Just when it seems that every pickup truck on the road is towing a boat trailer, another salmon fishery opens somewhere around the state.
With dozens of summer fisheries already in full swing, another wave of anglers is expected to take to the road Aug. 1, when new fishing areas from northern Puget Sound to the Columbia River open for business.
In all, fishery managers are expecting more than 700,000 coho salmon to return to the Columbia River this year - the highest number since 2001.
To keep hatchery fish off the spawning grounds, anglers can catch and keep up to six hatchery coho per day on a number of tributaries to the big river.
All wild coho, recognizable by an intact adipose fin, must be released.
The Columbia River opens Aug. 1 from the mouth of the river upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco and includes portions of all tributaries (except the Snake River) in between.
Other rivers opening for salmon fishing that day include a section of the Skokomish River in Mason County and portions of the Naselle, Nemah and Willapa rivers in Pacific County.
Saltwater areas opening for salmon fishing Aug. 1 include Marine Area 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and Commencement Bay near Tacoma.
Fishing - Ocean fishing continues to clip along for salmon anglers who now can drop a line for coho and salmon seven days a week in all coastal waters. The biennial pink salmon migration has begun in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, while Puget Sound crab anglers are catching limits in most areas that are open. The popular Hood Canal crab fishery opens today, July 29.
Salmon fishing is requiring a little more effort than in the early days of the summer season but anglers are catching their limits in all areas of the coast, said Erica Crust, state ocean port sampler.
"Westport has really picked up and people are finding some nice chinook in the 20- to 30-pound range," Crust said. "Anglers fishing near Willapa Harbor during the July 18 weekend were doing especially well, limiting on coho and some hatchery chinook."
Anglers at La Push and Neah Bay also encountered good numbers of coho and some chinook as well, Crust said.
All coastal areas are open seven days a week including llwaco and Westport (marine areas 1 and 2) and La Push and Neah Bay (Marine Areas 3 and 4).
The daily limit in all marine areas is two salmon, but only one may be a chinook. All wild coho must be released. Westport anglers may add one pink salmon to their limit, while those fishing the north coast may add two.
On the Strait of Juan de Fuca, creel checks conducted July 19 at Ediz Hook near Port Angeles (Marine Area 6) showed 22 anglers catching three chinook. That same day 303 anglers near Sekiu (Marine Area 5) brought in 44 chinook and 24 coho. Checkers in the area also counted 44 pink salmon, which bodes well for south Puget Sound anglers who have been struggling since the July 1 opener, said Steve Thiesfeld, a state fish biologist.
"It should be a banner year for pink salmon, with more than 5 million forecast to return to the major basins in Puget Sound," Thiesfeld said.
About 3,400 pink salmon are expected to return to the Hoodsport hatchery, but the majority of the fish are wild. Because of their two-year life cycle (they return in odd-numbered years), pink salmon are smaller than most salmon, averaging 4 to 5 pounds.
"But they are easy and fun to catch, which is especially good for kids," Thiesfeld said. "The run should last from August through mid-September."
Thiesfeld reminds anglers to clean all pink salmon immediately and keep them cold to protect their flesh, which is soft and easily bruised.
Pink salmon heading for the Puyallup River basin should help boost fishing success near Tacoma (Marine Area 11), where a creel check taken near Point Defiance during the July 18 weekend showed 731 anglers with 77 chinook and 17 coho. More opportunities will be available in the area when Commencement Bay opens to salmon fishing Aug. 1.
The salmon fishery there runs seven days a week, with a two-fish daily limit. The minimum size for chinook is 22 inches with no minimum limit for other species. All wild chinook must be released. Anglers may add two pink salmon to their daily limit.
Crabbing - Meanwhile, the Dungeness crab fishery appears to be going well in marine areas now open for crabbing, said Rich Childers, state shellfish manager.
"There's a high abundance of crab in many areas of Puget Sound and people easily are getting their limits," Childers said. "WDFW enforcement officers also are finding that most anglers they've checked have catch cards with them and are following size, gender and limit rules."
Crab fishers may retain male Dungeness crabs only with shells measuring at least 61/4 inches. The daily limit is five crabs. All undersized crabs, female Dungeness crabs and softshell crabs of either sex must be returned to the water. Additional information is available on the WDFW Web site at wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/ or wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm.
Crab fisheries in marine areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10 and 11 are open on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, plus Labor Day weekend, closing the evening of Sept. 7. Crabbing is open seven days a week in Marine Areas 4 (Neah Bay east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 13 through Jan. 2.
The Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) crab fishery was delayed this year to avoid disrupting the mating season and opens today, July 29. Recent test fisheries conducted by WDFW in Hood Canal indicate that crab abundance has increased this year compared to 2008, Childers said.
Hunting - The bear-hunting season opens Aug. 1 in the region. Hunters are allowed two bears during the general season - which runs through Nov. 15 - but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. Check the Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet (wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm) for details.
Wildlife viewing - Avid birders, novices and those who enjoy seeing wildlife may want to head for the Washington coast to observe the many birds starting to flock in. A birder reporting on the Tweeters Web site (birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/TWET.html) saw a variety of birds on a recent trip that ranged from Bottle Beach near Westport to Tokeland. With a good tide and nice weather, shorebirds were in abundance, including black-belly and semi-palmated plovers, ruddy turnstones, whimbrels, dowitchers, western sandpipers, Wilson's, yellow, orange-crowned and yellow-rumped warblers, common yellowthroat, red-winged blackbird, kestrels, a variety of swallows, purple martins, Cooper's and red-tailed hawks, common murres, marbled godwits, Wilson's phalarope and gulls. In addition, the rare king eider still is residing behind the sewage ponds at Ocean Shores.