The month of October never gets any respect. After all it falls at a time when the warmth of summer seems like a distant memory, days are getting shorter, jackets become an essential part of daily wear, morning dew covers every nook and cranny outside, and Christmas items are showing up on store shelves.

But if you’re angler like me it also means the Pacific Northwest waters are still teeming with fishing opportunities and there’s plenty of time to get “hooked” before the winter holidays roll around.

On top of the autumn fishing list is salmon in local marine waterways and despite the Washington Department of Fisheries (WDFW) and their co-managers chiming the alarm bell that a predicted Puget Sound coho forecast of 670,159 – up from 557,149 in 2018 – it appears that the run could end up being on par.

“In Sekiu there is still tons and tons of new fish coming in,” said Brandon Mason, owner of Mason-Olson’s Resort in Sekiu before it closed on Sept. 30. “We haven’t even come close to seeing the end of the run. I think everyone needs to give this run more time to come in. All the salmon this year have been running late.”

WDFW said late last month a majority of coho had smaller body sizes throughout Puget Sound; many tribal directed fisheries had very low catches; and the in-season encounter estimate was about 5,000 coho greater than predicted for the entire month of September.

This prompted WDFW to lower the daily limit of coho to one as part of a two salmon daily limit effective on Sept. 23 in Marine Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 9, 10, 11 and 13. Since then some of these areas have closed so check dates below of what’s still open.

Yet soon after the rule was implemented coho catches began to increase and the size of fish was better as seen in the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22 where the average weight was 5.40 pounds.

While we hold our breath on what the eventual outcome will be, anglers can still wet a line in central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10) which is open through Nov. 15 for coho or chum; the Dungeness Bay terminal fishery open Oct. 1-31 for coho; the northern portion of east side of Whidbey Island (Area 8-1) open through Oct. 31; Hood Canal (12) open through Dec. 31; and southern Puget Sound open year-round. Be sure to check the WDFW pamphlet, app or website (https://wdfw.wa.gov/) for details on where you can fish.

Puget Sound chum add to the color of the fall rainbow of fish

Add to the fishing equation a hard-fighting fall chum – better known as dog salmon for their gnarly, toothy jaw line at spawning time – with an expected modest Puget Sound return of 642,740.

Target coho and chum in Area 10 at Jefferson Head, Richmond Beach, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Meadow Point, Kingston, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island and Southworth.

Also be sure to watch the chum catch rates at estuarial areas like Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Johns Creek in Oakland Bay, Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek near Southworth.

Other chum locations are North Bay near Allyn, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.

The eastern portion of Grays Harbor is also open through Nov. 30 for coho; and the La Push bubble fishery is open Oct. 1-13 for chinook and hatchery coho.

Anglers have been targeting migrating salmon in coastal rivers like the Chehalis, Clearwater, Bogachiel, Calawah, Humptulips, Hoh, Willapa, Queets, Quinault, Sol Duc and Wynoochee. Locally, try the Green, Nooksack, Puyallup, Skagit and Stillaguamish. Anglers should consult the WDFW regulation pamphlet, app or website for what is open and what type of salmon species you can target in each river system.

Oodles of razor clams on coastal beaches should create plenty of digging time this fall and winter

 

The tentative coastal razor clam digging dates have been set and Long Beach diggers will get ample time to seek out clams during the 2019-2020 season.

Dan Ayres, the head Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) coastal shellfish manager says his staff completed summer stock assessments in late August – a deciding factor in the harvest number of razor clams – and the outlook is very rosy.

“We’ve got a nice uptick in razor clam populations across the board and are looking at a great season of digging,” said Ayres. “I’m very excited for what we’ll have to offer clam diggers and that will transect into a much better outlook than last season. If ocean conditions are good as well as some other factors, then razor clams tend to rebound rather quickly.”

On the southern coast, Long Beach has recovered from last year’s four day digging season and could see as many as 100 digging days if all goes as planned. The young razor clam population is close to more than 25 million with around 5.2 million adult clams available to harvest. About 25% of the adult clams measure more than 4 inches and most are 3 to 3.7 inches.

At Twin Harbors beaches the harvestable number of clams is up from 1.4 million last year to 1.8 million this season. The Copalis area total allowable catch (TAC) is 2-plus million and way up from the 860,100 clams last year. Razor clams at Copalis averaged a healthy 4.1 inches.

Mocrocks beaches is expected to see a slight increase of 1.65 million TAC over last year’s share of 1.5 million. The TAC at Kalaloch is down but WDFW plans to get some digging days plugged into the schedule.

Razor clam digging is a big deal for small coastal communities who rely on these opportunities during the lean tourist times in fall, winter and spring to help boost their economy.

The average value to communities is estimated at around $25 million although in strong years it climbed to $35 million in 2012-2013, and $40-plus million in 2013-2014 and around $35 million in 2014-2015. During those strong years, effort ranged from 400,000 to 450,000 diggers.

So far, marine toxin levels for domoic acid remained under the 20 parts-per-million (ppm) cutoff. Fall and winter digging occurs during afternoon or evening low tides only. Final approval depends on marine toxin testing and are usually announced one to two weeks prior to each series of digs.

Planned digs are Oct. 26, 28 and 30 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Oct. 27, 29 and 31 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Nov. 1, 11, 13, 15, 17, 24, 26, 28 and 30 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis; and Nov. 12, 14, 16, 25, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks. Dec. 10, 12, 14, 16, 23, 27 and 29 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks; and Dec. 11, 13, 15, 26 and 28 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis.

For details, visit https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclam.

NW Salmon Derby Series sees higher participation in 2019 and winner of grand prize boat hails from Edmonds

 

The derby series saw a very productive 2019 season with the NW Chevy Dealer Silverado truck and Weldcraft boat traveling across the Pacific Northwest!

In all there was 14 derbies with a total of 6,176 anglers entered in the derby series up from 4,690 in 2018.

The final event was the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22 – which lured 1,735 adults and 210 youth (1,694 and 201 in 2018) was Delbert Roesler of Sultan with an 11.25-pound coho he caught on Saturday (Sept. 21) worth $10,000. Also, congratulations to the youth winner Tyler Cheyne with a 10.97-pound coho worth $300!

In all 1,735 anglers turned out for the largest derby on the West Coast with 930 coho weighed-in averaging 5.40 pounds and a combined weight of 5,017 pounds.

Winner of the $75,000 fully loaded, grand-prize Weldcraft boat powered with Yamaha motors on an EZ Loader Trailer was Trevor Everitt of Lynnwood/Edmonds area who entered the Edmonds Coho Derby on Sept. 7.

A huge “thank you” goes out to all our sponsors including Renaissance Marine Group in Clarkston for providing the Weldcraft Boat; Yamaha Marine; EZ Loader Trailers; Silver Horde and Gold Star Lures; Scotty Downriggers; Burnewiin Accessories; Raymarine Electronics; WhoDat Tower; Dual Electronic Stereo; Tom-n-Jerry’s Marine; Master Marine; NW Sportsman Magazine; The Reel News PSA; Outdoor Emporium and Sportco; Harbor Marine; Prism Graphics; and Salmon, Steelhead Journal.

We’re hitting the refresh button on 2020 series and it will be renamed the “Northwest Fishing Derby Series” that will likely include a spring-time lingcod derby in Oregon and a kokanee-trout derby on Lake Chelan plus a couple more additions.

The new 2020 derby boat – a sleek all-white KingFisher 2025 Hardtop – made its debut at the Everett Coho Derby and we’d like to welcome our newest sponsor SHOXS Seats (ww.shoxs.com) that are engineered for maximum comfort in the roughest of seas.

Anglers can also 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. For details, go to www.NorthwestSalmonDerbySeries.com.

In the meantime, take a chance to get out on the water as there’s nothing more enjoyable than a feisty coho or chum salmon tugging on the end of your fishing line.

I’ll see you on the water!