Well my first of five fishing trips in 10 days didn’t turn out the way I expected it to when I headed down to the coast off Westport yesterday morning.
On the way down the rain started to fall just outside of Satsop, but when we arrived in Westport the winds were calm and we had high hopes of catching some salmon.
Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs with the Northwest Marine Trade Association and I met longtime fishing guide Buzz Johnson of Olympia at his boat the Lobo in the Westport Marina.
We heard there was a good coho bite down south off the Columbia River mouth and Willapa Bay, and that was where the Westport charter fleet was headed, but we opted to be rebels and head north instead.
As we motored away from the dock we crossed the bar and then turned past the north jetty. About a couple miles up we started to spot schools of bait so we made our first stop off Ocean Shores in 35 feet of water.
Buzz said let out 12 pulls and set the rods in the holder. It took only about 20 minutes before we hooked into our first fish a 5 pound wild coho that we released. Hopes ran high after that!
The winds were a constant 10 to 20 mph out of the south with some gusts to 25 mph, and the nonstop rain dripping off my REI eVent jacket made it feel like a cold February blackmouth fishing trip in Puget Sound.
We pressed on for another 30 minutes and then decided to move further north in water about 100 feet deep. Here too the schools of what looked like sardines peppered the fish finder, although what was absent was the salmon.
Where was the 1.2 million coho that were headed back to the Columbia River this summer?
Maybe to the north and south of us, but nowhere in between at the moment.
After a fruitless hour of no bites, although I did mange to hook one “green eyes” [a dogfish] that at first took line like a salmon until it made the bounce, bounce signs of Mister Pesky, we decided to work our way south to where the charter boat fleet had gathered in the ocean off Willapa Bay.
With a good 2 to 4 foot wind chop, and swells to about 5 to 6 feet we headed into the southerly wind and began to make our way slowly south.
I took a little less than hour to reach the fishing grounds off Willapa Bay, and we started our drift in 90 feet of water.
Our first drift was met with a wave of jelly fish that caked on our leaders and weights and so we moved to another spot.
It was here that we hooked our first almost keeper-sized tule hatchery chinook salmon that taped out at 24 inches, which we released back into the water.
The action at this point came on strong and we ended up hooking about 10 more undersized chinook salmon, and for me another small dogfish.
We made another gamble and decided to head north and try off the Grays Harbor buoy located due west of the South Jetty at the mouth of Grays Harbor. We bounced around to a few spot here in 30 to 40 feet of water with no luck.
Our last stop was just past the North Jetty where I managed to hook a small undersized chinook that we released.
We threw up the white flag around 2:30 p.m., and decided to check the four crab pots that gave us 11 nice big Dungeness crabs to bring home.
On our way in we understood just how the ocean dictates what kind of success you’ll have, and sure enough a strong wind out of the south combined with hard currents that made it tough to get your lines downs made for a tough fishing trip.
As Buzz put it there have only been two days out of 10 since the fishing season opened at Westport that have been decent fishable days. Outside of that the weather has been downright awful.
While our trip was unsuccessful at bringing home some salmon, I am confident that once those fish show up fishing will be gangbusters off Westport.
Here are the latest reports I got from state Fish and Wildlife:
“Westport picked up on to 1 1/3 fish per rod on Sunday and Monday, despite the bad weather, and then by Tuesday and Wednesday it had dropped off,” said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
Beeghly said anglers did well on Sunday and Monday at Neah Bay averaging one fish per rod, and virtually all coho in the 3 to4 pound range. La Push anglers did the best with 1.7 fish per rod, and the coho were bigger but here too there weren’t many chinook landed Ilwaco was also good with charter boats getting their limit of two coho per rod, and most were small in the 4 to 5 pound range.
Coastal salmon checks by the numbers:
Ilwaco: June 28, 275 anglers with 14 chinook and 469 coho, 1.76 fish per rod; June 29-July 5, 2,500 anglers with 174 chinook and 4,147 coho, 173.
Westport: June 28, 777 anglers with 124 chinook and 539 coho, 0.85; June 29-July 5, 1,159 anglers with 160 chinook and 676 coho, 0.72.
La Push: June 27-28, 102 anglers with seven chinook and 165 coho, 1.69; June 29-July 5, 323 anglers with 43 chinook and 472 coho, 1.59.
Neah Bay: June 27-28, 223 anglers with 51 chinook and 117 coho, 0.75; June 29-July 5, 1,296 anglers with 201 chinook and 920 coho, 0.86.
Coastwide: June 27-28, 1,378 anglers with 196 chinook and 1,291 coho, 1.08; June 29-July 5, 5,279 anglers with 578 chinook and 6,214 coho, 1.29.
This was the first of my quest to do Five Fishing Trips in 10 Days, and I’ll be on the water again this Saturday on Lake Washington trying to catch trout. I’ll let you know what happens. The next trip that follows is up to the Lower Skagit River on Sunday where I’ll try my chance at catching kings in a fishery that hasn’t been open for 16 years.