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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

December 6, 2014 at 8:18 AM

Tony Floor’s Tackle Box looks back and ahead on the salmon fishing scene

3Buoy10Aug2012Here is Tony Floor’s Tackle Box report for December:
I just turned my calendar this morning and it suggests it’s December 1st, entry into the last month of the year in preparation for 2015.

I can’t help but looking back at the fishing year and attempt to decipher what was hot, and what was not. It was an incredible year for this salmon junkie, particularly from mid-June through September.

If you follow the sermons I made in this space over the last six months, you clearly got the message to proceed directly down to the Washington coast. The forecast for chinook and coho was tremendous, and that’s clearly how the forecasts played out. Chalk one up for smart planning to follow Rule #1: Fish Where The Fish Are! And baby, they were there.

Consider the data. Ilwaco hosted 55,724 angler trips last summer, who boated 10,748 kings and 75,343 coho salmon. I invested six days of fishing out of Ilwaco, partly in the Columbia River and partly off the Long Beach surfline in 30 feet of water. Envelope please. The results were gang buster chinook and coho catching. World class!

Meanwhile, about 40 miles to the north at Westport, this port hosted 51,200 angler trips which landed 22,264 kings and 259,155 coho salmon. As the result of investing a skimpy 10 days of fishing in this area, chinook fishing was from good to meltdown. The fish were on the beach, on the north side in shallow water, or deep, out in the 300 foot plus zone and down. King salmon, baby, and lots of them. It was a summer to remember on the central/south Washington coast.

I also invested a week in mid-July up at Neah Bay. Lights out, dude, with limits of kings hooked in shallow water off Cape Flattery. How fun is that, over? Anyone have an extra toothpick to remove the chinook salmon out of my bicuspids?


Neah Bay, Westport, Ilwaco and the lower Columbia were indeed the highlights in 2014. And the low lights? Maybe the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juans and north Puget Sound. Central Puget Sound actually had a hotter fishery last summer than Area 9 to the north. Go figure.

So what about next year? What can we look forward to? I called my long time colleage Joe Hymer, sport fish biologist down in the Vancouver WDFW office and here is what he had to say.

“The official 2015 chinook salmon forecast for stocks bound for the Columbia is due out in the next two weeks,” he said. “However, it appears that we should experience a similar return of king salmon as we witnessed in 2014.” Mama! Help me!

When Joe Hymer speaks, I listen. “Nearly 144,000 angler trips were recorded in the lower Columbia River this past summer, the second highest in history (147,343 in 2011),” he said. “The catch was 26,546 chinook salmon, about 5,000 fish less than 2013 which established the all-time record. And, the coho catch was 8,048, nearly double the old record set back in 1986.” Mercy!

“The record migration of fall king salmon over Bonneville was established last year, after all ocean sport and commercial fisheries along with the lower river, at 953,222 fish. This was the biggest passage over Bonneville dating back to 1938. The 2014 migration over the damn was 853,133 fall chinook salmon which is now the second largest return recorded. And the coho salmon return of 262,000 over Bonneville this fall is the largest ever recorded.” Are you starting to get my drift?

Joe, I think I love you. At this writing, I am making my reservations for Long Beach, Westport and Neah Bay, for next July and August. I firmly believe in Rule #1 and I will be in the game next summer. Sorry, hard to wipe the smirk off my face.


As I further consider an agenda to offer you for December, I can’t help but remind you of the San Juan Islands winter blackmouth season opener on December 1st. As you are reading these words, my worm is in the water, in the Islands, anticipating the take down of a winter chinook. For this angler, it has become a rite of passage, imprinted by the last 35 years of chasing these wonderful salmon in early December which rival the fight of a steelhead and grill, fresh, better than anything imaginable.

And December is the final month of the winter crab season in areas that remain open. Please be sure to submit your winter crab catch record card at the beginning of the new year, or be faced with paying extra dough when you apply for a 2015 Puget Sound crab fishing license.

Finally, here comes Christmas later this month. My Christmas present to myself is to go fishing more in 2015. I know, you are saying how can that be? And to execute my fishing plans, excuse me while I head down to my favorite sport fishing store to purchase another Okuma IS400 level wind reel. Remember, it’s part of my job. Merry Christmas and 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.)






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