Crabbers gearing up for season, and early sockeye numbers promising
After a banner Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery last summer, many are gearing up for another good season beginning July 1.
Seattle Times staff reporter
After a banner Puget Sound Dungeness crab fishery last summer, many are gearing up for another good season beginning July 1.
"It looks to be an average year for crabbing, but some areas will be better than others," said Rich Childers, the state Fish and Wildlife crab manager.
State fisheries managers are basing their outlook on some preseason evaluations that included a tribal fishery on east side of Whidbey Island and Saratoga Pass, and the state's test fisheries in other parts of Puget Sound.
"We were very pleased by what we saw in our test fisheries," Childers said. "A few years back, we saw a pretty drastic reduction in Hood Canal crab abundance, and it seems to have now recovered back to historic levels."
The Dungeness crab fishery was a record year in 2011, and was due in part to larger abundance and additional sport fishing days (increased to five days compared to four in 2010). The average catch per angler per trip went up to four crabs, and usually it's more like 3.3.
More people are following the rules, such as retaining only legal-size male crabs, with nearly 100 percent compliance on that.
"However, we still have a ways to go on getting people to record their catch once they land the crabs on the water," Childers said. "The law says to record it immediately, and not after dinner."
Crabbers have also been required since 2010 to report their Catch Record Cards (CRC) by mail or online soon after each season is completed or face a penalty.
During the summer crab fishing period last year 52 percent of crabbers turned in their CRCs, and in winter it was 65 percent.
Crab license endorsement sales were high last year with 237,129 issued, generating a catch of slightly more than 2.5 million pounds. The commercial harvest was also a record year with more than 10 million pounds landed.
In Puget Sound and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca east of Sekiu, crab fishing opens July 1 to Sept. 3. Fishing is allowed Thursday to Mondays only.
"One noticeable difference in the crab fishery this summer is the Fourth of July holiday lands on a Wednesday when fishing will be closed," Childers said. "This happens occasionally, but it will not happen again for a number of years."
The San Juan Islands southern section opens July 15 to Sept. 30, and the northern part opens Aug. 16 to Sept. 30. Fishing is allowed Thursdays to Mondays only.
The coastal areas off Ilwaco (including the Lower Columbia River below Tongue Point-Rocky Point line), Westport, La Push and Neah Bay are currently open for crab fishing.
Sockeye runs rebounding
Sockeye returns have been very good in the Columbia and Skagit river systems, and one surprise is the big numbers coming back to Lake Washington.
"It sure is positive in terms of building the sockeye runs to Lake Washington, and it was getting so depressing during some previous years," said Pat Pattillo, the assistant to the director of state Fish and Wildlife. "You can't help but get excited when you see good returns, but we don't want people to get too worked up about any kind of fishery just yet."
Through Thursday, 23,546 sockeye have been counted at the Ballard Locks, which is more than half of the preseason forecast of 45,871 in just the first 10-days of counting. Peak counts usually occur between July 7 and July 15.
The single-day counts are: 1,633 fish on June 12; 687 on June 13; 532 on June 14; 2,183 on June 15; 3,062 on June 16; 1,724 on June 17; 1,515 on June 18; 2,241 on June 19; 6,421 on June 20; and 3,548 on June 21.
During this same time frame in 2006, only 12,785 sockeye had returned, but the bulk ended up surging in quite later than normal. That year, 470,000 sockeye allowed an 18-day sport fishery. Other fisheries occurred in 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004.
The big urban lake has an escapement goal of 350,000 sockeye before any fisheries are considered.
Since 2006, sockeye returns have dropped close to historic lows, and the run last summer ended up at about 43,000.
Back in 2009, the sockeye fry entered the lake in low numbers so this summer's adult return wasn't expected to be that good.
One positive factor is these fish could be reaping benefits from an excellent ocean and freshwater conditions.
The new permanent hatchery on the Upper Cedar River below Landsburg Dam can produce more than 34-million fry, but only got 25 percent of that goal from spawned sockeye last year.
"If we get more fish in the hatchery, it will help us toward recovery, and eventually build up numbers to a point where we can have a fishery again not too far into the future," Urabeck said.
On the Columbia River, a record 462,000 sockeye are expected this summer, and so far the counts at Bonneville Dam are well above par as 137,925 have been tallied through June 21. The record was in 2010 when about 288,000 returned.
"The sockeye were just pouring over the dam, and (Friday) they were counting 130 fish every seven minutes on one fish ladder alone," said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
On June 16, the single-day count at Bonneville was 11,955, and has continued to increase with a high of 22,164 by Thursday.
Hymer says they checked quite a few sockeye caught this week in the sport fishery down in Longview on the Lower Columbia, which means more are still heading upstream.
The huge Columbia sockeye return is due in part mainly to excellent production on the Okanogan River where the bulk of more than 430,000 are expected back.
"They've been doing some excellent production work in British Columbia's Okanogan system at places like Lake Shaka," Hymer said. "Much of this stems from additional rearing areas and improvements to water management."
The newly implemented Lower Skagit River sockeye fishery opened on June 16 with fairly good success for sport anglers.
"We've just gotten scant information on how things are shaping up for the sockeye in the Skagit system, and it seems to be tracking consistently with forecast," Pattillo said.
Those fish are part of a return of 35,366 headed for the Baker River, a tributary of the Skagit, where through June 19, 165 fish have been trapped and 135 transferred to Baker Lake.
The Upper Skagit Tribe conducted its first test fishery last week and caught three fish, but this week it ramped up to 45.
Baker Lake will also open for sockeye fishing on July 1, but the action won't likely pick up until mid-July.
"I'm glad we can make in-season assessments for fish like sockeye by using the locks, fishtraps and dams," Pattillo said. "It is the one silver lining to a cloud of controversy with dams. They give us a good management tool to see what is actually coming back."
Part of Central Sound open for salmon catch and release
The north-portion of central Puget Sound's catch and release salmon fishery is one that very little anglers participate in, but many don't realize what a great fishery it can be.
I left the dock at Shilshole Bay Thursday with veteran mooching angler Keith Robbins, owner of A Spot Tail Salmon Guide in Seattle, and headed north to survey the Jefferson Head area and saw just one other boat out fishing.
We decided to head further north to Kingston, which has always been a fairly good early summer chinook fishery especially on an outgoing tide.
Our first two drifts gave up not a single bite, but at about 6:30 a.m. I hooked into my first chinook of the summer, which was an 18 incher.
Not the mature big king I was looking for, but in this fishery "action" is what you're looking for.
The schools of herring baitfish started to build as we continued our drifts in water about 200 to 130 feet deep.
At around 8 a.m. we hooked and released another small undersized chinook that was about 20 inches, and Robbins got one 6-pound hatchery chinook.
To rate the success of the catch and release fishery, one also needs to look no further than All-Star Charters of Everett, owner Gary Krein who made two trips last week, and scored 14 fish and 12 fish including some mature kings. On another trip he reported it was very slow.
Catch and release fishing is currently open north of a line from Point Monroe to Meadow Point until June 30. Then anglers are allowed to catch and keep coho only in all of central and northern Puget Sound through July 15.
On July 16, central and northern Puget Sound open for hatchery-marked chinook fishing.
For those who are looking to catch and keep a hatchery chinook right now should head to south central Puget Sound, although fishing has been spotty at best south of Southworth, Dolphin Point, Point Robinson, Redondo Beach and the Tacoma area.
• Three Rivers Marine and Tackle's Saltwater Workshop is 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 27 at 24300 Woodinville-Snohomish Road in Woodinville. This will be a free in-house hands on training from Scotty and Lowrance Pro Staffers on how to set up and use their products.
John Keizer from saltwaterpatrol.com and Team Lowrance will have seminar at 7 p.m. Team Daiwa Pro Staffers will also be on hand to answer questions. Andy Shanks, owner of Island Guide Service will conduct a seminar on king fishing in Puget Sound at 8 p.m. There will be a free BBQ of hot dogs and drinks, and a free raffle. Details: 425-415-1575 or www.3riversmarine.com.
• The Sno-King, Snohomish and Sea-Tac Chapters of the Coastal Conservation Association are hosting a special meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 27 at the Snohomish Sno-Isle Library, 311 Maple Avenue in Snohomish. The presentation will be on current legislative issues by CCA Washington State Lobbyist Scott Sigmon of Sigmon Public Affairs, and a special CCA Leadership presentation to Representative Hans Dunshee (D) 44th Legislative District. Details: 206-465-6905 or email Rick_Lind@comcast.net.
• The Coastal Conservation Association Sno-King Chapter is hosting a free U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boat Safety Inspections 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 30. Details: 206-465-6905 or email Rick_Lind@comcast.net.
• The International Federation of Fly Fishers is hosting an International Fly Fishing Fair July 12-14 at the Spokane Convention Center. See more than 90 workshops and clinics on casting, fly tying, and on-water fishing techniques taught by well-known instructors. Expert fly-fishing authors will also be signing books, and giving presentations and workshops. In addition, more than 110 fly tiers will be demonstrating their artistic work.
The fair will feature exhibits with the latest in gear, outfitters, conservation information and other topics. There will be a casting pond to try the latest rod and reel as well kids' activities. Details: www.fedflyfisher.org.
• The Northwest Mountain School in Leavenworth offers a variety of climbing programs and extended mountain climbs throughout the summer. For details, visit www.mountainschool.com or 509-548-5823.
• Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters is offering a beginning fly casting class 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. June 26. Cost is $50. Instructors are Darrel Martin, certified by the Federation of Fly-Fishers and the Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors and Michael Martin. Details: 253-835-4100.
• The Washington Parks and Recreation summer natural and cultural history interpretive programs are at Larrabee State Park, 245 Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. Dr. Marilyn Boysen will lead the programs June 30, July 14, Aug. 11 and Sept. 1. A Discover Pass is required to attend the programs. Details: www.parks.wa.gov/events.
• The Orvis Store in Bellevue at 10223 N.E. 10th Street is offering free fly-fishing lessons through July. Each class consists of one hour of casting instruction followed by one hour of rigging. Attendees will receive a $25 coupon off any purchase of $50 or more toward Orvis gear. Each participant will also get a free Trout Unlimited and Federation of Fly Fishers membership. Details: www.orvis.com/ff101.
• Seattle Parks and Recreation is offering low cost life jackets July 21, Aug. 18 and Sept. 15 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Evans Pool, 7201 E. Green Lake Dr. North in Seattle. Cost for infant to youth large is $20, and for teens to adults is $30. Details: 206-684-7440.
• The Washington Waterfowl Association in the Yakima Valley is hosting the Washington State Duck Calling Championship 7 a.m. Aug. 25 at Columbia Park in Kennewick. For details, call 509-786-9196.
• The state Department of Natural Resources has opened the Tiger Mountain State Forest mountain bike trails. The trails provide mountain biking opportunities for all skill levels. The trails are located at the Iverson Railroad Grade, Northwest Timber and Preston Railroad Grade trails. Details: http://tinyurl.com/tigermtn.
• The Northshore Trout Unlimited meeting is the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Senior Center, 18560 1st Ave. NE in Shoreline. Details: http://northshoretu.blogspot.com.
• Mount St. Helens climbing permits are on sale. Permits are required year-round to climb above 4,800 feet. Details: 360-891-5007 or www.mshinstitute.org.
• Issaquah Alps Trails Club has weekly hikes and meets in downtown Issaquah. Details: www.issaquahalps.org.
• The Washington Trails Association offers statewide trip reports and conditions. Details: www.wta.org.
• The Seattle Audubon Society offers field trips and classes every month. Details: 206-523-4483 or www.seattleaudubon.org.
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or firstname.lastname@example.org