Fall Chinook taken in at the salmon hatchery nearly quadrupled last week — a good sign, a very good sign indeed — and the number of summer-run steelhead making their way to the facility has remained steady.
The first coho salmon of the year was seen in the last days of August last year, but I haven’t heard of one coming through yet this year. But we are ahead on the count with fall Chinook this year, only 33 were taken into the hatchery on this week last year.
Eggs seem to be working the best for those fishing the 100’ pool at Barrier Dam or the Cowlitz cocktail of eggs and shrimp. I saw one guy make what must be called a Cowlitz Sandwich by flanking the gob of eggs with a shrimp on each side. I didn’t stick around to see if it worked out for him.
Free drifting shrimp from the boat launch at Barrier Dam has yielded some good results for summer-run steelhead — for those that know what they’re doing.
Many are going home fishless or are stuck battling past-their-prime spring Chinook. Those in the know may be grumbling about the slow fishing conditions, but they’re still taking home some nice fish.
My own personal obsession — fall Chinook — has taken hold of me again. I haven’t caught one yet, in spite of the numbers we’ve seen come through the hatchery, but I have no doubt my luck is about to change. (If only those nasty springers would move out of the way.) I stayed away over Labor Day weekend, not wanting to mix with the amateurs that typically flood the Barrier Dam stretch of the river at that time of year.
I had heard that Thursday night, when a big rain hit our area and I stayed home (and yes, I’m ashamed of myself), there were a few hardy souls getting soaked to the bone but they were greatly rewarded for their efforts.
So when I hit the river on Friday I was feeling pretty optimistic. I asked a pair of jean and t-shirt clad anglers how fishing was going as I passed them by to head to my selected spot upriver. “Great! I caught FOUR!” they said. “Four?” I thought, getting a little excited at the prospect of finally reeling in my own fall Chinook … then I realized what he had just said was probably a little (a LOT) overstated. “You mean four SPRINGERS, right?” “Yeah!” he said grinning. That ain’t catching fish, as far as I’m concerned, that’s shooting fish in a barrel … and way past its prime fish at that.
I watched Black Jack’s brother battle a beauty of a ‘nookie that Friday, and then watched (with pure amazement) as Jack “tailed” that big fish right out of the water and into his arms. No net needed, no sir.
Last week Tacoma Power recovered 307 fall Chinook adults, 19 jacks, 154 summer-run steelhead, 179 spring Chinook adults, three jacks, 96 mini-jacks, one coho salmon and 25 cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.
During the past week Tacoma Power employees released 176 spring Chinook adults, three jacks, 43 fall Chinook adults and 12 jacks into the Cispus River above the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek. They released 150 spring Chinook mini-jacks into Riffe Lake at Mossyrock Park and released 264 fall Chinook adults, seven jacks and one coho salmon into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.
River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 3,290 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, September 4 (up from the 2,650 cfs from over the weekend.