It’s been a good year for salmon fishing and the trend should continue in the waters surrounding Whidbey Island, according to Ralph Downes, enforcement officer with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“We’re seeing a lot of nice fish,” he said.
The seasons for the different species of salmon can be complicated — and dynamic — with five different “marine areas” for anglers leaving Whidbey on boat to contend with. Fishermen and women should make sure they understand the rules laid out in the sport fishing pamphlet before heading out.
The good news is that people are catching fish. Downes said the chinook season has been good, as limited as it is.
Fish and Wildlife announced Tuesday that retention of hatchery chinook will reopen July 31-Aug. 3 in Marine Area 9, which is Admiralty Inlet.
The coho season should be even better, based on the counts of fish headed this way from the ocean. In fact, there will be wild coho retention allowed in Marine Area 8-1 when it opens on Aug. 1.
The salmon outlook is especially good news for people who like to fish from the shore.
Downes said coho, also known as silver salmon, are pretty easily caught from the beach and put up a good fight. And they are good eating.
It’s a pink salmon year — the species run in odd years — but the returning numbers look slightly depressed, Downes said.
In the Whidbey Island area, pink salmon numbers are affected by Skagit River flooding, which washed the fish nests and eggs away, he explained.
It’s also a good year for clamming. The popular public area on Penn Cove is open for the first time in a couple of years. Downes said it was closed down to allow the shellfish to replenish.
Crab pots should be productive off Whidbey Island, Downes said, except in the south end of Marine Area 8-1. Predictions based on pre-season testing show a drop in Dungeness crab population in the Holmes Harbor area.
The reason, Downes said, isn’t clear.
“The population tends to be cyclic,” he said. “People tend to blame overfishing… but it could be tidal conditions, water temperature or other conditions.”
There’s still a lot of crab out there. The state’s allowance of 2.4 million pounds of crab to be harvested from Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2 was reduced to 2 million pounds of the pinchy crustaceans.
The harvest of spot prawns continues in Marine Area 6, seven days a week with a bonus limit.
“I expect that to go on for a few more weeks,” the enforcement officer said.