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Summer All-Stars

by Mark Yuasa
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Summer is when many anglers will holler “fish on!” or look to bide some quality time for a “crab-tivating” experience! Statewide summer salmon fisheries are at their highest level right now with a variety of species to catch including Chinook, coho and sockeye, and soon, Dungeness crab will come into play in many waterways of Puget Sound.

The excitement for salmon started in June when anglers tapped into some decent action at the Tulalip Bubble Fishery north of Everett, central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10), southcentral Puget Sound (Marine Area 11), and southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13). The coastal ports of Ilwaco (Marine Area 1), Westport-Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) also opened in late June for Chinook and hatchery coho.

In July, the doors swing open even wider as there will also be some freshwater options for salmon. Among them are sections of the Skagit River and Baker Lake where the Baker River sockeye forecast is 56,750, up from a forecast of 31,296 in 2023.

You can fish the Skagit River from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway Bridge to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete for sockeye through July 15. Baker Lake also opens July 6-August 31. Be sure to track the trap counts on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) webpage to decide when to go fishing in the lake.

My standout early summer Chinook and/or sockeye fishery occurs in central Washington’s Upper Columbia River at Rocky Reach Dam to Chelan Falls, as well as other spots in between and way up in the Brewster Pool. Timing is key on the Upper Columbia River as migrating Chinook and sockeye won’t stay in one spot for very long. Water level and flow in between each dam plays a role in how the fish bite and where you’ll find them from day-to-day.

The 2024 Columbia River sockeye forecast of 401,700 is up 16% over the recent 10-year average and anglers could see back-to-back years of success in targeting sockeye in open waters of the Columbia River. (As an FYI: The Okanogan River sockeye forecast of 288,700—which is the bread and butter for northcentral Washington fisheries—is also up from 187,400 and an actual return of 179,655 in 2023.) Most of the sockeye action happens in the Brewster Pool, a popular summer deep-water salmon fishing location on Upper Columbia River, but you can find them throughout the river system. Anglers will also try their luck for summer Chinook from Priest Rapids Dam to Chelan Falls and up at Brewster. The 2024 Upper Columbia River summer Chinook forecast is 53,000 down from a forecast of 85,400 and near an actual return of 54,722 in 2023.

If saltwater salmon fishing is more up your alley, then make plans to target the Strait of Juan de Fuca where Sekiu/Pillar Point (Marine Area 5) opens July 1 for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho. The Chinook fishery could close sooner than original August 15th end date if the 6,539 legal size encounter guideline is met. Look for Chinook around Sekiu at the Caves, a vast stretch of kelp-lined shoreline near the breakwater off Mason’s Resort in Clallam Bay, and westward to the Sekiu River mouth, the Slip Point Buoy, Mussolini Rock and Little Mussolini Rock, Eagle Point, the Slide and Coal Mines areas and Pillar Point. The eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca, Port Angeles (Marine Area 6) opens July 1 and runs to August 15 for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho. The Chinook legal-size encounter guideline is 11,173. The area east of the boundary is open July 1-September 26 for hatchery coho only.

WDFW fishery managers aligned several hatchery Chinook directed fisheries to be open July 18-20 only and includes: the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7); northern Puget Sound/Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9); central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10); and, south-central Puget Sound (Marine Area 11). WDFW will assess the catch after the initial three-day opener for all four marine areas. Additional Chinook openings may occur based on available quota or other catch guidelines. When Chinook fishing is closed, Marine Area 10 remains open daily in July for a nonselective directed coho fishery. Before making any plans to go summer salmon fishing, be sure to check the WDFW regulations webpage at: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations

WDFW shellfish managers were busy late last month planning the summer Dungeness crab fisheries in many marine waterways of Puget Sound. The crabbing season was expected to open sometime in early July. You can find the news release with specific dates and open locations by going to the WDFW website at: wdfw.wa.gov.

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