By Tony Floor
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! As most Washington salmon anglers know, the state and Puget Sound treaty tribes finally came to an agreement in late May establishing salmon fishing seasons for both parties. The negotiations were controversial and seemed endless as the two sides continued to hang ornaments on the tree, drawing the process into triple overtime.
For many of us involved in these negotiations between the state and the tribes, it was an unprecedented process. Differing views on how to protect coho salmon (hatchery and wild stocks) while providing fishing opportunities for hatchery-produced Chinook salmon became a huge issue. It became crystal clear the tribes do not support any sport fishery that targets hatchery fin-clipped Chinook and coho salmon, which resulted in a meltdown. Regardless, an agreement was reached through compromise on both sides. July is here, and the Chinook salmon fishing options are huge. Time to quit talking about it and go fishing!
For ocean salmon anglers, all four ocean ports (Ilwaco, Westport, La Push, and Neah Bay) began their summer seasons for the retention of Chinook salmon. The south coast, which includes the Ilwaco region, was granted a small coho salmon quota. It is the only marine area in Washington, excluding the Hood Canal, where coho salmon retention is allowed.
Be sure to keep in mind that the Columbia River has another monster return of Chinook salmon that should light up the entire coast in July like New York City at midnight. Love it when that happens. These Columbia River stocks should produce very good king salmon fishing, particularly in Neah Bay, La Push, and Westport throughout the month. Put me in, coach.
Washington salmon anglers who have issues with ocean conditions should be focusing on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, particularly from Sekiu east to Port Angeles, including Freshwater Bay. In my view, these three areas can get white hot in mid-July. Run-timing, through my experience, is more important than tide and current conditions.
July 1 is also the kickoff to the San Juan Islands summer Chinook salmon fishing season. Most anglers who do not reside in the San Juans, excluding the communities from Everett north to Blaine, exercise their summer fishing options closer to home, or migrate to the coast and Strait of Juan de Fuca. But for anglers who live in and around the San Juan Islands, it’s game on for king salmon, which will be migrating to north Puget Sound hatcheries and the Fraser River in British Columbia.
On July 16, Areas 9 and 10 (marine waters from Point Wilson, Port Townsend south to the north tip of Vashon Island) open for hatchery-produced Chinook salmon, identified by their missing adipose fin. These two fisheries are very popular for Puget Sound anglers, who soak their worms in the marine waters from Mid-Channel Bank south, including Kingston, Possession Bar, and Jeff Head. Pay attention to the regulations governed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as Areas 9 and 10 have a catch ceiling that is closely monitored.
For this old cat, I’m launching into spin cycle chasing king salmon this month. Fishing Port Angeles, Ediz Hook, and the Winter Hole early in July, followed by an annual trip up to Tahsis on the west side of Vancouver Island is my gig. I’ll come home the middle of the month and head immediately for Neah Bay to chase shallow water king salmon before heading back to Sitka, in search of a big king salmon with the king himself, sportfisherman Derek Floyd. I know I was Mother Theresa in another life.
For many Washington salmon anglers, July is prime time for summer king salmon. They fight like a bull on 92 octane, testing the skills of every angler. And when a beautiful chrome-bright king meets my landing net, I’m dreaming of lighting my Weber barbeque preparing to consume one of the best-eating fish in the world!
Don’t hesitate to get your worm in the water this month. The king salmon are here in Washington and I think I have one circling now. See you on the water!
Tony Floor is Director of Fishing Affairs for the Northwest Marine Trade Association(NMTA) and a former 30-year veteran of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDWF.) You may subscribe to receive monthly Tony’s Tackle Box in your e-mail by visiting: northwestsalmon-derbyseries.com.