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Ecology and salmon related articles

Chinook, Shad Ready for the
Taking on Lower Columbia

by Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times, June 19, 2008

Summer officially begins this Saturday and while it may feel like late winter, there are still plenty of fishing activities to brighten your day.

The brief summer chinook fishery in the Lower Columbia River from the mouth to Bonneville Dam opens this Saturday through June 28.

A fairly strong forecast of 52,000 chinook, plus colder and higher water conditions should offer good fishing.

"The summer chinook are good biters especially with the water being this high and cold, plus you've got about three feet of visibility," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "We've already seen some adult chinook released below Bonneville [which is open for hatchery steelhead and jack chinook] so those are positive signs."

Steelhead anglers below Longview in the Columbia mainstem averaged about one fish per every four bank rods, and were also releasing more sockeye than steelhead.

The single day count on Tuesday at Bonneville revealed 2,400 adult chinook had passed up the fish ladder. A total of 22,352 upriver spring chinook/Snake River summer chinook were tallied, and this is the second highest total since at least 1977 [highest was 24,363 in 2000].

Chinook fishing above Bonneville to Priest Rapids Dam is currently open through July 31, and areas above Priest Rapids Dam opens July 1. The majority of summer chinook contribute to these areas catches.

The shad numbers at Bonneville also skyrocketed this week with 91,476 counted on Tuesday alone, and fishing was off the charts below the dam in recent days. The count was expected to be well over 600,000 by yesterday, so hit the banks now from Bonneville down to the Camas-Washougal area.

Tributaries of the Lower Columbia such as the Cowlitz and Lewis were fairly good producers of steelhead. Charter and private boats in the Columbia estuary were nailing pretty decent catches of sturgeon.

In the Puget Sound region, you don't have to go very far to find some of the best early summer steelhead fishing with an occasional king in the Skykomish River.

"We've been checking lots and lots of anglers on the Skykomish, which is good despite the fact that the water was bouncing up and down," said Chad Jackson, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. "There are plenty of fish to be had, and it looks like a better year for steelhead."

Last week, 212 boat and bank anglers kept 12 chinook [one for every 20 rods] and released three, plus they kept 18 steelhead [one for every 10 rods] and released 16.

The Snoqualmie has been fair to good for steelhead from mouth of Tolt to the falls, says Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine and Tackle in Woodinville who points out there is a no bait restriction so jigs and floating hardware is the way to get them to bite.

Other rivers worth a try are Soleduck, Lower Calawah, Green and Stillaguamish North Fork (fly-fishing only).

The chinook coastal fishery finally came to life at places like Westport and Ilwaco. Angler effort continues to be low at La Push and Neah Bay, but commercial trollers reported some very good catches.

"Ilwaco anglers did pretty well for chinook, and they weren't going out very far and just hanging about a mile off the CR Buoy and catching fish," said Erica Crust, a state Fish and Wildlife scientific technician. "At Westport it was really good on Sunday, and all the charter trips limited. I talked with my dad [yesterday] and he had a 22 pounder on board right off Ocean Shores in 100 to 140 feet of water so the fish are in pretty close to shore."

At Ilwaco the average was close to a fish per rod, at Westport it was better then a half a fish per rod, and at Neah Bay it was about a quarter of a fish per rod.

"We're not seeing much in the sport catch or effort at Neah Bay and La Push, but a lot of the [commercial] trollers had their 50-fish limits [fished June 14-17] at Neah Bay," Crust said. "The trollers at Ilwaco are also doing very well for chinook."

Good chinook places at Neah Bay were the green buoy in front, Skagway Rocks, and Mushroom and Slant rocks. The Rock Pile and four miles out in front of La Push gave up a few chinook.

Mark Yuasa
Chinook, Shad Ready for the Taking on Lower Columbia
Seattle Times, June 19, 2008

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