Home Tight Lines Crab to Coho to Chinook

Crab to Coho to Chinook

by Mark Yuasa
Photo by Dana Halferty

Are you getting tired of all the bad news? Likewise. It’s been a constant media blitz about the pandemic, traffic jams, soaring grocery store and gas prices, a lack of toilet paper (again). Where’s my fishing rod? For the majority of my life, I’ve looked to de-stress by getting outside for a breath of fresh air. I plan my days and vacations around time on the water. This is my snow globe and it should be yours, too!

If you’re a reader of this column, you’ve learned the Pacific Northwest delivers a plethora of outdoor opportunities. Even in the waning days of autumn, I’m glad to report Dungeness crab, and coho or Chinook salmon are there for the taking. “Winter crabbing doesn’t draw as many people compared to summer, but it’s a fun fishery and can be good in some marine areas,” said Don Velasquez, a head Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) shellfish biologist.

Plot a course for the Strait of Juan de Fuca (Marine Catch Areas 4 east of Bonilla-Tatoosh line, and 5 and 6); San Juan Islands (7); Deception Pass, Hope Island, Skagit Bay, Port Susan, and Port Gardner (8-1 and 8-2); northern Puget Sound (9); and Hood Canal north of Ayock Point (12), all of which are open daily through December 31. Central and south-central Puget Sound (10 and 11) are closed since a large portion of the sport quota is set aside for summer. WDFW was evaluating catch estimates last month to weigh reopening a winter fishery. Southern Puget Sound (13) and Hood Canal south of Ayock Point (12) are closed to allow Dungeness crab populations to rebuild.

Crab pots may be set or pulled from a vessel from one hour before official sunrise through one hour after official sunset. Daily limit is five Dungeness crab (males only) in hard-shell condition.

Be sure to measure Dungeness crab precisely: they must be at least 6 ¼ inches at widest point of the shell just in front of rearmost point or tips and an accurate way to gauge this it is to use a tackle-store bought plastic caliper crab gauge (not a dollar bill). A Puget Sound crab endorsement and winter catch card are required. On additional FYI: Dungeness crab kept must be recorded immediately on catch cards as WDFW enforcement has adopted a zero tolerance for those who don’t fill them out properly.

As plastic zip cords are illegal, biodegradable rot cords are mandatory to secure lid and escape hatches on pots. A derelict pot without a proper cord can kill crabs for many years. Improperly marked pots are a violation, and each must have your name and contact information.

Autumn salmon possibilities

There are three marine areas, and some western Washington rivers, that are open for those seeking a tasty Chinook or coho to place on the dinner table.

Here’s the run-down: South-central Puget Sound (Area 11) from north tip of Vashon Island to the Narrows Bridge is open through December 31. Daily limit is two salmon with 22-inch size limit for hatchery Chinook. Release coho, chum and wild, unmarked Chinook. Southern Puget Sound (13) south of the Narrows Bridge is open year-round. Daily limit is two salmon with 22-inch size limit for hatchery Chinook. Release chum, and wild, unmarked coho and Chinook. Hood Canal (12) is open through November 30. Daily limit is four salmon, and release Chinook.

A number of local rivers are fair game, but be sure to check the regulation pamphlet for what’s open or closed. The best late-season options occur in southwest Washington where the Cowlitz River expects a robust 156,690 hatchery coho. “We’re going to have ample opportunities on the Cowlitz, and we’ve got a phenomenal number of them returning,” says Todd Daniels, owner of Tall Tails Guide Service (206.437.8766; talltailsguideservice.com). “You can find good fishing well into November with water conditions permitting.” Runner-up is the Lewis River with a projected 129,313 coho. The Washougal River also delivers decent coho action through Thanksgiving as fish trickle in through early December.

My final thoughts are sugar-coated on an update by WDFW that a few Puget Sound region coho returns are noteworthy and achieving spawning goals. A cherry on top of this sundae is summer Chinook spawning was strong with a record egg take last month. Fingers are crossed for the future and I’ll see you on the water soon!

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