Kings Moving Inside
by Greg Johnston
The chinook run is on after all, showing up a bit late off the Washington coast and beginning to move inside to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, where several key areas open Tuesday to salmon fishing.
Last week the kings finally appeared off Neah Bay on the north coast, both offshore and inside the strait. They're also along the south coast in fair abundance. And they're now appearing throughout Puget Sound proper from Kingston south to Point Defiance.
"I wouldn't say it's great, I'd say it's good," said Keith Robbins, operator of the Shilshole-based Spot Tail Guides service. "Some bait is showing up finally. It's a lot better than it was."
Robbins has been fishing the catch-and-release chinook season in the northern part of marine area 10 in the north Sound -- on Tuesday the rest of area 10 opens locally for salmon fishing, although chinook must still be released until July 16. To the south, catch area 11 is open for marked hatchery chinook, and some are being taken in Colvos Passage near Southworth, at spots along Vashon Island, and in the Tacoma area at the Clay Banks and "the shelf" just offshore.
"The regular guys seem to be doing fairly well; everybody else, not so well," said Art Tatchell at Point Defiance Boathouse. "There are some nice fish down here off the Clay Bank and the shelf. But it's not like you can go right out in front of the boathouse and catch fish at 60 feet like you can in July.
"Seals have been a bit of a problem, too."
The appearance of kings right off Neah Bay bodes well for the Tuesday opening of salmon fishing in the rest of the strait, in areas 5 and 6 off Sekiu and Port Angeles. King fishing in the strait doesn't peak until mid- to late-July, but there should be some around.
Significant numbers of chinook began appearing off Neah Bay last week, mostly in the outside waters around Umatilla Reef. State catch samplers last week at Neah Bay checked 392 anglers with 157 chinook.
Note that on Sunday the ocean off Westport and Ilwaco on the south coast, now open for chinook only, opens for coho as well. Coho are fair game off the north coast beginning Tuesday. Also note that the state has increased the daily limit from one to two chinook in ocean waters, since weak catches earlier eased quota concerns.
Elsewhere, anglers are taking a few summer chinook in the Skykomish, Skagit and Sauk rivers, but fishing for them is better on the lower Columbia River, currently open for a lot of species. The chinook and sockeye salmon seasons there are scheduled to close Saturday, but Oregon and Washington fish managers will meet Friday to examine catch totals and run sizes. It's possible the chinook season will be extended and likely the sockeye fishing will be, since one of the biggest sockeye runs in years is now moving up the big river.
"The cumulative total to date is an all-time record," said Joe Hymer, a biologist at the Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Vancouver. "Through Tuesday, 136,000 sockeye had moved over Bonneville Dam."
For most of the past week, the lower Columbia has been open for sockeye, chinook, steelhead and shad. Hymer said the best chinook catches have been among boat anglers just downstream of Bonneville, while the best sockeye catches have been among bank anglers in the same region. But the fishing has not been as hot as some might have expected.
The best steelhead catches have been from Longview downstream to Cathlamet.
For updates on the seasons, check the Fish and Wildlife site at wdfw.wa.gov. You'll also find there notice that chinook fishing has been reopened on the Lewis, Kalama and Cowlitz rivers, and that the steelhead limit has been boosted from two to six per day on the Cowlitz and North Fork Lewis rivers.
Big summer steelhead runs are expected in the North Fork and Cowlitz. Right now, high flows are reducing catches, especially in the former.
Other salmon tidbits: Sockeye fishing is improving in the Skagit around the mouth of the Baker River. And when all of marine area 10 opens Tuesday, coho will be fair game. Reports from chinook anglers indicate coho are not as abundant as in the past couple years, but are decent size.
Other steelhead morsels: The summer run seems a good one in local rivers, or at least the Snohomish and Skykomish. Both are producing far better than the past two years. A few are also being taken in the Wynooche, Sol Duc and Bogachiel in the coastal region.
Finally, fishing is still good to very good in a lot of local lakes. We can report firsthand that the Lake Washington cutthroat fishery is exceedingly healthy right now, and it's good in Lake Sammamish as well. Both are also good now for smallmouth bass, and some perch are being taken as well. Lakes Stevens and American are still good for kokanee.
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