A big Chinook is capping off July salmon fishing in Washington waters as the month comes to a close and some fisheries see rule changes.
John Nunnally caught his near-32-pound wild king off Neah Bay last Saturday while fishing with cousin Chad Huffman.
“Best fish of my life,” Nunnally said – and one that had a certain movie theme running through his head in the heat of the moment.
“It passed about 6 feet from the side of the boat, towing the flasher behind it,” he recalled. “It looked exactly like the scene from Jaws when he was towing the barrels.”
The Chinook bit a Kingfisher spoon in the Nasty Boy finish 40 inches behind a Gibbs Highliner Guide Series flasher and trolled with 80 feet of cable out in 100 feet of water, Nunnally said.
“The fish popped the clip and ran some line and then went straight to the top. It was about 50 yards out and then went ballistic and came straight at the boat. It was still on top of the water. It was creating a huge wake and I couldn’t keep up trying to reel in line to catch up,” he said.
As the Chinook passed close by the boat, panic set in momentarily for Nunnally, but when the line tightened, he knew he still had the fish on.
“He then took a dive and ran off line and we had to chase him to prevent from being spooled. After about 15 minuted I got it close enough to the boat and Chad leaned way out and put the perfect net under him and brought it to the boat,” he said.
“When it came over the side, the high-fives and screaming commenced!!!” he said.
A Facebook post showing Nunnally and his Chinook reads, “Screams could be heard in Canada.”
After finishing up the day with some lingcod and black rockfish, Nunnally and Huffman made the long run east back past Neah Bay – the Makah Reservation is still closed to nontribal members – to Sekiu, where they enjoyed the “champions walk” up the dock at Mason’s Olson Resort.
“The look on people’s faces was priceless,” Nunnally recalled.
Mason’s Facebook page features a steady stream of Chinook caught in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Neah Bay this month, including a number in the 20-plus-pound range, but nothing quite the caliber of Nunnally’s 31.7-pound Chinook so far this season.
Historically, 30-plus-pounders were more common in Washington waters, but in recent years they’ve been fewer and further between. One close observer of the Evergreen State salmon fishing scene says he hasn’t seen any bigger this year.
“It’s the largest fish I have ever caught to date by about 10 pounds,” Nunnally said.
His cousin Chad has sent us pics of a couple nice ones from Buoy 10 and well off Neah Bay over the years.
Chinook fishing is now wrapping up in the western Straits, with Marine Area 4 east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh Line closed as of this Saturday, as scheduled, while Area 5 off Sekiu is shutting down after today because the preseason guideline is expected to be reached.
However, kings are still fair game in Area 4 west of Bonilla-Tatoosh, the Pacific proper, as are hatchery coho in Areas 4 and 5.
Just know the rules before leaving Sekiu for Neah.
“Anglers are reminded that if Chinook are caught legally in adjacent marine areas they can be transported through and landed in Marine Area 5. However, anglers may not fish in Marine Area 5 with a Chinook, or any other fish not legal to harvest in that area, onboard their vessel,” WDFW said in a press release out earlier today.
Chinook retention in the San Juans, Marine Area 7, is also set to close after tomorrow, July 31, and the catch will be evaluated to see if any are left in the quota for any possible reopener. Meanwhile, coho remain open, hatchery and wild.
King fishing also continues in Central Sound’s Areas 9, 10 and 11, where action has been on the slower side, but Area 1, off the mouth of the Columbia, closed as of last Monday to all salmon fishing.
Westport and Marine Area 2 are still open with plenty of Chinook in the quota. Big fish so far in the local charter boat association’s derby is a 27.50-pounder (gilled and gutted) caught by an Idaho angler aboard the Monte Carlo. If it holds up, it would win $10,000.
But one angler has already hit the jackpot on the coast.