Know the rules

  • Wayne Kruse / Outdoor Writer
  • Saturday, July 8, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

A whole bunch of casual salmon anglers came out of the woodwork last week to try their hands at sockeye fishing in Lake Washington, and that had both its positive and negative aspects.

It’s great that the country’s largest urban salmon fishery attracts a huge and enthusiastic crowd, but "there are a lot of first-time fishers out there who are not up on the rules and regulations," said Capt. Bill Hebner, regional enforcement chief at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Mill Creek office.

The fishery opened July 4 to a crowd on the south half of the lake estimated at 3,700 boats and 9,600 anglers. Over 13,000 sockeye were caught on the opener, according to preliminary figures, and that catch average of a little under a fish and a half per rod means that a lot of experienced anglers probably went home early with two-fish limits.

Unfortunately, a lot of less experienced anglers also went home with a $95 citation for failure to fill out their salmon report card. The card, which must be carried in addition to the required state freshwater fishing license, is used to record the area and date of the catch, as well as the species caught. Anglers are required to fill in the card immediately upon catching a fish.

Other citations written last week included those for exceeding the limit and fishing in closed areas, Hebner said.

Important regulations:

The daily limit is two sockeye, 15 inches or better. Any chinook caught must be immediately released.

Those older than 15 must have a freshwater fishing license, as well as the catch record card which comes with the license. Youngsters 15 and younger don’t need a license, but must have the free catch record card. A resident license is $20 annually, or $6 for two days.

The area open to sockeye fishing is south of the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, except closed within 100 yards of both floating bridges and within 1,000 feet of the mouth of the Cedar River at Renton.

Sockeye fishing is open only during daytime hours, from one hour before official sunrise until one hour after official sunset.

State law requires that children 12 and under wear a life jacket.

Anyone parking in a state access site must display an access decal on their vehicle.

To keep tribal commercial fishermen and recreationists from interfering with each other, the recreational fishery will close noon-to-noon on July 10-11, 12-13, 17-18, and 19-20. That means the popular and most productive early morning hours will be closed to recreational anglers on Tuesday and Thursday of both this week and next.

"The opener was dynamite," says state biologist Curt Kraemer, a Marysville resident. "It’s slowed some since, but there’s still good fishing available."

A state creel checker at the Coulon Park boat launch in Renton said the first 45 boats back to the launch on opening morning all had limits around, except for two.

Although fish were scattered all over the south half of the lake, hot spots developed in the same areas as sockeye seasons past: off the mouth of the Cedar River in Renton; off the northwest corner of Mercer Island; just south of the Evergreen Point Bridge; and around Seward Park.

Early morning hours have been by far the most productive, with the catch rate dropping by half after noon.

The most popular tackle setup was a chrome dodger in size 0 or 1, followed by 12 to 16 inches of leader and a bare, red or blue Gamakatsu hook. The older sockeye setup, a U-20 Flatfish in red, flourescent orange, or silver, was also being used and also taking fish.

"I think the majority of fishermen are probably using the bare hook rig," Kraemer said, "but the catch rates for the two setups appears to be about the same."

There are a number of boat launches utilized by sockeye anglers, but the three largest and most popular are probably at Coulon Park, visible from I-405 southbound, on the east edge of Renton; at Rainier Beach on the Seattle side, just north of the west edge of Renton; and at Magnuson Park, the old Sand Point Naval facility, north of the University of Washington.

The possibility of a sockeye season on Lake Wenatchee is still in limbo, as biologists wait to see how many fish in a large run coming up the Columbia will turn into the Wenatchee system and how many will go on north to the Okanogan. The majority of the fish are of Okanogan origin, biologists say, and there is some concern that Wenatchee numbers might not be as strong as the total run suggests, because of poor spawning conditions in the White River responsible for these returning adults. The White River is the major spawning tributary to Lake Wenatchee.

Bob Perleberg at the state fish and wildlife office in Wenatchee said biologists would have more data to work with later this week.

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