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JUNE 2018

Hold on! Wait a minute! It’s truly hard to believe the calendar already reads June as the days are flying by at warp speed.
Spring was a blur, and by now many have already made their early summer salmon fishing trips to southeast Alaska; opening day of trout season is a distant memory; pots have been filled with spot shrimp and topped on salads or grilled on the BBQ; razor clams are now vacuum sealed in the freezer; and lingcod and halibut fishing was decent from the coast clear into open areas of Puget Sound.
This is time of year when turning over a new leaf on another season is set to take place with anglers switching into summer fishing mode.
But, before we get too deep into what opportunities exist we should weigh-in on a dire situation facing Puget Sound Dungeness crab.
It appears the glory days of Puget Sound Dungeness crab fisheries could momentarily be in the rear-view mirror as areas south of Seattle (Marine Catch Areas 11 and 13) are closed this summer due a dramatic dip in population levels. Tribal fisheries are also shutdown in those areas.
Don Velasquez, a WDFW Puget Sound shellfish biologist says anglers haven’t been faced with such a low abundance since 2012 and lousy success in 2017 were a signal of what was to come.
Dungeness crab abundance test fishing in early spring around south-central and southern Puget Sound found the situation wasn’t very rosy.
What fishery experts are seeing – or in this matter aren’t seeing – in those two areas is a two- and three-year-old male Dungeness crab class (averaging 4.4 inches) and four-year-old class (averaging 5.4 inches) are also greatly reduced. Legal-size is usually the five-year-old and older age class crabs averaging 6 ¼ inches or more.

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“We’ve had some pretty extreme surface water events in 2014 and 2015, and it is a possibility the abnormally high-water temperatures could have played a role in the downtrend,” Velasquez said. “When young of the year Dungeness crab are faced with these types of conditions they tend to die at a much higher rate.”
Other reasons for the decline are a distant source of brood stock for larval production and inconsistent larval advection; low dissolved oxygen levels; ocean acidification; restricted water flow south of the Tacoma Narrows; and excessive harvest.
To make matters worse extremely low density of Dungeness crab could affect successful mating for future generations.
In Puget Sound catch areas, the total Dungeness crab harvested was 9,285,912 pounds during 2017 in all fisheries compared to 10,645,000 pounds in 2016.
The record catch was 2015 when state and tribal Puget Sound fisheries landed 11.8 million pounds, exceeding the previous 2014 record by 1.2 million pounds.
While crab opportunities have declined I must go back to my one of my old mantras: “You can gripe about where you can’t fish or head to greener pastures.”
And in this case those greener pastures will likely be found in northern Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. Specific dates haven’t been determined but fishing usually gets underway in early July. For details, go to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/.

Many other fishing options abound this summer

Now let’s move onto what’s happening this month and beyond.
The WDFW statewide trout derby is happening on 100 lakes now through Oct. 31. A common theme since opening day – which seems more pronounced than last year – is the number of tagged derby fish caught of late. Last year more than 50 percent of the tags were turned in so if it’s better so far this season that is great news!
More funding was diverted into 2018 with about $38,000 in donated prizes and more than 1,000 tags of which one-third (300 total) were placed in 22 Puget Sound region lakes.
Prizes range from gift cards to fishing gear, plus one tag lurking in a local lake is a getaway to Roche Harbor Resort in San Juan Islands.
Trout action remains steady and should continue until it heats up although deep-water bodied lakes will be good clear into summer. Bass, walleye and perch are also gaining more traction.
Shore-bound anglers shouldn’t overlook coastal surf perch fishing, which has been good since early spring from Neah Bay south along the Oregon coast.
The hatchery chinook season in Tacoma area of south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) reopened June 1. Since the winter/spring season ended on a high note with baitfish teeming off the Clay Banks it should no doubt attract some early-feeding kings into the area this month.
Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) chinook fishing in May was better than it had been in previous years with good catches off Point Fosdick, and Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point and Fox Point.
Other marine salmon fisheries on horizon include Sekiu, San Juan Islands and a portion of Hood Canal all opening July 1 for hatchery chinook; and Port Angeles opening July 3. The Tulalip Bubble fishery is open Fridays to Mondays of each week but closed on June 9.
Central Puget Sound is open in June for coho only and I’d earmark the shipping lanes off Jefferson Head. On coast, Ilwaco, Neah Bay and La Push open for salmon on June 23; and Westport on July 1.
On river scene, the Cascade, the Skagit above 530 Bridge and Skykomish opened June 1 for hatchery chinook; and a section of Skagit opens June 16 for sockeye.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

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Next up on Northwest Salmon Derby Series is PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15 and Big One Salmon Derby July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.
It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about a coho season in central and northern Puget Sound during the prime fishing month of September. I’ve confirmed the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby is Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby is date stamped for Sept. 22-23.
That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with a Honda 150hp and 9.9hp trolling motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo – for a $65,000 value. Not bad to get your name pulled out of a hat or maybe a cement mixer like we did last year in Everett. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
Now excuse me while I tie a bunch of leaders, prep the boat and zoom out the door to go fishing. See you out on the water soon!

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May 2018

The months are flying by faster than a coho hitting your bait in the prop wash.
It felt like “Yesterday” – an ode to a classic Beatles song – when we gathered in Lacey on Feb. 27 to see what the salmon forecasts had in store for us. Now a season package is “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” – did you say Stevie Wonder? – for anglers to digest and begin making plans on where to wet a line.
The process known as “North of Falcon” (NOF) culminated April 6-11 in Portland, Oregon, and I was on-hand as a sport-fishing observer.
When proposed seasons came to light in mid-March it was like a feisty trophy king tugging on end of a line, which after a long battle unhooked itself at the boat causing the lead weight to smack you right in the eye.
While grief and a swollen black eye set in, you might have been down in the dumps. But, my mantra has been to never whine about what you can’t do or lost (the trophy king in paragraph above), and more on making the most of the present moment.
Life throws you lemons so make sweet lemonade because if you don’t your head will go into a swift-moving tidal tail-spin and turn your fishing line into a messy tangled web of hurt.
The initial good news is environmental conditions – El Nino, warm water temperatures, a “Blob” and droughts – that have plagued us with restrictions going back to 2015-16 appear to be in the rear-view mirror.
Secondly, was the warmth (albeit mixed feelings by some NOF attendees) of unity and transparency between user groups despite a usual difference in opinions over how the whole pie of sport, tribal and non-tribal fisheries was divvied up.
These are signals of “baby steps” in a complicated process that long has been filled with arguments, bitterness, cultural indifference, protests and a fight over that “last salmon” dating back to Boldt Decision.
The true litmus test of how long this “hand-holding” philosophy will last between all parties is essential as we move forward to ensure our iconic Pacific Northwest salmon runs will be around for generations to come. Even more so as we carry the torch of a long-term Puget Sound Chinook Management Plan to the federal fishery agency’s table later this year, which will dictate how we fish from 2019 to 2029 and beyond.

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Justin Wong holds up a nice king salmon he caught last summer in the ocean off Westport.

“Now that we’ve finished this process we need to work on being responsible with conservation, habitat issues and simply change our philosophy to create a long-term management plan,” Ron Warren, the WDFW salmon policy coordinator said at conclusion of Portland meetings.
While being mindful of that briny future, let’s go over highlights of our fisheries at hand.
A positive are extended seasons – something that hasn’t happened for several years – for hatchery coho in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) from July through September, and non-select coho in central Puget Sound (Area 10) from June through mid-November. The Puget Sound coho forecast is 557,149.
Another shining star is a South Sound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017.
The northern Puget Sound summer hatchery chinook catch quota is 5,563 – a similar figure to 2017 – and is expected to last one-month when it opens in July.
The elevated forecast is a blessing when south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) opens June 1 especially in popular Tacoma-Vashon Island area. A central Puget Sound hatchery chinook fishery starts July 16 with a cap of 4,743. Area 10 has a coho directed fishery in June at popular places such as Jefferson Head-Edmonds area.
A hatchery king season opens at Sekiu on July 1, and Port Angeles on July 3. Both switch to hatchery coho in mid-August through September.
A summer king fishery in San Juan Islands (Area 7) opens July to August, but September is chinook non-retention.
Late-summer and early-fall coho fisheries will occur in Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 11, 12 and 13.
On coast, Ilwaco, La Push and Neah Bay open daily starting June 23, and Westport opens Sundays to Thursdays beginning July 1. Hatchery coho quotas are same as 2017 although chinook quotas are down a decent amount. The popular Buoy 10 salmon fishery opens Aug. 1.
On freshwater scene, a sockeye forecast of 35,002 to Baker River is strong enough to allow fisheries in Baker Lake from July 7-Sept. 7, and a section of Skagit River from June 16-July 15.
The Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open Sept. 16 for coho. Sections of Skykomish, Skagit and Cascade open for hatchery chinook beginning June 1. For details on seasons, visit WDFW at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/northfalcon/.

Bounty of May fishing options

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Big prawn-size spot shrimp come into play in the months ahead around the Puget Sound region.

There’s nothing more exciting than pulling up a pot loaded with prawn-size spot shrimp during a season that begins May 5.
“I am more positive this year on our spot shrimp projections than the last couple of years,” said MarkO’Toole, a WDFW biologist who is retiring May 18 after an illustrious 36 years with the department, and many thanks for your valued input on shrimp and other fish policies!
“In general, last year was another good season with relatively high abundance,” he said. “The catch per boat ended up being higher for all areas.”
Look for good shrimping in Strait; San Juan Islands; east side of Whidbey Island; central, south-central and northern Puget Sound; and Hood Canal. Test fishing conducted this spring showed marginal abundance in southern Puget Sound.
Hit pause button on spring chores since trout fishing in statewide lowland lakes is now underway.
Justin Spinelli, a WDFW biologist says 460,000 trout went into Puget Sound region lakes on top of 500-plus statewide lakes planted with 16,840,269 trout – 2,171,307 of them are the standardized size averaging about 11 inches compared to 8-inches in past seasons.
If you prefer a large-sized halibut then head out on May 11. The Washington catch quota is 225,366 pounds down from 237,762 in 2017, and a bump up from 214,110 in 2016, 2015 and 2014.
Dates for Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Strait/Puget Sound are May 11, 13, 25 and 27. Depending on catches other dates are June 7, 9, 16, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Ilwaco opens May 3 with fishing allowed Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.
Once you get your halibut fix add some black rockfish and lingcod to the cooler. Ilwaco, Westport, Neah Bay and La Push are open for both, and some Puget Sound areas are open for lingcod.

NW Salmon Derby Series hits pause button

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While we take a break from a spectacular winter derby series be sure to keep sight of the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15.
More great news is Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8 and Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23 – the largest derby on West Coast – are likely back on “must do” list. In mean time, check out derby’s grand-prize KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp motor and 9.9hp trolling motor at Anacortes Boat & Yacht Show on May 17-20 at Cap Sante Marina. The $65,000 boat also comes on an EZ-loader trailer, and fully-rigged with Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; custom WhoDat Tower; and Dual Electronic stereo.Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.
I’m sprinting out the door with rod in hand so see you on the water!


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August 2018

Wow! We’ve hit August in a flash and by now anglers have gotten their chances to hook salmon in what’s clearly turning out to be a memorable summer.
And while we’ve just eclipsed the midway point of summer, one shouldn’t let a lack of sleep or the ever growing “must do” list of house chores hold them back from getting out on the water.
In early June, my fishing journey began when the early summer chinook run ramped up in south-central Puget Sound (Area 11) around the Tacoma area off the Clay Banks, Flats and even as far south as Fox Island!
Fast forward to mid-July when the hatchery king fishery in northern and central Puget Sound (Areas 9 and 10) started off on a high note with anglers averaging more than half-a-fish-per rod during the Area 9 opener. Fishing was so good that WDFW had to shut-down the chinook season – it’s still open for hatchery coho –
earlier than anticipated.
Here is a historical snapshot of Area 9 angler trips with total fish caught and days open – 2018: 1,640 anglers caught 629 fish in seven days (doesn’t include July 26-29 data); 2017: 1,312 caught 383 in 14; 2016: 785 caught 157 in 19; 2015: 1,283 caught 212 in 11; 2014: 759 caught 96 in 30; 2013: 1,079 caught 251 in 19; 2012: 737 caught 206 in 34; 2011: 812 caught 50 in 46; 2010: 662 caught 107 in 46; 2009: 930 caught 135 in 17; 2008: 739 caught 153 in 25; and 2007: 1,211 caught 329 in 15.
This kind of success and pure fishing fun reminded me why I enjoy being on my boat during this short window of opportunity in the summer chasing migratory kings from Puget Sound into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and down to the Columbia River mouth.

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We’re all limited to how much time we get on the water especially when we’ve got jobs to hold down, family vacations to take and spending time with the kiddos. But, being smart and choosing where to fish locally will often lead to “fish-on” time-and-time again.
Looking at the month of August and September, anglers will still have plenty of choices to hook into kings and silvers.
Some of my favorite spots are Buoy 10 located near the Columbia River mouth; Westport on the south-central coast; Willapa Bay; Puget Sound in the Vashon Island/Tacoma area; and Long Beach just outside of Ilwaco off the southern coast.
While the Columbia chinook and coho returns aren’t as glamorous compared to recent year averages – the total fall chinook forecast is 365,000, which is about half of the 10-year average and falls below the 582,600 forecast and actual return of 475,900 last year – it will still provide ample hook-ups to make for a worthwhile trip to Ilwaco.
I first got hooked on the shallow water fishery off Long Beach by Tony Floor (a long-time sport-fishing advocate and dear fishing partner for many years) where we’d troll in 20 to 50 feet of water with just a banana weight and whole herring. Trolling through the huge schools of anchovies would constantly make your rod tip vibrate.
Keeping up the speed on your boat by going at a fast clip of 3 to 3.5 miles per hour is vital and you only need 13 to 15 pulls of line off the reel. Then kick back and watch those kings smash your bait and head out into the horizon like a fast-moving locomotive.
Just inside the Columbia River mouth is the famous Buoy 10 salmon fishery where on busy weekends will have an armada of boats stretching in all directions as far as the eyes can see.
Look for hungry salmon at places like the “Wing Walls” on the Washington side of the river, Desdemona Flats, above and below the Astoria-Megler Bridge and the Blind Channels just above the bridge.
If you want to stay close to home it’d be wise to hit central (10) and south-central Puget Sound (11) since the South Sound-bound hatchery chinook forecast of 227,420 is up 21 percent from 10-year average and a 35 percent increase from 2017. Be sure to check the WDFW website or hotline just in case the fisheries close sooner than expected.
As of press time Area 10 was under a hatchery king quota of 4,743, which is twice as large as last year’s quota, and scheduled to remain open until Aug. 30. Look for good fishing from Kingston south to Jefferson Head, and other locales like Point Monroe, West Point, Yeomalt Point and Skiff Point.
Back in early July, the WDFW decided to keep Area 11 open on a Friday to Monday only schedule for boat angling to slow down the fast-paced chinook catch that is under a quota of 5,587 fish. However, catches eventually slowed down and WDFW made a decision to revert back to the area being open daily starting Aug. 1. The Area 11 scheduled closure date is Sept. 30.
Look for hatchery kings around Dolphin Point, Redondo Beach, Brace Point, Three Tree Point and Point Robinson.
Further south of the Narrows Bridge is where “13” could be your lucky number! This deep-south sound region is known as Area 13 and will be the final staging area of the strong hatchery chinook returns. Anglers were already hooking up on good numbers of hatchery king around Fox Island in July, and seek them out at Anderson Island, the Nisqually Flats, Dover Point near Zangle Cove, Itsami Ledge, Dickenson Point, Little Fish Trap Bay, Big Fish Trap Bay and Johnson Point.
Another sleeper spot in late-summer is the San Juan Islands and is open to wild and hatchery kings through Sept. 3.

Great summer warm-water fish action

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Fish species like yellow perch and rock bass just don’t get the attention as much as our beloved salmon, but I will often sneak away to my favorite lakes for these fine tasting fish.
The cool thing about this fishery is that you can easily catch them from the shore or boat, and Lake Washington – which is 20 miles long and covers more than 22,000 acres – is excellent for yellow perch, rock bass as well as many other fish species.
The yellow perch population is one of the most prolific and are extremely easy to find and catch. It’s peak time right now as the water temperature heats up making them very active all-day long.
Look for schools of yellow perch in shallow water, 15 to 35 feet, and close to the shoreline. They will school up in shaded locations just outside the cover of weed beds, milfoil, aquatic weeds and lily pads or under docks, piers and overhanging trees and brush.
Target Seward Park; Montlake Cut; Newport Canal; Newport Shores; Kenmore log boom and pier; Juanita Bay; Magnuson Park shoreline; Andrews Bay; Newport area and slough; Webster Point in Union Bay; Yarrow Bay in Kirkland; Gene Coulon Park in Renton; Mercer Island near Luther Burbank Park; and in South Seattle off Leschi Park, Madison Park, Stan Sayres Pits and Mount Baker Park. Lake Union around Gasworks Park and other areas are good spots too!
A simple light-to-medium-action trout fishing rod and spinning reel loaded with 4- to 6-pound line on a drop-shot (egg-style) weight attached to a three-way swivel is the “go to” tackle. Baits of choice are worms, maggots or a skirted crappie jig. Once you catch your first perch cut a small chunk of the meat or even a perch eyeball, which works great as bait.
Other lakes to target perch are Sammamish; Kapowsin; Sawyer; Goodwin; Steven; American; Angle; Desire; Meridian; Samish; Whatcom; and Bosworth. The WDFW website offers a wealth of information at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/washington/Species/1849/.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

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The derby series got off to a good start with 362 adult and 45 youth anglers turning out for the PSA Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 13-15. Participants weighed-in 155 fish and the winner of the $7,500 first-place prize was Darren Anderson with a 24.28-pound hatchery king. Second was Kevin Klein with a 21.60; and third was Ryan Johnson with a 20.44. By comparison in 2017, there was 329 anglers with 167 fish caught.
That was followed by the Big One Salmon Derby on July 25-29 at Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.
The Brewster Salmon Derby on Aug. 3-5 was cancelled then reinstated after WDFW verified the summer chinook return to the Upper Columbia River was stronger than expected. The fishery reopened July 25 from Rocky Reach Dam to Wells Dam, including the Wenatchee and Chelan rivers; and Aug. 1 from Wells Dam to Chief Joseph Dam, including the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers. The change came after fishery managers were confident they’d achieve escapement goals.
Brewster Salmon Derby anglers in early July were refunded so they needed to re-register online at http://brewstersalmonderby.com/ by Wednesday, Aug. 1 at 5 p.m.
Other derbies are the South King County PSA Derby on Aug. 4; Gig Harbor PSA Derby on Aug. 11; and the Vancouver, B.C. Canada Chinook Classic on Aug. 18-19.
It’s also not too soon to start getting excited about coho in September and be sure to enter the PSA Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 8, and the biggest derby on West Coast – the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 22-23.
That is where we’ll draw the lucky name to win a grand-prize $65,000 KingFisher 2025 Falcon Series boat powered with Honda 150hp and 9.9hp motors on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer. It is fully rigged with Scotty downriggers, Raymarine electronics, a WhoDat Tower and a Dual Electronic Stereo. Details: www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.
Now it’s for me to start tying up bunch of leaders and bolt out the door to see if I can entice a late-summer king to take my bait. See you on the water!