With summer nearing the halfway point, anglers are scrambling to make the most of their time on the water.
Sport fisheries for salmon, trout, steelhead and crab all are running full tilt, drawing thousands of Washingtonians to rivers, lakes and coastal areas around the state.
But the recent string of record-hot days is forcing many anglers to change tactics. Columbia River anglers fishing for hatchery steelhead are advised to focus their efforts around tributaries to the big river, where the water is cooler.
Those fishing for trout in lakes and streams are letting out more line, so their bait sinks deeper.
"Salmon, trout and many other species of fish don't do well in the heat," said Joe Hymer, a fish biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "They seek out colder water, and that's where anglers are most likely to find them."
The midsummer heat raises some other issues as well, said Paul Dahmer, state wildlife area section manager. With a number of wildfires burning around the state, Dahmer urges anglers, hunters and everyone else spending time outdoors to heed campfire restrictions and take other precautions to avoid sparking another blaze.
"One careless mistake can lead to the loss of hundreds of acres of prime fish and wildlife habitat, and put people at risk," Dahmer said.
To report a wildfire or an unattended or escaped campfire, call the state's wildfire fighters, the Washington Department of Natural Resources at 800-562-6010 or call 9-1-1.
South Sound/Olympic Peninsula report
Fishing: Salmon fishing continues to clip along off the coast where anglers now may keep up to two chinook as part of their daily limit. Meanwhile, pink salmon are making their way from the ocean to Puget Sound, where Hood Canal recently opened to crab fishing.
From Ilwaco to Neah Bay, anglers consistently are catching their limits due to good weather and a slug of coho salmon, said Erica Crust, state ocean port sampler.
"Folks are mainly catching coho, but some chinook in the 30-pound range have been caught off Westport with the coho weighing about 6 pounds," Crust said. In Ilwaco, the catch makeup has been about one chinook for every nine coho, while anglers fishing off La Push and Neah Bay are catching a mix of coho and pink salmon.
Crust reminds anglers that the limit for chinook is now two fish per day in all ocean areas.
"There was enough fish remaining in the quota to ease the one-chinook limit, which is good because we're still in the midst of some prime-time fishing," 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 - two chinook, or two hatchery coho or a combination of both. 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.
After Aug. 1, all chum and chinook must be released east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line in Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay).
On the Strait of Juan de Fuca, anglers have been required to release all chinook salmon in marine areas 5 and 6 (Sekiu and the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) since Thursday, Aug. 6, which was earlier than scheduled. The decision to end the fishery was based on conservation concerns for wild chinook, which must be released if encountered by anglers, said Pat Pattillo, salmon policy coordinator for WDFW.
Pattillo reminds anglers that fishing opportunities for pink salmon, hatchery coho and sockeye still abound on the strait. "The fishing has been excellent and anglers should enjoy a good season through September," Pattillo said.
Creel checks conducted during the Aug. 1-2 weekend near Sekiu (Marine Area 5) showed 762 anglers catching 406 pink salmon and 328 coho. The salmon fisheries in marine areas 5 and 6 are open seven days a week, with a two-fish daily limit. All chum, chinook and wild coho must be released. In addition, anglers may add two pink salmon to their daily catch.
Pink salmon heading for the Puyallup River basin should help boost fishing success near Tacoma (Marine Area 11), where a creel check taken Aug. 2 at the Dash Point Dock showed 94 anglers with 20 pink salmon. Salmon fishing in Commencement Bay got under way Aug. 1.
Area rivers may also be an option for salmon anglers. The Skokomish River in southern Hood Canal is now open and anglers can fish from the mouth of the river to the Highway 101 bridge. The daily limit is one salmon; all chum must be released. In northern Hood Canal, the Quilcene River opens Aug. 16 from Rodgers Street to the Highway 101 bridge. The fishery is open seven days a week through Oct. 31. The daily limit is four coho only, with a minimum size of 12 inches.
The ninth annual Hood Canal Salmon Derby is slated for Aug. 15-16. Tickets are $25 and participants can try for a first prize of $1,000. Weigh-ins will be at the Port Dock near Hoodsport. Contact Clint Muns at 360-490-8482.
Coming up Aug. 22-23 is the Sinclair Inlet Salmon Derby, located near Bremerton on the Kitsap Peninsula. Contact Gramdiok@msn.com for more information.
Participants in all of these derbies will be entered in a raffle for a 20-foot Stabi-Craft fishing boat, motor and trailer. For more information, visit www.discovernorthwestfishing.com.
The Hood Canal (Marine Area 12) Dungeness crab fishery is under way and will run through Jan. 2. Marine Area 7 North (Lummi Island/Blaine) will be open Aug. 12-Sept. 30. Both are open Wednesdays through Saturdays only, plus the entire Labor Day weekend.
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.
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.
The general hunting season for black bear is under way in most areas of the state. Hunters are allowed two bear during the season (Aug. 1-Nov. 15), but only one bear can be taken in eastern Washington. The general hunting season for cougar will start with a statewide archery-only season Sept. 1-25, followed by a muzzleloader-only season Sept. 26-Oct. 16. Beginning Oct. 17, hunters may use any legal weapon to target cougars in most areas of the state.
Hunters are allowed one cougar during the season. Applications to participate in a permit-only cougar hunt held after the general season are due to the state by Aug. 31. Check the Big Game Hunting Season and Regulations for details: wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/hunter.htm.