They were becoming pests, these little king salmon.
Many were below the 24-inch keeper threshold, and the few that were measuring out at 24 to 25 inches were just too small to keep. The problem was they wouldn’t leave our baits alone.
We were fishing off Long Beach in Washington’s Marine Area 1 with guide Bob Rees, and although we were getting plenty of coho bites, and even a few decent sized chinook, fully half of our take-downs seemed to be these pesky but plentiful jack-sized kings.
Chinook salmon are often referred to as “kings”, and coho are often called “silvers” when fishing the ocean.
The run of king salmon adults was predicted to be down, but seeing all these jacks, which are precocious males that return a year early, could be a sign that the runs of kings could be better next year.
The silvers were ready biters this day, and between them and the decent-sized kings we did eventually catch, we ended up filling our limits.
We also had dozens of drive-by biters that jarred the rods but missed the hooks.
Fishing under cloudy skies, but with no chop, no wind, and gentle swells, we had excellent action in the morning, and steady fishing even after the early bite slowed. Whales put on a show at times, while mists hung over the low hills along shore.
All in all, a very fun day of fishing.
Ocean salmon season kicked off in late June, and the action is starting to get very good. This may well be one of the best ocean salmon seasons in years.
And, apparently, we were not the only people finding a bunch of smaller kings out there.
“This week there were a lot of small Chinook caught in (Marine) Area 1,” said Wendy Beeghly, the coastal salmon manager for the WDFW. “Early on it was all coho.”
“The average coho are from 4 to 5 pounds, with a few at seven or eight pounds,” she said. “I have heard of and seen photos of a few chinook close to 30 pounds.
“Overall its been a really successful season so far.”
It was easy to see why the salmon were feeding off the beach. Schools of baitfish were everywhere. Most of them were anchovies, and it seemed as if everything was feeding on them.
Common murres, gulls, cormorants, and other sea birds gathered in swirling flocks over the baitfish when they came near the surface.
The bait fish were also why there were so many whales around. They gave impressive shows at times, surfacing in what can only be described as a spectacle.
But the salmon were what we were after, and they did not disappoint.
While the average coho were not real big, they would be soon. When ample food is available, silver salmon will put on a pound a week in weight.
Schools of bait, plentiful salmon, healthy bird populations, and feeding whales could mean that ocean conditions, so dismal for many years, and the reason for so many depressed salmon runs, are finally improving.
Rees was trolling with 360 flashers ahead of whole anchovies. He was also running a rod with a spinner. That lure was ignored early, but became the hottest rod in the afternoon.
And, those little kings really liked that spinner. Just a couple fish shy of our limit, we had to pick through bite after bite from those jack kings on that spinner rod.
Up north in Marine Area 2 out of Westport, the fishing was also excellent, although according to Ken Culver. But Culver, the captain of the Tequila Too, and a member of the Deep Sea Charters fishing fleet out of Westport, said the smaller kings were not so thick.
“It’s been awesome fishing the last few days,” Culver said. “Most of our chinook are running about 10 to 12 pounds, with a few up around 20. We are not getting the little ones.”
Culver has been drifting and mooching with 4 to 6 ounces of lead and baiting the business end with whole or plug-cut herring.
The catch has been mostly silvers, with a few chinook thrown in.
“About one sixth of them are kings,” Culver said. “Of the 30 passenger-caught fish today five were kings.”
According to Beeghly, the fishing for kings should slow down soon.
“The chinook typically slows down and then picks back up about the second week of August,” she said.
The outlook for the rest of the summer is upbeat.
“Its going to be real good this season,” Beeghly added.
About halfway through our morning, with some coho and a few decent kings in the box, Larry Wells of Sherman, Ore., hooked something that did not act like the other fish.
It pulled deep and hard. While he pumped the rod I saw a big flash in the water.
This was not a jack.
He eventually brought it to the boat and Rees slipped the net under it. It was a beautiful king salmon, somewhere in the 25 pound range.
It was the best catch of a really good day.
Anglers may keep two salmon a day in both Marine Areas one and two, and only one may be a chinook. All coho kept must be adipose-clipped hatchery fish. Barbless hooks are required for all salmon fishing in the ocean.
Always check the regulations before fishing.
Oregon Fishing Guide Bob Rees: (503) 812-9036,