Steelhead coming, but coho still big draw

  • By Wayne Kruse Herald Columnist
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014 4:12pm
  • Sports

The Thanksgiving weekend is the rule of thumb “winter steelhead opener” in western Washington, but anglers are often too busy with late-run coho to get serious about winter steelies. That’s certainly the case this year, with a strong run of silvers on the Columbia tributaries and the coastal rivers.

Bob Unspach at Swain’s Inc., Port Angeles, said, “This has been a very good salmon year, and most of the guys are still working on the coho, in the upper and middle portion of the (Forks area) rivers, rather than the bottom ends where steelhead would show up first.”

He said the Bogachiel Hatchery near Forks was holding 10 early winter steelhead last week, and that fishing should “break loose most any time now.”

He said the optimistic refrain on the coastal rivers is that a good salmon fishery is often followed by a good winter steelhead season and if it proves out, this could turn into a productive two or three months of frostbite fishing.

Down on the Cowlitz, also known as an “early” winter steelhead stream, Karen Glaser at the Barrier Dam Campground said fishermen were picking up the occasional steelhead, but that exceptional coho fishing was still the big draw.

“Most of the action is at the barrier dam and around Blue Creek,” Glaser said, “but bright coho are scattered through the river and I’m still hearing of limits down by the mouth, on fresh fish just coming in.”

She said the coho are averaging 8 to 12 pounds. Anglers are using twitching jigs with shrimp, Corky and yarn, spinners, and plain shrimp or eggs.

In the Okanogan, anglers have been fishing since early October, and according to state Fish and Wildlife Department biologist Ryan Fortier, success rates are on the rise. Creel checks last weekend on the Methow showed a steelhead for every four or five anglers, Fortier said.

“We expect a fishery similar to last year,” he said, “and that was a pretty good season.”

Fortier said the summer-fall wildfires denuded a lot of watershed slopes, and that the Methow has been “generally dirtier than most fishermen are accustomed to seeing it.”

He said that while visibility is sometimes not great, the river usually has been fishable, and that colder weather should bring improved water condiions. Steelhead are averaging 2 to 5 pounds, he said, and the top tackle setup is probably a float and jig in red or black.

Peter Flohr at Hooked on Toys in Wenatchee was even more upbeat about steelhead prospects. “It could be a fantastic fishery, on the Methow and Wenatchee both,” he said. “The run is already showing up above the 10-year average.”

He said Wenatchee anglers are also using float/jig and Corky/yarn rigs in black, matte red or pink.

“Be prepared to change colors,” he said. “I like to start with black or other dark colors, but if nothing happens, I change.

He said anglers can call for current info, 509-663-0740, or click the facebook link on the store website,, for guide and customer postings.


Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington says there are a lot of mallards on the Skagit delta now, and the weather has cooperated with rain and wind, providing some very good shooting for the last 10 days or two weeks. The state’s “Welts Property” on Padilla Bay near Samish Island provides public hunting opportunity, and the bayfronts around the mouths of the North and South Forks of the Skagit are usually productive.

“It’s been better hunting than the last couple of years,” John said. “The right combination of wind, rain and temperature has provided consistently good conditions.”

Important recall

The Washington Waterfowl Association wants shotgunners to know about a recall of certain shotshells by the manufacturer, Hevi-Shot.

The company’s announcement says, “At temperatures below freezing, our 12-gauge, 3-inch HEVI-Metal and HEVI-Steel shotshell wads may crack on ignition. This may cause a ‘squib load’ with an off sound and reduced power.” If that happens, the company said, it may leave a wad stuck in the barrel which, if another shot is fired, could cause barrel damage or injury.

“If you hear an off sound with no power, unload your gun and check your barrel for obstructions before firing again,” the company says.

The problem has been rectified and only certain lot numbers are involved. Contact the company for lot numbers, dangerous product pickup by UPS and replacement with safe shotshells, at no charge.

Call 541-367-3522, or email

Record tuna

Ellensburg angler Sam Ellinger has set a state record for the largest Pacific bluefin tuna caught off he Washington coast, the state Fish and Wildlife Department announced Tuesday. The 39.2 pound fish measured 41 inches and was caught 28 miles offshore, southwest of Grays Harbor, while bait fishing with anchovies. Ellinger is a student at Central Washington University.

The record beat the previous top bluefin by 2.71 pounds, held since 2012 by a fish caught 35 miles off Westport.

Ex-Westport charter owner and now commercial fisherman Dennis Moss says bluefin are far outnumbered off our coast by the larger albacore. “I caught four of ‘em this summer, trolling jigs in mid-July,” Moss says, “and I think I’ve ever heard of only 15 or 20 caught by either commercial or recreational fishermen, total.”

He said the bluefin he caught this summer were right in with a school of albacore. The current albacore record is a 52-pound fish taken in 1997.

None of the tuna commonly caught off our coast come close to the size of the east coast Atlantic bluefin, which can weigh 800 pounds or more.

Roche Harbor Derby

Just 60 spots remain for the 2014 Roche Harbor Salmon Classic, Feb. 5-7, according to coordinator Debbie Sandwith. Call her at 360-378-5562, or email

Razor clams

The next tentatively scheduled razor clam dig is as follows: Dec. 3, 4:14 p.m., minus 0.1 feet at Long Beach and Twin Harbors; Dec. 4, 5:02 p.m., minus 0.6 feet at Long Beach and Twin Harbors; Dec. 5, 5:45 p.m., minus 0.9 feet at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 6, 6:26 p.m., minus 1.0 feet at all beaches except Kalaloch; Dec. 7, 7:05 p.m., minus 0.9 feet at Long Beaach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; Dec. 8, 7:44 p.m., minus 0.6 feet at Long Beach and Twin Harbors; and Dec. 9, 8:21 p.m., minus 0.2 feet at Long Beach and Twin Harbors.


Mike Meseberg, owner of MarDon Resort on Potholes Reservoir in Grant County, says a lot of resort customers have been commenting positively on public hunting areas along Lind Coulee, Frenchman’s Wasteway and Winchester Wastway, and the youth-benefit Royal Hunt Club,

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