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Anglers cast lines as salmon season starts

 Salmon fishermen along the shores of Keystone beach in Coupeville Tuesday morning were surprised when divers from Walla Walla University surfaced  in front of them. Coho salmon fishing opened July 1 on the west side of Whidbey Island.   - Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times
Salmon fishermen along the shores of Keystone beach in Coupeville Tuesday morning were surprised when divers from Walla Walla University surfaced in front of them. Coho salmon fishing opened July 1 on the west side of Whidbey Island.
— image credit: Photo by Ron Newberry/Whidbey News-Times

Rick Cruz didn’t come into the first day of salmon season with high expectations.

“All I want is a bump, to feel the darn thing again,” Cruz said.

Cruz, from Oak Harbor, was one of eight anglers already casting their lines from the shores of Driftwood Park near Keystone beach in Coupeville at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Their target was silver salmon, or coho, which became legal to catch in waters on the west side of Whidbey Island starting July 1.

Any king salmon, or chinook, that were caught needed to be released.

“I think we’re probably more like practicing right now and testing the line for the kill,” Cruz joked.

“Last year, I started July 1 and didn’t get my first catch until July 21. It didn’t stop me from coming.”

The blue skies, calm waters and Olympic Mountain range view made for a picturesque backdrop. Salmon were seen rolling at the water’s surface not far from shore and one leaped out of the water about 200 yards out. They chased bait fish that leaped from the water as well.

“Billy, a jumper,” Cruz shouted to a fisherman nearby.

No one, however, was hooking into a fish. There was a temporary interruption when scuba divers from Walla Walla University’s satellite campus on Fidalgo Island surfaced near the beach. The faculty and students were doing research related to octopuses and ocean acidification, said biology professor Kirt Onthank, who gave a fisherman a Buzz Bomb he found on the sea bottom and apologized for surfacing near the anglers.

Onthank said he didn’t see any salmon from the depths below but added that the divers “were below where the salmon are.”

Onthank said he often notices dog fish when salmon are present but didn’t see any of those either.

Silver salmon season will continue into the fall in Marine Area 9 from Admiralty Inlet to Possession Point with king salmon fishing starting July 16 in the area. Anglers are allowed to keep two silver salmon per day.

Complicating matters for anglers, Whidbey Island is surrounded by four different marine areas with four different sets of rules. The breakdown of rules and seasons is shown in the Washington Sports Fishing Rules on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website as well as in pamphlets available in various stores.

Silver salmon fishing won’t start on the east side of Whidbey Island until Aug. 1.

Recreational crabbing starts in waters around Whidbey Island July 3. Crabbing will be allowed Thursdays through Mondays each week through Sept. 1. The state’s pamphlet also covers rules regarding shellfish harvest.

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