SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY, THOSE crafty kings continue to slip past coastal anglers on the North Olympic Peninsula.
Anglers off Vancouver Island can’t keep them out of their boats.
The Westport weekend warriors are hooking them left and right.
Doesn’t it seem like we’ve skipped a step?
Shouldn’t a lot of those fish have come through Marine Areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay) by now?
“They are coming,” said Randy Lato of All-Ways Fishing (360-374-2052) in LaPush.
“One of these days they are just going to be there.
“There’s going to be so many of them we’ll probably be able to catch them off the beach.
“But right now, they are getting by us somehow.”
Few know that better than Lato.
The longtime West End saltwater angler has been all over Area 3 this summer, only to eke out a king here and there.
Last Saturday, he accounted for three of the four fish brought to the LaPush docks . . . out of 26 boats.
(Side note: A total of nine — yes, nine — chinook were caught all of last week in Area 3.)
Finally, he and another LaPush-area charter boat decided to head 40 miles south to Area 2 (Westport) on Wednesday.
The result: “It was awesome. It was good to catch fish for change.”
Catch rates in Area 4 were recently hampered by another factor: the crowds for the Tribal Canoe Journey kept a lot of anglers away from the LaPush area.
Those who did get out had the best luck fishing Swiftsure Bank, according to Michael Lawrence of Big Salmon Resort (360-645-2374) in Neah Bay.
“[There’s] a lot of nice kings out at Swiftsure,” Lawrence said.
“I wouldn’t say big fish, but they are nice fish.
“I’d say they are probably average anywhere from 8 to 12 pounds. There’s a lot of them out there.
“I think we had 12 fish [while fishing there earlier this week].”
Hopefully, that’s the start of something good.
It would be perfect timing, considering the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has opened the coast to seven-day-a-week salmon fishing starting today.
Poor effort and mediocre harvest numbers led Fish and Wildlife to increase opportunity on the coast.
It seems five days a week of fishing just wasn’t cutting it.
“[The fish] have got to be coming this way,” Lato said.
“Maybe this little northwest [wind] we’re getting now will push them down a little bit.”
Don’t look to the Strait of Juan de Fuca for your sunny fishing forecast.
Sure, that unfamiliar orange object in the sky has graced the Strait with regularity recently, but it’s done little to heat up a so-so salmon fishery in Areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait).
“It bounced up a little bit, but, boy, the bump was minimal,” said Chris Mohr of Van Riper’s Resort (360-963-2334) in Sekiu.
“It’s still not a typical July chinook fishery in Sekiu.
“The effort is way down, but I think so goes the fishing, so goes the effort.
“We’ve had pretty slim fishing, and the word gets out. Right now the campers are staying away in droves waiting for a good fishing report.”
They’ll have to wait a little longer.
From the mouth of the Sekiu all the way to Ediz Hook, production could best be described as tepid.
There are some, not a ton, of chinook around.
And the coho are even fewer and farther between.
“It’s kind of hit and miss still,” said Bob Aunspach of Swain’s General Store (360-452-2357) in Port Angeles.
“Freshwater Bat is probably being a little more consistent, but they’ve had some good days out here [near PA] and some poor days.
“It seems like everything that is happening at the moment is very, very early, like from 4:30 [a.m.] to 5 [a.m.]
“There’s fish at all kinds of depths, but as the light comes up it seems like they are catching fish in deeper water than normal.
“Some of the guys I’ve been talking to are in the 140 to 150-[foot] class water . . . even 170.”
Mohr said the same phenomenon has occurred near Sekiu as well.
But don’t expect that to be some sort of magic bullet.
At least not the way this fishery has been going.
Port Townsend fishing
The boat show that is Mid Channel Bank in mid July made only a brief appearance during the first week of salmon fishing in Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet).
A healthy dose of fog — which enveloped the fishery for most of the last five days — tends to make the fly-by-night crowd scatter.
Those who have braved the dragon’s breath have done all right, according to Eric Elliot of the Fishing Hole (360-385-7031) in Port Townsend.
“It started out really well last Friday [during the opener],” Elliot said.
“I’ve still seen some fish trickling in here and there, but we’ve been having so much fog in the morning that we haven’t had too many boats coming out.
“In the opener I saw a 25-pounder that was real nice.
“That’s the only big one I’ve seen. We’ve seen a lot of other nice 10-, 12-, 15-pound fish.”
Port Townsend angler Wayne Bibbins said he ran into a fair share of chinook the past week.
“The fishing has slacked off proportionally since opening day, but we’ve done really well this week,” Bibbins said.
“The reports from Kingston and Possession Point and Point no Point are pretty good. So the fish are all spread out.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s not as hot this year [as last summer], either due to the fish passing by or maybe the numbers are a little lower.
“It’s hard for me to say, because we’ve been doing just fine . . . lots of fish in the 20s this year.”
The Chimacum High School Alumni Association’s first-ever salmon derby sold 144 adult tickets (and 18 children) with 21 fish weighed last weekend.
Fittingly, a Cowboy alum, Nathan Lea (Class of 2006), won the $1,000 first prize with a 26-pound, 3-ounce monster.
After $2,070 in cash prizes were paid out and expenses subtracted, the association had raised about $1,500, which will go to scholarships for graduating Chimacum seniors in the future.
“Since the derby was such a success, without a doubt it will be here for years to come,” event organizer Billy Eldridge said.
Sol Duc Hatchery reported 77 summer steelhead reached its traps in the past week.
There’s more than a few hanging around the Calawah and Bogachiel as well.
The only problem: the rivers are running low and clear.
“There’s lots of fish around, but not a lot of water,” said Bob Gooding of Olympic Sporting Goods (360-374-6330) in Forks.
Early morning, or just before dusk, are two of the better times to get the fish to bite, especially when the skies are as sunny as they have been of late.
If you’re willing to bust out the fly rod, there’s some decent cutthroat fishing to be had on the Quillayute system rivers, according to Dave Steinbaugh of Waters West (360-417-0937) in Port Angeles.
“You’ve just got to cover water wherever you go because there’s a lot of shallow water in between the good spots,” he said.
“Always have dry muddlers, golden stones and big royal wolfs . . . as well as the generic stimulators.”
Snow melt has kept the Elwha River’s upper reachers pretty high so far this summer.
Once it starts to drop into place, the rainbow trout fishing should pick up.
“Here and there, especially in some of the back channels, there’s been some pretty good dry fly fishing [on the Elwha],” Steinbaugh said.
“It’s not gang busters, but it’s pretty decent.”
A series of minus tides will expose fertile shellfish grounds on the eastern Peninsula this weekend.
Most of the waters inside the Strait are closed to clamming due to elevated levels of biotoxins being present, Dungeness Bay being the lone hold out.
Meanwhile, diggers will get one more crack at Oak Bay County Park, which is set to close at the end of the month.
Here is a list of minus tides and beaches to hit in the coming days:
• Oak Bay — Today: -1.14 feet at 9:27 a.m.; Saturday: -1.18 feet at 10:07 a.m.; Sunday: -1.14 feet at 10:44 a.m.
• Duckabush — Today: -1.48 feet at 9:53 a.m.; Saturday: -1.53 feet at 10:35 a.m.; Sunday: -1.43 feet at 11:13 a.m.
For more information on shellfish regulations, visit http://tinyurl.com/2cqgyeb.
For more information on biotoxin warnings, visit http://tinyurl.com/yza4dk2.
Also . . .
• Squid are showing up sporadically at Port Angeles City Pier.
If you believe what Fish and Wildlife’s website has to say (http://tinyurl.com/2c3hbwv), the best time to go jigging would either be Tuesday or Wednesday night at high tide.
Of course, that’s if it’s actually rainy. (A big if.)
• Today is the final day for hunters to enter Fish and Wildlife’s special big-game hunt raffles for the fall.
Raffle hunts are available for black-tailed deer, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, California bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat. There are also five multi-species hunts.
Tickets can be purchased online at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov, by calling 866-246-9453 or at retail license vendors statewide.
• Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters will host a free fly casting clinic at Lincoln Park in Port Angeles at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 1.
All skill levels are welcome.
Those without a fly rod are welcome to contact Waters West so one is provided.
• Hikers can help raise money for Washington Trails Association by participating in the organization’s annual Hike-a-Thon in August.
Participants collect sponsors and pledges from family and friends, then spend the month of August hiking the state’s voluminous network of trails.
Prizes will be awarded for 28 categories, with proceeds going toward trail maintenance throughout the state.
To register for the fundraiser, visit http://tinyurl.com/2g5v8hj.
• Fish and Wildlife biologists will discuss potential changes to Dungeness crab fisheries at a public meeting in Port Townsend on Tuesday.
State officials will go over three options for recreational seasons starting in 2011 as well as current management objectives of recreational and commercial crab fisheries.
The draft policy is available for review on the commission’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/policies/draft_c-3609_16jul2010.pdf.
The three alternatives can be viewed at http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2010/06/ps_dungeness_alternatives.pdf.
The meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Marina Room at Point Hudson Marina, 375 Hudson St.
• The state Department of Natural Resources has reopened a section of the Foothills Trail System north of Port Angeles.
A map on the DNR website illustrates which sections are open and which aren’t.
To view the map, visit http://tinyurl.com/28qaf32.
For more information, contact DNR’s Olympic Region office at 360-374-2800.
Send photos, stories
Want your event listed in the outdoors column?
Have a fishing or hunting report, an anecdote about an outdoors experience or a tip on gear or technique, why not share it with our readers?
Send it to me, Matt Schubert, Sports Department, Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362; phone, 360-417-3526; fax, 360-417-3521; e-mail matt.schubert @peninsuladailynews.com.
__________Matt Schubert is the outdoors columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column appears on Thursdays and Fridays.