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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

June 6, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Tony Floor’s Tackle Box is loaded with ways to hook a salmon 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:

We Northwesterner’s declare Memorial Day weekend as the kickoff to summer. That’s right, no waiting around for summer solstice or after the 4th of July, when our weather really gets nice, sometimes.

For salmon anglers, our summer season begins this year on June 9th, when Westport and Ilwaco open for chinook salmon, summer kings, 7 days a week, two per day, hatchery marked (adipose fin clipped) only. Katie, bar the door. La Push and Neah Bay, on the north Washington coast, open on the heels of Westport and Ilwaco on June 16th for their special chinook salmon selective fishery.

These four fisheries, out of four coastal ports, roll out the welcome mat for salmon anglers during this unique, early, hatchery produced chinook salmon only fishery. It gets a little more complicated. Work with me.

The rules change for Ilwaco and Westport on June 24th when the selective fishery for hatchery chinook ends, and the traditional daily limit shifts to two salmon per day, but only one can be a Chinook and remember, hatchery coho only is always the rule in the ocean. The fishing days per week also shift back to the traditional Sundays through Thursdays. Whew! But wait, there is more. Up at La Push and Neah Bay, their selective fishery for hatchery produced chinook salmon ends on June 30th, then they shift back to their standard two salmon limit, but only one can be a chinook beginning July 1st. These northern coastal areas are open seven days per week.

With all the specific rules spelled out, let’s get to the meat on the bone. Raining king salmon, like November but different. I like Westport and Neah Bay, in that order this summer for kings. Over time, Westport rocks for king salmon fishing in mid-late July, as two thirds of a million kings migrate down the coast, bound for the Columbia River. Don’t exclude king salmon peeling off to enter Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. If you’re driving toward Westport, mid-summer, and you pass anglers eastbound, with their heads hanging out the window, collecting bugs on their ivory with big grins, you know they are returning home from a day of salmon fishing out of Westport.

In recent years, most of the better fishing has been off shore, in 180 to 300 feet of water. I like trolling or mooching 90 to 120 feet from the surface. But remember, you find them where they are. Find the bait, work around the bait and you’ll find the kings. Whole herring, plug cut herring, Coyote spoons, coho killers, hoochies, okay, okay and okay. Pay attention to the possibility for kings on the beach, off Ocean Shores in shallow water. It’s a blast, trolling a herring at mid-depth, in about 35 feet of water. The kings don’t bite your bait, they crush it! See you there.

Neah Bay can be more challenging in finding the kings. Years ago, I would grind away with other anglers all day long in Skagway Bay. Not anymore. To the south of Cape Flattery, Umatilla Reef has been a money spot, or working Table Top, straight west of Skagway Bay, again, trolling looking for baitfish between 90 and 120 feet down. Prime time for kings at Neah Bay is also around mid-July, as the Columbia River stocks migrate past Cape Flattery, on their way home. Cape Flattery is a special place to fish for salmon. It is truly one of the most beautiful places in Washington. Rugged, centuries of huge waves pounding the north Washington coast, especially in the winter. It is here, where king salmon converge, migrating south down the west coast of Vancouver Island, that decisions must be made whether to continue their journey south, or turn east, down the Strait of Juan de Fuca as Puget Sound stocks segregate themselves from the Columbia River fish. These king salmon are big, bright and hot, lighting up any angler willing to take them on. Put me in, coach.

As I turn the calendar this summer into July, the decision making becomes nearly impossible.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca opens for six weeks on July 1st through August 15th. Pick a spot. Sekiu, Pillar Point, Freshwater Bay, Ediz Hook to name a few. Further east, in the San Juan region, some anglers hit the “banks” and have these areas practically to themselves at places like Hein Bank, Middle Bank and certainly Salmon Bank. These banks and the entire San Juan Islands (Area 7) open to chinook salmon on July 1st too. Like I suggested above, pick a spot.

My battle plan calls for hitting Westport for the selective chinook fishery in June and continue to fish well into July. When reports start flowing that king salmon fishing is good in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I gotta do it. I was reminded in late March and early April, during the blackmouth fishery that Freshwater Bay is an awesome place to fish. I will go back for king salmon this summer. Working the edge of the kelp beds, early in the morning, out to around 100 feet of water, trolling just off the deck, waiting for a big hatchery chinook to ring my bell. Bingo! A heavy just ate my worm!

Summer salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest. It is here and it’s one of the big reasons why we salmon anglers put up with the cold and wet for so many months. This is the year of the king and I’m confident it will be one to remember.

Next month, I’ll zero in on my favs for July. It will be a beautiful thing. See you on the water!

Tony Floor is the Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association (NMTA) and a former 30-year veteran of state Fish and Wildlife. NMTA advocates for and promotes recreational boating and fishing in the region.

Click on Tony Floor’s Tackle Box to subscribe.

(Photo by Mark Yuasa)

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