OK, so much for trying to predict when the pink salmon will arrive. At the point where you think you have the timing of a specific run nailed to the wall, the fish up and make you look like a complete idiot.
Traditional wisdom dictated the humpies would show up in fishable numbers at the “shipwreck,” south of Mukilteo, around Aug. 10, give or take a couple of days, and that peak fishing would occur about the 20th.
Did that happen? Nope.
So where are all the fish? Are they late? Are they not coming?
The saltwater fishery has so far been a study in frustration. State Department of Fish and Wildlife checks over the weekend tallied, at best, a fish and a third per boat at the Port of Everett ramp. That wouldn’t be bad chinook fishing, but for pinks, during what should be the peak of the run, it’s underwhelming.
Prospects improved dramatically Tuesday morning at the south end of Humpy Hollow, at least for a while, as the radio crackled with reports of early limits and boats heading for the docks. A lot of anglers had at least two or three pinks, but it didn’t last.
“I’ve talked to several good fishermen at the shipwreck (Wednesday) morning,” All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein (425-252-4188) said via cell phone from Marine Area 10, where he was fishing coho, “and it’s back to the poor results we’ve been seeing there, unfortunately. I don’t know whether the fish are late, or not coming, or what’s happening, but it leads you to think perhaps the run size isn’t up to predictions.”
Results in the south Sound haven’t been any better for pinks, although chinook fishing is at its summer peak. Checks at the Point Defiance ramp on Sunday showed 320 anglers with 59 kings, eight coho and 60 pinks.
One at least fairly decent spot was Bush Point, where 74 anglers on Sunday — mostly beach fishermen — had three coho and 52 pinks.
It’s probably too soon to give up on saltwater humpies completely this season, however, as there are apparently still good numbers of fish coming down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. State checks at Olson’s Resort in Sekiu on Sunday, for instance, showed 187 anglers with 82 coho and 395 pinks. At Van Riper’s on Saturday, it was 152 anglers with 34 coho and 357 pinks.
But if Humpy Hollow has pretty much been a bust so far, strange things have happened in the Snohomish River system. Both the Snohomish and Skykomish are full of pinks. How they got past all those boats between Mukilteo and Edmonds is difficult to say, but they’re there and fishing has been excellent since the two streams opened Aug. 16 (the entire Snohomish; the Sky up to the Lewis Street bridge in Monroe).
“It’s been red-hot fishing every day since the opener,” said guide and Arlington resident Sam Ingram (360-435-9311).
Speaking by cell phone from the Skykomish, Ingram said his clients have taken limits by 9 a.m. every morning since the opener and have played with a lot more fish than that. Almost any hole downstream from Lewis Street is holding pinks, he said.
Ingram has been anchoring at the holes and casting to rolling fish, generally with No. 1 Dick Nite spoons. Pinks and reds have been productive in clear water, but recent rains put a little color into the river, and the 50-50 brass/nickel has become the better producer, he said. The technique is to cast slightly upriver and then use a super-slow retrieve and drift.
Slow is the key, he said.
Skykomish pinks are still chrome bright, Ingram said, and averaging 4 to 7 pounds.
Jim Strege at Triangle Beverage in Snohomish (360-568-4276) said this is the earliest he’s seen this many pinks in the Snohomish, and that fishing has been hot since the opener.
Pink, quarter-ounce leadhead jigs — either marabou or hoochie type — are probably the hot item, Strege said, although plunkers, boaters and bank fishermen are scoring on a wide range of gear. Spoons, Buzz Bombs, and Dick Nites will all catch fish, he said. He noted that anglers should remember that a barbed hook is OK, but trebles are illegal on non-buoyant lures in the river.
Strege said the river from Snohomish upstream to the confluence (and the Skykomish on up to Monroe) has probably produced more fish than the lower river. Bank fishing spots include Bob Heirman Park, on the south side of the river off Connelly Road and above Thomas’ Eddy; the Department of Fish and Wildlife access area above Picnic Bar; the cheapskate hole on the north side of the river off Short School Road, and the fee areas at Crabb and Douglas bars.
All Star Charters river guide and Snohomish resident Nick Kester said the lower Snohomish is also full of fish, and he likes to drift with the tide — upriver on the incoming and downriver on the outgoing — looking for the jumping fish that indicate a school. He’ll drift along with them, he said, casting a pink, quarter-ounce rubber mini-squid treated with shrimp oil. Launch at Snohomish, the park above Lowell, at Langus Park or at the Port of Everett ramp. Bank fishermen can find access at numerous points along the Lowell River Road.
@5. Sports notes lead:Hunter sight-in: Everett Olson, vice president of the Seattle Rifle and Pistol Association, said it’s time once again to try to keep folks out of the backwoods and gravel pits by presenting an opportunity for a safe, organized hunting rifle sight-in at the SRPA range in Snohomish (725 135th Ave. S.E.). The program runs four weekends: Sept. 22-23, 29-30, Oct. 6-7, and 13-14. Sessions are from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The fee is $5 per person. Volunteers will be on hand to assist. For more information, contact Olson at 360-659-9362.
@5. Sports notes:Coastal salmon opportunity: Salmon fishing along the Washington coast has been excellent this year, but pressure has been down and sport fishermen stand to lose out on their quota if weather conditions start to deteriorate. In response, the state has opened Marine Areas 2 (Westport), 3 (LaPush), and 4 (Neah Bay) to seven-day-per-week fishing. Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) already was open seven days.
Success rates at Ilwaco and Westport have been running around 1.6 salmon per person for several weeks, about 98 percent coho at Ilwaco, and with a somewhat higher chinook percentage at Westport.
In conjunction with this, the halibut season in Marine Area 1 will reopen, for Aug. 24, 25 and 26 only.
@5. Sports notes lead:Hanford Reach chinook: The first week of the Hanford Reach salmon fishery was, as expected, extremely slow. Weather and water conditions were good, but 11 boat anglers and three shore fishermen were checked by state personnel with only one fall chinook over the weekend. The “upriver bright” show at the Vernita Bridge is known as a September fishery, primarily.
Samish Kings: Still nothing much going on in the Samish River, according to Bob Ferber at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361), although recent rain could have brought the first chinook in from the saltwater.
@5. Sports notes:Ferber also said test fisheries were taking place on the Skagit to see whether more pinks were returning to the river than predicted. No recreational season was scheduled this summer because of the anticipation of a low pink run. At the time of this writing, no word was available as to whether a season might be in the offing.
@5. Sports notes lead:Catch and keep sturgeon: The popular stretch of the Columbia River from Bonneville Dam downstream to Cathlamet reopened to sturgeon retention early this year, according to Brad James, state biologist. “It was clear that anglers would not catch the number of sturgeon allocated to that fishery if we kept current catch-and-release rules in place through September, James said. “Research showed the legal-size sturgeon population is stable and would support an earlier retention fishery.”
Camano Island survey: The cooperation of Camano Island property owners is being solicited by the state to assist with a survey of forage fish spawning habitat by granting department biologists access to private waterfront. The year-long survey, beginning in September, is designed to gather information on surf smelt and Pacific sand lance (candlefish) spawning habitat and activity along Camano Island. Both species are important food sources for larger predators such as salmon, marine mammals and seabirds.
@5. Sports notes:Beach owners may opt in or out of the program, which will choose fifty sites at random. Each site will be visited twice a month during the year by a two-person crew in a small boat, surveying the sites at low tide. The beach surveys generally will be conducted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Most site visits will take about 15 minutes but, in the spring of 2008, biologists will conduct a more detailed survey of about 1.5 hours per site.
Private landowners who do not wish to grant beach access are asked to contact the state by Sept. 15. Call Tiffany Hicks at 360-902-2544 or e-mail her firstname.lastname@example.org.
Survey workers also will comply immediately with property owners’ verbal requests to leave private beaches during the survey work.
For more information on the program, call Dan Penttila at 360-466-4345 (extension 242) or e-mail him at email@example.com.