Many ocean salmon sport anglers are wondering what to expect as the first fishery of the season opens this Friday and Saturday off the northern coast at La Push and Neah Bay.
Early signs show schools of chinook are milling off the coast right now in fairly good numbers as the nontribal commercial troll fishery — which opened May 1 — has been catching fish when the weather allows them to get out of port.
“The troll fishery has been going OK, but not fantastic and the fish were definitely way out there deep when it opened,” said Doug Milward, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager. “At first the fishing seemed kind of sluggish, and the water was really cold.”
In past years, the majority of boats out of Neah Bay would head to a fishing ground about 35 miles offshore called “The Prairie.”
“One thing that seemed different to years past is that the fish were smaller (in the 8 pound range) than the usual average of 10 to 11 pounds,” Milward said. “The good news is the market prices are good for troll caught salmon.”
Trollers were averaging about 10 or 15 fish daily per boat, and Milward said a few boats were doing better.
So far, the trollers have caught close to 2,000 chinook with a catch quota of 29,300 for May and June fishery.
The number of trollers and fishing pressure is pretty much normal as in past years.
“Usually the third week of May things will start to pop, and they’ll start to find fish and get on them,” Milward said. “I would expect by next week we’ll start seeing things pick up.”
Looking toward the future, the water conditions offshore appear to be excellent, which is good news for young salmon smolt coming out the coastal rivers, and fisheries managers and others are hopeful this could turn into much higher survival rates.
The selective hatchery-marked chinook fishery at Neah Bay and La Push is open May 10-11 and May 17-18.
The early summer hatchery chinook fishery will be open daily on June 8-22 off Ilwaco and Westport, June 22-28 at La Push and Neah Bay. Last year, this early summer fishery generated close to a chinook per rod average for most of the time it was open.
Full summer salmon fishing seasons for chinook and hatchery coho will open right after the early summer season.