July Weekender report from WDFW

Summer fishing seasons are now in full swing, requiring anglers to make some tough decisions about how to spend their time on the water. Salmon, steelhead, crab, trout, bass and walleye – all are now available for harvest in various waters around the state.

But for thousands of anglers, nothing beats the thrill of reeling in a big chinook salmon. Many are doing just that as waves of chinook move south along the Washington coast, then east into Puget Sound, coastal streams and the Columbia River.

“Fishing for both chinook salmon and hatchery coho should improve off the coast right through the month,” said Doug Milward, ocean salmon manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “The same is true for Puget Sound and other inside waters.”

Six marine areas of Puget Sound open to salmon fishing July 1, joining other salmon fisheries already in progress. Various westside rivers, including the Bogacheil, Calawah and Nisqually, also open for salmon fishing that day, and Baker Lake in Whatcom County opens for sockeye salmon July 10.

Summer steelhead are another option – notably in Columbia River and many of its tributaries – where 339,200 adult fish are expected to move upriver in the coming weeks. As always, anglers are required to release any wild, unmarked steelhead they intercept in the fishery, which extends from the mouth of the Columbia to the Canadian Border.

Fishing regulations for these and other fisheries are described in the deaprtment’s For additional information on fishing regulations, see Fish & Wildlife’s 2013-14 Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet, available from sporting goods stores and posted online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/.

Rather catch some crab? All but one marine area in Puget Sound will open for crab fishing July 1. The exception is Marine Area 7, where the crab fishery opens July 15 in the area’s southern portion (San Juan Islands/Bellingham) and Aug. 15 in the northern portion (Gulf of Georgia).

The crab fishery in all marine areas of Puget Sound will be open Thursday through Monday of each week. See http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/crab/ for all crab-fishing rules.

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Halibut fishing is also still an option in Marine Area 1. The season there is open Friday through Sunday each week until the early season quota is reached or Aug. 3, whichever occurs first. The fishery will reopen, with the late-season quota Aug. 3, and continue three days a week (Friday-Sunday), until the remaining quota is taken, or Sept. 30, whichever occurs first.

Meanwhile, six Puget Sound marine areas will open to salmon fishing July 1, joining fisheries already in progress in other areas. Bag limits in marine areas 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 13 include two bonus pink salmon. New this year, Sinclair Inlet in Marine Area 10 allows a three salmon limit plus one additional pink—and two pole fishing for those who have purchased the two-pole endorsement. No wild chinook may be retained in Marine Area 10.

Regulations regarding chinook retention in waters of Puget Sound vary by time and area. Anglers are advised to check the Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet and the emergency rule website before heading out.

Ryan Lothrop, Puget Sound recreational salmon manager points to strong forecasts of hatchery chinook returning to most of Puget Sound, including Hood Canal and South Sound.

Anglers have also been consistently picking up fish in Marine Area 11 near Tacoma as of the end of June.

In addition, nearly 6.2 million pink salmon are projected to return to the Sound this summer. “Given these factors, fishing inside much of Puget Sound could be very good,” Lothrop said.

Lothrop reminds anglers that chum and wild chinook in most Puget Sound areas must be released. He also notes that anglers can check FIsh & Wildlife creel reports for information on catch and effort in Puget Sound. Recreational fishery samplers with Fish & Wildlife collect the information each week at fishing access sites throughout Puget Sound.

Rich Childers, shellfish policy lead for Fish & Wildlife, said recent test fisheries indicate the crab population in Puget Sound remains abundant. “We continue to see healthy numbers of crab throughout Puget Sound,” Childers said. “With such strong numbers, crabbing should be good from opening day all the way through the end of the summer season.”

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across.

Additional information on the crab fishery is available on the department’s crab fishing website. The page includes links to a printable “Crabbing in Puget Sound” brochure and a “Puget Sound Recreational Dungeness Crab Guide,” both of which have information on crabbing regulations.

Freshwater anglers should be aware that several rivers on the north Coast – including the Hoh, Quillayute and Sol Duc – remain open for salmon fishing. The Bogachiel and Calawah join that list July 1. Also beginning in July, opportunities for salmon fishing open in some south Sound streams including Chamber and McAllister creeks and the Nisqually and Deschutes rivers. For details on river fishing, including catch limitations, gear limits, and allowable fishing days, check the Washington sport fishing rules pamphlet.

Many of those rivers and streams are also open to trout fishing. Under the statewide rule for trout, there is a two-fish daily limit and a minimum size of eight inches in rivers and streams. However, some of the region’s rivers and streams have a rule requiring trout to be at least 14 inches in length to keep. Again, check the rules pamphlet and the emergency rule website to make sure.

Wildlife viewing: Looking for somewhere to spend time outdoors and enjoy nature?

Fish & Wildlife owns or manages nearly a million acres of land divided into 32 designated Wildlife Areas across the state. In addition to Wildlife Areas, Fish & Wildlife also owns or manages more than 700 Water Access Sites that provide boating access to lakes, rivers and marine areas. To learn more about wildlife viewing and recreation opportunities in both the coastal and Puget Sound regions, visit the department’s wildlife areas webpage.

Meanwhile, Fish & Wildlife land managers are urging everyone planning to spend time outdoors this month to take care not to spark a wildfire. Unattended campfires, fireworks, hot vehicle mufflers, careless disposal of cigarettes and outdoor burning are all common causes of wildfires in the state.

Campfires are also prohibited on other Fish & Wildlife lands, particularly on the east side of the Cascade Mountains. Current campfire restrictions are posted in campgrounds and at the gates of each wildlife area. More information on DNR’s summer burn ban is available at http://goo.gl/5jykD