No sockeye headed for Baker Lake have arrived at the Baker River trap, but it shouldn’t be too much longer. If preseason estimates are close to correct, this should be an excellent summer fishery for the prized salmon, according to state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Brett Barkdull at the agency’s La Conner office.
“Predicting the size of a sockeye return is really iffy — more so than for most other salmon,” Barkdull said, “but the situation looks promising. We’re predicting a run size of about 35,000 fish, compared to last year’s 18,000, and if most of those show up, it should be a good year.”
Barkdull said the average date for the first sockeye to arrive at the Baker River trap (where the fish are transferred to tank trucks and hauled around two dams to Baker Lake) is June 23, but that the first ones showed on June 17 last year. So while the recreational salmon season on the lake is set to open Tuesday, it’s almost a certainty that there will be few, if any, sockeye in the lake.
The Skagit River also will be open for catch-and-keep sockeye fishing from June 14 through June 29, with a two-fish limit, from Highway 536 at Mount Vernon to the mouth of Gilligan Creek above Sedro-Woolley. Taking advantage of the fishery is relatively easy and inexpensive, Barkdull said. The fish run near shore and can be caught without making long casts. A basic plunking rig of three-way swivel, 8-ounce sinker, red or pink wing bobber, bead and bait (sand shrimp or cured prawn) should do the job.
What Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood calls “a pretty decent halibut season overall” is drawing to a close on the Strait and in northern Puget Sound. Marine Areas 11 through 13 are already closed, and Saturday will be the final “halibut day” for Marine Areas 5 through 10.
Creel checks by state personnel on Saturday showed 148 anglers out of Cornet Bay with 28 halibut and 17 lingcod; 239 at the Ediz Hook ramp in Port Angeles with 72 halibut and three lings; and at Olson’s Resort in Sekiu, 114 fishermen with 65 halibut and three lings.
A real “barn door” halibut of 190 pounds was reported caught on Hein Bank last week. It’s likely to be the largest in the area this season.
On Sunday — not a halibut day — 29 anglers at the Washington Park ramp in Anacortes had nine lings and two cabezon, and 41 fishermen at Cornet Bay had two lings.
If the good news was a relatively productive halibut season, the bad news has been an equally unproductive lingcod fishery.
“Lings have been way off this season,” Chamberlain said, “particularly for fish within the keepable slot limit range. That would seem to suggest overfishing as a possible cause, and when you looked out on any weekend day and saw 50 or 60 boats pounding Possession Bar, it could be that some adjustment of the seasons and limits might be in order.”
The biggest hurrah of the weekend goes to the summer steelhead opener on the Skykomish, Chamberlain said.
“An employee here, Ryan Christensen, and his father went up to Reiter Ponds for the opener,” he said. “Ryan’s dad made two casts and had two fish, and Ryan wasn’t far behind.”
Chamberlain called the hot steelheading “the best opener in many years,” and said knowledgeable fishermen estimated 150 to 200 steelhead were taken in the stretch of river from Reiter down to the cable hole.
“We kind of had a hint that it could be a good summer-run fishery this year, because the guys fishing the beaches on Whidbey Island had been catching a lot of steelhead for several weeks,” Chamberlain said.
The general river trout opener also included steelhead on the Skagit, but Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington warned anglers that a major change in fishing rules make selective gear mandatory on the river. That means no bait, barbless hooks and a maximum hook size of one-half inch between the point and the shank.
Making bait illegal will be tough on the bank fishermen, John said. He recommended the area around and above Lyman/Hamilton as a good place for boat fishermen to look for summer-runs.
Another hot opener took place on the Cascade River at Marblemount on Sunday, with the first day of the hatchery chinook fishery on the river’s lower end. One group of 12 anglers who checked in with Holiday Sports said they landed six of the 18-20 fish they hooked, and one was pushing 20 pounds.
Bobber and eggs did most of the work, and the spokesman said the bite turned off when sunlight hit the water.
Kids free stuff
Youngsters 5 to 15 years are invited to a free fish-in at Tulalip Cabela’s from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the store’s well-stocked portable trout pond. The Everett Salmon and Steelhead club will provide bait and tackle, and the Seattle Pogie Club will clean and cook the catch for a fish fry.
For more information or a full schedule of upcoming events and activities at the store, visit www.cabelas.com/tulalip or call 350-474-4880.
Another free youth opportunity is scheduled for Saturday, when popular and productive Heart Lake, in Skagit County south of Anacortes, opens for kids-only trout fishing at 6 a.m., after having been stocked and closed to all fishing since June 4. For more information, call Holiday Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361).
The Columbia River shad run continues to build, according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. Nearly 100,000 fish used the Bonneville Dam ladders last Saturday, the highest count so far this year.
Creel checks showed bank anglers just below Bonneville Dam averaging 2.4 shad per rod over the weekend, and those at Steamboat Landing in Washougal scoring at a clip of about a fish per rod.
As happens most every year, recreational shrimp fishing reopened June 1, but it does not include the big, prawn-sized spot shrimp that were fair game earlier in the year. This later fishery is for smaller coonstripe and pink shrimp, and includes Marine Areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and 11, down to a depth of 150 feet maximum, and Marine Area 7 East, down to a depth of 200 feet maximum. All spot shrimp caught incidentally must be returned to the water immediately.
Bits and pieces
A report says tribal commercial fishermen were finally hitting a few hatchery chinook in Tulalip Bay, which means the Tulalip bubble recreational fishery should start putting out a few fish.
Anglers on the Edmonds Pier have been hooking the occasional chinook for about three weeks now.
Kokanee fishing on Lake Stevens has been so-so, with a few fish now pushing 16 inches, and the fishery should continue for another month.
Lakes in the area holding up well for trout fishermen include Martha (Mill Creek), Ballinger and Blackman’s.
And finally, there’s still smelt and herring jigging opportunities at Cornet Bay.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.