Take your pick, anglers — you can now catch your sockeye with or without the smell of burning timber. Both Baker Lake and Lake Wenatchee are open and accessible, and both fisheries should be good this weekend.
As of this writing, the total number of sockeye trapped at Lower Baker Dam stood at 10,083 and the total number transferred to Baker Lake was at 5,764. Since state biologist Brett Barkdull said his rule of thumb for “decent” fishing in Baker Lake was about 3,000 fish, things look pretty good.
Barkdull said he felt comfortable with the preseason forecast of 35,400 sockeye returning to the Baker system.
He hit the lake himself Friday, rod in hand, but said fishing was slow and that he wasn’t marking a lot of sockeye.
“I don’t think the fish had enough time at that point to get that far uplake,” he said. “I heard that fishing picked up over the weekend.”
“Action was pretty good Saturday and Sunday for some folks, on both sides of the lake,” said Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. “We heard that there were a few limits taken.”
The area off Noisy Creek is a good bet on the south shore, as is the area directly across on the north side. Both those areas are uplake from where Baker bends sharply eastward.
John said knowledgeable fishermen start early in the morning at about 20 to 30 feet, and gradually move deeper as the day brightens, to 40 or 45 feet.
The standard sockeye rig, according to John, starts with a size “0” Big Ring dodger in chrome, white, 50/50 or purple haze. He said he likes a dodger with a hammered finish. Follow the dodger with 9 to 14 inches of 25- to 30-pound leader, then a 1½- or 2-inch mini squid — clear UV pink or hot pink — sitting on two 2/0 red hooks. Tip the top hook with a pink or purple coonstripe shrimp tail, douse the whole works with shrimp or krill scent, and you’re ready to rumble.
Some fishermen add a smile blade, Barkdull said, but the critical factor is the piece of shrimp.
Lake Wenatchee is going to be the hot fishery, both literally and figuratively, with all the wildfires burning in the general area, but as of Wednesday Highway 2 was open on this side of Stevens Pass to Coles Corner and the turnoff to the lake. Lake Wenatchee State Park also had reopened, and with it the main boat launch on the lake.
To check on road closures, call the state Department of Transportation travel information line at 511 or go to www.wsdot.com/traffic/trafficalerts/default.aspx. For the state park, go to www.parks.wa.gov/alertcenter.aspx?aid=167. For possible season closures, check the fishing hotline at 360-902-2500.
Biologists are so confident that a really big run of sockeye is coming back to Lake Wenatchee that they’ve set the daily limit at six fish. With the proper license endorsement, two rods may be used, with up to three single, barbless hooks per line, no bait or scent allowed.
Some 65,000 sockeye are expected back to Lake Wenatchee from an all-time record run in the Columbia. Counts at Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River stood at 34,000 fish late last week and were adding between 5,000 and 8,000 per day.
Biologist Travis Maitland said wind over the weekend kept the catch rate a little below what was expected, but that the 40 or so boats on the lake Saturday and Sunday mornings were doing well, with some limits. Maitland said most of the anglers were locals, who came to the lake via the “back door” Chumstick Road between Leavenworth and the lake. There were a few, but not many, fishermen from King and Snohomish counties, he said, blaming the sparse westside participation on the wildfire situation.
He said the fish are in excellent shape and that the low early turnout should provide an extended season.
Most anglers, Maitland said, were using mini-hoochies or two bare hooks behind a 1/0 dodger, and going down 30 to 90 feet.
Sockeye fishing also has been good in the Columbia at Brewster, just below the mouth of the Okanogan, but since Highway 2 is closed between Coles Corner and Leavenworth, access for westsiders is a long haul.
Eddie Adams’ second Speed-Crabbing Derby went off without a hitch over the weekend at the Port of Everett ramp and marina, drawing 75 contestants on 20 teams. Prizes were awarded via a weight-and-time formula, and a four-person team calling itself Crustacean Domination placed first, with 10 Dungeness crab (the two limits the derby allowed) totaling 19.3 pounds, in a time of 4 hours, 11 minutes. Second went to the Krab Kings, 10 crab weighing 18.46 pounds in 3 hours, 43 minutes; third to Got Crab?, 10 crab at 18.36 pounds in 2 hours, 50 minutes; and fourth to last year’s winners, Carpe Cancer, at 19.6 pounds in 5 hours, 38 minutes.
Fastest time was Got Crab?, in 2 hours, 50 minutes, and the largest single crab weighed 2.39 pounds, taken by Team Korry.
Total weight was 282.05 pounds and, at $2.50 per pound of crab entered pledged by sponsors, more than $700 was donated to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. For full results, visit www.speedcrabbing.com.
Adams said reports from participants indicated deeper was better, at 90-feet-plus. The south end of Hat Island was a hot spot, and small bays along the west side of Hat, somewhat protected from the heavy tidal run on the Saratoga Passage side of the island, offered crab a longer feeding period. The bar outside Jetty Island was good as well, Adams said.
“And,” he said, “I got this mysterious tip regarding a hot spot located in front of an A-frame house on the southeast side of Whidbey Island.”
The top teams used short soaks — about 30 to 45 minutes — at the outset, to target the crab, Adams said, and then used longer soaks once they were on the lunker males.
The popular selective chinook season in Marine Areas 9 and 10 opened July 16, and most anglers were underwhelmed. Gary Krein, owner/skipper of All Star Charters, said the fishery, for hatchery kings, has so far been below what most anglers expected. Pilot Point, Point No Point and Possession Bar have all been slow, and the hot spot the past two years — Port Townsend and Midchannel Bank — hasn’t been that good, either. Krein said the Kingston area was OK the first two or three days, but has slowed since.
“The silver lining is that we haven’t been doing much damage to the recreational quota, and so the season could be extended, maybe into August,” Krein said.
The opening-day check by state personnel at the Port of Everett ramp showed just 10 chinook by 2 p.m. “That check should have been 40 or more,” Krein said.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.