By Wayne Kruse The Herald
The crabbers were crabbing, the violators were violating, and the poachers were stealing other people’s catch and gear. In other words, it was pretty much a standard first weekend of the recreational summer crab season in most of Puget Sound.
Reader Paul North e-mailed a warning that trap thieves were at work in our area.
“I crabbed out by Hat Island last weekend, letting my pots soak overnight,” he said. “Myself and fishing buddy set four pots Thursday afternoon, got limits. Friday and Saturday also. When we went out Sunday morning, I found that one pot was missing and another had been picked with the door left open and bait box empty. I use 10-pound downrigger balls in all pots, so it’s unlikely that they drifted, using 150 feet of line in 110 feet of water. Probably won’t do that again, in that area. Too bad that even out on the water thieves and lowlifes always look to rip off your stuff.”
State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Don Velasquez said it was discouraging to see the level of crabbing violations. The infractions ran the gamut, he said, but the worst included failure to record crab on a report card immediately upon boating, keeping undersized crab, overlimits and setting gear for other persons. Enforcement officers will be on the water, he said.
Utsalady Bay, the Port Townsend area and Hood Canal generated considerable comment concerning a lack of crab, and Area 10 about a high percentage of softshells.
But there was good news. Velasquez said that, all in all, it was a positive opener in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2, with a good per-pot average and a lot of satisfied crabbers. The Holmes Harbor area put out some nice crab and Port Susan was fair to good, he said.
The season is scheduled to run through Sept. 1, with closures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The super-popular selective chinook season in Marine Areas 9 and 10 opens Wednesday, with a one-fish limit this year instead of the usual two. Only hatchery, clipped-fin kings can be kept.
Gary Krein, All Star Charters owner/skipper, said he will be fishing either Possession Bar or Point No Point. There are already some nice chinook at No Point, he said, and he expects there to be fish on Possession by Wednesday.
At No Point, Krein suggests trolling westward on an outgoing tide, toward Skunk Bay, and on the flood, southeastward toward Pilot Point, about 10 feet off the bottom in 90 to 120 feet of water. Don’t put your gear right down on the deck, he warned, because there are a bunch of flounder in the area that will waste your day for you if you let ‘em. He said he has also taken chinook at No Point suspended at 120 feet in 150 to 180 feet of water.
For gear, Krein likes Coho Killer or 3½-inch Kingfisher spoons in green/white combinations, or the red racer.
There seems to be a lot of bait in the area, he said, and skimming across the top of a bait ball can be a productive maneuver.
On Possession Bar, Krein fishes the east side on an outgoing tide and the west side on the flood. Prospects look good, he said.
“We’ve seen enough chinook in the area to know that the fish are there, and finding chinook is not a concern,” Krein said. “but I am worried about going through our recreational quota too soon.”
Krein said if he had to guess, he’d put the fishery at about 10 days, max, even with the cut in the daily limit.
The other All Star Charters boat, with Nick Kester up, will make the run to the Port Townsend area for what has become traditionally a better early chinook fishery than areas farther east. He’ll fish Midchannel Bank, Krein said, trolling with the outgoing tide from Marrowstone Island toward Point Wilson and the reverse on the flood. He’ll work 90 to 140 feet, along the edge of the bar, right on the bottom. Krein said Coho Killer spoons are even more popular on Midchannel Bank than they are at Point No Point or Possession Bar, usually in white lightning or light green.
“One other important thing to remember,” Krein said. “The recreational guideline is based only on landed and retained fish, so don’t be afraid to catch and release, looking for a quality chinook, because C&R doesn’t count against our quota. But if you keep a 22-inch blackmouth, for instance, that’s your one chinook for the day.”
That whooshing noise you heard Tuesday evening was a big sigh of relief from state biologist Brett Barkdull as he looked at the numbers of Baker Lake sockeye entering the Baker River trap. The first several days of the run were dismally short of fish, and Barkdull, along with a lot of anglers, feared they might not be coming in at all. The outlook changed for the better as some 472 sockeye were counted in the trap on Sunday, and 489 on Monday. That’s no guarantee that there will be enough salmon to provide a fishery, but at least there is reason for optimism.
“It shows us that the fish are late,” Barkdull said, “but it doesn’t necessarily show us how strong the run will be.”
The total trapped through Monday was 1,757 fish, with 335 of those already transferred to the lake. Barkdull said about 1,200 fish will be kept as broodstock before the remaining fish are trucked to Baker Lake. If the numbers hold up, he said, the broodstock will be taken by late today and he can start transferring again toward the 3,000 fish in the lake he considers the rule of thumb for a decent fishery.
“The lake opened to sockeye today,” he said. “But obviously there aren’t enough fish there yet to make it worthwhile.”
East of the Cascades, state biologist Travis Maitland said no Lake Wenatchee sockeye had shown as of Tuesday at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River, but that “they should be here any day.”
He said some 43,000 sockeye have been counted between Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams on the Columbia, and that if that number holds up, “we should be in pretty good shape for a sockeye season in the lake.”
He said the run needs 23,000 fish over Tumwater Dam for spawning escapement, then 25,000 or 26,000 for a minimal recreational season.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.