While the San Juan Islands has been top news getter for hatchery chinook that could soon change when northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9) reopens Friday, Jan. 16.
“We have been anticipating this opener, and have been struggling to catch fish in areas that are open right now like (central Puget Sound and Everett area),” said Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Charters in Everett. “Hatchery chinook fishing was OK when North Sound closed at the end of November so we are hoping for the best.”
“Last winter when it reopened it was very good during the first week, and then it remained OK through early spring,” Krein said. “Good places are Possession Bar, Double Bluff (off south side of Whidbey Island), Pilot Point or Point No Point.”
Not that what happened when the northern Puget Sound salmon fishery closed at the end of November nor good fishing during last season’s opener will make any difference on what to expect it is always good to recollect.
“When it reopened last year it was pretty decent, and by the time the season ended in April we were having those 15 pound fish days left and right,” said Pete Sergeef, the state Fish and Wildlife test boat fishery who spends many days on the water for the sake of collecting catch data.
“If I remember Pilot Point was pretty good, Point No Point was decent and Double Bluff (off south side of Whidbey Island) was not so good, but that could all change this time around,” Sergeef said. “This past November wasn’t bad at all and finished up with a bang.”
The key with any winter salmon fishery is locating the baitfish schools of herring and sandlance (candlefish), which the hungry feeder salmon prey upon to fatten up.
The recent heavy rainfall and flooding in local rivers was another factor in why winter chinook fishing has been so lackluster of late in places currently open.
“The good news for this opener is that the weather has stabilized, and nothing like a week ago when mud flowed out into the marine areas from the Snohomish and Stillaguamish,” Krein said. “It was clearly muddy all the way from Everett to Seattle, and once the water clears it will help with fishing in Area 9.”
Hatchery chinook in areas currently open has been pitifully slow at Presidents Point, Jefferson Head, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Elliott Bay, Saratoga Pass, Hat Island, Southworth, Manchester, the Tacoma-Narrows area, and in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca off Port Angeles and Freshwater Bay.
The top spot for winter hatchery chinook is the San Juan Islands at Eagle Bluff; Salmon Bank; Rosario Strait; Thatcher Pass; Sucia Island; north side of Orcas Island; Obstruction Pass; Lopez Pass; and Waldron Island.
A boat ramp check from Washington Park in Anacortes showed 33 boats with 66 anglers Sunday taking home 29 chinook.