By Wayne Kruse
Oh what a day it was. It really was. Such a day.
Possibly the best single morning of salmon fishing I’ve experienced in 65 years of chasing kings, pinks, chums and silvers around Puget Sound. Incredible fishing. Awesome fishing. Almost Alaska-level fishing. Warm day, flat water with a little ripple, enough fog to add character to the picture, a pair of longtime friends aboard, hot coffee in a battered Thermos, and Judyrae’s famous good-luck fishing sandwiches in a brown paper bag.
We hit the Tin Shed about 5:30 a.m. Monday and dropped the first rigger in 150 feet of water, towing a red racer Hot Spot flasher and a neon green Kingfisher spoon. Just got the second rig down when No. 1 went off. Then No. 2. A double on adult kings in the first 10 minutes of fishing. Chaos aboard. Net waving, rods bucking, bodies banging around the cockpit and reels singing that old, sweet song.
One nice fish broke off, but we landed the other, and so it went for a wild two hours on the southeast corner of Possession Bar. We hooked 12 chinook, lost some, hooked another double, had one cut off by a passing boat (there were 50 or 60 of us out there in the fog), but brought only clipped hatchery fish to the net — 100 percent — not a single wild fish to be released.
Such a day. One of those days in which the stars all align and you can do no wrong. At 8:08 a.m., exactly, we put our sixth fish in the box to high-fives all around. We ended the trip with what looked like a Westport fish box — a 21-pounder, a 16, three of about 12 pounds, and one only slightly smaller.
Most of our fish came on the above rig, or a UV purple haze flasher with a red racer Kingfisher 3.5 spoon and 42 inches of leader, or a white, 5-inch Tomic 603 plug. Most of the hits were just above bottom in about 140 feet of water, and we had the feeling that a number of other boats in the general area weren’t working deep enough.
Monday, of course, was the much-anticipated opening of the Marine Area 9-10 selective chinook fishery that has proved so popular and productive over the past four or five years. The Port Townsend area is almost always good early in this season, but Possession Bar has been a crap shoot. Not Monday, at the shed, in the fog. The fish were there.
Did everyone on Possession do that well on the opener? Of course not. We happened to drop right on top of ‘em at breakfast time, and we had the years of expertise that only wily veteran skipper Gary Krein can draw from. Krein, owner of All Star Charters, can smell chinook, and he knows Possession Bar like no one else in the area. If Gary can’t find salmon, they ain’t there.
Add the same level of expertise with John Martinis, owner of John’s Sporting Goods on north Broadway in Everett, and the current main man in a long line of commercial and sport fishermen, and you’ve staffed a salmon machine. I might mention — sure, why not — that your ‘umble servant, while he sits back and generally lets the experts do their thing, can handle the business end of a Featha Stik with the best of ‘em.
Martinis produces videos of various types of local saltwater fishing, which he posts on YouTube, and you can see this trip below:
Local highliner and radio talk show host Tom Nelson started on the bar, but got word of a good bite at Midchannel Bank near Port Townsend and took off. We heard later that he got into some nice fish there and put three into the box aboard Big Red. Nick Kester, skipper of the other All Star Charters boat, also fished Midchannel and limited out by midmorning.
Nelson monitored a lot of radio traffic and said it sounded like the Port Townsend area was the better fishery of the two. State Department of Fish and Wildlife sampling supervisor Mark Baltzell, agreed. He said state personnel counted roughly 80 chinook for 37 boats in the Port Townsend area Monday morning, and said “we consider that pretty hot fishing for the opener.”
While results from Snohomish County checks were incomplete, Baltzell said his people were seeing better than a fish per boat at the Port of Everett launch.
Farther south, he said Area 10 was slower and that “numbers of fish probably hadn’t gotten that far yet.”
Despite high, dirty water, the Skagit River sockeye season went out with a bang for anglers fishing the Baker Lake run in Burlington, Sedro-Woolley and on up the South Skagit Highway last week. The peak of the run was probably approaching that general area, accounting for good catch rates despite less than premium conditions, according to Kevin John at Holiday Sports (360-757-4361) in Burlington.
The trap counts at Baker Dam as of Tuesday totaled 10,915 fish, with 6,614 transferred to Baker Lake, and fishing on the big impoundment is under way. The preseason run forecast was for 35,400 fish, which would be a record.
John and another Holiday employee fished Baker Lake on Tuesday and ended up boating five sockeye on six chances. The lake is high, with lower visibility than last year, John said, and the surface temperature is a cool 57 degrees. He said the best concentration of fish they marked was around Noisy Creek, about two-thirds of the way up the “foot” of the Baker Lake inverted “boot,” over the old Baker River channel, along the south shore.
The biters were hanging at 15 to 20 feet, and the best rig was a size “0” dodger and pink mini-squid, 20 feet behind the downrigger cable. A 6-ounce crescent sinker, or a diving plane, trolled very slowly, could also easily reach those depths.
“By this weekend the fishery should be on fire,” John said.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.