Don’t panic, the coho are coming

  • By Wayne Kruse / Herald writer
  • Wednesday, September 20, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

There’s an almost eerie similarity between the local coho situation this year and the one last year during the week before the big Everett Derby. We had a flush of early silvers this year, just like last, that anglers worked down around Brown’s Bay and off Edmonds. Then, catch rates dropped and radio chatter was full of “Where’d they go?” and “I can’t find ‘em anymore.”

Just 19 coho were weighed for 247 anglers on Sunday by state Fish and Wildlife Department personnel at the Port of Everett ramp, about the same success ratio as was in place last year at this time.

There was a lot of hesitation the week before the 2005 derby by anglers wondering where they should try their luck on Saturday morning, and more than a little sweating by derby officials.

Then, on the Thursday of derby week, the main body of the coho run showed up and anglers scored big-time from the shipwreck north to Mukilteo and almost everywhere else in inner Puget Sound. The derby was a huge success, an 18-pound beauty won it all, and everyone went home smiling.

I’m willing to bet the same thing will happen this week, with a bonus: We’ve had enough rain to pull a bunch of silvers into the rivers, and the Snohomish system, the mainstem Stillaguamish and the Skagit probably will all be better bets this year than last to put out cash-size coho.

Sekiu anglers had several days of pretty decent fishing last week, with checks at midweek showing close to a fish per rod in some areas, even though that dropped to one for every two or three rods over the weekend. Considering that only clipped coho are keepable there – and that only about 30 percent of the fish coming down the Strait are clipped – that would indicate a pretty sizable run that should show up on the inner Sound shortly.

Triangle Beverage owner Jim Strege, in Snohomish, has a contact on Whidbey Island who told him a lot of coho have been seen rolling off Bush Point and the other Whidbey fishing beaches, even though getting them to open their mouths has been a project. Strege said there are a bunch of fish in the Snohomish River, too, but finding biters is what makes river fishing interesting.

Anglers on the bottom end, around Lowell, have been hitting a few fish on diving plugs – Fatfish and Wiggle Warts – in reds, chrome and greens, or drifting and bottom bouncing Dick Nite spoons.

Bank access on the Snohomish for boatless coho fishermen isn’t great, but there are some decent spots. Strege said Bob Heirman Park is probably the best area, covering the southwest bank of the river for about a mile, between about Crabb Bar and the lower end of Thomas’ Eddy. Park on Connelly Road, behind Kenwanda Golf Course, and be prepared to walk a half-mile to a mile to reach a fishing spot.

A lot of spots are available along River Road, between Snohomish and Lowell, also on the southwest side of the river. Look for deep slots along rip rap or on the outside of a bend, and fish it on an incoming tide. A third area that can be productive if you happen to hit a school of coho moving through is from the rip-rap right in the town of Snohomish, Strege said.

Bank fishermen rig with 4 to 6 feet of 10- or 12-pound test leader, a half-ounce of lead on a dropper from the swivel (lighter test, so it will break off first), and a Wee or No. 1 spoon in 50-50 brass/nickel, or anything green or chartreuse. Vibrax and Mepps spinners are popular, in a wide range of colors, and casters toss Buzz Bombs in chrome or green, including the new holograph patterns, or Crippled Herring. The latter lure, a Luhr Jensen product until the Hood River, Ore., firm was purchased by a Midwest-based competitor, has suffered from short supply, Strege said.

The Skykomish is holding fish and has a fairly accessible supply of bank fishing spots, and sea-run cutthroat anglers have reported coho splashing everywhere on the mainstem Stillaguamish.

Guide and Arlington resident Sam Ingram fished the Skykomish on Monday and, working diligently for five hours, found a few biters on the lower end. He boated two fish in the 7- to 8-pound range, he said, but saw larger ones rolling. He used 6-pound fluorocarbon line, split shot on a dropper totaling a quarter-ounce to a half-ounce about 6 feet above his lure, and a Wee Dick Nite spoon. Ingram said he anchors and casts, or drifts and casts, depending on other boat traffic, but said it’s important to cast upstream and not retrieve too quickly. Let the spoon flutter down and hang in front of the fish, he said.

Ingram also filled out my piscatorial education. When you’ve been in this business as long as I have, it’s tempting to think you’ve heard all there is to hear. Ingram changed my mind.

Seems he went out on the saltchuck Tuesday, after fishing the Sky on Monday, and trolled fruitlessly for three hours in Brown’s Bay, using the standard flasher/green hoochie setup. Tiring of that, he and his partner ran across to the southeast corner of Possession Bar and Ingram decided to put a rig he had only heard about on the third rod.

So his party ended up trolling with a Coyote spoon on rod 1, a flasher/hoochie on rod 2, and on rod 3, a No. 2 Spin N Glo in chrome with green top, two beads, and a green hoochie with twinkle skirt. On the hoochie hook, he hung a small herring strip for smell and taste. He tied all this on a relatively short (26-inch) leader, behind an all-white flasher.

The party then proceeded to hit four coho in less than an hour, all on the Rube Goldberg setup described above, fished between 55 and 75 feet.

I don’t know why I’m surprised. Beach fishermen at Bush Point have been tossing a Spin N Glo/hoochie setup for years, and have caught both salmon and steelhead. And I remember my father, back in the 1950s, catching a nice steelhead on the Skagit on one of those white plastic cigar butts that come attached to certain brands of mini-cigars.

Ah, fishing. I love it.

Shared moorage: Anglers wanting their boat in the water before Saturday morning can contact the Port of Everett Marina at 425-259-6001 and ask about the availability of “shared moorage,” or e-mail the port at Shared moorage will be available on a first-come-first-served basis, and participants can then avoid launch lines on the mornings of the derby. Derby coordinator Jim Brauch said shared moorage is usually someone who has a slip at the marina leaving for the weekend and the port then renting it out.

Edmonds derby results: This year’s version of the Puget Sound Anglers/Boaters World Edmonds Coho Derby was won by 13-year old Brandon Choate, who also won the youth division with his 13-pound, 9.5-ounce (cleaned weight) hooknose. The boy took home $2,500 as an adult, and $200 as a kid, for a not-half-bad day’s work.

All 450 tickets were sold, according to coordinator Ron Garner, and a total of 122 coho were weighed. Second place and $1,000 in the adult division went to Ken Forland, at 13 pounds, 3 ounces; and third to Steve Bratton at 11 pounds, 6 ounces.

Yakima chinook: The success rate has been getting better at Chandler Powerhouse and below Horn Rapids Dam. An estimated 84 chinook were caught during last week’s fishery, according to state biologist Paul Hoffarth in Yakima.

Hanford Reach: Fall chinook fishing continues to improve slowly, but the rate of one fish for every 2.6 boats is not considered peak action. An estimated 251 chinook were caught last week.

Upper Columbia summer chinook: Guide and Brewster resident Rod Hammons said fishing in the Bridgeport area and below Wells Dam remains so-so, but is late this year like a lot of other runs around the state. Best success has come on backtrolled Hot Shots and Kwikfish, he said.

Liberal trout regs: If you’re planning a hunting trip to the eastside, you might want to toss your rod into the family bus. Several lakes are scheduled for rotenone treatment to eliminate species competing with trout and the state has liberalized trout regulations to allow as many to be caught as possible prior to treatment. Park and Blue lakes in Grant County, and Pearrygin Lake in Okanogan County, are the best-known of the waters on the list, and the special regs are as follows: Park Lake, open through Oct. 29, no daily limit, no size limit; Blue Lake, open through Oct. 22, no daily limit, no size limit; and Pearrygin, open through Oct. 8, no daily limit, no size limit.

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