Marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9 come on line for salmon anglers tomorrow, and there should be fair to good numbers of blackmouth available, albeit small.
State salmon managers sank the previously scheduled opening for the three areas, Jan. 16, because of the presence of too many sublegal (under the 22-inch minimum) chinook and, therefore, too many “encounters” being tallied against the sportfishing guidelines. Pushing the opener back a month was expected to give anglers a better shot at legal blackmouth later in the winter.
State test fishing early in the year showed fin-clipped chinook in Area 9 averaging slightly over 20 inches. In Area 8-1, it was a little over 14 inches, and in 8-2 it was 17 inches.
Test fishing recently by WDFW has shown close to 50 percent of the hatchery chinook in the three areas being of legal length.
Unless recreational guidelines are met early, Area 9 is scheduled to remain open through April 15, and 8-1 and 8-2, through April 30.
All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein expects the majority of legal hatchery chinook to be in the range of 4 to 6 or 7 pounds.
Ted’s Sport Center owner, Mike Chamberlain, said he would probably start on Midchannel Bank, near Port Townsend, mainly because Friday’s morning tide, a mild ebb from a 6 a.m. high, will fish well there. The low Friday morning will be at 11.40 a.m.
Chamberlain would troll at 90 to 120 feet, on a line from Marrowstone Island to Point Wilson and, since bottom-hugging candlefish are the main bait on the bank, would let his downrigger ball bounce occasionally.
“The rule of thumb says, ‘if you’re not two feet down in the mud, you’re not deep enough,’” Chamberlain said.
He would choose a Hot Spot or Gibbs flasher followed by a Coho Killer spoon in white lightning, cookies ‘n cream, or herring aid, original or Silver Knight. A Grand Slam bucktail would also work well, he says, in green or white.
Midchannel Bank is also known as one of the better spots in North Sound to work a jig.
“If you get tired of trolling, drift for a while and try vertical jigging,” Chamberlain says. “Go with a 2 ¼ to 31⁄2-ounce Point Wilson Dart in any of the pearl color combinations.”
The critical factor is finding the bait, so don’t get nailed to the 90-120 line if you’re not finding it. Try inside to 60 or 70 feet, or outside to 150, Chamberlain says.
“This weekend could put out some decent fishing,” he says. “Lots of 22- to 24-inch just legals, with probably a sprinkling from 6 pounds up to the low teens.”
Gary Krein says Possession Bar, Pilot Point and Double Bluff all fish well on this type of tide, but he’ll probably start on the south end of Possession, using a Gibbs moon-glow flasher and a 31⁄2- or 4-inch Kingfisher spoon in green or white, or cookies ‘n cream.
Nick Kester, another All Star Charters skipper, likes Midchannel Bank as a general rule, but feels that water closer to home might just be good enough Friday to keep him in the backyard. He’ll probably start on Possession, he says.
Lower Columbia and tributaries
A few steelhead are being caught by boaters and bank anglers in the lower river, with prime water conditions but little effort; the Longview area seems best. In the Cowlitz, from the I-5 bridge downstream, 35 bank rods kept one steelhead in checks last week.
Upstream from the I-5 bridge, 22 bank anglers released one steelhead and one coho; 40 boat rods kept one spring chinook and eight steelhead, and released one steelhead.
On the Hanford Reach last week, checks showed boat fishermen landing one steelhead for each 5.3 hours of effort; bank anglers much slower. The majority of the fish caught were of hatchery origin (11 of 12).
The occasional springer is being counted over Bonneville.
Wolf poacher fined
A man from Liberty Lake was fined $8,293 in Pend Oreille County District Court on Jan.25, in a plea bargain agreement for killing two wolves in the county in 2016. The 55-year old pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful taking of endangered wildlife, while a third count was dismissed under the agreement. Terry Leroy Fowler will pay $8,000 in restitution to the WDFW and $293 in court costs. A 364-day jail sentence was suspended, but Fowler will be required to spend 30 days under home electronic monitoring.
Simplified fishing regulations
At a Jan. 18-20 meeting of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in Ridgefield, commissioners approved rules aimed at simplifying sportfishing regulations for freshwater species, including steelhead, trout, warmwater species, sturgeon, shad and carp. The rules will go into effect July 1, 2018.
Some of the rules are: Reducing the number of exceptions to the year-round lake season; eliminating mandatory steelhead retention; standardizing the daily limit and minimum size requirements for bass, walleye and channel catfish in the Columbia (below Chief Joseph Dam) and its tributaries, including the Snake and its tributaries.
WDFW staff withdrew a few proposals that had been put forth during the public review process. One such rule would have allowed chumming statewide while another would have eliminated special rules for panfish statewide.
A third would have eliminated a provision that requires anglers using bait to stop fishing for trout after landing the daily limit, regardless of whether the fish are kept or released.