OK say what you want, but right now the hatchery chinook fishery in central and northern Puget Sound is downright slow, but some lucky anglers have managed to pull in some nice kings.
Take for example a co-worker of mine Loann Eriks, whose husband was salmon fishing on Tuesday out of Shilshole Bay and caught a 21 pound king. Or us in a friends boat who last Saturday caught and released kings of 14 and 21 pounds. Or the lucky anglers who have caught kings in excess of 30 pounds in Elliott Bay. Or the angler who pulled in a 29 pounder in the Elliott Bay Salmon Derby last Saturday.
So while many may whine and complain for there a lack of kings in the waters, there are enough fish around to keep things interesting and it should start to amp up in the next couple of weeks.
I will lay my bet down and say the best king fishing in Puget Sound is usually right around the first week of August. Hopefully I’m right and won’t lose my pants by then.
In the meantime here is what some of the local charter captains have been saying about the fishery so far, which has yielded a few kings, plus some blackmouth and resident coho.
“I would say it is a fair statement to call it slow,” said Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Charters out of Shilshole Bay. “We’re managing to get a chinook or two along with some coho on each trip.”
Keith Robbins, owner of A Spot Tail Salmon Guide in Seattle, has also voiced the same opinion.
“It is slow in all CAP letters for kings, and we are getting some blackmouth [resident chinook],” Robbins said. “This should be absolute prime time.”
Places worth trying are Jefferson Head, Shilshole Bay, Richmond Beach, Edmonds oil dock, Kingston, Possession Bar, Point No Point, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Eglon, Foulweather Bluff, and Craven Rock and Lip Lip Point off Marrowstone Island.
It has also slowed for those tossing Buzz Bombs and Point Wilson Darts off the Edmonds Pier for kings, where a week ago it was like lights out.
Pinks fishing is fair off the Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, and looks for this fishery to build in the coming weeks.
“Things are somewhat slow throughout the sound, but Elliott Bay picked up a little by the end of the weekend,” said Mark Baltzell, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “Through the first four days [July 16-19 of the Area 9 and 10 selective hatchery chinook fishery] a little over 1,000 chinook were estimated caught, and the biggest part of that came from Port Townsend on the opener.”
Baltzell says the catch per unit effort [CPUE] in those first four days was 0.3 fish per rod.
“Even the test boats in Areas 9 and 10 have said its been slow and they’re seeing a mark rate [hatchery chinook with a missing adipose fin] of right around 60 percent,” Baltzell said.
Baltzell says the chinook fishing is slow in the Tacoma area, but the CPUE has picked up a little bit since then but not much. The state’s test boat in Area 11 is also having a tough time finding fish too.
The inner-Elliott Bay king fishery started to ramp up in the catches this past Sunday and Monday.
“Fishing finally picked up in Elliott Bay, and the fish were pretty darn big,” said Pete Sergeef, a state Fish and Wildlife creel sampler at the Armeni boat ramp in West Seattle. “I’ve heard of two kings that were 30 pounders, and my buddy went out Sunday night and went three for five. The quality of the fish is fantastic and our average is between 15 and 18 pounds with quite a few fish pushing over 20 pounds.”
Sergeef also said some anglers were catching black rockfish, a rarity in Puget Sound, up against the Hanjin ship that ties up in the bay.
Pacific cod catches have been on the rise this summer, and those fish have been pretty much non-existent in the sound for many years. Could this be a good thing or are these just migratory fish lost in the sound?
The Muckleshoot tribal test fishery in Elliott Bay last week was bad with five boats doing five sets and netting only 16 fish. The test fishery will go back in tonight [July 22], and again next week.
“The fishery across from the bay at Dolphin Point [off Vashon Island] and Southworth has been a sleeper with just a couple fish coming from there,” Sergeef said. “For a couple days West Point was also good, but then slowed down.”
In the Strait of Juan de Fuca at places like Sekiu the king fishing has cooled off somewhat, although the number of blackmouth has increased.
“It was kind of windy over the weekend [and] there isn’t the real high numbers of chinook around like there had been, but we are seeing a few good sized hatchery kings [14 to 25 pounds] mixed in with a lot of smaller blackmouth,” said Larry Bennett, the head state Fish and Wildlife creel sampler. “The pinks and some coho are around too, but it is not super hot and maybe like a couple of pinks per boat average. Effort and catch at Port Angeles dropped off.”
Salmon fishing in the ocean has been relatively good, and it is mainly a coho show along with a few chinook.
“It has been easy limit fishing at Ilwaco for coho [6 to 7 pounds] and a few chinook,” said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “There is a lot of feed [anchovies and sardines], and everybody is reporting the fish ae full of bait, which is a great thing.”
Beeghly said at Westport, anglers averaged 1.2 fish per rod, and the ratio of chinook to coho was 1-to-4. While some of the kings caught have been nice, there are also a growing number of smaller three-year-old feeder chinook showing up in catches both at Westport and Ilwaco.
La Push had a great average of 1.5 salmon per rod, and that is not counting the pinks that have also been caught. La Push anglers checked in 561 coho [coho averaged 6 pounds] and 80 chinook this past week.
“I’ve heard of reports of some easy fishing at La Push, but you have to find the right spot,” Beeghly said. “I know [of an angler] who trolled empty water, and then move to the Rock Pile and got a limit in 30 minutes, plus one chinook that weighed over 20 pounds.”
Up north at Neah Bay, it was 1.0 fish per rod, and that was not counting the pinks mixed into the catch.
“We saw a lot of pinks in the catches and more pinks are showing up each week,” said Beeghly, whose creel checkers sampled about 900-plus pinks this past week compared to about 560 the week before.
At Neah Bay the overall coho to chinook ratio is 1-to-4, and Beeghly reports that those targeting chinook were catching some nice-sized fish.
“We’ve seen from those guys going outside are getting into some nice chinook in the 20 pound range,” Beeghly said. “Coastwide we are going to be under 20 percent of both [chinook and coho] catch quotas by the time we get the data [later this week].”
Starting Friday [July 24], Westport will be open daily for salmon; and Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay are open daily.