The coastal commercial salmon troll fishery was so good that the northern portion was closed this past week.
“We put a cap of 8,700 chinook, and the (North Coast) trollers came very close to hitting that figure (8,145 was caught through this week),” said Doug Milward, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager.
So far the entire coastal chinook catch is 11,500 under an early season quota of 29,300.
“We’re still a little less than halfway through the overall quota of the fishery, but there was a lot of salmon that showed up in the northern area,” Milward said. “The trollers really got into them about a week ago, and then the bad weather brought them back in.”
State Fish and Wildlife conducted a conference call this week, and decided if the northern fishery continued they would go over the Puget Sound wild chinook impact, which led to the closure.
“Some of the boats from Westport came up to Area 3 (off La Push) and were averaging 28 fish, and the good news is some other trollers were starting to do well in Area 2 (off Westport) too,” Milward said. “Now that the north area is closed this also gives a chance for those fish to slide south closer to Westport.”
Milward says that is also very good news for the sport hatchery chinook fishery that opens Saturday, June 8 off Westport and Ilwaco.
The chinook caught in the troll fishery when it first opened in May were averaging about 8 pounds, but now they’re running 10 pounds, and the historical weight average is 11 pounds.
“If you listen to the trollers, they’re telling us it is two different groups of fish out there, and the first ones (caught in early May) were bullet looking fish, and now it is more like what they’re used to catching,” Milward said.
“The other good news for sport anglers is the hatchery fish mark rate is 80 percent, and those fish are definitely (Columbia River) tules,” Milward said. “The ocean has god feed, and I saw that when we were out there during the recent (North Coast) halibut fishery.”
The chinook are around off the coast, and it appears they’re finally starting to become more active.
“The fish are finally waking up, and moving around a lot more,” Milward said. “When the troll fishery first started the fish were deep and kind of sluggish. That is changing now, and while we were out at Blue Dot looking for halibut we saw salmon jumping around our boat.”
“In fact we saw quite a few salmon, and even saw some trollers going by us and gaffing legal-size salmon,” Milward said.
Ilwaco is open daily for sport hatchery chinook fishing June 8-21, and Westport is open daily from June 8-22. There is a two-salmon daily limit with a 24-inch chinook minimum size limit.
La Push and Neah Bay are open daily for hatchery chinook fishing June 22-28. There is a two-salmon daily limit with a 24-inch chinook minimum size limit.
The early salmon fishing season may close earlier if the 8,000 chinook guideline is achieved.
The full summer salmon season at Ilwaco opens daily starting June 22. Westport opens June 23 and fishing is allowed Sundays to Thursdays only. La Push and Neah Bay opens daily starting June 29. Anglers should check the regulation pamphlet for specific details and regulations.
(Photos by Greg Gilbert, Seattle Times staff photographer and Mark Yuasa, Seattle Times fishing reporter.)