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June 1 steelhead, chinook openers a success

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By Wayne Kruse
Special to The Herald
Published:
Two notable June 1 openers -- steelhead on the Skykomish and chinook on the upper Skagit and Cascade -- came off pretty well, considering relatively high water and low-visibility fishing conditions.
Avid angler Sam Ingram reported that John Thomas of Rotten Chum Guide Service worked the Sky Saturday and Sunday, taking two summer-runs each day. Thomas put in at Sultan and ran up to the clay banks, then fished down, Ingram said. "With only a foot or so of visibility, the system would be to slowly fish the edges and soft spots, maybe back-trolling diver/bait rigs," he said.
Brandon Doucet at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville said the Reiter Ponds area -- which opened this year simultaneously with the rest of the Skykomish -- was "on fire" Friday, with lots of limits taken, but slowed with higher, off-color water over the weekend.
"Actually, the whole river from Monroe up put out fish, as is usually the case for the first few days of the summer season," Doucet said. "You want to use big baits, or big plugs, under these conditions."
What looks to be a strong run of chinook to the Marblemount hatchery provided pretty decent fishing Friday morning on the upper Skagit and lower Cascade, said Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington, until the water came up about mid-day. The majority of the fish were taken from the two or three holes in the Skagit below the mouth of the Cascade at Marblemount, John said, because there is no longer as much holding water on the smaller river as there has been the past two or three years.
State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Brett Barkdull in the agency's La Conner office said the kings came in a little early this year, and he agreed that fishing success would hinge, at least in part, to how long the fish would hold in the lower Cascade and below its mouth.
He said a predicted return of 2,400 adult chinook to the hatchery, similar to last year, is a solid run, but it won't matter if the kings shoot right through to the hatchery trap.
Skagit Sockeye
Another question: Will there be enough fish in the Skagit to provide decent opportunity on the lower river's first-ever recreational sockeye opener June 16?
"It's a crap shoot," Barkdull (above) said. "If the run timing is similar to last year, and the predicted numbers are accurate, then yes, there should be sockeye available. But you never know with these fish."
The prediction is for 35,000 sockeye to return to Baker Lake this summer, compared to 23,000 predicted last year. The actual 2011 return, however, came in stronger than that.
"It has the potential to be a pretty productive fishery," Barkdull said. "There's reasonable access in that stretch of river (Hwy 536 bridge in Mount Vernon up to Gilligan Creek, above Sedro-Woolley), with three public ramps and a lot of bank fishing if the river is not too high."
Plunking, either bank or boat, will probably be the most popular system, at least until fishermen find something better, Barkdull said. Previous, limited, openings at the mouth of the Baker River proved the use of a pink, red or orange Spin N Glo with a piece of sand shrimp to be an effective combination.
Coastal Chinook
The (somewhat surprisingly) popular selective fishery for clipped-fin chinook off Ilwaco and Westport opens Saturday, to run through June 22 or 23, depending on the specific marine area, and from June 16-30 out of LaPush and Neah Bay. The seven-day-per-week fishery provides for a two-chinook limit, but both must be marked.
"This is the third year for this program," said Wendy Beeghley, WDFW's coastal creel-sample coordinator, "and at first I expected considerable negative feedback - it's tough to have to turn loose a nice king. But that hasn't proven to be the case; everyone has been surprisingly positive."
In the first two years, private-boat and charter anglers have averaged roughly a half-fish per rod, she said.
The ongoing commercial troll fishery has been spotty, Beeghley said, but fairly good at certain times and places. There have been fish recently south of Grays harbor, and predictions for Columbia River chinook runs this summer are strong.
"Another bright spot for sport fishermen," she added, "is that the trollers are finding a pretty high ratio of marked fish."
At the end of the selective king fishery, coastal seasons revert to the more "normal" summer salmon pattern of two salmon, clipped coho only and only one chinook, clipped or not, and only five days per week, Sunday through Thursday.
Shad and Sturgeon
Bank fishermen on the Columbia below Bonneville Dam averaged 10 shad per rod over the weekend, and boat fishermen between Longview and Woodland averaged 3 to 10 fish. Fishing pressure is increasing along with the catch rate, according to WDFW biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver, citing a count of over 300 bank rods on Saturday, almost all from the Camas-Washougal area upstream.
The 22,613 shad counted over Bonneville ladders Sunday was the season high to date, Hymer said.
On the Columbia River sturgeon front, charter boats averaged a legal kept per every 6.3 rods for the first three days of June, while private boaters averaged one per every 19.3 rods. An angler hooking a sturgeon has about a one-in-four chance of it being a keeper, Hymer said.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
END PRINT COLUMN

Shrimp Closure
The southern portion of Marine Area 7 closed to shrimp fishing today because, according to the WDFW, the recreational spot shrimp quota has been taken.
Archery Tournament
The Washington State Archery Association holds its annual Field Tournament event at Darrington, June 23-24, sponsored by Darrington Archers. There will be 28 field targets and 14 animal targets on Saturday, and 28 hunter targets on Sunday, with shooting beginning at 9 a.m. both days in a shotgun start. The event is one of nine championship tournaments held each year for archers competing at the state level.
Archers will be separated into divisions (gender and age) and equipment styles. Registration fees include adult, senior, master senior, $20; young adult (15-17), $18; youth (12-14), $15; Cub (8-11) and PeeWee (under 8), $5; husband/wife, $35; and family maximum, $45. Mail pre-registration to Darrington Archers, P.O. Box 422, Darrington, WA 98241. A $5 late fee applies after June 12.
For information call Bobby Keyes at 425-870-8538.
Yakima River Spring Chinook
The productive "Yakima Reservation Boundary Reach" section of the Yakima River has been opened for non-tribal spring chinook fishing, through the end of June. The section runs from the Hwy 223 bridge at Granger upstream to the Parker Diversion Dam, 20.9 river miles, and because it borders the reservation, is open to non-tribal members courtesy of the Yakama Nation. Participants in the fishery must have a Yakama Nation fishing permit, in addition to a state license and Columbia River salmon/steelhead endorsement.
Roche Harbor Bonus
Organizers of the Roche Harbor Salmon Derby in the San Juan Islands have sweetened the pot for their Feb. 7-9, 2013 event, announcing a bonus of $30,000 for the entry of a fish of 30-plus pounds. That would be in addition to the first-place prize of $10,000, said derby publicist Debbie Sandwith.
And a $40,000 chinook isn't outside the realm of possibility, according to Sandwith.
"Three years ago we actually weighed a 30-pound king caught the day before the derby," she said. "And in 2011 Team Floyd took first place with a fish of 28.10 pounds, so it's certainly possible there's a 30-pounder out there for 2013 participants."
For a 2013 entry form, go to www.rocheharbor/fishing_derby.html, or for more information call Sandwith at 360-378-5562.
Story tags » Outdoor RecreationFishingHunting

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