OUTDOORS: Chinook season inconsistent so far

By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News

REPORTS OF BOTH slow and inconsistent salmon fisheries in Marine Area 6 (east of Port Angeles) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) can be interpreted in a few different ways.

The optimistic view is larger stocks of chinook and coho are fattening up offshore, building up the strength and the head of steam necessary to venture along inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca toward your lures and their home streams.

A more pessimistic view is that this year’s chinook run, in our North Olympic Peninsula waters at least, is markedly smaller than recent years and it isn’t going to run in big numbers at all this year.

Cue tantrum.

Reality, of course, lies somewhere in between . . . just like the fishing reports I hear from week to week.

One source sees or hears good things, another bad. It’s all a matter of interpretation.

Port Angeles area

Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles was busy catching fish and hauling up crab pots during his recent vacation.

“I caught a fair amount of fish but didn’t get to keep too many,” Aunspach said.

“Definitely caught quite a few kings, but I’ve had to turn loose 15 of them since they were wild.”

This wild-over-hatchery predominance is something I’ve heard on more than one occasion this season.

Aunspach agrees.

“I haven’t caught this many unmarked in the past 5 years total than I have this year,” Aunspach said.

“When the fin is there, you just have to go with it and send them back,” Aunspach said in reference to the intact adipose fin on wild salmon.

A larger number of grown-up hatchery/wild hybrid chinook perhaps?

Still Aunspach has done well enough with kings and crabs to stock up for winter

“I put up 16 pints of canned salmon since the opener and probably 5 pounds of crab during my vacation,” Aunspach said.

He mentioned grilled crab and cheese sandwiches as a tasty offseason meal.

The July leader board at Swain’s does have a 37.7-pound king that was landed and weighed early this week.

“Huge for a hatchery fish,” Aunspach said.

Other biggies on the board include a 27-pounder in second place, two 24-pounders and a 23-pound king.

Aunspach also mentioned some silvers coming through.

“There are some early silvers that get into the canal that come past us in the 4-to-8 pound range,” Aunspach said.

“I think those are part of an early run that heads for a spot near the Hood Canal Bridge.”

Keep it simple

Lure designer and avid angler Pete Rosko urges keeping fishing as simple as possible.

He thinks the report I passed along of anglers going real, real deep to get down into a school of candlefish was too extreme.

“In 34 years of fishing Freshwater Bay, I have caught over 5,000 chinook salmon in water 45 feet or less,” Rosko said.

“This is the main migration route for chinook salmon where the kelp beds are located that hold vast schools of anchovies, candlefish and herring.”

Rosko’s method and a few of the pictures he’s sent along point toward productivity in those depths.

Slow going

Jerry Wright of Jerry’s Bait and Tackle (360-457-1308) in Port Angeles called the king fishing “slow” around Port Angeles.

He and a buddy went out Wednesday morning and did hook into a few near the Three Humps a little west of Ediz Hook.

Wright has heard of a good-sized run of fish heading down from Alaska, but he thinks those are destined for the Columbia River.

That thought was backed up by state Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist Wendy Beeghley.

“I’ve heard from trollers fishing up in Alaska that there was a good pack coming down, but historically, that sounds like the Columbia River fishery,” Beeghley said.

Marine Area 6 update

I spoke with Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon fishery manager for Fish and Wildlife, about the chinook season in Marine Area 6.

“Overall, we are sitting pretty good and [the state] is not anticipating closing in the intermediate future,” Lothrop said.

Through Tuesday, Lothrop said 37 percent of the quota had been met in Area 9.

“Our harvest estimate is 1,211 of the 3,218 possible kings are accounted for,” Lothrop said.

That’s three-day old estimate now and Lothrop did make sure to say, “things change every day,” and that a big catch day could take a bite out of remaining allowable stock.

Low and slow

Low productivity seems to have been the case off Port Townsend, but reports seemed to pick up Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It’s been slow, kind of a trickle,” said Eric Elliott of The Fishin’ Hole (360-385-7031) in Port Townsend.

“I saw a little run might have gone through Wednesday as I saw some fish coming in then.”

Elliott mentioned eyeing some in the range of 18 pounds, but most were smaller.

Ward Norden, a fishing tackle wholesaler and former fishery biologist, heard good things about chinook off Mid Channel Bank and further east at Point No Point.

“Fishing out at Mid-Channel and Point No Point turned red hot Tuesday evening as kings moved through en masse from the Strait due to the cloudy weather since this weekend,” Norden said.

“One very successful angler told me about his discovery that Silver Horde Ace High Flies are extremely effective on both chinook and coho when a small Spin-n-Glo (a size 8 steelhead lure) with a couple glo beads are put in front of it.”

Ocean report

Beeghley told me that catch reports showed a 1.0 fish-per-angler average last weekend at LaPush and a dip in numbers down to 0.5 fish per angler at Neah Bay.

The split was three kings to every one coho at LaPush and two to one at Neah Bay, per the state’s record keeping.

She mentioned heading for the Swiftfsure Bank area as a good spot to try your luck.

“The guys running out towards Swiftsure sure seem to be having more success than those fishing on the inside,” Beeghley said referring to the portion of the Strait east of the Bonilla-Tattosh line to the Sekiu River in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay).

Benjamin Maxson of Windsong Charters (360-640-8728) had proof of Swiftsure’s success.

“Our boat brought in 28 kings Saturday and we had 23 in the boat on Tuesday from Swiftsure,” Maxson said.

“Weather hasn’t been great and the boat’s been rocking and rolling, but we’ve had success mooching bait in depths of 150 to 200 feet.”

Send photos, stories

Have a photograph, a fishing or hunting report, an anecdote about an outdoors experience or a tip on gear or technique?

Send it to sports@peninsuladailynews.com or P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

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Outdoors columnist Michael Carman appears here Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at mcarman@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 24. 2014 6:07PM
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