FIN, FUR & FEATHERS: Northwest salmon runs hard to predict

Forecasting here in the Pacific Northwest is an iffy job.

  • Wednesday, March 13, 2002 5:00pm
  • Sports

Forecasting here in the Pacific Northwest is an iffy job. I don’t envy the guys who try and forecast the fishing prospects for the year. The job is as bad as trying to guess what the weather has in store for us. In fact the fish guessers are at the mercy of what the weather guessers predict, talk about walking a fine line.

With that in mind, the biologists with the state are willing to put themselves out on a limb and are saying the upcoming salmon seasons are looking bright, but like any nice forecast, there are a few cloudy days mixed in.

To start with, it is expected for a stronger return of fall kings on the Columbia, more than 100,000 extra fish predicted. In fact the entire run of Chinook salmon is expected to be 15 percent larger this year.

This year is expected to be a good year for coho fishing too. Seasonal runs are expected to be larger this year than last, except for the Columbia River. Returns there will one fifth of last year’s run on the big river. With an expected return of 1.7 million chum, the few anglers that do target dog salmon will be pleased.

The bad news comes from the popular Lake Washington sockeye run. Pre-season forecasts call for a return similar to last year, a season where there was no season. These predictions will help determine upcoming seasons, so stay tuned for dates and bag limits to come.



Speaking of salmon, the winter blackmouth has not been anything to write home about. Central to south Puget Sound reports have not been too great, but the fishing gets better the farther north you move. The limited fishery is best in the San Juans, especially along the west side of San Juan Island. Other areas to try would be Obstruction and Thatcher passes. The best reports have been coming during times with very little change in water levels during tide changes. Consult tide tables and plan accordingly.


For those of you that wish to target freshwater species things are starting to look up. We have been talking about it for a couple of weeks and it is finally starting to happen. The consecutive days in the fifties have started some early chronomid hatches. While not hot and heavy action, some very good fishing is out there on the year-round lakes. Water temperatures are just starting to rise so anglers need pay attention to the weather for best chances. Warm, calm weather is what you are after.

Any type of wind or rain (yeah, like we get that here) will pretty much shut down the action. Mid-day is best and look for areas that are fringed with plenty of sunshine. These areas will be the warmest and will be where the fish are congregating. If you have driven past Pass Lake, you probably have noticed an increase in the number of anglers. Even though is a proven producer of large trout, it is by no means the only choice. Plying the waters of Lone and Cranberry are worthy of a try.


Reports on bass fishing are picking up as well. These fish are not savagely striking artificial lures just yet, but if you have the finesse to work a tube bait or rigged Culprit worm along the bottom, then some early season action could be in your future. These fish will still be in the deeper water hugging the bottom. They are not going to be interested in a quick moving meal.

If you are after some big bucketmouths, look for deep water with some submerged timber if possible. Any type of structure that will retain heat from the sun is where to start. My choice to start would be around the south side of the island in Campbell Lake. Try a Texas-rigged chartreuse Culprit worm bounced along the bottom.

If smallies are your target then look for areas of clear water with a good rocky bottom. The rocks will hold the heat from the sun and warm the water a little quicker. The rocky points in Lake Whatcom or Lake Terrell would by my first choice. Rig a tube jig in a crawfish pattern and slowly drag it along the rocks. Pause between movements to allow the fish to get to the bait. Erratic, but slow retrieves will be best. The bait as well as the fish are just coming out of their winter slumber, so slow down.