So-so start for winter blackmouth

  • By Wayne Kruse / Herald writer
  • Wednesday, October 4, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

The selective winter blackmouth season opened Sunday in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2, and while the first few days were, as predicted, so-so, the action was at least as good, and probably better than, the late coho fishery.

All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein was picking up the odd chinook early this week along the east side of Whidbey Island – an 11-pounder Sunday off Langley, for instance – and when the wind allowed, in Elger Bay. He didn’t have a fish when contacted Wednesday morning, but said two other boats fishing the bay each had one: a nice 13-pounder and one just legal.

Checks at the Camano State Park ramp on Sunday showed 44 anglers with three chinook.

“There’s a bunch of bait around, almost everywhere you go up that way,” Krein said, “but shakers are outnumbering legal fish maybe 10 to one.”

In an attempt to discourage shakers, Krein has switched to 4- and 5-inch plugs, and the ploy seems to have worked. A favorite is the Tomic 603 mother of pearl, he said, fished 15 to 20 feet off bottom in 90 to 120 feet of water.

He said Area 9 opens for blackmouth on Nov. 1, but that coho fishermen were seeing pretty fair numbers of both shaker and legal chinook on Possession Bar.

It’s approaching peak season on the Hanford Reach section of the Columbia River for fall chinook, but both effort and success have been well below that of last year. State Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver said anglers averaged about a half-fish per boat last week, which isn’t too bad, but that the total adult fall chinook take to date is 1,579 fish compared to 3,665 last year at this point.

About 730 chinook were harvested last week, Hymer said.

By comparison, the Yakima River fall chinook fishery has been better this year than last, according to Hymer. Angler effort continues to increase and the total catch to date has been about 287 kings, compared to 94 last year at this time. The per-angler average last week was running about one fish for each 11 rods.

Coho: Fair numbers of anglers continue to chase coho in saltwater. They report good concentrations of fish on their sounders, but slow fishing. State checks at the Port of Everett ramp on Saturday tallied 19 coho for 164 anglers and, on Sunday, seven fish for 243 rods. Coho haven’t shown to any degree in the San Juan Islands, although those fish have been arriving later every year.

Silvers are jumping everywhere in the Stillaguamish, but most have lockjaw. Same goes, to a lesser degree, in the Snohomish. Bob Ferber at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington said action in the Skagit finally picked up a little, in the Sedro-Woolley area, for a mix of coho and chinook. Ferber said backtrolling plugs such as the Brad’s Wigglers and Fatfish, have been productive, as has casting Dick Nite and FST spoons.

The Cowlitz is producing fair numbers of coho now, with the peak of the run expected late in October, along with a mix of fall chinook, summer steelhead and sea-run cutthroat. Bank fishermen at the Barrier Dam and Blue Creek, and at the mouth of the Toutle, are finding fish, while boaters work above the I-5 bridge for steelhead and cutthroat, and below the bridge for chinook and coho.

Biologist Hymer said, by the way, that the Cowlitz cutthroat fishery is an under-utilized resource. “From Blue Creek downstream,” he said, “anglers can keep five hatchery cutts, which often measure 12 to 20 inches. Those fish will take flies, lures or bait, and put up a heck of a fight, and mostly it’s a bank fishery with plenty of elbow room.”

Derby: The Everett Coho Derby was a huge success by every measure except the number of fish weighed in, but how about this one: The 22nd running of the Einar Nielsen Memorial Derby at Roche Harbor recently resulted in a grand total of 16 fish – for four days of fishing. The previous record-low entry list for the derby was 83 fish.

Sturgeon: The catch-and-keep sturgeon season below Bonneville Dam opens today after being limited to catch-and-release since August. More than 9,400 of the area’s 12,800-fish annual harvest guideline remain to be caught, setting the stage for a strong fall season. Both bank and boat fishing immediately below Bonneville Dam should be excellent.

Big rainbows: The fall and winter fishery for huge triploid rainbow trout (to 25 pounds and larger) in Rufus Woods Reservoir, above Bridgeport on the Columbia River, should be ready to break loose. Guide and Chelan resident Anton Jones (antonj@aol.com) is now offering weekend day trips, and advises private boaters to troll along the “can line” just above Chief Joseph Dam, in the top 25 feet of water, with a Wedding Ring or Double Whammy behind a size 4-ought dodger. The technique will take not only rainbow, but also jumbo kokanee in the 5- to 6-pound range.

Snake River steelheading, near the confluence with the Clearwater near Clarkston, has been a consistent producer for those fishing early in the morning and late in the evening, either from boat or bank. The daily limit is three hatchery fish.

Columbia Basin trout: A good season for catch-and-release rainbows and cutthroats to 18 inches on the Methow River closed the end of September, but cooling temperatures should provide good fall trout fishing in several Columbia Basin lakes. Biologist Bob Jateff suggests selective-gear waters like Big Twin, near Winthrop, and Blue Lake in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area. Both lake are open through October.

Youth mentors: The state has joined forces with the Washington Waterfowl Association (WWA), Pheasants Forever and other hunting organizations to provide adult mentors for young people who want to hunt but don’t have anyone to teach them. Youngsters 16 or under, or their parents, can get more information about the program by calling the agency at 360-902-2515.

The Northwest Chapter of the WWA, a local hunting/conservation organization, is putting together a list of people willing to mentor a young person for one or more duck hunts during the season in this area. Contact Rone Brewer at nwducks@snohomish.net.

Web hunting: Most hunting seasons are under way or due to open shortly, meaning that if you need to pass a hunter-education course to get a license this fall, most of the traditional courses are already past, or full. For that reason, among others, the state has created a new online course to help accommodate those folks unable to get into a regular class.

The Web course is available at http://hunter-ed.com/wa/. Individuals can complete the majority of the program online, but must work with a target-shooting facility to finish the shooting proficiency portion of the course. Online access to the course material and practice tests is free, but the final exam is $15.

Successful completion of a hunter-education course is a state requirement for individuals born after Jan. 1, 1972, seeking their first hunting license.

“The online course is not an easy alternative to a traditional class,” said state hunter-education coordinator Mik Mikitik. “But for people who have the discipline and motivation to complete all the requirements on their own time, it may be a good option.”

Deer access problems: Access closures in the fire-plagued Okanogan, already affecting some archery deer hunters in units 215, 224, and the eastern portion of 218, could well continue into the general rifle season, according to state biologist Scott Fitkin “They include the traditionally popular drainages north and northeast of Winthrop, and we don’t know to what extent deer displacement from the fires might enhance opportunity in surrounding unburned areas,” he said.

Fitkin advised hunters to check access restrictions daily as they plan upcoming hunts. Call the Methow Valley Ranger District at 509-996-4003 or the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest at 509-826-3795. Online updates are available at http://inciweb.org/state/49/.

More deer hunters may be using Chelan County and Columbia Basin units this year to avoid the access restrictions in the Okanogan. Beau Patterson, state district biologist, said Chelan district postseason buck escapement was good last year and the adult deer wintered well.

In the Basin, biologist Jim Tabor said deer numbers appear to be as high as any time in the past 20 years.

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