thing in the morning before we leave the dock and add them to this brine, adding more bait as the day goes on.  This solution is good for about ten to twelve dozen herring before a new solution will need to be mixed.  I keep a large plastic jar with a water tight screw-on lid full of Canning and Pickling salt, so that the salt stays dry and doesn’t clump from getting wet.

Simple Bait Brine:

One gallon sea water
-No oil slicks, scum, or pollutants
-Take clean sea water from outside the harbor
Two cups non iodized salt (canning and pickling salt)
-Rock salt works, but it doesn’t dissolve as fast as granulated salt
Add two tablespoons of garlic, anise, or Pautzke’s Liquid Krill if desired

This is a more advanced brine that works great for low quality baits that have been thawed and refrozen several times or for baits that are going to be trolled.  This brine will keep ten to twelve dozen herring cured for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Advanced Bait Brine:

2 ½ gallons of water
3 tablespoons Mrs Stewarts Liquid Bluing
4 cups non iodized salt (canning/pickling)
1 cup powdered milk
2 tablespoons of pure anise or garlic
UV Liquid and/or Pautzke Liquid Krill

70% of the salmon that come back to Puget Sound are from hatchery origin.  The primary protein source in hatchery fish food, and in the ocean, is krill and many hatchery pellets also contain anise.  Something to think about when you’re targetting Puget Sound salmon or any salmon for that matter!

Rob Endsley