Summertime has arrived! The sun is shining bright and early! The weather is sweet! And nothing else is more satisfying than a fresh batch of steamed Dungeness crab!

Beginning on the Fourth of July ahead of the fireworks show, anglers will get their first crack at soaking pots for Dungeness crab east of Bonilla-Tatoosh Island boundary line (Marine Catch Area 4), Sekiu (5), Port Angeles (6), east side of Whidbey Island (8-1 and 8-2) and northern Puget Sound (9). The season is open through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

A reduction in the number of days open this summer in central Puget Sound (10) is due to an overage in last year’s catch quota. Crabbing is open July 4 through Aug. 3 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

Hood Canal (12) north of a line projected due east of Ayock Point opens July 4 through Sept. 2 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). Areas south of Ayock Point are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.

In the San Juan Islands (7 South) opens July 11 through Sept. 30 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week). San Juan Islands (7 North) opens Aug. 15 through Sept. 30 (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays of each week).

South-central Puget Sound (11) and southern Puget Sound (13) are closed this summer to help rebuild crab populations.

The big question is what anglers should expect once their pots hit bottom?

“Dungeness crab populations in the southern reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal have experienced stress in recent years,” said Bob Sizemore, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish policy manager. “Crabbing in the northern portions of Puget Sound has been very good and should be good again this year.”

A WDFW study from 2018 showed a sharp decline in south-central Puget Sound of 87.4 percent during a three-year period, and in southern Puget Sound it was 96.7 percent over a six-year timeframe.

Test fishing in 2018 showed no presence of Dungeness crab in the size range of 3.5 to 5.7 inches, indicating several year classes are missing. In general, test fishing in 2019 did show a slight improvement although nowhere near the levels to even consider opening the two southern-most reaches of Puget Sound and southern Hood Canal.

“Nobody harvested crab last year (in south central and southern Puget Sound) and the test fishery catch of legal-size crab per pot didn’t improve significantly (in 2019) so Mother Nature has the faucet still turned off at the other end,” said Don Velasquez, the WDFW head Puget Sound shellfish manager. “It takes about four years for crab to get to their legal-size and were still paying the price for what happened well before this year.”

In sport, tribal and non-tribal commercial fisheries during 2018 there was 9,225,000 pounds landed, which is down from 9,285,512 in 2017; 10,645,000 in 2016. The record catch occurred in 2015 when 11.8 million pounds was landed.

General rules are crab pots may not set or pulled from a vessel from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days.

Crabbers in Puget Sound must immediately write down their catch on record cards immediately after retaining Dungeness crab. Separate catch record cards are issued for the summer and winter seasons.

The daily limit in Puget Sound is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. For details, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab.

Summer king and coho salmon fisheries off to a hot start in many marine areas

Salmon fishing options expand this month but be sure to carefully look at the regulation pamphlet since there’s a myriad of areas that are either open or closed to protect weak wild stocks of salmon.

Look for a short, but sweet hatchery chinook fishery in the San Juan Islands (Area 7), which is open through July 31. The preseason prediction of legal-size chinook encounters in Area 7 during July is 3,622 and is managed by WDFW as a season from beginning to end.

Time on the water has dwindled dramatically in northern Puget Sound (Area 9) where hatchery chinook fishing opens briefly from July 25-28. The hatchery chinook quota of 3,501 is well below the 5,400 in 2018. WDFW will assess catches after July 28 to see if more chinook fishing is possible. Area 9 remains open July 25 through Sept. 30 for pink and hatchery coho.

Central Puget Sound (Area 10) has been hot for resident coho at places like Jefferson Head north to Kingston and anglers were also catching and releasing a fair amount of kings. Area 10 opens for hatchery chinook from July 25 – later than 2018’s July 16 opener – and closes Aug. 31 or until a quota of 3,057 (4,473 in 2018) is achieved. Area 10 then reverts to a coho and pink directed season from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know if you’re planning on targeting Area 10 summer kings is to go right when it opens to get in as much fishing time as possible.

Salmon fishing communities along the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles to Sekiu have seen some glory moments for summer hatchery chinook since it opened on July 1 peppered with a few resident hatchery coho and early-arriving pinks.

“Fishing is pretty good for kings in the Strait (Areas 5 and 6) with a little less than fish per boat average over the weekend and it was much better earlier in the week,” said Larry Bennett, the head Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) sampler in Port Angeles. “The big minus tides kind of messed things up, but folks early in the morning were still managing to pull out some nice fish. Some even had their limits.”

A WDFW check from the Ediz Hook boat ramp in Port Angeles showed 40 boats with 86 anglers Sunday had 26 hatchery chinook and one hatchery coho.

Bennett pointed out that the hatchery mark rate for chinook seems to be decent and anglers aren’t encountering many smaller undersized fish – minimum size limit is 22 inches. Fishing has been good along Ediz Hook, the humps and at the base of the hook.

“Most are running from 9 pounds into the low teens along with an occasional fish hitting 18 to 20 pounds,” Bennett said. “I got a huge bag of coded wire tags back from Sekiu and heard there are good numbers of kings around there at the usual spots. The open areas outside of Freshwater Bay generated some good fishing this past weekend too.”

A WDFW check from Olson’s Resort at Sekiu showed 20 boats with 47 anglers Sunday had 30 hatchery chinook, 20 hatchery coho and two pinks for a 0.64 chinook per rod average.

Port Angeles (Area 6) is open through Aug. 15 for hatchery-marked chinook west of a true north/south line through Number 2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook (release chum and wild coho and chinook). A chinook release area now through Aug. 15 is east of a true north/south line through the Number 2 Buoy immediately east of Ediz Hook (release all chinook, chum and wild coho). Area 6 is open for hatchery coho and pinks from Aug. 16 through Sept. 30 (release all chinook, chum and wild coho). Freshwater Bay is closed for salmon now through Oct. 31; and Port Angeles Harbor, Sequim Bay and Discovery Bay are closed for salmon now through Aug. 15.

Hatchery chinook fishing at Sekiu (Area 5) is open now through Aug. 15 except closed in a section at Kydaka Point.

South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) is open Fridays to Wednesday only (closed Thursdays and Fridays of each week) and has produced some stellar moment since it reopened July 1 peppered with some typical lulls in action as fish move through the area.

“The hatchery king fishing has been decent,” said Art Tachell, the manager of the Point Defiance Park Boathouse in Tacoma. “I went out (Monday) morning for about an hour and lost one to a seal and put another in the boat. Places like Point Evans, Clay Banks and the Flats have all been good at one time or another.”

“It seems like fishing will be good for a couple days and then drop off,” Tachell said. “Then it picks back up as the fish move around or another wave of fish move through. The dogfish have rolled back in thick.”

South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) is open for salmon fishing Saturdays through Wednesdays (closed Thursdays and Fridays of each week) with a quota of 2,805 hatchery chinook (5,030 in 2018).

With a smaller quota going sooner than later will guarantee you more time on the water. Once the chinook quota is achieved in Area 11 the salmon fishery reverts to being open daily through Sept. 30 for coho and pinks only.

Southern Puget Sound (Area 13) has also been fair to good for hatchery kings at Gibson Point and Point Fosdick although fishing was tough on Sunday.

Other good South Sound areas are Fox Island on the northeastern side at Fox Point in Hale Passage, northwest corner at the Sand Spit, Toy Point and the Concrete Dock aka the “Fox Island Fishing Pier.”

Fox Point is most productive on an outgoing tide. Gibson Point is better fished on the incoming tide. Trollers at Gibson should work depths of 90 to 140 feet and up toward the shoreline to where the big rock sits on the beach.

The Concrete Dock can be a decent spot on an incoming tide. Usually an hour before and after tide change as bait gets pushed up on the ledge. The kings like to hold up in the holes just south of the pier before migrating on.

“Resident coho fishing continues to be good in South Sound, and my son has been catching a bunch of resident coho and cutthroat on a fly rod,” said Larry Phillips, the head WDFW Region 6 director. “I still believe this is all related to the anchovy phenomena in Totten Inlet and Eld Inlet. I haven’t seen so much baitfish in the South Sound like there is right now.”

Hood Canal (Area 12) south of Ayock Point opens for hatchery chinook from July 1 through Sept. 30 and is one of the most underfished areas in our region.

An expected 1,009,600 coho (349,000 was the forecast in 2018) – the largest return since 2014 – arrives off the Columbia River mouth and should be the bread winner for all coastal anglers. A mediocre chinook run will also provide some excitement at times.

“Ilwaco had a good week for chinook,” said Wendy Beeghley, the head WDFW coastal salmon manager. “Sometimes we see a blast of early season chinook and then they’re gone. That’s what happened about four days ago when it started to get good. It was a third of a chinook per person and catch rates have been higher than that at times. The catches slowed up today (Monday, July 8).”

Overall Ilwaco had a 1.4 salmon per person average and most of the catch is hatchery coho.

“Westport (Monday, July 8) picked up significantly although the numbers (last week) don’t reflect it,” Beeghley said. “It was a 0.80 salmon per angler average. Almost all of the catch was coho.”

La Push catch rates also increased as anglers ventured north into Area 4. La Push had a 0.97 fish per person average and the bulk of the catch was chinook.

Neah Bay had another good week with a 1.08 fish per person average and most were chinook.

“I heard a rumor chinook fishing dropped off at Swiftsure Bank and if that is true, we might see a slower week and coho success picked up a little,” Beeghley said.

In fact, the catch rates have been so good off Neah Bay (Area 4) on the northern coast that WDFW decided to reduce the daily limit from two to one chinook. Though July 7, they’ve landed 59 percent of the chinook catch quota.

All four coastal ports – Neah Bay, La Push, Westport and Ilwaco – are open daily through Sept. 30 and closes once each area’s catch quota is achieved. The daily limit at Ilwaco and Westport is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook. The daily limit at La Push is two salmon and Neah Bay is two salmon and no more than one may be a chinook.

Coastal salmon catch data reveals success is gradually improving

 

Here are coastal salmon fishing stats from WDFW:

Ilwaco – A total of 3,931 anglers participated in the all-species salmon fishery during the week of July 1-7, landing 1,135 chinook and 4,429 coho. Through July 7, a cumulative total of 1,469 chinook (21% of the area guideline) and 9,782 coho (12% of the area sub-quota) have been landed from the Columbia ocean area.

Westport – A total of 1,421 anglers participated in the all-species salmon fishery during the week of July 1-7, landing 129 chinook and 884 coho. Through July 7, a cumulative total of 255 chinook (2% of the area guideline) and 1,225 coho (2% of the area sub-quota) have been landed from the Westport area.

La Push – A total of 117 anglers participated in the salmon fishery during the week of June July 1-7, landing 96 chinook and 17 coho.  Through July 7, a cumulative total of 103 chinook (9% of the area guideline) and 19 coho (less than 1% of the area sub-quota) have been landed from the La Push area.

Neah Bay – A total of 1,841 anglers participated in the salmon fishery during the week of June July 1-7, landing 1,579 chinook and 404 coho.  Through July 7, a cumulative total of 3,054 chinook (59% of the area guideline) and 1,159 coho (7% of the area sub-quota) have been landed from the Neah Bay area.

WDFW coastal catch per angler trip average:

Ilwaco – June 22-23: 0.07 chinook per rod average; 1.38 coho per rod average; and 1.46 salmon per road average. June 24-30: 0.10 chinook per rod average; 1.47 coho per rod average; and 1.56 salmon per road average. July 1-7: 0.29 chinook per rod average; 1.13 coho per rod average; and 1.42 salmon per road average.

Westport – June 22-23: 0.15 chinook per rod average; 0.05 coho per rod average; and 0.19 salmon per road average. June 24-30: 0.05 chinook per rod average; 0.29 coho per rod average; and 0.33 salmon per road average. July 1-7: 0.09 chinook per rod average; 0.62 coho per rod average; and 0.71 salmon per road average.

La Push – June 22-23: 0.02 chinook per rod average; 0.00 coho per rod average; and 0.33 salmon per road average. June 24-30: 0.09 chinook per rod average; 0.03 coho per rod average; and 0.12 salmon per road average. July 1-7: 0.82 chinook per rod average; 0.15 coho per rod average; and 0.97 salmon per road average.

Neah Bay – June 22-23: 0.08 chinook per rod average; 0.32 coho per rod average; and 0.42 salmon per road average. June 24-30: 0.78 chinook per rod average; 0.29 coho per rod average; and 1.07 salmon per road average. July 1-7: 0.86 chinook per rod average; 0.22 coho per rod average; and 1.08 salmon per road average.

Coastwide – June 22-23: 0.09 chinook per rod average; 0.64 coho per rod average; and 0.74 salmon per road average. June 24-30: 0.30 chinook per rod average; 0.87 coho per rod average; and 1.16 salmon per road average. July 1-7: 0.40 chinook per rod average; 0.78 coho per rod average; and 1.19 salmon per road average.

Word on NW Salmon Derby Series

 

The next routes in the series offer diverse opportunities to catch fish along with some impressive picturesque scenery and maybe even winning some great prizes are the Bellingham Salmon Derby on July 12-14; and Lake Coeur d’ Alene Big One Fishing Derby on July 24-28.

The grand prize $75,000 Weldcraft 202 Rebel Hardtop boat from Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston will be making the rounds to each derby. The boat is powered with a Yamaha 200hp and 9.9hp trolling motor on an EZ-loader galvanized trailer.

The boat is rigged with Burnewiin accessories; Scotty downriggers; Raymarine Electronics; a custom WhoDat Tower; and a Dual Electronics stereo. Other sponsors include Silver Horde Lures; Master Marine and Tom-n-Jerry’s; Harbor Marine; Salmon & Steelhead Journal; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News; Sportco and Outdoor Emporium; and Prism Graphics. It is trailered with a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado – not part of the grand prize giveaway – courtesy of Northwest Chevrolet and Burien Chevrolet.

The Columbia River Fall Salmon Derby that was planned for Aug. 31 has been cancelled due to low chinook returns in the Columbia River.

Other derbies on the near horizon are South King County PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 3; Brewster Salmon Derby, Aug. 1-4 (derby is pending if the area reopens for fishing and should know by July 19); Gig Harbor PSA Salmon Derby, Aug. 10; Vancouver, B.C. Chinook Classic, Aug. 17-18; and Edmonds Coho Derby, Sept. 7.

There is a total of  derbies in Washington, Idaho and British Columbia and drawing for the grand prize boat takes place at the conclusion of the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22. There will also be a new weigh-in station at the Edmonds Marina.

In other related news, anglers can start looking at 2020 with dates finalized for Resurrection Salmon Derby on Feb. 1-2; Friday Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 6-8; and Roche Harbor Salmon Classic on Feb. 13-15. Details: http://www.nwsalmonderbyseries.com/.

Now it’s time for me to head out the door to wet a line. I’ll see you on the water!