WENATCHEE — Fisherman were few and the fish were hard to find Monday as chinook salmon fishing opened up on the Wenatchee River for the first time in more than two decades.
Most popular fishing spots had just one or two anglers — if any at all — at daybreak. The only exception was Rodeo Hole near Dryden, where a dozen fisherman were casting their lines from the shore.
But light turnout or no, it was a big, big day, said Danyl Klump, avid fisherman and enforcement officer for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“It’s a very exciting, very big deal!” he said Monday as he patrolled the river to make sure fisherman had licenses and the proper tackle. “I grew up in the valley and I can’t remember a time when you could fish for salmon on the Wenatchee. It’s something I’ve only heard stories about.”
By mid-morning, Klump had counted about a dozen fisherman from Cashmere to the mouth of the Wenatchee River. He only talked to one person who caught a keeper.
Robert Main of Wenatchee said he hooked one from the shore near Dryden, but lost it just before his fishing buddy Arvid Dahl could get it into the net. Main said he’s not really an avid fisherman, but came out Monday because the season was open.
“I used to swim here as a kid,” he said of the stretch of river known as Rodeo Hole.
Lee Holmes of Peshastin was also up with the sun to fish near Dryden. He and 8-year-old Dominick Manes had the shore to themselves.
“I love it when they open fishing seasons on a Monday,” he said. “It’s quiet.”
He said he could see salmon poking their heads out of the river when he got there, but hadn’t had a single nibble.
He said he usually fishes for steelhead on the Wenatchee, but decided to give chinook a try. When steelhead fishing opens this fall, the salmon and steelhead seasons will overlap for awhile.
“It’s going to get pretty busy out here with people fishing,” he said.
As of Monday, more than 32,000 summer chinooks had passed through Rock Island Dam on their way up the Columbia River to spawn. Nearly 25,000 of those continued on up the river through Rocky Reach Dam. That leaves about 7,500 in the Columbia or Wenatchee rivers.
Klump said it’s still a little early to catch summer chinooks in the tributaries. He expects the numbers to pick up as people start catching more and talking to their friends about it. It will likely grow from word of mouth, he added.
He added that a lot of people are catching big ones in the Columbia River right now.
He said the joy of catching one in a smaller tributary like the Wenatchee River is being able to see the fish.
“When you see the amount of fish spawning in the river and you see those big kings (chinook salmon), you say to yourself ‘Boy, I wish I could fish for those,’” he said. “When you get a 30-pound fish on your line, that’s just awesome. You get that with these summer chinooks.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152