Humpies are here, but keep 'em on ice
"And please," says longtime local Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife creel checker Sue Kraemer in Marysville, "don't just toss them in a black plastic sack. They'll turn to mush in the heat, and it's heartbreaking to see them treated that way. Be prepared with a cooler and ice. Bleed and gut the fish immediately, and keep them cold. Pinks are a good table fish, but you have to treat them right."
The odd-year humpy run was about five days late this year, according to experienced anglers looking at historical records, but they came across Possession Bar and hit humpy hollow -- the stretch of shoreline south of Mukilteo -- on Thursday and Friday of last week, and action was lights out over the weekend.
Crowds came out of the woodwork as the grapevine geared up, and checks at the Port of Everett ramp on Friday showed 434 anglers in 195 boats with 452 pinks. By Saturday it was 593 anglers in 235 boats with 853 pinks, and on Sunday, 800 fishermen in 318 boats with 925 fish.
"One fish per rod is our rule of thumb for very good humpy fishing," said All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein in Everett. "When all comers are getting a pink apiece, the more knowledgeable fishermen should be limiting easily."
Top fishing in local saltwater should hold up through about Sept. 2 or 3, Krein said, with historical data showing the peak of the run lasting about 10 days to two weeks in normal years. And there are still fish to come, judging by the numbers from Sekiu over the weekend. Checks at Olson's Resort on Sunday tallied 395 pinks and 63 coho for 179 anglers.
Mike Chamberlain at Ted's Sport Center in Lynnwood feels good fishing will last longer, maybe through Sept. 10 or 15, and he gives the following crash course in basic humpy warfare:
Take a size "0" or "1" white dodger, or 8-inch Hot Spot flasher, and follow it with a piece of stiff leader, one and a half times the length of the dodger (12 to 15 inches), or two times the length of the flasher, and any of the many styles and variations of mini pink squids. Douse with krill or shrimp scent, and troll slowly, so that the gear is swinging side to side, not rotating.
Some fishermen are scoring with small spoons in place of the mini-squid, such as the popular Coho Killer item called the "cotton candy."
Chamberlain starts early, down only 25 to 35 feet, and drops deeper during the morning to perhaps 65 or 85 feet max. He prefers to fish with the tidal run, if possible.
"Pinks are where you find them," he says. "They can be close to shore, in only 35 or 40 feet of water, or clear out in the shipping lanes. Keep your eyes open for rolling fish, or other boats getting their nets wet, and be willing to cover water to find the schools."
Pinks in the rivers already? Absolutely, and they have been for a couple of weeks or more. Anglers casting from the brush along the banks of the Snohomish in Lowell reported seeing waves of fish coming upriver during Monday's rainstorm, and landed several chromers to about 7 pounds.
Everett Parks and Recreation parks supervisor Dan Staple, by the way, said Wednesday morning that the repaving project was complete on the Lowell riverfront trail, and that the area is now fully open and accessible.
Avid angler and Arlington resident Sam Ingram said both the Skykomish and upper Snohomish "have been on fire" since about Monday, with easy limits for boaters between Lewis Street in Monroe (the Skykomish above the Lewis Street Bridge doesn't open until Sept. 1) and the Hwy 522 bridge over the Snohomish. That's a long drift, with the takeout clear down at Douglas Bar, but taking out at Tualco might be a better bet, for those with cartopper-size boats.
Ingram said most of the fish he hit Tuesday still had sea lice, and he found them in the softer water seams, between fast current and slow backwater. Cast or backtroll number 1 Dick Nite spoons in brass/green or 50-50 nickel/brass, with one-quarter to one-half ounce weight, depending on the depth of the drift. A float and jig rig, with sand shrimp, is also a good bet, Ingram said.
Beach fishermen have been doing well on humpies at some of the usual spots, but not all. Point No Point and the westside Whidbey beaches are putting out fish, and a check at Deception Pass beaches on Friday showed 77 fishermen with 68 pinks. Kayak Point and Port Susan had not been particularly productive through the weekend, but that could have changed early this week, with reports of fish moving north past McKee's Beach.
Remember that the Stillaguamish does not open for humpies until Sept. 1, and that with the lack of action at Kayak Point, the Stilly fishery might be a little suspect. Either way, keep in mind that Cook (Koch) Slough will be closed to all fishing through oct. 15 because of work on the diversion dam and fish ladder just west of the Interstate 5 bridge.
The slough, which is the "south channel" of the Stillaguamish, including all waters of the diversion dam channel, is closed from a point 350 feet above the diversion dam, for 3.5 miles downstream to its confluence with the Stillaguamish River. The closure continues for 1,000 feet below the confluence (below the westernmost Silvana railroad bridge) of Cook Slough and the mainstem Stilly.
Regulations on the Stilly will include single, barbless hooks, and no bait.
Big, adult, ocean-run silvers are coming in already, according to Mike Chamberlain at Ted's Sport Center in Lynnwood. "We saw a 14-pounder from local waters over the weekend," Chamberlain said, "and heard of several in the 7 to 11-pound range from Point No Point beach fishermen. Another customer reported catching an 11-pounder in the Snohomish."
Seattle Rifle & Pistol Association offers hunter sight-in sessions at its range, 725 135th Ave. S.E., Snohomish, for $10 per person, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 17, 18, 24 and 25, and Oct. 1, 2, 8 and 9. Club volunteers will be on hand to help. Contact club vice president Kevin Knowles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Marysville Rifle Club provides public shooting at its rifle range near Lake Ki every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., plus trap shooting open to the public every Wednesday night, 5 to 9 p.m., and the second and fourth Saturday each month, 5 to 9 p.m. Contact club president Mike DeLack, email@example.com.
Ernest Young of Seattle landed a 40-pound, 6-ounce chinook on Aug. 16 while aboard a charter out of Westport, and finds himself at the top of the Westport Charterboat Association's season ladder. If the catch holds up, he'll take home $2,500, along with the August prize of $1,000 and the daily award of $500, already in his pocket.
Fishing has been good, particularly for large chinook, along the coast for several weeks, but the quota is approaching and the state will close chinook retention starting Aug. 29.
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