Tag Archives: chum salmon

Yuasa Looks Back At 2019 Salmon Seasons, Towards 2020’s

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Get Hooked on Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

The holiday “to do” list has pretty much taken priority over getting out on the water, but if you’re like me that also means it’s time to reassess salmon fisheries in 2019 and start thinking about what lies ahead in 2020.

I had a chance to chat with Mark Baltzell, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound salmon manager, and Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager, who provided insight about the future and a somewhat forgetful past.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“I believe the best way to describe Puget Sound salmon fisheries overall in 2019 is a mixed bag,” said Baltzell. “We had some unexpected good salmon fishing and returns while others were as poor as the preseason forecasts had predicted.”

“Summer chinook fisheries were for the most part better than we expected despite the reduced seasons,” Baltzell said. “Early on we saw some really good chinook fishing in May and June in southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 13 south of the Narrows Bridge).”

It wasn’t uncommon for Area 13 anglers during those months to hook into a limit of early summer hatchery kings, 10 to 18 pounds with a few larger, off Point Fosdick and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Fox Point in Hale Passage, northwest corner at the Sand Spit, Toy Point and Concrete Dock “Fox Island Fishing Pier.”
In the past few years, central Puget Sound (Area 10) starting in June has become a hot bed for resident coho – 2- to 4-pounds – and this past summer was no exception to the norm. On certain days you’d find hundreds of boats from Jefferson Head to Kingston and in the shipping lane.

“We had a coho fishery in Area 10 from June through August that was really good and has turned into a successful early summer salmon fishery,” Baltzell said.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery within Area 8-2 opened in June and was another location that proved to be fairly decent for early summer kings in the 10- to 15-pound range.

When July rolled around the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) opened for hatchery kings and was off and on for much of the summer.

The San Juan Islands (Area 7) had a brief hatchery king fishery from July 1-31, which saw plenty of fishing pressure and a much higher than expected success rate.

Preliminary WDFW data during the July Area 7 fishery showed 5,310 boats with 11,739 anglers kept 3,019 hatchery kings (10 wild fish were illegally retained) along with 451 hatchery and 982 wild chinook released. The best fishing period occurred from July 1-14. WDFW test fishing showed the Area 7 legal-size chinook mark rate was 84.6 percent and overall mark rate was 78.6.

The summer hatchery king fishery in northern and central Puget Sound (Areas 9 and 10), started off poorly from July 25-28 due to extreme low tides. Once the tidal fluctuation improved as more dates were tacked onto the fishery catch rates picked up rapidly.
During an 11-day fishing period from July 25 to Aug. 4, the success rate in Area 9 was a 0.23 fish per rod average with a total of 7,779 boats with 17,147 anglers keeping 3,446 hatchery chinook (six unmarked were illegally retained) and released 1,124 hatchery and 756 wild chinook plus 697 coho kept and 747 released. WDFW test fishing showed the legal-size chinook mark rate was around 88.0 percent.

The Area 10 hatchery chinook fishery was open daily July 25 through Aug. 16 and a total of 7,606 boats with 15,900 anglers kept 3,200 hatchery chinook (17 wild were illegally retained) and released 994 hatchery and 1,579 wild chinook plus 2,013 coho kept and 463 released. WDFW test fishing showed the legal-size chinook mark rate was around 50.0 percent.

Summer hatchery chinook action in south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) stumbled out of the gates when it opened July 1 and was peppered with a few glory moments until it closed Aug. 25 for chinook retention. In Area 11, an estimated 12,264 boats with 22,818 anglers from July 1-Aug. 25 retained 212 chinook and released 164 hatchery and 465 wild chinook.

“We saw a lot more legal-size chinook in Puget Sound than the FRAM (Fishery Regulation Assessment Model) had predicted and more legal hatchery fish around than we had seen in past years,” Baltzell said.

In general, the wild chinook stock assessment seemed to be somewhat better in some parts of Puget Sound. Places like the Tumwater Falls Hatchery in deep South Sound even had a few nice 20-pound females return.

Heading into late summer, the Puget Sound pink returns were off the charts good here and there while other pink runs were downright dismal. Salmon anglers chasing pinks managed to find some excellent fishing from mid-August through September.

“In some places it seemed like we had twice the abundance of pinks and others didn’t get as many as we had thought,” Baltzell said. “The Puyallup did really good and a decent number of pinks pass(ed) over the Buckley fish trap and was up into the historical day numbers. But, the Skagit and Stillaguamish weren’t so good for pinks and it was the same for coho too.”

“At this point were going to be OK in places like the Snohomish for coho,” Baltzell said. “Both the tribes and state did all the things necessary to help ensure we’d exceed our hatchery coho broodstock (goals), and that did eventually happen.”

Other locations like the Green River met coho broodstock goals although that didn’t occur until late last month. In Hood Canal, the Quilcene early coho return came back less than half the preseason expectation and the size of jack coho was much smaller.”

“There was a size issue throughout the Puget Sound area and the lower returns had us taking a precautionary move to a one coho daily limit,” Baltzell said. “It was the right move in retrospect and helped us move more coho into the rivers.”

The mid- and southern-Puget Sound and Hood Canal chum forecast of 642,740 doesn’t appear to be materializing and at this point WDFW downgraded the run to almost half the preseason expectation.

“It is really hard for us as fishery managers to pinpoint the cause for all of it,” Baltzell said. “We can point the finger to marine survival and conditions in the ocean like the warm blob that sat off the coast up to Alaska for a while. We also know the Canadian sockeye runs tanked this year and saw it in our own like Lake Washington that virtually got nothing back.”

The ocean salmon fisheries from Neah Bay south to Ilwaco between June 22 through Sept. 30 encountered a mixed bag of success.

“Fishing was pretty much what I expected it to be,” Beeghly said. “The chinook fishery was slow except up north off Neah Bay where it was pretty good this past summer. The majority of chinook we see in ocean fisheries are headed for the Columbia River and their forecasts were down so the poor fishing came as no surprise.”
Close to a million coho were forecasted to flood the Columbia River this past summer and that too was a downer.

“The coho fishing wasn’t quite as good as I had expected, but we saw some decent fishing at Ilwaco and Westport,” Beeghly said. “The Columbia coho forecast didn’t come back like we originally thought but better than the past three or so years. The hatchery coho mark rate was lower than anticipated.”

Coast wide only 51.1 percent of the hatchery coho quota of 159,600 was achieved, and 41.4 percent of the chinook quota of 26,250 was caught.

Areas north of Leadbetter Point saw a coho mark rate of somewhere under 50 percent and Ilwaco where data was still being crunched might come out to be a little higher than that.

Once the fish arrived in the Lower Columbia at Buoy 10 it appeared the catch of hatchery coho fell well short of expectations with a lot of wild fish released although some glory moments occurred early on.

Coastal and Columbia River chinook forecasts should come to light around the Christmas holidays. The Pacific Fishery Management Council preseason meeting will occur in mid-February. That is just ahead of when Oregon Production Index coho forecasts will be released.

As Baltzell rubbed the crystal ball looking into 2020 it still remains pretty foggy at this point but general expectations aren’t rosy.

“It would be fair for me to say that I wouldn’t expect anything much better in 2020 than what we saw in 2019,” Baltzell said. “We have no forecast information at this point but I wouldn’t expect a rosier outlook as far as chinook goes for next year.”

State, federal and tribal fishery managers in 2020 will be faced with a lot of same wild chinook stock issues as in recent past years like mid-Hood Canal and Stillaguamish. Add on top of that killer whale orca issues as well as the pending Puget Sound Chinook Harvest Management Plan that has been looming a dark cloud for the past three years with no end in sight just yet.

“If I had to gauge things out my gut reaction is we’ll likely have to take a more cautionary approach again next year,” Baltzell said.

The WDFW general salmon forecast public meeting will occur Feb. 28 at the DSHS Office Building 2 Auditorium, 1115 Washington Street S.E. in Olympia. The first North of Falcon meeting is March 16 at the Lacey Community Center and the second meeting is March 30 at the Lynnwood Embassy Suites. Final seasons will determined April 5-11 at the Hilton Hotel in Vancouver, WA.

Final summer ocean salmon sport fishing catch data

Ilwaco (including Oregon) – 44,297 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 4,018 chinook (56% of the area guideline of 7,150) and 53,377 coho (67% of the area sub-quota of 79,800).

Westport – 23,465 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 2,336 chinook (18% of the area guideline of 12,700) and 20,221 coho (34% of the area sub-quota of 59,050), plus 700 pinks.

La Push – 2,076 from June 22 to September 30 caught 449 chinook (41% of the area guideline of 1,100) and 1,752 coho (43% of the area sub-quota of 4,050), plus 206 pinks. Late-season fishery October 1-13 saw 240 anglers with 164 chinook (64% over the fishery guideline) and 16 coho (16% of the fishery quota).

Neah Bay – 10,116 anglers from June 22 to September 30 caught 3,895 chinook (75% of the area guideline of 5,200) and 6,223 coho (37% of the area sub-quota of 16,600), plus 869 pinks. Chinook retention closed July 14.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Dungeness crab fishery reopens in Areas 8-2 and 8-1

The east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2) has reopened daily for Dungeness crab fishing through Dec. 31. WDFW says crab abundance remains good indicating that the quota could be increased in-season. Crab pots must be set or pulled from a vessel and is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

Dungeness crab fishing is also open daily through Dec. 31 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 4B, 5 and 6); San Juan Islands (Area 7); and northern Puget Sound (Area 9 except waters north of the Hood Canal bridge to a line connecting Olele Point and Foulweather Bluff).

NW Fishing Derby Series hits refresh button in 2020

After 17 wonderful years since the derby series began in 2004, we’ve decided it’s time for a change and rebranded it to the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series.”

Our hope is that anglers will like the direction as we diversify the fish species our events target while boosting the number of derbies to 20 in 2020 up from 14 events in 2019.

New events are the Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby on May 23; For the Love of Cod Derbies in Coos Bay/Charleston areas and Brookings, Oregon March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively; Father’s Day Big Bass Classic on Tenmile Lake at Lakeside, Oregon on June 21-22; and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan on April 18-19.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The highlight is a chance to enter and win a $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Escape HT boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. One of our newest sponsors of the derby – Shoxs Seats (www.shoxs.com) – has provided a pair of top-of-the-line seats that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas.

The good news is anglers who enter any of the 20 derbies don’t need to catch a fish to win this beautiful boat and motor package!

A huge “thank you” to our other 2020 sponsors who make this series such a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Scotty Downriggers; Burnewiin Accessories; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronics; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; Lamiglas Rods; 710 ESPN The Outdoor Line; Salmon & Steelhead Journal; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2 (already 50 percent of tickets have been sold as of Nov. 13); Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. A new website is currently being designed and will be launched sometime in mid-December but for now, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

In the meantime, take a break from holiday shopping and hit up a lake or open saltwater areas for a feisty fish tugging on the end of your line.

I’ll see you on the water!

$25 Million In Grants Aim To Ease Washington Fish Passage In 20 Counties

THE FOLLOWING IS A JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AND THE WASHINGTON RECREATION AND CONSERVATION OFFICE

Migrating fish will soon have access to more than 82 miles of streams in Washington, thanks to $25 million in grants from the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board.

THERE’S A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL FOR FISH PASSAGE, THANKS TO THE AWARDING OF $25 MILLION TO COUNTIES, TRIBES AND OTHER ENTITIES TO REMEDY OLD CULVERTS AND OTHER STREAM CROSSINGS THROUGHOUT WASHINGTON. THIS IS A SKAGIT COUNTY PROJECT THAT’S IN THE DESIGN PHASE AND WILL OPEN 6.31 MILES OF HABITAT FOR E.S.A.-LISTED CHINOOK AND STEELHEAD. (RCO)

The board will fund more than 50 projects in 20 counties to remove fish passage barriers that block salmon and steelhead from swimming upstream to their spawning areas. The most common barriers to fish passage are culverts, which are large pipes or other structures that carry streams under roads. Culverts can be too high for fish to reach, too small to handle high water flows, or too steep for fish to navigate.

“These projects build on previous fish passage investments by the Washington State Department of Transportation, forest land owners, and local governments,” said Tom Jameson, WDFW fish passage manager and chair of the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board. “We’re excited that several projects will focus on watersheds that are particularly good habitat for chinook salmon, which are the main food source for southern resident killer whales (orcas). We appreciate the Legislature’s support so we can continue contributing to salmon and orca recovery.”

A LOW-FLOW FISH BARRIER IN LEWIS COUNTY’S SCAMMON CREEK. (RCO)

Created by the Legislature in 2014, the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board coordinates the removal of fish passage barriers on state, local, tribal, and private land that block salmon and steelhead access to prime spawning and rearing habitat. Funding comes from the sale of state bonds.

“This board represents an incredible partnership that ultimately helps us open entire watersheds where we can make the biggest impact for fish,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the grants. “A coordinated approach is key to helping fish reach the ocean, return home to spawn, and get to healthy habitats to feed, grow, and transition from saltwater to freshwater.”

ANOTHER FISH BARRIER IN LEWIS COUNTY THAT WILL BE CORRECTED, OPENING UP HABITAT ON THE MIDDLE FORK NEWAUKUM RIVER. (RCO)

Selected projects went through a technical review committee, which evaluated project proposals based on their coordination with nearby fish passage projects, benefit to salmon and steelhead populations listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, and cost-effectiveness. The committee also evaluated projects based on the severity of the barrier and its location in the watershed, prioritizing downstream barriers first.

The grant program is administered as a partnership between the board, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. The board is named after Brian Abbott, who was a life-long fisherman, avid salmon recovery leader, and spearheaded creation of the board while serving as executive coordinator of the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office.

WALLA WALLA’S TRI-STATE STEELHEADERS SECURED ONE OF THE LARGEST GRANTS AWARDED, NEARLY $1.7 MILLION TO IMPROVE FISH ACCESS ON MILL CREEK. (RCO)

Other board members include representatives from the Washington Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources, Washington State Association of Counties, Association of Washington Cities, the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, the Confederated Tribe and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and Council of Regions.

Below is a list of fish passage projects funded in each county. For project details, visit https://rco.wa.gov/documents/press/2019/FBRBGrantsDescriptions2019.pdf.

Asotin County……………………. $445,300
Chelan County…………………… $982,885
Clallam County………………….. $699,859
Clark County……………………… $155,200
Cowlitz County………………… $1,095,293
Grays Harbor County………….. $590,408
Island County…………………….. $544,718
Jefferson County………………… $397,163
King County……………………. $4,053,264
Kitsap County…………………. $2,561,337
Kittitas County…………………. $2,652,910
Lewis County………………….. $1,606,571
Mason County…………………. $1,180,395
Okanogan County……………. $2,265,251
Pierce County……………………… $90,000
Skagit County……………………. $378,500
Snohomish County……………… $653,483
Thurston County……………… $1,700,000
Walla Walla County………….. $1,785,641
Whatcom County……………….. $889,768

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Elwha Fishing Moratorium To Be Extended Into 2021; Good Chinook Forecast

The Elwha River will remain closed to fishing for another two years, until mid-2021, according to WDFW.

“Monitoring has shown that salmon and steelhead populations are expanding into newly opened habitats, but have not yet achieved recovery goals,” Director Kelly Susewind reported to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission this morning.

A CHINOOK SALMON EXCAVATES A NEST INSIDE OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK FOLLOWING COMPLETE REMOVAL OF ELWHA RIVER DAM. (JEFF DUDA, USGS)

The north Olympic Peninsula river was closed to all sport and tribal fishing in 2011 ahead of the removal of the two dams on its lower end, Glines Canyon and Elwha.

Chinook, coho, chum, steelhead and bull trout are taking advantage of the new habitat in the pristine national park watershed, with the seagoing char observed as far as 40 miles upstream, above “five major canyons,” according to a Peninsula Daily News report from last fall.

A NATIONAL PARK SERVICE SNORKELER SURVEYS FOR SALMON ABOVE GLINES CANYON DAM. (NPS)

WDFW district fisheries biologist Mike Gross says there are also encouraging signs with Chinook, including this year’s conservatively estimated forecast of 7,400, which is well above 2018’s prediction of 5,200 and above the actual return of 7,100.

He says that last year’s strong showing of 3-year-olds should translate into a good number of 4-year-olds this fall and 5-year-olds in 2020.

That good three-year push of fish should help propel the Chinook population further and further up the Elwha

“These early re-colonizers play an important role in establishing spawning and juvenile rearing in habitats of the upper watershed,” Susewind’s director’s report states.

A SPAWNING FALL CHINOOK PATROLS SHALLOW WATERS OF THE ELWHA SYSTEM IN 2016. (NPS/USBR/USGS ELWHA RESTORATION PROJECT, FLICKR, CC 2.O)

The Elwha is fabled for once hosting returns of truly massive Chinook before the dams were built in the early 1900s.

“Hopefully the ocean cooperates the next few years,” says Gross.

As for coho, the ocean forecast is 1,679, and he expects between 1,000 and 1,200 to actually return to the river.

The extension of the moratorium, which was agreed to by WDFW, the National Park Service and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, is slated to run from June 1, 2019 through July 1, 2021.

“Recreational, subsistence and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats above the former dam sites, and when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, producing adequate escapement and a harvestable surplus,” Susewind’s commission briefing says.

Chums Begin To Arrive In Central, South Sound After Slow Start, Dispute

State commercial fishing managers say they scrubbed a Puget Sound chum salmon fishery last week after the Squaxin Island Tribe expressed “deep doubts about the run.”

“We understand tribal concerns with their fisheries occurring in extreme terminal areas and closed the seine fishery to help address those concerns,” reads a WDFW statement sent out late Friday afternoon.

THE SQUAXIN ISLAND TRIBE CALLED “FOUL” ON STATE SALMON MANAGERS LAST WEEK IN PROTEST OF CONTINUED FISHING ON AT THE TIME WHAT LOOKED LIKE A LOW RETURN OF CHUM SALMON. A CHUM LEAPS OUT OF ALASKA’S COLD BAY. (K. MUELLER, USFWS)

Squaxin Chairman Arnold Cooper had blasted the agency earlier in the week for planning to continue to fish despite low initial returns and the tribe deciding not to go out for chums.

“When the co-manager alerts you to a problem in real fish, they need to stop telling us that the computer model says there is plenty of paper fish and there is no problem,” Cooper said in a press release. “The state ignores the warning, on the hope that the rains will come, the rivers will rise, and the fish will show up. The tribe hopes that is so, but is not willing to risk the run.”

Cooper said that at the time returns to Kennedy Creek at the head of Totten Inlet was just 20 percent of usual.

WDFW acknowledged that fewer chums were showing up in streams that see early runs, but said there have been good signs to the north.

“Purse seine catch per landing in Areas 10 and 11 on Monday was the highest we have seen for this week since 2007,” the statement said. “Two weeks ago it was one of the lowest we have seen in recent years.”

WDFW reports that 165,000 chums have been caught in the nontribal commercial fishery off Seattle and Tacoma. It said that while there are still salmon available for state netters (~36,000), per a preseason agreement the fishery closed as of last Friday morning to protect Nisqually River winter chums.

Southern resident killer whales from J Pod have been feasting on chums off Vashon Island and elsewhere in the Central Sound since last week. Transient, or marine mammal-eating Bigg’s orcas, have also been in the area.

Chums were definitely in evidence in Seattle’s Pipers Creek over the weekend, where 40 had been counted by early afternoon on Saturday, ballooning the season total to 54.

THE BROTHERS WALGAMOTT LOOK FOR CHUMS AND COHO SATURDAY IN SEATTLE’S PIPERS CREEK WHERE IT RUNS THROUGH CARKEEK PARK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW says that surveyors spotted far more chums in Kennedy Creek, 3,524, on Nov. 7, though that figure is on the low side.

“While we may be below the 10-year average for this date of 9,033 chum, we are within the range expected during this time, especially given the lack of rain which typically serves as an environmental cue for fish to move onto the spawning grounds,” the agency statement said.

According to precipitation totals posted on KOMO’s website, November rainfall is one-third of average and running 1.25 inches behind since the start of the water year, Oct. 1.

The escapement goal for Kennedy Creek is 14,400 in even years, 11,500 in odds. According to WDFW, those figures have been met 27 years in a row.

The overall preseason forecast for Central and South Sound was 543,637. The state and tribes agreed to lower that to 478,000 two weeks ago, but WDFW test fishery and purse seine models last week spit out 643,566 and 538,330, figures the tribes didn’t agree to.

A POD OF CHUMS HEAD UP PIPERS CREEK. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Grinches Illegally Netting Chums Get Coal, And A Trip To Jail

If your house is anything like mine, there’s been plenty of Christmas cheer of late as the lights and tree go up, advent calendars start yielding goodies, and Bing and Harry get us in the spirit of the season.

The folks at WDFW’s Enforcement Division are also feeling it, and today posted news of yet another case of illegal netting, this time roughly set to The Night Before Christmas.

To wit:

T’was a typical day for Officer Jewett on patrol, but his peek under the bridge wasn’t for trolls

Skookum Creek isn’t much of a creek, but it attracts its share of wrongdoing creeps

(WDFW)

When he noticed a car parked alongside of the road, he sensed numerous violations of fishing codes

“Not today!” the officer thought, as he set out sneakily for the poachers to be caught

He watched the two robbers under Kamilche Lane; For unlawful netting, these two were to blame

After seeing plenty they were put into cuffs, t’was the least of their problems – they had other bad stuff

With felony warrants for their arrest, accommodations in jail seemed for the best.

Happy Holidays from Fish and Wildlife Police!

Indeed, happy holidays, officers – and keep up the great work!

Woof! Hood Canal, South Sound Dog Salmon Forecasts Upped Sharply

Puget Sound pinks stinked it up this year, but that’s not the case with their close relatives, chums.

State managers are now expecting twice as many of the salmon as originally predicted to return to Hood Canal, and they’ve upped their expectations to southern Sound rivers as well.

KATE SAYLES CAUGHT THIS CHUM OFF SEATTLE’S WEST POINT DURING 2013’S RUN. SHE WAS FISHING WITH CLAY SCHURMAN. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Bottom line, we’ve got many more, er, dogs in the fight this fall, and November’s the prime month. Grab a copy of our latest issue for tips from Jason Brooks on how to take advantage of the fishery!

WDFW’s Aaron Dufault says 947,000 chums are now forecast to return to Area 12 waters such as the Hoodsport Hatchery, the Skokomish River and other tribs, up from March’s 493,000. Another inseason update is coming next week.

And the agency is managing state commercial fisheries in the South and Central Sound as if 800,000 will return to rivers there, well above preseason expectations (432,000).

Some models are even spitting out forecasts of 1.1 million from the Duwamish south, but not everyone’s on board with the new predictions, so WDFW will manage the fishery conservatively as chums down here are primarily wild.

Though a terrific salmon to battle in the salt and streams, as well as smokable, chums are primarily harvested in commercial fisheries, and my email’s been flooded this fall with tribal fishing regulation updates.

Dufault says managers are seeing “some of the highest catches we’ve ever seen.”

Love or loath the net fleets, it’s probably a good thing that at least one salmon stock is bucking recent trends, especially in light of this year’s woeful pink return.

JASON BROOKS’ NOVEMBER ISSUE SOUTH SOUND COLUMN IN NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN HAS TIPS FOR CATCHING CHUMS.

Relatively speaking, chums and pinks are fairly closely related, use the rivers just for spawning, and spend nearly all their time in saltwater.

However, where the latter stock only lives for two years, the former are much longer lived.

That might explain why 2017’s dogs are doing so much better than humpies.

Dufault notes that this year’s adults are the progeny of chums that came back in fall 2012, ’13 and ’14, years of relatively good autumn river conditions compared to 2015’s disastrous four floods for pinks.

It’s possible the young chums then found good forage somewhere outside of The Blob, which otherwise crushed salmon stocks in the North Pacific in 2014 and 2015, with hangover effects lingering into this year.

As for North Sound chum runs, without fisheries on them due to low runs for several years now, returns aren’t being tracked as well, says Dufault.

He says there’s “no smoking gun” for why Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish and other stocks are struggling, even as runs in systems that are far more degraded are doing relatively well. Testing found they’re unaffected by stormwater runoff that kills coho.

Yuasa: Blackmouth, Chums, Razor Clams, More On Tap This Month

Editor’s note: The following is Mark Yuasa’s monthly fishing newsletter, Reel Times With Mark, and is run with permission.

By Mark Yuasa, Director of Grow Boating Programs, Northwest Marine Trade Association

In the blink of an eye summer has ended, and while fall is ushering in iffy weather and waning daylight hours that shouldn’t stop anglers from venturing out on the water.

First and foremost are the decent chances this month to hook a winter blackmouth in northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9), eastside of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2), central Puget Sound (10); south-central Puget Sound (11); and southern Puget Sound (13).

CENTRAL PUGET SOUND’S MARINE AREAS 8-1, 8-2, 9 AND 10 ARE NOW OPEN FOR BLACKMOUTH. TEGAN YUASA, THE AUTHOR’S SON, GOT IN ON THIS NICE HAUL OF WINTER FEEDER KINGS. (MARK YUASA)

Many charter-boat owners and sport anglers will tell you this is their favorite time of year since blackmouth – a term used for a chinook’s black gum-line – are wired to constantly feed on schools of herring and candlefish.

In other words: “Find the bait and you’ll likely find a hungry blackmouth!”

Places like Possession Bar, Point No Point, Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Jefferson Head, West Point, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island, Hat Island, Baby Island, Clay Banks off Point Defiance, Camano Island and Southworth all come to mind with a plethora of other hot spots layered in between.

Another school of thought that makes this salmon fishery so much fun is the blackmouth’s predictability since the best bite is based on tidal influence. The payoff: If they bit the day before at a certain time frame, it’s very likely they’ll still be there the day after only an hour later into a tidal series.

Those planning on heading out for the Wednesday opening day of winter chinook fishing in northern and central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 9 and 10) will likely find lots of chinook under the 22-inch legal-size limit.

According to WDFW test fishery folks who have been plying the water in advance of tomorrow’s opener have found on average the chinook were 2-inches smaller than last year during the same time frame in Area 9. Even the three legal-size chinook were just BARELY over 22 inches.

In northern Puget Sound they encountered two legal-marked chinook, one legal-unmarked, 14 sub-legal marked and two sub-legal unmarked.

In central Puget Sound they encountered one legal-unmarked and three sub-legal marked.

This may be of concern since the fisheries could close if the chinook guideline is achieved.

Get over the crabbiness by pulling in a pot of Dungies!

To make the winter holiday feast even more appealing is the fact you can set pots again for Dungeness crab in open Puget Sound areas now through Dec. 31.

While summer crab fishing was less than stellar those who dropped pots in the “zone” filled them up with plenty of Dungies. Word has it since reopening on Oct. 7 the crab have started to fill out and are much more meatier as they fatten up for the winter.

Look for good crabbing around Whidbey Island, northeast side of Kitsap Peninsula, Camano Island, Hat Island, Port Angeles Harbor, Strait of Juan de Fuca and San Juan Islands. Remember due to a downtrend in crab abundance locations south of Edmonds and Hood Canal – Marine Catch Areas 10, 11, 12 and 13 are closed this winter.

Dog days of fall upon us!

The good news for salmon anglers is two-fold as the chinook fishery reopens in some local marine areas, but the bigger news is what looks to be an extremely strong chum return.

“It appears we’re at the beginning of a stronger than forecasted chum run for Hood Canal and South Sound,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) chum salmon biologist.

THIS FALL’S CHUM SALMON RUN IS COMING IN STRONGLY; PETE SERGEEF HOISTS A NICE ONE CAUGHT OFF JEFF HEAD LAST YEAR. (MARK YUASA)

Sport anglers at Hoodsport in Hood Canal saw some good catches of chum this where 53 anglers on Oct. 29 had 124 chum, and 67 on Oct. 28 had 150.

Likewise catches from commercial boats in central and south-central Puget Sound and Hood Canal were scoring good catches too.

“We had our initial (purse seine and gill-net) openings last week and this week, and based on our (catch per unit effort) they’re among the largest we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Litz said.

Early boat ticket reports showed some as high as 4,000 chum per commercial boat on Oct. 18, and it appears they remained steady this past week.

“We had several purse seiners in Hood Canal and South Sound filling up their holds, and catching a lot of good quality bright chum,” Litz said. “Of course, it is still too early, and we haven’t changed any of our preseason run-size forecasts just yet.”

The total fall chum return is 1,070,968, and a breakdown of that figure shows 492,892 for Hood Canal and 291,357 for South Sound rivers and streams.

Other fall chum forecasts are 109,337 for Nooksack/Samish; 6,966 for Skagit; 5,981 for Stillaguamish; 20,53 for Snohomish; 141,893 for central Puget Sound; and 2,061 for Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many rivers are closed to all salmon fishing to protect weak returning stocks. Check the WDFW pamphlet for what is open and/or closed to fishing.

“This is still the early stage of chum returns, but all indications show we’re going to exceed that based on the catches the last few weeks,” Litz said. “We’ve had pretty atrocious returns of pinks, and issues with chinook and coho so to see this chum return likely exceeding expectations is great news.”

WDFW and tribal fishery managers are assessing chum forecasts, and will likely start having conversations to consider increasing the run-size very soon, which could be as soon as this week.

Chum salmon – better known as dog salmon for their ferocious-looking jawline at spawning time – are also one of the hardest-fighting fish a sport angler will hook, and they can weigh up to and over 20 pounds with most averaging 8 to 15 pounds.

Anglers pursuing chums will have plenty of opportunities along some of the more traditional fishing holes, which will give up decent action in the weeks ahead with the peak usually occurring around Thanksgiving.

Popular locales are the estuaries off Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, Johns Creek and Canyon Creek in Oakland Bay, Chico Creek estuary in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek estuary near Southworth.

Other good places to try for chum are North Bay near Allyn, Whatcom Creek in Bellingham, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

The heavy rain in past couple of weeks has pushed a lot of the early chums toward estuaries where they’ll stage before up into rivers and streams.

A bobber and anchovy or small firecracker-sized herring is the most productive way to catch fish, but tossing flies, spinners, jigs and spoons will also catch their fair share of fish. In this fishery many believe the color chartreuse is the “must have” color in your tackle gear to catch chums.

The strong abundance of chum also bodes well when northern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 9) and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) reopens for blackmouth on Wednesday (Nov. 1). Anglers at places like Possession Bar and Double Bluff off the south side of Whidbey Island, Point No Point, Kingston, Pilot Point and Port Townsend should find their decent share of fish to catch.

Can you dig it?

Coastal razor clam diggers searching for the prized bivalves at Mocrocks. Fall and winter may bring harsh weather, but diggers can find hot digging.

If you can dig this news as much as I dig it, be sure to add razor clams to the cornucopia of holiday meals. Hint: Think clams instead of turkey or ham or better yet all three for a surf-and-turf celebration.

Digging is open during evening low tides on Thursday (Nov. 2) and Saturday (Nov. 4) at Copalis; Friday (Nov. 3) and Sunday (Nov. 5) at Mocrocks; and Friday through Sunday at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.

Diggers are reminded that the dig on Nov. 5 is when we set the clocks back one hour. Low tides are plus-0.1 feet at 6:03 p.m. on Thursday; minus-0.7 feet at 6:47 p.m. on Friday; -1.2 at 7:31 p.m. on Saturday; and -1.4 at 7:16 p.m. on Sunday.

Other coastal razor clam digs tentatively planned are Dec. 1 at Copalis; Dec. 2 and 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Dec. 31 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. The season openers on Oct. 6-7 lured 28,300 diggers with an average of 12.5 clams per digger – the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily limit. A breakdown showed Long Beach seekers averaged 11.9; Twin Harbors, 12.4; Copalis, 13.3; and Mocrocks, 12.6. Average size was 4 to 5 inches with bigger clams at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.
The only thing holding back future digs are a passing grade for marine toxin testing conducted prior to each series of digs. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

On freshwater scene, state fisheries plans to plant about 260,000 catchable-sized trout to boost holiday fishing in Puget Sound and Southwest Washington year-round lakes.

Issaquah’s Beaver Lake got a plant of 800 jumbo-sized trout last month with 800 more going in right before Thanksgiving. Then just before Christmas another 800 will be added to zest up the holiday fishing fun. Check WDFW’s website for latest statewide trout plants at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby and more

Next up on the Northwest Salmon Derby Series is Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby this weekend (Nov. 4-5). This year’s grand prize – an $85,000 fully-loaded Hewescraft 220 OceanPro powered with Honda 250- and 9.9-horsepower motors on an EZ-Loader Tandem axle galvanized trailer – will be given away at the derby in a raffle drawing to one lucky person.

SOME LUCKY NORTHWEST SALMON ANGLER’S GOING TO WALK AWAY WITH THIS GREAT BOAT AT THE CONCLUSION OF THIS WEEKEND’S EVERETT NO-COHO BLACKMOUTH DERBY. (NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES)

We’ve also got plenty more exciting surprises coming up in 2018 for the derby series so stay tuned as we get amped up on forthcoming news.

Lastly, I’m drafting The Seattle Boat Show fishing seminars, and we’ve got new additions to spice it up when the show drops anchor Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 at Century Link Field and Event Center. It’s a one-stop get all the tips on where and how to catch fish from some of the best experts in Pacific Northwest.

SW WA, Lower Columbia, Hanford Reach Fishing Report (7-31-17)

THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL ORIGINATED WITH WDFW, INCLUDING PAUL HOFFARTH, AND JOE HYMER, PSMFC, AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY HYMER

FACTOID

A few summer run chum have been found in the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers.

CHUM SALMON ARE NATIVE TO THE LOWER COLUMBIA, AND WHILE FEW RETURN ANNUALLY THESE DAYS, THOSE THAT DO MOSTLY HEAD FOR A CREEK NEAR BONNEVILLE OR THE GRAYS RIVER NEAR THE MOUTH. (JOE HYMER)

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – Above the I-5 Br:  61 bank rods kept 7 adult spring Chinook and 2 steelhead and released 1 adult and 1 jack spring Chinook.  52 boats/157 rods kept 48 steelhead and released 1 jack spring Chinook and 10 cutthroats

Below the I-5 Br:  1 boat/2 rods and 1 bank angler had no catch.

Mainstem Lewis River – 2 boat anglers kept 1 steelhead.

Drano Lake – 22 boat anglers kept 2 adult Chinook and 6 steelhead and released 13 steelhead and 1 adult Chinook.  ~12 boats here on weekdays and ~25 boats here last Saturday morning.

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 1,042 salmonid anglers (165 boats) with 23 adult and 2 jack summer Chinook, 85 steelhead, and no sockeye.  8 (35%) of the adult summer Chinook and 45 (53%) of the steelhead were kept.

Any Chinook (adipose fin clipped or not) may be retained beginning tomorrow (August 1).  All steelhead must be released during the month of August.

Hanford Reach Summer Chinook/Sockeye Fishery- From Paul A. Hoffarth District 4 Fish Biologist WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife in Pasco WA –

Effort has been slow but did pick up slightly this past week.  There were an estimated 37 boats fishing for summer chinook salmon in the Columbia River between Highway 395 and Priest Rapids Dam during the week.  WDFW staff interviewed 9 anglers from 7 boats with 1 hatchery jack chinook harvested and 4 wild adult chinook caught and released.

For the season there have been 2,366 angler trips for summer chinook/sockeye with 115 adult hatchery chinook, 42 chinook jacks, and 885 sockeye harvested. Area fisheries will continue to be open to fishing for hatchery summer chinook through August 15. On August 16, the fall fishery will open.

Sturgeon

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – We sampled 39 sturgeon anglers (including 12 boats) with 30 legals released.

Hanford Reach – 6 boats, 16 anglers, 76 hours, 4 caught, 1 harvested, 1 legal + 2 shakers released (19 hours/fish)

Bass and Walleye

Lower Columbia mainstem below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 9 walleye anglers (6 boats) in the Camas/Washougal area with 3 fish released.

Hanford Reach – Smallmouth bass: 6 boats, 10 anglers, 30 hours, 31 caught, 4 harvested (1 hour/fish)

Walleye: 11 boats, 18 anglers, 61 hours, 34 caught, 19 harvested (1.8 hours/fish)