By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
Baker Lake sockeye anglers are scratching a little harder for fish so far this season than in 2012, and that probably means predictions for a somewhat smaller run are proving accurate.
“Historically, about half the run has been counted at the (Baker Dam) trap by July 19,” said Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington. “The count at that point this year was a little over 9,000 fish, and if you double that, you’re getting close to the prediction of 21,000 fish.”
That would be down from last season’s total trap count of 28,410 sockeye, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t fish to be taken.
“It has actually been fairly good,” John said. “The numbers seem to be holding true, so it’s going to be a little tougher, but that only means moving around, watching for ‘showing’ fish, using a sounder, spending a little more time on the water.”
John said salmon are scattered, mostly above the bend, and at different water depths as well. Heavy morning fog recently delayed the morning bite, he said, and fishing didn’t really pick up until more light was on the water.
He recommends starting early in the day and dropping your gear to 20 or perhaps 30 feet to start, going down later to as deep as 55 feet or so. Rig with a big ring “0” dodger, eight to 18 inches of leader, bare red or black hooks, or a 11/2-inch pink hoochie. Add a small piece of raw or cured shrimp or a sand shrimp tail, and douse the works with shrimp oil.
The hoochie can be UV pink, John said, maybe dressed up with a smile blade or a red or pink size 8 or 10 Spin N Glo. John likes dodgers in UV white, UV purple haze, or 50-50.
The dam counts as of July 19 were 9,032 trappoed, and 4,620 transported to the lake. Check out the current trap counts at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/salmon/sockeye/baker_river.html.
The big run of odd-year humpies continues to work its way down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but it’s not here in any numbers yet. State creel checks at the Washington Park public ramp west of Anacortes on Saturday showed 59 anglers with 11 chinook, one coho and 38 pinks. On Sunday, it was 38 anglers with 21 pinks. Those are Fraser and/or Skagit fish which tend to be a little earlier than those headed for Puget Sound tributaries in this area.
Sunday’s count at the Port of Everett ramp was 10 pinks for 390 anglers, most of which were caught incidentally to the ongoing chinook fishery. Weekend checks at Olson’s Resort in Sekiu showed outstanding salmon fishing: 206 anglers with 130 chinook, 10 coho, and 61 pinks.
Gary Krein, owner of All Star Charters in Everett, said that after a very hot couple of opening days, fishing for clipped-fin kings in the Port Townsend area dropped off precipitously, and that Possession Bar remained fairly slow. He said a few fish are being picked up a lot of places — Pilot Point, Point No Point, Possession, Kingston, and Richmond Beach among several others — but that there has been no local hot spot.
State check numbers, however, indicate at least decent local fishing. On July 16, opening day, some 212 anglers at the Port of Everett ramp had 96 kings, 11 coho and three pinks. And last Sunday, it was 390 fishermen with 39 chinook, 10 coho and 10 pinks — still not too bad.
But how long has it been since you’ve seen success rates on adult kings better than a fish per rod? Check this out: On July 16, opening day of the area 9-10 selective chinook fishery, 169 fishermen at the Port Townsend Boat Haven ramp were contacted with 194 chinook. And that’s about as good as it gets around here.
Krein said the scattering of pinks caught already on Possession Bar is encouraging for this early in the season, particularly as they were mostly taken on spoons worked by chinook fishermen. Good-sized humpies, too, he said, some in the 7- to 8-pound range.
Westport open seven days
Marine Area 2 opened July 19 to salmon fishing seven days a week, joining the three other coastal areas already open daily. Angler effort and catch rates are building slowly, but creel checks have not yet broken the one-per-rod figure, according to Wendy Beeghley, creel sample coordinator for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The latest Westport numbers showed about one-third chinook and one-half coho per person, Beeghley said.
“That may improve in the next couple of weeks,” Beeghley said. “They’re doing better up north, on fish moving down the coast, and trollers are also reporting more fish.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released its report on 2013 duck breeding populations, and while predictions are for a slightly lower total North American duck population, the numbers remain strong and well above the long-term averages. The report said its survey showed an estimated 45.6 million breeding ducks in the heart of the most important areas in the U.S. and Canada, a six-percent decrease from last year’s estimate but 33 percent above the 1955-2012 average.
Of the 10 species surveyed, seven were similar to last year’s estimates, including mallards. Scaup and blue-winged teal were significantly below last year’s estimates. American wigeon were 23 percent above last year, and mallards are 36 percent above the long-term average.
Neah Bay strong
Best coastal salmon results recently have been at Neah Bay, where anglers are averaging about one fish per rod, equally split between chinook and coho. They have been killing the pinks there, however, and when humpy numbers are added, Neah Bay anglers are scoring at a 1.6-fish-per-person clip.
Pretty good steelhead fishing on tap between the hatcheries, where 74 boat anglers last week were checked with 43 fish.
The lower end of the Columbia opens to chinook and hatchery coho on Aug. 1 but, as usual, fishing probably won’t be close to hot on the opener. Joe Hymer, state biologist in the Vancouver office, said there are a few chinook in the area, but warm water temperatures and a lack of big tides early in the Buoy 10 season will probably tend to keep an improved coho run off the coast.
Hymer looks for fishig to improve, however, over the next few weeks and said the coho numbers look good this year.