Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Sept. 22, 2021

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After slow start, ocean salmon fishing heats up

High temps cool early catch during all-salmon season

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A fine Chinook taken in the ocean while fishing with Bob Rees brings a smile to the face of this lucky angler. The early one-week Chinook fishery was slow, but the fishing should pick up once the recent heat wave abates.
A fine Chinook taken in the ocean while fishing with Bob Rees brings a smile to the face of this lucky angler. The early one-week Chinook fishery was slow, but the fishing should pick up once the recent heat wave abates. (Photo courtesy of Bob Rees) (Photo courtesy of Bob Rees) Photo Gallery

The Pacific Ocean all-salmon fishing season on the Washington coast got under way last weekend, and although it was a slow start, it is expected to get much better over the next few weeks.

The recent record-breaking heat wave certainly did not help, pushing the water temperatures upward sharply, and contributing to a poor bite.

This fishery follows the one-week Chinook-only fishery that was held June 19-26. That fishery underperformed, both in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco), and Marine Area 2 (Westport).

The salmon runs are forecast to be robust this year, especially the coho. The ocean abundance for coho is expected to be well over one million adults.

Kelly Westrick of Westport Charters reported that the early Chinook fishing trips only produced about one half fish per rod. However, the first day of the ocean all salmon season was a little better.

“I think (Sunday) they got around three-quarter of a fish per rod, and they were mostly kings,” Westrick said. “There was only one coho they were able to keep.”

Only adipose fin-clipped hatchery coho may be retained. All wild coho must be released.

Both Marine Areas 1 and 2 opened on Sunday for all salmon species, with a two-fish daily limit, of which only one can be a Chinook. Marine Area 1 is open seven days a week, while Marine Area 2 is open Sundays through Thursdays. Westrick reports that the charter captains are fighting tough conditions.

“It’s too dang hot here,” she said. “The water temp warmed up about seven degrees in one week. It needs to cool off.”

McKenzie Holstrom of Sea Breeze Charters in Ilwaco also reported a tough bite, amid warm water issues. She described the fishing as fair.

“It wasn’t red-hot fishing,” she said. “There was plenty of action, but we can only keep clipped coho, so we had to release quite a few (unclipped coho).”

“The water coming out of the Columbia is pretty warm,” she added.

Bill Monroe Jr., of Bill Monroe Outdoors has been fishing the lower Columbia for summer Chinook, and he has been surprised at the high temps in the river, which at times hit 72 degrees.

However, when he has fished the ocean he has found fish, but they have been running small and many have been wild coho.

“I found some fish in front of the town of Long Beach,” Monroe said, “but there have been a lot of wild coho, so we have to shake those fish off.”

Bob Rees of Oregon Fishing Guide Service said the fish will adapt to warmer waters, but it takes time.

“What really affects the bite is a dramatic, quick change in temperature,” Rees said. “After a while the fish will acclimate.”

Still, Rees thinks colder temps would help, and a northwest wind could do that. Those winds can bring the temps down to about 52 to 55 degrees, which is a good temperature for getting salmon to bite.

Both guides have fished off the Long Beach Peninsula, and that is where they will concentrate their efforts in the early part of the season. They have mostly been trolling anchovies behind the 360 Pro-Troll flashers.

They have both at times garnished the bait with spinners. Rees has been using the 3.5 Fatal Flash Mexican Hat spinning blade, while Monroe has been utilizing a 6.5 Mulkey blade. Monroe has also fished the Mulkey spinners without bait and has drawn some bites that way.

Anglers targeting coho should be fishing just below the surface, while the Chinook are usually to be found in deeper water. Monroe has been trolling near the surface for the coho by fishing his baits with 16 feet off his line-counter reels. For Chinook he goes deeper, with 40 feet.

Look for the action to be good along the peninsula, always a good place to be in the early weeks.

Both guides are also expecting the bite to improve in the weeks to come. Monroe notes that the much-wanted northwest wind is forecast to return soon.

Certainly, the baitfish are there, with Rees reporting seeing lots of birds working for the small fish, and there are bait balls showing on the electronics. All that’s needed is some better weather, and calm waters.

“I gotta believe it will pick up,” Rees said. “The guys out of Brookings have done really well on coho along the Oregon south coast. Those fish will be headed up this way.”

Monroe is also optimistic.

“Even if we get only half of the forecast, it will be really good,” he said, “and if we see the full forecast, it will just keep getting better and better.”

Anglers are reminded that barbless hooks are required for all salmon fishing in the ocean, and always check the regulations before fishing.

Terry Otto offers a weekly Southwest Washinton fishing report and forecast online in “The Guide Forecast” at: https://www.theguidesforecast.com/

Guides List:

Oregon Fishing Guide Service with Bob Rees: (503) 812-9036,

Bill Monroe Outdoors: (503) 702-4028

Sea Breeze Charters, Ilwaco: (360) 642-2300, https://washingtoncoastfishing.com

Westport Charters: (360) 268-0900, http://westportcharters.com/

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