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
For salmon anglers, the thrill of a fish peeling line off the reel in July resembles a sugar rush, free-for-all in the candy store.
I’m hooked on that feeling and judging by the early signs we experienced last month in open salmon fishing areas, there’s enthusiasm in the air of what lies ahead from the coast clear into Puget Sound.
(MARK YUASA, NMTA)
I harken back to my early college days when summer was a three-month, job-free fishing affair with many fond memories created at a nearby lake, river or a marine area from Sekiu to Elliott Bay and many stops in between.
It was a great time when being young and willing to live on two hours of sleep just to be on the water by 4 a.m. and staying out until well after dark was simply a rite of passage. I confess it’s been more than three decades since those hey-days and while I can’t quite kick up the rpm’s like I did in the past, I still live for those glory moments.
A rush of early excitement occurred in June with the spotlight beaming brightly on south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma area (Marine Catch Area 11), central Puget Sound (10) and the Tulalip Bubble Fishery (8-2) where fishing took off right when it opened.
“This early part of the summer reminds me of what we used to see in the good old days,” said Art Tachell, the manager of the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma.
The catch estimates for south central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 11) since it reopened June 1 for salmon fishing are 756 fish retained under a catch quota of 5,344. Fishing action has been slow to fair for a mix of resident chinook, 5 to 8 pounds, and kings, 10 to 18 pounds, since the initial opener and the dogfish were thick off the Clay Banks at Point Defiance.
In Area 11, 448 boats with 718 anglers June 1-3 caught 242 hatchery-marked chinook and released 315 chinook for a total of 557 chinook encounters; and 1,042 boats with 1,520 anglers June 4-10 caught 512 hatchery-marked chinook and two unmarked chinook and released 666 hatchery-marked chinook for a total of 1,180 chinook encounters.
This year’s projection of 227,420 hatchery chinook migrating to Puget Sound is up 21 percent from the 10-year average and a 35 percent boost over last year.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca opened July 1 off Sekiu (5) for salmon, and Port Angeles opens July 3. Sekiu is the main intersection of fish runs heading east into Puget Sound and south to the Columbia River and beyond. In the past few years, Port Angeles has gotten off to a hot start and the hope is for another blissful season.
Many are licking their chops on what should be a “summer to remember” for hatchery kings in northern Puget Sound (9) and central Puget Sound (10).
The Area 9 summer hatchery king fishery has a 5,563 quota – which is a similar figure to the 2017 quota and up from 3,056 in 2016. Modeling by WDFW staff suggested this change would likely result in a shorter 2018 season given the forecast of increased hatchery chinook in the area.
“I’ll be happy if the Area 9 hatchery chinook fishery lasts two weeks,” said Mark Baltzell, a WDFW salmon manager. “It was lights out king fishing at Midchannel Bank (last summer) and that seems the place to be when it opens in July.”
Many will focus their time in late July and August in Area 10 that has a cap of 4,743 hatchery chinook.
Shore-bound anglers can get in on the action with numerous piers scattered across Puget Sound that are open year-round for salmon. The Edmonds Pier has already been producing fish since early-June. The steep drop-offs around the Point No Point Lighthouse offer an easy cast to prime fishing holes.
The San Juan Islands are open until July 31 for hatchery kings, and switches to wild and hatchery kings from Aug. 1 through Sept. 3.
Hood Canal south of Ayock Point is open through Sept. 30 with a liberal four-hatchery chinook daily limit. The forecast is 57,558 up from 48,300 in 2017 with many kings destined for the George Adams and Hoodsport hatcheries.
The coastal chinook and hatchery coho fishery got underway on June 23 at Ilwaco (1), La Push (3), and Neah Bay (4). Westport (2) opened July 1 where salmon fishing is allowed Sundays through Thursdays. All areas close Sept. 3 or when the quota is achieved.
“We’ve had some decent success rates up north for the commercial trollers in Area 4 (Neah Bay and La Push), but pretty scratchy fishing in other areas to the south,” said Wendy Beeghly, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager. “I’m expecting (the sport fishery) will start off a little slow, but we might find some fish up north in Area 4.”
Commercial trollers fishing off the coast since May reported the salmon are there one day and gone the next, according to Beeghly with nothing consistent and no huge schools of fish at this point.
“Based on what we forecasted for chinook returns this year we expect it to be a little slow this summer, but that doesn’t always indicate anything, and we will have to wait and see,” Beeghly said.
A downtrend in Columbia River salmon returns could result in mixed success for coastal anglers although “paper fish” forecasts have been proven wrong in the past, so watch for catch trends each week to see when’s a good time to go.
In between the Puget Sound salmon action, be sure to bring along the crab pots for a chance at some tasty Dungies!
Areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 12 are open through Sept. 3. Area 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh line and 5 are open through Sept. 3. Area 7 South opens July 14 through Sept. 30, and 7 North is open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30. Fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week only (closed on July 4). Areas 11 and 13 are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.
Lastly, some local rivers were bursting at the seams with kings and sockeye; and follow the trout plants in lakes at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.
Summer Dungeness crabbing underway
The highly popular Dungeness crab season has started in many Puget Sound areas and the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay to Sekiu.
Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish manager says crabbing should be good this summer in marine waterways north of Seattle.
(MARK YUASA, NMTA)
Fishing in open areas will be allowed Thursdays to Mondays of each week (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays). The crab fishery is closed on July 4. South-central and southern Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due to a poor Dungeness crab abundance.
The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca around Port Angeles (6); Deception Pass (8-1); Port Susan/Everett (8-2); northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9); central Puget Sound (10); and Hood Canal (12) are open through Sept. 3.
The western Strait of Juan de Fuca from Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary to Sekiu (4 and 5) are open through Sept. 3.
The San Juan Islands/Bellingham (7 South) are open July 14 through Sept. 30, and the San Juan Islands “Gulf of Georgia” (7 North) are open Aug. 16 through Sept. 30.
In all inland marine catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested in 2017 season was 9,285,912 pounds in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 in 2016.
This comes on the heel of an all-time record catch in 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.
General Puget Sound 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 must immediately write down their catch record cards after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.
Catch record cards are not required to fish for Dungeness crab in the Columbia River or on the Washington coast.
The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches.
Fishermen may also keep six red rock crab of either sex daily, and each must measure at least 5 inches. For more information go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.
Word on NW Salmon Derby Series
Anglers start your motors! The PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby is July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby is July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.
(MARK YUASA, NMTA)
Those will be followed by the Brewster Salmon Derby on Aug. 2-5; South King County PSA Derby on Aug. 4; Gig Harbor PSA Derby on Aug. 11; and the Vancouver, B.C. Canada Chinook Classic on Aug. 18-19.
It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about coho in September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is Sept. 22-23.
That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp and 9.9hp motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
Now it’s time for me to take that first bite of chewy goodness in a “PayDay” candy bar and bee-line out the door to see if I can score a fish or two. See you on the water!