Countdown to Labor Day weekend energizes anglers
Thousands of pink salmon are pushing into Puget Sound, catch rates for coho remain strong on the coast and the popular Buoy 10 fishery near the mouth of the Columbia River opens today (Aug. 22) for retention of chinook salmon.
Those are just a few of the attractions awaiting anglers in the days leading up to the Labor Day weekend.
"Outdoor recreation traditionally reaches a peak around the Labor Day weekend - and for good reason," said Dave Brittell, assistant director of the wildlife program at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). "Not only do a lot of people have time off from work, but it's a great time to get outdoors."
Ocean fisheries from Ilwaco to Neah Bay continued to draw plenty of boats through the week ending Aug. 19, when nearly 12,000 anglers caught more than 15,000 hatchery coho and 1,000 chinook salmon. Marine Area 1 off Ilwaco will close at the end of the day Aug. 25 when the coho catch is projected to reach the area quota, but fishing in the three areas to the north will continue seven days per week.
All areas of Puget Sound will be open for crab fishing through the Labor Day weekend, after which eight marine areas will close for a catch assessment by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Waters closing Sept. 3 at one hour past sunset include marine areas 6, 7, 8-1, 8-2, 9 10, 11 and 12. For more information, see WDFW's crabbing website at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelf...index.htm.
For more information on the full array of fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities now available around the state, see the regional summaries below:
North Puget Sound
Fishing: Pink salmon have arrived and a fleet of anglers has been out on the water to greet them. "We've got a big run of pink salmon pushing its way through Puget Sound right now," said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist. "And anglers - who have been out in force - are taking advantage of it."
While fishing has been good for pink salmon at several sites in Puget Sound, Thiesfeld recommends trolling "Humpy Hollow," a portion of the Sound that stretches from Shipwreck north to Mukilteo.
"Catch rates have been strong along Humpy Hollow, and I expect that to continue for the next couple of weeks," Thiesfeld said. "If there's a friend or a child you've been wanting to take fishing, I'd get them out to Humpy Hollow as soon as possible."
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.
Thiesfeld reminds anglers in neighboring Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) that they must release chinook, plus all pink salmon.
Chinook and coho catches in the region haven't been bad either. Anglers are finding some nice chinook in Rosario Strait, along with strong numbers of resident hatchery coho in marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), Thiesfeld said.
"It's a good time to be out on the water fishing for salmon," he said.
Meanwhile, the summer crab fishery in marine areas 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and the southern portion of Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) closes for a catch assessment one hour past sunset on Sept. 3. However, the northern and eastern portions of Marine Area 7 will remain open through September. See WDFW's sport-crabbing website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/) for more details on the fishery.
The coonstripe and pink shrimp fisheries also are open in the region, and shrimpers can drop a pot in marine areas 8-1, 8-2, 9 and the northern and central portion of Marine Area 7. For more information on the shrimp fisheries check WDFW's website at www.wdfw.wa.gov/fish/s...dex.shtml.
Freshwater anglers in the region will have more opportunities beginning Sept. 1, when portions of the Skagit, Stillaguamish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie open for salmon fishing. Anglers fishing those four rivers must release chinook. Those fishing the Snoqualmie and Skagit also must release pinks.
A portion of the Green (Duwamish) River also opens Sept. 1 for salmon. The Green will be open from the 1st Ave. South Bridge to the northbound I-5 Bridge. Anglers fishing that stretch will have a daily limit of six salmon, only one of which may be a chinook, and no more than three adults.
On the Skykomish, the steelhead fishery remains open. Anglers can cast for steelhead along the Reiter Ponds section of the river - 1,500 feet upstream to 1,000 feet downstream of the Reiter Ponds Hatchery outlet.
Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries in WDFW's Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm).
South Sound/Olympic Peninsula
Fishing: While the ocean salmon fishery off Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) will close at the end of the day Aug. 25, anglers still have plenty of other opportunities to catch a salmon off the coast and throughout the region. They can also take advantage of three more days of halibut fishing, try for tuna or get their rods ready for some river fishing coming up Sept. 1.
Although anglers are expected to reach the coho quota by Aug. 25, those fishing along the coast can continue to enjoy an above-average season, said Wendy Beeghley, WDFW fish biologist. "The fishing's been great this year and anglers are getting at least one fish per outing at Westport and La Push," she said.
In addition, salmon fishing in marine areas 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores), 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) has been extended to seven days a week. "With only a few more weeks left, anglers should get out on the water while they can," Beeghley said.
Salmon fishing is scheduled to continue through Sept. 15 in marine areas 3 and 4 and through Sept. 16 in Marine Area 2, or until quotas are reached. Through Aug. 19, anglers at Westport had landed 48 percent of the 9,400 chinook quota and 42 percent of the 43,510 coho quota. The daily limit is two fish, only one of which may be a chinook. All wild coho must be released.
And if tuna strikes your fancy, the fishing's been excellent, said Beeghley. "People are catching quite a few off Westport and if you're looking for a fish with speed and strength, tuna's the one." Fishing for tuna is open year-round with no daily limit.
Meanwhile, anglers have another chance to land a halibut along the south coast. Enough halibut remains in the quota for three more days of fishing in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco). The dates are Aug. 24, 25 and 26.
Farther north along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the chinook fishery in marine areas 5 and 6 is now closed. However, both areas remain open to fishing for pink, sockeye and hatchery coho salmon. The fishing for pink salmon is still quite good in the Strait and the number of coho should be increasing, said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist.
"With the recent rains, anglers fishing for coho should have some very good days," Thiesfeld said. Recent creel checks off Sekiu show at least two pink salmon per rod and one coho for every two rods.
In southern Puget Sound, fishing has been fair for hatchery chinook, Thiesfeld said. "Anglers are doing well near the Point Defiance boathouse, and pink fishing has been very good off the Dash Point dock in Marine Area 11," he said. For those heading to Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), salmon fishing opens north of Ayock Point on Sept. 1, with a daily limit of four fish, coho only. Dabob and Quilcene bays, also part of Marine Area 12 opened for salmon fishing Aug. 16.
Several rivers around the region open to salmon fishing Sept. 1, including the much-anticipated Puyallup. "Anglers always look forward to this opening when the fish start to move into the river from Commencement Bay," Thiesfeld said. The daily limit on the river is six fish. Up to two adults may be retained, plus two additional pink salmon. Wild chinook must be released.
Other rivers openings include 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; McLane Creek in Thurston County and Clearwater River in Jefferson County.
Also beginning Sept. 1, anglers fishing in the Quillayute system - which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers - can keep two wild chinook as part of their limit of three adult fish. The total daily limit is six fish; all wild adult coho must be released.
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.
Anglers are advised to check the Fishing in Washington pamphlet (http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm) for specific regulations throughout the region.
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. 3 one hour after sunset include Marine Area 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) and marine Areas 11 and 12 (Tacoma/Vashon and Hood Canal). Crabbing will be open over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1-3).
Marine Areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 (Sekiu) and 13 (south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge) will remain open through Jan. 2, 2008.
For reporting purposes, crabbers are now required to report their crab catch on separate summer and fall/winter catch record cards during the course of the season. The record card for the summer season is due to WDFW by Sept. 15 and should be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season.
Completed catch record cards can be returned to WDFW by mail to the address printed on the card or dropped off at one of WDFW's six regional offices. More information on crabbing rules and reporting procedures is located at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelf...g/crc.htm.
Fishing: Columbia River anglers continue to catch good numbers of hatchery steelhead above and below Bonneville Dam, although the focus is now shifting to fall chinook salmon in the lower river. The Buoy 10 fishery opens for chinook retention today (Aug. 22) through Sept. 3, and a large percentage of the anglers fishing in the lower mainstem Columbia upstream to Bonneville Dam already have been targeting chinook, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.
"Recent creel checks from Oregon show that one in two anglers fishing at Buoy 10 have been catching and releasing chinook salmon," Hymer said. "That, together with the growing number of chinook caught upriver points to some good chinook fishing in the weeks ahead. Right now, catch rates at Buoy 10 are way ahead of last year and in the lower Columbia they're at least as strong as they were a year ago at this time. If that's not enough, ever-increasing numbers of coho should be entering the Columbia."
But anglers hoping to take home a chinook salmon will need to act soon, Hymer said. In an effort to conserve wild "tule" runs, chinook retention will be closed Sept. 5-30 from the lower end of Bachelor Island (just upstream from the mouth of the Lewis River) to a projected line between Tongue Point and Rocky Point near Astoria. Other changes, effective in early September, are noted below.
"The window for chinook retention on the Columbia River and some tributaries is narrower this year," Hymer said. "The good news is that the season appears to be getting off to a good start."
Also starting strong is the "catch-and-keep" fishery for white sturgeon between the Wauna power lines and Bonneville Dam, where fishing reopened Aug. 18 six weeks ahead of schedule. Anglers fishing the gorge between Washougal and Bonneville Dam averaged one legal-sized sturgeon for every three rods during the first weekend of retention fishing. The fishery is open seven days per week through September. Bank anglers from the Hamilton Island ramp to the sturgeon deadline below Bonneville Dam are reminded they must stop fishing for sturgeon once the daily limit of one fish has been retained.
But hatchery steelhead have been providing most of the action in many areas, particularly above the dam. Boat anglers fishing at Drano Lake and the White Salmon River averaged one steelie per rod during the week ending Aug. 19, while also taking aboard a few chinook. Both waters have been crowded with boats and trailers.
"According to recent counts, more than 200,000 steelhead have crossed Bonneville Dam so far, but only 70,000 have cross The Dalles Dam," Hymer said. "At least theoretically, that leaves 130,000 fish swimming around in Bonneville Pool waiting to move upstream when the big river cools."
More than 11,000 steelhead moved past Bonneville Dam on Aug. 19, the highest number counted on a single day this year and one of the largest daily tally ever recorded (except for a few days in 2001), Hymer said.
Meanwhile, creel checks of 1,745 anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam tallied 182 steelhead, 87 adult fall chinook and one coho. Some chinook, coho and steelhead were caught near the mouth of the Lewis River, while anglers fishing the Cowlitz River caught some chinook at the barrier dam and some steelhead near Blue Creek.
Fishing regulations for each river are described in the Fishing in Washington pamphlet, posted online at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm.
As noted above, the lower Columbia River will close to retention of chinook salmon Sept. 5-30 from a boundary marker on the lower end of Bachelor Island across to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse downstream to a projected line between Rocky Point and Tongue Point. In addition, fishing rules will change in early September for several tributaries to the big river, including:
Grays River (including West Fork) - Opens to fishing for hatchery coho Sept 1. The daily limit is six adipose-clipped coho, including no more than four adults. All chinook, chum, and wild coho must be released.
Elochoman River - Opens to fishing for fall chinook and hatchery coho beginning Sept. 1. A bonus limit is in effect for adult hatchery coho through mid-October. All chum and wild coho must be released.
Coweeman River - The entire river will be closed to all fishing in September and October to protect spawning fall chinook.
Mill, Abernathy, Germany and Coal creeks - The lower portions of these streams will be closed to all fishing in September and October to protect spawning fall chinook.
Cowlitz River - Anglers must release all chinook salmon Sept. 5-30 from the Highway 4 bridge in Kelso downstream to protect wild tule fall chinook headed to the Coweeman River.
Lewis River - Chinook salmon must be released Sept. 5-30 downstream of the Interstate 5 bridge to protect wild tule fall chinook returning to the East Fork Lewis.
Angling for some trout? Bank anglers are catching some rainbows at Mayfield Lake, while those at Riffe Lake are catching a mixture of chinook, coho and steelhead.
Fishing: The steelhead harvest season on the Snake River system in the south end of the region opens Sept. 1 with a daily catch limit of three hatchery steelhead (rainbow trout more than 20 inches long, marked with a clipped fin). Glen Mendel, WDFW district fish biologist in Dayton, said the best catches usually come later in the season. He reminds anglers to release any wild (unmarked) steelhead and watch for fall chinook and coho salmon, which are also in the Snake system and cannot be retained.
Kokanee fishing remains good at Loon Lake in southern Stevens County, especially at night. Waitts Lake, just up the road from Loon, is also a good evening spot to catch rainbow and brown trout, plus some largemouth bass and yellow perch. Lake Roosevelt is still producing catches of kokanee and big rainbows.
"The action at many of our trout lakes throughout the region should start picking up as summer winds down with lower air and water temperatures," said Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist. "Some, like Amber, Badger and Williams lakes in Spokane County have remained pretty good throughout the summer for anglers out really early and late in the day."
With dry conditions throughout the region, open fires are currently prohibited on all WDFW owned and managed water-access sites. Anglers are urged to be extra careful with anything that could start a fire.
North Central Washington:
Fishing: The Okanogan and Similkameen rivers opened for chinook salmon fishing Aug. 15 through Sept. 15, notes Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist in Omak.
"The uppermost boundary of this special fishery for the Okanogan is the Highway 97 Bridge just below Oroville," he said. "For the Similkameen River, it's the Highway 7 Bridge just west of Oroville." Jateff explained the harvest season is possible because the upper Columbia River summer chinook return at Wells Dam is adequate and the fish stocks are stable and not listed under the Endangered Species Act. "Anglers need to remember there's a non-buoyant rule restriction on the summer chinook fishery from Wells Dam upstream, including the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers, plus a night closure is in effect," Jateff said.
Also by special rule, from Sept. 1-15 anglers can harvest any game fish except trout in the Okanogan River upstream of the highway bridge in Malott.
Jateff reports the salmon fishing effort in the Brewster-Bridgeport area of the Columbia River has slowed a bit in recent days. "But with cooler temperatures new fish could be moving into that area," he said. The season continues through Oct. 15.
"Trout fishing continues to be good on the Methow River for both rainbows and cutthroat," Jateff said. "Selective gear and catch-and-release rules apply, and anglers should check the regulations carefully since the Twisp, Chewuch, and Methow River above Foghorn Dam sections were closed to fishing Aug. 15. The Methow River from the Lower Burma Road Bridge to Foghorn Dam will be open through Sept 30. Signs are posted along our Methow River access sites with open and closed seasons listed."
Jateff said anglers wanting to catch a few yellow perch should try Patterson Lake near Winthrop. Bluegills and crappie continue to be caught out of Leader Lake near the town of Okanogan along Highway 20. "These are two lakes that provide fisheries throughout the summer when trout fishing has slowed," he said.
South Central Washington:
Fishing: Jim Cummins, WDFW fish biologist, said it's 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 wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regio...lakes.pdf.
"If you go it's important to be prepared for rapid changes in weather at this time," he warned. There are also some road closures in the Bumping River area that anglers heading that direction can check out before leaving home at www.nachesvalleychambe..._1808.doc.
Cummins also suggested checking with Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest ranger districts in Naches and Cle Elum about road and trail conditions (see www.fs.fed.us/r6/wenat...t/#cleelum
Although Mud Lake, northwest of Naches, is rarely fished at this time of year, anglers should be aware of a recent closure of the Mud Lake Road off the north side of Highway 410. The closure is where the road crosses private land at the highway entrance and public use has been a problem for the landowner. An alternate, albeit much longer route into Mud Lake, is from Highway 410 via Bald Mountain Road (U.S. Forest Service Road 1701) to the top of Cleman Mountain, then east on U.S. Forest Service 1712. Cummins notes Mud Lake is popular for fly anglers in the spring and early summer.
The Yakima River salmon fishery opens Sept.1 from the Highway 240 bridge upstream to 400 feet below Prosser Dam and from the Highway 223 bridge at Granger upstream to Sunnyside (Parker) Dam. Daily limit is six salmon, but no more than two adults (24 inches or more if chinook, 20 inches or more if coho) may be retained. All areas of the Yakima River are closed to angling for steelhead, hatchery or wild. Cummins said most of the salmon catching will occur later in September.
"The same goes for the Hanford Reach," he said, referring to that portion of the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities that opened to fishing for salmon Aug.16. "The salmon really don't start biting there until late September."