Bellingham angler Tyler Dockins landed this chinook believed to weigh in the upper teens while fishing near Mushroom Rock off Neah Bay with his father Ron Miller and father’s cousin Marty Gray on Tuesday. The trio landed their one-fish king limit all four days they fished in Miller’s boat, The Witchy Woman, including limiting by 6:50 a.m. Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Marty Gray)

Bellingham angler Tyler Dockins landed this chinook believed to weigh in the upper teens while fishing near Mushroom Rock off Neah Bay with his father Ron Miller and father’s cousin Marty Gray on Tuesday. The trio landed their one-fish king limit all four days they fished in Miller’s boat, The Witchy Woman, including limiting by 6:50 a.m. Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Marty Gray)

OUTDOORS: Inside waters off Neah Bay yield chinook on salmon opener

KING FISHING OPENED slow on the open ocean, both in terms of effort and angler success, but the inside waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca have been productive for those seeking chinook in Marine Area 4.

The weather was marginal over the weekend and a one-king daily limit (through Sunday) had most folks staying closer to shore as opposed to making the extra-long trek from Sekiu to typical open ocean hot spots like Swiftsure Bank.

The town of Neah Bay and Makah tribal lands remain closed to nonresidents in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All facilities, including the Makah’s marina and boat launch, are closed indefinitely.

“It was slow for a salmon opener, and the weather wasn’t very good and effort was low,” Wendy Beeghley, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) coastal salmon manager, told the Outdoor Line radio show.

Anglers fishing out of Sekiu in Marine Area 4 averaged 0.3 chinook per rod over the weekend.

Bellingham angler Tyler Dockins brought ashore king limits every day during a fishing trip that started Sunday and ended early Wednesday with his father Ron Miller and cousin Marty Gray, both from the Bellingham area.

“We did pretty well,” Dockins said. “We hit our limits every day. We had to leave [Wednesday] morning to get Marty back in time for a school board meeting, but we decided to hit the water this morning and limited by 6:50 a.m.”

He caught the good-sized chinook in the photo, estimated to weigh in the upper teens, while fishing in 90 feet of water off Mushroom Rock at the extreme western edge of the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

“We spent the whole trip going between the Green Can (a green buoy near Waadah Island) and Mushroom Rock,” Dockins said.

“I was using a green flasher and a 3.5-inch yellow tail spoon.” And Dockins said he added “a little bit of the Mike’s UV Gel Scent, the herring,” to boost his chances at landing a king.

Dockins is a middle school teacher in Bellingham and the fishing trip was part celebration of the end of a crazy school year and a chance to spend Father’s Day out on the salt.

“It was a pretty wild one,” Dockins said. “The school year was a little different.”

Dockins was on Miller’s boat, The Witchy Woman, named for Dockins’ mom.

The group stayed at Mason’s Olson’s Resort in Sekiu and headed west to fish Marine Area 4.

“This is the second straight year we have come out for the salmon opener,” Dockins said.

“We stayed at the resort in Sekiu and launched out of there. A beautiful area to come and visit, and some good fishing.”

Rules clarity

With chinook fishing open daily in areas 1-4 and halibut open today, Saturday and Monday in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu), there was bound to be some rules confusion for anglers fishing in the two separate marine areas.

Fish and Wildlife issued a rules reminder to let anglers know what is and isn’t allowed.

Coastwide, anglers cannot fish in an area if they have a catch on board that is not legal to retain in that area.

For example, it is illegal to have salmon aboard while fishing in an area closed to salmon fishing (i.e. Marine Area 5), even if you caught the salmon elsewhere (i.e. Marine Area 4).

It would be possible to make the run to Neah Bay for a king, return to port at Sekiu to check your fish, and then head out for halibut, but it doesn’t make a double whammy easy.

Single-point barbless hooks are required in all marine areas while fishing for salmon. Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Sgt. Kit Rosenberger has said in the past that barbed hook violations are the most common rules violation he and fellow officers encounter during salmon season.

Checking salmon

Port samplers, those that collect fishing data from anglers as they leave the docks, are again scanning salmon snouts to collect data on the movement and survival rates of specific hatchery stocks.

Anglers can aid the fisheries management efforts by bringing their full salmon or salmon carcasses off the boat and stopping at the marked sampling site above the docks.

“Basically, we’re asking people to bring their whole salmon or at least the carcasses with heads intact to the checkers,” Beeghley said. “We need to scan salmon snouts as folks exit the dock area, and samplers will ask anglers a couple of questions, even if they didn’t catch fish.”

No catch off La Push

La Push in Marine Area 3 also opened up for hatchery kings, but no fishing effort was tracked. The Quileute Tribe also has closed its borders to nonresidents, including the marina and boat launch. And sea conditions made sure no anglers headed north out of Westport in Marine Area 2 to fish off La Push.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].

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