North Puget Sound: Anglers are reeling in chinook, coho and pink salmon in Puget Sound, with additional marine areas opening for salmon Aug. 1. Meanwhile, trout and bass are still drawing anglers to local lakes, and crab fishing is under way in most areas of the Sound.
Biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) estimate that some 6.8 million pink salmon will return to Puget Sound this year.
Over the last 15 years pink salmon returns to Puget Sound rivers have increased dramatically, and angler interest has followed suit, said Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager.
Anglers across the state have been catching these salmon in the marine areas, their catch rates are improving steadily, and we expect the run to continue to build through August as pink salmon enter rivers like the Skagit, Green and Snohomish, Lothrop said.
The department has recently built a web feature to help anglers take advantage of this distinctive opportunity. The website provides insights into fishing pink salmon in both marine and freshwater areas, helpful fishing tips, suggestions on access points from both rivers and coast, and up-to-date information on where and when the pinks are arriving.
In addition to the surge of pink salmon moving through the area, anglers also have opportunities to catch chinook and coho, added Lothrop.
Most of Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) is open for salmon as of Aug. 1. One of the exceptions is Bellingham Bay in the San Juans, which opens Aug. 16, with a daily limit of four salmon, two of which may be chinook.
Also in marine areas 7, 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point), and 6 (East Juan de Fuca Strait), anglers can bag an additional two sockeye or pink salmon after Aug. 16.
Marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) remain open to salmon fishing in August.
The Puget Sound crab fishery is also under way in most marine areas. The exception is the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia) of Marine Area 7, which opens for crab Aug. 13. Most Puget Sound marine areas will be open for crabbing Thursday through Monday of each week only. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are closed, and all crab gear must be removed from the water. The exception is Marine Area 13 which is open seven days a week.
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. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least five inches across. Remember to record all Dungeness crab kept immediately on your catch record card. Do not record red rock crab on the catch record card.
Additionally, spot shrimp fishing remains open in Marine Area 7 West until the quota is attained or Sept. 15, whichever comes first.
Meanwhile, for those more interested in river fishing, freshwater anglers are gearing up for salmon openers on select rivers.
Those rivers include the following:
Skagit River: Salmon fishing opens Aug. 1 from the mouth of the river to the mouth of Gilligan Creek. The Skagit opens from the mouth of Gilligan Creek to the Dalles Bridge at Concrete for salmon fishing Aug. 16. Anglers fishing those sections have a four-salmon daily limit, and no more than two can be wild coho. All chinook and chum must be released.
Snohomish River: Salmon fishing opens Aug. 1 from the mouth of the river to the Highway 9 bridge and on Aug. 16 from the Highway 9 bridge upstream to the confluence of the Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers. There is a three-salmon daily limit, plus one additional pink salmon. Chinook and chum must be released.
Green River: Salmon fishing opens Aug. 20 from the 1st Ave. South Bridge to Hwy. 99/Tukwila Intl. Blvd. Anglers fishing the Green have a daily limit of six salmon; up to three adult coho and chum (combined) may be retained. Chinook must be released.
Drought conditions and measures to save fish in rivers with warm conditions and reduced water flow have reduced opportunities in the North Puget Sound region this summer. Below is a list of rivers with restricted or closed fishing:
Hoot-owl restrictions (fishing is limited to the hours between midnight and 2 p.m.):
North Fork Skykomish River (Snohomish Co.) From the mouth upstream including all tributaries.
South Fork Skykomish River (Snohomish/King Co.) From Sunset Falls upstream and all tributaries, including the Beckler, Foss, Miller and Rapid rivers and their tributaries.
Sauk River (Skagit/Snohomish Co.) Above the Suiattle River including the North Fork to the falls and the South Fork to headwaters.
Samish River (Skagit Co.) From I-5 to headwaters, and Friday Creek upstream.
Closed to fishing:
Raging River (King Co.) from the mouth upstream.
Skykomish River (Snohomish Co.) from the mouth upstream closed to all fishing, except the section around Reiter Ponds remains open from the Gold Bar/Big Eddy Access (Hwy. 2 Bridge) upstream to the confluence of the North and South forks.
Wallace River (Snohomish Co.). From the mouth upstream including all tributaries.
Stillaguamish River (Skagit/Snohomish Co.) From Marine Drive upstream including the North and South forks and all tributaries.
South Fork Nooksack (Whatcom Co.) From the mouth to Skookum Creek, and from Wanlick Creek to headwaters including Wanlick and all tributaries.
Suiattle River (Skagit Co.) Tributaries Buck, Downey and Sulpher Creeks.
Anglers fishing Baker Lake can try two pole fishing with purchase of the endorsement. At Baker, anglers are allowed to retain up to four adult sockeye that exceed 18 inches in length from the log boom barrier at Baker Dam upstream to the mouth of the upper Baker River. All other salmon, as well as bull trout, must be released.
Though many anglers focus on burgeoning opportunities for salmon in mid-to-late summer, August is also a great time to pursue yellow perch, bass, bluegill and catfish in lowland lakes.
With warmer water temperatures, anglers should seek deepwater structure such as ledges and weed lines to find warmwater species during the heat of the day, said Danny Garrett, WDFW warmwater fisheries biologist. In clearer lakes, such as Lake Washington, start your search for perch and bass in 15 to 20 feet of water. In shallower lakes with stained water, such as Lake Cassidy, look for fish along the weed edge in five to 10 feet of water.
Justin Spinelli, fish biologist, recommends Gissburg Ponds for rainbow trout. The fishing has been good at Gissburg Ponds, particularly for anglers who fish a little closer to the bottom, said Spinelli.
Though many trout fisheries have slowed with rising water temperatures, anglers in pursuit of trout or kokanee are still finding bountiful harvests in other, deeper Puget Sound lowland waters.
Try targeting these fishes at or below the thermocline with common gear such as wedding rings, small lures and woolly buggers, said Spinelli. Remember that trout and kokanee prefer cold temperatures and migrate vertically in the water column as they pursue invertebrates, so try various depths until you find them.
High lakes offer additional trout opportunities. You dont need a lot of gear, just a small rod and reel and some small lures for these fisheries, said Spinelli. You also can experience some of Washingtons most majestic environments on the hike in to these lakes.