Look South for King Salmon,by Greg Johnston
The backyard pond is closed, but Seattle anglers can head around the corner and find plenty of king salmon, or go north and be in the pink.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife closed Elliott Bay to salmon fishing late last week after early season catches showed the chinook run bound for the Green River is lower than anticipated.
That's some tough love coming after last year's excellent fishery. However, over the past several days, chinook catches have been excellent just around Alki Point and south in Marine Area 11, which extends from the north tip of Vashon Island south to the Narrows.
Good king catches have come from several spots in Area 11, including Southworth, Dolphin Point, Point Beale, Point Robinson, Point Dalco and Gig Harbor, as well as the Slag Pile, Clay Banks and the mouth of the Puyallup River in Tacoma. The Gig Harbor Salmon Derby over the weekend proved most successful, the big fish being a 27-pound, 1-ounce king.
"Fishing slowed down the last couple days, but it's still OK," Eric Wiggins at Point Defiance Park Boathouse said yesterday.
Chinook catches have dropped off among catch-and-release king fishermen in Marine Areas 9 and 10 just north, where the fish must be released alive, and which was very good until late last week. However, pink salmon have arrived in serious numbers in north Puget Sound, and a few ocean-run coho are beginning to trickle in, too.
"Oh gosh, they're in," said Gary Krein of Everett-based All Star Charters. "We're doing pretty good, and interestingly there are some coho mixed in with these humpies, even a few 10- to 12-pound ocean coho."
As usual, the top local spot for pinks"Humpy Hollow" off Mukilteo and just south. Statistics from state catch samplers show the fishing is not quite as good as it can be, or possibly will be in a few more days. And there is some concern the run to Puget Sound rivers will be down some this year due to floods two years ago during the spawn.
However, there are enough in already that few anglers are complaining, and they're usually easy to catch. The standard humpy technique is to slow-troll a pink plastic mini-squid behind a white flasher or dodger, 30 to 60 feet down.
The Snohomish River and lower Skagit River both opened for salmon Tuesday, and reports indicated some humpies were taken in both.
As for the coho, there are encouraging signs there, too. Good numbers of silvers have moved into the Strait of Juan de Fuca off Neah Bay, where they had been inexplicably absent the past several weeks. Reports yesterday indicated anglers were catching the fish easily right off Neah Bay's Waada Island, and that increasing numbers of coho were being caught at Sekiu as well.
"And it sounds like there are some pretty good sized ones," said Scott Barber, a WDFW biologist who supervises catch sampling for the north coast. "It's about time. They're late in coming."
Salmon catches are still a little off and unusual in the ocean, but anglers are finding fish. On the north end, Neah Bay charter boats are finding chinook, but still way out at offshore spots such as Blue Dot. Last week's catch data for Neah Bay showed an average of 0.88 salmon per angler, with 0.57 of them coho, 0.3 pinks and 0.2 coho (remember, those are last week's data). Off La Push, the averages were 1.1 salmon per angler, with 0.78 of them coho and the rest chinook; usually that would be almost reversed at this time of year.
Off Westport last week, state statistics show an average of 0.91 salmon per angler -- 0.66 chinook and 0.2 coho. Most years, coho would predominate. Off Ilwaco, coho typically outnumber chinook more than six to one, but last week's average of 1.2 salmon per angler was split at 0.49 chinook and 0.72 coho.
On Ilwaco's inside waters, the "Buoy 10" fishery at the mouth of the Columbia is off to a slow start. Fair catches of chinook were reported last Thursday, but it's been slow since and many anglers are surmising the Columbia River fall chinook run may be down this year.
Aug. 20 is typically the peak of the king run there, so if it's going to pick up, it should start soon.
And Willapa Bay is producing fair chinook catches off and on.
In other fishing news, the lower Columbia tributaries are still kicking out summer-run steelhead, but they have slowed a bit over the past 10 days. Drano Lake is still the best, but the White Salmon, Wind, Kalama and Cowlitz rivers are also producing some.
You can track the salmon run here: www.cbr.washington.edu/dart/adult.html.
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