On a normal Sunday afternoon in October most Western Washington residents are dodging damp weather to watch a Seattle Seahawks win.
This wasn’t a normal October Sunday. It was 72 degrees and sunny without a cloud in the sky. The Seahawks entered the fourth quarter down 31-19 to the New Orleans Saints.
Instead of wasting the day away on his couch in his Key Peninsula home, 28-year-old Wes Giddings was strapping on his waders to take full advantage of the final weeks of Coho salmon season. He joined nearly 100 other fishermen—men, women and children—along the banks of Minter Creek and Henderson Bay.
“I bet there were 200 or more people out here this morning,” said Giddings, who generally comes during the early morning low tide when he feels the Coho are biting the best.
Coho salmon—referred to by experienced fishermen as “silvers”—return to Minter Creek in early fall through October. The Minter Creek Hatchery, just off Creviston Drive, is home base to about 90 percent of the returning cohos. The fact that the hatchery is a few thousand feet from the mouth of Henderson Bay makes Minter Creek a prime spot.
“You see all these cars lined up along the road here, but there’s not a person in sight. That’s because everyone is down (at the mouth) scaring away my fish,” Giddings said as he started casting at the first bend of the creek, just south of the bridge. He was using a twitching jig to see if he could agitate any of the coho. “You could complain, but it’s actually just nice to see people doing positive stuff outside.”
Giddings is a lifelong fisherman, having grown up in Port Angeles and fishing all over the Olympic Peninsula, mainly for steelhead trout. “I only started coming to Minter a couple of years ago. It’s not the best fishing river in the state, but it’s right in (the Key Peninsula’s) back yard.”
He says up in the Olympic Peninsula, especially near places like Forks, it’s far enough away where you won’t see many cars lined up along the road, but close enough that it’s worth checking out.
As a child Giddings remembers how cool it was to see his family members come home with handfuls of fish, and he started doing it as a way to get attention. Fishing and hunting is a huge part of his family’s life, and he’s already started passing down that passion to his 2-year-old son, Grady.
“I brought Grady down here to Minter Creek before he could walk. He was strapped to me,” Giddings said. “I caught two fish that day with him — that was pretty frickin’ cool.
“I brought one of the fish on the bank and it was flapping around, spraying mud all over Grady. He was bawling,” Giddings said.
He’ll take Grady fishing in the Olympic Peninsula when he’s a little older, since it’s a hike to get to the older Giddings’ favorite spot. “Fishing up there is like what you see in a movie. It’s gorgeous, and you can be by yourself the whole day, if that’s what you want,” he said.
Fishing is interesting that way. Some fishermen prefer a moment of solo serenity, while others appreciate the family-bonding or beer-with-buddies aspect of it.
Minter Creek fishermen are mostly social and seem to like to talk about where fish are biting. “There’s a lot of people here and it’s fun to share in the excitement,” Giddings said. But that doesn’t mean it’s like that everywhere. “In Forks, I wouldn’t tell any of those dudes where I was catching fish.”
That October Sunday wasn’t the best outing for Giddings, who gave up after about an hour without even seeing a single fish in the water. Others walked away empty-handed, too. “I caught two in less than an hour last week when I was here.”
The October 6 Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife escapement report, which tracks the number of specific fish that sneak past Giddings and others without getting caught, confirmed the season is nearing an end. Coho numbers were down significantly from this point last year.
At 1:40 p.m., the tide started to come in and more fishermen began to arrive. “Hopefully they’ll have a little more luck than me.” Going home fish-less among hundreds of fishermen always reminds Giddings about the fatherly advice he plans to ingrain in Grady some day: “Find your spot and don’t tell any of your friends about it, because their dads will just come out and ruin it.”
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