With the economy hitting bottom faster than a leadheaded jig, I've had to rethink my summer fishing vacation plans. Many are on the same...
With the economy hitting bottom faster than a leadheaded jig, I’ve had to rethink my summer fishing vacation plans.
Many are on the same page, but what you may not realize is that the best fruits are growing in our backyard.
Let’s face it, you can spend thousands for a once-in-a-lifetime luxury resort all-you-can-fish, eat and drink trip to Alaska or Canada, but you’ll get more bang for your salmon-fishing buck here in Washington.
This summer’s coastal salmon fishery will be the best in almost a decade; king fishing in parts of Puget Sound will be like the good old days; plenty of Dungeness crab are available; monster cutthroat trout are lurking in the huge watershed on the Emerald City’s doorstep; and for the first time in 16 years you can catch and keep a king in the Skagit River without the guilt of harming a resource.
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Put new life into your fishing dollars by keeping it local. I’m sure the outcome will definitely be to your liking.
I’m planning to do all five of these close-to-home destinations in a 10-day span during July, and will let you know the outcome.
Type: Rainbow trout and cutthroat trout.
Dates: Open all year.
Where: Just about anywhere in this 20-mile-long lake is worth a try, but high-percentage catch spots are on both sides of the I-90 and Highway 520 floating bridges; all sides of Mercer Island; the south end between Rainier Beach and the Cedar River mouth; near Juanita Bay; and right in front of Bill Gates’ mansion.
Tips: Use a wide range of small spoons like a Luhr Jensen Needlefish or Coyote Spoons or gang-troll blades in front of a Wedding Ring rig tipped with a nightcrawler or maggot. In the winter, many anglers will downrigger troll using a small firecracker-sized cut-plug herring with a small salmon leader hook setup.
Facts: This huge underfished watershed covers more than 22,138 acres and is more than 209 feet in the deepest places. It hosts a big population of 40 fish species.
Type: Coho, chinook and pinks.
Dates: Westport and Ilwaco on the South Coast open June 28; and Neah Bay and La Push open June 27. All closing dates are driven by catch quotas, but don’t expect the well to dry up prematurely. Check the regulation pamphlet for details, including specific days of the week salmon fishing is allowed.
Where: The general coastline of Washington spans about 157 miles.
Tips: Book your trip now as charter boats are filling up. If you have your own boat, make sure it is in working order.
Facts: The huge forecast of 1.2 million hatchery coho headed to the Columbia River is the largest return since 2001. Add 5.1 million pinks headed to Puget Sound and that makes nearly 2 million more fish than forecast in 2007.
Puget Sound crab
Type: Dungeness crab.
Dates: Open July 1-Sept. 7, Wednesdays to Saturdays only, but open entire Labor Day weekend.
Where: Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, Saratoga Passage, and northern, central and south-central Puget Sound. Check the regulation pamphlet for specific locations.
Tips: Bait is usually fish carcass (such as salmon or shad), chicken or turkey. Use crab pots with a long enough rope, topped off with a red and white buoy marker. The key to catching them is to not place crab pots in an area with strong current. Always try a day with a relatively small tide exchange of five feet or fewer, and slack tide always seem to be the best time.
Facts: Dungeness crab derives its name from the shallow bay inside Dungeness Spit in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The crab population stretches from Alaska into Mexico.
Skagit and Skykomish Rivers
Type: Chinook and steelhead.
Dates: Part of Skagit River is open from July 9 to Aug. 9; chinook fishing is allowed from noon Thursdays to Sundays only. Part of Skykomish River is open June 1 to July 31.
Where: Skagit River from mouth of Gilligan Creek downstream, and Skykomish River for hatchery chinook and steelhead from Lewis St. Bridge in Monroe to Wallace River.
Tips: Since the Skagit hasn’t been fished in quite a while, it is anyone’s guess where the best spots are to catch these big kings. Many will try backtrolling with divers and spin-n-glos or bait like salmon-egg clusters, Toman spinners or large-size plugs.
A huge snowpack in the mountains should mean water flow will be good in the Skykomish, which is better for fishing. Try backtrolling a K-14 Kwikfish in funky chicken, purple tiger striped, silver, cerise wrapped with a sardine or herring. A diver with salmon-egg clusters, shrimp or prawns will get them too.
Facts: The Skagit River will be open for kings for the first time since 1993, and is one of the state’s premier rivers. About 23,000 kings are expected back, and it is one of the few rivers where you can catch 40- to 60-pound kings. Most will average 25 pounds.
The Skykomish River has a preseason forecast of 4,857 hatchery chinook.
North and central Puget Sound
Type: Hatchery chinook.
Dates: Open July 16-Aug. 31.
Where: From the northern tip of Vashon Island to Admiralty Inlet (Marine Areas 9 and 10). Elliott Bay is open under a different season, so check the regulation pamphlet.
Tips: During the early part of the season, try Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend, and then work your way south to Possession Bar, Point No Point, Kingston, West Point and Jefferson Head. Bonus two-pink limit on top of two salmon daily starts July 16.
Facts: For the past two summers these areas were driven by a 7,000-hatchery chinook quota, but now it is under a more flexible 11,000-fish guideline.
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org