By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
Basic summer salmon fishing seasons were set last week at the Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting in Portland, and one in particular brought smiles from local recreational activists.
“The Snohomish River will open Aug. 1 for pinks below Highway 9, rather than the usual mid-August date,” said Tom Nelson, Lake Stevens resident, avid angler and radio talk show host. “That’s a huge gain. I see it as a fine tool for local salmon fishermen to use to get young people into the sport. The earlier two weeks on the lower river will provide salmon fresh in from saltwater, relatively easy to catch, easy to get to and before school starts. It doesn’t get better than that if you’re interested in recruiting youngsters to sport fishing.”
Of course, adults are not likely to turn down more salmon time on the Snohomish, either — not with some 6 million humpies due back to Puget Sound rivers this summer. And you can thank a list of names that is virtually a who’s who of north Sound recreational fishing advocates. The group meets yearly, to help plan the Lake Stevens Kokanee Derby, but the members also take the opportunity to discuss other area fishing issues. From this year’s meet came the push to tack a couple of weeks onto the front of the season and, since the Tulalips agreed, it was done. The group includes but isn’t limited to (and I’m certain to miss someone here), Mark Spada, Kelly Morrison, John Martinis, Mike Chamberlain, Dick Figgens, Greg Rockenbach and Tom Sakamoto. The group also recruited retired state biologist Curt Kraemer of Marysville to help with the mechanics of moving the proposed change through the North of Falcon system.
Gary Krein of Everett, a longtime participant in the season-setting process representing sport fishermen, said most Puget Sound seasons will be identical to last year.
“The status quo is a good thing, in my opinion,” Krein said. “We were able to address several critical spots without impacting the recreational fishery, and a summer like last year’s would be welcome in most fishermen’s minds.”
The fishery in the Skykomish for hatchery chinook runs June 1-July 31, opening more than a month earlier than in 2012. And Stillaguamish River fishermen hoping for an earlier pink opening this time around will be disappointed in the Sept. 1 date.
There is no change scheduled for the popular selective chinook fishery in Marine Area 9, and the Tulalip Bubble opens as usual on the last Friday in May, running Friday through noon Monday. The Tulalip ceremonial fishery day (non-tribal fishery closed) will be June 15.
If your uncle from Iowa was coming next week for a visit and had asked if you could put him into some really good trout fishing, what general part of the state would you target for a weekend of rainbow chasing?
Arguably the best trout action in Washington can be found somewhere in the north Columbia Basin about this time of year, and since the early-opening lakes came on line April 1, along with the year-rounders warming up and starting to perk, fishing has been excellent.
One of the best, according to state Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Chad Jackson at the agency’s Ephrata office, has been Dry Falls Lake, a “quality” water under selective gear rules (single, barbless etc.) located just south of Coulee City in Grant County.
“On Easter weekend,” Jackson said, “there were probably 50 boats on the lake, many of them trolling wet flies or casting to the shoreline, and a lot of the anglers reported hooking 10 or 12 trout during a morning’s fishing.”
The lake has continued to produce, he said, with chironimids probably the best fly choice. The rainbows (and a few browns) are running 12 to 20 inches, most 14 to 16 inches.
“This has been one of the better early seasons in recent years, with good weather conditions generally, and fish on the bite,” Jackson said.
North and South Teal have been fair, around two fish per angler so far, but at 12 to 18 inches, of nice size. Upper and Lower Hampton are producing in roughly the same range, Jackson said, but the Teals are probably the better bet.
Of that handful of Basin lakes due to pop at the end of the month on the general trout opener, Jackson pegs Warden Lake as year in and year out the most consistent producer in the area.
“I expect it to put out four trout per rod or so, as it usually does,” he said. “And although Blue and Park lakes have had their problems recently, they should also be good bets.”
Mike Meseberg, owner of MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir, said the “seep” lakes group below the big lake have been “amazing at times this month.”
Meseberg said Canal, Heart and the Windmill lakes continue to provide top trout action. The Pillar-Widgeon chain below Soda Lake Dam has produced rainbows to 7-plus pounds, and Blythe Lake put out a 6-pounder this month.
Bank fishing has been the most popular technique in the area, Meseberg said, using Power Bait, Pautzky’s eggs, shrimp, or the old reliable nightcrawler/marshmallow combo.
With water temps still a little cool for warmwater species, the area’s best perch-crappie-largemouth lakes — Hutchinson and Shiner, on the Columbia national Wildlife Refuge — remain slow.
The second plant of big triploid rainbows goes into Blackmans Lake early next week, according to Mark Spada with the sponsoring Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club. At about 400 fish, this will be a larger plant than the first, and it will include some larger fish as well — a sprinkling of rainbows to about 5 pounds.
For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.