Salmon fishing: ‘Limits the rule rather than the exception’

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014 7:55pm
  • Sports

The salmon fishing spotlight this week is still on the record run of fall chinook headed up the Columbia River, including charter action out of Ilwaco, the madhouse at buoy 10 and river fishing up to the Astoria bridge and beyond. But if you’re interested, get right on it — state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said right now is historically the peak of the fall king run at the mouth of the Columbia.

The buoy 10 fishery was good over the weekend, putting out a nice mix of chinook and coho, Hymer said, at better than a king per boat, but very crowded and with lines at the launches in Ilwaco and Chinook.

Ocean fishing out of Ilwaco was, if anything, better than that in the river. State Fish and Wildlife Department coastal creel sampling coordinator Wendy Beeghley said charters are still coming in early with limits all around, mostly coho, averaging 4 or 5 pounds but with a good percentage of larger fish to 12 pounds or so. The average catch last week was in the 1.6- or 1.7-fish-per-person range for charter anglers, Beeghley said.

Longtimer Milt Gudgel at Pacific Salmon Charters in Ilwaco (1-800-831-2695) said “I’m tuckered. It’s wild down here, crazy. Everybody’s getting fish, literally, with limits the rule rather than the exception. I had 11 people on Monday, and we were back at the dock by 8:15 with full limits. And that included a chinook of 26 pounds and a couple of coho pushing 10 pounds.”

Gudgel said between 10 and 40 percent of the charter catch last week was composed of chinook, depending on the boat and the area it fished. Most boats were working 45 feet of water, about a mile and a half off Long Beach.

A charter trip for salmon out of Ilwaco is going for $115 plus tax, per person, and Gudgel said after the salmon fishery dies down, charters fish tuna and bottomfish.

Ilwaco is a little farther away than Westport, but it’s an interesting town, and if you’ve never visited Long Beach, just up the coast, it’s worth the trip in itself.

The Port of Ilwaco will field questions about charters at 360-642-3143.

Lake Wenatchee sockeye

Probably another week or so for decent sockeye fishing in Lake Wenatchee, not because of a lack of fish, but because many are now on the dark side. State biologist Travis Maitland said a huge number of salmon — somewhere in the range of 96,000 fish — have been counted over Tumwater Dam on the Wenatchee River, headed for the lake. Maitland said that after Labor Day, many of the sockeye will be moving to tributary streams, and fishing pressure will drop off quickly.

“There are still a pretty fair number of fishermen on the lake,” Maitland said, “and they are still finding sockeye in good shape by catching and releasing the dark ones.”

He estimates the recreational harvest on the lake at about 12,000 to 13,000 fish. Most anglers are trolling at about 15 to 20 feet deep early in the morning, then going to 50 or 60 feet, but still finding fish as deep as 80 feet.

“The fishery this year has been a little unusual,” he said. “Most years, the fish move right up the lake and hold off the two tributary rivers, and the fishermen follow them. This year, guys are taking sockeye halfway up the lake and at a lot of other places closer to the south end launch. That’s probably because it’s such a large run, with fish all over.”

Tiger Muskie record

David Hickman of Richland set a state tiger muskie record on July 26 while fishing Curlew Lake in Ferry County. Hickman’s jumbo tiger weighed 37.88 pounds and measured 50.38 inches in length. It blew the previous record out of the water, so to speak, beating by 6 pounds the fish caught by John Bays of Chehalis, who was fishing Mayfield Lake, Lewis County, in 2001. Curlew is a big, multi-species lake lying about 5 miles northeast of Republic.

Hickman was using a white spinnerbait, according to John Easterbrooks of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Yakima.

The tiger muskie is a sterile cross of muskellunge and northern pike, reaching weights of 50 pounds or better in the upper Midwest. The fish has been introduced to several lakes in Washington to both provide a top gamefish for sport fishermen, and as a big-time predator to help eliminate trash fish species from certain waters. Since the fish is sterile, there’s no danger of it escaping its targeted home into areas where it’s not supposed to be.


Paul Hoffarth, a state biologist in the Columbia Basin, said walleye fishing on the Columbia and Snake rivers has been excellent this summer and is expected to remain strong throughout August and into September. Hoffarth said that “walleye really tie on the feedbag when fall comes around, so we can expect to see some more great fishing in the weeks ahead.”’

The best action has been in Lake Umatilla, Hoffarth said, the 67-mile-long pool between John Day and McNary dams, as well as the water immediately upstream of McNary. But an interesting stretch of water which has come on just the last several years, is the Hanford Reach, upriver from the Tri-Cities.

“It’s a little faster flow than a lot of walleye spots,” Hoffarth said, “so it tends to be fished less. They’ve been taking some nice fish out of that area, though, occasionally to 7 or 8 pounds.”

Most walleye fishermen use a bottom walker with a worm harness, or blade baits, and they work the current seams, Hoffarth said.

Launch at Ringold, the Tri Cities, White Bluffs, or Vernita. The Vernita launch will put you above Coyote Rapids and an easy run to the good walleye water below Priest Rapids Dam.

There is no minimum size limit and no limit on the number of walleye you can keep upstream of the Washington-Oregon border, 17 miles upstream of McNary Dam. Below the state line there is a daily limit of 10 fish, only five of which can be over 18 inches and only one over 24 inches.

Combination trips to Hanford Reach could involve walleye, a big run of “upriver bright” fall chinook, and good smallmouth bass fishing.

Hunting regs

The state is seeking comments on proposed alternatives for 2015-17 hunting seasons, and has scheduled several meetings this month to discuss the proposals with the public. The closest one to us is scheduled for Aug. 26 at the Holiday Inn in downtown Everett (3105 Pine Street, Everett Ballroom 2). Issues currently under consideration by the department are spring and fall black bear seasons; early archery elk seasons; modern firearm mule deer seasons; hunting equipment, including non-toxic ammunition, expandable broadheads, and crossbows; special permit drawings; and baiting big game.

The alternatives have been posted on department’s website,, where the public can also post comments. The state will accept comments on the alternatives through Sept. 20.

For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at

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