With 10 million-plus fertilized fall Chinook eggs to their credit so far, salmon anglers, state fishery managers and a public utility district will build on their success later this month when the 6th Annual King of the Reach kicks off.
The Oct. 26-28 live-capture fishing derby collects wild upriver brights for the Grant County Public Utility District’s Priest Rapids Hatchery, improving the stock’s fitness and ensuring that hatchery fish remain genetically similar to the natives in the Hanford Reach.
Coastal Conservation Association Washington’s Tri-Cities Chapter coordinates participation, and compared to regular fishing opportunities, the event has some interesting regulations to be aware of.
It’s held after the Hanford Reach closes for the season — likely to occur sometime next week — no fishing license is required and two-poling’s OK without the endorsement. Barbless hooks must be used, though.
Participants are encouraged to preregister with CCA or on-site, and all anglers are required to register with WDFW as volunteers each day before they fish.
Boat captains need fish transporting permits plus a way to haul the salmon to the Vernita Bridge or White Bluffs launches, either in a livewell or a big cooler with a pump. After all, the goal is to get them to the hatchery alive. According to CCA, there was less than 2 percent mortality among the 511 kings brought in in 2017.
WDFW’s Paul Hoffarth, who is the brains behind the event, says that anglers have brought in a total of 2,111 fall kings, including 1,034 bucks and 1,077 hens, since the first King of the Reach was held in 2012.
Fishing effort has increased annually, from 598 angler hours that first year to 2,722 in 2017, his data shows.
While some numbers from last year have yet to be crunched, derby fish have resulted in 25 percent of the hatchery’s production having at least one natural-origin parent.
Hoffarth says that even with this year’s lower return — 38,357 based on a Sept. 30 estimate — escapement (the number of spawners) should exceeded the goal of 31,100 natural-origin adult kings.
Entry in the derby is $25 for the day or the weekend (youths age 17 or under are $15). Refreshments will be provided and prizes will be awarded to participants for the most live salmon turned in per boat per day, and for the entire event.
Last year Justin Sprengel turned in the most kings, 37.
Random prizes will be awarded as well.
Derby entries are available online at ccawashington.org/KingoftheReach and Grigg’s in Pasco, and Ranch and Home and Sportsman’s Warehouse in Kennewick.