The most crucial tool aboard boats fishing Possession Bar Monday morning may not be a tooth-scarred Tomic plug, or a well-tuned GPS unit. It might be an accurate 22-inch tape.
“You’re going to see a lot of guys next week trying to stretch a 4-pound blackmouth,” said one veteran angler, referring to prospects for the reopening of Marine Area 9 to winter salmon fishing on the 16th.
“When the area closed in November we were hooking and releasing a lot of fish going just under the legal 22-inch minimum size,” said All Star Charters owner Gary Krein in Everett. “Those 20- and 21-inch fish have grown, and I think we’ll find a pretty good fishery for just-legal blackmouth.”
He said the fish will weigh anywhere from 4 to 5 or 6 pounds now, and says fishing should be excellent for at least a week or two, until the resident population has been worked over. After that, it depends on how much bait remains in the area to attract moving chinook.
Top fishing could fall most anywhere in “the triangle” formed by Possession Point, Double Bluff, and Point No Point, Krein said, and occasionally Port Townsend proves to be the hot spot. He’s scheduled to be out of town on the opener, but if he had a booking, he would probably opt for the southeast corner of outer Possession Bar, starting in 90 feet of water and working out to 150 feet or so, never more than 20 feet off bottom.
“The tides are good for that area the whole first week,” he said. “It fishes best an hour or hour and a half after high tide and, on opening morning, that puts prime time at about 10 or 10:30 a.m.”
Since resident blackmouth are feeding fish, Krein said, it’s critical to find bait concentrations and to fish around them. He would try spoons such as the Kingfisher Lite in green, white or black
patterns; squids in green or white; or Tomic plugs in white and pearl.
Tokul Creek steelhead
Tokul Creek Hatchery personnel finished their winter steelhead broodstock collection chores early this month, leaving the remaining fish headed for the facility available for harvest. The stream, a tributary of the Snoqualmie, was opened to fishing Saturday morning and will remain open through Feb. 16th.
The latest checks on the Cowlitz showed 6 feet of visibility and 20 boat anglers with 9 fish. Some 14 bank anglers had 2 steelhead and 1 coho.
Data released by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife comparing steelhead hatchery returns this year and last, at the same point, were a mixed bag: The Cowlitz is improved at 1,540 this season compared to 1,150 last; Elochoman, 442 this season vs 198 last season; Kalama is down, at 312 vs 452; Lewis, 968 vs 1,891; and Washougal, 259 vs 390.
Most of the Skagit closes to steelheading Feb. 1, but the stretch from Rockport to Marblemount will remain open, along with the bottom end of the Cascade. Fishing has been at least fair for Cascade Hatchery fish in that area recently, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington, with knowledgeable anglers hitting perhaps a fish per day. “Since the water levels went down, it’s back to a first-light fishery, however,” John said.
Hanford Reach steelhead
In the month of December an estimated 200 steelhead were caught between Pasco and the old Hanford town site on the Hanford Reach portion of the central Columbia River. For the year, bank and boat anglers averaged a steelhead for every 13 hours fished, including both hatchery and wild fish. Bank anglers averaged 18 hours per hatchery fish kept, and boat anglers, 30 hours per hatchery fish.
Tentative dates for the first coastal razor clam digs of 2012 have been announced by WDFW, subject as usual to clam testing and approval by state health officials. Dates and tides are as follows: Jan. 20, minus 0.5 feet at 4:28 p.m. on Twin Harbors, Long Beach, Copalis and Mocrocks beaches; Jan. 21, minus 0.8 feet at 5:17 p.m. on the same four beaches; Feb. 18, 0.0-foot tide, at 4:13 p.m., on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks beaches only; and Feb. 19, minus 0.2 feet at 5 p.m. on Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks only.
Kalaloch Beach will remain closed until April, according to state coastal clam manager Dan Ayres, due to a low clam population. The National Park Service, which manages that beach in cooperation with WDFW, has announced plans to open Kalaloch for a dig April 7-9.
Brant a go
Brant numbers in Skagit County are high enough to allow an eight-day hunt on Jan. 14, 15, 18, 21, 22, 25, 28 and 29, with a bag limit of two geese per day, according to WDFW waterfowl program manager Don Kraege in Olympia. The season was contingent on a count of at least 6,000 birds in the county, and a total of 6,704 were tallied on a survey flight Jan. 6 over Fidalgo, Padilla and Samish bays.
The count is about 2,000 birds below that of last year, but still high enough to provide hunting opportunity while sustaining the wintering population here, Kraege said. To participate, hunters must have a small game license, a migratory bird validation, and a special migratory bird-hunting authorization with a brant harvest record card, which are available at license dealers, plus a federal migratory bird stamp.
Heavy rains a couple of weeks ago washed out smelt jigging at Cornet Bay, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports (above), but action has started coming back. The Oak Harbor Marina has been up and down, John said, but can be hot at times.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.