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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

September 3, 2011 at 8:08 AM

Tony Floor’s Tackle Box says it’s all about the coho this month

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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:

Coho, Coho, Coho!

September, 2011

I heard the news that causes most Northwest people to use some of George Carlin’s favorite words… La Nina is coming again, for the winter of 2011. Oh goody.

Enduring wet and cold climate conditions, wetter and colder than normal is the fingerprint of La Nina, triggered by cool ocean surface temperatures which we have encountered for the last couple of winters. Friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues, say they are fed up with these kinds of conditions, resulting in long winters and short summers. Okay, I get that.

But hey, look at it this way. If we know what’s coming again, start planning your winter vacations to get the heck out of Dodge. You know, the tropics, like Mexico, Hawaii, Arizona and other sunny places we call paradise.

While I’ve been known to escape to these kinds of places, a time or two during the winter, I look at it a little differently. La Nina, as you have read in this space in previous columns is great for fish. To the contrary, El Nino is Darth Vader for fish destroying the critical food chain important to ocean salmon survival. And while it is too early to address Chinook and Coho forecasts for 2012, I sure have enjoyed incredible salmon fishing this summer, during July and August, thanks to La Nina and very good ocean survival rates of Pacific Northwest salmon populations.

Squeezing more time out of the last two months is impossible. But looking ahead to the month of September is where my head is at. I’m talking about farewell and thanks for the memories to this year’s king salmon parade, and hello to the Coho shuffle, hey now, hey now.

As many anglers know, the ocean is off limits to Chinook salmon for the remainder of 2011, but Coho salmon fishing remains open. The ocean fishery has the possibility to run all the way to the cutoff date of September 18th. As I have witnessed, Coho have been caught up and into the 15 pound class off Westport and Ilwaco during the last few weeks. By mid-September, they should be large enough to ride motor cycles.

And speaking of the coast, do not overlook the ongoing Willapa Bay fishery which remains open to king salmon and Coho salmon too, hosting a three adult salmon limit per day. Wild Chinook must be released. Willapa Bay is on my agenda for the upcoming Willapa Bay Salmon Derby at Tokeland on Saturday, September 3rd. State salmon biologists have suggested for years, that Labor Day weekend is the peak entry of king salmon into Willapa Bay. My phone started ringing during the end of the third weekend in August that the first trainload of Chinook was in the Bay. Be there, be square.

The annual Edmonds Coho Derby is fast approaching too, for their one day event on September 10th, followed by the grand daddy derby of them all, the Everett Coho Derby on September 24-25th. This event is the largest salmon derby on the west coast, hosted at Bayside Marine in Everett where nearly 2,000 anglers participate for truckloads of prizes and cash. Both of these derbies are on my calendar for September.

Do you think that’s all on the “to do” list for salmon fishing in September? Wrong!

Mid-September has forever been recognized as peak timing for huge schools of ocean Coho to parade past Sekiu, lighting up that area like New York City at midnight. The Coho are huge and very abundant, considered by some, as the easiest place in the northwest to connect with ocean Coho. The rules, beginning September 19th allows for retention of hatchery or wild Coho. Prior to the 19th, anglers must release wild Coho salmon, with a bonus of two pink salmon. The toughest part of getting to this fishery is to find accommodations. Sleeping in a tree is an option.

Finally, this year’s edition of Coho fishing will kick off in Grays Harbor September 16th. Some of the largest Coho salmon in our state are caught in this fishery (hatchery or wild) in the south and north channels inside Grays Harbor. It’s fishable in any weather and flood tides trolling a foot off the bottom is money, especially during the end of the month. Yep, I’ll be there too. Remember, king salmon must be released in this fishery and I guarantee collisions with large king salmon.

September has several synonyms in my vocabulary. Words like salmon crescendo, Willapa Bay kings, ocean run Coho, exhaustion, and hello fall fishing come to mind. It’s time to get outside and go fishing. And if you listen very carefully, you’ll hear a freight train of weather coming, over the horizon. It’s another La Nina baby and I’m grinning. See you on the water.

Oh yes, and one reminder, if you participated in the Puget Sound crab fishery this summer, don’t forget to report your catch data to WDFW this month.

Click on Tony Floor’s Tackle Box to subscribe.

(Photo taken by Mark Yuasa)

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