Salmon anglers don't have to jet to Alaska for trophy-sized kings.
Kirk Calkins of Lynnwood can attest to that.
Fishing about 12 miles off Westport, Calkins caught a king that weighed 55.3 pounds. It was caught in 50 feet of water on a downrigger with a Silver Horde Plug.
Fishing had been slow, according to Calkins, with a just a few coho and small chinook here and there.
"It was a little before 11 a.m. when we got our first legit hook-up (and) we played it for a few minutes then ... the fish got off," said Calkins, who was fishing with his wife, Jean, and children Kristin, Zackary and Matthew. "Not even five minutes later the other rod came off the downrigger and we were off to the races, but the (fish) did not stop."
The fish made a few 100-yard runs away from the boat in large ocean swells and they were unable to see how big it was.
When it got toward the end of the fight, the large fish came out of the water, then went straight back down and sulked.
The big king got near the boat, and Jean netted it in one quick shot.
While not even close to the state record of 70.5 pounds caught in 1964 at Sekiu, it does rival some of the larger kings caught in the past few years, including a 60-pound king caught by Steve Ng of Gig Harbor last year off Westport, and a 58.5-pounder caught by Stephan Aarstol of San Diego last month off Neah Bay.
"We've seen some nice 5-year-old kings in the 40-pound range caught this summer off the coast," said Wendy Beeghly, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist.
Overall, fishing off Westport remains on the slow end after a few glory moments early last week.
"At Westport, the average was 0.6 fish per person, and boats are running all over the place to find fish," Beeghly said. "Chinook average weight is 15 pounds, and coho are a nice 7 to 8 pounds."
At Neah Bay, the charters are getting near limits (two salmon daily), and private boats were averaging 1.2 fish per rod.
"Almost all the catch at Neah Bay are coho, and there are some days where you can't get out of coho schools," Beeghly said. "Most are fishing straight out in front of Waadah Island, and mark rate (fish with a missing adipose fin) for coho is 30 percent."
The average at La Push was 1.4 fish per rod, and most were coho with a mark rate over 30 percent.
On the South Coast at Ilwaco, anglers tallied 1.7 fish per person, which were almost all big-sized coho, although chinook catches have picked up a bit of late.
Top spots of the week
Albacore tuna off southern coast: "Tuna are still coming in strong, and I saw a couple charters at Westport with a 10-fish-per-person average that were caught 30 to 47 miles out," Beeghly said.
"Last week at Ilwaco, for the first time, I saw two bluefin tuna that were caught on a private boat," Beeghly said. "In the 15 years I've worked on the coast I have never seen them even during warm-water (El Niño) years, and they're considered a very rare catch. I've seen them on commercial boats that have come across from Hawaii and Midway, but not this close."
Elliott Bay for chinook and coho: "King fishing was slow, and it probably had to do with the full moon," said Pete Sergeef, a state Fish and Wildlife creel checker. "There are nice kings in the bay, and it should pick up this weekend."
The catch average last weekend was about one king or coho for every two boats. The bay is open Fridays to Sundays only.
Lake Wenatchee for sockeye: "The catch rate was 1.2 sockeye per angler over the weekend, and that is pretty good fishing," said Tim Flint, a state Fish and Wildlife resource salmon manager. "There are no immediate plans to close the fishery just yet."
Daily limit is two sockeye, with a 12-inch minimum size limit. Barbless hooks are required, and anglers have to release all bull trout.
Anglers also must release any sockeye marked with a yellow tag behind the dorsal fin.
Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and Hood Canal for salmon: "We've made 35 trips this summer, and have had at least one adult chinook caught and released in Area 9 and 10 (Point No Point, Possession Bar and Jefferson Head)," said Keith Robbins, owner of A Spot Tail Salmon Guide in Seattle. "I took out Bob Rondeau (voice of the Huskies on KJR), and his daughter (Lauren) caught and released her first salmon on Monday, a nice 27-pound king."
Locally, the king bite is gaining steam heading into the peak fishing month. Hit the Clay Banks off Point Defiance Park in Tacoma (lots of dogfish); south of the Southworth ferry landing; Point Evans; the entrance to Gig Harbor; Dolphin Point off Vashon Island; Point Dalco off Vashon Island; Point Robinson; the Des Moines-Redondo area and south of Brace Point.
The San Juan Islands are slow, although a few kings were caught off the west side of San Juan Island and the north side of Orcas Island.
Areas 8-1 and 8-2 (south side of Whidbey Island north to Fidalgo Island) opened Sunday for coho, but angler pressure was light and don't expect good fishing until later this month.
The Puget Sound Anglers Gig Harbor Salmon Derby is Saturday. Cost is $20 per angler. First place is $2,000. Details: www.pugetsoundanglers.org.
Snohomish River for pinks: "There are a bunch of humpies (pinks) in the Snohomish, and those tossing small Dick Nite spoons or a 3/8-ounce leadhead jig with a pink hoochie are doing well," said Bryan Nelson at Three Rivers Marine and Tackle in Woodinville.
Lower Hood Canal for chinook: "I know of two anglers who fished between Lilliwaup and Hoodsport, and got kings, all in the 20-pound class," said Tony Floor, director of fishing affairs for Northwest Marine Trade Association. "They're trolling in 100 to 120 feet of water, and down about 50 feet with a flasher and coyote spoon."
Other fishing spots
Piers and shorelines for coho and chinook: "Word I'm receiving is that there are some good-sized hatchery coho in the 5-pound class," said Les Johnson, a local expert fly-angler. "Point No Point, Twin Spits, Agate Pass, Carkeek Park, Richmond Beach and Lincoln Park are all worth an effort."
Other good coho spots are the west side of Whidbey Island at Bush and Lagoon points; Southworth; Meadow Point near Golden Gardens; and Doc's Beach on the Gig Harbor side of Narrows Bridge.
Other good piers are Edmonds, Seacrest in West Seattle, Les Davis, Des Moines and Point Defiance Park.
Skykomish River: Slow for steelhead.
Green River: Slow to fair for steelhead above Flaming Geyser.
Wynoochee River: Fair to good for steelhead.
Coastal rivers: "Fishing got a little better for steelhead after recent rains," said Bob Gooding, owner of Olympic Sporting Goods in Forks. "Some silvers also showing up in Quillayute and Soleduck."
Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or email@example.com