The ocean sport salmon fishery for hatchery kings begins on Saturday (May 31), and should be dandy.
The first signs that the ocean was full of chinook came earlier this month when the non-tribal commercial troll fishery started off hot along the northern coast at Neah Bay.
That was followed of late with a shift to the southern region off Ilwaco south of the Columbia River mouth where trollers were scoring big numbers of kings averaging 12 to 15 pounds.
“It is going gangbusters for commercial trollers (off Ilwaco), and that is a change from when it started off well this month up north where catches kind of dropped off lately,” said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “It has also been slow (this month) off Westport for trollers.”
The large numbers of chinook are likely from the strong forecast of Columbia River fish that is predicted to be more than 1.6-million and would be the largest return seen since the 1980s. Last year, more than 1.2-million kings returned on a preseason forecast of 686,900.
An early brief sport chinook fishery occurred May 16-17 and May 23-24 during the halibut season, but produced little effort and a sparse catch of 0.2 fish per rod.
The action will likely change as good weather is predicted this weekend off Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay, which are open daily through June 13 for hatchery-marked chinook and could close sooner of an 8,000 sport catch quota is achieved.
“The selective fishery was slow last year for sport anglers, but really good the year before so hopefully it is an every other year occurrence,” Beeghly said. “I do know the (hatchery) mark rate in the troll fishery has been very high, and if the sport anglers do get into the fish they probably won’r have a lot of them to throw back.”