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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

August 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Outdoor writer Dave Graybill reports hot action for Lake Wenatchee sockeye


Here is the latest fishing report from Dave Graybill, longtime Eastern Washington outdoor radio host and angler:

Central Washington is salmon central right now. Big Chinook are being caught from Wenatchee up to Brewster. Sockeye salmon are still being taken in good numbers in the Brewster Pool. The results of last weekend’s Budweiser-Lowrance King Salmon Derby in Brewster will get more anglers targeting king salmon, and the sockeye fishing in Lake Wenatchee is the best it has ever been. Wow.

I ran up to Brewster to check on the fishing last Friday, the first day of the derby. When I got there at 2 o’clock they had already weighed in more fish than they had in all three days of last year’s derby. There was a 32-pound fish at the top of the board and all 25 places were filled with respectable kings. Boats were coming in with four to six fish while I was there. I have never seen anything like it. Turns out a total of 109 fish were weighed in on Friday, including 98 kings, two jacks and nine sockeye. Typically, the second day’s catch at a derby will be half of what is caught the first day. Boat traffic will put the fish down and scatter them. On day two a total of 101 fish were weighed, with 91 kings, two jacks and nine sockeye again. Even day three surprised the heck out of me. There were 58 fish weighed on Sunday, and they had to be at the weigh station by noon.

There were several factors that came together at just the right time to make the fishing in this year’s derby the best ever. The Okanogan River warmed up enough to create the “thermal barrier” that means optimum conditions for king fishing. The kings that enter the Brewster Pool meet this warm water being poured into the Columbia and retreat back into the cooler Columbia River. More and more kings are entering the Brewster Pool every day, and they just keep stacking up in the Columbia. Also, the heavy runoff that had all the dams in the region spilling water has finally slowed. The heavy currents have settled and fishing conditions are much better. The fact that for the first time ever the derby sold its maximum number of tickets also means that the maximum numbers of anglers were on the water fishing this year. Consider all of these things together and you can see why the fishing at this derby was such a success.

Derby organizers once again did an excellent job of putting everything together to make the event run smoothly. There was a brand new double wide launch this year, with a 300-foot dock, that made getting on and off the water much faster, too. Organizers also got a record amount of sponsor support this year. The total amount of cash and prizes that was handed out was $26,600. J.D. Smith, organizer and master of ceremony during the awards did a great job of mentioning and thanking all of the sponsors.

Okay, who won? First place for biggest fish was won by Mark Main, with a 32-pound fish. It was turned in on Friday and held its position all weekend. Second place was claimed by Lance Manning with a king weighing 28 pounds, and third place went to John Simmons with a 27-pound fish. The Simmons clan took home a pile of cash. They also won the Individual Daily Sidepot and Team Daily Sidepot on Friday. On day three John won the Individual Daily Sidepot and they took the Team Daily Sidepot. John Simmons also won the Derby Total Weight Sidepot with 121 pounds, 13 ounces! Cody Simmons won the Youth Division with a 22-pound king. I think we will be seeing the Simmons family again next year.

Anglers can expect the salmon fishing in the Brewster Pool to continue to be very good. More and more kings are moving up the Columbia and arriving in Brewster every day, and that thermal barrier will keep them there. Even the fishing in Wenatchee is holding up very well. There were three big kings, the biggest weighing 27 pounds in a cooler at Hooked on Toys on Friday. They were all caught at Walla Walla Point.

There were sockeye caught at Brewster over the weekend, but nothing like the numbers that were taken on Lake Wenatchee on the Saturday opening day. There were well over 100 boats on Lake Wenatchee, and the creel folks reported that 80 percent of them were coming in with limits of sockeye. The limit on Lake Wenatchee for sockeye was three fish this year, and it’s the most generous limit I have ever heard of for this fishery.

The skies were clear and waters calm all weekend at the big lake, which made conditions ideal for slow trolling. I fished with my buddy Rollie Schmitten, who lives at “Sockeye Point” on Lake Wenatchee and Dennis Beich, Director of Region 2 for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Beich’s wife Monica and her daughter Elisha also came along and caught their share of sockeye. I joined the same crew on Sunday, and the fishing was just as good as on opening day.

The Lake Wenatchee sockeye are in great condition right now, and we caught several fish in the 25-inch or larger category. About 30,000 fish are expected to pass through Lake Wenatchee this year on their way to the spawning grounds in the White River. Fresh sockeye are entering the lake every day, so fishing should continue to be good and the condition of the fish in the still cool Wenatchee and even colder lake will remain excellent for a longer period of time than usual this year.

What can I say? The fishing is great. Grab your gear and get out there!

For details or to get Graybill’s weekly report visit Dave Graybill’s website.

(Photo courtesy of Dave Graybill. Pictured is Monica Beich showing off two examples of the sockeye fishing on Lake Wenatchee. Limit catches were the rule for the weekend of the season on the scenic lake.)



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