Tony Floor, longtime salmon angler and director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association offers his monthly fishing report. Here is Floor’s Tackle Box:
You don’t have to earn years of experience in the fish business until someone tells you about “the good old days.” Classic phrases like, “the salmon were so thick, you could walk across their backs!” It seems worthy to me, to take a good look today, about all the great salmon fishing underway, along with crab thicker than fleas on a dog.
As most who know me, I wasn’t born yesterday. The thrill of salmon fishing was injected into my circulatory system when I was a young boy, at the ripe old age of six when I caught my first chinook salmon fishing with my dad on a charter boat out of Westport back in 1953. That’s 53 a.d. thank you very much.
I have witnessed my share of great fishing seasons, over time, and other summer seasons that do not provide a flicker of memory. I am of the current belief, that this will be a summer salmon and crabbing season to remember.
In this business, one of the factors which surface, indicating good fishing, is the pipeline. Do you notice how quiet things are today in the fish world? It’s as quiet as shhhhhhh, quiet. It’s quiet because anglers are finding time to get on the water and catching fish. If fishing was poor, it would be like a massive outbreak of swine fly in every other household throughout Puget Sound. In fact, since I wrote about “the big show” coming in July, the show actually happened this past month.
On July 1st, the Strait of Juan de Fuca exploded at small fishing communities like Sekiu, in the western Strait. King salmon catches were phenomenal, staticially, throughout the 4th of July weekend. Shhhhhhhh, the bite is on. By mid-July, the big bite moved east to the Port Angeles region where anglers needed to fish in fire retardant suits, in order to deal with the white hot fishing.
The San Juan Islands included similar phenomena in early July. And, at this writing, the month will be remembered by Island anglers as a great, great July.
Northern Puget Sound joined the party in mid-July when it opened on July 16th. Although the opener was lackluster, I have heard of great fishing recently at Mid-Channel Bank in Port Townsend, Point No Point and the Kingston area. Early arriving coho have put the frosting on the cake in this region.
The ocean fishery from Neah Bay to Ilwaco has been plowing along, racking up impressive numbers of king salmon landed by sport fishers. This is a prime week, looking ahead, statistically when Westport lights up like a pinball machine stuffed with silver dollars. Time to set up that regional office in Westport.
As I have offered many times, our ocean waters can be unfriendly, even at a time approaching summer solstice and ensuing weeks. This past week during the end of July is a prime example. Lots of king salmon around, but you’ll get your back 40 handed to you getting the job done. Be patient. August traditionally offers calmer ocean conditions and since the quotas are nowhere near achievement, we are positioned to fish into September out of ocean ports. Keep your fingers crossed.
If you have not emersed your fishing soul in these great July opportunities, then what does a few monster Dungeness crab cocktails do for your appetite? Nothing sweeter than big chucks of yummy Puget Sound crab meat tucked between your cheek and gum.
Rich Childers, a Puget Sound crab biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife tells me that crab catches, since the opener on July 1st are off the chart. The catch is up, the size is up and the number of people going crabbing in Puget Sound is up, from last year’s roll call of around a quarter million people, to closer to 240,000 people this year. And the crabbing is phenomenal, from the San Juan Islands, to Port Townsend, Camano Island and the Everett area, all the way to south Puget Sound and Hood Canal. Four of us on my boat pulled two pots early last week here in south Sound to be greeted by 35 jumbos. Welcome aboard! Twenty in the cooler (limit of 5 per person) and 15 went swimming back to the bottom of Puget Sound.
Childers also reminded me that crabbers are not making much progress in remembering to enter their catch data on the crab cards immediately after bringing legal sized crab aboard. And, with the incredible crabbing, more anglers are having difficulty abiding to the 5-per-person daily limit. Come on! If you need more than 5 today, go get 5 more tomorrow. The rules, brothers and sisters, are the rules and since we have been granted an increase in fishing time, and an increase in our daily limit by the Fish and Wildlife Commission this year, we need to tow the line. Failure on our part to abide by the crab fishing rules could result in the Commission taking away what they granted us last fall.
While the outdoor world of salmon fishing and crabbing has offered an incredible kickoff to this year’s chapter of our summer fishing season, August should be the top of Mt. Everest. Peak time for king salmon, followed by pink and coho salmon. The summer crabbing fishing too, will run throughout August (remember, the crab have Tuesdays and Wednesday off and your pots must be out of the water on those days). The Puget Sound summer crab season ends on Monday, Labor Day, September 5th . Most areas should reopen sometime after October 1st, once shellfish biologists tally catches by area.
I’m looking forward to August. Crabbing, Westport for kings, the lower Columbia River later this month, yeah baby, living the dream! These are the good ‘ol days. See you on the water.
Click on Tony Floor’s Tackle Box to subscribe.