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
Spring breathes new life into the world around us and is nature’s way of saying it is time to dust off the fishing gear for plenty of options happening right now and in the not so distant future.
First off there’s still time to hook into a winter chinook from the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 5 and 6) clear into Puget Sound and Hood Canal (7, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 11, 12 and 13) and prospects on some fishing grounds have taken a turn for the better with some bigger-sized springers up to 20 pounds.
In eastern Strait (6) the catch limit was increased from one to two hatchery chinook daily and in the western Strait (5) it remains two hatchery chinook daily. In San Juan Islands (7) it will stay at one hatchery chinook daily. WDFW plans to look at possibly increasing the limit in northern Puget Sound and east side of Whidbey Island (8-1, 8-2 and 9) from one to two sometime in April so be sure to check to emergency regulations posted on their website.
In northern Puget Sound catches have been good one day and lousy the next. Target Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Point Wilson; Double Bluff off Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Mats Mats Bay; Marrowstone Island; and Foulweather Bluff.
Other marine areas worth a look are south-central Puget Sound in the Tacoma-Gig Harbor area; Hood Canal; and southern Puget Sound.
The western Strait, east side of Whidbey Island and southcentral Puget Sound and Hood Canal are open daily for winter chinook through April 30; eastern Strait, San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound are open daily through April 15. Southern Puget Sound is open year-round.
The length of seasons in some marine areas are dictated by catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (minimum size limit is 22 inches).
In eastern Strait the winter fishery can’t exceed 5,473 total chinook encounters, and through March 29 they were at 48 percent or 2,632 encounters. In San Juan Islands it is 10,735, and they were at 75 percent or 8,022 encounters.
Off the east side of Whidbey Island it is 5,474 encounters, and they were at 73 percent of 3,977 encounters. In northern Puget Sound it is 8,336 encounters, and they were at 60 percent of 4,970 encounters. WDFW provides catch updates at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/
If bottom-fishing gets you excited then head to Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay where catches have been excellent. The halibut fisheries in some marine areas begins on May 2.
Salmon season setting meetings ongoing
Carving out salmon fishing seasons is the hot topic of conversation and a final decision will come to light at the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) meeting in Rohnert Park, Calif., on April 11-16.
The North of Falcon meetings will wrap up Tuesday (April 2) and it appears there will be more coho to catch and chinook fisheries should resemble 2018 although constraints of certain wild chinook stocks like Stillaguamish and mid-Hood Canal will play a factor in what goes down for 2019-2020 season.
Fishery managers indicate chinook stocks are still recovering from several years of drought and dire ocean conditions so don’t expect an uptick until 2020 or later.
In Puget Sound, 670,159 coho are forecasted to return compared to 557,149 in 2018. The chinook forecast is 246,837 (217,042 are of hatchery origin and 29,796 are wild) compared to 255,219 (227,815 and 27,404) in 2018. However, the expected marginal coho run to Snohomish river system will likely mean very minimal if any fishing in the river itself.
The Puget Sound pink forecast of 608,388 won’t generate any bonus catch limits as they’re still in recovery mode. The Puget Sound fall chum return is 1,035,835 and should provide some decent late-season action.
The Lake Washington sockeye continue to struggle and the forecast in 2019 is 15,153 but Baker Lake is pegged at 33,737. Brett Barkdull, a WDFW northern Puget Sound biologist indicated Baker will have a season that mirror’s last summer.
WDFW created a potential “wish list” of several added sport fisheries in the 2019-2020 season.
Mark Baltzell, a WDFW lead salmon policy manager, says there could be a couple weekends in August for a summer fishery – one targeting chinook – in inner-Elliott Bay. This is due to a good return of 25,794 chinook to the Green/Duwamish and this has been a rarity for the past several seasons with a brief fishery in 2017.
On the table is a “bubble salmon fishery” in lower section of Area 11 in May from Point Defiance down to the Narrows Bridge and up into Gig Harbor area or open all of Area 11 in May.
Central Puget Sound (10) could be open in June for a resident coho fishery, which produced good catches of 2- to 3-pound fish in 2018 and a later start (it opened on July 16 in 2018) for the hatchery-mark chinook fishery in Area 10 to push the quota-directed season closer to the Aug. 16 closure date.
Others include an expanded fishing opportunity around Minter Creek in southern Puget Sound. A non-select coho opportunity in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) and northern Puget Sound (9), which seems unlikely given the fact that some Puget Sound and Thompson River, British Columbia, coho stocks are still stuck in a rut.
Ron Warren, the WDFW head salmon policy manager, said his department has a proposal for a summer Skokomish River chinook fishery on the table to be reviewed by tribal co-managers. This fishery has been closed for three years over a dispute about land ownership on the river’s shoreline bordering the reservation.
There are three alternative ocean sport fishing season options that reflect good hatchery coho fishing and a somewhat mediocre chinook fishery similar to 2018.
The high-end option is 32,000 chinook and 172,200 hatchery coho with opening dates either June 15 or 22; middle is 27,500 and 159,600 on either June 22 or 29; and low is 22,500 and 94,400 on either June 16 or 29.
The coho return for Columbia River is a robust 1,009,600 compared to a 2018 forecast of 349,000 and an actual return of 230,700. Along the Washington coast the coho return forecast is 401,538 up dramatically from 270,756. The Columbia River 2019 fall chinook forecast of 340,400 is better than the 2018 actual return of 290,900 but down from the preseason forecast of 365,600. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/
Look for trout to generate prime spring options
The warm weather mid-way through last month is a sure sign that spring is in full bloom and that means thousands of anglers will be soaking their favorite colored Power Bait for the statewide lowland lakes’ trout opener on April 27-28 or even sooner for that matter.
WDFW hatchery crews are working overtime right now planting millions of trout and kokanee into 553 lakes and ponds across the state. The standardized catchable-sized trout is now 11 inches compared to 8-inches in previous seasons and anglers should find about 2.17-million of these trout lurking in lowland lakes, plus another 126,200 “jumbo” trout measuring 14 or more inches long.
If you’re itching to go fishing right now, then take advantage of hundreds of year-round lakes that have or will be planted this spring.
“The early plants in year-round lakes is all about timing as the cormorants – a large diving bird with a voracious appetite for planted trout – are known to get a lot of the fish,” said Justin Spinelli, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Puget Sound regional biologist. “In our world it is something we deal with, and we’ll do our best to ensure they don’t get eaten up too badly. We’ll start ramping up our plants in lakes.”
Just to get an idea of where the WDFW hatchery trucks under Spinelli’s watchful eyes have been spinning their wheels one needs to look no further than Ballinger Lake on the Snohomish-King County line west of I-5 where on March 26-27 they planted a whopping 9,002; Kapowsin, 26,684; Spanaway, 18,012; Meridian, 16,815; and Lawrence, 20,102.
Other recent eye-popping trout plants include Battle Ground Lake, 4,600; American, 2,522; Black (Thurston County), 12,095; Blue (Columbia County), 4,025; Bonney, 1,050; Cassidy, 3,534; Duck, 850; Fiorito, 4,004; Gibbs, 741; Gissburg, 2,002; Green, 10,010; Horseshoe, 2,900; Island, 2,038; Kitsap, 4,830; Klineline, 5,515; Alice, 1,531; Bradley, 1,000; Ketchum, 2,000; Kokanee, 3,016; Louise, 1,000; Sawyer 1,500; Lost (Mason County), 4,912; Offutt, 5,000; Rattlesnake, 3,504; St. Clair, 6,000; Steilacoom, 5,000; and Swofford, 9,050.
Here are the total estimated plants that will occur in year-round lakes:
In King County try Alice (3,600 trout planted in March-April), Beaver (7,000 in April), Desire (8,000 in April), Green (13,500 in March-May), Meridian (16,700 in March), Morton (5,500 in April), North (9,500 in April) and Rattlesnake (3,500 in March).
In Snohomish County try Ballinger (9,000 in April), Tye (3,500 in April-May), Blackmans (1,500 in April), Flowing (6,800 in April-May), Gissburg Ponds (4,000 in March-April), Ketchum (2,000 in March), Lost (1,500 in March), Panther (1,500 in March), Roesiger (3,000 in April), Shoecraft (6,500 in March) and Silver (8,000 in April).
In Mason County try Spencer (12,644 in April-May) and Island (4,400 in April). In Thurston County try St. Clair (24,000 in April-May) and Black (39,350 in March-April). In Pierce County try Tanwax (5,500 in April-May), Spanaway (18,000 in March) and Bonney (1,020 in March). For weekly stocking updates, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/
Word on NW Salmon Derby Series
The first five derbies in the series are in the books and each saw a very good turnout of anglers with plenty of winter chinook around to catch.
The Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 16-17 had 125 boats with 402 anglers catching 109 hatchery chinook. Winner was Ben Rosenbach with a 13.63-pound fish worth $3,000 that he caught off Hat Island. Next up: Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.
Be sure to check out the grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer and fully-rigged with 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.
The boat will be pulled to each event by a 2018 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.
There are 15 derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. Details: http://www.
I’ll see you on the water!