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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

August 4, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Chinook run nears peak in Puget Sound, and catches good in many other areas

The boat ride north to Point No Point (PNP) this morning was a picture perfect drive under a calm water surface, dall’s porpoise’s finning all around and herring baitfish schools flipping everywhere.

I was surprised that not many anglers had ventured to PNP where fishing during the low tide (6:18 a.m.) is traditionally good.

I was drifting among 20 other boats along with 20-plus anglers tossing jigs and flies from the shoreline off the PNP lighthouse.

The morning started off slow with not a single salmon caught by the anglers mooching herring or the “outlaws” trolling with dowriggers.

After all PNP is known as the moochers haven with most trollers taking their preferred technique east to Possession Bar.

I lucked out and managed to hook the first king of the morning in water 125 feet deep. I caught the king coming up at about 80 feet when the fish swallowed my bait.

It made some strong runs into the deeper emerald green water, and after a five minute battle I was able to see it’s tail surface about 45 feet from the boat and then it dove for the bottom again and I had to chase it around.

Finally I got the nice king near the boat, but it was a stubborn fish and kept its distance from the net. I finally had a chance to net it, and slipped the fish under it just as my hooks broke off the fish and it somehow managed to swim out of the net.

The fish was sort of in a daze and I managed to get the net back under the 15 pound hatchery-marked king, and brought it aboard the boat after a 10 minute fight.

Shortly after I saw about three other fish caught and then in a flash the bite was off, the fog rolled in and the boats spread out to other places.

Such scenes will be played over and over again in the coming weeks around open areas of Puget Sound, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, coast and the mouth of the Columbia River at Buoy 10.

Here is a rundown of where the salmon are biting this week starting with the coast.

“It slowed down a bit in Columbia River area (ocean off Ilwaco) and we only saw 0.8 fish per person and on the Washington side it was a little better with 0.9 fish per person,” said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “Most are coho, but still a considerable amount of chinook and I’d say almost one-fifth of the catch was chinook.”

The Buoy 10 fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River opened on Sunday (Aug. 1), but was very slow although don’t expect that to last very long with more than 700,000 coho and 500,000 chinook expected to pass this area.

“Chinook fishing might get pretty hot there (Buoy 10 area) for the next couple of weeks,” Beeghly said.

Westport continues to be really good at 1.2 fish per angler, and almost one chinook per rod. Charter boat operators report those who work their bait all day are taking home their two-fish daily limit.

“They are just nailing nice kings out there at Westport,” Beeghly said. “La Push and Neah Bay also picked up considerably for salmon.”

At La Push this past week anglers averaged 0.7 fish per rod, and almost all the catch comprised of chinook. At Neah Bay the average was 1.0 fish pe rod, and just over half the catch was coho.

“Last I heard they were running quite a ways out into the ocean for them at the Swiftsure (Bank) area and were doing pretty well out there,” Beeghly said.

Beeghly says effirt was picking up somewhat, but has been low all season. Westport has been the exception and has been pretty busy since the fishing has been consistent all season.

Ilwaco: 3,250 anglers July 25-Aug. 1 caught 500 chinook (14. percent of the catch quota) and 2,111 coho (23.1). Westport: 3,875 anglers July 25-Aug. 1 caught 3,841 chinook (36.3) and 979 coho (15.1).

La Push: 336 anglers July 25-Aug. 1 caught 209 chinook (12.0) and 37 coho (12.5). Neah Bay: 1,947 anglers July 25-Aug. 1 caught 892 chinook (28.9) and 1,077 coho (27.6).

The albacore tuna fishery always draws plenty of attention during the next couple of months, and the Oregon Tuna Classic was held this past Saturday (July 31) out of the Port of Ilwaco.

A record turnout of 80 teams showed up for the second leg of the classic with 49 teams bringing in more than 5,505 pounds of fresh albacore to the local food banks of Clatsop County and Ilwaco.

First place went to Team Just Keep Fishing with 126.25 pounds, second place went to Team Green Lightning Laundry with 122.65 pounds. Third place was Team Key West with 120.30 pounds.

The leader in the points standings for the official invite to the IGFA Offshore World Championships is now Team Green Lightning Laundry followed closely by Team Just Keep Fishing and Team Engage. The third leg of the classic will be held in two weeks at Coos Bay/Charleston in Oregon.

Beeghly says they saw quite a bit of tuna effort at Ilwaco this past week with anglers averaging zero per rod to up to 10 tuna per rod.

“If you found them you did really well,” Beeghly said. “I started to see a few charter trips out of Westport, and they did pretty well for tuna.”

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, salmon anglers continue to find chinook but the majority of them are smaller-sized blackmouth.

“The numbers of fish caught went up, but a lot of them are little guys (blackmouth) and not many trophy fish by any means,” said Larry Bennett, the head state Fish and Wildlife sampler in the Strait. “There was a lot of sockeye coming through the Strait, and a Makah netter got more than 8,000 pounds of sockeye.”

“There are a couple of coho drifting in at Sekiu, and Port Angeles and Freshwater Bay picked up a little bit,” Bennett said.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, fish samplers checked 20 chinook for 26 boats at the Freshwater Bay boat ramp, and 12 chinook for seven boats at the Ediz Hook boat ramp in Port Angeles.

In Puget Sound, salmon anglers continue to find some hatchery-marked kings at Point No Point, Possession Bar, Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, Skunk Bay, Pilot Point, Kingston, Edmonds oil dock, Richmond Beach, Skiff Point, Jefferson Head, Point Monroe and Yeomalt Point.

Good news is the Meadow Point and West Point areas off Shilshole Bay have also started to pick up for kings.

“Our Area 10 test fishing boat on Monday had seven kings to the boat, and five were legal (hatchery-marked fish),” said Mark Baltzell, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

The catch estimate of chinook (only those with a missing adipose fin may be kept) from July 16-Aug. 1 is 3,100 fish in Area 9 and 1,110 in Area 10; add in the charter boat catches and it is 4,250 fish. The hatchery mark rate of chinook is 75 percent. The catch average is 0.2 fish per rod in Area 9 and 0.1 in Area 10.

“Angler effort in Area 10 has a picked up and it is the most pressure we’ve seen in Area 10 since the fishery started in 2007,” Baltzell said. “The (Area 9) test fishery boat got 11 keeper chinook to the boat last week, and our Port Townsend sampler (Wednesday) sais people who are going out averaged about ¾ of a fisher per boat.”

Lastly, the Lake Wenatchee sockeye fishery will reopen Saturday, Aug. 7 until further notice, and the Baker Lake sockeye fishery remains fair to good especially in the mornings.

Fishing at Lake Wenatchee will be allowed one hour before official sunrise and close one hour after official sunset each day.

Daily limit is two sockeye, 12 inches in length or greater. Selective gear rules and night closure in effect. Release bull trout, steelhead and chinook.

Release sockeye with one or more holes punched in the tail (caudal fin). The fish are part of a study and have been anesthetized. The FDA requires a 21-day ban on consumption of these fish.

Just like the popular tactic used in Lake Washington, anglers should use one or two bare 2/0, 3/0 or 4/0 red, blue or black hooks on a short 9- to 12-inch leader trailed behind a 0-size chrome dodger. Downriggers are effective in getting down to where the fish are, but a 4 to 6 ounce banana sinker will work.

This comes on the heels of an unexpected large sockeye return to the Baker River, which allowed fisheries manager to open Baker Lake last month for sockeye fishing. Fishing has been fairly good with some anglers now scoring easy limits of fish.

Quick bites: The Robert Lillie Alki Tavern Salmon Derby is 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Saturday. Cost is $20. Details: 206-932-9970. The Des Moines Salmon Derby is Saturday. Cost is $30. Details: www.pugetsoundanglers.net/Derby.

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