Our unusually cool, gray spring may not appeal to backyard cooks, but without warm temperatures and the resultant snow melt, Western Washington streams are in much better shape than normal for the first weekend of the 2011 river fishing season.
All or parts of many local streams opened Wednes
day, too late to make this column.
“We’re usually blown out this time of year,” Scott Weedman at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville said earlier this week, “but the Skykomish is nice and green and in great shape for at least the first couple of weeks of the season.”
Weedman said there have been steelhead lying off Reiter Ponds and chinook already in the Wallace hatchery.
“We had fish last year, too, but then a lot of rain came down before the opener and we were toast,” he said. “The Sky gets a nice little run of three-salt summer steelhead right around June 1, but they usually shoot straight through and on upriver in the high water, and we don’t get a shot at ’em.”
So both steelhead and hatchery kings are available on the Sky in certain areas (be sure to read the regs) and Weedman said current water conditions are just right for drifting eggs and other bait.
“You have to go to plugs sometimes in dirtier, higher water,” he said, “but these are perfect bait conditions for both species.”
The Reiter Ponds stretch of the upper Sky is closed, Weedman said, but the productive Cable Hole just downstream always puts out fish, as does the mouth of the Sultan and the Monroe area.
“Me?” Weedman said. “I’d head straight for the Cracker Bar at Sultan, or the half-mile of access along the south bank of the river above the Sultan bridge, or the mouth of the Wallace, or even the water above the Lewis Street bridge in Monroe (chinook are not legal below the bridge).”
Entrants in the $20,000 Port Angeles Halibut Derby scored big time over the long weekend, with the event featuring much larger fish than last year, good weather and favorable tides.
First place and $5,000 went to Chuck Brown of Renton for a jumbo 138-pounder, caught on Saturday. Second went to Bryan Johnson of Port Angeles at 107 pounds, and third to Dale Clark of Shelton at 106 pounds. Fourth place then fell a long way to Chris Hendershot of Sequim and his 70-pounder.
There were no 100-plus pound halibut weighed last year, according to event coordinator Norm Metzler, with the top fish coming in at 88 pounds.
“There were also a lot more fish in the 50- to 60-pound range than we saw last year,” Metzler said.
The top derby angler from this area was Curtis Jorgensen of Mukilteo, who took 12th place and $425 for a fish of 59 pounds. Best out-of-stater was Justin Satchell of Portland, Ore., with a 64-pounder, good for ninth place.
“Fishing right out front (of Port Angeles) wasn’t as good as usual,” Metzler said. “East and west were better, and split about evenly. I’d say the ‘humps’ and Freshwater Bay were as good as any.”
This year’s event drew 655 participants, down a little from the 2010 total of 688. Metzler said gas prices probably were responsible for the drop.
The shad fishing season on the Columbia is under way, sort of, with a few early aficionados braving high water conditions for little reward. State biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said bank fishermen below Bonneville Dam, and boaters in the Woodland area, are catching a few fish but that the 1,565 shad counted over Bonneville through May 30 is the lowest in nearly 30 years. In many years, Hymer said, over a half-million fish have been counted by this time.
By comparison, however, smallmouth bass and walleye fishermen in The Dalles pool were averaging nearly eight fish per rod last week.
Success on lings in local saltwater has tapered off, according to All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein. The fish have either gotten smarter or been caught. Krein said he’s still picking up two or three fish per trip, and said that, historically, the last week to 10 days of the season (it ends June 15) is as good as the early fishery.
“That could be because of a lessening of fishing pressure through the season,” he said.
Still plenty of planted rainbows left in most area trout lakes for the Power Bait crowd, according to Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood. Martha Lake (in Alderwood Manor) is probably as good as any, he said, with larger holdover fish supplementing current plants. The lake got slugged with a large plant of 8,000 catchables and 2,000 half-pounders, and has two fishing piers at the large park on its south side.
The Sol Duc River is putting out pretty good spring chinook fishing, according to Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks, for fish going 12 to 20 pounds, and occasionally to the 30-pound range.
“As long as the river stays a little high and with a little bit of color, it should remain good fishing,” Gooding said.
The Sol Duc is no river for a beginning boater, however, and Gooding advises hiring a guide. Call him for a list at 360-374-6330.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.