I put in a call to Dennis Rodman the other day to see if he had started thinking about his summer fishing plans in the Pacific Northwest, now that the annual salmon season setting process is done, and many of us have a pretty good feel of what will be hot, and what’s not.
He told me he had not given it the time it deserves, since he was very busy with Kim Jong Un playing ping pong and watching highlights of the old Chicago Bulls in the NBA playoffs. Kim has suggested, Rodman said, that he come out of retirement and become a basketball rebounding star again. I looked out the window to see if pigs were really flying.
I have been very lucky in life. I fish the saltwater nearly all year long, as part of my job and definitely my recreation. While salmon fishing is a passion for me, it’s also refreshing and offers mind cleansing experiences in the natural world; a wonderful way to flush some of the day to day madness down the hatch. Rodman and Kim? You gotta be kiddin’ me! Seems more appropriate to be dubbed “Two Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest!”
Before I take a flying leap into tons of salmon fishing options available to us in the months ahead, as the result of the annual announcement out of Portland a few weeks ago, I want to share some thoughts about May and early June. For most of us, saltwater salmon fishing is buttoned up in productive fish catching areas. It’s been that way for decades now, as the result of state and federal fishery managers attempt to protect migrating spring chinook salmon, finding their way down the Strait of Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound.
As an alternative to this fishing restriction, spring chinook are available in the Cowlitz, Lewis and the Columbia River, above Bonneville Dam known as the Drano Lake or Little White Salmon fishery. This fishery is extreme combat fishing and I don’t need a spring chinook that bad. However, for the anglers who live and fish in that area, it’s a way of life. I get that, but I’ll pass.
In the meantime, shrimp fishing opens in many areas this month, along with lingcod and a brief halibut season. What’s wrong with a bunch of big spot shrimp (limit, 80 per day) in a bucket, cleaned, cooked, peeled, consumed and, chased by a cool swig of Pinot Gris! Get my drift?
Or, how about a few big black rockfish filets, or delicious fresh lingcod, known to drop fresh fish consumers to their knees on the first bite. Westport charter boats, for a reasonable price, takes anglers out to the pinnacles north of the Harbor every day and when ocean conditions are reasonably friendly, the results are a slam dunk.
If staying closer to home in Puget Sound is a priority, fish with the legend of Puget Sound, Gary Krein, owner/skipper of All-Star Charters in Everett who wears his Mr. Lingcod hat during the month of May. There isn’t a fishing guide in Puget Sound who has logged more fishing time chasing lingcod and salmon in these waters than Gary Krein. He is the older version of the Energizer Bunny. He keeps on tickin’ and clickin’, with a clear understanding of where they live and what they like to eat. Never underestimate Gary Krein.
Getting back to this year’s salmon season setting process, the outcome looks very similar to the 2012 package with the bonus of another good pink salmon (Humpies) return to several major Puget Sound rivers.
The 2013 sport salmon season will kick off along the Washington coast for another early chinook salmon (hatchery fin-clipped only) season, beginning June 8 to the 22 from the Queets River south to Cape Falcon, Oregon. What does that mean? It means Westport and Ilwaco are included in this zone, that, from my view, will offer potentially good chinook fishing for adipose fin-clipped fish. If you fished out of Wesport, or Neah Bay during this time frame last year, it was as hot as salmon fishing can get. Immediately north and south of Grays Harbor, for about 10 days, it was raining king salmon. No wall hangers but tons of fish in the 12 to 20 pound range were crushing angler’s fishing rods. The bait was so thick you needed a snow plow on the bow of your boat to navigate. Crash helmets and goggles were optional. Well, sort of like that but not too different.
I fished 15 to 17 pulls (two feet to a pull) in front of the Quinault Casino, 40-50 feet of water with a diver, fishing in and around the bait, slap the motor into gear and get the net. It was unbelieveable.
The Neah Bay scene, from Tatoosh to Waddah Island was very similar, from the reports I received. Neah Bay has a more complex set of dates and I recommend finding the new WDFW sport fishing regulation pamphlet at your favorite sporting goods store that is dated May 1, 2013 through April 30, 2014, to understand the rules up there. Or, simply Google the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website and you’ll be up to speed.
The general opener for the coast opens after the conclusion of the selective fishery expires. Again, different dates by ports so please do your homework. For example, Ilwaco opens June 22nd, seven days a week. Westport opens June 23rd, Sundays through Thursdays. La Push and Neah Bay opens June 29th, seven days a week. Confused? That’s normal in understanding our fishing rules. Keep the fishing rule book handy or take an attorney fishing with you!
I have argued, for the last 20 years, that today’s successful salmon angler needs to have the flexibility to go to the fish, especially, if you live near me in south Puget Sound. If you’re moored in Edmonds, for example, you get what comes to you, or, run a reasonable distance to the fish by water. That can get expensive in a hurry. Boat trailer manufacturers build boat trailers for a reason. They allow today’s angler to trailer to the fish. I trailer my 24 Osprey, or the Northwest Salmon Derby Series 21-foot River Hawk boat as far south as Tillamook Bay on the north Oregon coast, and as far north as the outside of Vancouver Island. In between, at prime times of the year, when the fish are at peak numbers, I make stops in the lower Columbia River, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor, Neah Bay, Sekiu, Port Angeles, and the San Juans south to Port Townsend. All of these areas will have good to great king salmon fishing beginning in June through September. Remember, it’s just a job.
I’m working through my planning process now, week by week, month by month, based on tides and historical run timing trying to be at the right place at the right time. I’m confident we’ll have another great summer of salmon fishing ahead in the Pacific Northwest and I’ll do my best, to help guide you to the fish on a month by month basis. In the meantime, start tying your leaders, understand this year’s salmon fishing season package, make your reservations and who cares what Dennis Rodman is doing. I love this game! See you on the water.