Hot time ahead for chinook and coho fishing

1:02 pm March 17th, 2014

By Bob Brown
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and treaty Indian tribes are forecasting this summer’s salmon fishing opportunities to be the best in years, thanks to a potentially historic return of chinook to the Columbia River and a huge run of hatchery coho.
The forecasts include a return of more than 1.6 million Columbia River fall chinook, which would be the largest since recordkeeping began in 1938. A return of nearly 1 million Columbia River coho is also expected this summer. About 225,000 lower-river hatchery chinook, known as tules, are expected back this season, and are the backbone of recreational ocean fishing.
Puget Sound summer/fall chinook returns are expected to total nearly 283,000 fish, slightly higher than last year’s forecast. Also, nearly 873,000 coho are expected to return to Puget Sound streams. Ryan Lothrop, WDFW recreational fishery manager, said bright spots for coho include the Nisqually, Skokomish, Skagit, Stillaquamish and Snohomish rivers, as well as Lake Washington and the marine waters of mid and south Puget Sound.
However, a sockeye fishery in Lake Washington is unlikely this year. The sockeye forecast is about 167,000, well below the minimum return of 350,000 sockeye needed to consider opening a recreational fishery.
State, tribal and federal fishery managers will meet in Sacramento, Calif. with the Pacific Fishery Management Council to develop options for this year’s commercial and recreational ocean chinook and coho fisheries. The council establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast.
Recently, fishing on the Cowlitz River hasn’t been very good. During Feb. 24 to March 4, fish checkers counted 18 boat anglers with one steelhead kept. Fifty-eight bank anglers had three steelhead and one released. Tacoma Power recovered one spring chinook, 45 winter steelhead and one coho. Anglers can forget fishing in the Chehalis and Skookumchuck for awhile. Water conditions are high and muddy said Charles McElroy of Sunbird in Chehalis, and coastal rivers are in the same condition, said Walt Harvey of Verles Sports in Shelton.

Whopper of a walleye

Washington has a new walleye (Sander Vitrius) fishing record. John Grubenhoff of Pasco caught a 20.32 pound walleye in Benton County’s Lake Wallula on Feb 28. The fish was 35.50 inches long and had a girth of 22.75 inches. Grubenhoff caught it while trolling in 22 feet of water at 0.8 mph using a Rapala J-13 lure, six feet behind a two-ounce bottom walker weight.
The previous state record was a 19.3-pound walleye caught by Mike Hepper of Richland in the same lake Feb. 5, 2007. Hepper’s fish had a length of 33.7 inches and a girth of 22.2 inches.
A native to the midwest United States, walleye were first identified in Washington’s Banks Lake about 1960 and have since spread throughout the Columbia Basin from Lake Roosevelt, downstream to near Longview. Washington is known nationwide for its walleye fishing.

Access to private land

House Bill 2150, intended to encourage private landowners to allow public access for recreational activities, including hunting and fishing, passed through the state House and was in the Senate last week awaiting action. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Brian Blake, would allow landowners to charge an annual fee of $25 per person for recreational use of their land. They may also receive payments from state or local governments to facilitate or manage public access. A full explanation and clarification of the bill can be found on the Legislature’s web site.
Hole in your waders?

Gore-Tex is a common material for waders and rain gear because it keeps you dry without becoming clammy – until a hole is poked in it. To find those pinhole leaks, simply turn the waders, jacket, or rain pants inside out and spray the garment with rubbing alcohol. Any spot with a hole will darken when the alcohol is applied. Dab the dark spot with sealant and you are back to being dry. Thanks to Joe Cermele, Field and Stream fishing editor.

Outdoors writer Bob Brown can be reached at

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