Another catch-and-eat fishery goes by the board with the announcement that the state Fish and Wildlife Commission made big changes in sturgeon rules at a March 1 meeting in Moses Lake.
Starting May 1, recreational fishermen will be limited to one white sturgeon per year, statewide. Then, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the new regulation requires the release of all white sturgeon in Puget Sound, its tributaries, the Washington coast and the lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam.
Catch-and-release fishing for the species will be allowed in all those areas.
The change is designed to address ongoing concerns about declines in the lower Columbia white sturgeon population, but why the other closures?
The state says white sturgeon drift up and down the coast, in and out of bays and tributaries, and that those harvested, say, in Port Susan, almost certainly include Columbia fish. Some observers say there is not enough scientific evidence to support that contention, or at least to the degree of drift, but the commission acted anyway.
Another rule change approved by the nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor increases the daily walleye limit from eight to 16 fish in Lake Roosevelt. The change addresses an overpopulation of walleye in the big Columbia River impoundment, and particularly a lack of larger fish.
Closer to home, one of the nearly 70 sportfishing rule changes adopted by the commission reduces the daily catch limit of cabezon to one fish in Marine Areas 4-11 and 13, and sets the minimum length at 18 inches. Also, the cabezon season was reduced to May 1 through June 15.
With an overdue state permit finally in hand, Mark Spada said the Snohomish Sportsmen's Club will make its first plant this year of big triploid rainbow trout -- in Blackman's Lake -- by the end of this week. The plant likely will consist of about 200 fish, running between 11/2 and 6 pounds, club spokesman Spada said.
The lake lies on the north edge of Snohomish, with pier fishing and boat access.
The seventh annual Everett Blackmouth Derby runs Saturday. Sponsored by the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club, the event features a first-place prize of $3,000. Second is worth $1,500 and third $500 in this team event; up to four anglers per boat at a cost of $100 per boat. Tickets are available at John's Sporting Goods, Everett; Greg's Custom Rods, Lake Stevens; Ted's Sport Center, Lynnwood; Harbor Marine, Everett; Three Rivers Marine, Woodinville; Bayside Marine, Everett; Ed's Surplus, Lynnwood; and Performance Marine, Everett.
For more information visit www.everettblackmouthderby.com.
Salmon forecasts mostly positive
With the possible exception of Baker Lake sockeye, summer salmon opportunities look positive, according to Tom Nelson, host of "The Outdoor Line" on ESPN Radio 710. And even the Baker run, although expected to be down to 20,000 fish this year compared to 35,000 in 2012, should be enough to ensure a good season on the lake but perhaps not in the river.
Speaking of north Sound chinook and coho forecasts, Nelson said, "there are no bad predictions. We haven't seen numbers like this since 2001."
Nelson was particularly enthusiastic about the Marine Area 9 selective chinook fishery, saying that not only will there be more kings coming through, but more crossing Possession Bar. That should make it unnecessary to run west to Port Townsend for your clipped-fin kings, he said.
Tulalip Bay, he said, is expecting 10,000 chinook back, twice last year's 5,000 fish. The Snohomish River hatchery run is predicted by biologists to be 6,800 fish this year, compared to 3,900 last year, and 3,600 wild stock chinook (must be released) compared to 2,800 in 2012.
"Altogether, that's another 10,000 chinook over the bar and around the corner for us this summer," Nelson said. "The only caveat is that some of those fish won't be available if the selective chinook fishery is opened late. Our North of Falcon negotiators have to try to get it open by July 1."
And, Nelson said, you'd best get your chinook fishing in by mid-August. After that, a big run of pinks will be vacuuming up every bait and lure dropped overboard.
Puget Sound coho are expected to present another major opportunity.
"Are you kidding me?", Nelson said. "Almost 900,000 coho due back to Puget Sound? That's a 10- to 15-percent increase over last year, and 2012 was flat out the best coho fishing I've ever seen in the Sound. It was like going to the fish market, day after day."
River fishing is also looking good, Nelson said, with a solid snowpack in the Cascades to provide summer water.
Elsewhere, the big news is on the Columbia River. Salmon managers expect a big jump in fall chinook this summer, to 677,900 fish -- substantially above the 10-year average and possibly the best fall king run since 2004. Of that number, the "upriver brights" that make up the Hanford Reach sport fishery are expeced to reach 432,500 fish. If they do, that would be a record for the run, according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. It would eclipse the old mark of 420,700 set in 1987.
North sound seminar
Master Marine in Mount Vernon presents a repeat of its popular spring salmon seminar March 16, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., free and open to all interested anglers. Speakers will cover marine electronics (John Keizer of Salt Patrol), secrets of San Juan Island salmon fishing (John Martinis), and dirty downrigger tricks (TJ Nelson). There will also be speakers on cutting herring and shrimping, among other subjects. Chili dogs for lunch, too.
Master Marine is immediately adjacent to the west side of I-5 in south Mount Vernon; go to the web site or call 360-336-2176.
The lower Columbia spring chinook fishery continues to build, but slowly. State checks for the week of March 4-10 sampled 422 boats and 1,113 fishermen with 38 chinook and 5 steelhead.
The San Juans are still the place to be for winter blackmouth fishermen, according to state creel checks. At the Washington Park ramp in Anacortes on Saturday, 41 anglers in 22 boats had 11 chinook. At the Cornet Bay ramp, access point for many fishermen to some of the banks on the east end of the Strait, 40 anglers in 19 boats had 30 fish. Areas 8-1 and 8-2 were slow.
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