Hooks Find Plenty of Salmon
by Chester Allen
Westport charter boats swarmed by hopeful anglers
WESTPORT - Hundreds of anglers rode charter boats and private boats onto a calm, fish-filled Pacific Ocean for Sunday's opening of the ocean salmon season, but beginner Monte Montoya might have had the most fun.
"It was awesome," Montoya said as he hauled his limit of one 15-pound chinook salmon and one hatchery coho salmon off the Rampage charter boat Sunday afternoon. "My big salmon pulled out a lot of line, and I had to chase him around the boat - and around all the other lines - two times."
"I had to throw back three more chinook that I caught while we were fishing for our coho," said Montoya, an elevator installer from Albuquerque, N.M. "I'm tired."
Anglers found a hot bite for big chinook salmon - and managed to find enough hatchery coho to fill their limits, said Rampage skipper Randy Ratcliff.
"We had to release a lot of 15- to 20-pound chinook when we were looking for coho," Ratcliff said.
Anglers are allowed to keep one chinook salmon and one hatchery coho salmon - or two hatchery coho - during the ocean salmon season, which is slated to run until Sept. 16.
But it's unlikely that fishing for chinook will last that long, because Westport anglers have a quota of 9,400 chinook.
Coho fishing will continue after the chinook quota is met, said Mark Cedargreen of the Westport Charterboat Association.
Westport anglers are allowed 43,510 marked hatchery coho salmon this season. All wild coho must be released.
Ocean anglers are used to selective fishing for chinook and hatchery coho, and everyone understands the rules protect struggling wild salmon runs, said Larry Giese, owner of Deep Sea Charters.
The hot fishing Sunday was good news, as on-and-off salmon bite last year left anglers and skippers frustrated, Giese said.
Commercial trollers found a lot of coho, and sportfishing skippers are seeing lots of salmon and baitfish in the ocean.
"We expect a lot of coho this year - three to four times as many as last year," Giese said.
Coho salmon drive Westport fishing, but chinook salmon are the heavyweights.
John Rawlings, a Tacoma angler, was hoping that his 22-pound chinook - the early leader of the daily derby for biggest chinook of the day - would bring him the $500 prize.
"We were dropping cut herring down about 50 feet and reeling it up, so it would spin," Rawlings said. "My big fish ate the bait and took a lot of line. I had to play him for about 15 minutes."
Chinook can hit the 50-pound mark off Westport, but a 22-pound fish is big any day of the year, Cedargreen said.
Westport anglers can fish for salmon Sunday through Thursday until the end of the season.
Montoya, who is installing elevators in Western Washington for the next month, said he'll probably head out to sea again.
"I got here and saw this ocean fishing was happening. I've never fished in the ocean before," Montoya said. "I gave it a try and caught 15 rockfish last week, and now I've got these two big salmon.
"It's a lot of fun."
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