Craig Velthuysen caught this hatchery chinook estimated around 17 pounds with a hoochie recently on an early morning bite off Sekiu.

Craig Velthuysen caught this hatchery chinook estimated around 17 pounds with a hoochie recently on an early morning bite off Sekiu.

OUTDOORS: Sekiu auction Saturday benefits veterans salmon outing

Entire Quillayute River system closing to fishing Saturday

A LITTLE LESS than a month remains until the NW Region of Salmon for Soldiers offers veterans a therapeutic day of fishing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Aug. 5.

The organization also hosts a fundraising auction in advance to raise funds for the big day on the water. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Salmon for Soldiers group.

The auction itself will be held at the Sekiu Community Center, 42 Rice St., at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Auction items are enticing including two tickets to the Thanksgiving Night Seahawks-49ers game in Seattle, a Traeger propane grill, a large Yeti cooler, a salmon/halibut combo trip out of Sekiu with Chad Huffman and Hailey Arriaga of Mason’s Resort (provided additional halibut days are approved).

Phone bids may be considered. Call/text Huffman at 360-926-5352.

King fishing strong

King catch rates dipped a bit off of the absolute firestorm that was the Port Angeles and Sekiu chinook opener, but still remained solid at around .4 kings per angler off Port Angeles and about a .5 off Sekiu, according to creel reports provided by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Closure set out west

The entire Quillayute River system closes Saturday due to a dangerously low number of hatchery chinook returners arriving back at the Sol Duc Hatchery.

Only 47 chinook had returned to the Sol Duc Hatchery as of July 12, far below the needed escapement number of 900 fish.

On average, about half of the chinook run has returned to the hatchery by this point in July, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It’s never an easy decision to close a fishery, but we always have to put conservation first, and the low numbers of chinook returning so far this year are very concerning,” said Jennifer Whitney, fish biologist. “We need to make sure that as many fish as possible return to the hatchery for the rest of the summer.”

These Clallam County rivers close to fishing Saturday:

• Bogachiel River, including all tributaries, from the mouth upstream to the Olympic National Park boundary.

• Calawah River, including all tributaries, from the mouth upstream to the Olympic National Park boundary.

• Calawah River, North Fork, including all tributaries, from the mouth upstream.

• Calawah River, South Fork, from the mouth upstream to the Olympic National Park boundary.

• Dickey River, from the Olympic National Park boundary upstream including all tributaries and the East and West forks.

• Quillayute River, from Olympic National Park boundary upstream to confluence of Sol Duc and Bogachiel rivers.

• Sitkum River, including all tributaries, from the mouth upstream.

• Sol Duc River, including all tributaries, from the mouth upstream to the Olympic National Park boundary.

• Thunder Creek, including all tributaries, from the mouth upstream.

Rock crab reunion

Ward Norden of Quilcene checked in with a report.

“We prefer ‘hand crabbing’ (crabbing on sandy tide flats on low tide) and unlike more normal Northwesterners, we love to eat rock crab so actively go after them,” Norden said.

Norden ventured out to a favorite location recently and came upon a sight he’d never laid eyes on.

“There were huge numbers of large, fat rock crab,” Norden said. “It was crazy. Those rock crab would have been spawned around the time of those deep ocean currents came into our inland waters which would have improved crab fry survival.”

Area 9 will go fast

Norden also visited with customers out in Neah Bay and Sekiu.

“Anglers are suddenly catching unusually large numbers of chinook with great success, even if few are fin clipped (adipose fin removed designating a hatchery-raised fish),” Norden said.

“Of course, the suspicion is that, during the COVID crisis, the Fish and Wildlife Department was lax on fin clipping. These chinook would also have left our Puget Sound/Hood Canal hatcheries during that influx of nutrient-rich water when the plankton-driven ecosystem was on steroids.

“The chinook opening in Area 9 should prove particularly interesting because, if fishing is good with lots of unexpected kings, the season will end very quickly. The department might have lots of surplus, unfinclipped kings to send to the landfills.”

That accusation has merit. The department was nearly begging for applicants or volunteers to help hatcheries with activities such as fin clipping during the height of COVID in 2020-21.

“The good news is that those deep ocean currents coming into the Straits and the Sound are back this year, though it is too early to tell if they are as strong as before,” Norden said.

Halibut through June 30

In-season estimates through the final scheduled day of the halibut season June 30 show the North Coast (La Push and Neah Bay) has 33 percent of its quota remaining and Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5-10) have 46 percent.

That translates to 43,331.5 pounds left over for the North Coast and 36,729.6 for Puget Sound.

Fish and Wildlife has submitted a proposal to NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service to add additional dates in August and September for anglers to snap up however much of the quota they can.

________

Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at mcarman@peninsuladailynews.com.

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