Tag Archives: pink 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.


“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.


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.


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.


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!

Pink Bonus Limit On Puyallup Starting Saturday


Anglers allowed to retain 2 additional pink salmon in the lower Puyallup River on days open to fishing


Action: Anglers may retain 2 additional pink salmon as part of the salmon daily limit.

Effective date: Aug. 31 through Oct. 31

Species affected: Pink salmon.

Location: Puyallup River, from the 11th St. Bridge to the East Main Bridge.

Reason for action: 170,000 Pink salmon have been passed above the Buckley trap, exceeding the preseason forecast and the escapement goal for the Puyallup. The higher than expected return supports additional harvest opportunity for recreational anglers.

Additional information: Salmon: Min. size 12”. Daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults plus 2 additional pink salmon may be retained. Release chum and wild Chinook.

A reminder: Pink salmon over 12” are considered adults. Anglers may not continue to fish for salmon after the adult portion of their daily limit has been retained. The lower Puyallup River is closed to all recreational angling Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays during the months of September and October.

Thoughts On Fishing For Pink Salmon In A Warm River

I can’t say that I’ve reached zen hookless fly fishing master copacetic status yet — that’s a whole lot more meditation and holistic consciousness away for this Coug.

But with water temperatures running in the less-than-salmon-friendly mid-60-degree-range on Seattle’s Duwamish River this week, I’ve been trying to be mindful of how long I’ve played and how long I’ve fished for humpies the last few days.

I will admit that that statement was only partially true on Monday, after I’d returned from a weeklong vacation in Northeast Washington and lost track of how many I hooked in a 40-minute midday sesh that brought back memories of a truly preposterous day on the Snohomish in 2001.

“Amy! Bring the boys down! We will slay!” I told my wife.

Then I googled the USGS gauge for the golf course in Tukwila and saw how warm the water really was and started thinking that maybe I didn’t need to play fish that I was catching and releasing that long.

Not that I was.

I mean, I’ve been all business down there on the banks of the muddy DGR with my converted plunking rod and reel and .99-cent Sportsman’s Warehouse humpy jig.

My mainline looks like it might hold horses to hitching posts at the Republic-area guest ranch we enjoyed a trail ride at last week.

After all, the faster you bring a fish in or it successfully throws the hook, the faster you can take another cast for ’em. It’s a numbers game.

These are beautiful pinks too.

Silver-bright bucks and hens.

Fat, fat, fat.

Studs and egg wagons.

The kind of fish that will really, really, realllllllly help rebuild a run that was hurt by The Blob.

(Please, please, Mother Nature, hold off on your super-soaker fall atmospheric rivers this fall, please.)

I don’t know that I ever — EVER — considered water temperature effects on salmon health before 2015 hit Columbia sockeye hard and a quarter million fish just … vanished without a trace.

It was more like catch-and-release all day long.

Advice from a fisheries biologist I sent a message to today about my moral dilemma of whether to fish for pinks in 66-degree water during my lunchbreak: Don’t.

But at the same time, they allowed the river IS open for retention of pinks because there IS a harvestable surplus of them, and that assumes some loss from C&R mortality.

For those of us without boats and are largely or entirely left on the bank, this is our time to shine.

So in the mental battle between conserving the resource for the future and the saying on the NSIA T-shirt I wear — “The tug is the drug” — I’m opting for the former with a good dash of the latter.

The hook on my jig is bent at an angle I wouldn’t tolerate if I was fishing for Chinook, coho, steelhead or any other species.

It’s pinched though it wouldn’t be if I was fishing for the table.

The past few days I’ve enjoyed watching pinks at my feet slash and take swipes at my twitched jig, pulling it away from some, letting others take it.

I give hooked fish a head turn or three or four to show me their stuff, then purposefully slacken the line or change its angle in hopes the debarbed point pulls out. Less stress equals higher survival to spawning.

It works for most, though not all; some I have to haul to shore to give the hook a quick twist before sending the fish on their way to the gravel.

It’s fun and all, and I have a deep, abiding love of this unloved, scoffed-at species and what it represents, but I’ll also soon get bored and turn to Chinook and coho.

Maybe if I was more enlightened, I would stay off the river all together till it cools back into the 50s.

Or just clip the hook off at the bend in the shank and count coup with every line pull.

But I have a ways to go to attain that level of coexistence and harmony with the salmonverse.

Om mani padme hu-there’s one!

Also, it’s very, very, very difficult to turn your back on a river full of snappy fish.

God, is it ever.

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Short Humpy Opener Coming Up On The Snohomish

Editor’s note: Updated 3:15 p.m., Aug. 29, 2019, with comments from a WDFW stock analyst.

Break out your humpy jigs, there will be a short pink season on the Snohomish after all.

“While three days is not a ton of opportunity, it’s better than the total closure we were looking at, and welcome news for local retailers,” said Mark Spada of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club this morning. “It should be a three-day zoo.”

The Sept. 1-3 fishery only has a limit of one salmon — coho or pink — but the popular Central Sound river wasn’t otherwise scheduled to open for the odd-year fish in 2019 due to a relatively low forecast.


The preseason prediction was 128,362 fish, just a tenth or less of some recent years’ escapements, but it appears more are returning.

“It appears the low pink forecast was way off, and there looks to be an abundance of pinks in the Snohomish,” says Spada. “An overachieving forecast is good news for future pink runs if the fall weather cooperates.”

After 2015’s run came in and spawned, their redds were hit hard by four pretty big October, November and December floods.

That year’s fish were also skinnier and less fecund due to The Blob  in the North Pacific, leading to a low 2017 return.

But that year’s progeny appear to have done better at sea.

“Early information indicates that the return of pinks to the Snohomish River is large enough to support a small recreational fishery in the river,” WDFW stated in an emergency rule-change notice.

Pink salmon biologist Aaron Dufault in Olympia said the escapement goal is 120,000 and with the forecast so close to that mark, the state and tribes initially wanted to manage the stock conservatively.

“Now that we’re seeing some positive signs in-river we thought a small fishery was acceptable. We’re already open for coho during this time, so pink would be caught and released regardless. This way some can show up in some angler coolers instead,” he stated.

The official go-ahead is posted here.

As for what to use, a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce jig with a squid skirt and a pink Buzz Bomb are good starting points. Dick Nites are also popular.


Public boat ramps include 10th Street in Everett at the mouth, Lowell-Snohomish River Road and the small one just south of the town of Snohomish, while Langus Waterfront Park just upstream from Dagmar’s has bank access.

At this point, after Sept. 3, the Snohomish will remain open for one coho a day only through the end of the month. Recent years have seen some very low wild runs, including 2015’s smallest on record — just 12,804 — and that has drawn scrutiny from federal fishery overseers who now list one of Puget Sound’s historically strongest silver stocks as overfished.

A review of the draft plan to rebuild the run is the subject of a Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting next month.

The Snohomish has also been among Puget Sound’s strongest pink salmon systems. While this opener may provide a glimpse of its past glory, including a truly epic day for yours truly and a friend off the former sawmill that yesterday burned, managers and anglers should be careful not to stress the run too much.

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Area 10 Kings, Area 8-1 Pinks Closing


Marine Area 10 to close to the retention of hatchery Chinook salmon

Action: Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton Area) will close to the retention of hatchery Chinook salmon beginning Saturday, Aug. 17.

Effective date: Aug. 17, 2019.


Species affected: Hatchery Chinook salmon.

Location: Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton Area), excluding Sinclair Inlet and the year-round docks and piers.

Reason for action: Preliminary estimates indicate that anglers have harvested more than 95 percent of the summer quota of hatchery Chinook through Aug. 15.

Additional information: Marine Area 10 will remain open to the retention of coho and pink salmon with a two-salmon daily limit through Nov. 15, 2019.  Sinclair Inlet remains open to hatchery Chinook retention through Sept. 30. Anglers may also continue to retain one Chinook salmon (wild or hatchery) at the docks and piers that are open year-round as listed in the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet.

For more information, anglers should consult the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Anglers can check WDFW’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/reports_plants.html for the latest information on marine areas that are managed to a quota or guideline.

Anglers must release pink salmon in Marine Area 8-1

Action: Closes pink salmon retention.

Effective date: Aug. 17 through Oct. 31, 2019.

Species affected: Pink salmon.

Location: Marine Area 8-1.

Reason for action: Early season abundance indicators confirm the returning Skagit River pink salmon run is below harvestable levels. This conservation measure is necessary to allow more fish to reach the spawning grounds.

Additional information: Marine Area 8-1 salmon rules: No min. size. Daily limit 2. Release Chinook and pink salmon.

Please see the 2019-20 Washington Sport Fishing Rules pamphlet for additional rules or visit the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.

Salmon Biting On Lower Puyallup Opener

Salmon fishing action began its transition to Puget Sound rivers with today’s opening of the Puyallup.

Dylan Chlipala was among the anglers on the Pierce County river this morning, limiting by 7 a.m.


“Lots of pinks in the river already,” he told Northwest Sportsman‘s Jason Brooks, adding that he’d caught and released around 10 while beaching a hatchery Chinook and wild coho.

Use drift bobbers and enough weight to hold bottom in the silty currents of the glacial river.

“Drift fish bright, size 12 Corkies (red rocket red) with cerise or chartreuse yarn on a size 1 or 2 Gamakatsu octopus hook, soaked with Pro-Cure Bloody Tuna Super Gel, on a 12-pound Izorline XXX clear leader that is 36 to 48 inches long, with a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce cannonball or six-shot slinky, with 15-pound hi-viz yellow Izorline platinum mainline,” Brooks recommends.

The Puyallup is open from the 11th Street Bridge near the mouth upstream to the Carbon, with a daily bag of two adult salmon, release wild kings and chums.

This year’s forecast calls for just over 102,000 harvestable salmon to return to the river, though of course some of those are needed for broodstock and spawning escapement goals.

Night closure, anti-snagging and barbless hook rules are in effect.

Also note that the Puyallup is closed on Sundays through the end of August, then Sundays-Tuesdays in September and October to make room for tribal netting.

“Popular areas on the Puyallup include the K-Mart Hole, which as you might guess is across from the old discount store, now a farm supply store and a Planet Fitness. Access it from the North Levy Road, as you cannot cross the river from the parking lot. Try the banks along the shore near the ‘blue building,’ a large glass building on East Main Street, or under the 5th Street bridge,” Brooks reported for a 2017 issue of the magazine.

This isn’t to say that fishing on Puget Sound is over and you should winterize your boat already.

It’s not — it’s peak pink season throughout the inland sea, clipped Chinook are still biting in Areas 5, 6, 10, 11 and 13, and ocean-returning coho should be moving in soon in better numbers. Track the action through WDFW’s daily creel reports.

But the opening of the Puyallup today, Quilcene tomorrow, Duwamish next week, Nooksack, Skagit and Snohomish on Sept. 1 and Stillaguamish in mid-September add to the options.

Tasseomancy, Puget Sound Pink Salmon Style

We’re trying not to jinx it so work with us a moment, but ethay umpyhay unray ookslay argerlay anthay WWDFay orecastfay!

The translation from pig Latin: The signs are getting better that this year’s Puget Sound pink salmon run will more than meet the relatively low preseason prediction — and perhaps come in well above it.


Among the harbingers, portents and auguries we’re seeing at the bottom of our wine glass this afternoon are good catches in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Sound, strong early returns to Hood Canal, and relatively high numbers at a trap on the Skykomish.

It’s still early and there’s waaaaaaaay too much uncertainty out there to know how far off the official forecast of 608,388 ultimately may turn out to be.

But on the back of a salmon stock analyst’s sriracha-stained napkin we recently discovered in the trash at a rest area between Olympia and Fraser Panel meetings is a guesstimate that the run could actually come in between 1 and 2 million strong.

And nearby we also found a pair of seagull-pecked graphs for two fisheries in the Straits.

One shows commercial test catches in British Columbia’s Area 20 — the north side of the waterway — that say this year’s Puget Sound stocks are turning up at rates three times higher than they did during 2017’s piddling return of roughly half a million.

The other is of sport catches in Washington’s Marine Area 5, Sekiu and Pillar Point, which have been matching and besting the longterm historical average.


Both graphs show that peak fishing is still to come in a week to two weeks.

Meanwhile, WDFW catch stats show that yesterday 72 pinks were tallied at the Olson’s East Docks, 28 at Van Riper’s Resort.

But humpies are also turning up throughout Puget Sound proper –38 at Everett, 31 at Shilshole, 22 at Armeni and 15 at Point Defiance on Wednesday.

If salmon anglers weren’t focusing on Chinook in those areas, the catches might be higher still.

The caveat is that a strong bite doesn’t absolutely, unequivocally mean a strong return — the fish could just be hungry, like in 2015, when they came in starving and snapping at everything in a desperate attempt to get bigger before spawning.

But some 8,731 pinks have also already returned to the Hoodsport Hatchery, 5,630 more than the next best mark for this same point over the past four runs, 2015’s 3,101.

And at Sunset Falls on the South Fork Sky, 42 have arrived at the fishway, five more than 2017 and twice as many as 2015.

(WDFW creel and hatchery escapement reports go back further than 2013 but are not readily available by week — or at least I haven’t discovered the secret stash with the agency’s rejiggered and occasionally mildly infuriating new website.)

So what does this all mean?

As humpy returns rebuild from the pummeling they took from The Blob and four big fall 2015 floods, it won’t be a return to the bonkers harvest years of 2009, 2011 and 2013 — praise be their names and hallowed be their memories.

But as king salmon action begins to tail off and before ocean coho arrive, pinks should provide a decent bridge fishery in the saltwater and then the rivers over the coming weeks and month or so.

In fact, this oracle of the genus Oncorhynchus just may swap out the Point Wilsons and Pucci Jigs in his go bag for the trays of pink diamond-shaped darts in his shed.

A wide variety of gear will get pinks to bite, but the “humpy special” — a pink squid behind a dodger — for trolling behind a downrigger or banana weight, and a Buzz Bomb and squid for casting off the beach or into schools from a boat are among the best on the Sound. Barbless hooks are required.

Watch for jumpers or your sonar and work the schools as they move around in the shipping channels and along shorelines.

With no bonus limit on marine waters due to the low initial forecast, up to two can be retained if you haven’t kept a Chinook or coho.

Note that there are fishery restrictions in place in Marine Area 7 (closed), Area 8-2 and 11, so be sure to check the pamphlet.

As they move into rivers, pink jigs and Dick Nites are best bets.

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From Salmon To Perch To Crab To Derbies, August Has Lotsa Ops: Yuasa

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

In the blink of an eye, summer has shifted past the midway point but that doesn’t necessarily mean anglers should throw shade on late-season fishing opportunities.

In fact, the horizon looks very bright in August when salmon fisheries come into play at Buoy 10 near the Columbia River mouth, Willapa Bay, inner- Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Freshwater fish seekers also can set their sights on abundant yellow perch in many statewide lakes!


First off, the pink – a salmon that returns mainly during odd-numbered years and often referred to as “humpies” for a distinct hump that grows on their back near spawning time – forecast is a paltry 608,388 which could be among the lowest runs on record dating back to 1959. Returns soared above 1 million in 2001 and peaked at more than 10 million in 2009. The strong pace continued when it hit 6-plus million in 2011, more than 8 million in 2013 and dipped to 4 million in 2015.

In 2015, the pinks went from bloom to gloom as they faced a monumental drought period and extremely warm water temperatures in rivers. Winter flooding followed leaving very few young pinks to make it out to the ocean where they eventually ran into “The Blob” a large mass of warm water that wreaked havoc on sea life.

That lead to a dismal 2017 with an actual return of around 511,000 (1.1 million was forecasted) pinks, which was less than 82 percent the historical 10-year average.

While the pink forecast is conservative – this summer’s unexpected strong return of chinook and coho – we just might see a late fourth quarter comeback for humpies too. In fact, some early pinks began showing up in catches back in July so don’t give up on them just yet.
“There have been a lot of pinks caught (at Neah Bay and La Push) and many of them are nice size fish,” said Wendy Beeghley, the WDFW coastal salmon manager.

An unexpected large return of pinks were also showing up in other places like Sekiu, outside of the Freshwater Bay closure zone and in open areas off Port Angeles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as the San Juan Islands (which closed Aug. 1 for salmon fishing).
The Puget Sound pink run usually peaks in mid-August, and in southern Puget Sound the last week of August and early September are best.

Pinks aren’t the only game and so far, the coho and hatchery king fisheries have been a pleasant surprise from the coast clear into open areas of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The party lights began flashing for coho in June when places like central Puget Sound (Area 10) reopened for off-the-charts good action on resident coho. Then good king action began happening last month in the San Juan Islands (now closed to fishing in August), Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Tulalip bubble fishery and south-central Puget Sound.

It was the same scenario in the ocean when catches ramped up in late June from Neah Bay south to Ilwaco and have remained good this past month. Most of this is likely related to a strong forecast of 1,009,600 coho to the Columbia River compared to a 2018 forecast of 349,000.

Look for coho success in open areas of Puget Sound and Strait to only get better in August and build to a crescendo in September. In Puget Sound the total coho return for 2019 is 670,159, which is up from last year’s 557,149.

There will be a short inner-Elliott Bay king fishery from Aug. 2-5 and additional days may occur if in-season data shows the run to be stronger than expected. That won’t be the only crowning moment as areas from Whidbey Island south to Olympia have seen an uptick in catches of hatchery kings and should see good fishing this month in places that remain open.

WDFW extended the hatchery king salmon fishery in northern Puget Sound (Area 9), which is open through Saturday (Aug. 3). Central Puget Sound (Area 10) also remains open for hatchery kings as does south central Puget Sound (Area 11). Look for the latter two to produce some stellar fishing heading into this month.

Lastly, before heading out the door, check the WDFW website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/ for any possible emergency closures this month and also what marine and freshwater areas are open or closed for salmon.

Yellow perch options bloom in the summer heat

There’s nothing better than getting a first-time angler or youth hooked on fishing and yellow perch is one of those prime options.

Lake Washington – which is 20 miles long and covers more than 22,000 acres – is one of those places that comes alive in August for yellow perch.


Their population levels in this large urban lake is very robust and they continue to have yearly strong recruitment and survival rates that won’t make the slightest dent on production.

Most yellow perch average 7 to 10 inches along with some “jumbos” hitting the 11- to 12-inch range.

WDFW experts say it is only a matter of time before the official state record could come from Lake Washington. The current state record of 2.75 pounds was caught by Larry Benthien at Snelson’s Slough in Skagit County on June 22, 1969.

The reason behind this possibility is due in part to the ample feed and room for yellow perch to grow in Lake Washington, which is the second largest natural-bodied lake in Washington. Female perch are the largest and tend to grow much faster (usually maturing in three to four years) and can live if 8 to 10 years.

The best time of the year to fish for yellow perch begins around July when the water heats up, and peaks from August through October.

Look for schools of yellow perch in shallow water, 15 to 35 feet, and close to the shoreline. They will school up in shaded locations just outside the cover of weed beds, milfoil, aquatic weeds and lily pads or under docks, piers and overhanging trees and brush.

Yellow perch are active throughout the day and the only time they seek out covered areas is at night when predators are lurking.

Popular locations to fish are Seward Park; Kenmore log boom and pier; Juanita Bay; Magnuson Park shoreline; Andrews Bay; Newport area and slough; Yarrow Bay; Gene Coulon Park in Renton; Mercer Island near Luther Burbank Park; and off Leschi Park, Madison Park, Stan Sayres Pits and Mount Baker Park. Areas from the Montlake Cut into Lake Union are also good especially off Gasworks Park.

A light-to-medium-action trout fishing rod with a spinning reel attached to 4- to 6-pound test line works best. Use a worm and drop-shot (egg-style) weight attached to a three-way swivel or Sniper Lure Snubs – a colorful tiny 3-inch plastic worm. Live maggots, a skirted crappie jig work well. After you catch your first perch cut a small chunk of the meat or even a perch eyeball as bait.

Other good perch lakes are Sammamish near Issaquah; Kapowsin southeast of Puyallup; Beaver and Pine near Issaquah; Sawyer northwest of Black Diamond; Harts southeast of Yelm; Goodwin northwest of Marysville; Stevens east of Everett; American near Fort Lewis; Angle in Sea-Tac; Desire in Renton; and Meridian in Kent.

Dungeness crab fishing opportunities providing fairly decent catches

The Dungeness crab fishing success has been somewhat better than expected although many are having to still throw back some soft-shelled crabs.

Areas 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) are open through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

Central Puget Sound (10) is open through this Saturday, Aug. 3. The shorter season is due to an overage in last year’s crab catch.

Hood Canal (12) north of a line projected due east of Ayock Point is open through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). Areas south of Ayock Point are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.

The San Juan Islands (7 South) is open 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.

NW Salmon Derby Series loaded with events in August

The derby series kicked into high gear with the Lake Coeur d’Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28 seeing a good number of anglers turn out despite the  tough fishing. Top angler in the adult division was Bret Hojem with a 13.54-pound chinook; and top youth angler was Cooper Malcolm with a 9.82 chinook.


Prior to that the Puget Sound Anglers Bellingham Salmon Derby was held July 12-14. A total of 392 adult tickets and 72 youth tickets were sold with 164 chinook weighed-in for the event, which was 10 more fish caught than last year.

Tom Hartley of Anacortes took the top prize of $7,500 with a 21.90-pound hatchery chinook; second was Chris Wilson with a 21.60 worth $2,500; and third was Adam Beardsley with a 20.62 worth $1,000.

Other derbies on the horizon are the South King County PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 3; Brewster Salmon Derby on Aug. 1-4; Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 10; Vancouver, B.C. Chinook Classic, Aug. 17-18; and Edmonds PSA Coho Derby, Sept. 7. The Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby on Aug. 31 has been cancelled due to expected low salmon returns.

Drawing for the grand prize boat takes place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. New at the Everett Coho Derby is a second weigh-in station located at the Edmonds Marina.

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.
In other related news, anglers can also 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/.

Summer is sneaking by quickly so it’s time for me to jump on the boat and get into the fishing action. I’ll see you on the water!

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A Few Pinks Turning Up In Straits And Sound, But Low Run Forecast

Don’t expect the action to be anywhere near as fast and furious as 2015, or even as good as 2013, 2011, 2009, 2007, 2005 — you get the idea — but for the record, a few pinks are beginning to arrive and be caught in Washington’s inside waters.

Dozens of the odd-year salmon have been brought in to docks in Sekiu over the past 10 days or so, with a handful also turning up in Puget Sound and Hood Canal, according to recent WDFW creel checks.


Peak of saltwater fishing isn’t typically until mid- to late August, but it does vary by individual stock, with those returning to glacial rivers tending to arrive earlier than others.

A wide variety of gear will get pinks to bite, but the “humpy special” — a pink squid behind a dodger — for trolling behind a downrigger or banana weight, and a pink Buzz Bomb and squid for casting off the beach or into schools from a boat are among the best on the Sound. Barbless hooks are required.

With this year’s low forecast of just 608,388 back to rivers from the Nooksack to Nisqually to the OlyPen — the fewest since the late 1990s — there is no bonus limit anywhere and a number of usually productive North Sound rivers are actually closed for pink retention.

A poor Snohomish coho forecast and South Sound Chinook quotas are also limiting how much of Marine Area 8-2 is open (just its very southern end) and what days you can fish out of a boat in Marine Area 11, respectively.

So why are pink runs down? A decade and a half of huge to humongous returns made it seem as if the pint-sized but prodiguous species would always swarm into Puget Sound in outlandish piles every other year.

The Blob thought otherwise.

Adult pinks at sea during the height of the poor ocean feeding conditions in the North Pacific returned to the inland sea in summer 2015 starving and desperately snapping at anything anglers threw their way.

The undersized hens carried fewer eggs, and due to the snow drought the previous winter and then the long, hot summer, the places they made their redds in the diminished streams were utterly walloped when four big October, November and December floods hit.

What eggs and fry survived that second catastrophe went to sea in early 2016, and while they returned in 2017 much bigger than 2015’s fish, just 442,252 spawned, the fewest in 20 years.

“We’re still digging out of a pretty big hole,” Aaron Dufault, a WDFW pink salmon stock analyst, told our Mark Yuasa for a story in the August issue. “It is a boom-or-bust situation for pinks, and we’ve had those busts in the past couple of odd-numbered years.”

This year’s return is based off of fry surveys done on beaches off the mouths of the rivers.

Resident and then ocean-returning coho as well as hatchery kings will command the focus of most Puget Sound anglers in the coming weeks and months, but pinks will also provide some opportunity as well as their runs rebuild.

Memorable Catch: 2 Pink Salmon Caught Off Oregon’s South Coast

Not one but two pink salmon were caught off the far southern end of the Oregon Coast yesterday by sport anglers, the first time that’s happened in more than a quarter century.


Charter skipper Andy Martin of Brookings Fishing Charters said the pair landed by his clients were released but records he received from ODFW today show that the last time any pinks were hooked off his homeport was in 1993, when four were reported.

The species primarily returns to rivers hundreds of miles to the north, in the Salish Sea, and no more than a few dozen have been reported in any single year on the Oregon Coast since 280 were in 1991, including 54 that year at Brookings.

Mostly they’ve turned up at much more northerly ports — Astoria, Garibaldi, Pacific City, Depoe Bay and Newport, but also Winchester Bay.

The most on record is 7,711 in 1985, well before the era of the mega returns of the early 2000s to Washington’s Puget Sound and British Columbia’s Fraser River.

ODFW’s Eric Schindler didn’t have a good guess why after 26 years two pinks showed up at Brookings, but said it would be interesting if any more are caught there and elsewhere this year.

“We did collect some genetic samples back in the 1980s and all the pinks were identified as coming from the Fraser River, B.C.,” he said.

This is only speculation, but perhaps it says something about ocean conditions.

“Hopefully, those were the good luck pink salmon, and the rest of the year will be just as interesting,” Schindler said.

As for the rest of the Memorial Day catch for Capt. Martin’s crew, it included limits on rockfish, a Chinook, two other released salmon and a mackerel.