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 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.
“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.
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.”
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!