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The Skagit and Cascade coho opener on Wednesday started off on a high note for the anglers who had the day off or either snuck away from work, and the updated run size is almost four times larger than expected.

“They smacked the fish pretty good (Wednesday morning) on the lower river, and I know if you were up at Rockport you likely whacked them there too,” said Brett Barkdull, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “There are a lot of hatchery coho in the upriver sections. Actually your chance of catching a four-fish (daily limit) is much higher upriver, but the fish in the lower sections will be in much better shape.”

Barkdull says the water is pretty clear, and the glaciers above the Suiattle River are locked up and not pushing much glacial melt downstream. Most of this is related to not much rainfall, and the colder nights despite the fairly warmer autumn days.

This unexpected strong coho return comes on the heels of what was seen in the Green River and Lake Washington, both of which are currently open for coho.

Photo Seattle Times archive.
Photo Seattle Times archive.

“The tribes decided to move up the Week 40 test fishery a couple of days sooner, and held it Sunday instead of Tuesday because they really wanted to know if they could go fishing or not,” Barkdull said. “We agreed to an inseason update of roughly 52,000 coho.”

That inseason figure is substantially larger than the poor preseason forecast of 13,859, but well under the 2015 forecast of 140,901.

The feeling especially the Swinomish Tribe was that if they didn’t get a chance to fish this week, the run would’ve likely passed their fishing grounds.

During a usual test fishery the tribes would average about 10 coho per hour, but it was down to six fish an hour, and still produced the numbers needed to ensure the state and tribal fishery managers were comfortable to fish on.

A Swinomish tribal gill net is set in the main stem of the Skagit River. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)
A Swinomish tribal gill net is set in the main stem of the Skagit River. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Sport anglers should be aware that tribal fisheries are underway and must avoid interfering.

For sport anglers, the Skagit from the mouth to Cascade River Road (Marblemount) Bridge is open with a four coho daily limit, and no more than two may be wild fish. Bait is prohibited with anti-snagging rule and a night closure in effect.

The Cascade River from the mouth to Rockport Cascade Road Bridge is open with a four coho daily limit, and an anti-snagging rule and night closure in effect.

The Sauk River is also open for game-fish fishing through Nov. 30.

The locations open for game-fish fishing are the Skagit from the mouth to the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport. Trout minimum size limit is 14 inches with a two fish daily limit. Dolly Varden and bull trout minimum size limit is 20 inches. All other game-fish and statewide rules apply. The section from Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to Gorge Powerhouse is open for catch-and-release, except a two hatchery steelhead daily limit.

The location of the Cascade open for game-fish fishing is from the mouth to Rockport Cascade Road Bridge. Trout minimum size limit is 14 inches with a two fish daily limit. Dolly Varden and bull trout minimum size limit is 20 inches. Other game-fish and statewide rules apply.

The section of the Sauk open for game-fish fishing catch-and-released is from mouth to White Chuck River, except a two hatchery steelhead daily limit.

All of these areas scheduled to open to fishing for game-fish on Dec. 1.