Twenty-four thousand, eight-hundred and seventy-five Chinook salmon crossed the Wanapum Dam as of Monday.
Those numbers have turned the heads of Columbia River salmon anglers who look forward to the season opening Monday from the Wanapum Dam to Wells Dam.
With the start of the summer salmon season, the annual Hooked On Toys salmon derby begins Monday.
“And since the season starts on a Monday,” said Peter Flohr, Hooked on Toy’s fishing specialist, “the derby will run Monday through Sunday.”
The derby duration is usually held to the opening Saturday of salmon season.
Those who have posed for the triumphant trophy catch with a king, the largest salmon in the Pacific, know the prep work involved behind the scenes. That’s why chinook season is a busy time for fishing guides who can take care of the prep work. Take credence in the ambitious king experts’ knack for gearing properly and finding fish. Set up is no day at the beach.
Chinook fishermen are preparing their gear for the work that the sport requires to be successful. The biggest piece of gear is often the boat.
“Salmon anglers will spend this week making sure their gear is in proper working order,” Flohr said. “If you’re running a boat, make sure the battery is charged, downriggers work, the gas is good; and the trailer, make sure the wheel bearings are good to go.”
But not all the chinook are caught from the boat.
Last year’s season-long derby winner John Monaco took first place in the total fish category with 51 and the total weight category with 550 pounds, eight ounces, and he did it all from shore.
For basic gear, you’re going to want swivels, superbaits, flashers and files.
“Files to take the barbs off hooks,” Flohr said. “I’ve been debarbing with a Dremel, and that works well.”
While the banks and boats between Wanapum and Wells dams will harbor anglers baited for king, the season starts July 16 from Wells Dam to the Highway 173 Bridge at Brewster.
“That’s in an effort to provide a safe harbor for chinook destined to the Methow,” fish biologist Travis Maitland said.
Those salmon destined to spawn in larger tributaries like the Methow contribute largely to the return of Chinook each year as the summer Chinook. Some spawn in areas of the Columbia itself, so many will stick around for the entirety of the season, which ends October 15.
Last year saw 91,991 adult chinook cross the Wanapum by the end of the counting season.
With such a successful rate of Chinook passing, why not hold another derby?
Flohr, a Coastal Conservation Association salmon derby chairman, said the derby that runs between the top of Rock Island Dam and the bottom of Rocky Reach Dam is set for July 19-21.
The second annual CCA Northcentral Washington Salmon Derby promotes recreational fishing and raises awareness about improving wild fish habitat and sustaining a high yield of salmon. There are 225 entries to the derby open and they are selling now. The official weigh-in station will be at Hooked On Toys. The complete rules are on the derby website, wenatcheesalmonderby.com.
Anglers holding a state fishing license are limited to six chinook a day, of which only two may be adults. The fish need to be hatchery reared, which are identified by a missing adipose fin originally located near the tail fin.