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Short Review of the Summer Salmon Season

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Hal C
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Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 68

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:56 am    Post subject: Short Review of the Summer Salmon Season Reply with quote

NW salmon fishing wrap-up by Tony Floor- Posted here with permission by Tony and NMTA - The Northwest Marine Trade Association, the oldest and largest regional boating trade organization in the nation.

The report cards are in.

When it comes to salmon fishing, how do you define the cliché’ “the good ‘ol days?” Certainly, you have probably heard the comment, “The salmon were so thick you could walk across their backs.” Or, “There were acres and acres of chinook and coho in the ocean and I’m sure the state is going to extend the season.”
With the introduction of the month of September on our calendars, I thought it might be worthwhile to look back at some of the salmon fisheries during the past two months. We’ll call it “report cards” for this writing and while school is still in session, with plenty of fantastic salmon fishing during September, I think it’s worthwhile to review the snapshot of the summer of 2009.
Starting on the southern coast, salmon fishing out of Ilwaco got hotter and hotter as the season progressed until the closure on August 31st. Anglers found the coho salmon forecasted at over a million fish north, south and out near green Buoy 1 at the entrance to the Columbia River. I was concerned going into this fishery that the coho salmon would be smaller than usual due to a high abundance relative to the forecast, but that was not the case this year. During the last two weeks of the season, if you could find the bigger fish, coho salmon in the mid-teens was not uncommon.
If you were fishing in the lower Columbia River, in the Buoy 10 fishery on August 14-15th, it was lights out for big king salmon and the coho were there too, in spades. The explosion was the result of a hard rain, as you may recall, on Thursday, August 13th. Chinook and coho salmon, within some undetermined distance of the mouth of the Columbia River charged and held for a couple of days. First hand information from anglers who were there forwarded me some of their success photos. A very effective form of salmon fishing torture. I fished the Columbia River for six days following this event and even though the coho salmon fishing was outstanding, the big boys were ‘here today and gone to Maui.’
Retention of king salmon is now a no-no in the lower Columbia River; however, the coho salmon limit is bumped to three per day. Three big coho salmon will fill any angler’s box in a hurry. Keep this fishing option on your menu for the month of September and into early October.
My report card grades for Ilwaco and Buoy 10 this summer is an A and a B+, respectively.
Further north, up the coast, Westport has had great coho fishing and spotty chinook fishing. That formula results in a long season, especially with a big coho quota, but for anglers planning their fishing trips on steady king salmon catching, it was slightly off the mark. The cutoff date (versus achieving the quota catch) for the Westport salmon season (in the ocean) is September 20th. Huge coho salmon are producing a lot of grins around Westport at this writing and this is a “must do” between now and September 20th. I know of a local Olympia angler who returned from Westport last Saturday after a few days of fishing with coho in the 15-20 pound range. Those are coho salmon big enough to participate in a WWF wrestling match. Get ready to rumble!!!
My report card for Westport is a B+.
Willapa Bay enjoyed an outstanding performance of king salmon and early coho salmon arrivals in mid-August. This is very early for this fishery as biologists argue that peak entry at Willapa Bay for king salmon is during the first week of September. Regardless, it has been hot. Recent rains this past weekend cleared a lot of fish toward the rivers and salmon hatcheries of their destination, but I am confident it will rebuild. Be there during the next two weeks. To date, I give Willapa Bay an A-.
Neah Bay and Sekiu hosted great salmon fishing this summer. Neah Bay was lit up with kings and coho salmon for most of the summer and although I did not make it up to that region this July and August, I sure did hear about it. Sekiu had decent king salmon fishing, achieving their quota earlier than normal, if there is such a thing as normal anymore. And, the coho fishing is yet to come, with mid-September offering the traditional peak as Puget Sound coho stocks migrate east down the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The real sleeper, in this region has been at Freshwater Bay, immediately west Port Angeles. King salmon fishing was so hot, the kelp beds were on fire. This is the second year in a row for tremendous chinook salmon fishing at Freshwater Bay and it will make my list of places to be in 2010, especially in early August.
I give Neah Bay an A, Sekiu a B+ and Freshwater Bay an A+. No, I am not selling real estate at Freshwater Bay.
The San Juan Islands exploded during the first week of their summer Chinook season on July 1st. Long time island anglers say it was the best early July they could remember. I agree. The San Juans has slowed significantly, particularly in August, but it was outstanding earlier. The Islands are not considered a coho fishing paradise and I grade their summer of 2009 fishing as an A-.
The big surprise for me was the lack of performance of the chinook salmon entering Puget Sound. This was the third summer for this chinook salmon selective fishery, opening in mid-July through the month of August. Fishing pressure was very high (third week of August, 34,000 anglers in Area 9, compared to 20,000 in 2008) through most of the season, but once anglers learned that the catching was not as good as reports from other areas, they began migrating west and south.
Tribal gillnet catches in Elliott Bay were reasonably good, yet, the fish did not contribute at a respectable rate in the sport fishery. Oh well, sometimes that’s how chinook salmon behave as they get close to home. Meanwhile, the Tacoma area (Southworth, Pt. Defiance) had off and on good chinook salmon fishing. My grade for the Puget Sound selective chinook fishery is a B-.
With all of this rhetoric said, something very positive happened in this summer’s salmon fisheries in Washington. First, looking back, high gas prices took a significant whack out of our state’s sport salmon fishery in 2008. Second, while gas prices remain high, fishing pressure in most of the regions noted above is at or near record activities, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Simply interpreted, when we have good salmon fishing opportunities, whether it be hatchery produced Chinook salmon, high numbers of coho salmon, and big pink salmon returns, the anglers will come. And come they did by the thousands, during an economic recession.
I consider myself as part of the hundreds of thousands of Washington anglers who dig this sport. It is a major reason why I have lived here all my life and continue to believe that sport salmon fishing belongs in Washington along with Mt. Rainier.
Indeed, we have had a summer of great salmon fishing, and, the month of September offers some late king salmon fishing (Willapa Bay and Westport), along with tons of good coho fishing.
Good luck and see you on the water.
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Captain Walker
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 105

PostPosted: Mon Nov 02, 2009 3:56 pm    Post subject: Fall Salmon fishing in the NW Reply with quote

The summer season has drawn to a close - but there is still time to pursue Coho Salmon! There is also "Fish Politics"
Captain David Walker

Moderator, Boaters Line Moderator
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