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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

April 5, 2012 at 4:01 PM

Plenty of choices for salmon anglers this coming summer and well into next year

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Time to start making summer and fall salmon fishing vacation plans to take advantage of many opportunities in the ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.

About 651,000 fall chinook are predicted to return to the Columbia River, and more than 190,000 are lower river hatchery fish which are the backbone of the ocean fisheries.

“We’ll see seasons in the ocean similar to what we had the past couple of years with very good chinook fishing and mediocre times for coho (about 317,000 are forecasted to the Columbia, about 45,000 less than last year),” said Doug Milward, the state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon manger.

This year the coastal sport quota is 51,500 chinook (33,700 last year) and 69,200 hatchery coho (67,200). An early June coastwide fishery quota will be 8,000 hatchery chinook.

The Westport hatchery-marked chinook fishery would be open daily from June 9-23; Ilwaco June 9-22; and Neah Bay and La Push would start June 16- 30. The daily catch limit would be two hatchery chinook only.

“The early June hatchery-chinook fishery has been a big hit the past couple of years, and people like the first chance opportunity to fish in the ocean,” Milward said.

Westport will reopen Sundays to Thursdays from June 24-Sept. 23; Ilwaco will be open daily from June 23-Sept. 30; and Neah Bay and La Push will be open daily from July 1-Sept. 30. Anglers will be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit, and only hatchery-marked coho could be kept.

Each port also has specific catch quotas for chinook and hatchery coho, and could close once those are achieved. There might also be inseason updates made to liberalize daily catch limits if necessary.

“This summer has the potential to be a very good season for salmon off the coast,” said Mark Cedegreen, president of the Westport Charterboat Association.

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In other coastal news, anglers at Willapa Bay will be allowed to use two poles, with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement when it opens Aug. 1. Anglers can only use two poles when salmon fishing from a floating device.

“This is a great year to implement the two-pole endorsement with the good abundance of hatchery chinook, and hatchery and natural coho,” said Kirt Hughes, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.

A decent forecast will allow a chinook directed fishery in Grays Harbor from Sept. 16-Oct. 7, which will be the first time in about four or five years. Anglers will also be able to keep chinook in the Chehalis River mainstem from Oct. 1-31. The daily limit during those periods will be three salmon of which only one may be a chinook and up to two wild coho.

The Buoy-10 fishery at the Columbia River mouth will open from Aug. 1-Sept. 3 with a two salmon daily limit, and only one may be a chinook. From Sept. 4-30 the daily limit is two hatchery coho, and from Oct. 1-Dec. 31 the daily limit is six salmon, and only two may be adults.

In the Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca region, there are four changes to the salmon fishing regulations while everything else will pretty much mirror last season’s fisheries.

“This is a very good product we got for salmon salmon seasons from the Columbia River to Neah Bay, and from Neah Bay to Olympia,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association and member of the state Fish and Wildlife sport fishing advisory board.

“As we come off the last two years of La Nina weather patterns (which create good ocean conditions, good upwelling and plenty of feed) it just keeps getting better,” Floor said. “It surprises me how much it has improved, and 2012 will go down as just getting better again.”

“There is a greater incentive for anglers to stay closer to home, and play a stay-cation especially with the higher gas prices,” Floor said. “We’ll have a bumper crop of salmon fishing from June to September like we can’t ever remember.”

The Sekiu area will get four extra days during their coho fishery which will be open Sept. 15-30, and then will be open Oct. 1-31 with a two-salmon daily limit, and only one may be a chinook. That is different from past years when fishing reopened in November.

Sport fishing constituents from the Clallam Bay area felt it was a very good business move and will help the economy by keeping the fishery going instead of taking a month-long break, and reopening in November when the weather becomes dicey.

The eastern Strait off Port Angeles will open Dec. to April 10 for a hatchery chinook only fishery. In past years it was open for hatchery and wild chinook.

Hood Canal will also become a hatchery chinook fishery from Oct. 1 to April 30. In past years, all salmon fishing was closed during January.

In northern Puget Sound from Point Wilson boundary line south to Apple Cove Point-Point Edwards line will have a coho only fishery from July 1-15.

“This extra time of the water in North Sound certainly gives people an opportunity to access coho fishing areas from Everett and Edmonds,” said Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Charters in Everett. “Unlike Jeff Head, Area 9 doesn’t have as manhy coho, but it has the potential to be good, and a couple years ago there was a bunch of coho in Skunk Bay. Even last year when it reopened in the middle of July there was some coho in Area 9 with some folks coming home with one or three coho.”

Krein says it also allows someone who wants to catch and release chinook a chance to practice or scout areas for when it opens for catch and keep on July 16.

A new sockeye fishery will open this summer June 16-July 15 in the Skagit River from Highway 536 to the mouth of Gilligan Creek. The daily limit is three sockeye.

Meanwhile, the Baker Lake sockeye fishery will open July 1-Sept. 4 with a three sockeye daily limit. Anglers fishing Baker Lake will be allowed to use two poles, with the purchase of a two-pole endorsement.

Specific fishing seasons and regulations for all marine areas should be available next week at the state Fish and Wildlife website.

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