Sockeye returning to Skagit and Columbia rivers, too.
This summer’s salmon fisheries are expected to be splendid, with millions of pink salmon flooding into Puget Sound and a strong return of kings off the coast.
Anglers will be blushing with joy as a run of more than 6.8-million pink salmon — which return only during odd-numbered years — will create plenty of show-stopping moments in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
“Pinks have been in an upward production swing, and it is possible we could end up with a greater run than forecast,” said Aaron Dufault, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “The pink numbers this year are very similar to two years ago when we ended up with return of about 8.7 million (more than 6.2 million was preseason forecast).”
Pinks have remained robust since topping more than 10 million in 2009, and this fishery provides excellent late-summer opportunities for both boat and shore-bound anglers in Puget Sound and local rivers.
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“If there was one to highlight it would be the Snohomish (river system), which has the largest forecast of more than 1.6 million pinks,” Dufault said. “The Nisqually should have a good return, and the forecast (979,298) is a bit higher than it was two years ago.”
Other rivers with decent returns are Puyallup, 837,967 pinks; Skagit, 603,385; Nooksack, 281,979; Stillaguamish, 210,062; and Green, 626,102.
In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a whopping 1.3 million pinks are forecast to return to the Dungeness River.
“There won’t be a pink fishery in the Dungeness River because of issues with poor chinook returns, but Dungeness Bay will be open for pinks,” said Ryan Lothrop, a state Fish and Wildlife recreational salmon manager.
The Dungeness Bay pink season opens July 16 to Aug. 15.
For the first time in 22 years, Hood Canal north of Ayock Point will open July 1 for a pink-directed fishery in anticipation of a forecast of 312,576 fish. For both sites, bait will not be allowed, and only one single barbless hook measuring one-half inch or less from point to shank will be allowed.
For the Puget Sound interior, the pinks arrive in mid-July and peak in mid-August. In southern Puget Sound, the last week of August and early September are usually best.
There will be a brief pink-directed fishery in Elliott Bay from Aug. 14-31, open Fridays to Sundays only. Bait will not be allowed, and only one single barbless hook measuring one-half inch or less from point to shank will be allowed.
The Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sekiu to Port Angeles opens July 1 for hatchery chinook and coho.
In northern Puget Sound, the hatchery-marked selective chinook fishery conceived in 2007 has grown in popularity, and is open July 16-Aug. 15. A note of advice here is to go soon, as the catch guideline is expected to get gobbled up pretty quick since central Puget Sound will be closed for kings (but open for coho and pinks).
The big news for river anglers will be the chance to hook into a good number of sockeye returning to the Skagit and Columbia rivers.
The Skagit River sockeye fishery opens Tuesday through July 15 from the Highway 536 at Mt. Vernon (Memorial Highway Bridge) to the Gilligan Creek mouth.
“There are some sockeye already around and we’ve seen a couple of jumpers, but what that translates into we just don’t know yet,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist who notes very low water levels will change the dynamics of where to fish.
“The places where people were catching sockeye last year, and for that matter three years ago are quite different,” Barkdull said. “If you dropped your gear in those spots (this summer) the sockeye will need legs to get to it. All those hotspots are really low and dry right now so this will be a new learning experience for anglers.”
Another highlight will be the Baker Lake sockeye fishery that opens July 10.
The Columbia River will see a splendid return of 392,200 sockeye (285,500 are bound for Okanogan River), which will really boost fishing action between Wells Dam and Brewster. Lake Wenatchee will probably open sometime later this summer.
“We are setting up for another warm-water year in the Columbia, and that creates a thermal barrier keeping sockeye and chinook from moving upstream,” said Travis Maitland, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “This likely means a lot of fish will be holding for some time at the mouths of the Wenatchee, Entiat, Chelan and Okanogan rivers.”
The ocean salmon fishery got under way last month for sport and commercial troll fishermen, and there have been glory moments peppered with some less-than-forgettable days.
The hatchery chinook fishery at Ilwaco produced a decent 0.9 fish-per-rod average this past week, and at Westport and Neah Bay it was a 0.3.
The ocean sport quota is 64,000 chinook, up from 59,100 last year, and 150,800 hatchery coho, down from 184,800.
Around 900,000 fall chinook are predicted to return to the Columbia River, and would be the third largest run since 1938. The Columbia coho forecast is about 777,000, down from 964,000 last year.
The ocean salmon fishery for chinook and hatchery-marked coho opened Saturday at Ilwaco, Westport, La Push and Neah Bay.
The late-summer salmon fishery at the Columbia River mouth opens Aug. 1 to Sept. 7, and should be lights out around the third week of August.