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
Summertime has arrived! The sun is shining bright and early! The weather is sweet! And nothing else is more satisfying than a fresh batch of steamed Dungeness crab!
A CRABBER HOLDS A COUPLE NICE DUNGENESS. MUCH OF PUGET SOUND AND THE STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA OPEN ON JULY 4 FOR THURSDAY-MONDAY SHELLFISHING, THOUGH MARINE AREAS 11 AND 13 AND THE SOUTHERN HALF OF AREA 12 ARE CLOSED DUE TO LOW NUMBERS. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)
Beginning on the Fourth of July ahead of the fireworks show, anglers will get their first crack at soaking pots for Dungeness crab east of Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary line (Marine Catch Area 4), Sekiu (5), Port Angeles (6), east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) and northern Puget Sound (9). The season is open through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).
A reduction in the number of days open this summer in central Puget Sound (10) is due to an overage in last year’s catch quota. Crabbing is open July 4 through Aug. 3 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).
Hood Canal (12) north of a line projected due east of Ayock Point opens July 4 through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). Areas south of Ayock Point are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.
In the San Juan Islands (7 South) opens July 11 through Sept. 30 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). San Juan Islands (7 North) opens Aug. 15 through Sept. 30 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).
South-central Puget Sound (11) and southern Puget Sound (13) are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.
The big question is what anglers should expect once their pots hit bottom?
“Dungeness crab populations in the southern reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal have experienced stress in recent years,” said Bob Sizemore, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy manager. “Crabbing in the northern portions of Puget Sound has been very good and should be good again this year.”
A WDFW study from 2018 showed a sharp decline in south-central Puget Sound of 87.4 percent during a three-year period, and in southern Puget Sound it was 96.7 percent over a six-year timeframe.
Test fishing in 2018 showed no presence of Dungeness crab in the size range of 3.5 to 5.7 inches, indicating several year classes are missing. In general, test fishing in 2019 did show a slight improvement although nowhere near the levels to even consider opening the two southern-most reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal.
“Nobody harvested crab last year (in south central and southern Puget Sound) and the test fishery catch of legal-size crab per pot didn’t improve significantly (in 2019) so Mother Nature has the faucet still turned off at the other end,” said Don Velasquez, the WDFW head Puget Sound shellfish manager. “It takes about four years for crab to get to their legal-size and were still paying the price for what happened well before this year.”
In sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial fisheries during 2018 there was 9,225,000 pounds landed, which is down from 9,285,512 in 2017; 10,645,000 in 2016. The record catch occurred in 2015 when 11.8 million pounds was landed.
General rules are crab pots may not set or pulled from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.
Crabbers in Puget Sound must immediately write down their catch on record cards immediately after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.
The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.
Summer salmon fisheries in full bloom this month
Salmon fishing options expand this month but be sure to carefully look at the regulation pamphlet since there’s a myriad of areas that are either open or closed to protect weak wild stocks of salmon.
Look for a short, but sweet hatchery chinook fishery in the San Juan Islands (Area 7), which is open July 1-31. The preseason prediction of legal-size chinook encounters in Area 7 during July is 3,622 and is managed by WDFW as a season from beginning to end.
CHINOOK RETENTION OPPORTUNITIES ARE ONGOING ON THE WASHINGTON COAST NOW, BEGIN IN THE STRAITS AND SOUND THIS MONTH, AND TRANSITION TO THE LOWER COLUMBIA RIVER NEXT MONTH. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)
Time on the water has dwindled dramatically in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) where hatchery chinook fishing opens briefly from July 25-28. The hatchery chinook quota of 3,501 is well below the 5,400 in 2018. WDFW will assess catches after July 28 to see if more chinook fishing is possible. Area 9 remains open July 25 through Sept. 30 for pink and hatchery coho.
Central Puget Sound (Area 10) is also open for hatchery chinook from July 25 – later than 2018’s July 16 opener – and closes Aug. 31 or until a quota of 3,057 (4,473 in 2018) is achieved. Area 10 then reverts to a coho and pink directed season from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know if you’re planning on targeting Area 10 summer kings is to go right when it opens to get in as much fishing time as possible. Those who want to get out into Area 10 right now should find some very good resident coho action, which has been off the charts since it opened last month for coho only.
Salmon fishing communities along the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Sekiu should see some glory moments for summer chinook.
Port Angeles (Area 6) is open July 1 to Aug. 15 for hatchery-marked chinook west of a true north/south line through Number 2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook (release chum and wild coho and chinook). A chinook release area from July 1 through Aug. 15 is east of a true north/south line through the Number 2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook (release all chinook, chum and wild coho). Area 6 is open for hatchery coho and pinks from Aug. 16 through Sept. 30 (release all chinook, chum and wild coho). Freshwater Bay is closed for salmon from July 1 through Oct. 31; and Port Angeles Harbor, Sequim Bay and Discovery Bay are closed for salmon from July 1 through Aug. 15.
Hatchery chinook fishing at Sekiu (Area 5) is open July 1 through Aug. 15 except closed in a section at Kydaka Point.
South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens July 1 (closed Thursdays and Fridays of each week). Early summer king fishing was decent last summer and hopefully anglers have a similar scenario despite a reduced quota of 2,805 hatchery chinook (5,030 in 2018). Be sure to go sooner than later to the Clay Banks and other nearby hotspots to ensure more time on the water. Once the chinook quota is achieved in Area 11 the fishery reverts to being open daily through Sept. 30 for coho and pinks only.
Hood Canal (Area 12) south of Ayock Point opens for hatchery chinook from July 1 through Sept. 30 and is one of the most underfished areas in our region.
Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) is open year-round for salmon and has a revamped minimum size limit on hatchery chinook of 20 inches through Sept. 30.
An expected 1,009,600 coho (349,000 was the forecast in 2018) – the largest return since 2014 – arrives off the Columbia River mouth and should be the bread winner for all coastal anglers. A mediocre chinook run will also provide some excitement at times.
All four coastal ports – Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Ilwaco – are open daily through Sept. 30 and closes once each area’s catch quota is achieved. The daily limit at Ilwaco and Westport is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook. The daily limit at La Push and Neah Bay is two salmon.
Like I said earlier check the regulation pamphlet for any changes to seasons or dates and also look at the WDFW eRegs at
https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations. I also post updates regularly on my Facebook page “Pacific Northwest Fishing and Outdoors.”
Kids Steelhead Day is July 6 at Reiter Ponds
The Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club and the Sky Valley Anglers are hosting a Kids Steelhead Fishing Event on July 6 at Reiter Ponds on the Skykomish River.
The event will also be held Aug. 3 and are open to all anglers age 14-and-under from 5 a.m. until noon with all the fishing gear – rod and reel – provided. A license isn’t required but each participant will need a salmon/steelhead catch card.
WDFW will block off the bank area from the pond outlet downstream 500 feet to the rapids between Reiter and the Cable Hole.
Sponsors also include Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood, Gibbs Delta, John’s Jigs, Pure Fishing, Element Outdoors, Dead Lead, Conti’s Custom Rods and Seaguar.
Reiter Ponds at 45300 Reiter Road is located off Highway 2 east of Gold Bar. Take Reiter Road for 2.5 miles and turn right onto a road that leads to the parking lot.
There will also be some activities along the shoreline for kids to participate in and WDFW employees will also be on hand. For details, call 206-876-0224 or email Elementmasonry@gmail.com.
NW Salmon Derby Series ramps up in July
The next route in the series offering diverse opportunities to catch fish along with some impressive picturesque scenery and maybe even winning some great prizes are the Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.
(MARK YUASA, NMTA)
The grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston will be making the rounds to each derby. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer.
The boat is rigged with Burnewiin accessories; Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon & Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. It is trailered with a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.
Derbies on the near horizon are Brewster Salmon Derby, Aug. 1-4 (could be cancelled due to low chinook returns so stay tuned); South King County PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 3; Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 10; Vancouver, B.C. Chinook Classic, Aug. 17-18; and Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby, Aug. 31.
There is a total of 14 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia and drawing for the grand prize boat takes place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22.
In other related news, anglers can start looking at 2020 with dates finalized for Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
Now it’s time for me to head out the door to wet a line. I’ll see you on the water!