A horde of humpies heading our way

By Wayne Kruse, The Herald

It’s time to start thinking pink.

For many seasoned anglers, Aug. 10 is the rule-of-thumb start to the odd-year pink salmon fishery in local saltwater. That means this weekend could see solid catch rates — instead of just a scattering of “humpies” — at Possession Bar and the stretch of shoreline between Mukilteo and the “shipwreck” known as Humpy Hollow.

River fishing will take longer to develop, particularly in this summer of very low, warm stream flows. But make no mistake, there’s a horde of humpies on the way. State Fish and Wildlife Department salmon managers expect upwards of 6 million pinks to enter Puget Sound, and another 6 million Fraser River fish to be available to Washington anglers in the San Juan Islands.

Predictions are for 1.25 million pinks to return to the Skagit River; 1 million to the Snohomish/Skykomish; 1.25 million to the Puyallup; and 1.3 million to the Green. And even though humpies are smallish and a couple of notches down the list of top table salmon, a million-plus fish off Mukilteo and in the Snohomish River will bring recreational fishermen out of the woodwork. Lots of fish, lots of fishing, lots of fun.

As of early this week, humpy reports were as follows:

n Skagit River: The Skagit pink run is usually a little earlier than that in the Snohomish system, and this summer seems to be following the script. The Skagit opened Aug. 1 up to Gilligan Creek, and good fishing was the rule in the lower end. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said plunkers in the Mount Vernon area scored well fishing off the bars with red or pink Spin N Glos and shrimp.

“It was pretty decent,” John said. “There were actually more fish in the river early than we had expected.”

Young’s Bar at Mount Vernon bristled with plunking rods, as did the forks area and the “trestle” in Burlington. John said techniques changed farther upriver, to trolling spoons above Burlington and working jigs above Sedro-Woolley.

John said the third week of August is usually the peak for pink fishing in the Skagit, but that it may be a little earlier this year. He said the westside Whidbey Island beaches are putting out humpies consistently now to shore casters, including Fort Casey, Bush and Lagoon points, and North Beach at Deception Pass. Those folks are tossing Buzz Bombs and Rotators in pinks and greens, John said, concentrating on low slack and the first portion of the incoming tide.

n Snohomish River: The Sno opened Aug. 1 below Highway 9 to so-so results, said John Martinis at John’s Sporting Goods in north Everett. “I expect the river fishing to gradually improve, with the last week of August being the usual peak,” Martinis said.

He likes jig fishing for humpies in the lower Snohomish. Drift and cast quarter-ounce pink jigs to rolling fish or, better yet, anchor above a pod of fish showing well and fish jigs down to them. Try to get a feel for where the bottom is, he said, because the fish generally will be about a foot off the bottom.

“The Snohomish can be a little ‘grabby,'” he said, “so I suggest to customers they try the Danielson jigs. If you buy them in packages, they’re something like nine cents or 10 cents each, and you’re set for the whole day.”

The morning incoming tide is the best time to hit the lower Snohomish, and there are spots to fish from Lowell Rotary Park all the way up to Snohomish, on both sides of the river.

n Local saltwater: “The run is building,” said Mike Chamberlain of Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood. “A lot of guys fishing last weekend in Humpy Hollow hit two or three fish per boat. Limits? Not yet, but it won’t be long.”

He agreed that the westside Whidbey beaches are a good bet, casting 2- or 21/2-inch Buzz Bombs or Rotators in “pink, pink, and more pink.” Prime time, he says, is the last hour of the incoming tide through high slack and the first two hours of the ebb.

In saltwater, rig with a size “0” white dodger, 8-inch Coyote Flasher, or Gibbs white flasher; a 25-pound test leader two times the length of the dodger or 11/2 times the length of the flasher; and a pink mini-squid on either a single 3/0 hook or a double 2/0, tied close together. The trolling speed should be very slow, Chamberlain said, so your flasher/dodger swings side to side instead of rotating.

Early in the day, start at 30 feet, later dropping to 70 feet or deeper.

Humpy derby

Pink salmon have their own event with the debut this summer of the Bad Draw Humpy Showdown Derby, Aug. 24, rain or shine, in any water, fresh or salt, legally open to pink salmon fishing. The event is a fund-raiser for the Bad Draw Wrestling Club of Snohomish County and proceeds benefit youth sports.

The entry fee is $25 adult (13 and over), and $15 youth (12 and under), with tickets available at Doug’s Boats, Woodinville; Holiday Sports, Burlington; Greg’s Custom Rods, Lake Stevens; McDaniel’s, Snohomish; Harbor Marine, Bayside Marine, John’s Sporting Goods and Precision Machine, all of Everett; Sky Valley Traders, Monroe; Ted’s Sporting Goods and Ed’s Surplus, both in Lynnwood; Triangle Beverage, Snohomish; Three Rivers Marine, Woodinville; Anglers Choice, Shoreline; The Coffee Box, Sultan; and Outdoor Emporium, Seattle.

The largest pink wins $2,500 (adult) or $500 (youth), and the grand prize draw will award a Lavro drift boat, fully equipped, with trailer — an $8,500 package.

For more information,visit www.baddrawwrestling.com or call Adam Aney at 425-231-1301.

Buoy 10

The popular chinook/coho fishery on the bottom end of the Columbia River opened Aug 1, and the success rate has increased slowly from that point. The latest creel sampling, on Aug. 4, showed 155 anglers in 52 boats, with 15 kings and 13 coho. The fishery will be working on the largest run of “upriver bright” fall chinook in nearly a half-century, according to state biologist Joe Hymer in Vancouver. Those fish also will provide a top recreational fishery later this year in the Hanford Reach portion of the Columbia, above the Tri-Cities.

For more outdoors news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.