Editor’s note: Salmon season between Cape Falcon, Ore., and Vancouver Island got off to a great start last weekend with anglers fishing off the mouth of the Columbia landing a hatchery king apiece.
Catch stats from fisheries biologist Joe Hymer show that 135 anglers in Washington’s Marine Area 1 and off Oregon’s North Coast brought back 136 Chinook.
Just to the north, the Westport fleet hauled nearly five times as many back to the dock, though the average was about one for every two anglers.
The ratio was roughly one for every four La Push fishermen and one for every 2.66 Neah Bay anglers.
Northwest Sportsman ad salesman Jim Klark found himself on a pretty hot bite in the middle of it all and filed the following report:
The long-awaited season opener for ocean salmon fishing arrived on June 18. I had spoken with Deep Sea Charters at the winter sports shows and had the June 19 date marked on my calender.
Have you been to Westport? You gotta go! It is perhaps one of the few true fishing villages on the West Coast. Arriving in Westport on Saturday just as the day’s fishing was concluding I asked Larry Giese at Deep Sea how the fishing had been that day.
“Spotty at best,” he told me.
Some folks did better than others and there was tons of bait, but the salmon had lockjaw.
I checked into the Islander Westport at the other end of town and wondered what tomorrow would bring.
Sunday morning 5 a.m. found me jumping aboard the Fury with Capt. Mike Harris. He confirmed the tough fishing the day before as I searched for a spot for my lunch, fishing tackle and find a place to sit. I was joined by nine other happy anglers, who had fished together before and we all felt like we were on a ride at the fair as we went over the bar out of harbor. However, Harris reminded us to take a seat. “The bar looks a little snotty this morning,” he said.
We headed north and found a dozen other boats in pursuit of hatchery Chinook. We all dropped our mooching rigs down 50 pulls and the gentlemen standing 10 feet from me yelled, “Fish on!” almost immediately.
As I reeled up my herring, I saw two bare hooks. As the morning wore on, some fish were “farmed,” a wild salmon was released and four nice hatchery fish were boated.
Me? I was blanking.
It’s funny how when you are not catching fish how you start to notice every little discomfort, ache and pain.
As for Capt. Harris, he started combing the waters with binoculars. At 1:30 p.m., he announced, “Reel ’em up, we’re moving.”
His 5-year-old son was on deck as well and a more determined angler you won’t find. As we arrived between Buoy 6 and Buoy 8, the red marker buoys just outside the Westport harbor entrance, I saw a Grady White with its net in the water and nice Chinook being boated. Harris, who was on the bow of the boat helping his son, seemed to be reeling his son’s rig with a little more vigor than earlier. Suddenly right in front of me a king jumped and Harris handed the reel to his son with a “Fish on!”
“Reel em up pretty quick, you guys … Drop it to the bottom and reel em up. There is a ton of fish here,” he coached.
Helping his son was deckhand Natasha and 12 minutes later, the lad had landed a nice hatchery fish. Just as that fish was landed another fish was hooked and then another. Seemed like we had found some cooperative fish. One angler released a coho (this Sunday, June 26, hatchery coho become legal in Area 2).
Just as I was reeling my rig to the boat to check the bait, the line screamed off the reel in the direction of The Hula Girl, another charter boat that had arrived 40 yards off our stern. I raced to the corner keeping my line in front of me as it seemed this fish wanted to board the Hula Girl. I had forgotten how exciting a near wide-open bite can be — especially when you’re in it! This fish seemed determined to not give up without a significant fight
“Hope it’s not a wild one,” I thought as I found myself halfway down the Fury‘s port side rail.
Harris was now at my side net in hand, encouraging me, “That’s it, keep the rod tip up … Stay at the rail … Reel down till you see the sinker … Now slowly lift the rod tip.”
I did, but the fish obviously did not like the net. I still had a tight line, though, and as the fish tired, a nice 20-pound hatchery fish was landed.
As I looked around, I noted that in the twenty minutes it had taken to land the fish, at least another eight boats had arrived.
Word gets out fast in Westport when the bite is on.
Indeed, that guy in the Grady White must have wondered where his quiet afternoon went.
Shouts of “Fish on!” and “Get the net!” echoed all around us. All totaled, we kept 12 Chinook and released numerous wild kings, coho and jacks. I was just as excited as a 5-year-old to land mine.
Westport caters to anglers and has a variety of charter operations and private boat launches. There are several RV operations as well as motels and hotels to choose from.
It also hosts several derbies. The Westport Charter Association Fishing Derby runs through September 30 while the Third Annual Washington Tuna Classic is August 27th. Don’t want to go out to sea? Westport also hosts a really fun salmon derby Sept. 15 to Oct. 31. The Boat Basin Salmon Derby allows anglers to compete for prizes with fish caught only in the Westport Boat Basin. That seems like a fun way to spend some time with the family without having to worry about getting seasick.
Starting this Sunday, wild kings can be retained along with hatchery coho and other salmon species. The fishery runs five days a week, Sunday through Thursday. The bag limit changes from two hatchery Chinook to two salmon (one only may be a Chinook ).
Like I said, if you have not been to Westport you gotta go. It promises to be a good season this year if the first weekend is any indication. For more information, see www.charterwestport.com or www.westportgrayland-chamber.org/fishing_info.php.