By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
The first few days of July have become, arguably, the most important single week on the state’s fishing calendar, and this year was no exception. The weekend of the Fourth pulled a huge crowd of saltwater recreationists to a half-dozen fisheries which opened on July 1, and several more already underway.
The result, as usual, was a mixed bag. Here’s a quick rundown on how a few of them went:
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had predicted that a good Dungeness crab population in much of Puget Sound and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca would provide another top recreational crab opener. Biologist Steve Burton at the agency’s Mill Creek office said the forecast turned out to be generally on target, although some areas, of course, were better than others.
Burton said marine areas 8-1 and 8-2 were productive, over all, even on Saturday when, in his words, “there were still lots of limits coming into the launch ramps.”
Reports indicated good crabbing on the west side of Port Susan, and along much of the east Whidbey shoreline, with the exception of the Holmes Harbor area. Port Townsend, plus most of the north end of Hood Canal and the ajoining Strait, were excellent — at least in part because the commercial tribal fishery there was delayed due to low crab prices.
The popular spots off the northwest corner of Camano Island were only so-so, as was the shoreline from the Edmonds oil dock up to the shipwreck. The shoreline from Everett south was the better bet in that general area.
Top crabbing is expected north of us with next Wednesday’s opening of the very popular Marine Area 7 East and Marine Area 7 South, the San Juan Islands/Samish Bay/Bellingham Bay. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361) said “a ton of guys” will be headed for such well-known crab factories as Samish and Padilla bays, and Mud Bay on Lopez Island. The latter is open to recreational crabbing only, and should be excellent.
Marine areas 5 and 6 opened on the first for hatchery chinook, and fishing was described as “hot” for the first couple of days by Gary Ryan at Van Riper’s Resort (360-963-2334) in Sekiu. State creel checks verified the action, tallying 50 boats with 52 kings at the resort on Thursday, and 46 boats with 56 kings the same day at the Ediz Hook ramp in Port Angeles.
Things had slowed a bit by Sunday, Ryan said, but he expects more surges of chinook to move through the area over the next several weeks. State checks on the Fourth showed 69 boats with 47 chinook at Olson’s Resort and 42 with 20 at Van Riper’s.
Ryan said roughly half the chinook hooked were fin-clipped, and the largest hatchery king he weighed was a dandy 32-pounder.
“It was so good for a while that a kid casting a Buzz Bomb off the beach near the caves landed a 17-pounder,” Ryan said.
Most of the fishing was with downriggers and a flasher/spoon or flasher/hoochie rig, with spoons probably the more popular of the two. The fishery is open seven days a week through Aug. 15.
San Juan Islands chinook
“They hammered ‘em in the San Juans” said avid local angler Mike Greenleaf, in Everett, of the chinook opener in the islands. “All along Rosario Strait, the outside of San Juan Island, Eagle Point and a lot of other spots.”
Stuart Forst at Holiday Sports in Burlington added Tide Point, Eagle Bluff and Point Lawrence to the list of early hot spots, and said the opener in his opinion was as good or better than any of the top ones in the past. And tides look good for this weekend, he added.
A state check at the Washington Park ramp on July 1 showed 29 boats with 15 chinook.
Upper Columbia chinook
“As I predicted, the Brewster area was a bust on the opener (July 1),” said Rod Hammons, guide and Brewster resident (cell 509-733-1343) of the upper Columbia chinook summer season. He said 53 boats were out on the opener with one chinook landed, and that the Wells Dam fishery downriver wasn’t much better, with four salmon taken. He said the fishery probably won’t begin in earnest until the middle of the month.
Anton Jones, guide and Chelan resident (866-360-1523), agrees, saying he expects to start seeing both summer chinook and sockeye (from a record Columbia River run this year) in the Brewster pool by the end of next week. Try herring and Super Baits for kings, and a dodger followed by a bare red hook, or a U20 Flatfish or red mini-squid for sockeye.
Marine area 10 coho
Area 10, south of the Edmonds/Kingston line, went to catch and keep coho fishing on July 1, but All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein in Everett (425-422-4800) said fishing was spotty and — at an average size for resident silvers of 1 to 4 pounds — unexciting at best. Most area anglers, he said, are waiting for the selective chinook opener, July 16, in areas 9 and 10.
More on that next week.
END OF PRINT COLUMN
No kings on sky
The Skykomish River was closed to chinook retention Tuesday, due to a lack of broodstock fish returning to the Wallace River Hatchery. The hatchery goal is 3,200 fish but only 547 had returned as of June 29. If the goal is met prior to July 31, said state Region 4 fish manager Jennifer Whitney, the fishery could reopen.
Tom and Will Niva beat the odds in the Tulalip Bubble, nailing kings of 21 and 25 pounds on July 4, fishing green flasher/Coyote cop car rigs at 75 feet over 225 feet of water.
Tacoma Power operates a salmon separator operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery, deciding what happens to which species in the trap. On Monday, June 21, a lone sockeye was marked, trucked downriver, and released (“recycled”) at the Massey Bar boat launch. The fish returned to the hatchery trap on Wednesday, was shipped back downstream, and returned again on Friday.
On Tuesday of this week, separator personnel recovered 726 summer steelhead, 360 spring chinook adults, 51 jacks, 107 mini-jacks and, you guessed it, one sockeye — the same lone salmon they had grown to know and love the previous week. The fish was, once again, shipped down to Massey Bar.
Catch rates for legal-size sturgeon on the lower end of the Columbia River improved for charter customers last week. About 41 percent took home a keeper fish.
The outlook is for ocean conditions leading to a good tuna season off the Washington coast, so those interested in giving it a try might start looking into various charter options. August is prime time, with better weather and fish usually within a one-day run, but charter slots are limited.