Tag Archives: chinook

IDFG Says Chinook Seasons Could Reopen After Count Picks Up


Migration conditions in the lower Columbia River and a late run have challenged Fish and Game’s normal process for setting Chinook salmon seasons. Fisheries managers closed the spring/summer Chinook season as a precaution on May 24 on all rivers, except Hells Canyon, due to low numbers of Chinook counted at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. It’s the first dam the fish cross, and the first opportunity managers to count fish destined for Idaho, and since then, Chinook returns have improved.


On Friday, June 2, the Fish and Game Commission will meet via conference call to consider a proposal to reopen fishing for spring Chinook salmon on the Little Salmon River, and to open summer Chinook salmon seasons on the Clearwater, South Fork Salmon and upper Salmon River.

The run is much later than usual, and possibly the latest on record. Anadromous Fishery Manager Lance Hebdon said it’s still too early to say for certain where fisheries will occur, or how long they might last.

“The good news is we’re now fairly confident that we’ll have some sort of a fishery in the Little Salmon River, but that’s all we can really say at this point. We’ll provide as much fishing opportunity as we can, and we’ll get the word out as soon as a decision is made.”

Although fishery managers expect to have sufficient returns to allow a harvest of several hundred spring Chinook, they expect the lower run size will limit the duration of the season.

“We’re evaluating fish passage information on a daily basis right now to determine if, when and where we have the opportunity for harvest,” Hebdon said.

Low numbers of wild Chinook may further constrain some fisheries. The number of wild Chinook destined for Idaho waters that have crossed Bonneville Dam is much lower than average. If those numbers don’t increase, fishing may be limited to areas where anglers are unlikely to hook wild Chinook, such as the Little Salmon River. Areas typically open to fishing, like the main Salmon between Rice Creek and Vinegar Creek may remain closed.

Lake Washington Walleye Outfitted With Acoustic Tags For Study

Fishery biologists with a Seattle-area tribe are capturing a new predator species in Lakes Washington and Sammamish to monitor their movements and whether they cross paths with salmon.

It’s unclear how many of the illegally introduced fish are actually in the system, but concern is building and the Muckleshoot Tribe reports they have “successfully tagged and released multiple walleye” already this year.


A request for comment from the tribe had not yet been returned as of this writing, but details of the operation come from the LOAF, or list of agreed-to fisheries that was signed by WDFW and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission earlier this month as the parties reached an agreement at North of Falcon, and which was posted last week by the state agency.

Besides outlining all the treaty, commercial and recreational salmon fisheries over the coming 12 months, the 105-page document includes the Muckleshoot’s aims and methods for their two-year warmwater species study in the Lake Washington basin.

It builds on the scant information we were able to report earlier this year, when it began.

The tribe says it wants to catch up to 15 walleye to “assess their overlap with migrating juvenile salmonids in addition to locating areas these invasive predators may be targeted in subsequent fisheries.”

Tribal fishers are targeting one of seven zones in Washington and Sammamish at a time, using up to eight 300-foot-long gillnets with 31/2- to 6-inch mesh. The nets fish during the work week and are closely monitored to reduce the possibility of snagging the few if any ESA-listed steelhead in the basin.

Walleye are being implanted with acoustic devices that can be read by receivers stationed around the lakes that are otherwise used to track tagged returning adult Chinook and sockeye and young outmigrating coho.

Overlapping walleye movements with the coho will help model their potential to cross paths with Endangered Species Act-listed Chinook smolts.

The Muckleshoots say their effort “will benefit salmonid management in the Lake Washington basin,” as well as inform researchers on walleye diets and distribution.

Of note, a “second consideration” is to figure out if catch rates on walleye and bass are “high enough to result in an economically viable fishery … Data collected will inform managers of areas and times that a tribal net fishery could be economically viable as well as areas to avoid/target minimizing bycatch and optimizing harvest.”

According to plans, gear, locations and effort may be shared with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with details on any steelhead or Chinook caught, with the test fishery being shut down after a third and fifth of each species is encountered.

The data will add to a 2004-05 Army Corps of Engineers study that looked at movements of acoustically tagged Chinook smolts, smallmouth bass and prickly sculpins.

Walleye first turned up in Lake Washington in 2005, a small male, caught by University of Washington researchers, with anglers catching one or two in following years.

But in 2015, state and tribal biologists caught a dozen, mostly in Lake Washington between Mercer Island and Bellevue, including a 13.5-pound hen that was dripping eggs.

As the species is native to waters east of the Rockies, the only way they could have arrived in the urban lakes is in livewells. The nearest source populations are about 120 miles east on I-90 in the Columbia Basin.

The Lake Washington system supports important tribal and recreational salmon fisheries, though sockeye, which reside in the lake a year before going to sea, have not produced directed seasons for over 10 years, despite a new hatchery. WDFW’s Issaquah Salmon Hatchery produces Chinook and coho.

So far, the Muckleshoots have caught at least one northern pike in Lake Washington, as well as a handful of walleye in Lake Sammamish.

The LOAF also describes a plan to electrofish in spring and fall and gillnet in spring in select areas of Lake Washington and the Ship Canal, the idea being to figure out if removing bass, walleye, perch and other salmon predators can be effective.

One thing’s for sure, if you’re a bass tournament angler fishing nationally ranked Lake Washington, you’d want a map of where those efforts are planned.

WDFW Outlines Potential Puget Sound Salmon Seasons

Puget Sound anglers, guides, gear retailers, resort owners, commercial fishermen and others got their first glance at possible summer salmon seasons today.

Options presented this morning by WDFW included a mixed bag of opportunities to catch abundant Chinook and coho in some marine areas and rivers, sharply carved seasons elsewhere to limit impacts on depressed stocks, and closures on some waters to ensure enough salmon make it back to North Sound spawning grounds.

The agency was gathering comments from its stakeholders for the next round of negotiations with Western Washington tribes, who were also in meetings today.


Discussions at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites were slated to continue through the afternoon, but, well, some of us have magazine deadlines to attend to, so I had to leave “North of Falcon II” early and can’t go as in-depth on all the arcane math behind WDFW’s modeling as is my usual wont, but I found several fishing options that the agency has drummed up as newsworthy:

For starters, with over 16,300 Chinook heading back to the Green, the agency would like to hold a one-weekend (Friday-Sunday), two-salmon-limit fishery on inner Elliott Bay in August (hatchery coho and pinks only the next two weekends), and open part of the lower river for king retention.

Initially, WDFW is looking at a nonselective season on E-Bay kings, following a lack of objection from the Muckleshoot Tribe, according to Mark Baltzell, Puget Sound salmon manager.

But that concerned several anglers, including retired state salmon policy expert and current sportfishing representative Pat Patillo. He thought that it might be better to propose the fishery as a mark-selective one, aligning it with consistent efforts to target and harvest fin-clipped hatchery salmon.

Either way, it buoyed one longtime angler who sat in the front row of today’s briefing.

“We’re glad to see a chance to get back our king fishery,” said Ed, last name unknown.

WDFW is also modeling hatchery Chinook seasons in the Nooksack, Skykomish, Skagit, Cascade, Puyallup and Nisqually Rivers, and any-king fisheries in the Samish River and Tulalip Bubble.


Unlike 2016, this year there are least options to fish for coho on the salt.

But to protect very low forecasted returns of Stillaguamish and Skagit coho, WDFW is considering closing Areas 8-1 and 8-2 through October, and running Area 9 as a shore fishery only for hatchery silvers in September.

According to the agency’s Ryan Lothrop, Admiralty Inlet typically produces 24,000 silvers that month, with impacts to Stilly and Skagit coho “quite high” as the rivers’ stocks mix before heading for their natal streams.

The tribes were said to be “relatively open” to a shoreline fishery throughout Area 9, including down to the Hood Canal Bridge, though it would only yield about 5 percent of the usual catch for anglers, according to WDFW.

Elsewhere, Areas 5, 6, 10 and 13 are modeled as open for hatchery coho, while wild and clipped silvers could be fishable in Areas 11 and 12.

WDFW’s proposal also includes selective coho fisheries in the Nooksack, Samish, Cascade and Nisqually Rivers, and any-silver fisheries in the Snohomish, Green, Puyallup, Nisqually and Quilcene Rivers, and Lakes Washington and Sammamish, and Tulalip Bay.

The Skagit and Stillaguamish would be closed, but the retired WDFW biologist and North Sound angler Curt Kramer said the agency owed game fish anglers something for 2016 closures and termed the Stilly a “blue-ribbon” cutthroat fishery.


Since the early 2000s, odd-numbered years have delivered stellar numbers of pink salmon, but not so for 2017, at least by the forecast, some 1.15 million Puget Sound wide.

Again, with Stillaguamish and Skagit coho mixing into the best waters for Snohomish- and South Sound-bound humpies, things look grim for Area 8-2 anglers, but audience members came up with two possible sliver fisheries.

Patillo advocated for one on the eastern side of the area, from, say, Mukilteo down to the Shipwreck, with the idea being a fishery in Humpy Hollow would be further away from the constraining coho stocks.

Scott Weedman of Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville wanted to know about one off the mouth of the Snohomish River, from approximately the Tulalip Bubble down to Mukilteo, an area known as 8A.

The latter is a consideration, with the assumption that the closer to the Snohomish, the higher the density of salmon native to that basin. WDFW staffers were up until 2 a.m. this morning modeling an 8A fishery.

Other modeled saltwater fisheries include:

  • Hatchery Chinook in all or parts of July and August in Marine Areas 5-7, 9-11, 12 south of Point Ayock, and 13;
  • Any-Chinook fisheries in Area 7 from August through September;

But ominously, Skokomish kings and coho are listed as TBD, a possible sign about negotiations to reopen the river after last year’s closure by the tribe.

About 60 people attended today’s meeting. Besides those mentioned above, they included Gabe Miller of Sportco in Fife, Tom Nelson of The Outdoor Line, Puget Sound sportfishing advisors Ryley Fee and Norm Reinhardt, among others, Mark Spada, a pair of representatives from Sekiu, charter skippers Keith Robbins, Carl Nyman and Steve Kesling, Kevin John from Holiday Market, Art Tatchell of Point Defiance Boathouse, Jacques White of Long Live the Kings, Fish and Wildlife Commissioners Dave Graybill and Bob Kehoe, numerous Puget Sound Anglers, Kitsap Poggie Club and CCA members, Mark Yuasa at the Seattle Times, dozens of WDFW headquarters and regional staffers, and Susan Bishop at NOAA.

Again, I had to leave early, but this represents what WDFW presented to fisherman as North of Falcon 2017 draws to its scheduled mid-April conclusion.

Rig Of The Month: Estuary Sturg ’n ’Nook Quick-change Set-up


Getting a chance to pull off a successful combo fishing trip is very satisfying, but it usually involves such long days and so much gear that it feels daunting to even attempt. This rig simplifies things.

With the rise of a new summer Chinook fishery in the Columbia River estuary just above the AstoriaMegler Bridge, many anglers will be making the trip here this season. But with salmon fishing so concentrated towards the last part of the incoming tide, it will leave many wanting more. Enter the very healthy population of hungry sturgeon roaming these waters this time of year. Retention is closed, but there’s nothing more exhilarating than hooking into multiple fish that will put you and your gear to the test.

No special tackle is needed for sturgeon – your salmon rod and reel will work just fine. And it just so happens that those fresh anchovies you bought for Chinook are a favorite of estuary sturgeon. Check the tides and target diamondsides from low slack and halfway
through the incoming before pulling anchor and making a run to the Washington side above the bridge to fish salmon for the last half of the incoming through high tide. – Andy Schneider

(Andy Schneider)

(Andy Schneider)

The Gurus: Bob Rees

Guide, conservationist, fisheries advocate – there are many pieces to the subject of this month’s feature in our continuing series on all-around Northwest anglers.
By Andy Schneider

God, no, I’ve never looked back!”
So exclaims Bob Rees, the executive director of the  Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Northwest Oregon and Columbia River guide, and fish and fisheries advocate.
“Besides my gray hair, I’ve got no regrets,” he says. “I owe my entire life to salmon. The best lesson my dad ever taught me was to get a job you love. It’s been a wonderful journey, meeting some incredible people and having some incredible opportunities.”

IT’S THE LAUGHTER coming from Bob Rees’s boat that usually gets your attention. Rees has a way of trolling right up behind you without attracting much attention – that is, until the laughter breaks out. You glance back and see Rees standing at the tiller making minor adjustments to the motor, while leaning in and telling his clients something that sets them off laughing again. As you think to yourself that it’s good his clients are having so much fun but they must not be taking the fishing too seriously, someone hooks one almost on cue to a punchline of a joke just out of earshot and the entire boat erupts in uncontrollable laughter again.
Fish around Rees enough and you begin to see the pattern: This guy is having a good time, and it’s infectious to his clients.  At first encounter with Rees, you wonder if it’s just a show that he puts on to be a good businessman; no one could be that easygoing, quick-witted and fun all the time, could they? Well, I hate to break it to you, but yes, Rees is the real deal. He truly loves  what he’s doing and is glad to share his good fortune with pretty much everyone.
“People come out fishing to have a good time,” explains Rees. “And I can easily accommodate a group of folks looking to have an enjoyable time on the water. It actually makes my job pretty easy. Sure, I’ve been stuck on a sandbar or two – or three – but those are usually the highlights of the trip!”

GROWING UP, REES was lucky that a friend of his father’s was a good fisherman and willing to share his knowledge.
“No one in my family really fished, so when my dad’s friend Gerry Lake took me salmon fishing for the first time, I was pretty ecstatic. It was early September and I had just started eighth grade when Gerry took my dad and I fishing out of Astoria. It was one of those flat-calm days on the ocean and when the rod started bouncing up and down, Gerry told me to just keep my hands off it. It didn’t take long before that rod started bucking and I thought for sure it was going to break in half. But with Gerry’s advice I was able to land my very first salmon. We only caught three that day, but I couldn’t keep the lid on the fish box – I just wanted to look at them all day.”
With the flame kindled, Lake fanned Rees’s fishing passion by taking him down to Diamond Lake fishing many times.
“He was my hero. Gerry was my gateway to sport fishing in Oregon, there’s no doubt about that. I now take his four daughters fishing on a regular basis; they participate in the Buoy 10 Challenge every year. Even though Gerry has passed away, it’s evident that he made a strong connection to fishing with his daughters and me.”
Rees believes that it’s extremely important to pass on your knowledge and passion for fishing to the next generation, whether you have children or not.

Rees credits Gerry Lake, a friend of his father’s, for getting him into fishing when he was in eighth grade and fueling his passion for the sport (BOB REES)

Rees credits Gerry Lake, a friend of his father’s, for getting him into fishing when he was in eighth grade and fueling his passion for the sport (BOB REES)

“If parents don’t support that passion, that energy is going to go somewhere else, and not necessarily good,” he says.
When we talked in late February, Rees had just wrapped up a  new two-day event put on by the Steelheaders. Called Family Fish Camp, it was held near Rockaway Beach for families wanting to find out more about the sport, or if they’re already anglers, how to refine their skills.
“We had over 100 anglers and 30 volunteers in attendance –  not too bad for our first year,” says Rees. “Saturday was some classes and then fishing for trout. Sunday was trout fishing, breakfast and then more trout fishing. Everyone really liked being able to go out and catch some fish.”
“One of the great moments of the camp for me was watching a 12-year-old, who incidentally has caught way more steelhead than me this season – way more. Anyway, he really wanted to help other kids catch fish. It was pretty neat watching this young angler in action and already passing on his knowledge.”
By building the next generation of anglers, Rees believes you also recruit the advocates who are going to fight for the future of our fish.
“We didn’t know where to start, so Family Fish Camp was a start,” he says. “And it turned out great – the thirst is definitely there. Sometimes parents just don’t have the time to invest in learning  a new hobby. We hope we can jumpstart everyone’s passion and create future foot solders for salmon advocacy.”

REES’S INTEREST IN fish increased in high school, when he contemplated running a guide business from shore. But he really got serious when he entered college and got his fisheries degree.
Shortly after graduating he got a job as an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish checker in Astoria.
“I started meeting guides and talking with them and realized that was the direction I wanted to go. I never thought I was going to be rich enough to be able to buy a boat – thank goodness for credit!”
“I’ve since graduated towards fish advocacy and it’s been the exclamation point on my career. Working for the Northwest Steelheaders  has been great and I’ve got a very understanding board of directors that still allows me to guide (northwestguides.com). I wake up pretty excited everyday to go to work and get a chance to work on some challenging issues. Northwest Steelheaders is 56 years old and stronger than ever before. I’m really excited about the direction we are heading.”
His career so far has provided some very rewarding moments.
“The most memorable fishing trip was when I took Governor Kitzhaber fishing in Tillamook Bay, October 23rd, 2002. The governor was considering closing salmon hatcheries due to budget cuts and deferred maintenance costs. That day the governor got his limit of salmon, one even being a hatchery fish. The day perfectly demonstrated how much local communities depend on commerce that comes from having salmon to catch in our oceans, bays and rivers.”
“Oh, and it was my very first freshwater double on salmon – that made it pretty memorable too.”

Rees is very active in fish and conservation issues, not only as the executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and holding a Family Fish Camp this past winter, but helping out at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s annual Buoy 10 derby, which raises funds to advocate for fish and fisheries. (BRIAN LULL)

Rees is very active in fish and conservation issues, not only as the executive director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and holding a Family Fish Camp this past winter, but helping out at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s annual Buoy 10 derby, which raises funds to advocate for fish and fisheries. (BRIAN LULL)

But even more important than standout days is the graduation of fishermen Rees has seen over the years.
“Anglers who I took out fishing for the first time caught the bug, then started buying their own boats and now show up at meetings fighting for salmon restoration. Looking back, you see this change in folks from not just being a consumer of the resource, but a steward. That is one of the most rewarding things to have seen in my career.”
Still, there’s work to do, and Rees is willing to do it.
“As humans, we truly don’t know what is possible. We thought  that a human couldn’t run a 4-minute mile, but we are doing it. We never thought we would see salmon runs top 1 million fish, but  we’re doing it. How many fish is our ecosystem currently capable  of holding? Can we have 2 million fish this next fall? I think our next big step will be seeing a 12-month consumptive Chinook fishery on the Columbia – is it possible? I landed my first triple just this last fall. With good fishing like we’ve had, it feels like we are making progress. Oh, and let me tell ya’, a triple sure helps get a six-fish limit in a hurry!”
As much as he enjoys battling for the resource for all of us, fighting fish is just as important to Rees.
“I’m heading to the Wilson tomorrow to see if I can enjoy some of the great run we’ve been having. Work has been busy this winter and I haven’t been too disappointed missing the steelhead season so far, but I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
We all should be with angler-conservationists like Bob Rees  working for the fish and fishing opportunities. NS

Bob Rees, here with “Salmon” Sue Cody of The Daily Astorian and a Buoy 10 Chinook, says fish advocacy has been “the exclamation point on my career.” (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Bob Rees, here with “Salmon” Sue Cody of The Daily Astorian and a Buoy 10 Chinook, says fish advocacy has been “the exclamation point on my career.” (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Cowlitz Will Shine This Spring

Huge Chinook forecast, plus great steelheading makes the river an April must-fish.
By Jason Brooks 

The Cowlitz is known for putting out good numbers of winter and summer steelhead, and it can be an outstanding fall coho river as well. But come April most Northwest sportsmen are fixated on the spring Chinook making their way up the Columbia to terminal fisheries. Before venturing too far up the big river in pursuit of the year’s first salmon, though, remember that the Cowlitz too has a good run of springers. And this year’s forecast of 25,100 not only follows on a stellar season in 2015, it is one of the largest predicted returns over the last 30 years.
But wait, there’s more! One thing the famed Southwest Washington river offers that most other springer fisheries don’t is the chance to double up on winter steelhead that arrive in February and are caught all the way into June, when the summer steelies show up. The Cowlitz also offers a variety of water conditions and access for all anglers.

WHILE 2016’S FIRST Cowlitz springer was caught out of the lower river in early February, the fishery really doesn’t get going strong until mid-April as the salmon make their way up to the Barrier Dam and Tacoma Power’s salmon hatchery. Thanks to 2010’s rebuild and changing release strategies at that facility, the numbers of smolts being released there has increased 70 percent, rising from around a million to 1.7 million.
Early this month boat anglers have the advantage because they can best fish the bigger water from Toledo down. The I-5 launch (which is underneath the interstate off Mandy Road, which peels off the Jackson Highway) is a starting point. Keep in mind that salmon and steelhead in this section probably won’t be too close to each other, so targeting springers will yield very few steelhead. Plus the techniques in the bigger water are more geared to salmon anyway – back-trolling plugs, such as the Brad’s Killer Fish, Yakima Bait’s Mag Lip 4.5 or even the newer 5.0, and Luhr Jensen’s Kwikfish, all wrapped with either a fillet of herring, sardine or a piece of tuna belly. As the regulations don’t allow the use of a barbed hook until June from Lexington Bridge up, switch out the trebles to a single barbless siwash on a barrel swivel or bead chain  and pinch the barb down. Another  favorite is a plug-cut herring with a Brad’s Diver 48 inches in front, with a four-bead chain swivel halfway down the 25-pound leader.
One of the more popular areas is the mouth of the Toutle River. Here, bank anglers who find their way to the large gravel bar find a place to plunk Spin-N-Glos with a chunk of sardine or a gob of eggs, and some even put both on the hook. A 5- to 8-ounce pyramid weight is needed this time of year as river flows can vary, even with the river being controlled by a series of dams. The Toutle is not controlled and has a lot of sediment, making the water below the confluence very dirty, but plunking is an intercepting technique, so don’t let the offcolored water discourage you too much. Boat anglers will often fish here as well, again pulling big plugs and fishing the off-color and clearwater separation line.

The Cowlitz’s 50 miles below Mayfield Dam are best fished from a boat, but many stretches are productive from the bank too, notably the mouth of the Toutle, Blue Creek and Barrier Dam. (JASON BROOKS)

The Cowlitz’s 50 miles below Mayfield Dam are best fished from a boat, but many stretches are productive from the bank too, notably the mouth of the Toutle, Blue Creek and Barrier Dam. (JASON BROOKS)

UPRIVER IN TOLEDO is a two-lane boat ramp that provides access to slightly  smaller water. Boaters will again back down the deep slots, which are easier to find in this section of the Cowlitz, back-trolling wrapped plugs or diverand-herring combos.
I’ve fished this stretch with guide Bruce Warren of Fishing For Fun Guide Service (253-208-7433) and he knows this part of the river is your real first chance to double up on steelhead and Chinook. He will have a few side-drifting rods rigged up to target current seams or large boulders. He likes to throw the standard boon-dogging rig for steelhead that are holding or traveling upriver but still trying to stay out of the springers’ way. The salmon tend to hold in the deep holes and runs, with the steelhead hugging the bank and seams or resting behind those boulders. By targeting the different waters, you have a good chance of hooking either species.
Next up is the Mission or Massey Bar launch, a bit upriver from Toledo on the north bank off Buckley Road. As the river starts to tighten, this is where you can start to find good numbers of steelhead and springers holding in the same types of water. Though the fish won’t be bunched together, the way you fish for them here on upriver means there is no way to predict what is on the end of your line until you get that first glimpse of the fish. The deep slots are much narrower and the soft edges are travel lanes for both species. With boulders sticking out of the water and the points off of the end of midriver gravel bars holding fish, it can be a guessing game which one you’re fighting to the net.
Side-drifting and boon-dogging (side-drifting while continually floating downriver) are the top-producing tactics for all anglers. However, a technique that is quickly catching on is a variation of boondogging called bobber-dogging. Basically it’s dragging your weight, preferably a slinky as they tend to not grab onto rocks like pencil lead does, while using an adjustable float to help it along as well as watch for the bite instead of feeling for it. Use a leader of 12-or 15-pound clear Izorline Platinum and two size 1 or 1/0 barbless hooks with a Cheater or Corky between them, and a larger cluster of eggs for bait. This time of year I switch up my cured eggs from the standard steelhead orange or natural to the deep-red-stained eggs and add Pro-Cure’s Bloody Tuna bait oil right into the jar to soak. Sand shrimp are still a favorite but to really double up on springers, adding a few other traditional salmon scents like Pro-Cure’s herring or sardine oils can lead to more salmon in the box. Then switch back over to krill or anise for steelhead.

Steelhead add to the allure of the Cowlitz in spring – Bruce Warren holds a nice winter-run. While the lower river is more of a spring Chinook fishery, doubling up on steelhead is most likely from I-5 to Blue Creek (JASON BROOKS)

Steelhead add to the allure of the Cowlitz in spring – Bruce Warren holds a nice winter-run. While the lower river is more of a spring Chinook fishery, doubling up on steelhead is most likely from I-5 to Blue Creek (JASON BROOKS)

BLUE CREEK, THE famed state access and steelhead hatchery, is both a bank angler and boat fisherman’s choke point for doubling up on steelhead and spring Chinook. With plenty of bank access from just below the hatchery outlet at the boat ramp all the way down to the Clay Banks area, shore fishermen can wade out as far as they can, depending on river flows, and drift fish the edge of the main current seam. You will also find anglers fishing eggs under a float here. Above the boat ramp there are a few spots to wade out, but be very aware of the ledges and runs that are right at the bank edge. However, there is ample bank access, and this water is primarily a bobber-and-egg fishery. If you do find a stretch where you won’t interfere with other fishermen, try throwing Blue Fox Vibrax spinners in size 3 and 4 and let them swing across the wide flats.
Boat anglers in this stretch work the opposite side of the river, right along the rock retaining wall across from the launch. There is about a mile of water where you can motor up to the first set of rapids and then slowly  back your way to the tailout just above the natural chute that leads down to the corner below. If you decide to run downriver, be aware that this chute can become a hazard. Boaters coming up can’t see around the corner, and once committed to coming upriver, they need to stay on plane or else risk hitting a boulder that is right in the middle of the rapids.
Four big bends upstream of Blue Creek is Barrier Dam and its boat launch. Those who fish it do well out in the middle of the river, but be aware of the fishing deadline – don’t cross it or you will get a ticket. Bank anglers here do even better and this is your best spot to catch a springer from shore. Steelhead do venture up this way, but this is really a salmon show, and the favorite technique is float fishing eggs. Even with good access, it’s very competitive to get a spot. Standing on rocks and casting out in sequence with other anglers that are within a rod length of you is the name of the game, so don’t expect solitude or try other techniques that will interrupt the flow of bobbers drifting by.
The Cowlitz is one fishy river, producing summer steelhead, fall kings and coho and winter steelies, but don’t overlook the opportunity to double up in spring on Chinook and metalheads. Loads of returning fish and a river basically designed for sport anglers make it a top choice this April. NS

Thanks to a big jump in smolt releases, spring Chinook fishing on the Cowlitz looks bright. Last year saw a return of 23,000, and this year’s is forecast to top that. George Schroeder caught this nice one on the lower river in mid April a few seasons ago, fishing herring behind a diver in soft water near shore due to higher flows. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Thanks to a big jump in smolt releases, spring Chinook fishing on the Cowlitz looks bright. Last year saw a return of 23,000, and this year’s is forecast to top that. George Schroeder caught this nice one on the lower river in mid April a few seasons ago, fishing herring behind a diver in soft water near shore due to higher flows. (DAIWA PHOTO CONTEST)

Kyuquot Sound West Coast Vancouver Island

For Immediate Release – Media Advisory April 4 2016


Kyuquot Sound West Coast Vancouver Island

Chinook Forecast:

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Preliminary forecasts are out and participants from the most recent set of planning meetings this past weekend are saying that for the West Coast of Vancouver Island this season is going to be the Chinook run of the Decade!

Marilyn Murphy, of Murphy Sportfishing says “So if fishing in Kyuquot Sound has ever been on your radar, this year is the year to do it”.

West Coast Vancouver Island hatchery returns are at a combined ten year high with over 250,000, yes two hundred and fifty thousand mature Chinook returning for the 2016 season. To bring this number into perspective it is double the normal average.

Now on top of these astounding numbers you are going to see some girth. Girth is the circumference thickness measurement of a fish. This run is expected to be predominantly four year old Chinook, this means some nice “Tubby Tyees”. A Tyee a native term meaning the Chief of Chiefs, so in the case of a Chinook Salmon, one of which is over 30 pounds is referred to as a “TYEE”.

This is still not the full story, alongside and mixed in with this run as they land in the approach waters of Northern Vancouver Island then migrating south, will be the annual mass migration of aggressively feeding Columbia River Chinook. The adults this year are coming off of a record brood year from 2013 when over 1.2 million adults returned. With ocean condition indicators and the other voo-doo the fish wizards add in, they expect an above average return. Which in other words means over 800,000 Columbia River Chinook will be in this same area over the same time frame. Combine these Southern US bound with Canada’s West Coast Chinook returns and there are going to be over 1,000,000 Chinook foraging on their way South from Northern Vancouver Island to Southern Vancouver Island during June, July and August.

When asked “Why Kyuquot?”, Marilyn explains that Kyuquot is a very unique location as it is perched literally right on the edge of the “Super Salmon Highway” on North Western Vancouver Island, and unlike other terminal areas such as Nootka and Barkley Sound, Kyuquot will not be having large scale commercial net and Seine fisheries to compete with! “Run sizes are so large this year that both commercial Gill net and Seine will also be operating in the hatchery terminal zones. We look forward to being on the waters offshore of Kyuquot with the occasional offshore troller and local First Nations enjoying the vast uncrowded waters of the area. With this many fish returning is going to be an incredible experience”

Look for generous limits within this year’s regulations in times and areas where these abundances will travel. Detailed regulations are announced in June. You can book your trips now with confidence knowing that the regulations will be complimenting the abundance levels appropriately. Expect a full length of the season as well.

Coho Forecast:

Look for moderate to abundant levels of Coho on Vancouver Island’s west coast again this year. Although the run is not anticipated to be as big as last year’s forecast. Anticipate limits to be similar to 2014 with wild and hatchery Coho retention in the near shore and terminal areas adjacent to hatchery approach waters along WCVI and hatchery only in the offshore areas.

Halibut Forecast:

The International Halibut Commission manages Halibut and has a bilateral team of scientists that study the biomass trends. Canada’s west coast is now on a clear trend with increase in size of fish and quantity of fish at an increase WPUE (weight per unit effort) of 11% last year. What we have seen on the waters on Vancouver Island’s west coast does support what the science is saying. The fish are more abundant and the average size is increasing.

Although the biomass is increasing that doesn’t always mean that limits do! For 2016 the recreational limits are similar to last year with a plan in place to be open for the full length of the summer with a daily limit of 1 and a possession limit of 2. A maximum size limit is what has been working well to achieve annual sector quotas. This year the maximum size limit is only one fish of the two in possession may be up to 133cm (aprox 70 pounds whole) and the other can not be greater than 83cm (aprox 15 pounds whole). The annual limit is six.

As Featured on “Fishing with Rod”


Check out Rod’s video from his Kyuquot trip last year!

This year Kyuquot is selling out fast and with this incredible news its a season you really want to be a part of.

Call anytime, day or evening: 250-723-8022



Beautiful sun-break over the mountain.

Where The Fishin’s Fine

Vancouver Island’s five major west coast sounds are quick onramps to Pacific’s ‘Salmon Highway,’ great bottomfishing grounds.

By Jeff Holmes

This month, most of our Willamette and Columbia River spring Chinook are binge eating herring along the coast of Vancouver Island before finishing their trek south. Soon the bulk of the run will brave the gauntlet of sea lions from Desdemona Sands to The Dalles Dam, but first they’ll tuck into the five protected sounds on the British Columbia island’s vaunted west coast to gorge on the herring spawn, adding to the layers of fat for which they’re famous. The open ocean is too rough to fish until late spring, so the only pressure our springers see in Canada is from island locals and the very rare off-season tourist specifically targeting saltwater springers. The arrival of our kings also marks the very beginning of migratory salmon season along “The Salmon Highway,” the funnel-like migration corridor created by close proximity to the continental shelf.

Beautiful sun-break over the mountain.

Most mornings on the island’s west coast looks something like this as the sun breaks over mountains, signaling brilliant beginnings to potentially epic fishing and wildlife viewing to come. (RUGGEDPOINTLODGE.COM)

In late May comes the first push of big kings – which Canadians call springs – along with increasing plankton and baitfish, followed by waves of all five northeast Pacific salmon species from early summer through early fall. Salmon from California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia’s Fraser River system all fin past the island’s ocean ports situate din protected sounds.
If Vancouver Island is indeed a Salmon Highway, then by midsummer it is a 12-lane Los Angeles freeway at rush hour, and Chinook, coho, sockeye and more are the cars. Fishing boats are the outgunned highway patrol, but every cop makes his quota as more speeders streak past, gobbling baitfish as they go. There is no better place to fish for ocean salmon within a day of the Northwest than the island’s west coast, nor is there any place featuring excellent halibut angling all year summer. Halibut limits are the rule, and I have had 50-salmon days out on the ocean. Amazing salmon and halibut fishing – along with great lingcod and rockfishing – are reason enough to visit Vancouver Island, but the wildness, wildlife, and cool travel experience combine to make a visit one of the Cadillac outdoor trips for Northwest sportsmen. The drive alone features a beautiful ferry ride and the island’s gorgeous mountains, rivers, and lakes, as well as an opportunity to visit another country full of mostly very happy and nice people. With few exceptions, I love Canadians and Canada and look forward to a couple trips a year.

RIGHT NOW, SUMMER of 2016 will be the best time in many years to make the trip north, and now not later is the time to plan. The exchange rate has swung back mightily in our favor, making trips very affordable. Today a Canadian dollar is worth 70 cents US. This means very good things for us when we travel north and presents a not-so-good scenario for our friends from the north coming south; just two years ago the situation was reversed. Along with a great exchange rate, a barrel of oil is under $30 right now, a mind-boggling figure driving gas to prices of decades ago. Cheaper petroleum makes everything cheaper, even in Canada where gas always costs more. When the exchange tilts in our favor, Canadian fishing operators want American dollars even more due to the downturn in the Canadian economy. This makes private fishing charters even more affordable, as well as lodge stays. In both cases, the Canadian charter model is not so much like America’s. Almost all boats are privately chartered, making for a more intimate and enjoyable experience in most cases.
When you compare the costs of an Alaska or Queen Charlottes trip with a Vancouver Island fishing vacation, there is no comparison, yet there certainly is between the fishing experiences. Many Vancouver Island trips result in bigger trophies and bigger bags of ocean fish for the freezer than more expensive trips to the north. That isn’t to say there aren’t unmatched opportunities in Alaska and further north in Canada, but for convenience, cost and extremely high quality combined, nothing beats the west coast of this 300-mile-long island. For those like me who like to drive and stay somewhat in control of their own travel, all of the island can be reached in a long day’s travel from just about anywhere in the Northwest.

man holding fish

FROM NORTH TO SOUTH, remote to popular, Vancouver Island’s protected sounds are as follows: Quatsino, Kyuquot, Nootka/Esperanza Inlet, Clayoquot and Barkley. Each offers amazing fishing and wildlife viewing, but the further north you go, the higher the cost and quality of experience. That said, the best day of salmon fishing I’ve ever enjoyed occurred in the furthest south port of Ucluelet on the northern tip of Barkley Sound. Along with halibut limits, we released 50 salmon for two rods and kept limits of Chinook and coho. Literally the whole west coast is excellent. Here’s a brief overview of the five protected sounds of Vancouver Island’s west coast and Port Hardy, the furthest north post on the Island and another good option.

woman holding large Ling fish

With its proximity to the so-called Salmon Highway, every trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island has resulted in a “Tyee spring” for author Jeff Holmes. Canadians call mature Chinook “springs,” and a legitimate 30-pound or larger fish is a “Tyee.” At least five different protected sounds along the Pacific provide quick onramps to salmon-filled waters. This whopper came out of Kyuquot’s Rugged Point Lodge. (JEFF HOLMES; RUGGEDPOINTLODGE.COM)

Port Hardy
· Biggest North Coast outpost (5,500 residents);
· Route to Quatsino Sound;
· Marina and full range of services;
· Excellent salmon fishing;
· Good halibut, lingcod, and rockfish;
· Starfish Charters’ kooky captain who worked in film industry and is a bottomfish and salmon expert.
Quatsino Sound
· Home to famed Winter Harbour (20 residents);
· Very remote yet reachable in a day;
· Amazingly close proximity to the ocean and excellent reefs with productive protected water for rough days;
· Halibut, salmon, lingcod and yelloweye rockfish abound in large sizes;
· Spectacular wildlife spectacles of bears, eagles, otters, marine mammals, more.
· Qualicum Rivers Winter Harbour Fishing Lodge: This is the premier Quatsino Sound lodge. Scarcely 15 minutes from the open ocean, it’s an amazing experience

Orcas in the water

Along with a very visible black bear population and lots of coastal wolves and cougars, bald eagles patrol the skies here and are EVERYWHERE. I’ve seen them whack mergansers and catch lots of fish, like this swarm of needlefish on the island’s north tip out of “Hardy,” as locals simply call their port town. But the true rulers of the marine environment are orcas. Residents root for them to slash into sounds to eat rafts of overpopulated sea otters and seals, which they do, often. On my last trip I saw perhaps 10 orcas spaced out in a line hunting a mile-wide swath of ocean. Later I’d see ravaged, bloody sea lions. (JEFF HOLMES; RUGGEDPOINTLODGE.COM)

Kyuquot Sound
· Very remote and much less pressured than sounds to the south;
· Operators here fish some of the same water that those out of Quatsino fish;
· Still easy to get to and very close to Continental Shelf – at 17 miles, it doesn’t get closer;
· Prime salmon, lingcod, halibut, rockfish and tuna fishing, with lots of trophy specimens;
· Super-abundant wildlife including common orca sightings;
· Rugged Point Lodge: Amazing lodge in protected waters, five minutes from the open ocean fishing grounds with a proven tuna fishing program and top-end Okuma tuna tackle.

Eagle in the water
Nootka Sound and Esperanza Inlet
· Tahsis (316 residents) provides services and a marina;
· Protected water close to open ocean is popular with Americans bringing their own boats;
· Along with Kyuquot, closest Pacific port to the continental shelf;
· Prime salmon, halibut; good ling, rockfish & tuna;
· Westview Marina in Tahsis is a hub;
· Many lodges – check reviews.
Clayoquot Sound
· Tofino (1,876 residents) is an artsy ocean port on the south end of the sound;
· Excellent salmon and halibut fishing, and decent ling and rockfish options;
· Most upscale and trendy port on west coast, with good restaurants;
· Some camping/pricey lodging;
· Lots of charter options.
Barkley Sound
· Ucluelet (1,627 residents) is the closest west coast port, located at north end of Barkley Sound;
· Long Beach and Big Bank are amazing and famous fishing areas;
· Excellent salmon and halibut angling, and good lingcod and rockfish;
· Nice working-class port with good lodging and food options;
· Excellent camping options;
· Kerry Reed of Reel Adventures Fishing, a trusted friend from the West Kootenays with 11 years experience guides the ocean. He’s excellent and fun.

Man holding Albacore tuna.

Albacore in Canada? You bet, and lots of them, close to shore. The continental shelf is fewer than 20 miles from Esperanza Inlet and Nootka and Kyuquot sounds. I’ll be fishing tuna in Canada this August for my first-ever north of the border albacore slaughter. (RUGGEDPOINTLODGE.COM)

If you decide to make the trip, you should be able to count on your guide or lodge for information about the fishing trip and the local area you’ll be visiting, but for even more info about your destination and about the trek to get there, abundant online resources are available. While you can take the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria to access the island, I greatly prefer BC Ferries and leaving from Horseshoe Bay in North Vancouver. That 11/2-hour sail lands you in Nanaimo, the jumping-off point for visiting all five of these protected sounds and ocean ports. As soon as you get to Canada and can find an open bank, be sure to exchange American money for Canadian. I’m sure my eyes light up when I fork over $1,000 and receive $1,300 in return, even if Canadian money looks like it belongs in a board game. For a while it made sense to use your credit and debit card in Canada, but the companies have caught up and fees greatly outweigh the advantages. The old model of exchanging cash is the way to go. Whether in Vancouver or Nanaimo, grabbing some groceries and additional fuel for vehicles is smart, as prices increase the further away from large towns one strays. And before you leave home, for God’s sake don’t forget your US Passport or your Enhanced Driver’s License to drive over the border. If you fly, the law has changed and a passport is now required. If you plan to take fish home whole, gilled and gutted, bring several large coolers. That’s my preference in order to keep fish as fish as fresh as possible. Even if you plan to forego the work and have fish processed and packaged in Canada, bring at least a few large coolers. And be prepared, perhaps, for a US Customs agent at the border to ask you why your truck is tilted backwards and leaking fluid, as happened to me a couple years ago as I struggled home with seven coolers containing four halibut, 12 lingcod, eight yelloweye rockfish, eight big kings and eight coho.
Top that, Alaska 🙂

Two men with numerous coolers

Qualicum Rivers Winter Harbor Fishing Lodge and Resort’s Rob Knutsen and his wharf monger look incredulously at my stupidity in thinking seven coolers of big Chinook, coho, halibut, lingcod and rockfish would fit easily in a Toyota Tacoma. But with their help I got it all in and only had to leave one tote of belongings in Canada to get home. These days I bring enough coolers and a bigger rig to haul home hundreds of pounds of the best the ocean has to offer. (JEFF HOLMES)