Tag Archives: resident coho

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.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“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.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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!

Salmon Season–Think Resident Coho–Opens Friday In Parts Of Sound

I’ll admit, I’ve been more of an angler who looks to the Sky than the sea when June 1 rolls around, but not this year.

I’ve been giddy since North of Falcon wrapped up back in mid-April about the upcoming salmon opener on Marine Area 10.

HUNGRY RESIDENT COHO CAN PROVIDE GOOD FISHING IN PUGET SOUND. THIS ONE ATE A SHINER PERCH BEFORE GOING AFTER THE BLOGGER’S BUZZ BOMB. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Coho are fair game in the salt off Seattle, Shoreline, Bainbridge Island and much of the Kitsap Peninsula, as well as Area 11, starting Friday, so you won’t find me up at Reiter Ponds or Cable chasing early hatchery summer steelhead tomorrow morning.

Rather, I’ll be down where the rocks are a little more worn, casting off the beach for resident silvers.

Let’s just get this out of the way now: These salmon are definitely not the size of their ocean-returning cousins that come back in September and October.

But they are snappy, can be plentiful and are definitely pretty tasty.

COHO FILLETS FILL MOST OF THE BLOGGER’S WIFE’S SMALLEST BAKING SHEET. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

WDFW and the Squaxin Island Tribe cooperate to release as many as 1.8 million of these coho annually. The salmon are reared at state hatcheries and then transported to the tribe’s netpens way down in deepest Area 13, where they imprint and return to after 18 months.

Can’t say I’m any kind of expert on how to catch ’em — we’ll get to some sharper anglers’ tips here in a bit — but I’ve become increasingly confident off my local beach.

Mainly I huck 21/2-inch chrome Buzz Bombs rigged with a bumper and slightly offset double 1/0 barbless octopus hooks, but will occasionally jump up to the 3X size when I want to get some more distance.

BESIDES BUZZ BOMBS, ANGLERS USE CLOUSER MINNOWS, BROKEN-LIPPED RAPALAS, SPOONS AND OTHER BAIT-IMITATING LURES TO GET RESIDENT COHO TO BITE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I  also use the diamond-shaped jigs in blue or green pearl, and holographic patterns. Pink has worked in the past as well.

Sometimes I add a Gold Star hoochies to the back end of the rig, and for this season, I got a mess of 2 1/8-inch octopus and 4-inch needlefish skirts from Yo-Zuri that I’m going to try from time to time (especially when Chinook opens in mid-July).

One resident coho I caught from shore last year had a shiner perch in its tummy, so I might try adding some Hyper-Vis+ tape to some Bombs to get that effect.

Cast out, reel up the slack and start jerking the lure back in, reeling down, jerking, reeling down, etc., back to the beach. You don’t really want it down on the bottom, where the hook(s) might snag up on whatever.

I’ve found morning is far better than evening, but there’s no need to be on the beach at the buttcrack of dawn, thank god. There’s a relation to high and low tides, but it isn’t absolute.

Eelgrass and seaweed can be a pain at times as patches of schmutz eddy past.

The Seattle side of Area 10 has a fair amount of public beach access, including Lincoln Park, Alki, West Point, Golden Gardens, Carkeek Park and Richmond Beach, but wading into the waves isn’t the only way to catch ’em.

Northwest Sportsman columnists Jason Brooks and Terry Wiest from down Area 11 way talked about the how-tos from a boat for me recently.

Wrote Brooks for his South Sound article:

COHO AND EVEN resident Chinook can be found at various current breaks, beaches and kelp beds throughout the South Sound. Anglers with boats can launch at the many public and private launches, but Point Defiance and Gig Harbor in Area 11 seem to be most popular. The Point Defiance Boat House also rents small boats with a kicker motor that are perfect for hitting the famed nearby fishing grounds of the Clay Banks and Owen Beach, on the north side of the Tacoma peninsula.

TO TARGET THE coho, as well as sea-run cutthroat, troll small spoons such as the Cripplure by Mack’s, with the treble switched to a size 6 Gamakatsu siwash, or a small Coyote by Luhr Jensen.

A lightweight kokanee or trout rod can make this a very exciting fishery in early June. By midmonth switch over to longer rods, as the resident coho will be putting on weight and some transient fish will begin to show.

Anglers who prefer to fish from the beach have several options in the South Sound. Narrows Park puts you on the long gravel edge of Puget Sound near the bridges on the Gig Harbor side. Another is Sunnyside Beach Park in Steilacoom, at the outlet to Chambers Bay. Penrose State Park is known for its sea-run cutthroat fishing. And if you can find access to a beach on Harstine Island, you will be in a prime location for the Squaxin coho and some native cutts.

Wrote Wiest for his Westsider piece:

With Puget Sound’s ocean-going kings and silvers still out at sea, salmon opportunities are light in June – light outside of the sometimes lights-out resident coho bite, that is.

True, these aren’t big fish – I’d bet they average only a couple of pounds – but they are salmon and they will give you a good fight on light gear in Areas 10, 11 and 13, Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.

There are two primary ways to target them, from the bank and from a boat. Fly fishermen kill it on the banks using herring patterns. These fish are generally well within casting distance with a two-handed rod. The key here is to vary the speed you strip in with to see what draws a strike.

Buzz Bombs also work from the bank, quite effectively too. Those in white, white and blue, and all-chrome earn attention from coho, which are not slow about hitting them. These fish are higher in the water column, so let the lure settle into the salt only a few seconds before starting your retrieve. The retrieve is not a steady one, but rather a jerk, reel in the slack, jerk, reel in the slack, etc., back to the beach.

From a boat, red-label herring is my favorite, run either with a Silver Horde original Kokanee Hammered dodger or just naked (I prefer the dodger myself). Plugcut the herring, but if you’re good at rigging them, a whole herring can be even better. The key is a super-tight, super-fast drill-bit-type spin.

Another effective way to attract these fish is with a herring spinner, basically a fillet of herring with the same angle as a cut-plug herring at the top so it spins tight. Use super-sticky-sharp hooks, which you should anyway, but with the spinner, there won’t be much to retain the herring once a fish hits. It’s either all or nothing as far as hooking up.

I generally use 2 ounces of lead with 50 feet of line out, as I don’t want my presentation too far below the surface. I run 8- to 12-pound leader with 15-pound mainline between the sinker and the dodger if using one. I like Gamakatsu barbless hooks in red, size 2/0 on the front hook, 1/0 on the trailing hook.

In Area 10, the areas I’d concentrate on include Jefferson Head, Golden Gardens and Duwamish Head. The last is a favorite spot of mine and is basically two minutes from the Don Armeni ramp. Troll in an oval pattern about a quarter of a mile down the Alki side, then come back and go another quarter of a mile towards downtown Seattle. This half-mile stretch almost never lets me down.

I’d stick to the north end of Area 11. Des Moines, Dash Point and Browns Point produce good numbers. Concentrate on water no deeper than 120 feet and, again, stick to the top 20 feet with your gear. The shoreline is your friend. Des Moines and Dash Point are favorites for Buzz Bombers.

On the west side of Puget Sound, Olalla is a fantastic spot for these residential beauties, especially for those tossing a fly or a Buzz Bomb from shore. That’s not to say boaters can’t target this hotspot either, but personally I’d try the aforementioned spots.

The daily limit in both Marine Area 10 and 11 is up to two coho. As always, barbless hooks are required.