By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
At this point in the fall salmon season, there will be no chum fishery on the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, or Skagit river systems.
I better say that again.
There will be NO CHUM FISHING on local rivers this fall.
Sure, that information is in the regulation pamphlet. And sure, we all read the regulation pamphlet. But certain regs just seem to disappear into the ether, and these apparently haven’t registered strongly with area anglers. A lot of citations have already been handed out and more are on the way to those keeping chums while fishing for coho, or targeting chums with gear obviously not intended for coho.
Chums will be legal in the Samish, mainstem Nooksack, Whatcom Creek, and others north of us, but nothing down this way. State salmon managers say run predictions earlier this year were for depressed runs, below the level needed for spawning escapement.
Some recreational fishermen have another view.
“Overfishing for two years in a row by commercials, and poor monitoring by WDFW (Washington Fish and Wildlife Department), put our chums in a real hole,” said avid angler and fishing advocate Sam Ingram of Arlington.
State salmon manager for Puget Sound, Steve Thiesfeld, said the agency did negotiate the possibility of an in-season opening for the Snohomish and Skagit systems if the runs proved substantially larger than expected. There is only a faint hope of that happening on the Snohomish, he said, and he wasn’t ready to quote odds of it happening on the Skagit, either, although the chances there are a little better.
Thiesfeld said there will be no commercial fishing on the three systems, either, except for the possibility of small tribal subsistence and ceremonial events, and none in marine areas 9, 8-1 or 8-2. A couple of exceptions to that will be a fishery for Tulalip tribal hatchery chums in Tulalip Bay, and a Tulalip net fishery in Area 8-2 limited to 2,000 chums and designed to update in-season run size estimates.
All things considered — bad economy, too-good weather conditions — Saturday’s statewide waterfowl and rifle deer season openers drew a bunch of folks and could have been a lot worse. Granted, results weren’t gunnysack anywhere, but there were plenty of bright spots.
Duck hunters did “surprisingly well” in the Columbia Basin, said Dave Ware, state wildlife manager in Olympia, despite calm, sunny conditions. Mikal Moore, waterfowl specialist in the agency’s Ephrata office, reported the best hunting was in the Desert Unit, the area north of Potholes Reservoir, and the reservoir itself. Walk-in hunters setting up on ponds north of the reservoir did best, according to Moore, mostly on local ducks — greenwing teal, widgeon and gadwall.
Ware said John Garrett, manager of the Skagit Wildlife Area complex, reported relatively slow hunting but blamed it on bad tides rather than a lack of birds. Hunters working the bay front did best, Garrett said, averaging 2 to 3 birds per person. One party of four had 10 greenwing teal, 2 mallards and 2 pintail, according to Garrett. Another group of four, hunting the “Island Segment,” shot limits on Saturday, then went back Sunday and harvested 18 birds.
Action on local birds was pretty good over the weekend farther north, with hunters around Tennant Lake, a mile southeast of Ferndale, taking limits of teal, widgeon, mallards, pintail, and 1 Canada goose.
On the deer front, whitetail hunters north of Spokane fared relatively poorly, as predicted. Ware said whitetail populations have not yet recovered from two bad winters in a row and, because hunters knew that, hunting pressure was also below the long-term average in the area.
Ware said state personnel at the Deer Park check station contacted 236 hunters on Sunday, with 15 whitetails and 6 mule deer, roughly the same numbers as were posted last year.
Ware said the Chelan area was spotty and relatively slow. Some 80 hunters were checked over Saturday and Sunday with only 2 animals. “That’s a migratory situation,” Ware said, “and it always shows better later in the year.”
A new check station in Winthrop seemed to work out well for Okanogan County hunters, Ware said, and weekend results were pretty good. Hunting pressure was about the same as last year, and state personnel checked 31 deer and 1 bear. Ware said fawn recruitment in Okanogan mule deer herds has been improving, and so has the number of 3- and 4-point animals. Herds are “Healthy and growing,” he said.
The only southwest Washington deer results Ware had available were from Klickitat County, traditionally one of the better hunts in the general area. Checks there on Saturday tallied 7 deer and 2 bear for 143 hunters, and on Sunday, 1 buck for 65 hunters.
Two weekends left to get in some quality trout fishing in several eastside lakes, maybe in combination with a hunting trip. October can be very good as water temps cool and trout become more active, according to Bob Jateff, Okanogan district biologist. He recommends Big Twin, near Winthrop; Blue on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area; Aeneas, near Tonasket; and Chopaka, near Loomis. All these lakes close Oct. 31; Chopaka and Aeneas are flies-only; Blue and Big Twin are selective gear waters; and all have a one-fish daily limit.
Good bets among general-regulation lakes, Jateff said, would include Conconully Lake and Conconully Reservoir, and Wannacut Lake. All three produce good-size rainbow, including some triploids.