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Yuasa’s 2020 Visions: Halibut Highlights, Blackmouth Openers, First Derbies Coming Up

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

This month marks a time when anglers begin gazing into the crystal ball to see what the 2020 fishing season has in store for halibut, salmon and other fish species.

For starters, the good news is halibut chasers can look forward to a more stabilized fishery in marine areas enabling them to make early plans for the upcoming spring season.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“In Area 2A (Washington, Oregon and California) we’ve moved in a new direction that started in 2019 and goes through 2022 where quotas remain status quo barring any unforeseen issues,” said Heather Hall, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish policy coordinator.

“We’ve added a lot more days of fishing up front in 2020 compared to last year,” Hall said. “It helps knowing we have the catch quota available (there was 39,000 pounds leftover in 2019 Puget Sound fisheries) and how our fisheries did last year.”

In past seasons, the sport halibut fishery would open in early May, but in 2020 the proposal is to open the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 6 to 10) on April 16.
In those two areas, fishing is allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from April 16 to May 16 and May 28 to June 27, plus Memorial Day weekend on May 22-24.

The western Strait (Area 5) will be open Thursdays and Saturdays only from April 30 to May 16; and Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from May 16 to June 28. Fishing is open daily from May 22-24 on Memorial Day weekend only.

The northern coast off Neah Bay and La Push (Areas 3 and 4) is open Thursdays and Saturdays from April 30 to May 16 and May 28 to June 27, plus Memorial Day weekend on May 22-24.

Just like last year, the southern ports of Westport and Ilwaco (Areas 1 and 2) are open Thursdays and Sundays from April 30 to May 17 and May 28 to June 28; and May 21 only during Memorial Day weekend.

Fishing areas could close sooner if catch quotas are achieved and/or additional fishing dates might be added if quotas aren’t attained.

“The season(s) will last as long as there is available quota,” Hall said. “We aren’t sure what kind of effort and fishing success there will be in that early April opener. It’s been many years since we opened in April so it will be interesting to see how it goes.”

In general, a shift in how the halibut fisheries are devised annually continues to be well received since it provides no last-minute changes or closures that have frustrated anglers prior to 2017 who have made fishing plans well in advance of the dates set forth.

The Area 2A catch quota (includes Washington, Oregon and California) for sport, treaty tribal and non-treaty commercial is 1.5-million pounds, and 89 percent – 1,329,575 pounds – of the quota was caught in 2019.

The total sport halibut catch quota is 277,100 pounds for Washington, and 97 percent – 270,024 pounds – of the quota was caught in 2019.

A breakdown in the sport allocation in Puget Sound-Strait (Areas 5 to 10) fisheries is 77,550 pounds; Neah Bay/La Push (Areas 3 and 4) is 128,187 pounds; Westport (Area 2) is 62,896 pounds; and Ilwaco (Area 1) is 15,127 pounds.

The average weight of halibut in 2019 was 18.5 pounds in Puget Sound-Strait; 17.6 pounds at Neah Bay/La Push; 18.3 pounds at Westport; and 14.5 pounds at Ilwaco.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission meets Feb. 3-7 in Anchorage, Alaska to determine seasons and catch quotas from California north to Alaska. The National Marine Fisheries Service will then make its final approval on halibut fishing dates sometime in March or sooner.

Facts on winter chinook

The holiday celebrations are in the rearview mirror and it’s time to look at winter chinook fishing options, including a few that began this month.

Central and south-central Puget Sound and Hood Canal (Areas 10, 11 and 12) are now open for winter hatchery blackmouth – a term used for a chinook’s dark gum-line. Area 10 is open through March 31; and Areas 11 and 12 are open through April 30.

“There wasn’t a lot of bait around in Area 10 when it was last open (fishing closed on Nov. 12) although we managed to release some bigger sized blackmouth,” said Justin Wong, owner of Cut Plug Charter in Seattle. “We didn’t catch a lot of shakers (chinook under the 22-inch minimum size limit) so that is a good thing.”

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Lastly, consider getting out sooner than later since early closures hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (fish over the 22-inch minimum size limit).

In central Puget Sound look for blackmouth at Jefferson Head; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; Point Monroe; Fourmile Rock; Rich Passage; Southworth; Manchester; northwest side of Vashon Island by the channel marker; Yeomalt Point and Skiff Point on the east side of Bainbridge Island; and Allen Bank off Blake Island’s southeastern corner.

In south-central Puget Sound try around the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; the “Flats” outside of Gig Harbor; Quartermaster Harbor; Point Dalco on south side of Vashon Island; Southworth Ferry Landing; and Colvos Passage off the Girl Scout Camp.

Hood Canal doesn’t garner as much attention in the winter but don’t underestimate what can be a decent fishery off Misery Point, Hazel Point, Pleasant Harbor, Toandos Peninsula, Seabeck Bay and Seal Rock.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) open year-round for hatchery chinook is another overlooked fishery. Good places are Fox Point; Gibson Point; Point Fosdick; Hale Passage; Anderson Island; Lyle Point; and Devil’s Head and Johnson Point.

Other choices on the horizon for winter chinook are the San Juan Islands (Area 7) open Feb. 1 through April 15; northern Puget Sound (Area 9) open Feb. 1 through April 15; and the east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) open Feb. 1 through April 30.

Salmon season meeting dates set for 2020

It’s never too late to begin making plans to be a part of the sport-salmon fishing season setting process. For the moment the early outlook appears to resemble last year’s fisheries with a few improvements, but more details won’t come to light until later next month.

Tentative meeting dates – Feb. 28, WDFW salmon forecast public meeting at DSHS Office Building 2 Auditorium, 1115 Washington Street S.E. in Olympia; March 16, North of Falcon public meeting at Lacey Community Center; March 19, North of Falcon public meeting in Sequim; March 23, Pacific Fishery Management Council public hearing at Westport; March 25, North of Falcon public meeting at WDFW Mill Creek office; and March 30, North of Falcon public meeting at Lynnwood Embassy Suites, 20610 44th Avenue West in Lynnwood.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council will adopt final salmon seasons on April 5-11 at the Hilton Vancouver, 301 West 6th Street in Vancouver, WA.

Specific meeting agendas and times should be known soon. Details: https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon.

Oldest salmon derby gets underway

The Tengu Blackmouth Derby – the oldest salmon derby that began prior to and shortly after World War II in 1946 – is held on Sundays 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. starting Jan. 5 through Feb. 23 on Elliott Bay at the Seacrest Boathouse (now known as Marination Ma Kai) in West Seattle.

In previous years, the derby started in October when Area 10 opens for winter hatchery chinook. However, this year’s non-retention of chinook delayed the event to coincide with the Jan. 1 opener. Last year, the derby was cancelled when WDFW decided to shutdown Area 10 just a few weeks after it began.

What makes the derby so challenging is the simple fact blackmouth are scarce around the inner bay during winter months.

The derby is named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth, and just like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie.

In a typical derby season, the catch ranges from 20 to 23 legal-size chinook and has reached as high as 50 to 100 fish although catches have dipped dramatically since 2009. The record-low catch was four fish in 2010, and all-time high was 234 in 1979.

The last full-length season was 2017 when 18 blackmouth were caught and a winning fish of 9 pounds-15 ounces went to Guy Mamiya. Justin Wong had the most fish with a total of five followed by John Mirante with four fish.

It has been a while since a big fish was caught in the derby dating back to 1958 when Tom Osaki landed a 25-3 fish. In the past decade, the largest was 15-5 caught by Marcus Nitta during the 2008 derby.

To further test your skills, only mooching is allowed in the derby. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted. The membership fee is $15 and $5 for children age 12-and-under. Tickets will be available at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle. Rental boats with or without motors are available from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Some Dungeness crab fisheries extended into January

The Dungeness crab season along the east side of Whidbey Island (Marine Catch Areas 8-1 and 8-2) will remain open daily through Jan. 31 – originally it was scheduled to close after Dec. 31.

WDFW indicates crab abundance can support an additional in-season increase to the harvest shares. Managers made the decision to extend the season to offset a closure that occurred between Oct. 23 through Nov. 28 while crab abundance was assessed.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Elsewhere some sections of northern Puget Sound and Hood Canal are also open daily now through Jan. 31. They are Area 9 between the Hood Canal Bridge and a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point (Port Gamble, Port Ludlow) and the portion of Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) north of a line projected due east from Ayock Point.

Crabbers won’t be required to have a Puget Sound Dungeness crab license endorsement or record Dungeness crab retained on a Catch Record Card when crabbing in January in Areas 8-1 and 8-2 and open sections of Area 9 and 12. However, a valid shellfish or combination license is required. The 2019 winter catch cards must be returned to WDFW by Feb. 4.

Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset.

NW Fishing Derby Series begins next month in San Juan Islands

The future of the revamped series is just on the horizon with three derbies happening in the San Juan Islands (Area 7), which is a winter chinook fishing hotspot.

They include the Resurrection Salmon Derby in Anacortes on Feb. 1-2 (sold out but has a waiting list); Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. Each has a first-place prize for the largest fish of $12,000 to $20,000.

Other events soon after are Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby on March 13-15 with a $10,000 first place prize; and Everett Blackmouth Derby on March 21-22 with a $3,000 check for the largest fish.

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 of the series is a chance to 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. The boat is equipped with Shoxs Seats for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas; a custom engraved WhoDat Tower; Raymarine Electronics; Burnewiin Accessories; Scotty Downriggers; and a Dual Electronics stereo.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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 sponsors who make the series a success are Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; 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; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Bayside Marine; Seattle Boat Company; Ray’s Bait Works; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

You can get a first glimpse of the new derby boat pulled with a 2019 Chevy Silverado – provided by our sponsor Northwest Chevy Dealers and Burien Chevrolet – during The Seattle Boat Show from Jan. 24 to Feb. 1 at the CenturyLink Field and Event Center in Seattle.

The Northwest Fishing Derby Series is part of the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Grow Boating Program which serves the NMTA’s core purpose—to increase the number of boaters in the Pacific Northwest.

The derby series is the most visible element of the program, which promotes boating and fishing throughout the region by partnering with existing derbies and marketing those events through targeted advertising, public relations and promotional materials. For details, go to www.NorthwestFishingDerbySeries.com.

I’ll see you on the water soon!

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!

Yuasa: I-5 Fall Trout Releases Boosted, Plus Squid, Crab, Salmon Ops In November

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

We’ve been hanging our salmon fishing lines in the water for more than five months, and I’d like to switch gears and set sights on another exciting opportunity to get through the impending holiday madness.

Yes, take some time to let go of your snobbish salmon attitude and harken back to days when you pursued trout with nothing more than high hopes, a jar of salmon eggs, Power Bait or a container of worms.

Now is the time to hit the refresh button and replay those memorable moments or share it with someone new to fishing.

“We’re trying out a couple of pilot programs, which allowed us to be creative on how we structure trout fisheries in our region, and we’ve kept intact a couple others that have been successful,” said Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist in Mill Creek.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

Earlier this year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) strategized ways to boost trout prospects at a time when many have holiday plans or shopping on their minds.

According to Spinelli, WDFW hatchery staff had space in some hatcheries and funding to raise thousands of rainbow trout to catchable size (8 to 11 inches) this past spring and summer.

“During this pilot program, we plan to monitor and conduct creel surveys so we can get an idea on participation and success,” Spinelli said. “Keeping fish in hatcheries longer was expensive. We need to make sure for budget purposes that it’s worth our effort to provide this special opportunity.”

WDFW is planting 27,000 rainbow trout along the I-5 corridor in 12 lakes within Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties.

“I’m really excited and hopefully it leads to getting more people into the sport,” he said. “We’re trying this out in urban centered areas. We know a lot of people in the cities may be interested in getting outside and going fishing.”

Spinelli says this offers easy access to nearby lakes and it’s not too complicated of a fishery to learn, doesn’t take a whole bunch of expensive fishing gear and provides fish that are willing to bite.

Two popular local lakes where late-season annual plants have become the norm are Beaver Lake in Issaquah and Goodwin Lake in Snohomish County.

Beaver was expecting a plant – possibly as soon as this week – of 1,250 trout averaging 2 pounds apiece and another 1,250 just prior to Thanksgiving. Goodwin will receive 5,000 in December.

Here are other scheduled plants (most lakes are open year-round except two have seasonal dates):

King County – Green, 3,600 (1,611 planted last week); Steel, 1,600 (open Nov. 1-Jan. 5 only and 804 were planted last week); and Fivemile, 1,200 (616 were planted last week). Snohomish County – Gissburg Ponds, 2,000; Tye, 2,000; Silver, 2,000 (1,005 were planted last week); and Ballinger, 1,600 (804 were planted last week). Skagit County – Clear, 1,500; and Cranberry, 1,750. Whatcom County – Padden, 1,750 (open Nov. 1-Jan. 5 only and 1,000 were planted last week).

“Some lakes we plant will have fish biting for quite a while,” Spinelli said. “I’m thrilled with this new program and hope we can demonstrate that this can be a stimulus for our trout fisheries at a time when choices of fishing activities are much slimmer.”

The popular “Black Friday” trout fisheries also give anglers a chance to get out and burn off the calories from a Thanksgiving feast. This includes thousands of beefy trout averaging 1 to 1.3 pounds going into more than a dozen southwest Washington lakes.

Clark County – Klineline, 2,000; and Battle Ground, 2,000. Cowlitz County – Kress, 2,000. Klickitat County – Rowland, 2,000. Lewis County – Fort Borst Park Pond, 2,000; and South Lewis County Park Pond, 2,000. Pierce County – American, 2,000; and Tanwax, 1,000. Thurston County – Black, 1,000; Ward, 300; Long, 1,000; and Offutt, 1,000.

Millions of fry-size trout were planted this past spring in eastern Washington lakes that are open from Nov. 29 through March 31. These fish should have grown to catchable size (8 to 11 inches). They include Hatch, 10,000, and Williams, 12,000, in Stevens County; Fourth of July, 80,000, on Lincoln/Adams county line; and Hog Canyon, 20,000, in Spokane County.

Elton Pond in Yakima County open from Nov. 29 through March 31 will be planted with 2,000 trout averaging 1.2 pounds.

Be sure to check the WDFW website for additional lakes open year-round, which are expected to be planted in late fall and winter. For weekly stocking reports, go to www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly.

Other holiday fishing opportunities

This is a magical time of the year with opportunities blooming for squid, salmon and Dungeness crab just to name a few.

Hitting up many Puget Sound piers has become a nightly affair as millions of tasty squid – known in the culinary society as “calamari” – are pouring into Puget Sound marine waterways from Edmonds south to Tacoma.

Squid jigging is good at the Les Davis Pier in Tacoma; Des Moines Marina Pier; Seacrest Boathouse Pier in West Seattle; Seattle waterfront at Piers 57, 62, 63, 70 or the Seattle Aquarium Pier; Edmonds Pier; A-Dock and Shilshole Pier; Point Defiance Park Pier; Fauntleroy Ferry Dock; Illahee State Park Pier; and the Waterman and Indianola piers in Kitsap County.

Night-time on a flood tide are the best periods to catch squid as they’re attracted to lighted public piers. Squid like to lurk in the darker edges of lighted water and dart out into the light on their unsuspecting prey. The WDFW website has a wealth of information on squid jigging at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/squid/.

Salmon chasers still have opportunities in central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10), which is open for chum and maybe a late coho through Nov. 15. Target chums around Jefferson Head, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Kingston, Allen Bank and Southworth near Blake Island, and the east side of Bainbridge Island.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) is open year-round and should be fair game for hatchery winter chinook off Fox Island, south of the Narrows Bridge, Anderson Island and Johnson Point.
Hood Canal (Area 12) is often an underfished location in the winter for hatchery chinook around central region at Misery Point and Oak Head.

A reminder the daily catch limit is two coho, chum or hatchery chinook in southern Puget Sound (Area 13). The daily limit in Areas 10 is two salmon but only one may be a coho (you can retain chum, pink and coho but need to release chinook).

Central Puget Sound (Area 10) and south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopens Jan. 1 for hatchery chinook. Northern Puget Sound (Area 9), San Juan Islands (Area 7) and east side of Whidbey Island (Areas 8-1 and 8-2) reopens Feb. 1 for hatchery chinook.

There’s nothing sweeter than having a plate of Dungeness crab sitting on the holiday dinner table and fishing has been fairly good since it reopened back on Oct. 1. Dungeness crab fishing is open daily through Dec. 31 at Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line (Marine Area 4); Sekiu area in western Strait of Juan de Fuca (5); Port Angeles area eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca (6); San Juan Islands (7); and northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (9) except for waters south of a line from Olele Point to Foulweather Bluff. The east side of Whidbey Island in Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay (8-1); Port Susan and Port Gardiner (8-2) has closed for crabbing.

Sport crabbers are reminded that setting or pulling traps from a vessel is only allowed from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset. For more information, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/.

Can you dig it? Coastal razor clam success very good since opening in late September

The coastal razor clam digs have gotten off to a stupendous start and be sure to get some for the holiday dinner table.

The first digs of the 2019-2020 season began Sept. 27-29 at Long Beach and success was excellent with 18,000 diggers taking home 296,000 clams.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“Digging went really well during the first series opener at Long Beach,” said Dan Ayres, the head WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “It was as close to limits as you can get (the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition is a daily per person limit).”

Digging this week also was off-the-charts good at Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks. There’s still a last chance on tonight (Nov. 1) at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (minus-0.2 feet at 10:38 p.m.). No digging is allowed during PM low tides only.

Many night-time low tide digs are planned in the weeks ahead on Nov. 1, 11, 13, 15, 17, 24, 26, 28 and 30 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 12, 14, 16, 25, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Dec. 10, 12, 14, 16, 23, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 11, 13, 15, 26 and 28 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis.

Final approval is announced by WDFW about one or two weeks prior to each series of digs and are dependent on marine toxin levels being below the cutoff threshold.

WDFW shellfish managers are saying this could be one of the best seasons seen in quite a while for many digs planned from winter through spring. For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/razor-clams.

New name and new events happening in 2020 during the NW Fishing Derby Series

A quick look back at the 2019 derby season saw a total of 6,176 anglers entered into 13 derbies (one was cancelled) which is up from 4,690 in 2018 and there’s plenty of excitement coming up in 2020.

We’ve now hit the refresh button and renamed it the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series” with a tentative 18 derbies scheduled. It will include two lingcod/rockfish “For the Love of Cod Derbies” in Coos Bay, Charleston and Brookings, Oregon in March 21-22 and March 28-29 respectively, and the Something Catchy Kokanee Derby at Lake Chelan in April.

The highlight is a chance enter and win a sleek $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize all-white KingFisher 2025 Series Hardtop boat powered with Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ Loader Trailer. Our newest sponsor 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 18 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; KIRO/ESPN 710AM The Outdoor Line; Salmon, Steelhead Journal; Rays Bait Works; and Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.

First up in the series are the Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. For details, 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!

Puget Sound Coho Limit Dropping To One Monday

Coho anglers from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Deep South Sound will see their daily limits drop to one starting Monday as state managers worry about the size of this year’s run as well as the size of the fish themselves.

THE 2015 SEASON WAS MARKED BY SMALL, VERY HUNGRY COHO LIKE THIS ONE. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

A WDFW emergency rule change notice out late this afternoon says that preliminary monitoring by the agency and tribes are finding that this year’s ocean-returning silvers “have a smaller body size and potentially lower-than-expected run sizes to many systems.”

Smaller bodies mean that hens are carrying fewer eggs, whether to the hatchery or gravel.

The news is not unlike at this time in 2015, when coho came in half the size of usual during the height of the Blob, the giant pool of warm water that reduced the amount of forage available for salmon and other species.

“WDFW is implementing this rule as a precaution to ensure escapement and hatchery goals are met,”  the e-reg states.

It affects Marine Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 9, 10, 11 and 13, the central and eastern Straits, the San Juan Islands, and Central and South Puget Sound.

The daily limit is two until then.

Marine Area 8-2 has already closed for coho due to concerns of overfishing of the important Snohomish River stock.

Mark Yuasa of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who tracks Puget Sound salmon fishing news very closely, considered the news to not be unexpected.

Even though some anglers have struggled to catch coho, others have seen good catches, albeit with a wide variety of sizes turning up on images posted to Facebook.

Indeed the run has been giving off mixed signals, but now WDFW is taking a cautious approach.

The big Everett Coho Derby is this weekend.

The change affects about a week of coho retention in a number of marine areas, but more in others.

 

Yuasa: Dungeness, Chinook, Coho, Derby Dollars To Score In July

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!

Puget Sound Crab Seasons Begin July 4; Areas 11, 13, South 12 Closed

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today announced the Puget Sound summer crab fishing season, which gets underway July 4 with openings in a number of marine areas.

KIRAN WALGAMOTT MEASURES A DUNGENESS CRAB HAULED OUT OF SECRET HARBOR THIS PAST SUMMER. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay – East of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 8-1 (Deception Pass), 8-2 (Port Susan/Everett), 9 (Port Gamble and Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), and the portion of 12 (Hood Canal) north of a line projected true east from Ayock Point will open for sport crabbing on Thursday, July 4. The two subareas that comprise Marine Area 7 will open later in the summer to protect molting crab.

Summer seasons for the upcoming fishery are posted on WDFW’s crab-fishing website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

WDFW continues to monitor crab abundance throughout Puget Sound and manages crab fisheries to maintain healthy populations, said Bob Sizemore, shellfish policy lead for WDFW.

“Dungeness crab populations in the southern reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal have experienced stress in recent years,” said Sizemore. “Crabbing in the northern portions of Puget Sound has been very good and should be good again this year,” he added.

Recreational crabbing will be open Thursdays through Mondays each week. Crabbing is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the summer seasons.  All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crab seasons are scheduled as follows:

  • Marine areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu), 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), 8-1 (Deception Pass), 8-2 (Port Susan/Everett), and 9 (Port Gamble and Admiralty Inlet): Open July 4 through Sept. 2.
  • Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton): Open July 4 through August 3.
  • Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) north of a line projected true east from Ayock Point: Open July 4 through Sept. 2.
  • Marine Area 7 South (San Juan Islands/Bellingham): Open July 11 through Sept. 30.
  • Marine Area 7 North (Gulf of Georgia): Open Aug. 15 through Sept. 30.

The following areas are closed this season:

  • Marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) and 13 (south Puget Sound): These areas continue to be closed to promote recovery of Dungeness crab populations in those areas.
  • Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) south of a line projected true east from Ayock Point:  This area is also closed to promote recovery of the Dungeness crab population in south Hood Canal.

The daily limit throughout Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may also keep six red rock crab of either sex per day in open areas, provided those crab are in hard-shell condition and measure at least 5 inches across.

Crab fishers may not set or pull shellfish gear from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise.

Puget Sound crabbers are required to record their harvest of Dungeness crab on their catch record cards immediately after retaining the crab and before re-deploying the trap. 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, where crabbing is open year-round.

Yuasa: Fishing Hits ‘Full Throttle’ In May; Planning Guide For Summer Salmon

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

May 2019

The month of May is a pleasant time. Flowers are in full bloom. The weather is improving. Days are getting longer. But, it’s also a time when fishing hits full throttle for a wide variety of fish and anglers can start making plans for summer salmon fisheries.

First off there’s nothing better than a batch of steamed spot shrimp on the dinner table and the season for these denizens of the deep gets underway on May 11 for most areas of Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

“It will likely be an average spot shrimp season,” said Don Velasquez, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish biologist. “In general, last year was a fair to good season.”

Spot shrimp are the largest – averaging 8 to 12 inches long – of more than 80 shrimp species in local marine waterways, but only seven are commonly caught by anglers. Most are lurking at depths of 30 to 300 feet.

The western Strait (Area 5) is open daily beginning May 11; and eastern Strait (6) is open Thursdays to Sundays of each week beginning May 11. Each area will close once the catch quota is achieved. The Discovery Bay Shrimp District (within 6) will be open May 11, 15 and 29 and June 1 from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. each day.

The San Juan Islands in Area 7 South is open May 11-12, May 16-19 and May 23-24; Area 7 East is open daily May 11-12, May 16-19, May 23-26 and May 30-June 2; and Area 7 West is open Thursdays to Sundays each week beginning May 11 and closes once the catch quota is achieved.

The east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) is open May 11 and May 15 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Northern Puget Sound (9) is open May 11 and May 15 from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. each day.

Elliott Bay (within 10) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.; central Puget Sound (10) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-11 a.m.; and south-central Puget Sound (11) is open May 11 from 7 a.m.-1 p.m.

Hood Canal (12) is open May 11, 15 and 29 and June from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. each day. Southern Puget Sound (13) is closed for the 2019 season due to low abundance levels of spot shrimp.

In all Puget Sound areas, the daily limit is 80 spot shrimp per person during the month of May. Additional dates and times will be announced if quotas aren’t achieved.

Velasquez points out traps can be set one hour before official sunrise during any open period in Marine Catch Areas 4, 5, 6 (except for the Discovery Bay Shrimp District), 7 East, 7 South, and 7 West only. As an example, one hour before sunrise is approximately 4:40 a.m. on May 11.

WDFW conducted test fishing for spot shrimp and the northern section of Hood Canal around Seabeck showed an increase but was weak in the Hood’s central section.

“Area 7 West saw a slight increase in pounds per trap from last year,” Velasquez said. “Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 10 is pretty average compared to what we’ve seen in past years.”

Last year, the total sport harvest of spot shrimp was 194,863 pounds and the non-tribal commercial take was 97,578 pounds for a total of 292,441 pounds. Sport and non-tribal commercial fishermen split a 300,000-pound spot shrimp yearly catch quota with 70 percent going to the sport fishery. The tribal fishery has a 300,000-pound catch quota.

Bottom-fishing also takes centerstage with lingcod opening May 1 in most areas of Puget Sound and Strait; and halibut on May 2 off the coast and Marine Catch Areas 5 to 10. The coastal lingcod and rockfish fishing season have been going strong since it reopened back in March.

The statewide halibut quota of 277,100 pounds is up from 225,366 in 2018 (237,762 in 2017, and 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014). Anglers should go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut for more information on additional dates and regulations.
For those who still want to get their fix on hatchery chinook then head to southern Puget Sound south of the Narrows Bridge where fishing is open year-round.

Cutbacks to some 2019-2020 salmon fisheries

The salmon seasons on the coast for coho are the shining beacon of light compared to 2018 but major cutbacks were numerous to Puget Sound fisheries.

State, federal and tribal fishery managers met last month at Rohnert Park, California, to set fisheries and those cuts occurred after WDFW became more focused on the Puget Sound chum issue instead of focusing on important chinook and coho opportunities and wild chinook stocks of concern.

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The delay virtually slammed the door of a normal public involvement during the North of Falcon meeting in Lynnwood on April 3 when only two hours was devoted to the Puget Sound sport salmon fisheries discussion.

“While it’s often a frustrating process, I have never seen a year that involved the public less than this cycle,” Carl Nyman, a WDFW Puget Sound recreational fishing advisor and President of the Charter Boat Association of Puget Sound said in an NMTA news release. “For the first time since I have attended, there were no initial set of proposed fisheries modeled for public comment.”

The news release went on to say all the vital public input during this complicated process on salmon fishing season preferences that reflect social and economic consequences of WDFW’s decisions was moved out of reach for most constituents to California. Hopefully it was a “lesson learned” and the WDFW staff and their nine-member commission will look at this differently in the immediate future before we head into a Black Hole of no return.

Lost fishing opportunity ranges from weeks to months closed but represents about half of the 2018 season for the most popular summer and winter chinook fisheries in the Strait, San Juan Island, and northern, central south-central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Areas 5, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11).

Cuts include closing all salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands (Area 7) in August and January; closing western Strait (5) for hatchery chinook for two weeks in February; closing eastern Strait (6) in February; closing east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) in December and January; delaying the northern Puget Sound (9) summer hatchery chinook fishery until July 25 (last year it began on July 16) plus a smaller quota of 3,491 compared to 5,400 in 2018 and closing fishing in January; central Puget Sound (10) summer hatchery chinook fishery opens July 25 (last year it opened July 16) and will likely be reduced by two to three weeks under a smaller quota of 3,057 compared to 4,473 in 2018; and south-central Puget Sound (11) closed June 1-30 with a reduced quota of 2,805 hatchery chinook (5,030 in 2018) and closed October through December.

Moving past the dire situation will be some great salmon opportunities off the coast and a few other inner-marine and freshwater locations.

“We came up with a plan for the mark coho fishery in Area 9 to flip it and make it non-select in October to expand more time on the water if the in-season numbers show it’s a possibility,” said Mark Baltzell, the WDFW Puget Sound recreational salmon manager.

Baltzell also says the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers are open Sept. 1-30 with a one coho daily limit. If the run is larger than predicted they could liberalize the season around the first week of October. This will be done through data collected in a test fishery.

WDFW and PFMC also developed a more liberal ocean salmon fishery for hatchery coho due to an expected higher return of Columbia River-bound fish while chinook is still in a recovery mode.

“We are very optimistic for coho and you have to go back to 2015 since we’ve had any good coho fishing,” said Wendy Beeghley, the WDFW head coastal salmon policy manager.

The total allowable sport and non-tribal commercial catch is 190,000 hatchery coho up considerably from 47,600 last year; and 52,500 chinook down slightly from 55,000. The Columbia River coho forecast is 1,009,600 compared to 349,000 in 2018.

Ilwaco has a 79,800 hatchery coho quota (21,000 in 2018) and a 7,150-chinook quota (8,000 in 2018); Westport is 59,050 (15,540) and 12,700 (13,100); La Push is 4,050 (1,090) and 1,100 (1,500); and Neah Bay is 16,600 (5,370) and 5,200 (3,024).

Salmon fishing opportunities:

(Here is a glimpse of what anglers will find in 2019-20 and for more refer to the WDFW regulation pamphlet or go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/)

• All four coastal ports – Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Ilwaco – will be open daily from June 22-Sept. 30 or close once each area’s catch quota is achieved. Daily limit at Ilwaco and Westport is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook. Daily limit is two salmon at La Push and Neah Bay. The La Push bubble fishery will be open Oct. 1-13.

South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) closed June 1-30 but open July 1-Sept. 30. Salmon fishing closed Thursdays and Fridays. Once quota is met fishing will be open daily with a two coho daily limit and non-retention of all chinook.

Inner-Elliott Bay opens for chinook on Aug. 2 to Aug. 5 at 12 p.m. Additional weekend openings are possible if in season data shows a stronger return.

East side of Whidbey Island (Area 8-2) opens Aug. 16-Sept. 15 for hatchery coho from Mukilteo/Clinton to Area 9 northern boundary. Area 8-1 is open for coho in October.

• The Skagit River from Memorial Highway Bridge in Mount Vernon to Gilligan Creek) is open for spring chinook from May 1-31; Stillaguamish is open Sept. 16-Nov. 15 for coho; Skykomish is open for hatchery chinook the Saturday before Memorial Day through July 31; and Minter Creek is open for salmon Sept. 15-Dec. 31.

Baker Lake opens for sockeye starting July 6 and a sockeye fishery on the Skagit River opens June 16. The Baker Lake sockeye forecast is 33,737.

Buoy 10 near the Lower Columbia River mouth opens Aug. 1-20 for adult chinook and hatchery coho retention; and is open from Aug. 21-Dec. 31 for a hatchery coho directed fishery (release all chinook and wild coho).

San Juan Islands (Area 7) is open July 1-31 for hatchery kings and has been an early-season hotspot the past several years so put in as much time before the August closure. The preseason prediction of legal-size chinook encounters in Area 7 is 3,622 and WDFW manages this fishery as a season from beginning to end. Coho become fair game Sept. 1-30.

Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery within Area 8-2 is a hatchery salmon directed fishery and the season remains status quo from last year. If forecasts hit the bullseye action could be decent when it opens June 1 (closed on June 15 for a tribal ceremonial fishery) through Sept. 2. Fishing is allowed from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only. Then it switches to a Saturday and Sunday only of each week from Sept. 7-29.

Strait of Juan de Fuca (Areas 5 and 6) from Sekiu to Port Angeles opens July 1-Aug. 15 for a hatchery-marked king fishery. For the past several years, the eastern Strait has been a worthwhile journey on the opener with areas from Sekiu to Freshwater Bay coming on by mid-July. Look for coho and pink action to ramp up from Aug. 16-Sept. 30. The preseason legal-mark encounter for chinook in Area 5 is 8,294 and WDFW ensures it doesn’t exceed 9,953. In Area 6, WDFW will manage the fishery as a season from beginning to end.

Statewide opening day of trout fishing was a success with plenty still to catch

While the weather was somewhat windy for the statewide lowland lakes trout opener on Saturday that didn’t stop thousands from trying their luck at catching fish.

“Everyone I talked to said that fishing was really good, but the winds were pretty blustery across the state late (Saturday) morning, which probably shortened some people’s trips somewhat,” said Steve Caromile, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fish program manager. “Many places, there seemed to be an early morning bite.”

(MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The windy weather Saturday afternoon many have been a hinderance but those who fished Sunday found a much different picture with warmer temperatures, sunny skies and a few extra snappy trout.

In general, it appears success rates were decent overall, and popular lakes on west- and east-sides were crowded with anglers tossing just about everything from Power Bait, worms, salmon eggs, marshmallows, flies, spoons, gang-flashers and spinners.

Caromile said catch rates and harvest numbers per angler were right on par with last year’s opening day.

Top Puget Sound region lakes where anglers averaged good catches were: Langlois (one derby fish and largest was 12.4 inches); Cottage (boats more successful than bank anglers and largest was 15.5 inches); Margaret (one derby fish and many five-fish limits); Pine; Erie (largest was 17.5 inches); Bosworth; Echo (Maltby); Howard (11 holdover trout caught and largest was 17.5 inches); Ki (largest was 17 inches); Storm; Wagner; Silver, Whatcom County (many limits, excellent pancake feast by Ferndale Kiwanis); McIntosh; Carney; Silver, Pierce, (lots of 15- to 17-inch carryovers), Aberdeen; Horseshoe; Sandy; Panther; Haven; and Wooten.

In eastern Washington, many reports indicated windy weather put a damper on fishing, but some trout were the larger carryovers ranging from 16 to 21 inches long.

Even better news is that anglers who missed out or overslept on the opener will be happy to know that with 15 million-plus trout planted in more than 500 statewide lakes and ponds there should be plenty of fishing love to spread around for months to com.

“There will be plenty of fish left, and fishing will be good for another few months until the water warms up,” Caromile said. “Some lakes will continue to get small amounts of fish for a few more weeks.”

WDFW TROUT CHECKS

King County: Cottage, 44 anglers with 55 trout kept for 1.3 fish kept per rod average and 90 total fish released for 3.3; Langlois, 45 with 107 for 2.4 and 440 for 12.2; Margaret, 22 with 57 for 2.6 and 100 for 7.1; Pine, 15 with 27 for and 52 for 5.3.

San Juan County: Cascade, 33 with 20 for 1.5 and 48 for 2.1.

Skagit County: Erie, 29 with 19 for 3.3 and 97 for 4.0; McMurray, 51 with 16 for 1.9 and 99 for 2.3; and Sixteen, 51 with 12 for 1.8 and 91 for 2.0.

Snohomish County: Bosworth, 47 with 78 for 1.7 and 110 for 4.0; Echo (Maltby), 20 with 59 for 3.0 and 30 for 4.5; Howard, 21 with 53 for 2.5 and 53 for 4.2; Ki, 34 with 77 for 2.3 and 58 for 4.0; Martha (Alderwood Manor), 26 with 47 for 1.8 and 29 for 2.9; Serene, 16 with 22 for 1.4 and 15 for 2.3; Stickney, 18 with 37 for 2.1 and 15 for 2.3; Storm, 38 with 76 for 2.0 and 70 for 3.8; and Wagner, 14 with 34 for 2.4 and 59 for 6.6.

Whatcom County: Cain, 34 with 117 for 3.4; Silver, 143 with 417 for 2.9 and 284 for 4.9; and Toad, 43 with 67 for 1.6 and 44 for 2.6.

Klickitat County: Horsethief, 15 with 30 for 2.0 and four for 2.3; Rowland, 37 with 108 for 2.9 and 68 for 4.8; and Spearfish, eight with 22 for 2.8 and three for 3.1.

Lewis County: Carlisle, 55 with 34 for 0.6 and 224 for 4.7; and Mineral, 80 with 189 for 2.4 and 239 for 5.4.

Thurston County: Clear, 51 with 131 for 2.6 and 41 for 3.4; Deep, six with nine for 1.5 and four for 2.2; Hicks, 23 with 42 for 1.8 and eight for 2.2; McIntosh, one with one for 1.0 and five for 6.0; Pattison, seven with 12 for 1.7; Summit, six with 11 for 1.8 and 10 for 3.5; and Ward, nine with 18 for 2.0.

Pierce County: Bay, eight with 14 for 1.8 and three for 2.1; Carney, two with seven for 2.0 and seven for 5.5; Clear, 31 with 84 for 2.7 and 14 for 3.4; Jackson, one with three for 3.0 and two for 5.0; Crescent, 14 with 30 for 2.1; Rapjohn, 10 with 20 for 2.0 and four for 2.4; Ohop, six with 14 for 2.3 and six for 3.3; Silver, 16 with 42 for 2.6 and 36 for 4.9; and Tanwax, 12 with 22 for 1.8 and 17 for 3.3.

Grays Harbor County: Aberdeen, 59 with 95 for 1.6 and 208 for 5.1; Inez, 36 with 22 for 0.6 and 19 for 1.1; Sylvia, 23 with 44 for 1.9 and eight for 2.3; Bowers, 27 with 27 for 1.0 and four for 1.1; and Failor, 52 with 144 for 2.8 and 58 for 3.9.

Pacific County: Black, 43 with 33 for 0.8 and 18 for 1.2.

Jefferson County: Sandy Shore, 35 with 92 for 2.6 and 106 for 5.7; Silent, seven with 21 for 3.0 and 12 for 4.7; and Tarboo, 47 with 98 for 2.1 and 89 for 4.0.

Kitsap County: Bucks, 25 with 40 for 1.6 and 27 for 2.7; Horseshoe, 23 with 81 for 3.5 and 51 for 5.7; Mission, 30 with 94 for 3.1 and 80 for 5.8; Panther, 14 with 49 for 3.5 and 36 for 6.1; Wildcat, 20 with 83 for 4.2 and 20 for 5.2; and Wye, three with four for 1.3 and one for 1.7.

Mason County: Benson, 21 with 48 for 2.3 and six for 2.6; Don (Clara), 19 with 77 for 4.1 and five for 4.3; Devereaux, 23 with 33 for 1.4 and 102 for 5.9; Haven, five with 25 for 5.0 and 34 for 11.8; Howell, five with 16 for 3.2; Limerick, 33 with 39 for 1.2 and 86 for 3.8; Magee, 18 with 32 for 1.8 and eight for 2.2; Phillips, four with three for 0.8 and 12 for 3.8; Robbins, 18 with 61 for 3.4 and eight for 3.8; Tiger, 20 with 76 for 3.8 and five for 4.1; and Wooten, 24 with 49 for 2.0 and 150 for 8.3.

Ferry County: Ellen, 14 with 11 for 0.8 and 19 for 2.1.

Pend Oreille County: Diamond, 26 with 25 for 1.0 and 16 for 1.6.

Stevens County: Cedar, 49 with 95 for 1.9 and 36 for 2.7; Mudgett, 22 with 23 for 1.0 and 17 for 1.8; Rocky, 19 with 24 for 1.3 and 13 for 1.9; Starvation, 38 with 93 for 2.4 and nine for 2.7; and Waitts, 23 with 37 for 1.6 and 21 for 2.5.

Spokane County: Badger, 39 with 76 for 1.9 and 33 for 2.8; Clear, 35 with 25 for 0.7 and five for 0.9; Fishtrap, 45 with 67 for 1.5 and 15 for 1.8; Williams, 48 with 109 for 2.3 and 276 for 8.0; West Medical, 36 with 29 for 0.8 and 10 for 1.1; Fish, 66 with 68 for 1.0 and 46 for 1.7.

Grant County: Vic Meyers, 12 with nine for 0.8; Warden, 60 with 86 for 1.4 and 11 for 1.6; Blue, 34 with 91 for 2.7 and three for 2.8; Park, 48 with 141 for 2.9 and five for 3.0; and Deep, 46 with 83 for 1.8 and seven for 2.0.

Chelan County: Wapato, 64 with 204 for 3.2 and 85 for 4.5.

Douglas County: Jameson, 40 with 111 for 2.8 and 21 for 3.4.

Okanogan County: Pearrygin, 26 with 37 for 1.4 and five for 1.6.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

We’ve hit the pause button in the derby series although the boat has been making its rounds to various seminars and other fishing promotions.

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 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.
Next up is the Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

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.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’m filled with spring fishing excitement and will see you on the water!

Yuasa: Salmon Fishing, Season Negotiations, Rainbow Releases Highlight April

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

April 2019

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.

THERE ARE BLACKMOUTH TO BE CAUGHT IN PUGET SOUND WATERS THIS MONTH. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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/reports_plants.html.

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 2019 SUMMER SALMON SETTING FESTIVAL KNOWN AS NORTH OF FALCON WRAPS UP IN APRIL. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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/northfalcon/.

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.

TROUT ARE STOCKED IN A WESTERN WASHINGTON LAKE. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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/plants/weekly/.

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 2019 GRAND RAFFLE PRIZE BOAT. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

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.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water!

Stopping Salmon Fishing Won’t Save Puget Sound’s Orcas

The idea that we can save Puget Sound’s starving orcas by just stopping salmon fishing for a few years once again reared its misinformed head, this time in a big-city newspaper piece.

In a black-or-white summary of a very complex problem, the nut was that we humans were shamefully avoiding looking at our own consumption of the iconic marine mammal’s primary feedstock.

SALMON ANGLERS WORK POSSESSION BAR ON THE OPENING DAY OF THE CENTRAL PUGET SOUND HATCHERY CHINOOK FISHERY. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Leaving that aspect out of the state of Washington’s recovery plan meant that, “We have decided, collectively though passively, to let the Puget Sound orcas go extinct,” it lamented.

We haven’t really, but nonetheless the prominence of the piece left leaders of the region’s angling community disappointed, as well as worried that it could lead to “knee-jerk” responses as Washington responds to the crisis.

And one has also asked the author to take another look at the issue with more informed sources to balance out the very biased one it primarily quoted.

THE ARTICLE IN QUESTION WAS a column by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times last weekend in which he quoted Kurt Beardslee at the Wild Fish Conservancy.

“To cut back on fishing is an absolute no brainer, as a way to immediately boost food available for killer whale,” Beardslee told Westneat. “But harvest reductions are essentially not in the governor’s task force recommendations. We have a patient that is starving to death, and we’re ignoring the one thing that could help feed the patient right now. We’re flat out choosing not to do it.”

Columns are columns, meaning they’re not necessarily like a he said-she said straight news story, but what wasn’t mentioned at all was Beardslee’s complicity in the orca crisis.

So I’m going to try to shed a little more light on that and other things here.

A PAIR OF SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALES SWIM IN INLAND WATERS LAST SUMMER. (KATY FOSTER/NOAA FISHERIES)

AS IT TURNS OUT, WE HAVE BEEN cutting back on Chinook fishing.

Have been for years.

Ninety percent — 9-0 — alone in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, key foraging areas for the southern residents, over the past 25 years.

And yet so far J, K and L Pods appear to have shown no response.

In fact, they have unfortunately declined from nearly 100 members in the mid-1990s to 74 as of late 2018.

All while West Coast and Salish Chinook available to them actually saw nominal increases as a whole, according to state and federal estimates.

So I’m not sure what Beardlee expects to magically happen when he tells Westneat, “It’s easy to see how cutting the fisheries’ take in half, or eliminating it entirely on a short-term emergency basis, could provide a big boost.”

I mean, how is the 10 percent sliver that’s left going to help if the closure of the other 90 percent coincided with the cumulative loss of 25 percent of the orca population over the same period?

Don’t get me wrong, fishermen want to help too. Some of the most poignant stories I’ve heard in all this are angler-orca interactions.

But it’s not as cut-and-dried as not harvesting the salmon translating into us effectively putting some giant protein shake out in the saltchuck for SRKWs to snarf down.

“Each year the sport, commercial and tribal fishing industries catch about 1.5 million to 2 million chinook in U.S. and Canadian waters, most of which swim through the home waters of the southern resident orcas,” Westneat writes. “The three pods in question … are estimated to need collectively on the order of 350,000 chinook per year.”

Fair enough that 350,000 represents their collective dietary needs.

But not only do the SRKWs already have access to those 1.5 million to 2 million Chinook, the waters where they’re primarily harvested as adults by the bulk of fishermen are essentially beyond the whales’ normal range.

For instance, the Columbia River up to and beyond the Hanford Reach, and in terminal zones of Puget Sound and up in Southeast Alaska.

Pat Patillo is a retired longtime state fisheries manager who is now a sportfishing advocate, and he tells me, “If not caught, those fish would not serve as food for SRKWs — they wouldn’t turn around from the Columbia River, for example, and return to the ocean for SRKW consumption!”

“They already swam through the orcas’ home waters and they didn’t eat them,” he said.

WHILE BEARDSLEE IS TRYING TO COME OFF as some sort of orca angel  — “It’s like if you’re having a heart attack, your doctor doesn’t say: ‘You need to go running to get your heart in better shape.’ Your doctor gives you emergency aid right away,” he tells Westneat — he’s more like an angel of death trying to use SRKWs as  latest avenue to kill fishing.

Type the words “Wild Fish Conservancy” into a Google search and the second result in the dropdown will be “Wild Fish Conservancy lawsuit.”

WFC is threatening yet another, this one over National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oversight of West Coast salmon fisheries through the lens of the plight of orcas.

It’s not their usual target, which is hatchery production.

Hatchery production, which is the whales’ best short- and medium-term hope.

After WFC sued WDFW over steelhead, a state senator hauled them before his committee in 2015 and pointedly asked their representative at the hearing, “Are there any hatcheries you do support in the state?”

“There are several that have closed over time,” replied WFC’s science advisor Jamie Glasgow. “Those would be ones that we support.”

That sort of thinking is not going to work out for hungry orcas, given one estimate that it will take 90 years for Chinook recovery goals to be met at the current pace of restoration work in estuaries.

And it leaves no place for efforts like those by the Nisqually Tribe to increase the size of those produced by their hatchery to provide fatter fare for SKRWs.

I’m going to offer a few stark figures here.

The first is 275 million. That’s how many salmon of all stocks that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife produced at its hatcheries in 1989, according to The Lens.

The second is 137 million. That’s how many WDFW put out in 2017, the “lowest production year ever,” per the pro-biz online news source.

The third is 56 million. That’s how many Chinook smolts the agency released in 1989, according to figures from the state legislature.

And the fourth is 28 million. That’s how many were in 2016.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that 50 percent decreases in releases are due entirely to Beardslee et al — hatchery salmon reforms and state budget crunches play the strongest roles.

Nor am I going to suggest that they’re the sole reason that our orcas are struggling — pollutants and vessel disturbance have been also identified as affecting their health and ability to forage.

But with SRKWs dying from lack of Chinook to eat and Puget Sound’s wild kings — which are largely required to be released by anglers — comprising just a sixth to a twelfth of the Whulge’s run in recent years, surely the man must now have some qualms about his and similar groups’ anti-hatchery jihad, including against key facilities for SRKWs on the Columbia?

A FAR BIGGER PROBLEM THAN FISHERMEN for SRKWs is pinnipeds eating their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

HUGH ALLEN SNAPPED THIS HARBOR SEAL STEALING A SAN JUANS SALMON LITERALLY OFF AN ANGLER’S LINE. (HUGH ALLEN)

Bloated numbers of harbor seals were recently estimated to annually eat an estimated 12.2 million Chinook smolts migrating out of Puget Sound, roughly 25 percent of the basin’s hatchery and wild output, which in the world of fisheries-meets-math science, translates to 100,000 adult kings that aren’t otherwise available to the orcas.

Unfortunately, managing those cute little “water puppies” is realistically way down the pipeline, at least compared to recent lightning-fast moves (relatively speaking) in Washington, DC, that finally gave state and tribal managers the authority to annually remove for five years as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions in portions of the Columbia and its salmon-bearing tributaries.

By the way, guess who fought against lethally removing sea lions gathered to feast on salmon at Bonneville?

Beardslee and Wild Fish Conservancy.

“Given the clamor surrounding sea lions,”they argued in defense of a 2011 federal lawsuit to halt lethal removals at the dam, “you might guess that sea lions are the most significant source of returning salmon mortality that managers can address. Guess again. The percentage of returning upper Columbia River spring Chinook salmon consumed by California sea lions since 2002, when CSL were first documented at Bonneville Dam, averages only 2.1% each year.”

Three years later, sea lions ate 43 percent of the entire ESA-listed run — 104,333 returning springers.

Whoops.

Those fish were recently identified as among the top 15 most important king stocks for SRKWs.

Double whoops.

WHILE LARGE NUMBERS OF SEA LION PUPS ARE STARVING ELSEWHERE ON THE WEST COAST, MANY ADULTS PACKED INTO THE MOUTH OF THE COLUMBIA FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE SMELT RUN LAST MONTH. (STEVE JEFFRIES, WDFW)

So to bring some of the above sections together, as CSL, Steller sea lion, harbor seal and even northern resident killer whale consumption of Chinook in the northeast Pacific has risen from 5 million to 31.5 million fish since 1970 and hatchery production has halved, the all-fleet king catch has decreased from 3.6 million to 2.1 million.

We aren’t the problem.

No wonder that sportfishing rep told me, “We were successful in getting the target off of our backs blaming fishing” for this blog and which Westneat included in his column (I do appreciate the link).

SO INSTEAD OF SHUTTING DOWN FISHING, what could and should we do to help orcas out in the near-term?

I think the governor’s task force came up with a good idea on the no-go/go-slow boating bubble around the pods. That protects them where they’re eating, and it doesn’t needlessly close areas where they’re not foraging for fish that won’t be there when they do eventually show up.

(GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)

While I’ll be following the advice Lorraine Loomis at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission gave after similar sentiments came up last fall — “If you love salmon, eat it” — anglers can take voluntary measures themselves. Even if it’s probably already past the gauntlet of orca jaws, if it makes you feel better to do so, go ahead and release that saltwater king you catch this summer, like Seattle angler Web Hutchins emailed me to say he’s vowing to do.

Switch your fishfinder frequency from 50 kHz to the less acoustically disturbing 200 kHz for killer whales if they happen to show up in your trolling lane.

Pay attention to fish counts and if a hatchery is having trouble meeting broodstock goals, maybe fish another river or terminal zone, or species.

Follow Orca Network on Facebook for where the pods are so you can avoid them.

I also think Beardslee and WFC could, say, lay off their low-hanging-fruit lawsuit schtick (lol, fat chance of that) to give (furloughed) federal overseers time to process permits that ensure hatcheries and fisheries are run properly, instead of having to drop their work and put out the latest brushfire they’ve lit.

And I think boosting hatchery Chinook production is huge, and all the more important because of the excruciatingly slow pace that habitat restoration (which I’m always in favor of) produces results.

Yes, it will take a couple years for increased releases to take effect.

But the ugly truth we’re learning here is, we cannot utterly alter and degrade salmon habitat like we have with our megalopolis/industrial farmscape/power generation complex that stretches everywhere from here to Banff to the Snake River Plain to the Willamette Valley and back again and realistically expect to turn this ship by just pressing the Stop Fishing button and have orcas magically respond.

That’s not the answer.

In this great effort to save orcas, we the apex predator have in fact been forced to look at ourselves in the mirror, at what we’ve wrought, and it is ugly.

We have made a monumental mess of this place and hurt a species we never meant to nor deserved to be.

So we’re setting this right.

It is going to take time. We are going to lose more SRKWs. But we will save them, and ourselves.

Yuasa: Blackmouth Fisheries, Seattle Boat Show, Derbies Highlight January

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

It’s time to hit the “refresh button” as we ring in the New Year with plenty of fishing choices, a chance to participate in a NW Salmon Derby Series event or, tops on the list, taking in the 72nd Seattle Boat Show.

I’m feeling reinvigorated just thinking about all the places to go, events to see and fish to catch, if you catch my drift!
First off there’s no need to winterize your boat in the Pacific Northwest especially with the salmon fishing opportunities that abound right now from the San Juan Islands to Olympia.

AUTHOR MARK YUASA IS EXCITED ABOUT 2019’S POSSIBILITIES. (MARK YUASA, NMTA)

The winter chinook fisheries hit full-stride when it opened today (January 1) for winter hatchery chinook at the highly-popular marine fishing grounds of northern and central Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands (Marine Catch Areas 7, 9 and 10).

Three key ingredients to make your outing a success is finding schools of baitfish (herring and candlefish) since blackmouth are hard-wired on feeding. That means it’s important to stay on top of baitfish and if you drift off them be sure to rev up the main motor and move right back to that same location.

The second tip is to not keep your presentation near the surface or at mid-water column depths like you often would do in the summer-time. These fish tend to hang right off the bottom digging their noses in the sand for bait like candlefish or picking off schools of herring. Keep your bait moving up and down the water column and let it soak for a little bit on or near the bottom before reeling it back up. If using downriggers set them at multiple depths and be sure one of the lead balls is bouncing right off the bottom.

Third is knowing a winter blackmouth’s habit during tidal movements and it isn’t necessary to be out on the water at the crack of dawn as you would during the summer. These fish are more predictable so if the bite occurred at a certain time of the day, it’s most likely they’ll do the same the following day only an hour later. Understanding their tendencies and where fish are hanging out on certain tides will lead to better success.

David Stormer, the WDFW Puget Sound Recreational fisheries manager says to keep in mind closing dates could hinge on catch guidelines or encounter limits for sub-legal and legal-size chinook (the minimum size limit is 22 inches).

The San Juan Islands winter fishery can’t exceed 3,176 total unmarked encounters and/or exceed 11,867 total encounters. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates around Jan. 11.

In northern Puget Sound the encounter ceiling is 10,004 chinook; and central Puget Sound (Area 10) it is 3,596. WDFW will provide in-season catch estimates for 9 and 10 around Jan. 18.

All three areas will begin with a one hatchery chinook daily limit.
My word of advice is to go sooner than later, which will likely guarantee you more time on the water.

Salmon predictions roll out soon

We’re still a couple months out before anglers get their first glimpse of 2019 salmon forecasts but here’s early insight on pink salmon that return during odd-numbered years.

“We are just starting to get the spawning surveys and forecasts compiled,” said Marisa Litz, the WDFW pink and chum salmon biologist. “What we know for pinks is that a lot of fry can produce a lot of fish. Pinks are known to produce a lot of fry even coming off low returns. We won’t know for sure what 2019 holds but if we get that type of production we may see somewhat of an uptick in pinks.”

The pinks seem to be a very prolific fish, the run doubled from 1997 to 1999 although it is not a guarantee nor a consistent situation. It was like 1991 when 500,000 pinks returned and then soared to 1-million by 1993.

“It is something to be cautiously optimistic about,” Litz said.

WDFW and tribal co-managers are in the process of completing drafts for all salmon returns and the pink draft estimate for 2017 wasn’t very rosy.

“The pink runs are very boom or bust and we can see some pretty dramatic changes,” Litz said. “The total pink return was 480,858 pinks in 2017 (down from preseason forecast that year of 1,150,522) and to give you some context this is the lowest run size we’ve seen since 1997.”

In terms of a run-size and prior to 1997 you’d have to go all the way back to 1975 to see a lower run than that. Litz pointed out the 2017 pink return puts it in the top three lowest runs in the past 40 years.

For the past 15 years pink returns have steadily increased with more than a million returning in 2013, which was a record setting year.

“We had a lot of flooding and drought conditions in 2015,” Litz said. “That summer rivers were extremely low, and the spawning channels were very narrow when the pinks arrived. Then we had big floods and scouring of spawning beds and that wiped out a lot fish.”

The reductions from 2015 to 2017 was drastic, especially in the freshwater production environment, but the marine production was also hampered with a blow to the arm by the “Blob” – a mass of warm water that wreaked havoc on the Pacific Ocean ecosystem.

Here is a look at how some Puget Sound pink returns fared in 2017:
The Dungeness River had a pink return of 356,000 in 2015 and was 20,000 in 2017; Nooksack was 335,000 to 35,000 (96,218 was preseason forecast); Skagit was 411,000 to 86,000 in 2017 (85,600); Hood Canal was 646,000 to 39,000 (229,440); Puyallup was 800,000 to 100,000 (382,391); and Nisqually was 200,000 to 9,000 (21,463).

“The Green pink return was just getting started and new to this river system and we had close to 100,000 in 2013,” Litz said. “It appears the run is there to stay; we had about 50 percent less come back in 2017 (118,689) to what we saw in 2015.”

The Fraser River pink return was estimated at more than 8-million in 2017 and run-size ended up being 3,616,000 with an escapement goal of 6-million. That actual return was the second lowest since 1965.

Anglers got an early peek at Columbia River salmon return predictions last month that don’t look very rosy for spring and summer chinook and sockeye, and all are down from the 10-year average.

A total of 157,500 spring chinook are forecast to return down from a forecast of 248,520 last year and an actual return of 176,642. The upriver-bound total is 99,300 down from 166,700 last year and an actual return of 115,081.

Lower Columbia tributaries are also taking a hit with Cowlitz at 1,300 (5,150 forecasted in 2018 and actual return of 4,000); Kalama, 1,400 (1,450 and 2,300); Lewis, 1,600 (3,700 and 3,200); Willamette, 40,200 (53,820 and 37,441); and Sandy, 5,500 (5,400 and 4,733).

The Upper Columbia summer chinook return is 35,900 down from 67,300 last year and an actual return of 42,120. As for sockeye it is 94,400 down from 99,000 and 210,915.

Other news from the Big-C showed a 2018 fall chinook prediction of 376,000 and preliminary returns are about 75 percent of the forecast. The good news is bright jack chinook appear improved compared to 2017 and tule jack are similar to 2017.

The 2019 fall chinook outlook show bright stocks similar, and tule stock less than the 10-year average. Poor ocean conditions the past several years will likely hinder returns in 2019.

The 2018 Columbia coho return is about 35-percent of the preseason forecast of 213,600. The good news is jack coho returns are much improved over recent years and are about 50-percent greater than the recent 10-year average.

Other salmon nibbles and bites

Anglers who ventured off the coast managed to find good coho fishing this past summer while the king fishing never really took off.

“We had a pretty darn good coho fishery coast-wide and had a couple places close, which reached their coho quota early and while that is never good news what it means is that we caught fish,” said Wendy Beeghly, the WDFW coastal salmon manager. “Chinook fishing was slow everywhere last year. It makes sense since chinook returns weren’t very good in the Columbia River.”

Beeghly noted the coho seen in sampling were healthy, bigger and fatter so that was encouraging.

“While we can’t provide anything definitive just yet, what we saw with coho last season was good news compared to prior years and we all hope that what lies ahead will be good,” Beeghly said.

Federal fisheries managers are also reporting that environmental conditions in the ocean are improving, salmon productivity has made a turn for the better and the food chain is on the mend.

“The coho response to those factors should be a lot quicker than chinook which take some time and are slower to recover,” said Ryan Lothrop, a WDFW salmon specialist for the Columbia River region.

WDFW will present their salmon forecasts at the end of February in Olympia. The Pacific Fishery Management Council will approve final salmon seasons April 9-16 in Rohnert Park, CA.

Seattle Boat Show drops anchor soon

The Seattle Boat Show – the largest boat show on the West Coast – is Jan. 25 through Feb. 2. This is your one-stop shop for checking out hundreds of fishing boats, informative fishing seminars, and state-of-the-art gear and electronics.

There will be 78 free fishing seminars (up from 55 last year), and more coverage on a variety of new topics by top-notch experts that will provide an in-depth wealth of knowledge on how to catch fish across the Pacific Northwest. For a complete list of all fishing and boating seminars, go to https://seattleboatshow.com/seminars/.

This is also a great time for visitors to check out the NW Salmon Derby Series grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It will be on display in the West Hall at the Master Marine Boat Center.

THE NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES’ GRAND PRIZE BOAT WILL BE ON DISPLAY AT THE HUGE SEATTLE BOAT SHOW COMING UP JAN. 25-FEB. 2. (NMTA)

The fully-rigged boat comes with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics Stereo. Other sponsors who make the derby series a major success include Silver Horde Lures; Harbor Marine; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; 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 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of our sponsor Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

First up are the now sold-out Resurrection Salmon Derby Jan. 4-6 in Anacortes (http://www.resurrectionderby.com/); Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Jan. 17-19 (https://www.rocheharbor.com/events/derby); and Friday Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 7-9(http://fridayharborsalmonclassic.com/.

Those will be followed by the Olympic Peninsula Salmon Derby March 8-10 (http://gardinersalmonderby.org/); and Everett Blackmouth Derby March 16-17 (http://www.everettblackmouthderby.com/).

There are 15 derby events in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia, Canada, and the drawing for the grand prize boat will take place at the conclusion of the Everett CohoDerby on Sept. 21-22. For derby details, go to http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

I’ll see you on the water or come say “hi” at the great Seattle Boat Show!