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Ocean Fishing Off to Good Start

by Staff
The Daily News, July 13, 2007

Ocean salmon fishing got off to a strong start during the first week in July along the Washington coast, where many anglers went home with two-fish limits, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Coho made up the bulk of the catch in most areas, although anglers fishing off Westport have also been catching good numbers of chinook salmon averaging about 18 pounds apiece.

"This fishery is off to the best start we've seen in several years," Doug Milward, DFW ocean salmon manager, said in a news release. "The fish are good-sized, and anglers are catching them all along the coast."

On the southern coast, Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) is open daily for salmon fishing, while Marine Area 2 (Westport) is open Sundays through Thursdays. On the north coast, Marine Areas 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay) are open Tuesdays through Saturdays.

As in past years, anglers are required to release any coho not identified as a hatchery fish by a missing adipose fin and a healed scar.

Steelhead fishing should pick up

With water temperatures rising into the upper 60s at Bonneville Dam, fishing for hatchery steelhead on the Columbia River and its tributaries was generally slow during the first week of July.

"Anglers have been working pretty hard for their fish," said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. "With a couple of scorchers in the forecast, it could get worse before it gets better."

During the week ending July 8, boat anglers average about one summer-run steelhead for every six rods in creel checks conducted below Bonneville Dam.

Bank anglers averaged one fish for every 12.6 rods. Steelhead fishing also was slow in tributaries to the lower Columbia and in the Bonneville Pool, Hymer said.

But Hymer does expect fishing to pick up in the weeks ahead as more upper river fish move into the fishery. Nearly 1,200 summer steelhead were counted July 8 at Bonneville Dam, the highest number this year. Hymer also noted that cumulative totals are keeping pace with the count last year, when a total of 330,000 upriver fish returned to the Columbia River. "Fishing for hatchery steelhead should improve throughout July and well into August," Hymer said. "We're still on track for a good fishery."

"Bank anglers can do pretty well plunking in the mainstem Columbia," Hymer said. "Unlike salmon, steelhead can often be found in less than 10 feet of water. They'll often hold at the edge of a drop-off, but they usually don't go very deep. Boat anglers have some advantages in terms of maneuverability, but steelhead are still basically a shallow-water fishery."

Hymer said most steelhead counted at Bonneville are "one-salt" fish, weighing four to six pounds. By contrast, steelhead returning to tributaries of the lower Columbia River generally run upwards of eight pounds and have generally two or three summers in the ocean. For reasons that are still unknown, returns of those fish to the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis river hatchery are down by two-thirds from last year, Hymer said. The Cowlitz hatchery count through early July was 445, compared to 1,112 a year ago.

But with warm weather in the forecast, Hymer suggests that anglers look for steelhead in the cooler waters at the mouth of the Cowlitz, Lewis and White Salmon rivers -- as well as Drano Lake -- where fish go to beat the heat.

Ocean Fishing Off to Good Start
The Daily News, July 13, 2007

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