Tag Archives: Atlantic salmon

More Than Half Of Atlantics Appear To Have Escaped Pen

It appears that more than half of the 305,000 Atlantic salmon in a commercial netpen off Cypress Island were able to get loose when it was damaged two weeks ago, making it the second largest escape in Washington waters.

Cooke Aquaculture reports that the pens are now clear of fish and that the company recovered 142,176 during clean-up operations.

That means somewhere around 163,000 initially escaped before anglers and tribal fishermen swooped in to begin scooping them up.


A voluntary catch-reporting tool on WDFW’s website shows the location of where 1,589 have been landed by anglers since Aug. 21, when the escape became widely known.

“Latest fishing reports show that most of the fish have cleared out of Deepwater Bay to surrounding areas and continue to be caught further from Cypress Island,” a report from the agency late Wednesday afternoon stated.

WDFW’s map shows Atlantics caught as far away as off Tofino, which is not quite halfway up the west coast of Vancouver Island, Texada Island, in the Johnstone Strait between the island and mainland British Columbia.

Others have been reported caught in the Samish and Snohomish Rivers, and six were caught off the east side of Bainbridge Island.

Unfortunately, Area 5, where at least 20 were reported caught, has closed to salmon fishing and thus Atlantics as well. After Sept. 4, Area 9 will as well.

Lummi Nation fishermen have removed at least 20,000, and possibly as many as 30,000. The Suquamish and Tulalip Tribes also authorized gillnetting this week.

According to WDFW, there were three large escapes in the 1990s — 107,000 (1996), 369,000 (1997), and 115,000 (1999).

In the wake of August’s disaster, permitting for new netpens has been put on hold while the incident is fully investigated.

Map Highlights Atlantic Salmon Catches; 120K Recovered From Damaged Pens

Cooke Aquaculture says it’s recovered nearly 120,000 Atlantic salmon from a damaged North Sound netpen, while a new WDFW map is showing where and how many of the escapees anglers have caught.

The agency’s website reports that as of 1:31 p.m. this afternoon, 889 have been reported landed everywhere from Ucluelet, BC, to the Samish River to Alki Beach, but mostly along the east side of Cypress Island, where the pen is anchored.


WDFW says it appreciates all the help and reports from anglers, and notes that there’s now a 100-yard “safety zone” around the damaged facility.

Another 20,000 were reported caught over the weekend by Lummi Nation netters.

Work being done today at the site should help determine how many of the 305,000 nonnative salmon that had been raised for market actually got loose.

It provided an unexpected bounty for anglers but also widespread outcry from fishermen and others, and led the state to suspend issuing new permits for more Atlantic salmon netpens before a full review of the spill is done.

Meanwhile, catches appear to be getting tougher, or at least the big numbers from the first few days have faded away as as many as 80 boats have been working the Secret Harbor pen, but we thought we’d pass along so more advice on how to land ’em.

Wayne Heinz spends his summers fishing and crabbing in the San Juans, and he called the angling right after the damage occurred “the best … salmon fishing in decades.”

“They hit Berkley PowerBait brown sparkle dough and also yellow trout eggs,” he tips.

Use a spinning rod setup strung with 12-pound-test clear mono line, a 3/8-ounce sinker and a 5-foot leader, Heinz advises.

“Anchor 30 to 40 feet deep along the rocky shore  by broken pen  among many other boats. Cast. Slow retrieve. Most fish are 6 to 16 feet deep. They fight hard and go aerial,” he says.

Others have done well with spinners, and a Sekiu resort reported landed some on herring.

For more on the ins and outs of angling for Atlantics, check out WDFW’s website for info.

To Track Dispersing Atlantics, WDFW Asks Anglers To Chart Catches


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is encouraging anglers who catch Atlantic salmon that escaped from a salmon farm near the San Juan Islands last Saturday to report their catch online.

Although anglers are not required to log Atlantic salmon on their catch record cards, state fish managers are requesting anglers report their catch online in an effort to track fish being caught.

The form for reporting can be found online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/atlantic_salmon_catch.php.

“We’re hoping to track how many Atlantic salmon have been recovered by sport anglers and how far those fish have dispersed,” said Ron Warren, head of WDFW’s fish program. “If you’ve caught one of these fish over the last few days, or if you catch one in the near future, please let us know.”

Warren noted the escaped Atlantic salmon are 8 to 10 pounds in size and are safe for people to eat.

WDFW also is deploying additional employees to assist with creel checks in the Bellingham Bay area to help collect data on encounters with Atlantic salmon.

Cooke Aquaculture notified the department of a net pen failure Aug. 19 that allowed Atlantic salmon to escape from the company’s Cypress Island location. The net pen held 305,000 salmon but the number of escaped Atlantic salmon is still undetermined.

The department is working with Cooke and other state agencies to determine the number of fish that actually escaped.

WDFW is responsible for monitoring fish diseases and shares regulatory authority for net pen operations with several other agencies, local governments and tribes.

Anglers must have a current fishing license and must also observe gear regulations identified in the 2017-18 sport fishing rules pamphlet.

There is no size or catch limit on Atlantic salmon. However, anglers may only fish for Atlantic salmon in marine waters that are already open to fishing for Pacific salmon or freshwater areas open to fishing for trout or Pacific salmon. Anglers also must stop fishing for Atlantic salmon once they’ve caught their daily limit of Pacific salmon in marine waters or their daily limit of trout or Pacific salmon in freshwater.

Try Mimicking Dinner Time At Netpens For Atlantics


Who needs pink salmon when there are gobs of hungry Atlantics swimming around out there?!

Kevin Klein, a San Juan Islands salmon angler, reports a friend got into a whole pile of the net-pen escapees yesterday.


“The Atlantic Salmon that escaped form a net pen in the San Juan Islands are now spread across the area. Reports have come in of Atlantics caught as far South as Bush Point on Whidbey Island. Folks are out there catching them, and forty in a day is not uncommon. There is no limit, but current WDFW rules for other species must be followed while targeting them,” he reports.

Note that boat fishing is closed in Marine Area 9, Admiralty Inlet, due to low Coho returns to the Skagit and Stillaguamish Rivers, but the shorelines of Whidbey Island and the Kitsap Peninsula are open for bank fishing through September 4th.

“Once you find them on the troll, try casting spinners or Buzz Bombs to them while throwing pea gravel near the boat. Seriously, it mimics feeding time at net pens. These invasive fish need to be caught before they can spread disease, eat native smolts, or mix with natural Pacific stocks,” Klein reports.
The following is information from WDFW:

I do not have any more information on the details behind the escaped Atlantic Salmon.  However we do have quite a few folks heading north interested in catching these fish.  The common question is where and how.


Where is again primarily around the release site but don’t be surprised to see them spreading out (i.e., Bellingham Bay).


The how is still a bit of an unknown but from the most recent report I have is a few folks have had great success casting spinners.  Being these are pen raised fish, they are likely not strong swimmers and will orient themselves to the top of the water column looking for the easy meal.  Casting spinners into jumping/congregated fish near the surface has already worked for some anglers (and will avoid Chinook and coho).  I have also heard that flies often used for sea-run cutthroat trout has been known to work in the past for those who flyfish.  Our test fisher was out recently and saw plenty of fish near the site within Secret Bay.  Trolling does not appear to work.  However casting chrome-colored buzz bombs, rotators, and spinners had some success in shallow water (less than 3 feet and tight to shore).  Fish were seen finning and jumping near the shore and seem to be particularly attracted to eel grass beds.


Regulations are (again) for fishing in the saltwater:

  1. License plus salmon catch record card
  2. Open only where salmon is open
  3. Must stop fishing once the appropriate salmon daily limit is reached (Chinook, coho, pink)
  4. No limit on Atlantic Salmon or size limit
  5. Be prepared to be sampled at the boat ramp per our baseline creel sampling staff – and if you have tips on how to catch them, please share that information with staff