Many saltwater anglers across Washington State have been eagerly awaiting the kickoff to the salmon fishing season, opening day in Westport. Salmon fishing reports from the north coast have been stellar, the commercial trollers based in Grays Harbor have been experiencing good fishing, and now it is our turn. With near-record setting salmon returns to the Columbia River, Westport anglers are given a phenomenal opportunity to get in additional fishing time. This May 31 opener is early than usual, and it allows us an extra 2 week fishing season for hatchery Chinook only. After June 14, both hatchery and wild Chinook can be kept.
Unfortunately, while my excitement for fishing the opener had been bubbling over, last minute car troubles caused me to cancel my plans to head west. I was scheduled to fish with Captain Ian Winder today, lead captain for All Rivers & Saltwater Charters’ Westport operations during this time of year. I chatted with him this afternoon about their great day on the water.
They headed out in the charter boat Reel Elite over a bumpy Grays Harbor Bar. An early meet-up with guests allowed them to get a head start and miss the maximum ebb (roughest bar crossing conditions) which was at 6:50am. Once out past the jaws, a steady 6 foot swell spaced at 9 seconds kept clients on their toes, but with no chop on top of the swells, it was comfortable conditions to fish in. Ian decided to head south and fish the beach just beyond the South Jetty at Westport.
There was plenty of boat traffic heading out of the Westport Harbor, yet much of the fleet spread out; many boats headed north to fish in front of Ocean Shores and the Casino, many headed south to fish the beach off Westport Light State Park. Ian concentrated on the beach just south of the jetty, fishing at most three miles to the south. He stuck pretty much on the 40 foot line, about a mile from the breakers.
While there wasn’t much bird activity, not much bait being marked on the sonar, there were definitely fish concentrated in that area.
Reel Elite fished six herring/diver rods: two 10’6 off the stern, two 10’6 at the back of the wheelhouse, two 12’4 up on the bow. Ian has a deadly rigging set-up for whole herring, I’ve seen it in action in Alaska, and apparently those Westport Chinook don’t mind it either.
While I was really bummed that I missed the opener, Ian called me and gave me all the gritty details… and told me to share a report. He’s a young dude, but an old hat at this fishing stuff. Being somewhat new to the Westport salmon world, he told me that when he rigged up his delta diver rods for the first time, he said…
“I thought to myself… these things look so stupid. But they do exactly what they should do, and were easy to fish with. It seems a little crazy that you can set them at 10 pulls, where they are at most 10 feet under the boat, and even though you can see your diver, you will get bit!” Most of the action came from the shallowest set rods. “You would see the rod get slammed, look over the side of the boat and there would be a salmon thrashing around just under the boat!”
They saw that happen time after time on the opener. They worked hard, but based on radio chatter, felt like they had a relatively successful day. It sounded like there were plenty of folks searching around and trying to figure it out. Some boats did very well, others struggled for a fish or two. Some of the boats that crossed the bar after the max ebb joined up with the South Beach fleet and caught a few fish. Overall, the Reel Elite crew battled ten salmon, landed six Chinook, kept four hatchery fish, and let go two wild ones.
“The ones we landed were all great fish, all in the mid-teens to high-teens. Our smallest was twelve pounds and our largest was about nineteen.”
I would consider that a great day and the report from the captain really has me eager to make a trip down to Westport asap!