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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

October 6, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Tony Floor’s Tackle Box loaded with fresh fishing news

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Here is Floor’s Tackle Box:

The calendar says October while I’m in recovery from June, July, August and September! I am hoping you’ve logged some incredible fishing days during the last four months as, from my perspective, it has been one of the most amazing sport salmon fishing seasons I can remember. Unfortunately, the clock moves forward and fall is on our doorsteps.

Before I leap into thoughts of fall fishing, I want to put into perspective new salmon catch data fresh from WDFW. This data is the result of summertime chinook salmon fishing in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Area 5), north Puget Sound (Area 9) and central Puget Sound (Area 10). The catch data is from the ongoing summer selective fisheries for hatchery produced chinook salmon that has become so important, especially to stay-cation salmon anglers.

In the Strait (Area 5), from July 1st through August 15th, 20,500 anglers went fishing and caught 5,654 hatchery chinook salmon. In north Puget Sound (Area 9), from July 16th through August 12th, 21,400 anglers went fishing in less than a month’s time and caught 6,345 marked hatchery chinook salmon. And, in central Puget Sound (Area 10), the Seattle region, from July 16th through August 12th, 13,750 went fishing and caught 2,421 hatchery chinook salmon. The fishing power of selective fishing!

What does the data mean? First, the number of angler trips data suggests at or near record numbers of people went salmon fishing, under selective fishing rules, in these areas this summer. This includes the fact, that the Area 9 and 10 seasons were reduced by about two weeks in late August, due to concerns over impacts to wild chinook salmon. And the catch… ditto, at or near record levels. This is all great news for anglers, great news for catching hatchery fin-clipped chinook salmon and great news for the sport fishing economy and it’s expanded infrastructure. Show me the fish, and I’ll show you anglers who prioritize their hours and days to go salmon fishing here at home. We are well and alive!

While recounting the amazing recent summer fishing season, a good friend recently said, “Tone, fall is my favorite time of year.” I can’t argue with that statement even though wind and some level of rain will keep many of us off the water. But not yet as there are plenty of fall fishing options to consider.

For this angler, fall is not only a time of change in the weather as the leaves turn colors on the trees, but it’s a time when many of us turn the page to the next chapter in this book we call sport salmon fishing. Adult salmon, primarily chinook and coho salmon are now entering their last days and weeks of their life cycle, getting ready to provide their offerings for future salmon runs. While that ritual plays out, at the same time, immature chinook salmon, we call blackmouth magically appear in Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands. Many of these immature chinook salmon, ranging in size from 4 to 12 pounds, represent next year’s crop of king salmon. They are as tough as nails, with an attitude, chrome bright and compete on the grill with some of the best salmon anywhere, especially in northern waters of this state.

Blackmouth are fair game this month in Areas 10, 11 and 13 (Puget Sound waters south of Seattle from the Apple Cove Pt.-Edwards Pt. line). Areas 8 and 9 (north Sound) do not reopen for chinook salmon until November 1st. And, Area 7 (San Juan Islands) is open in October but shut down in November, reopening December 1st.

At this writing, I am riding the Grays Harbor chinook and coho fishery all the way to the chinook retention closure date of Sunday night, October 7th. Then, it’s a coho only show in the Harbor through November 30th . Grays Harbor should never be overlooked for big coho salmon fishing as it traditionally hosts some of the largest coho salmon in our state. Remember, if you believe the salmon forecasts released to anglers in March of every year, the king salmon forecast is the best I’ve seen in a long, long time for the Grays Harbor watershed, along with nearly 200,000 coho salmon. While fishing the Harbor in November is not the best use of a salmon angler’s time, October is historically overlooked. I have a memory of Halloween day, some five or six years ago when coho fishing was so hot, the kelp beds were on fire. Well, sort of but not too different.

While I spend most of my salmon fishing year in the saltwater, I also like to fish the rivers of Grays Harbor in October. The Humptulips, Chehalis and Satsop Rivers have also produced fantastic fishing and catching memories. Casting spinners around log jams, brush piles and deep holes produces a yank on the end of your string similar to being hooked onto the back of a 767 on liftoff. Big fun.

Dungeness Crab Update

I am waiting for updated news from WDFW regarding the status of late fall/winter Dungeness crabbing. As reported earlier this summer, the crabbing forecast was very good, although not quite as strong as the 2011 summer season. The forecast was manifested in my crabbing expeditions with pots not quite as full as last year, however, with that said, it was a very good summer season. The summer crab season ended on Labor Day (excluding the San Juan Islands) and shellfish biologists have been assessing the catch, largely through individual crab catch record reports, required by WDFW, through September. Traditionally, the Department announces the fall season during the first week or days of October and hopefully, most areas will reopen. At this writing, my source in the Department suggests the San Juan Island region (Area 7) will definitely reopen. The fall/winter season usually begins in mid-October and runs through New Year’s Day. Ahhh, fresh Dungeness cocktails for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Frankly, I prefer to crab during the fall/winter season. Fishing pressure is a fraction of the summer season, even though the weather can be far less accommodating. Regardless, I think the catching results are much better and it’s a good formula to stay off the couch when the weather turns.

Fall is here and it’s time to get outside (I never went inside!). Salmon fishing will keep me alive throughout the month, in between picking a little Dungeness out of my teeth! 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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