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One Fish, Two Fish….

by Mark Yuasa

The summer salmon fisheries are set for launch, and there are some decent early-season freshwater and saltwater choices when it comes to catching a Chinook, sockeye, or coho.

Rivers & Lakes

Plenty of hype is centered around sockeye salmon where, for the second year in a row, a robust Baker River return of 56,750—up dramatically from 31,296 in 2023 and an actual record return of around 65,000—should generate lights out action. (Just for comparisons, the 2024 Baker sockeye forecast is up 57% over the recent 10-year average and allows a generous harvest to split sockeye for Baker Lake and the Skagit River fisheries at 75 percent and 25 percent, respectively.)

Make plans to fish the Skagit River from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Bridge to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete from June 16-July 15, with a four-sockeye-only daily limit. The river fishery will be highly reliant on water flow and glacial runoff. (If we encounter a hot early summer, then expect the water to be high and murky, which can hinder sockeye prospects.) Baker Lake opens July 6 and runs until August 31 with a four-sockeye daily limit; each angler aboard a vessel may deploy salmon angling gear until the daily limit for all anglers aboard has been achieved.

Another location east of the Cascades expecting a huge surge of sockeye is the Upper Columbia River, where the 2024 forecast is 401,700, up 16 percent over the recent 10-year average. If the forecast gels, it’ll be the second year in row where an Okanogan River sockeye forecast of 288,700—up from 187,400 and an actual return of 179,655 in 2023—stirs a summer fishing frenzy at the Brewster Pool. The recent trends have shown the sockeye show up in good amounts soon after it opens in July, and carry well into August.

If you head to Central Washington, you can mix in summer Chinook from Priest Rapids Dam to Chelan Falls and as high up as Brewster. The 2024 Upper Columbia summer Chinook forecast is a still promising 53,000, down from a forecast of 85,400 and near an actual return of 54,722 in 2023; anglers can track when it’s time to go by checking the dam counts along the Columbia. The Columbia salmon season from Priest Rapids Dam to Rock Island Dam is open July 1 through August 31, and from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam from July 1 until October 15. The area from Wells Dam to Brewster Bridge is open July 16 to September 30, and from Brewster Bridge to Highway 17 Bridge is open July 1-Oct. 15.

Another highlight is the Lake Wenatchee sockeye forecast of 97,000, up a bunch from 44,300 in 2023 with an actual return of 146,875. The management objective is 23,000 sockeye at Tumwater Dam. T lake could provide a late-summer sport fishery if the objective is achieved.

Summer Chinook fisheries on the Columbia are expected to open June 16-19 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to Bonneville Dam. The area from Bonneville Dam to Priest Rapids Dam opens June 16-30 and closed to retention thereafter. Sockeye retention is expected to be allowed in the daily salmon bag limit from June 16-July 31 for waters downstream of Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco.

Open Ocean

The saltwater fishing fun begins when central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) opens daily on June 5 for coho only. Try the shipping lanes from Jefferson Head north to Kingston-Apple Tree Point; Edmonds oil docks to Richmond Beach; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; and east side of Bainbridge Island. South-central Puget Sound (Marine Area 11) opens June 5-30 on Wednesdays through Saturdays only for hatchery-marked Chinook.

After each week, WDFW will assess quotas and catch guidelines to see if additional time can be added. Look for kings at Tacoma off Point Defiance Park to the Tacoma Yacht Club; outside of Gig Harbor; Dolphin Point and Point Dalco off Vashon Island; south of Southworth Ferry Landing; and Des Moines to Redondo Beach.

The Tulalip Bubble Fishery is open for Chinook now through September 2 and fishing is allowed from 12:01 a.m. Fridays to 11:59 a.m. Mondays of each week. Fishing is closed June 1 for a tribal fishing ceremony. Fishing is allowed September 7–22 on weekends only. Another good early-summer hatchery Chinook fishery occurs in southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13), which is open year-round for salmon. Look for kings around Gibson Point, Hale Passage, and Point Fosdick.

The 2024 ocean salmon fisheries reflect a Chinook forecast like that of 2023. Although the hatchery coho projection is lower, it should still generate decent opportunities. The coast-wide sport quota is 41,000 Chinook and 79,800 hatchery-marked coho.

Neah Bay (Marine Area 4), La Push (Marine Area 3), and Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) open for salmon retention beginning June 22. Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2) opens June 30-July 11 on Sundays through Thursdays only, and then open daily beginning July 14. Marine Areas 2, 3, and 4 are scheduled to remain open until September 15 or until quotas are met. Marine Area 1 is scheduled to remain open until September 30, or until quotas are met.

Anglers should check the WDFW regulation pamphlet or website for additional information before heading out on the water; catch quotas/guidelines could impact some salmon fisheries, so be sure to check ahead at: wdfw.wa.gov. Tight lines and we’ll see you on the water very soon!

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