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Planning for Salmon Season in the Northwest

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Hal C
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Joined: 09 Jun 2006
Posts: 68

PostPosted: Mon May 24, 2010 2:12 pm    Post subject: Planning for Salmon Season in the Northwest Reply with quote

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

Open for Business

When it comes to salmon fishing, do you consider yourself a planner? I confess to being a planner, in many walks of life, but especially when it comes to looking ahead to salmon fishing trips now through the fall of this year.

Planning produces the opportunity to lock in my schedule, and make reservations for accommodations, moorage and team up with fishing buddies and friends. Sometimes, I find myself having too many friends when it comes to salmon fishing. In a perfect world, as a giver, I would like to take everybody salmon fishing and share what I have learned from the sport in the last 50-plus years, but it doesnít work that way in life.

Back to planning. My planning begins with the northwest salmon forecasts, which are being unveiled now by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. These forecasts ultimately are sculpted into the salmon fishing seasons from May 1 through April 30th, 2011. I combine the forecast information, logically focusing on run strength, by area and apply my experience and knowledge of when and where to be at geographical locations and open the office for business. My business is whacking hatchery produced chinook and coho salmon southbound from Alaska and Canada entering Washington waters. Step into my office.
At this writing, letís take an early look at what we should expect to realize this year for chinook and coho salmon returns. Before I perform my swan dive into the early numbers, remember these numbers will stick to the board in the form of seasons announced around the end of the second week of April. Further, the early numbers I will share in this writing focus on chinook and coho stocks, bound for the Columbia River that not only drive the fisheries at the mouth of the river, but provide the backbone of fishing seasons in the ocean from Ilwaco to Neah Bay. The inside piece, from Neah Bay to Olympia, is yet to be unveiled and I will attempt to flush that information out in my April column.

Okay, here is what I know, starting with chinook. Donít you love that word? Chinook, big king salmon, chrome bright, fights like a Brahma bull after eating a case of energy chocolate bars. And donít forget about the crippling effect when you put a piece of king salmon between your cheek and gum, fresh off the grill. Knee pads are an option.

The 2010 forecast, of all ďfallĒ chinook stocks, bound for the mouth of the Columbia River is 652,000 king salmon. What does that mean? Well, last year, the actual return to the Columbia was 418,000 kings, a very respectable number. I recall the record year of 1987, when somewhere around three-quarters of a million returned to the Columbia. It was amazing. They chewed the boulders off rip-rap along the north and south jettys along with non-stainless props off fishing boats. Fishing from a freighter is an option. Are you getting my drift? The forecast of 652,000 is not a record, but for contemporary chinook returns, I think I can work with this number.

Some anglers have asked me why the big return? From a simplistic interpretation, thank Mother nature and fabulous ocean conditions resulting from great upwelling the last two springs and summer. Payoff time, baby, take a number.

July should be outstanding from Neah Bay to Wesport, and the chances for an earlier chinook salmon season, possibly in June, is still up in the air. I will give you an update a month from now.

I like to be at the mouth of the Columbia River throughout the third week of August. Historical catch information for king salmon entering the Columbia suggests the third week of August and the beginning of the fourth week is the time to have your worm in the water. When my worm is in the water, the office light is ďon!Ē

If coho is your game, the show will go on along the entire coast, particularly in July and reaching crescendo peaks during August. Back to the data. The data suggests peak migrations into the Columbia during early September. Now, may I have the envelope with the numbers please? The forecast calls for 556,000 compared to an extremely strong run last year of 1,323,000. Dude, 1.3 million! Check 2009 as a big mark in history for coho survival and this year, itís something we call normal.

So, while you are digesting these numbers, staring at the calendar and thinking about making some reservations, donít overlook the next ďbig showĒ of salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River beginning this month for spring chinook salmon. The forecast calls for 559,000 spring chinook and the season opens on March 1, scheduled to run through April 18. Most Tuesdays are closed in the lower river so know the rules before you hook up the boat and go south. What does 559,000 spring chinook mean? It means itís the largest return since 1938 which is a lifetime ago. Donít you hate it when that happens?

Iím headed for the calendar, checking the tide book and ready to dial up some salmon fishing reservations for the months ahead. And you thought Christmas was a big deal. Itís about to be Christmas for this cat and I donít care who is coming down the chimney. Iím going fishing. See you on the water.
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Captain Walker
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Joined: 07 Nov 2006
Posts: 105

PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2010 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Join Tony for his Summer Fishing!
Captain David Walker

Moderator, Boaters Line Moderator
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