By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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Through Sunday, anglers had only captured 12.9 percent of the coho quota off Neah Bay in Marine Area 4, with a total of 2,484 coho caught out of the 19,220 allotted.
Numbers were better in Marine Area 3 off LaPush with 36.2 percent, or 1,723 coho landed of the 4,750 quota through Sunday.
Allowing the retention of wild stock silvers is at least being studied, according to state Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist Wendy Beeghley.
“It's a possibility, “ Beeghley said.
“We haven't called for a federal conference call, which is required before we can consider it.”
Beeghley said Fish and Wildlife has been “looking at the numbers and thinking, 'Those are pretty darn low,'” but cautioned that the department will check out the catch totals through this weekend and reassess early next week.
She also mentioned that any decision would likely encompass all state marine area's bordering the Pacific Ocean coastline.
Two kinks exist that may render the possibility moot.
“Coho catch numbers went way up in LaPush last week,” Beeghley said.
A total of 700 coho and 120 chinook were landed by 550 anglers at LaPush last week.
Another is the regulatory process itself, with many stakeholders, all with varying opinions on fisheries management.
“We follow the Pacific Fishery Management Council protocols and would likely have to incorporate information from Oregon and California in any recommendation,” Beeghley said.
Ultimately, she said, the National Marine Fisheries Service will have the final say.
Allowing wild coho retention would be an interesting decision, historically.
Beeghley said she hadn't heard of such a switch in her 25 years helping manage state fish stocks.
“Not in Neah Bay, especially, since they typically get close to quota so we can't allow any changes,” Beeghley said.
Joey Lawrence of Big Salmon Resort (360-645-2374) in Neah Bay agreed.
“It's been quite a few years [since wild coho could be retained],” Lawrence said.
“We've had Big Salmon Resort for 15 years and I've never seen one in that time.”
Ward Norden, a fishing tackle wholesaler and former fishery biologist, called the potential idea “interesting,” but was quick to offer a valid criticism.
“[It's a] very cynical concept putting the quota ahead of the resource,” Norden said.
“One of the reasons the quota is not being met is that the fish aren't there due to El Niño.
“Increasing the pressure on the resource in the face of a spawning failure is what creates Endangered Species Act listings.”
Stay tuned folks, wild-caught salmon may soon take on a whole new meaning, if only for a limited time.
Hungry coho off LaPush
Randy Lato of All-Ways Fishing (360-374-2052 or 360-640-1137) in LaPush has been running into a “new species” on his daily charter trips off LaPush.
“We get a couple hours of good king fishing going then the 'piranhas' [coho]wake up and you can't get the gear down through them to fish,” Lato said.
“You go down 50, 100, 150 feet and then you get tripped and the coho are ripping it out of your hands when you are trying to hook up the release.
“They are just like piranhas.”
Lato joked the silvers must be sleeping during the early morning as he's able to get lines sent down to the bottom and pick up kings for his customers.
“First couple of hours they are dormant, but when they wake up it's over, rover,” Lato said.
Neah Bay report
Lawrence has heard that king fishing is being conducted closer to shore in recent days.
“Fishing really shallow for kings right now is popular from White Rock to Makah Bay,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence mentioned king anglers are dropping down to just 30 to 60 feet of water, with lots of motor mooching with cut-plug herring.
“For the silvers, most are using a dodger, a hoochie or a coyote spoon, and trolling really fast,” Lawrence said.
“Bottomfish have been pretty decent, and we've been seeing a lot of sea bass around.”
Tuna talking points
Lato hadn't seen much sign of tuna in recent days but was seeing plenty of marine life.
“There's tons of tons of bait and sign, plus humpback whales . . . it's a regular aquarium out here,” Lato joked.
Norden believes the tuna are in warmer waters well off the ocean coastline of the North Olympic Peninsula, too far for recreational anglers to pursue.
If a taste of albacore is what you yearn for, he recommends 25 miles off Westport based on current ocean temperatures.
“Another exciting prospect in El Niño years such as this one is that striped marlin will come this far north and Westport tuna charters will get one or two,” Norden said.
“Thresher sharks are also seen.”
Slow near Port Angeles
Port Angeles angler Pete Rosko beat the heat Monday with a day of salmon fishing off Freshwater Bay.
“Despite the large fleet of boats at Freshwater Bay, we saw no salmon caught,” Rosko said.
“The story was the same after talking to many trollers and moochers.”
Rosko and his fishing partner Eric Thompson did have some success, catching mainly hatchery fish, except for one large native that Rosko estimated was in the mid-30-pound range.
“They were caught in 45 feet to 62 feet of water, all on 1-and 1½-ounce Kandlefish jigs.
Catch report numbers stayed low for Port Angeles, with Ediz Hook fish counters recording just 24 chinook and nine coho landed by 148 anglers in 76 boats last weekend.
The waters south of Foulweather Bluff in Marine Area 9 open to salmon fishing beginning today.
Anglers fishing that area, which is south of a line from Foulweather Bluff to Olele Point, will have a daily limit of two salmon, but must release chum and chinook salmon. The area was closed to protect mid-Hood Canal chinook.
“With the chinook season wrapping up and a strong run of coho expected, we are able to open the area two weeks early this year,” said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Through today, anglers fishing Marine Area 9 north of Foulweather Bluff can retain hatchery chinook, as part of their two-salmon daily limit.
Beginning Saturday, anglers in Marine Area 9 must release all chinook salmon and chum.
For details on regulations, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.
Lothrop reminds anglers to respect private property adjacent to Salsbury Point Park.
Survey chum salmon
If you haven't stopped by Chimacum Creek during the chum salmon run, it is worth a look. Better yet, you could be right in the thick of it by joining the Chum Spawner Survey team with the North Olympic Salmon Coalition.
Last year was a record year for the Endangered Species Act-listed Hood Canal summer chum in Chimacum Creek.
Fish and Wildlife used data collected by coalition volunteers to estimate the size of the run, which it calculated at more than 3,000 fish, the highest return since efforts to restore the run began in the 1980s.
Survey volunteers walk the creek during the chum salmon run, counting live and dead fish and taking scale samples.
This is a 3-4 hour per week commitment, starting with training and lasting through October.
The coalition supplies all the necessary gear and survey equipment.
No prior experience is needed.
To join the 2014 Chum Spawner Survey team, email Larry Montague at email@example.com, or phone 379-8051.
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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 email@example.com.