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Summer of Salmon

by Mark Yuasa
Tight Lines Summer of Salmon

It’s time to start making early-summer salmon fishing plans, and here’s my rundown on the top choices in local marine areas.

The headliner in June occurs right in Seattle’s front yard as the central Puget Sound (Marine Area 10) opens daily June 1 for a fishery targeting coho only, more than two weeks earlier than in 2022. Look for coho averaging 2 to 4 pounds in the shipping lanes off Jefferson Head, Kingston-Apple Tree Point, from the Edmonds’ oil docks south to Richmond Beach, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, and along the east side of Bainbridge Island.

If you’ve got a knack for chasing a larger salmon species, then head to south-central Puget Sound (Marine Area 11) where the hatchery-marked Chinook fishery opens on June 1. Keep in mind that this fishery is managed under two separate summer quotas. If you recall, the June 2022 season lasted a mere three days, but the 2023 quota is 1,423 fish. That’s up quite a bit from 580 in 2022 and 431 in 2021. The remaining Area 11 summer quota is 3,379 fish (2,816 in 2022 and 2,656 in 2021) and that season opens July 1.

Look for hungry Chinook off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma; outside of Gig Harbor; on the northeast side of Vashon Island; Colvos Passage; outside of Quartermaster Harbor; and the south side of Vashon Island. If Marine Area 11 is slow, then look for summer Chinook south of the Narrows Bridge in southern Puget Sound (Marine Area 13) at Gibson Point, Hale Passage, and Point Fosdick.

The ocean is expected to see a bounty of salmon this summer, and anglers will get a first chance to catch them when Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) and La Push (Marine Area 3) open for Chinook and hatchery-marked coho retention beginning June 17. Those areas will be followed by the Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) and Westport (Marine Area 2) openings on June 24. All areas will remain open daily through September 30, or until quotas are achieved. The coast-wide catch quotas are 39,000 Chinook and 159,600 hatchery-marked coho.

The salmon fisheries peak in July as more migrating summer Chinook begin to arrive in local marine areas, so keep your fishing lines taut as midsummer arrives.Several focal points to watch are the central and northern Puget Sound; the western and eastern Straits of June de Fuca; and the anticipated hatchery- marked fisheries in northern Puget Sound, central Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands.

Not to sway from all the early summer marine fishing activities but one freshwater option that has stood out every year is large-sized summer Chinook found in central Washington.

The Upper Columbia River at Rocky Reach Dam to Chelan Falls and further upstream to Brewster opens on July 1. The 2023 Upper Columbia summer Chinook forecast is 84,800 and up from 56,300 and an actual return of 78,444 in 2022, which was the seventh largest return since 1980.

If I had to pick one go-to location, it would be below Beebe Bridge (better known as Chelan Falls), which is a shallow water fishery bottoming out at just around 25 to 50 feet, so keep the downriggers at home. There are two nice boat launches at Chelan County’s Beebe Bridge Park or across the river at Chelan Falls Park. This is an early morning fishery that occurs right at daybreak and the salmon tend to go off the bite around 9 a.m. Also look for Chinook at the tailrace of Wanapum Dam; around the mouth of Entiat River and the mouth of the Chelan River; the tailrace of the Wells Dam; and Brewster Pool up to city of Bridgeport. For a mix of kings and sockeyes, head to areas below Rocky Reach Dam, below Wells Dam, or at Brewster.

Timing is key in the Upper Columbia as Chinook or sockeye can be in one location one day, only to move many miles upstream the following day. Water level and flow also affect how the fish bite. Lastly, keep close tabs on the dam fish counts to know where to be on certain days. Before heading out the door, be sure to check the regulations for any updates or emergency closures. To find a list of planned Washington salmon fisheries in 2023-2024, go to: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/management/north-falcon/summaries#ps.

In the next issue of the magazine, I’ll dive into later summer fishing options as the list of opportunities continues to expand all summer long. I’ll see you on the water very soon!

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