WENATCHEE — Rocky water, little to no bites, and an all-around lack of fish.
No, it’s wasn’t the best recipe for the summer chinook season opener on the mainstem Columbia River, but that’s what local anglers found themselves dealing with in Friday’s hot sun.
Fisherman trying to reel in kings had a devil of a time from Wanapum Dam in south Grant County to Wells Dam in Brewster, and everywhere in between.
“It was slow, slow, slow,” said Glen Sagdal of East Wenatchee, a former fishing guide who spent most of his day fishing with Larry Loncon of Spokane at Walla Walla Point in Wenatchee. “We didn’t bring in any, and we got 12 last year on opening weekend.”
Up in Brewster, the water was so rough that Ron Oules of Reel-Lentless Guide Service lost one of his guides in the first hour of fishing to seasickness.
“It’s the roughest I’ve ever seen it. It was borderline un-fishable,” said Oules, who landed a 10-pound jack and steelhead on the day. “Literally three times water came over the side of the boat from cross waves, and I almost got thrown overboard — I fell in the boat it was so rough.”
The fishing wasn’t as dire at Wanapum, where Jerrod Gibbons of Okanogan Valley Guide Service said he had five bites and pulled in one 25 pounder.
“The fish are late, but they’re coming,” Gibbons said. “The prospects look good, and (the fish) were nice and bright.”
There was still a strong current to battle, however.
“There was a lot of side current, meaning you really had to stay on your motor,” Gibbons said. “It was opening day so of course you had five or six boats that don’t know how to drive that made it pretty miserable for a lot of people. You gotta know how to handle your boat down there, its not for rookies.”
The slow open was expected due to a combination of a run behind schedule, a heavy flow from a record snow pack, and a low river temperature. Still, it was still slower than most were bargaining for.
“We were expecting to catch something,” said Loncon.
“The last two years (the open was) so good, so we rolled the dice and lost,” Sagdal said.
The pair estimated about 14 boats tried out the Point, and they heard of only three jacks — no adults — being reeled in.
“It started thinning out late in the morning, and then only the hardcores were left,” Loncon said.
Oules said the open was worse than average.
“It was low for an opening day, and it was expected. But it makes for a real long day when you’re fighting the boat and not getting the bites,” he said.
There is optimism about the coming weeks, however. The counts at Wanapum are climbing (it hit 307 summer chinook adult Thursday), and all signs point to the kings coming in at a good size (20 pounds or more).
“In about a week it should be phenomenal,” said Gibbons.
Brent Stecker: 661-5222