Fishing & Hunting Report: Good News and Bad News for Chinook Salmon Seekers

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle
Good news: Westport and Neah Bay increased limits of Chinook.
Bad news: Central Puget Sound closes to Chinook.
Mediocre news: Cowlitz fall Chinook still coming in at a slow trickle.

Two Chinook Limits Off Westport, Neah Bay
Starting Aug. 17, anglers fishing in ocean waters off Westport and Neah Bay can keep up to two Chinook salmon as part of their two-salmon daily limit.

With that change, anglers will be allowed to keep two Chinook per day in ocean waters off Westport (Marine Area 2), LaPush (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4). Those fishing Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will continue to be limited to one Chinook as part of their two-salmon daily limit.
All ocean areas are open to salmon fishing seven days a week. Wild coho must be released in all four areas.
Pat Pattillo, WDFW, said the department previously limited anglers off Westport and Neah Bay to one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit to ensure that the fisheries would remain open for the entire season.

Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle. Rory Maddox, Winlock, used a silver corky and a pinch of pink yarn to entice this 8-lb. summer-run steelhead out of the Cowlitz River at Barrier Dam on Tuesday, Aug. 21. The fish looks a bit worse for wear since he's weathered a few attacks, but he couldn't have shone any brighter in the noonday sun — a real chromer. "I usually only come down here a couple of times a month," said Maddox, "but I can't wait until fall salmon season, I'll be here a lot more often."

“We’ve kept a close watch on the pace of catches for these fisheries, and it now appears that enough of the quota remains to allow anglers two Chinook per day in Areas 2, 3 and 4 without exceeding the recreational catch quota,” Pattillo said.
Ocean salmon fisheries are currently scheduled to continue through Sept. 23 in Marine Areas 2, 3 and 4, and through Sept. 30 in Marine Area 1.
Fishery managers will continue to monitor the ocean salmon fishery throughout the season, and announce any other changes on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/.

Chinook Closes Early, Areas 9 & 10
Starting Aug. 20, the popular fishery for Chinook salmon closed early in Marine Areas 9 and 10 of central Puget Sound after a month of soaring catch rates.
The closure — 12 days earlier than scheduled — does not affect fishing for other salmon species, including coho, sockeye or pink salmon. Various piers in the two areas will also remain open to Chinook retention.
State fishery managers said the early closure was necessary to hold encounters with wild Chinook salmon within allowable limits. Although standing rules for the fishery require anglers to release all wild Chinook, not all of those fish survive the encounter.
“Catch rates for hatchery Chinook have been running two to three times higher than last year, and encounters with wild Chinook are also way up,” said Pat Pattillo, WDFW salmon policy coordinator. “It’s a shame to close this fishery early, but we have a responsibility to protect wild Chinook salmon in state waters.”
As of last Sunday, anglers fishing in marine areas 9 and 10 had caught 8,728 hatchery Chinook, compared to 5,006 at the end of last year’s fishery. Those fishing areas include waters off Seattle, Edmonds, Bainbridge Island and Port Townsend.

On the River
“The Skokomish River has been hit and miss,” said Charles McElroy, sporting goods clerk at Sunbird Shopping Center. “And the Nisqually has a few fish showing.”
From the mouth of the Skokomish upstream to the Highway 101 Bridge the daily bag limit is two salmon. Anglers must release chum and wild Chinook salmon.
The anti-snagging, night closure and single-point barbless hooks rule is in effect and anglers must retain the first two legal salmon they catch and stop fishing.
The Skokomish River from the Highway 106 Bridge upstream to the Highway 101 Bridge will be closed to recreational fishing Monday through Thursday of each week, except Monday Sept. 3. The weekly closures on a portion of the Skokomish River are necessary to avoid potential gear conflicts with treaty tribal fishers, as well as limit impacts to wild Chinook salmon, expected to return in low numbers this year.
Recreational fishing downstream of the Highway 106 Bridge will remain open seven days a week through Sept. 5.
The number of summer-run steelhead and spring Chinook dropped by half this week at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. The number of fall Chinook tripled — but there were only four fallies that went through the hatchery the previous week.
“There’s still a fair amount of steelhead in the river,” said McElroy. “The trick is getting them to bite.”
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 611 summer-run steelhead, 168 spring Chinook adults, 11 jacks, 21 mini-jacks, 13 fall Chinook adults, one sockeye jack salmon and two sea-run cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 65 spring Chinook adults, five jacks, one fall Chinook adult at the Day Use Park in Lake Scanewa. They released 63 spring Chinook adults and four jacks into the upper Cowlitz River at Packwood and released 26 spring Chinook adults into the Cispus River near Randle. Twelve fall Chinook adults and two sea-run cutthroat were released at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.
A total of 57 summer-run steelhead and one sockeye jack salmon were transported to the lower Cowlitz River and released at the Interstate-5 boat launch during the week.
River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,250 cfs on Wednesday, Aug. 22, and have remained steady for four days. Previously the river flows charts looked a lot like a rollercoaster ride.
River flows could change at any time so boaters and anglers should remain alert for this possibility.
Check current river flows in Washington online at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/wa/nwis/rt.
In two weeks, Sept. 4 and possibly also Sept. 5, Tacoma Power is planning to lower the river at Barrier Dam to between 2,000 to 2,500 cfs so they can take the time to inspect the dam.

In Lakes and Ponds
The cool weather has aided trout anglers.
Riffe Lake still has good silver fishing at the upper end.
Merwin and Yale is fishing well for kokanee addicts.
They’re starting to get some nice fish at Rimrock Lake on the other side of White Pass.
Word has it Swofford Pond has been fishing well a few hours after dark, anglers hauling in trout, bass, bluegill and bullhead catfish.

In the Salt
The South Sound slowed down a bit, but the cooler weather may heat it back up again, said McElroy.
“August is prime time for Chinook in Puget Sound,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW’s Puget Sound salmon manager. “This is go time.”
Westport has been really good in the last three days.
Neah Bay is fishing well and the straights are fishing well for both bottom fish and salmon.
“Willapa Bay shaped up to be pretty decent over the weekend,” said McElroy, “and it should continue to get better.”
The crab fishery in all marine areas of Puget Sound is open Thursday through Monday of each week. The daily catch limit 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. Most marine areas will close the evening of Sept. 3 for a catch assessment. However, Marine Area 7 will remain open through Sept. 30.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.