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
This is the time of the year when anglers often deal with torrential rainfall and windy weather situations. Tack on a lack of fishing opportunities for Puget Sound winter chinook and you just might think November is a lost cause.
Such distress could have you crying out the “sky is falling” like Chicken Little aka “Henny Penny,” but no need to dig that deep into the abyss as there are places to go and fish to catch.
First and foremost are chum salmon who don’t get the respect despite being one of the hardest-fighting salmon species often ripping line off the reel like an angry king.
A preseason fall chum forecast of 1.2-million – 543,000 destined to central, south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 10, 11 and 13) and another 500,000 heading to Hood Canal (12) – should be reason enough to get anglers hungry for something other than a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.
“The chum run this season is decent and similar to preseason forecasts the last couple of years although northern Puget Sound returns – Nooksack, 77,152; Stillaguamish, 21,640; and Snohomish, 26,091 – are poor,” said Marisa Litz, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologist.
A look back to 2017, revealed central, south-central and southern Puget Sound had a return of 584,420 chum; Hood Canal, 1,060,763; Nooksack-Samish, 45,028; Skagit, 7,108; Stillaguamish, 3,749; and Snohomish, 2,707.
“November is when the recreational fisheries really get going at Whatcom Creek (in Bellingham), Hoodsport (in Hood Canal) and Kennedy Creek (in Totten Inlet),” Litz said. “Look for a later timed chum run in Chehalis and Satsop (river systems).”
Estuarial locations are prime staging spots like Johns Creek in Oakland Bay; Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet; Curly Creek near Southworth; North Bay near Allyn; Perry Creek in Eld Inlet; McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park; and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.
Recent WDFW fish checks showed 27 anglers Sunday (Oct. 28) caught 27 chum at Hoodsport in Hood Canal; six anglers caught Sunday (Oct. 28) three at John’s Creek estuary in Oakland Bay near Shelton; and four anglers Saturday (Oct. 27) caught two at Kennedy Creek estuary in Totten Inlet.
In marine areas, anglers will target chum at Jefferson Head; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; Point Monroe; Allen Bank off Blake Island; Southworth; Colvos Passage; Point Dalco off south side of Vashon Island; Point Defiance Park at Clay Banks off Tacoma; Anderson Island; and Fox Island.
Hitting a “trifecta” is a possibility in south-central and southern Puget Sound (Areas 11 and 13) for a coho, chum and hatchery chinook. Note: In Area 13 you must release wild coho.
Those looking ahead should put Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2 (east side of Whidbey Island) on the “must do list” which reopens Dec. 1 through April 30 for hatchery-marked chinook. WDFW has set a preseason chinook encounter prediction of 5,473 for both areas. The fishery could shutdown if the encounters exceed 80 percent.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring along your crab pots as some areas of Puget Sound are also open daily through Dec. 31 for Dungeness crab.
Late-season trout are viable option
More than 147,000 rainbow trout will be planted in many statewide lakes to keep the good times rolling through the winter holidays.
“Some lakes in (Puget Sound) region will be getting thousands of trout,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist.
Beaver Lake is receiving three allotments of 700 to 800 rainbow trout averaging 1 ½ pounds apiece. The first occurred in mid-October, and others are scheduled around Nov. 20 and Dec. 20.
“Instead of dumping all the fish in at one time we have spread out the plants to make the fishery less of a “circus-like” atmosphere and will allow folks to catch fish well into January and beyond,” Spinelli said of the year-round 60.3-acre lake located on the Issaquah Plateau.
WDFW is ramping up plants at Gissburg Ponds and Tye in Snohomish County; Campbell, Clear and Grandy in Skagit County; Black, Long and Offutt in Thurston County; American and Tanwax in Pierce County; and Anderson in Jefferson County.
“We will also stock Lake Goodwin (northwest of Marysville) in mid-December and this has developed into a nice winter trout fishery,” Spinelli said.
Razor clam season off to a good start
The coastal razor clam season opened last month with very good digging success.
From Oct. 11-13, 9,545 diggers coast-wide had 139,005 razor clams. Diggers averaged 14.8 at Twin Harbors; 14.7 at Copalis; and 14.2 at Mocrocks. The daily limit is the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition.
Digging was spotty to fair on Oct. 25 and 27 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Oct. 26 and 28 at Twin Harbors and Mocrcocks and that was due in part to rough surf and breezy conditions.
All digs are reliant on testing for a marine toxin known as domoic acid — a natural marine toxin produced by certain types of marine algae. A high amount of marine toxins can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in adequate quantities. WDFW usually gives final approval one to two weeks prior to each series of digs.
Tentative dates are Nov. 8, 10, 23 and 25, and Dec. 7, 9 and 20 at Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Nov. 9, 11 and 22, and Dec. 6, 8, 21 and 23 at Twin Harbors and Copalis; Nov. 24 at Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks; and Dec. 22 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks.
For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclam.
2019 NW Salmon Derby Series
The 2018 NW Salmon Derby Series ended on a high note and plans for 2019 include 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. We should have an announcement soon on our new boat/motor sponsor!
First up are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby), there is currently a waiting list; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 7-9 (http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/); and Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/).
For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
While many are getting their holiday shopping lists, and dinner or party plans in order, I’ll be gathering my rain gear and heading out the door to my favorite fishing or razor clam spots.
After all there’s nothing like a feisty chum tugging on the end of your fishing line or digging up a batch of tasty razor clams from a coastal beach!