This summer’s salmon fisheries could be a gem and have already started glimmering off the coast.
“There are so many bright spots, and so many fisheries to consider that it makes my head spin,” said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association.
Sport anglers will see how fisheries pan out in coming days at Westport and Ilwaco, which opened Saturday for hatchery chinook. That will be followed by La Push and Neah Bay opening June 22.
“The (early hatchery chinook) fishery last summer was the most incredible we’ve ever seen at Westport (5,500 angler trips kept 5,400 kings),” said Doug Milward, a state Fish and Wildlife coastal salmon resource manager. “The coho forecast is supposed to be up quite a bit from recent years (2009 was the last good coho season).”
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Commercial chinook catches in May were very good off the northern coast, and a brief four-day sport fishery at Neah Bay revealed fish had arrived.
The ocean fishery expands June 23 for both chinook and hatchery coho at Westport and Ilwaco, and June 29 at La Push and Neah Bay.
Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca are expected to be good for hatchery chinook.
“The forecast is strong for hatchery chinook, and the best we’ve seen in the last decade, but the proportion of wild fish continues to shrink,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a state Fish and Wildlife salmon resource manager.
Add more than 6.2 million pink salmon (5.9 million in 2011) and 882,134 coho (732,363 in 2012) returning in late summer. Those will be bolstered by a British Columbia pink forecast for the Fraser River totaling more than 8.9 million, plus a sockeye run of 4.7-plus million.
Pinks return in odd-numbered years, and coho that normally arrive from late August through September tend to come in much sooner and right on the heels of pinks.
The Puget Sound coho fishery last year was one of the best anglers had seen dating back at least 12 years.
Where to go
Strait, Puget Sound, San Juan Islands
The hatchery chinook selective fishing season opens July 1 from Sekiu to Port Angeles, followed by northern and central Puget Sound opening July 16.
Selective fishing is where anglers catch only those salmon with a missing adipose fin, indicating they’re of hatchery origin while releasing wild fish of concern.
The northern and central Sound has a guideline of 10,500 legal-size chinook. If catches skyrocket it could be shut down earlier, similar to what occurred last August.
Starting in August and through early September, the pink salmon will be thick throughout Puget Sound offering excellent boat and bank fishing. Anglers can keep an additional two pinks in their daily limit.
Look for solid pink catches in Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Green, Puyallup, Nooksack and Nisqually rivers.
That will carry into a decent early fall coho fishery in Snohomish (176,429 is forecast); Green (50,932); Nooksack (53,084); and Skagit (153,530). Anglers should check the regulation pamphlet on specific opening dates for river salmon fishing.
Baker Lake, Lake Washington
A sockeye return of 21,557 returning to the Baker River will be strong enough to provide a fishery starting July 10 for the third summer in a row. However, unlike last year there won’t be a fishery in the Skagit River.
All eyes will be on the Lake Washington sockeye run when fish counting begins in mid-June at Ballard Locks fish ladder. A forecast of 96,866 falls well short of the 350,000 spawning escapement, but this run has exceeded forecasts in past years. Last summer, 145,815 returned compared to a preseason forecast of 45,871.
Central, South-central Sound
The early coho fishery in July is best at Jefferson Head and Point Monroe.
In August, the Sinclair Inlet chinook fishery should perk up. Hatchery kings should be around from mid-July to August off Dolphin Point off Vashon Island, Point Robinson, Southworth, the Tacoma area, Redondo Beach, Dash Point, Gig Harbor, Allen Bank off Blake Island’s southeast side, and Lincoln Park south to Brace Point.
Shore-bound anglers can also catch salmon off piers at Edmonds, Dash Point, Seacrest in West Seattle and Terminal 86 in the Elliott Bay.
Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor
Those who can muster up the energy as summer moves into fall will have a chance to catch kings in Willapa Bay from late-August to mid-September, and a short window from Sept. 16-22 in Grays Harbor.
Later in September through October, coho will move in with 95,737 forecast in Willapa and 281,985 in Grays Harbor. Grays Harbor produces big coho.
Areas from Ayock Point down to Lilliwaup and Hoodsport come alive for kings starting July 1, and carries into August. The forecast is 65,700 hatchery and 3,400 wild chinook.
A coho fishery opens Aug. 16 in Quilcene/Dabob bays with a forecast of about 41,000 coho. The entire coho forecast in the Hood is 105,411 (136,056 last season).
Expect a strong return of 102,000 hatchery chinook. Target kings in late July and August at Point Gibson, the entrance to Chambers Creek, Nisqually Delta off green buoy, mouth of McAllister Creek and Ketron Island.
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