OUTDOORS: Red-hot chinook fishing off Neah Bay may require rule change; Sekiu going strong for kings and silvers

Windsong Charters Hatchery chinook catches off Neah Bay have remained hot and state and federal fish managers are considering closing chinook retention to extend hatchery coho fishing through the summer.

Windsong Charters Hatchery chinook catches off Neah Bay have remained hot and state and federal fish managers are considering closing chinook retention to extend hatchery coho fishing through the summer.

The end of chinook retention may come sooner rather than later in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay).

No rule change has been made as of Thursday afternoon, but both Joey Lawrence of Big Salmon Resort (360-645-2374) in Neah Bay and Ben Maxson of Neah Bay’s Windsong Charters (360-640-8728) said they anticipate an early switch to coho and, to a much lesser extent, pink fishing for the remainder of the summer.

The pair were part of a call with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife earlier Thursday to discuss catch rates.

State estimates put Neah Bay at 59 percent (3,054) of Marine Area 4’s 5,200 chinook area guideline as of last Sunday.

Despite Monday’s change to a one-king daily limit as part of a two-salmon daily limit off of Neah Bay, catch rates have stayed relatively high.

Even with the eventual decrease in chinook migration past Neah Bay, state salmon managers are faced with protecting kings while prolonging the coho season as long as possible. Coho fishing has a scheduled end date of Sept. 30 in Neah Bay, provided quota totals of 16,600 silvers aren’t exhausted before that date.

Call today with NMFS

A conference call between Fish and Wildlife and the federal National Marine Fisheries Service is scheduled for 10 a.m. today, according to Wendy Beeghley, state coastal salmon fishing manager.

Beeghley expects a change to be approved today and a rule change to be announced shortly after — but the date of that change is still to be determined.

Lawrence said that anglers are still focused on kings, but more and more coho are showing up.

“At this point in the time there’s just too many kings out here in our area,” Lawrence said. “Guys will still be able to access kings through Marine Area 3 [La Push] by fishing down at Umatilla [Reef], right across the border line.

“We did get reports today of lots of hatchery coho, some in the 7-pound range. Our waters may be the only place in the state that has any feed. The silvers are starting to show up pretty thick all over. It does look like it’s going to be a banner coho season. These coho will be 10- to 12-pound fish come August and bigger in September.”

Maxson said his charter business would fish for kings in Marine Area 3 and Marine Area 5 (Seiku) if a rule change were approved.

Sekiu going strong

The king bite picked up Wednesday and Thursday off Sekiu, according to Brandon Mason of Mason’s Olson Resort (360-963-2311).

“We’ve had some nice big ones come in in the upper teens, maybe one or two of them was 20—plus [pounds],” Mason said.

“These have been good-sized hatchery fish. There are lots of wilds, around too. And folks are catching some coho, some are 5-to 7-pounds.”

Mason thinks the summer rains have helped push coho and a few stray pinks into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“From the Caves to Kydaka Point and Mussolini [Rock] down to Pillar Point, the bite has been real good in the morning. Every tide change has been good to fish, and some fish are coming in on the evening bite.”

Far out, man

Larry Bennett, who heads up Puget Sound fish sampling for Fish and Wildlife out of Port Angeles, had some Sekiu information that jived with Mason’s.

“There were some bigger fish caught today around Mussolini Rock, some 20-25 pounders,” Bennett said Thursday. “And some of the coho are getting bigger, 5 pounds and up.”

He also had a tip for anglers fishing for kings at Sekiu.

“People fish out too far,” Bennett said.

“They don’t fish the shoreline, down deep on the bottom in 80 feet of water they are going out a quarter of a mile in coho and pink areas and they were getting flustered. I would suggest fishing in closer to shore in 80 to 90 feet of water off the bottom. Kings tend to feed in along the kelp beds and that’s where you tend to find the kings at the lower end of the water column with coho and pinks towards the top.”

Mason said it’s all about the type of experience that anglers are seeking.

“What’s been weird the last three years, and it’s harder for people to understand until they roll the dice and try it,” Mason said.

“I suggest trying to catch kings in close to the shoreline until the sun is up and it’s starting to get a little warmer, about 8 a.m. Then they need to push out in about 250 tpo 300 feet of water and fish between 7o and 120 feet deep.

“I tell them just go give it a try. And guys are saying holy cow, they are just running right through here headed to where ever. And this is from Kydaka Point to the Caves and Mussolini to Pillar. Those fish are motoring through here.

So, the nice big ones are in here close to shore, but with the kelp beds you can get fouled up and just have too much work to do [re-rigging].

“Off the kelp, you can kind of sit back and be on vacation mode.”

Fun Days fireworks

Clallam Bay/Sekiu Fun Days are Saturday and the celebration is capped with an impressive fireworks display Saturday night off the breakwater near Mason’s.

“The fireworks will start a little bit after 10 p.m.,” Mason said. It’s a real good show and should last about 40 minutes.”

Port Angeles steady

King fishing has dipped a little off Port Angeles, but the last few days have seen fish/per angler totals right around 0.3.

“My guy that worked [Wednesday] morning, I think he had about 10 or 12 fish for 27 boats,” Bennett said.

“Half as many fish as boats, that’s not real great, but they are out there.”

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Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]

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