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.
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
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
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!