Welcome, September! The summer tourist season is drawing to a close here in Westport. It is time to get back to school, football and hunting, but there are still a lot more fishing opportunities here on the Twin Harbors.
Salmon fishing on the ocean will continue into late September and will overlap what could turn out to be a fantastic “inside” fishery for Chinook and coho beginning Sunday, Sept. 16.
With a coho run similar to the 1991 barn-burner, regulations have been liberalized to include a three salmon limit. There’s a sub-limit of two non-marked coho (adipose fin intact) and one Chinook. This should be a great opportunity, especially with five times as many natural run coho predicted to return to Grays Harbor as to the lower Columbia River. Go figure. For detailed regulations consult the Fish & Wildlife 2012-13 sport fishing rules (page 102) or online: www.wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations.
And speaking of fishing regulations, starting Saturday, fishery managers changed the ocean bag limit to two (only one may be a coho – hatchery or wild). This basically translates into three scenarios: You can bring in two Chinook, or one Chinook and one coho, or one Coho. The restriction on “wild” coho has been removed for the remainder of the season.
Tuna fishing continues to be very good. Almost half the Westport charter fleet is in full-time mode and will be fishing for these “high-speed bullets” up through the end of the month. Albacore are interesting critters. They’re warm-blooded, not like salmon, and they are continually on the move to keep the water flowing over their “radiator system.”
They can top 40 miles per hour in short bursts and have been known to travel hundreds of miles in a day. They hit a lure like a freight train and require good technique and some muscle to land. Of course, they are great eating.
Halibut season is over for 2012, but lingcod and rockfish will continue through mid-October. This has been a great year for lingcod. About 15 years ago, lingcod were on the “overfished species” list. Through good management, these critters have rebuilt to harvestable levels and are currently being fished at a rate that is well under the maximum for long-term sustainability. Their white meat makes for great fish and chips. So here’s a question: why isn’t lingcod two words? Answer: They are neither “lings” (an Atlantic fish) nor cod. (Just thought you’d like to know….)
Our annual derby has been successful again this year with daily winners taking home as much as $500. Our grand prizes total $7,500 and will be paid out at the end of the ocean season for salmon, the end of September for halibut and tuna, and mid-October for lingcod.
Derby leaders in the lingcod (35-5), halibut (117) and coho (12-3 dressed) categories remain unchanged from our last report.
However, we have a new leading Chinook weighing in at 36-3 dressed (about 42 in the round).
That king was landed by Ray Jennings of Bothell on Aug. 27. We also have a new leading albacore tuna weighing in at a hair over 40 pounds. That critter was caught by Pat Falterman of Cleveland, Texas, on Aug. 26.
Mark Cedergreen is the CEO of the Westport Charterboat Association. For more information, visit their website at www.charterwestport.com.