Sockeye starting to check in at Baker Lake

  • Wednesday, June 18, 2014 11:14pm
  • Sports

Great news! You can gather your gear, head up to Baker Lake tomorrow morning and catch a sockeye.

You can, that is, if you’re able to find one of the seven fish trucked to the big lake from the Baker River trap as of Tuesday and convince that fish you’re offering lunch.

Fat chance, of course, but at least a positive indicator that optimism about the 2014 run may be warranted and that the large run predicted might indeed show up a little farther down the line.

State Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Brett Barkdull, at the agency’s La Conner office, said 17 total sockeye had been trapped as of Tuesday morning, with seven trucked up to the lake. Barkdull said the first salmon entered the trap June 12, the earliest date ever for the facility. The first fish showed last year on June 17.

Meanwhile, the Skagit River is also open for sockeye, up to Gilligan Creek (above Sedro-Woolley), and putting out a few fish. Barkdull estimated about two dozen salmon were caught in the river over the weekend, nearly all by bank fishermen. The Burlington soccer fields were popular, along with several access points along the South Skagit Highway and at the mouth of Gilligan Creek. Most of the bank fishermen were plunkers, Barkdull said, adding that there was one fish caught by a boater.

You can follow the trap counts on the agency’s website,

While it may be a little early to go sockeye fishing, it’s never too early to stock up on tackle. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said a good, basic rig would include a size “0” big ring dodger in white, 50-50, or purple haze, 12 inches of 40-pound leader, and a 2-inch pink squid with a pair of 2/0 hooks in red, pink or glow. Add a shrimp tail soaked in krill or shrimp scent to the hoochie, John said.

Some anglers still prefer the bare-hook arrangement, and others add some combination of smile blades or a Spin N Glo to the basic hoochie.

John said the lake fishery will have a three-fish limit, and will allow two rods per person, with the proper two-rod license endorsement.

“The endorsement costs $14, or $7 for seniors, and I highly recommend it,” he said. “Sockeye are school fish and you want to have a lot of gear in the water when you find a school.”

Coastal salmon

The “regular” summer salmon season is underway on the coast (as opposed to the earlier selective chinook fishery), and the first weekend was a mixed bag, according to state sampling coordinator Wendy Beeghley.

Private boaters had trouble getting out because of rough water, Beeghley said, so the charter catch rate was the best indicator of coastal success. Charters out of Ilwaco averaged about a fish and a half per person over the weekend, mostly coho, and Westport charters averaged about the same, but with slightly more chinook than coho in the bag.

Beeghley said most of the action came on an early-morning bite, and that chinook were mostly in the 8- to 12-pound range.

“We did see a couple of big kings at Neah Bay over the weekend,” she said. “One looked to be about 25 pounds.”

Generally, fishing was much better than the previous week in Neah Bay and down the coast, with chinook now spread over the entire area, including lots of coho for this early in the season.

Local saltwater

All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein said the north portion of Marine Area 10, open to catch and release until July 1, is offering fair fishing in the Kingston area. On July 1, both areas 9 and 10 open for coho catch and keep, release chinook, until July 16, when the very popular selective king fishery opens. A new regulation this year cuts the hatchery chinook limit from two kings to one, Krein said, in an attempt to increase the length of the season to more than just a couple of weeks under a 2014 quota reduction.

Kids’ Fish-In

Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville and the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club offer a free kids’ fish-in from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, with a barbecue, balloons and other good stuff. Some 400 trout will be ready to rumble in a portable pond, and the sponsors will provide the bait and tackle, along with help for novice anglers.

The address is 24300 Woodinville-Snohomish Road, just down the street from the Woodinville Costco. For information and/or directions, go to, or call 425-415-1575.


The state made its annual Father’s Day plants of triploid rainbows in selected lakes last week, and plenty of those 1- to 2-pound fish are still in the water. Planted lakes in Snohomish County include Blackmans Lake in Snohomish, and Gissburg Ponds (Twin Lakes), adjacent to the west side of I-5, north of Marysville. Lake Campbell in Skagit County near Deception Pass was planted, as was Lake Padden, south of Bellingham in Whatcom County. A couple more heavily planted lakes putting out rainbows are Heart Lake, in Skagit County south of Anacortes, and Lake McMurray, in Skagit County on Highway 9 south of Mount Vernon.

Reports from McMurray, however, say that while there are plenty of fish available, they’re suffering from a parasite infestation that for most people would make them fit for catch and release but not the table.

Fly fishermen are scoring in Heart Lake with woolly buggers in black, brown or olive, while gear guys troll Rooster Tails or Dick Nite spoons.


The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, the nine-member citizen panel that oversees the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, has approved new regulations for recreational and commercial smelt fishing in Puget Sound in order to increase protection for the valuable species. Smelt are an important forage fish for a wide variety of Puget Sound species, and the commission concluded they may have been overharvested the past several years.

The new policy puts a 60,000-pound annual quota on commercial harvest; reduces the commercial fishery by one day each week during seasonal openings in each area; and closes inactive commercial smelt fisheries, including dip bag and purse seine, which have not been used for at least 10 years.

On the recreational side, the policy closes nighttime dip net fishing, allowing the gear from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. Jigging gear, the rigs most recreational smelt fishermen use at such places as Cornet Bay, Oak Harbor Marina and La Conner, are not affected and will continue to be legal 24/7.

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

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