(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)
Salmon fishing is going strong off the coast, bright coho are moving into the Columbia River behind hefty chinook, and pink salmon are striking lures throughout Puget Sound.
Those are just a few of the attractions awaiting anglers in the days leading up to the Labor Day weekend. Meanwhile, bowhunters are preparing for the deer and elk archery seasons that start in early September, when hunting seasons for upland birds also get under way in western Washington.
Salmon anglers fishing near Ilwaco and Westport continue to enjoy a “phenomenal” season, said Wendy Beeghley, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “This is one of the most successful fishing seasons I can remember,” she said. “We’ve had good weather, great turnouts and some of the best catch rates we’ve seen in years.”
Catch rates are also picking up fast on the lower Columbia River, where a strong run of coho salmon is now moving into the river behind an initial surge of chinook and a record-breaking wave of summer steelhead. Pink salmon rule from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to southern Puget Sound, but coho are expected to make up an increasing share of the catch by the time Labor Day arrives.
Anglers should be aware that fishing rules change Sept. 1 on a number of waters around the state. For details, see the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm on the WDFW website.
Recreational crabbers are also advised that the summer Dungeness crab fishery will close for a catch assessment in several areas of Puget Sound after the Labor Day weekend. Six areas will close Sept. 7 one hour after sunset, including marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point). 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon). Crabbing will be open over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-7.
Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Sept. 15 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online.
For more information about fishing, hunting and wildlife-viewing opportunities available around the state, see the regional reports below:
North Puget Sound
Fishing: A big run of pink salmon continues to push its way into the region, and anglers are out on Puget Sound in large numbers trying to reel them in. “It’s certainly not lights out fishing, like in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but it’s been pretty good in a few areas,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “It seems on some days its red hot for pink salmon, and on other days it’s only lukewarm.”
Anglers fishing the southern portion of the region – marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have had more success hooking pink salmon than those fishing elsewhere, Thiesfeld said.
Those fishing marine areas 9 and 10 have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release wild chinook and chum salmon. Beginning Sept. 1, anglers will be required to release all chinook in both marine areas.
“Fishing in marine areas 9 and 10 has been a little more consistent in terms of catch rates,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see the pink run pick up steam and fishing in other parts of the region improve in the coming weeks.”
At “Humpy Hollow ,” a portion of Puget Sound stretching from Shipwreck north to Mukilteo, fishing has been hit and miss, Thiesfeld said. Anglers fishing Humpy Hollow, or other waters of Marine Area 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon. All chinook salmon must released. The regulations are the same for neighboring Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay).
Thiesfeld said beach anglers on Whidbey Island also can find plenty of action for pink salmon – and the occasional coho salmon – at Bush Point, Fort Casey and Lagoon Point.
Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but can only keep one chinook. Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release wild coho and chum.
Meanwhile, crabbing is still open in the region. The crab fishery runs through Sept. 7 in marine areas 8-1, 8-2, 9, and 10. However, the fishery will remain open through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 7. Crabbing is open in all areas on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, plus the entire Labor Day weekend.
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/ ) for more information.
It’s still early, but pink salmon also are starting to show up in the rivers. There have been a few reports of anglers having success fishing for pink salmon on the Snohomish River. Portions of the Skagit and Skykomish rivers also are currently open for salmon, while a portion of the Green River opens Aug. 22.
Freshwater salmon fishing opportunities will increase Sept. 1, when the Stillaguamish River opens and anglers can fish additional stretches of the Skykomish and Green rivers. Thiesfeld reminds anglers that there are special gear restrictions for the Green River. Anglers can check the rules and regulations for the Green – as well as all other fisheries – on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .
South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
Fishing: It’s a banner year for salmon anglers as the coho-fest continues on the coast. Meanwhile, anglers can try for pink salmon in Puget Sound or take advantage of two-pole fishing in most area lakes. A few more weeks remain to catch crab throughout the region.
Salmon anglers fishing near Ilwaco and Westport continue to enjoy a “phenomenal” season, said Wendy Beeghley, WDFW fish biologist. “This is one of the most successful fishing seasons I can remember,” Beeghley said. “We’ve had good weather, great turnouts and some of the best catch rates we’ve seen in years.”
Anglers have been equally successful at La Push and Neah Bay, said Scott Barbour, WDFW fish biologist for the north coast. “The fish are everywhere and folks are having a good time catching them,” Barbour said.
All coastal areas are open seven days a week, including llwaco and Westport (marine areas 1 and 2), and La Push and Neah Bay (marine areas 3 and 4).
Wild coho must be released in all marine areas. Barbour advises anglers to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm for specific retention rules, limits and boundary guidelines.
If tuna strikes your fancy, the fishing’s been good in recent weeks, especially off Ilwaco, Beeghley said. “August is the best month for catching tuna as long as people can get out deep enough and the weather cooperates.” Tuna season is open year-round with no daily limit.
Anglers are required to release all chinook salmon in marine areas 5 and 6 (Sekiu and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), but both areas remain open for retention of hatchery coho , pink and sockeye salmon . Creel checks conducted near Sekiu during the Aug. 15-16 weekend showed 892 anglers catching 723 pink salmon and 462 coho. These areas are open seven days a week, with a two-fish daily limit. Anglers may also add two bonus pink salmon to their daily catch. All chum, chinook and wild coho must be released.
Meanwhile, it was all about pink salmon in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma/Vashon), where clear skies and warm weather greeted anglers during the Aug. 15-16 weekend. A creel check conducted near Point Defiance showed 585 anglers with 271 pink salmon, but few chinook or coho.
“It’s a pink show right now in Puget Sound, but as August draws to a close, anglers should start targeting coho,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. “We’ve had one of the best summers for coho at Sekiu since 2004, and hopefully that’s a good indicator for September coho fishing in northern Hood Canal and the Sound,” Thiesfeld said.
The salmon fishery in Marine Area 11 runs seven days a week, with a two-fish daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon. The minimum size for chinook is 22 inches with no minimum limit for other species. All wild chinook must be released.
Salmon fishing opens Sept. 1 north of Ayock Point in Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), where the daily limit is four coho only. All other salmon species must be released. The same rules apply to Dabob and Quilcene bays, which opened for salmon fishing Aug. 16.
In southern Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), where the chinook fishery is under way, a recent creel check at the Hoodsport Marina showed an average catch rate of one chinook for every three rods. Up to two chinook may be retained as part of the four-fish daily limit. All chum salmon must be released.
For those interested in winning a boat, some cash or just getting out on the water, two derbies in the Northwest Salmon Derby Series are coming up in the region. The Sinclair Inlet Salmon Derby, held near Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula, is scheduled Aug. 22-23. Contact Gramdiok@msn.com for more information. Anglers traveling to the coast can participate in the Tokeland Marina, Willapa Bay Salmon Derby, which will be held Sept. 5. For more information, contact VickieWilburn@comcast.net . Participants in both derbies will be entered in a raffle for a 20-foot Stabi-Craft fishing boat, motor and trailer. For more information, visit http://www.discovernorthwestfishing.com .
Several rivers around the region open to salmon fishing Sept. 1, including the Carbon River in Pierce County; Copalis River, Van Winkle Creek and Joe Creek in Grays Harbor County; the Bear and Niawiakum rivers in Pacific County; and Clearwater River in Jefferson County. The Puyallup River opened Aug. 16.
Also beginning Sept. 1, anglers fishing in the Quillayute system – which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers – can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit.
On the Hoh River, anglers will be able to fish for salmon seven days a week as of Sept. 1 and keep up to two adult fish as part of their six-fish daily limit.
Before heading out, anglers are advised to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm for specific regulations.
Recreational crabbers should be aware that the summer Dungeness crab fishery will close for a catch assessment in several areas of Puget Sound after the Labor Day weekend. Areas closing Sept. 7 one hour after sunset include marine areas 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass to East Point). 8-2 (East Point to Possession Point), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma/Vashon). Crabbing will be open over Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5-7.
Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Sept. 15 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2009 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2010 fishing license. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/index.htm .
Meanwhile, anglers can take advantage of the new two-pole fishing option now in effect on the majority of Washington’s 8,000 fishing lakes, ponds and reservoirs. The total cost for the two-pole endorsement is $24.50 ($6.50 for seniors). Anglers must also have a valid state fishing license. Because approximately 145 lakes and ponds are excluded from the option, anglers are advised to check the regulations carefully before they go fishing. More information and a list of excluded lakes and ponds are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole/ . Endorsements are available from authorized license dealers, listed at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lic/vendors/vendors.htm , or from the WDFW at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/ . Saltwater fisheries and fisheries on rivers and streams are excluded from the option.
Fishing: Hefty chinook salmon that recently lit up the Buoy 10 fishery near the mouth of the Columbia River are now biting from Longview upstream as strong tides push increasing numbers of coho in from the ocean. Meanwhile, summer steelhead broke the single-day record at Bonneville Dam several days in a row and bolstered catch rates for hatchery fish above and below the dam.
“Anglers are reeling in chinook salmon, hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead in good numbers, depending on what part of the river they’re fishing,” said Joe Hymer, WDFW fish biologist. “Steelhead are leading the charge up the river, but chinook and coho are moving up right behind them.”
Fishing has also been good for hatchery steelhead at the mouths of several area tributaries, including the Cowlitz, Lewis and White Salmon rivers, plus Drano Lake, Hymer said. Boat anglers fishing at Drano Lake averaged 1.2 steelhead per rod and retained just over half of them, according to a creel survey conducted the second week of August.
At Buoy 10, anglers averaged a salmon for every one to two rods that same week. About one-third of those fish were chinook salmon, some weighing 40-plus pounds, but the tides literally shifted the following week, increasing the percentage of hatchery coho in the catch, Hymer said.
“A series of strong tides has brought more coho into the river,” he said. “We could see another big surge of chinook, but these coho aren’t exactly shakers. A growing number of these fish are running 14 to 16 pounds.”
Through August, the daily catch limit in the Buoy 10 fishery is two salmon (but only one chinook) or hatchery steelhead or one of each. Minimum size limits are 24 inches for chinook and 16 inches for hatchery coho. All salmon other than chinook and adipose-fin-clipped hatchery coho must be released. Barbed hooks are allowed. Daily creel counts are available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regions/reg5/buoy10.htm .
Starting Sept. 1, anglers must release chinook salmon at Buoy 10, but the combined limit for hatchery coho and hatchery steelhead will rise to three fish (including no more than two hatchery steelhead).
The north jetty is open for fishing seven days per week when the Buoy 10 area or Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) are open for salmon fishing. The daily limit and minimum size limits for the north jetty follow the most liberal regulations of either area.
Upriver from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line, hatchery steelhead have been keeping anglers busy from Longview to the Bonneville Pool. (The all-time daily steelhead count at Bonneville – 34,053 – was set on Aug. 13.) But recent reports of anglers catching chinook between Longview and Vancouver suggests heavier gear may be in order, Hymer said.
“The chinook fishery above Rocky Point can ramp up quickly,” he said. “Anglers may want to think about switching from spinners and bait to wobblers – and fishing deep – if they want to pick up some chinook.”
Fishing deep isn’t a bad idea in any case, said Hymer, noting that the weather forecast calls for another hot spell. Under those conditions, he recommends fishing to a depth of 50 feet and looking for fish at the mouths of tributaries, where the water is cooler.
“We’re also expecting a return to low-water conditions, so boaters need to be especially cautious around sandbars and rocks,” he said. “We’ve already seen at least one boat stranded on a sand bar this season.”
Anglers fishing on tributaries to the Columbia River should also be aware of new rules adopted to protect wild salmon while providing greater access to hatchery fish:
* Bonus hatchery coho retention: Anglers may retain up to six hatchery adult coho on all lower Columbia tributaries with hatchery programs, including the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal rivers. Last year, the Cowlitz River was the only system with a daily limit of six hatchery adult coho.
* Release all wild chinook: Anglers must release all wild chinook (adults and jacks) on the Elochoman and Kalama rivers, where mass-marked fall chinook that are two, three and four years old will be returning this year. Very few five and six year-olds are expected, so this regulation provides additional protection for wild chinook adults with a minimal loss of sportfishing opportunity for older unmarked hatchery fish.
* Release wild chinook jacks: This rule will be in effect on the Cowlitz, Toutle (including Green and North Fork), Washougal, Wind and White Salmon rivers, plus Drano Lake. Two and three year-old mass-marked fall chinook will be returning to the Cowlitz, Toutle and Washougal rivers, while two, three, and four year-olds will return to the Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery. Some strays from various hatcheries also can be found in the Washington tributaries above Bonneville Dam.
* Hatchery chinook strays on the Lewis River: Anglers may retain stray hatchery chinook on the Lewis River and North Fork Lewis through September. While no fall chinook are released from Lewis River hatcheries, some stray tules are found in the system.
* Boat angling restriction on the North Fork Lewis River: This regulation, which applies to the Cedar Creek area, will be delayed until October to give anglers greater access to the large number of hatchery coho expected to return to the river. The restriction on boats will still take effect in time to protect wild fall chinook, which are expected to return in improved numbers but just above the minimum escapement goal.
* Grays and Elochoman rivers opened Aug. 1: The starting date for fall salmon fisheries was moved up to allow anglers to catch early arriving fish, particularly Select Area Bright fall chinook that stray into the Grays River.
Anglers looking for a different kind of fishing experience may want to consider a trip to an alpine lake. Tips on fishing the state’s “high lakes” and recommendations of good places to go are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/outreach/fishing/highlake.htm .
“Fishing one of the region’s high lakes can be a terrific experience, and a great way to beat the heat,” Hymer said. “Two words of caution: In the Indian Heaven Wilderness lakes, the daily limit for trout is three fish. Secondly, don’t forget the mosquito repellent.”
Fishing: Despite summer’s weather fluctuations, rainbow trout fishing remains excellent at Sprague Lake on the Lincoln-Adams county line. Lenny Hahn, WDFW enforcement officer from Spokane, recently checked anglers there, many with their daily catch limits of five trout. Hahn checked and photographed one 22-inch rainbow at Sprague that weighed nearly five pounds.
“I think fishermen have a good chance of catching similar sized rainbows at Sprague if they make the trip and put in the time,” Hahn said.
Hahn said trout limits are still being caught at Williams Lake in southwest Spokane County. Fishing action on trout and warmwater species at Downs and Chapman lakes in the same area was slower at last check.
Upper Spokane River catch-and-release fishing for rainbows over 19 inches has been good, but Hahn reminds anglers they must use selective gear – artificial flies or lures with one single-point barbless hook, no bait, and only knotless nets (see definition on page 24 of the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).
Steelhead are returning to the Snake River in large numbers this year, many already beginning to pass through fish ladders at the river’s dams. The steelhead catch-and-keep season opens Sept. 1, and although currently warm water temperatures may slow the bite, the action should pick up with cooler weather ahead. The mouths of the Snake’s tributaries like the Tucannon and Grande Ronde, and the confluence with the Clearwater on the Idaho border, are usually most productive at the start of the season.
Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, reminds steelheaders that barbless hooks are required and the daily trout catch limit of six fish includes up to three hatchery-marked steelhead (healed scar at clipped adipose or ventral fin).
Anglers who like to camp on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County while trout fishing the Tucannon River impoundments there, will be glad to know the campfire ban is lifted. Area Manager Kari Dingman says that with recent rains, the wildfire danger is lower and campfires are again allowed in WDFW campgrounds.
North Central Washington
Fishing: Art Viola, WDFW Chelan district fish biologist, reminds anglers that Lake Wenatchee sockeye salmon fishing closed Aug. 11. Unexpected and substantial sockeye mortality occurred during migration up the Wenatchee River due to high water temperatures, and insufficient numbers of sockeye were available to continue the season.
However, Lake Chelan land-locked summer chinook salmon fishing will continue because there are sufficient numbers of stocked sterile, triploid chinook. Viola reminds anglers there is no fishing allowed within 400 feet of the mouths of all Lake Chelan tributaries, minimum size is 15 inches, and the daily catch limit is one salmon. “WDFW is trying to maintain the abundance of chinook in Lake Chelan at a level that minimizes predation on kokanee and cutthroat trout but still provides fish for harvest,” Viola said. The fishery will also help control the numbers of some naturally reproducing diploid chinook.
Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan district fish biologist, reminds anglers that adult sockeye salmon in Lake Osoyoos can be retained through Aug. 30. Sockeye salmon returns above Zosel Dam are predicted to be in excess of needs for wild fish to reach spawning grounds, so retention is allowable. Minimum size limit is 12 inches, and the daily catch limit is four sockeye salmon. All chinook salmon and all sockeye with colored anchor (floy) tag attached must be released.
South Central Washington
Fishing: Jim Cummins, WDFW fish biologist from Yakima, says this is a great time for hiking anglers to head for the high country and fish the mountain lakes. “The trails are maintained and the bugs are on the decline now,” he said. “Fishing for cutthroat, rainbow and eastern brook trout can be rewarding now until the snow falls.”
Cummins encourages anglers to check out the region’s “Primer for High Lakes” for a partial list of lakes and the species of fish in each, available in printed form at WDFW’s Yakima office and via the Internet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regions/reg3/highlakes.pdf .
Paul Hoffarth, WDFW district fish biologist from Pasco, says the best current fishing in the Tri-Cities area is for warm water species. Walleye, bass, and perch fishing has been excellent in recent weeks, he reports, especially in Lake Umatilla, the John Day Dam pool on the Columbia River.
Hoffarth reminds Columbia River fall chinook salmon anglers that the anti-snagging rule is in effect for salmon and steelhead between Bonneville and McNary dams. See page 15 of the Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .
The fall chinook sport fishery in the Hanford Reach is under way and scheduled to continue through Oct. 22. Hoffarth says the catch is usually slow until mid-September. He reminds anglers to release all steelhead caught in the Columbia River above the Highway 395 bridge at Pasco.
The lower Yakima River will open Sept. 1 for salmon fishing, including all areas from Prosser Dam downstream to the Columbia River. The night closure and anti-snagging rules will be in effect for all species.
The Snake River opens for hatchery steelhead retention Sept. 1, and Hoffarth says the summer run steelhead are returning in large numbers this year.
“They are already beginning to pass through McNary and Snake River dam fish ladders in increasing numbers,” Hoffarth said. “River temperatures are warm and will likely slow the bite. But as temperatures cool, the steelhead fishing will improve and Tri-Cities area anglers should be in for a terrific early fall fishery.”
Hoffarth reminds anglers that barbless hooks are required when fishing in the Snake River for steelhead.
Eric Anderson, WDFW district fish biologist from Yakima, reminds anglers of the Sept. 1 – Oct. 22 closure of fall chinook and coho salmon fishing on the Yakima River from Hwy. 223 Bridge at Granger to Sunnyside (Parker) Dam, within the Yakama Reservation Boundary Reach. During that time period, the night closure and anti-snagging rule restrictions are lifted for all other game fish species since they are not necessary to protect salmon.