By Wayne Kruse, The Herald
If you’re a sport fisherman, these are the good ol’ days. A record number of fall chinook are wending their way up the Columbia, providing catches of one to two chinook per rod at the mouths of the Cowlitz and Lewis rivers the past several weeks. Some 900,000 coho are due in Puget Sound, and are taking up the slack left by a big pink run. So many razor clams are available on the ocean beaches that state officials have decided to start the fall digging season early.
And on and on. If you don’t want to get bit by a fish, stay away from the water.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Joe Hymer, at the agency’s Vancouver office, said last week marked the largest fall chinook count (and still counting) since Bonneville Dam was built in 1938. The old record was a run of 611,000 fish in 2003, and this one is predicted to be somewhere in the 800,000-fish range.
Many of these big kings are “upriver brights,” headed for the Hanford Reach, and should be the basis for a gunnysack fall fishery in the area of the Vernita Bridge, upriver from the Tri-Cities.
Creel checks on the Reach last week showed 762 boat anglers with 244 adult and 132 jack chinook, but that success rate will improve rapidly.
Farther downriver, below the mouth of the Lewis, anglers made 5,654 trips on Sept. 6, 7 and 8, and nailed 5,351 kings for a success rate of 0.95 fish per rod. That’s unheard-of fishing on the lower Columbia.
On the local front, the annual derby for the blind was held Monday, and results bode well for this weekend’s big Everett Coho Derby. Jim Brauch, avid angler and an Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club member, hosted a derby participant Monday and limited out in Brown’s Bay on silvers of 5 to 8 pounds. He said 55 feet was the magic depth, and an Ace High fly the top lure.
“Other fish were caught throughout the system,” Brauch said. “The big fish contest was won by a nice 15-plus-pounder from the east side of Possession. (There’s) lots of fish from Mukilteo to the shipwreck and on the west side of Possession. I don’t know how many fish were caught, but all blind participants had at least one fish and most had more than one.”
Brauch said he also talked to anglers at Douglas Bar on the Snohomish River on Sunday. They reported coho as far up as the Highway 522 bridge.
Mike Chamberlain at Ted’s Sport Center in Lynnwood said there seems to be good numbers of silvers in the area, and that the derby should draw well. He said the fish are moving, not schooled up particularly, and that fishermen should cover a lot of water.
“Coho are where you find them, and hanging around all the rest of the boats can be counter-productive,” he said.
Chamberlain likes the Grand Slam Bucktail in green, and the Ace High fly in either chartreuse or green spatterback, or purple haze, behind a green or white glow flasher. The “Mountain Dew” series of Hot Spot flashers also are fish catchers, he said. Rig the flies 32 or 36 inches behind the flasher, and add a small herring strip.
There will be two free fishing seminars prior to the Everett Derby. The first is tonight — from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. — at the Tulalip Cabela’s Conference Center, where Ryan Bigley of Soundbite Sportfishing will share tips and tactics for advanced coho fishing in Puget Sound. Space is limited; RSVP by calling 360-474-4880.
The second seminar is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday and features John Martinis of John’s Sporting Goods in Everett, with everything you need to know to fish the coho derby. The venue is Everett Bayside Marine. For more information, call Bayside at 425-252-3088.
In a first for this area, the Sportsman Channel and Comcast are teaming up with the Everett Derby to donate fish caught by participating anglers to help those less fortunate. The event is part of the Sportsman Channel’s Hunt.Fish.Feed. outreach program that taps an underutilized food source of game meat and fish donated by sportsmen to feed those struggling with hunger across the country.
Participating anglers from the Everett derby are expected to donate more than 1,000 pounds of fresh fish to the Volunteers of America food bank in north Everett.
Lots of clams
State shellfish managers are practically begging diggers to take razor clams off their hands, as the fall season arrives.
“We have a huge number of clams available for harvest this season, paricularly at Twin Harbors,” said Dan Ayres, the state’s coastal razor clam honcho. “There are only so many good clamming tides during the year, and we decided there was no time to waste in getting started.”
Ayres said that while the fall digging schedule is still being developed, managers saw no reason to delay a dig at Twin Harbors.
So Twin Harbors is open tonight through Monday. Tides are as follows: Today, minus 0.3 feet at 7:13 p.m.; Friday, minus 0.5 feet at 7:57 p.m.; Saturday, minus 0.5 feet at 8:39 p.m.; Sunday, minus 0.3 feet at 9:21 p.m.; and Monday, 0.0 feet at 10.04 p.m.
Ayres said estimates of coastal razor clam populations indicate some 800,000 more clams available for harvest this year than last. And last year saw 420,000 digger trips harvesting 6.1 million clams, for an average of just under the per-person limit of 15 per day.
And if 2013 is going to be better than that, it’ll likely get wild down there in the dunes.
For more outdoor news, read Wayne Kruse’s blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.