By Wayne Kruse Herald Writer
The numbers certainly are not overwhelming, but at least they’re an improvement over the first few days of the run and could perhaps warrant a bit of optimism.
Sockeye counts at the Baker River trap jumped from one or two fish per day to 42 fish on June 26th, then 30, 36, and 33 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively, and 26 on Monday morning before noon.
That’s a cumulative total of 177 through Sunday. That’s a long way from the preseason forecast of 35,400 fish, but, hey, you take what you can get.
State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Brett Barkdull in La Conner said it’s too early to get a good feel for the run size. He needs a couple more weeks. Baker Lake opens for the recreational sockeye season on July 10, and it doesn’t look like there will be enough fish in the lake to make it worthwhile, which is not an unusual situation. The fishery doesn’t normally pick up until at least the middle of the month.
Meanwhile, the Skagit River closed Sunday night and the state estimated 66 fish were caught Saturday and 105 Sunday, for a total of 171 over the weekend for 394 anglers.
The Lake Washington counts have been dismal, but that was pretty much expected. Salmon managers predicted a Cedar river/Sammamish River run of less than half the 350,000 fish needed for spawning escapement. As of Sunday, the total count at the Chittenden Locks stood at 4,024.
It’s a little too early yet to get meaningful data from Tumwater Dam on the Lake Wenatchee run, although the numbers currently coming up the Columbia are impressive. The preseason forecast of adult sockeye to the Columbia was updated June 30 to 425,000 fish. That would be the second-highest run ever recorded on the Columbia, behind the 521,000 in 2012, and ahead of the 388,000 in 2010. The majority of those fish, however, are bound for the big hatchery operation on the upper Okanogan, and it will be a while before the split, Okanogan/Wenatchee, is worked out.
Recreational crabbing opened today in most of Puget Sound, and state biologist Don Velasquez at the agency’s Mill Creek office said he expects a season similar to that of last year. The 2013 season was average, at best, and well below the very good 2012 season.
Velasquez said tribal commercial fishers took roughly the same amount of crab as they did last year, with one 48-hour and one 56-hour opening.
“They must have landed their quota,” he said, “because they didn’t take advantage of a scheduled third opening.”
He said state test fisheries were pretty good — at 17 or 18 legals per pot — but that was prior to the commercial openings. Recreational crabbers in areas 8-1 and 8-2, two of the most popular Marine Areas for crabbing in the Sound, took an awesome total last year of 689,500 pounds of Dungeness crab.
The summer season in this area runs through Sept. 1, Thursdays through Mondays only, with a limit of five hard-shell male Dungeness measuring at least six and a quarter inches across the carapace, plus six red rock crab, either sex, at least five inches across.
One of the most common violations for which citations are issued, is for failure to enter crab on catch record cards immediately upon retaining. Separate catch record cards are issued for summer and winter seasons.
Some of the better spots in our area for this weekend? Velasquez said staying as far away from commercial ports as possible is a good idea. Popular areas on the east side of Whidbey Island would include Snatelum Point, just south of Penn Cove, and the north Holmes Harbor/Baby Island area, he said.
So are there any hot, new crab baits on the market this year? Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood said there is one.
“It comes up from California,” he said, “and the only info on the bottle says ‘Trap More Crab, Crab Attractant.’ It’s a little pricey at $10 for a 4-ounce bottle, but I’ve handed out some samples to a few of our regulars to give it a try and report back. You either squirt it on your regular bait and let it sit a while before use, or soak a piece of sponge in it and place in your trap’s bait cage.”
An e-mail from a reader read: “I have heard from several sources that kings caught and released in Area 9 between July 1 and July 15 are counted against our catch and keep quota in Area 9 after it opens on the 16th. Is this accurate? If so, why do they open it for silvers when they aren’t in Area 9 yet? This has caused us to lose our catch and keep season for kings in Area 9. They have closed it a month early the last two years.”
Gary Krein, charter owner and fishing activist who participates each year in the salmon season setting process, said, “That’s not accurate. The recreational quota of that selective chinook fishery in Area 9, which opens July 16, is based only on landed catch and kept fish. What the salmon managers call ‘encounters’ already have been factored in to the general chinook run survival, all the way down the line. But a shutdown for taking the quota in Area 9 is based only on retained chinook.”
The Cowlitz is picking up for summer steelhead, according to state spokesman Joe Hymer in Vancouver. Over the weekend, checks showed 34 boat anglers with 19 steelhead and five spring chinook, while some 120 bank fishermen had 11 chinook and nine steelhead. Chinook are being caught at the barrier dam, while steelhead are being found between the hatcheries.
The Columbia shad fishery is winding down, with fewer than 10,000 fish crossing Bonneville Dam daily. Still catchable numbers, however, and checks showed 63 shad fishermen below Bonneville Dam with 72 fish.
Charter operations on the coast are scoring well right now, with limits common. Wendy Beeghley, state creel sampling coordinator, said the latest average at Westport was better than a fish and a half per rod, running one-third chinook and two-thirds coho. At Ilwaco, it was about the same catch rate, but the majority of the fish were coho, going 4 or 5 pounds. At Neah Bay, chinook outnumbered coho about four to one, but the catch rate was under one per rod.
For more outdoors news, see Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing