Puget Sound streams in the pink

  • By Wayne Kruse / Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, February 28, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

Hey, salmon fishermen, you’d best stock up now on dodgers and pink hoochies, because it looks like the humpy run is going to be the big beluga this summer. That’s pretty much true in any odd-numbered year, but especially true with the gloomy outlook for 2007 kings and silvers recently released by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Preseason forecasts, developed by the department as one of the early steps in the “North of Falcon” season-setting process, say fewer chinook and coho are expected to return to most rivers in the region, and that sockeye returns to Lake Washington are not expected to be sufficient to allow a fishery.

One of the methods the forecast mentions for providing recreation in a down year is to establish more “mark-selective” fisheries, targeting hatchery stocks while requiring wild release.

Coastal salmon fisheries will see constraints again this year because of federal listing of lower Columbia coho and chinook, according to WDFW salmon policy coordinator Pat Patillo in Olympia. The forecast for Columbia River chinook (337,000 fish) is down nearly 128,000 from last year. Fall “upriver brights, crucial to the Hanford Reach sport fishery, are also down this year.

In Puget Sound, Patillo said, the forecast for chinook is similar to last year, at about 238,000 fish, but Puget Sound coho returns are expected to drop a whopping 343,000 fish below last year.

On the upside, biologists expect about 3.3 million pinks to return to Puget Sound streams this summer, nearly 1.3 million more than were forecast in 2005. A healthy run of 800,000 pinks is predicted for the Snohomish system, but a humpy fishery in the Skagit is unlikely on a forecast of only about a third enough fish to support a recreational season.

Chums are again expected to make a strong showing in Hood Canal and other parts of Puget Sound.

Guide and Lake Stevens resident TJ Nelson supplied the numbers for local rivers and saltwater areas – the forecasts for returning adults of hatchery and wild stocks and his educated guess as to the chances of a sport fishery: Skagit hatchery chinook, 1,100 fish (600 last year); wild chinook, 15,000 fish (24,100 last year); best guess: short springer season. Snohomish hatchery chinook 8,700 fish (9,600 last year); 12,300 wild chinook (8,700 last year; best guess: June 1 chinook opener. Tulalip hatchery chinook, 8,100 fish (10,000 last year); best guess: status quo June opener.

Skagit hatchery coho 8,900 fish (22,600 last year); wild coho, 26,800 fish (106,600 last year); best guess: coho closure on the Skagit. Snohomish hatchery coho 25,700 fish (96,400 last year); wild coho, 98,900 (139,500 last year); best guess: we’ll be lucky to have an in-river season.

Puget Sound coho total: hatchery fish, 290,600 (440,200 last year); wild fish, 342,600 (535,700 last year); best guess: saltwater season similar to ‘06.

Blackmouth: Excellent winter blackmouth fishing remains the hot topic locally, with the usual weather proviso. “If weather conditions allow you to get out to the ‘triangle’ of Possession Bar, Point No Point, and Double Bluff, in Area 9,” said All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein, “and the water’s flat enough to let you fish well, there are blackmouth from 5 or 6 pounds up to 10 or 12 pounds to be had.”

Krein said the bite has been about the same at all three, but that Point No Point and Double Bluff were producing perhaps a few more of the larger fish. Prime time this weekend, Krein said – the last two hours of the outgoing tide and low slack – will be about 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., and there should be some fish taken.

Shakers, which bothered badly earlier in the year at a ratio of at least 10 sublegals to each one legal, have dropped off to an “acceptable” ratio of maybe two or three to one, Krein said.

He’s been fishing deeper, however – from 115 out to 140 feet, and right on bottom. Coyote spoons behind a flasher have been most productive, and since Krein said the fish he’s cleaning have been full of 3- to 4-inch herring, the smaller spoon sizes have worked best. Productive patterns have included the yellowtail and funky chicken.

“I’ve also been trying hoochies, but they haven’t done particularly well,” Krein said. “The best of the bunch have been blues and purples, rather than green.”

Anthon Steen at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington said salmon action in Marine Area 7 has also been good. A beautiful 25.10-pound fish won the American Legion Derby on Orcas Island, he said, and another indication that there have been more salmon over 20 pounds taken in the islands than usual for this time of year. Top spots include Lopez Flats, Eagle Bluff, Spring Pass, and the north end of Orcas. Fishermen out of Anacortes have been hitting the Lopez/Cypress areas and doing well, Steen said.

Holiday manager Bob Ferber said he just received a new trolling spoon made by the manufacturer of Buzz Bomb lures, similar to the profile of a Coyote spoon. They come in four different colors, the most popular being a green holographic.

For freshwater fans, Ferber said Lake Campbell, a multi-species, year-around water north of Deception Pass, has been kicking out some nice rainbow to 20-plus inches for the real diehards.

Trout: And speaking of same, a bunch of rainbow-stocked lakes in Eastern Washington, most in the Columbia Basin, opened today.

“Warmer temperatures, a little rain and a lot of wind have worked wonders on the ice,” said WDFW biologist Jeff Korth in Ephrata.

Burke and Quincy are the largest of the March 1 waters in the Basin, and perhaps the best bets, Korth said. He anticipates limits of 10 to 12-inch rainbow, assuming the ice is gone. Burke got 35,000 fingerlings last fall and Quincy, 22,000. The small, walk-in lakes on the Quincy Wildlife Area offer a chance to explore the scabland and get some exercise. Success rates vary, on rainbow running from 9- to 12 inches for yearlings, and 14- to 18 inches for holdovers. Crystal, Cup and Spring lakes have been the most consistent producers, Korth said.

Fishing was poor last year in Upper, Lower and West Caliche lakes, because of a perch infestation, but plants of larger fingerlings should make a big difference in trout success rates, Korth said.

Martha Lake has been stocked with both 5,000 catchables and 11,000 fingerlings, and will have open water at least at the north end.

Dusty Lake offers an interesting mix of species. Rehabilitated in 2003, the lake contains good numbers of 16- to 20-inch rainbow, with some real whoppers remaining from the 2004 triploid plant. Tiger trout have also been stocked since 2004, and, more recently, brown trout. Selective fishery; read the pamphlet.

Sunfish have taken a toll on the quality fishery in Lenice and Nunnally lakes, but yearling rainbow should run 14 inches and both lakes have received regular plantings of 1- to 2-pound triploids, and small numbers of brown and tiger trout. The last two state tiger trout records have come from these waters.

Lake Lenore has produced good fishing on the last three March openers, and Korth said the lake is carrying as many of its big Lahontan-strain cutthroat as ever. Three- to four-year-old fish weighing 3 to 5 pounds, should be numerous, he said. Selective fishery; catch and release March through May.

Rufus Woods Reservoir on the upper Columbia behind Chief Joseph Dam is still a hot winter destination for really big (3 or 4 pounds up to 20-plus-pounds) triploid rainbow. Guide and Chelan resident Anton Jones (antonj@aol.com) said they don’t come easily in very cold water, but try attaching a Mack’s Lures “Hot Wings” to a 0000 chrome dodger, followed by 24 inches of 8-pound leader, then a Wedding Ring or Kokanee Special. Add a stinger hook and bait with a nightcrawler. Vary your speed, but concentrate on slowing down, fishing depths of 5 to 30 feet, near the dam. Bank anglers soaking Power Bait also score, near the upriver net pens or at the Corps of Engineers sites down by the dam. Tribal permits required when launching or fishing from the north side.

Clams: The last evening razor clam dig of the season has been tentatively scheduled by WDFW biologists for March 16-18, pending, as usual, final approval by the state Health Department. While this will be the last evening dig, some beaches may be opened for morning digging in April, according to Dan Ayres, in Montesano.

The upcoming opening is as follows: March 16, Long Beach, Twin Harbors, and Mocrocks (low tide at 5:31 p.m., plus 0.1 feet); March 17, all beaches, 6:16 p.m., minus 0.1 feet; and March 18, Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Kalaloch (6:58 p.m., minus 0.1 feet.

Try the inaugural edition of the Ocean Shores C of C razor clam festival, March 17, for diggers at Copalis and Ocean Shores beaches. Chowder cook-offs, live music, more. Go to the chamber’s Web site for more information, www.oceanshores.org; or call 360-289-2451.

“Also,” Ayres said, “be aware that some tide books do not reflect the new, early, onset of daylight saving time this year.”

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