Lucky 13 — There’s Hatchery Chinook To Be Caught In Deep South Sound

The following blog was written by Officer Greg Haw of WDFW’s Thurston County Detachment and provided to Northwest Sportsman by the WDFW Enforcement Program.

By Officer Greg Haw

For the last several decades, a handful of knowledgeable South Sound anglers have exploited a great fishing opportunity in the backdrop of the state capitol.

PAULA CORCORAN SHOWS OFF A “15-MINUTE LIMIT” OF HATCHERY CHINOOK, CAUGHT IN MARINE AREA 13 EARLY LAST SEPTEMBER. THIS END OF PUGET SOUND FEATURES SEVERAL SALMON HATCHERIES AND THEY’VE SEEN STRONG RETURNS IN RECENT SEASONS. CORCORAN WAS USING A SPOON TAPED WITH HYPER-VIS+. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

Olympia anglers, supplied by numerous highly productive hatcheries, keep their mouths shut and snicker to themselves as their pals with bigger boats and gas-guzzling trucks head off to what they consider to be better places to fish.

What their pals do not know, and what they often do not believe, is that great fishing happens right here in late summer. Each summer large numbers of hatchery Chinook swarm into the terminal areas of Marine Area 13.

We have all been inundated with gloomy Chinook salmon forecasts and greatly increased Chinook protection measures between the ocean and spawning grounds.

In the interests of protecting wild stocks, WDFW must limit fishing opportunity even though large numbers of harvestable hatchery fish are mixed in with them. What some anglers miss is that these protective measures virtually assure a huge escapement of hatchery fish returning to Marine Area 13.

Last year alone, 30,000 surplus Chinook were culled at Deschutes Falls Hatchery. Nisqually Tribal hatchery also had big return numbers.

If one adds the production of Minter Creek and Puyallup Hatchery and an expected return of three year old Chinook to McAllister Creek, the likely return of hatchery Chinook to South Puget Sound may rival the expected return of hatchery fall Chinook to the Lower Columbia River!

In addition, when one compares the relatively small recreational Chinook quotas assessed for Marine Areas 1 through 11, these potential escapement numbers look huge.

In Marine Area 13 recreational impacts to wild Chinook salmon are easily controlled by barbless hook and wild-release regulations. Simply stated, sensitive Chinook stocks tend not to stray down this far. So let’s go fishing!

THERE ARE MANY LOCAL HOT SPOTS IN THE SOUTH END OF THE SOUND, all with their own quirks.

Anderson Island and the Nisqually River mouth will produce good fishing starting in late July. Other areas, such as the appropriately named Big and Little Fish Traps near Olympia can get red hot in early August.

Any small seaworthy boat will work in these protected waters. There are a number of public launching sites nearby, and some of them are free to use. Run times to the fishing areas are minimal.

KELLY CORCORAN HOISTS ANOTHER AREA 13 CHINOOK FROM LAST AUGUST. (YO-ZURI PHOTO CONTEST)

All conventional salmon fishing modes and methods work. White Dart jigs are especially popular and work well in depths less than 60 feet. These jigs are also recommended for use by novice anglers who will find that their chances of catching a Chinook are about as good as anyone’s.

Fresh bait is usually available nearby for those who know how to catch their own.

Last but not least, your two-pole endorsement works here!

My apologies to those who considered this fishery a secret, but I am a second-generation public servant and believe in my heart that the very people who care about fishing and financed this opportunity are entitled to know that it is there. I will proudly see you at Little Fish Trap come August!

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