Westport Reports: Tuna fishing is heating up in time for Classic

When Woody Guthrie wrote “Roll on, Columbia” in 1941, there were only three main-stem dams in existence: Bonneville, Rock Island, and Grand Coulee (actually finished in 1942).

The river was beginning to experience a decline in salmon that would drop its production today to about 10-15 percent of what it was pre-dam. Despite the decline, there are still almost a million adult Chinook returning on a good year. We’re still waiting for the bulk of this years run.

Most fall Chinook migrate north as juveniles and head back south as adults in August of their “senior” year. They have to swim by us here in Westport to get to the river.

Salmon fishing in Westport continues its on-off pattern as we move into August and we haven’t caught any really big ones yet. Any day now, right?

Through July 29, almost halfway through the 2012 season, Washington State Fish & Wildlife statistics show Westport caught 6,165 Chinook compared to 5,944 in 2011. The coho catch to date is 3,354 compared to 4,714 in 2011. Our Chinook catch stands at 24 percent of a quota — that’s 40 percent higher than in 2011. Our coho catch is only 13 percent of a quota the same size as last year. Although the Chinook catch rate compares to last year, the coho rate is much lower. Once again: the best is yet to come.

On the management front, the days per week open for salmon were increased from five to seven as of last Friday. This means starting Monday, there are 49 more continuous fishing days in the ocean this year. And then, the coho bonanza inside the Harbor hits. It should be a great October!

Tuna Classic

Tuna fishing appears to be ramping up big time.

Several vessels have ventured out over the past two weeks. The ocean has been relatively calm and the fishing grounds frequented are only about 35-40 miles south-southwest of Westport.

Some charter vessels caught their last fish just two hours from port. The albacore tuna stock is as healthy as any on the planet. Every year these great-eating, warm water fish migrate to our coast from the Western Pacific. They typically begin to arrive in late June and return in October.

The best trip score we’ve heard so far is around 200 for 10 anglers. Our derby leader to date weighed in at 31-14 in the round. That critter was landed by Bill Phegley, of Granite Falls, last Sunday.

The 2012 Washington Tuna Classic is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit www.washingtontunaclassic.com

In other derby news, our leading coho gained a pound with the 9-14 (dressed weight) caught by Jack Monroe, of Elma, on July 23. That critter replaced an 8-14 that held the top spot for almost a month. Other derby leaders saw no changes in the past few weeks and stand as follows: halibut – 117 pounds; lingcod – 35-5; and Chinook – 31-2 (dressed).

Mark Cedergreen is the CEO of the Westport Charterboat Association. For more information, visit the association’s website at www.charterwestport.com.