Banner year for coho beginning to ebb
State Fish and Wildlife Department checks at the Port of Everett ramp showed wet, wild and windy weather over the weekend didn't keep everyone on the beach -- 32 anglers on Friday had 10 coho and 1 chum; 10 anglers on Saturday had zip; and 13 on Sunday boated 5 coho.
Out on the Strait, 62 fishermen at the Ediz Hook public ramp in Port Angeles were checked with 97 coho and 1 chum on Saturday.
River fishermen, however, weren't careful enough about what they wished for. They got rain, certainly, but so much that most streams blew out at some point over the weekend. The fresh water has almost certainly pulled large numbers of coho into the rivers, experts say, and at some point this week or this weekend, there should be great fishing available in the Skagit, Stillaguamish and Snohomish systems.
Darrel Kron at Hook Line & Sinker in Smokey Point said the Stilly went out badly, but assuming no downpour late this week could be fishable by the weekend. Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said the Skagit colored and came up, but should be okay by the weekend and that there should be "a bunch of coho moving through." He said the area around the forks below Mount Vernon, the stretch between the Spud Bar and Young's Bar, the pipeline area at Sedro-Woolley, and the Lyman/Hamilton stretch could all put out silvers. Brad's Wigglers, Vibrax spinners and Dick Nite spoons should all work, John said, in pinks, purples or chartreuse.
Mike Chamberlain at Ted's Sport Center in Lynnwood said the Snohomish system also went out, but that there were already a lot of coho in the mainstem.
"Early Saturday, when the Snohomish first started coming up, there was a very good bite and they took a lot of fish," Chamberlain said, "so it should be productive for quite a while when it drops back in."
It was a weird opening weekend for the state's modern firearm deer hunters, with perhaps more land closed because of fire hazard than remained open. Blacktail hunters found themselves caught in the irony of rain pouring down Saturday, while two of the most popular spots west of the Cascades -- Weyerhaeuser's Vail Tree Farm, and Hancock's White River unit -- were both closed because of fire danger.
WDFW wildlife manager Dave Ware in Olympia said Vail was opened later in the weekend, but only to foot traffic, and that it and White River should both be back to regular rules by this weekend.
Ware said department personnel at the Deer Park check station north of Spokane tallied 12 whitetail for a 10.5-percent success rate. The Chattaroy station was re-staffed for the first time in several years, also north of Spokane, and checked 66 hunters with 9 animals. Scattered checks in Whitman County, Ware said, indicated an average opener with moderate participation.
Ware said the department had expected low turnout in eastern Washington because of widespread fire closures, and that turned out to be the case. The Winthrop check station in the heart of Okanogan mule deer country counted only 127 hunters with 17 deer -- a good success rate but relatively low participation.
Hunter numbers were also low in Douglas and Chelan counties, Ware said, probably because of fire closures. Popular Entiat and Chiwawa units showed low participation and low harvest, but closures there pushed more hunters onto the Manson Unit, where participation was high but harvest still not great.
The western Washington pheasant release season opened late last month and a new hunting area, in Skagit County, came on line. The 375-acre Bow Hill site lies just west of I-5 and north of Bow Hill Road, between Hobson and Ershig roads. Like Leque Island (south of the highway between Stanwood and Camano Island) and Ebey Island (east of Homeacres Road and south of the trestle) release sites, Bow hill is being planted Tuesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, for hunting the next day.
According to Skagit Wildlife Area manager Belinda Rotton, the sites will receive 45 to 60 birds per plant, through the Thanksgiving weekend. Maps of western Washington pheasant release sites can be found on the agency website, www.wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.
WDFW Region 4 private lands biologist Brandon Roozen said finding permanent release sites to replace the Skagit Wildlife Area property lost to wetland restoration has been a difficult, nearly five-year search and is still a work in progress. The Bow Hill site is under evaluation, he said. It's not a typical unit, but it meets the criteria of being able to host parking and hunting area for 15 to 20 parties.
Quality waterfowl programs
Roozen also runs the Waterfowl Quality Hunt Program and the Snow Goose Quality Hunt Program in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties, and he said because of agriculture-related problems, the two programs' hunting sites were severely limited in number for the general waterfowl opener over the weekend. Unusual weather conditions delayed harvest in the area in many cases and because the programs depend on landowners' cooperation for blinds/hunting sites, Roozen had only six sites out of a usual 30 for duck hunters and zero snow goose sites out of a usual 20 to 25.
"They'll come on line as the harvest progresses," Roozen said. "And in fact we're looking to have approximately 50 WQHP units available this season in Skagit, Whatcom and north Snohomish counties."
Roozen said hunters interested in program unit availability can email him for an answer at firstname.lastname@example.org. General information on the two programs is available on the agency's website, www.wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.
For more outdoors news, visit Wayne Kruse's blog at www.heraldnet.com/huntingandfishing.
Bits and pieces for the weekend of Oct. 20-21
The winter crab season is now open, but wind kept most saltwater anglers/crabbers on the beach last weekend and reports were sketchy.
Coho fishermen have been taking lots of feeder chinook in the 7- or 8-pound range incidentally in the Possession Point/Scatchet Head area, which bodes well for the local blackmouth season opening Nov. 1.
Blackmouth are legal quarry in the San Juan Islands through the end of this month, and fishermen have been hitting an increasing number of chinook at spots such as Eagle Bluff and Tide Point.
Jameson Lake in Douglas County has been a hot item this month, the second half of its split trout season. Very good fishing has been the rule for chunky rainbow to 5 pounds or so, according to reports, and water quality has been excellent.
Last weekend's lousy weather was just what the doctor ordered for Saturday's general waterfowl opener, and Kevin John at Holiday Sports in Burlington said bayfront hunters along Skagit and Samish bays did well in the wind and rain. "Because it's been so dry, and there is so little water inland, the bayfronts and estuaries were about the only hunting available," John said.
Tides were not ideal for Skagit Bayfront hunters launching at the Skagit Wildlife Area headquarters unit, but the weather was, so a good crowd turned out there, according to Area manager Belinda Rotton.
Remember that waterfowl hunting is closed Oct. 18 and 19, then reopens Saturday the 20th for the remainder of the season.
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