Now that I’m back from the searing heat wave and darn good BBQ in Dallas, Texas after attending my two boys participating in the USA Judo Junior Olympics, I’ve been hard at work (not to say I wasn’t on the phone in D-Town) with my fishing sources and here’s what they’re saying about the fishing outlook this week.
We had our biggest hatchery king caught in Puget Sound so far this summer come out of the Tacoma area off Point Dalco, and the 42-pounder was hooked by Peter Tarabochia of Burien (see picture on the right).
Let’s start in the Strait of Juan de Fuca where Chris Mohr, owner of Van Riper’s Resort in Sekiu says they’ve rolled out the red carpet for the kings arriving in recent days.
“The king bite dropped off Sunday, and then it fired right back up (Tuesday and Wednesday), but it has been a really early morning (by 5 a.m.) or a late evening bite,” Mohr said. “The kings are here and they’re biting.”
“We don’t have a high percentage of hatchery kings (only those with missing adipose fin designating them as of hatchery origin may be kept), and it is somewhere around 35 to 45 percent,” Mohr said. “We’ve got some guys who are whining that all they’re catching and releasing are wild kings, and then others who are getting into nothing but hatchery fish. It is strange that they’re doing this and almost like the hatchery fish are the ugly cousins of the family, and you wouldn’t want to swim with them.”
“The pink fishery has kind of dropped off, and you have to work to catch them. It is not a run out to 150 feet of water and get your limits kind of fishing,” Mohr said. “Any time now I’m assuming what is going to happen is when they decide to move in it will be a gigantic wall of pinks.”
Mohr says the coho are gone from the catches, and he hasn’t seen a good bunch of them in several days.
The good news is anglers aren’t mistaking the pinks for smaller sized blackmouth (chinook under the 22-inch minimum size limit) like they were two years ago.
“We aren’t seeing the smaller blackmouth right now, and it is hard to mistake a 20 pound king for a pink,” Mohr said with a laugh. “We are not having an issue like we did two years ago.”
Here is what Mark Baltzell, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist who oversees the creel samplers in Puget Sound had to say about what is going on in the central and northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) hatchery chinook fisheries:
“I talked with (Toby Black onboard the state Fish and Wildlife test fishery boat) and they had a good morning in Area 9,” Baltzell said. “They had planned to run to Midchannel Bank, but saw about 20 boats fishing at Point No Point, and ended up sitting there and trolling and got three nice size kings 71 to 90 centimeters (27 to 35 inches) and all the fish were unmarked (of wild origin).”
Since the selective hatchery king fishery opened July 16, Black’s test boat hasn’t landed a ton of fish, and the figure through July 27 was 20 chinook.
“The mark rate (hatchery chinook with a missing adipose fin) is right around 49 to 50 percent,” Baltzell said. “That is also what the volunteer angler reports are telling us too so it is pretty close.”
Baltzell says their test boat in central Puget Sound (Area 10) isn’t encountering as many kings, but had two to the boat in the morning on Wednesday (July 27), and had eight fish for since the season began on July 16.
“They (Area 10 test fishing boat) are struggling more than our test boat in Area 9, and they said the mark rate is around 50 percent,” Baltzell said. “I’ve been talking to a few of the charters, and it has been spotty although they’ve had some high days, and then back to grinding it out for a fish or two. The fishery has been kinda different this summer compared to last year.”
The catch rates in both areas is right around 0.1 fish per rod.
In the San Juan Islands, Jay Field owner of Dash One Charters in Anacortes says the king fishing remains stable, and more pinks and coho are starting to show up.
“I’ve been catching a good number of kings, and it slowed down but kind of holding steady,” Field said. “You are not going go out there and have 10 or 15 chacnes a day, but there are enough fish around.”
Some of the bette areas are the west side of San Juan Island, Rosario Strait, Thatcher Pass, Point Lawrence and the north side of Orcas Island.
There are a lot of pesky leader fraying dogfish around the island chain, but that also translates into a lot of baitfish in the area with the salmon hot on their heels as well.
Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Charters in Shilshole Bay reports some memorable moments combined with other days when it is simply hard to find the fish on a consistent basis.
“Last week we had a good week of fishing, and caught almost 40 fish, including on Thursday (July 21) when we had 13 or 14 kings, although only two of them we could keep (hatchery-marked fish),” Krein said. “Sunday was slow.”
“The mark rate on hatchery fish is way down like about 50-50, and we’ve gotten into some coho too off Jeff Head,” Krein said. “I’ve had three days where the mark rate was down to 12 percent. I heard it has been really slow on the bar (Possession Bar).”
“There are quite a few resident coho around, and I’ve heard of pinks in Hood Canal and around Port Angeles, but there doesn’t appear to be any yet in our area and I’ll know they’ll be here soon.”
Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood seemed breathless when I called him this morning, and business has been keeping him on his feet which is a good thing.
“Neah Bay has been the hot spot for some awesome king fishing, and lots of coho and pink salmon so that is the place to be,” Chamberlain said. “Our local fishing (in Areas 9 and 10) isn’t anything to write home about. Most of the guys are moaning and groaning.”
“The Baker Lake sockeye fishery has been outstanding, and lots of nice fish in 6 to 7 pound range, and a few 8 and 9 pounders. They’ve been relatively shallow in the 15 to 25 foot range, and the best bite is first thing in the morning. Use a 0 dodger in chrome or hammered chrome with bare red or black or a mini pink squid along with the Mepps blades and mini red beads. The Smile blades have also been doing really well.”
“The make it even more successful use a small piece of sand shrimp on the front hook or a dyed coon striped shrimp saturated with a lot of scent.”
“The few guys going up to Lake Stevens are still getting kokanee down in 60 to 65 foot depth range, and they’re running 13 to 14 inches, but hardly anybody is doing that since they are chasing crabm salmon and many other things to do.”
(Photos provided by Peter Tarabochia and Mark Yuasa)