HATCHERY COHO APPEAR to be taking their time to return en masse to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound.
Fishing has been hit or miss for most, creel reports showing a fish/per angler average of less than one off Sekiu, Port Angeles and even in Quilcene Bay on Hood Canal.
Now, those catch numbers should rise as we get deeper into September, but this could be a bumpy patch for those focused on silver filets.
“It looks like the upcoming coho salmon migration will be frustrating for anglers,” Quilcene’s Ward Norden said.
“The poor feeding conditions offshore of our coast throughout the summer have left most of the coho smaller than normal and nearly a month behind on their growth cycle.”
Norden, a former fisheries biologist and a tackle maker, has seen similar Septembers, but not in recent seasons.
“It has been quite a while since Western Washington has experienced this event but in my 43-plus years in the fishing gear industry, these events were common in the 1980s and 1990s after multiple El Ninos,” Norden said. “This is not an El Nino, but the situation was similar. The end result was that the coho that fed offshore usually migrated back three to four weeks late and on average 2-pounds smaller than in past years of more abundant plankton.”
Norden said commercial fishing operations already cut into returning coho numbers.
“The frustration for boat anglers inland was that the gill net season had already started severely reducing the number of accessible fish,” Norden said.
“The western portions of Area 9 tend to be the least affected by the commercial fishers. Beach casters should do well in about 10 days at Marrowstone Point [Fort Flagler State Park] Point Wilson [Fort Worden State Park], and, of course, the beaches of South Whidbey [Island]. These late arriving coho are fast movers not dallying anywhere for long so be patient but stay ready for that sudden strike.”
On the positive side of the ledger, Sequim’s Kyle Kautzman had an enjoyable day on his Old Town kayak while fishing the Strait near Salt Creek.
After working his way through a number of lingcod and kings, Kautzman raised his gear, sped up and hooked into a school of coho while using a 10-ounce weight on a slider rather than a 12-ounce and using the same flasher and wonderbread spoon setup he was using for kings.
Upon return to his launch point at Freshwater Bay County Park, Kautzman did his part for international relations, donating one of his hatchery coho to a pair of German tourists visiting the area.
That’s a fish tale that will go a long way when those ladies return home.
Lighter gear and good instincts, a solid way to find silvers.
Halibut open every day
Angler effort has declined after the resumption of halibut season, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. State estimates say about ⅓ of the state’s total quota is left to catch with the whole month of September remaining. Halibut is open seven days a week off Sekiu (Marine Area 5), Port Angeles (Marine Area 6) and Port Townsend (Marine Area 9).
Beginning Tuesday, Neah Bay and La Push also will be open seven days a week. This is the last weekend of the Thursday through Monday halibut schedule out west.
A reminder that the second halibut planning meeting will be held online Oct. 4.
Fish and Wildlife staff will refine season options developed at an earlier meeting in August, collect more public input, take a look at the tidal calendar for next spring and select specific dates “that attempt to balance needs across various fishing communities and charter and private fishing interests.
For more information, visit wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/halibut. The meetings will be recorded and posted online so people can also watch the meetings afterwards at their convenience.
Last shot at the Ridge
With road construction projects set to restrict access to Obstruction Point Road and Hurricane Ridge beginning Tuesday, this is the last weekend for an all-access visit.
Obstruction Point Road will close at 7 a.m. Tuesday and remain closed for the rest of the season.
Hurricane Ridge Road will close to the public at the Heart O’ the Hills entrance station from Sept. 16 through Oct. 27.
The last day of summer operations at the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center will be Sept. 15.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at mcarman@ peninsuladailynews.com.