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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

July 21, 2010 at 7:35 PM

Saltwater king salmon fishery soap opera still worth going through all the drama

What was good king fishing today might not be the case tomorrow, and that is the soap opera of trying to catch these migrating salmon off the coast, and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca down into Puget Sound.

The entire Washington coastal ocean salmon fishery will be open everyday starting Friday (July 23), and places like Westport have picked up dramatically in recent days.

“The king fishing has been pretty good with lots of the charter boats coming in with limits,” said Mark Cedergreen, president of the Westport Charterboat Association who noted that 80 percent of the catch are chinook.

At Westport anglers averaged 0.84 salmon per rod with a two-to-one chinook to hatchery coho ratio. Last week, 2,034 anglers caught 1,332 chinook and 371 hatchery coho. Through July 18, Westport anglers caught 5.4 percent of the 24,860 hatchery coho quota, and 10.1 percent of the 28,000 chinook quota.

Down at Ilwaco, the coho fishing has been very good with some hitting 11 pounds, and most averaging 6 to 8 pounds.

At Ilwaco anglers averaged 1.02 salmon per rod. Last week, 1,110 anglers caught 277 chinook and 860 hatchery coho. Through July 18, Ilwaco anglers caught 12.7 percent of the 33,600 hatchery coho quota, and 5.6 percent of the 13,100 chinook quota.

Further north up the coast at La Push and Neah Bay anglers continue to struggle to find kings and coho.

At La Push anglers averaged 0.53 salmon per rod. Last week, 123 anglers caught a mere nine chinook and 56 hatchery coho. Through July 18, La Push anglers caught 10.2 percent of the 1,700 hatchery coho quota, and 2.8 percent of the 2,450 chinook quota.

At Neah Bay anglers averaged 0.46 salmon per rod. Last week, 1,035 anglers caught 196 chinook and 280 hatchery coho. Through July 18, Neah Bay anglers caught 10.3 percent of the 6,990 hatchery hatchery coho quota, and 9.3 percent of the 5,400 chinook quota.

Coastwide anglers averaged 0.79 salmon per rod. Last week, 4,302 anglers caught 1,813 chinook and 1,567 hatchery coho. Through July 18, coastwide anglers caught 9.7 percent of the 67,200 hatchery coho quota, and 8.5 percent of the 49,000 chinook quota.

Despite the lower than expected angler turnout and catches off the coast, the good news is the west side of Vancouver Island and the Canadian side of Swiftsure Bank have been on fire in recent days for mainly hatchery kings.

Fisheries managers say the bulk of the chinook run headed into Washington waters might be hung up there in Canada since there is a ton of baitfish for them to feed on, but eventually they’ll have to migrate south into places like the western Strait of Juan de Fuca, down the coast and clear into Puget Sound.

Resort owners, charter guides and anglers are hopeful this is the case as places like Sekiu have been downright slow and was just starting to pick up slightly this morning (July 21).

Sekiu anglers have been battling really foggy weather in the mornings and then wind and waves during the afternoon and evening hours early this week.

“It has been dismal out here, but the catch for kings has increased the past couple of days,” said Gary Ryan, manager of Van Riper’s Resort in Sekiu.

Larry Bennett, the head state Fish and Wildlife sampler who oversees the entire Strait from Sekiu clear in Port Townsend reports sporadic chinook fishing.

“It has been on the quiet side for kings and nothing really exciting to talk about,” Bennett said. “We are seeing a lot more blackmouth in the catch more than anything else, although there was a few good sized kings.”

Bennett says ditto for the Port Angeles area where an Ediz Hook boat ramp check on Tuesday showed 15 boats with 25 anglers had four chinook, and the PA West boat ramp had seven boats with 15 anglers with four chinook.

Midchannel Bank off the Port Townsend area had plenty of glory moments when it opened on July 16 and July 17, but since then it has died off.

In northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) also dazzled anglers on July 16 and July 17, then slowly slowed down as the week went on.

“The chinook catches aren’t as good this week as they had been last weekend,” said Mark Baltzell, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist who board the state’s test fishery boat in North Sound this morning in the fog between Possession Bar and Edmonds.

The preliminary catches for the first three days (July 16-18) in Areas 9 and 10 was 1,600 fish. That is one of the better first three-day catches to happen during each of the fishing seasons since 2007.

The mark rate of keeper chinook (only hatchery marked chinook with a missing adipose fin may be kept) is 79 percent. In Area 9 the catch was 0.3 fish per rod and 0.8 per boat, and in Area 10 it was 0.2 and 0.6.

The hot spots were Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Possession Bar’s west side, Point No Point, Pilot Point. A fair number of kings were caught at Kingston, Jefferson Head, President’s Point and Point Monroe. One place that has been downright unseasonably slow for kings is the area from Edmonds down to Meadow Point located just north of Shilshole Bay.

On the salmon river fishing front, state Fish and Wildlife has decided to reopen parts of the Baker and Skagit rivers for sockeye fishing now through July 31.

This includes sections of the Baker River from mouth to Highway 20 Bridge, and the Skagit River from the Dalles Bridge at Concrete to a point 200 feet above the east bank of the Baker River.

The run of sockeye in the Baker River is above the number needed for spawning and hatchery egg-take needs. Harvestable numbers remain to extend the fishery.

Daily limit is two sockeye. Anti-snagging rule and night closure are in effect.

Baker Lake also opens tomorrow (July 22) for sockeye fishing. Since this is the first time it has ever opened for sockeye no one knows what to expect although once anglers figure this out it has the potential to be hot fishing.

Word has it that you fish it similar to how you catch sockeye in Lake Washington. Slow troll with bare red, blue or black hooks with a 0-size chrome dodger off a downrigger or use a 3- to 4-ounce banana lead weight.

Anglers may keep two adult sockeye (longer than 18 inches) daily in Baker Lake from Baker Dam to the Baker River mouth. Release all other salmon. No fishing is allowed between the dam and log boom at the lower end of the lake.

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