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Humpy madness is here

  • Mike Homer of Everett (left foreground) and his father Phil Homer of Hailey Idaho fish for humpies from the bank of the Snohomish River in this 2007 f...

    Herald photo

    Mike Homer of Everett (left foreground) and his father Phil Homer of Hailey Idaho fish for humpies from the bank of the Snohomish River in this 2007 file photo.

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By Wayne Kruse
Special to The Herald
  • Mike Homer of Everett (left foreground) and his father Phil Homer of Hailey Idaho fish for humpies from the bank of the Snohomish River in this 2007 f...

    Herald photo

    Mike Homer of Everett (left foreground) and his father Phil Homer of Hailey Idaho fish for humpies from the bank of the Snohomish River in this 2007 file photo.

How are these for numbers: On Sunday, at the Port of Everett ramp off Marine View Drive, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel checked 626 anglers, in 261 boats, with 1,070 pink salmon.
For this early in the fishery, and considering that a lot of those anglers were family members, beginners, and casual fishermen that only show up for the humpy run, that's incredible. And it doesn't even count the boats which launched and took out at the Mukilteo ramp.
No wonder you can't drive I-5 early on a weekend morning without passing a dozen boats ranging in size from 8-foot prams to destroyer escorts.
And it's still not the peak of the season in Possession Sound, Port Gardner and Port Susan. Prime time is from now through the next two weeks, if the results of past years is any indication, so what's it going to be like on the water next weekend, and the weekend after?
Humpy madness is here, for sure.
All Star Charters owner Gary Krein said the pinks showed up in force late last week and, while fishing was good over the weekend, it hasn't yet been the slam-dunk action experienced fishermen expect of a run the size this one is predicted to be. Probably by this weekend, Krein said, enough fish should have pushed northward from the shipwreck area to produce top fishing in humpy hollow and off Mukilteo. Anglers south of the shipwreck have been finding the better fishing, Krein said, but the area northward should join in shortly.
He said the incoming tide has produced the best action so far, with a good bite usually coming on about an hour after low slack or so. Troll relatively slowly with a number 1 chrome or white dodger, or green or white flasher, with 14 inches of leader behind a dodger and 18 inches behind a flasher. Most anglers use a hot pink mini-squid, but Krein said pink spoons work just about as well — Coho Killers, Kingfisher Lites, or Coyotes. If you try spoons, however, he said to troll a little faster and add 2 or 3 inches of leader length.
Don't be surprised to see commercial boats working the area. State commercial fishing spokesman Jeromy Jording said Area 8A, Possession Sound and Port Gardner, was opened to non-tribal gill nets Aug. 17 and 19, and to seines on Aug. 18 and 20. The schedule next week is the same, except the gear type is reversed, and Jording said it's very unlikely the openings would be extended for a third week. Port Susan and Humpy Hollow are closed to non-tribal commercials, he said, but it's possible that tribal gear could target those areas as well as others.
Area 8, Skagit Bay, will be open to non-tribal commercials under the same schedule as above, except for opposite gear types.
River pinks
The Aug. 16 general river pink opener was OK, but perhaps a little disappointing except for the Skagit (see Pick of the Week). Nice fresh, bright, humpies were caught on the Snohomish and lower Skykomish (the Sky is open only below the Lewis Street bridge in Monroe), but a consistent population of fish was difficult to locate.
John Thomas of Rotten Chum Guide Service (; 425-280-5494) said, “The river (Snohomish) is still not jammed with fish, but so far it's been decent for me. Key is to find one of the small, quickly-moving schools with jumping fish, and to fish ahead of it.”
He said more pinks are coming in every day, but that they're moving rapidly through the system without holding. Until “the masses” come in, he said, it's probably best to fish above the tidal-influenced section of the river (above Thomas' Eddy), where the humpies slow down a bit. He took limits both Monday and Tuesday between the Hwy 522 bridge and Douglas Bar, all on either a pink three-eighths ounce Jig, a one-eighth ounce white crappie jig, or a number 1 brass/chrome Dick Nite spoon.
Guide and Arlington resident Sam Ingram (360-435-9311) had been limiting daily in the lower Skykomish until the effect of last week's rain sort of wore off. Lower water and bright sunshine make pinks spookier and a lot less eager to dance he said.
“We're sitting here with probably 100 humpies jumping around us, and we have two fish in the boat,” he said by cell phone Wednesday morning. “Typical humpy fishing. Bite on and bite off, but we'll get 'em — it's just a matter of keeping your lure in their faces.”
Ingram recommends Dick Nite spoons in 50-50, pink/pearl, or brass/red patterns.
Samish kings
Rain a week ago brought the first chinook of the season into the Samish River, and fishing was hot for a while, according to Anthon Steen at Holiday Sports in Burlington. Looming access problems, which had developed earlier when a number of property owners along the river posted their land, had largely — but not completely — been resolved, Steen said.
“Many of the mid- and upper-river stretches, Thomas Road for instance, are still posted,” he said, “but the most popular spots on the lower end are now open. Landowners have been complaining for a long time now about garbage, property damage, and other problems, and it's critical that fishermen give them a reason to reopen river access to the public.”
Most of the chinook caught so far, Steen said, have been taken on marabou jigs.
Big Kahuna
And speaking of chinook, Steen said reasonably solid rumors circulated late last week about an 86-pound king taken by the tribes in the Skagit. Perhaps during a pink salmon fishery?

New store
Holiday Sports in Burlington has moved into its new building, and invites everyone to swing by and take a look. Bigger, brighter, better, wider aisles and more goodies available. It's directly behind the old building, and the entrance is just to the south of the old store's entrance. The new Highway 20 interchange off I-5 has been finished as well, making access to the store a lot easier.
Put two salmon derbies on your calendar for next month and, since one of them at least will sell a limited number of tickets, you might want to buy your way in early.
The Edmonds Coho Derby is scheduled for Sept. 12, top prize $5,000, tickets $30 and limited in number. The event is also the final derby in the Northwest Salmon Derby Series and the grand series prize will be drawn and awarded at the end of the day — a full-deal 20-foot Stabi-Craft Super Cab. Go to for details.
The Everett Coho Derby runs Sept. 19-20, top prize $3,000, tickets $25 at most area tackle shops and marinas. Grand prize drawing awards a 15-foot Alumaweld, 25hp Merc and EZ Loader. Go to for more information.
No Eastside early geese
The state has cancelled the two-day September season for Canada geese in Eastern Washington this year, instead adding the two days to the regular Oct.-Jan. season when migrant geese are present in the Basin. The reason for dropping the season, which has run since 1997, is that resident goose production on the eastside has declined substantially in recent years, and it was resident geese which the early hunt targeted.
September goose seasons in Western Washington are not affected by the change. The season could be reinstated if local production increases above a certain threshhold set by the Pacific Flyway Council.
Buoy 10
Salmon fishing on the lower end of the Columbia continues to get better, according to state biologist Joe Hymer at the agency's Vancouver office, with either chinook or coho taking the spotlight, depending on the tides. Hymer said herring or red/white spinners have been the most popular setups, but that the key to success has been fishing deep, right on bottom in 30 to 40 feet of water.
Coastal salmon
Westport anglers finally caught Ilwaco in the fish-per-rod sweepstakes, with both ports now averaging about 1.7 fish (coho and chinook) per angler day, meaning limits for most. Roughly one in 9 or 10 salmon is a chinook, at both ports.

Lower Skagit Humpies

While peak humpy fishing in local rivers for those without boats is probably a week away or so (see the accompanying column), the Skagit River run of pinks is almost always the first in this area to develop. It opened to catch-and-keep on Sunday, after a short season two weeks earlier, and has produced good shore fishing from various bars in the lower river since that opener. Spud Bar, downriver from Mount Vernon, and Young's Bar, just above old town Mount Vernon, are both good bets. Above I-5, the railroad bridge, the soccer fields, Gardener Bar and Johnson's Bar, all in the Burlington area, are also producers from the shore. For directions on how to get to any of these fisheries, call Holiday Sports in Burlington, at 360-757-4361.The majority of the fishing in this section of the river is plunking, and one of the favorite setups is a pink Spin N Glo with a piece of prawn or cured shrimp. Drifters also work some of the same water, using wing bobbers, Dick Nites and other spoons, jigs and Buzz Bombs, in pink, red or chartreuse.Don't waste the fish. Be prepared to clean them immediately and put them on ice.

Wayne Kruse, Special to The Herald

Story tags » FishingSkagit River

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