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Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 12:01 a.m.

Outdoor Outlook: Chum salmon showing up right on schedule

Big, nasty, snaggle-toothed chum salmon take over the fishing spotlight about this time each year, between coho and winter steelhead, and the numbers show the "dogs" are right on time. State Fish and Wildlife Department checks at the Hoodsport Hatchery on Hood Canal one day last week counted -- be ready for this -- 23 beach fishermen with 76 chums.
That's hard-to-beat salmon fishing, particularly considering you don't need a boat, and even if you consider chums a notch below kings or silvers on the desirability index. These fish are in good shape, but they won't stay that way very long, so hit 'em while they're fresh.
It's not a pretty fishery. Not pristine, not esthetic. It can be a circus when the fish are in, crowded, elbow to elbow. But if you keep all that in mind, it can be a lot of fun, and a unique chance to wear out your arm in non-stop warfare with really big, tough fish.
The tribal beach seine fishery started Nov. 14, according to a state spokesman at the hatchery, running Monday, Wednesday and Friday at least through the end of the month.
Sport fishing is concentrated along the hatchery stream channel, using steelhead-type gear, and since it's necessary to keep firm control of hooked fish, stouter is better than lighter. Fly fishermen score as well, working surrounding water.
The area has a handicapped fishing platform for wheelchair-bound anglers, best at high tide.
Call the hatchery's recorded fishing line for current conditions, at 360-877-5222.
It's too bad that "summer run" steelheading peaks in Eastern Washington during the winter, but if you can brave the eastside temps, a strong run of fish is now offering prime action on the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers. Fishing is pretty good and will get even better later in the winter, according to Glen Mendel, state fish management biologist for southeast Washington.
Most of the action is centered on the lower two and a half miles of the Ronde, catch and release, and on the Snake below the Ronde mouth, in the Heller Bar area, catch and keep with a three hatchery fish limit. Recent checks on that part of the Snake showed a catch rate of about 9 hours per fish, Mendel said, and that will improve.
This is a nationally renowned fishery, according to Mendel.
"I have fishermen coming in from a number of different states, many of them staying for a week or two," he said.
Fishing is split about evenly between fly fishermen and those using standard gear on the Ronde, and Mendel estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the steelhead caught on the 40 miles of river above its confluence with the Snake are taken by bank anglers.
"We're in the process of posting a map on the agency's Web site, in the next month or so, showing public access and ownership on the lower 39 miles of river," he said.
Steelheaders using standard gear go with Mapps or Blue Fox spinners, float-and-jig rigs, and a lot of other gear, but Mendel said winter fish are deep and less active and anglers need to go low and slow.
Closer to home, winter steelhead have begun filtering into various river systems, most notably the usual "early" rivers on the coast and tributary to the Columbia.
Bob Gooding at Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks (360-374-6330) ) said enough winter fish are showing in the Bogachiel to "make it interesting," although it's certainly nowhere near the peak of the run. The Bogy will remain the early-season favorite, from the hatchery down to the mouth of the Calawah.
The Cowlitz is another early river and Marshall Borsom at Fish Country Sports in Ethel (360-985-2090) said a half-dozen fish were taken by bank anglers at Blue Creek late last week, and that hatchery personnel had maybe 30 fish in hand already.
"Nothing much from the boaters yet," he said.
And while the Skykomish is not normally an early winter steelhead prospect, the fish might be pushing the calendar a little. Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville (425-415-1575) said "No question -- fish are showing in the Sky. We've seen pictures of 10 or 12 true winters caught in the Sultan area over the past two weeks."
He said it's too early yet for Reiter ponds, but that winter-runs could show up there most any day.
Blackmouth seminar
All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein will present a free seminar on local winter blackmouth fishing Saturday, starting at noon, at Three Rivers Marine in Woodinville, 24300 Snohomish-Woodinville Road, phone 425-415-1575. Krein will cover marine areas 8-1, 8-2 and 9, tips and techniques.
"I'll get into crabbing a little, too, since we have a good winter crab season for the first time in a long time," he said.
Krein said Possession Bar has been productive so far this winter season, particularly the east side on an outgoing tide, for feeder chinook to 9 or 10 pounds. He's been pulling green Kingfisher spoons or white Tomic plugs, on bottom at 125 to 200 feet.
The local and relatively new winter crab fishery has been a good one so far, according to Gary Krein of All Star Charters in Everett. The area off the Everett Jetty, the Mukilteo-to-Everett shoreline, and the southeast corner of Whidbey Island north of the "Bait Box," are all good possibilities, Krein said. He's had his best luck, he said, at 50 to 70 feet.
Time is running short to sign up for the Resurrection Derby at Friday Harbor, Dec. 2-3, offering a $10,000 first-place cash prize and a limit of 100 boats. Entry fee is $400 per team and Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said ticket sales are strong. Go to for more information.
Similarly, Debbie Sandwith, coordinator for the Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Invitational, Feb. 2-4, said about 40 percent of the 100-boat limit has been sold, and that she expects a sellout. Call 360-378-5562, or e-mail
Duck hunting over the weekend was reported pretty good on the Skagit delta, particularly on the state's Welts Property near Samish Island.
Hunters donate game
A new study commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation reveals that 11 million meals were provided to the less fortunate last year through donations of venison by hunters. Nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat made its way to shelters, food banks and church kitchens and onto the plates of those in need, according to Stephen Sanetti, president of NSSF.
Story tags » FishingHunting

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