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Salmon Forecast has a Couple Bright Spots

by Wayne Kruse
The Daily Herald, March 3, 2005

Local pink salmon and Columbia River chinook are a couple of bright spots in a generally ho-hum summer salmon outlook released by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife at a meeting Tuesday in Olympia.

The meeting and predictions were the very first steps in the "North of Falcon" season-setting process, which culminates with a meeting of all agencies and user groups April 4-8 in Tacoma.

Just under a million pinks (humpies) are expected to return to the Snohomish River system this summer, according to guide, avid angler and Arlington resident Sam Ingram (360-435-9311), who attended the meeting as a member of the state's salmon-steelhead advisory council. Ingram put in a request for a four-pink limit on the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers, and he said the move didn't appear to meet with much opposition.

Getting a four-pink limit in saltwater, however, may be another matter. There will be no pink season in the Stillaguamish because biologists predict the run will not meet escapement goals, so those fish need to be protected. The talk, Ingram said, was of perhaps closing Port Gardner to fishing or reducing pink limits in Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2. The recreational pink limit in saltwater has been four fish each of the past two odd-year cycles.

Stillaguamish coho are strong, Ingram said, and there appears to be no reason not to have a season. Hatchery chinook are also strong, but still-declining numbers of wild-stock kings will again result in no recreational season.

On the Skagit River, a chinook season between Highway 530 and the Cascade River is a possibility, but needs angler support. Sockeye at the mouth of the Baker is a go, Ingram said, but a weak Skagit chum run will keep that species closed.

Forecasts for sockeye returning to Lake Washington are borderline, Ingram said, and whether or not the wildly popular fishery flies will depend once again on last-minute counts at the Ballard Locks.

The relatively new chinook season on the Skykomish looks like a go again this summer, June 1 to July 31, with a two-fish limit. Sky coho also appear relatively strong, and a season like last year's probably will be instituted.

A relatively weak Snake River fall chinook stock
The recent Makah tribal overcatch of chinook on the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was brought up, Ingram said, and while the effects of an unanticipated loss to the system of 19,000 fish will take a while to shake out, the most likely impact on this summer's sport fisheries will be on the coast and in the Columbia River.

"Apparently a lot of those 5- to 6-pound feeder chinook the tribe took were from a relatively weak Snake River fall chinook stock," Ingram said, "which could mean restrictions on Westport and Ilwaco fisheries this summer, and on the Columbia.

"I had the feeling that a lot of the people there (at the meeting) were not all that happy with the department's response to this issue," Ingram said.

All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein (425-252-4188), who also attended the meeting, said the loss of fish was not likely to affect this summer's in-Sound sport fisheries because of the way the recreational seasons are structured.

"What will be important to us here on the Sound," he said, "will be how that particular commercial troll fishery is set up in the future. If they're going to start taking more chinook on a regular basis, those fish will obviously be off the table for future recreational seasons."

The situation and its ramifications will be a lot more apparent by the end of the North of Falcon negotiations, Krein said.

Ingram said anyone with an opinion on this or any other salmon issue should be at the next meeting - 7 p.m. on March 10 at the Mill Creek office of the Department of Fish and Wildlife (425-775-1311).

"Show up and insist on a better explanation," Ingram said. "Keep the department's feet to the fire, or issues like these will just disappear."

Blackmouth: It's been good one day and poor the next, but the Area 9 triangle of Possession Bar, Double Bluff and Point No Point is the cream of the crop. Area 8-2 has been slow, and the San Juans dismal.

State personnel at the Everett ramp checked 212 anglers over the weekend with 40 blackmouth; not a bad average.

Port Angeles picked up, producing 23 chinook for the 78 anglers checked there over the weekend.

The Hot Plug derby two weeks ago drew 129 anglers, but fishing was slow. Gayle Gilchrist took home $2,902 for a blackmouth of 13 pounds; Jerry Hill took second and $1,290 at 12.6 pounds; and Mark Kinsman third and $968 at 12.4 pounds.

It was a week late for the derby, but Larry Johnsen of Snohomish nailed the largest blackmouth to cross this desk so far this winter, a dandy of 22 pounds, caught Saturday off Indian Beach, Camano Island, on flasher and squid at 75 feet.

Steelhead: Several areas ended the winter season on a high note, including the South Fork Stillaguamish, which put out a bunch of nice native fish over the weekend to 18 pounds or so. Guide and Lake Stevens resident Tom Nelson ( said a good bet now through the end of the season on April 30 would be the Skagit between Concrete and Rockport, or the Sauk. The portion of the Skagit below the Sauk is fishing well right now, Nelson said, and his report was echoed by Bob Ferber at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington (360-757-4361).

Columbia Basin: The walleye fishery below Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams is now at its peak, said guide and Brewster resident Rod Hammons (509-689-2849). He suggests using half-ounce jigs and brown, gray or green curly-tail worms and half a nightcrawler, behind points, islands and in other areas of eddy-water.

It's also the peak of the winter-spring season for Mackinaw of 2 to 6 pounds in Lake Chelan, according to guide Anton Jones (866-360-1523 or

Smelt: The Cowlitz River run is apparently not going to show this year, so the state has cut the number of legal days from two to one, just in case, Saturdays only. No smelt activity has been noted recently in either the Cowlitz or Columbia.

These days, there are smelt jigging opportunities at the three usual places - Oak Harbor, Cornet Bay, and La Conner - with the Oak Harbor Marina the best bet. Be there for the incoming tide, high slack, and an hour of the ebb.

NFL's timing is bad: The lack of smelt on the lower Columbia means a lack of sturgeon activity as well. As a result, a big tournament sponsored by G.I. Joe's and the NFL Alumni Association this weekend to benefit Boys' and Girls' Clubs in the Portland area might end up with slim pickings. Toddle on down and watch names like Dan Fouts, Jerry Kramer, Merlin Olson and others catch, or not catch, some humongous fish.

Local trout: Anglers with cabin fever can warm up their casting elbows this weekend as the group headed by the Snohomish Sportsmen's Club begins its popular program of triploid rainbow plants in local waters. Program coordinator Mark Spada of Snohomish said the first plants hit the water today in Blackman's and Flowing lakes, consisting of several hundred 1 1/2-pounders, several hundred multi-pounders and a few in the low teens, in each lake. The plants will be repeated every two weeks for a couple of months, Spada said.

Remember, these fish stay shallow until they acclimate, so fish them just under the surface with trolled flies or small spoons.

Jerry's Surplus in Everett will run a "derby" offering weekly prizes for adults and kids fishing the planted lakes.

Wayne Kruse
Salmon Forecast has a Couple Bright Spots
The Daily Herald, March 3, 2005

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