North Puget Sound: With the holidays drawing near, regional waters offer plenty of gifts for fishers, from Puget Sounds crab and blackmouth salmon, to some great opportunities to catch trout on area lakes.
Blackmouth salmon season has started off strong in central Puget Sound, where baitfish have been more prevalent, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island, and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) are open for hatchery chinook salmon fishing throughout December.
Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook salmon. Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) is closed for fishing chinook and other salmon species in December.
Anglers support the blackmouth winter chinook fishery through their license purchase, a portion of which goes to the Puget Sound Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Fund. The fund currently supports a variety of recreational fishing opportunities through the release of more than one million yearling and almost nine million sub-yearling chinook each year.
Before heading out, anglers may want to check creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.
While on the Sound, why not drop a crab pot? Sport crabbing is open in most marine areas of Puget Sound seven days a week through Dec. 31. The exceptions are Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) and 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island).
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. In addition, fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.
All Dungeness crab kept in the late-season fishery must be recorded on winter catch cards, which are valid until Dec. 31. Winter cards are available at license vendors across the state. Those catch reports are due to WDFW by Feb. 1, 2015.
For anglers targeting trout, the department has been stocking 47 western Washington lakes with some 340,000 catchable-size trout this fall and winter. Increased bag limits are also still allowed on 17 lakes in Island, King, Snohomish, and Thurston counties, doubling anglers catch limits from five to 10 trout on selected lakes.
At Lake Sammamish, anglers trolling for cutthroat trout are having great success fishing near the surface, over deeper portions of the lake, said Danny Garrett, a WDFW fish biologist. Lake Washington is a different story. Anglers targeting cutthroat in Lake Washington are often most successful trolling near the bottom in 50-80 feet of water.
Other good bets during December are Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish, where anglers can hook perch and smallmouth bass. Anglers targeting perch should fish near deep ledges, 50-80 feet, using night crawlers, said Garrett.