Have you ever tried going low and slow with fresh salmon? This is a method that came out of restaurants. I associate it with Jerry Traunfeld, a very talented Chef here in Seattle (if you are local, and haven’t tried his restaurant “Poppy”, I suggest you do so soon) although I can’t swear that he was the one who first popularized it. Anyway, this style of salmon preparation has been popular with the “foodie” crowd for a while. But don’t let that scare you away. It really is delicious.
Washington’s coastal beach communities will once again welcome thousands of eager visitors as yet another long Razor Clam dig has been announced. Extreme low tides and an abundance of those quick footed clams should bring plenty of limits for those willing to hit the beach. Low tides are early enough the first couple days to offer plenty enough daylight to make gathering the 15 Razor Clam limit an easy task. Be prepared to start digging a couple hours before low tide, make sure to keep your limits in separate containers, and have your shellfish license on you. Spring digs are my favorite, and with our unseasonally mild winter, hopefully everyone will get to enjoy a great week of clamming!
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As always, consult the fishing regulations before you hit the beach. Here’s the Official WDFW Razor Clam Dig Announcement.
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We worked hard all morning at Point No Point, worked our gear along the outside of the moochers right at the Point and westbound towards Skunk Bay, but didn’t really see much happening. We tagged a beautiful Wild Chinook and released it, but nothing for the fish box.
On the way back in we spotted a really fishy looking tide rip. There were birds diving on bait so it appeared to be a good spot to stop for a bit. Five minutes into the troll, we hooked a really hefty Chinook that bit a Cookies & Cream Spoon at 125′. What a way to wrap up the morning trip!
We had a decent morning bite along the shoreline between the Kingston Ferry Dock and President Point this morning. The tide was outgoing until the 9am tide change, we trolled in 125′ of water with our gear spread out at 60′, 75′, 90′ and 110′.
We ended up with two nice Chinook and two Coho before the morning tide change, then moved up into the Kingston Bowl and lost our third Chinook. Fishing for most was a little challenging, but we were marking plenty of bait and fish, so we rode it out through the early afternoon. With a blue sky and plenty of summer sunshine illuminating the water column, we ran gear that was low profile and conducive to the conditions. We ran clear UV flashers (Jelly Crush and Moon Jelly), and behind for the lure we ran small Kingfisher Spoons or Ace Hi Flies or small while herring rigged to spin.
Fishing reports for the area weren’t that hot, so we felt very fortunate to get the salmon opportunities that we encountered.
We also ended up with a haul of Dungeness Crab to top off our day!
Today was the first day to catch and keep Chinook Salmon in Puget Sound, what an exciting day! We had a pretty thrilling day on the water, we moved around to a few of my favorite spots and found a little action. There was an incoming tide in the morning with the tide change happening right at 8am. We cruised up to the lighthouse at Point No Point and made the southbound troll to Pilot Point. My expectations were high for opening day, but I saw very little action among the boats in the area. We did hook up to a healthy Chinook. The rod started to shake violently in the holder, Mitch popped the line out of the downrigger release clip, handed it to a guest, but it shook the hook mid-fight. Hooked up on a Cookies & Cream 3.5″ Kingfisher Spoon behind a Jelly Crush Flasher. We didn’t give the area much time before heading over to Possession’s West Bar.
We started fishing south of the Scatchet Buoy, hooked another Chinook but just as the first one, it didn’t make it to the boat. Reports from a few friendly faces in nearby boats were dismal, so dismal that not only did I feel lucky to get a hookup there, but also gave me the inclination that if we stayed, we probably wouldn’t put too many fish into the net. So we made our final move.
After the tide change, we moved south to Kingston to finish up our day. There were quite a few boats working the area between the ferry route and Apple Cove Point, and we joined the fray to try our luck. We deployed our gear and instantly hooked a Chinook! With a little coaching, a patient angler on the rod, and a good net job, we had our first Chinook in the boat for the Puget Sound summer season! We altered our gear a little, and had a spread of four lines with flashers and whole-rigged herring, Kingfisher Spoons and Ace-Hi Flies. We found a flurry of activity for the next hour. The tide change to outgoing really made the fish in the Kingston area turn on, and we saw numerous salmon get caught on the troll and by those mooching. When it was all said and done we had hooked a total of five Chinook at Kingston and landed three. After dropping off the morning crew and returning to Kingston with our afternoon group, we picked up on the tail end of the bite and hooked another three, of those two went in the net, one was a Wild Chinook that was carefully released, the other was a Hatchery Chinook that was kept.
The final count for our boat during the Puget Sound Chinook opener was ten confirmed Chinook hooked & fought, four Hatchery Chinook kept, one Wild Chinook released… a stellar day for our crew!
Although the large returns of ocean Chinook and Coho wait until mid-summer to return to the Puget Sound, there is a healthy number of resident Coho and Chinook swimming around Possession Bar, Kingston and Jeff Head. There are always a few mature Chinook that return from their open-ocean feeding frenzy a little early and will be caught and released. Puget Sound’s tidal flows push the herring up into the tide rips, and that is exactly where the salmon stack up to feed.
The first two week’s worth of fishing for Resident Coho has been a little challenging in the Central Puget Sound. Small tidal exchanges during the first week really made searching for a concentration of bait and salmon difficult. We focused on catching Coho for our guests, but did spend a little time scouting for Chinook, which we found with regularity around Jeff Head and Kingston (some large mature Chinook and plenty of smaller blackmouth). Most of the charters that fished the early weeks of July spent their time working the shipping lanes for shallow Coho. We fished the south side of Jeff Head most days, trolling with herring or lures behind chrome dodgers. Size 0 dodgers, 20”-22” 30 pound leader, trailed by 2”-3” Silver Horde Kingfisher Spoons, Ace Hi Needlefish Flies, Gold Star Mini Squid, or small firecracker herring rigged in an anchovy helmet. Most of the Coho that we came across were three to six pounds. It seemed to be an early morning bite for most, but we also picked up a few salmon later in the day as well. I received several really good reports from friends that were focusing on Catch & Release Chinook fishing, catching a few nice fish at Mid Channel, Posession Bar and Kingston. We came across a few nice Chinook at Kingston and Jeff Head, even though we spent very little time overall targeting them.
During our last few days of Coho fishing, the tidal exchange was great enough to really build some nice tide rips around the south side of Jeff Head. One morning I cruised up to find several charter boats working a line, so I scooted over to find a textbook rip, the tide rip that I had been searching for all week! All the grass and debris was pushed into a tight line in the flat water. On the outer edge was a wide stretch of choppy water clear of eelgrass. Small herring were jumping everywhere and the gulls were actively circling and diving. Like I said, textbook. We started our troll and quickly picked up a few fish. Two younger guys in a small Boston Whaler quickly limited on Coho; they were mooching herring tight to the rip. We worked the rip and were rewarded with six fish on and three fish to the boat. Fishing for a few days was consistently good, and we caught fish during every trip. Really enjoyed the early season, but I am looking forward to keeping a few Chinook once the Sound opens for retention on July 16. Best of luck out there everyone!
We are just wrapping up the first two weeks of our Seattle salmon fishing season, so I figured that it was high time for a quick fishing report. Marine Area 10 has been open for Coho Salmon fishing since the first of July, and even though our Chinook fishing season begins on July 16, we have been finding a few big ones to battle and release. The early season (July 1 thru 15) is an interesting time to fish the Puget Sound near Seattle, and it has its highlights and its challenges. Here is a quick shakedown.
As the locals say, our Seattle summer always officially begins on July 5, because it always rains on the Fourth. For us Puget Sounders, its our way of poking fun at the misfortune we all have when it comes to the weather; April showers brings May…. Showers, then we enjoy a little June gloom, but the day after we get rained out during our Independence Day celebrations… Then summer unofficially begins.
I, on the contrary, consider the opening day of crabbing on the Puget Sound to be the official kick off to MY Seattle summer. Thursday was the day!
We have set and pulled four pots just outside the Shilshole Bay Marina breakwater on Thursday and Friday. Results were mixed. My go to zone is 65′ to 80′ around the Ballard zone, that is where I have always done well and that is where we focused this week. I found a keeper or two per pot on the northern breakwater, and two or three keepers per pot on the southern end near the ship canal channel markers, which I was happy with.
Plenty of folks in all manner of watercraft were pulling pots in the area as well, many were doing poorly but I think almost everyone found at least a couple.
We moved over to Bainbridge today and found the mother load! It was common to find three to five keepers per pot, so we reached our boat limit quickly. The eastern side of Bainbridge doesn’t get fished as hard as the areas
close to Ballard due to the close proximity to the marina and boat launch. We alternated baiting with raw chicken, salmon carcasses and flounder. It didn’t seem to matter, all baits produced about the same. On average we kept about eight or ten crab per mornin g or afternoon outing! Lots of happy faces on our boat these past few days!
We’ve all been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the season’a first Albacore to hit the offshore areas of Washington, and guess what? They have arrived! The first phenomenal tuna report came in from Captain Mark Coleman yesterday. Lots of Albacore action out in the deep blue!
Mark steered his charter boat, Reel Ultra, out of the harbor and headed Southwest, and found all the telltale Tuna signs about 55 miles from Westport.
Good water temps. Lots of sealife and bird activity. Time to troll. They dragged tuna clones around a really fishy area and found a great bite, they caught Albacore on the troll, and found a few nice schools and decided to setup for live baiting them. Fishing was really good and there were flurries of activity while fishing live anchovies.
At the end of the day, around Fifty Albacore Tuna hooked, and the crew brought back about thirty five. Mark told me that having a such an awesome day early on is a great indication that this will be, yet another epic Albacore Tuna season in Westport.
Mark operates two Express Style charter boats in Westport that will be going full bore on Tuna through October. Check it out at All Rivers & Saltwater Charters
Westport’s charter fleet is currently experiencing the salmon fishing that is as good as it gets. It seems that everyone, from the larger charter boats to the smaller express style boats to the weekend warriors are all out there enjoying some of the best offshore salmon fishing that anyone can remember. I was out there at it again, fishing aboard the charter boat Reel Ultra for the weekend, and we did well. We had some phenomenal fishing over the past few weeks, and it is just amazing just how consistently good the fishing has been.
It seems that day to day, there are a few hot spots where the salmon fishing is really good, but even for those that don’t have the inside scoop, and take a random guess at where to fish, those guys are still finding some pretty decent fishing opportunities. We had been targeting Chinook and Coho along the 250’ to 300’ line due west of the mouth of Willapa Bay. It had been a strong producer since mid-June, but shifted to the North a bit. This weekend we fished along the 250’ line due west of the Quinault Beach Casino, and found quite a few nice Chinook, quite a few nice hatchery Coho, and a bunch of Wild Coho and undersized Chinook that were released.
Chinook and Coho salmon are on the bite at Westport, to do whatever you can to plan your next fishing trip before the end of the season!
Summer Steelhead are one of the most thrilling fish to chase here in the Pacific Northwest. They are available throughout the region and offer us an excuse to head to the great outdoors and explore our rivers and streams this summer. If you are new to the area, new to fishing, or both, then this article was written just for you! This article is designed to give you a good idea of what local anglers are using to catch Steelhead. Make it a goal to get out and explore a new river this summer, try out a new technique, and enjoy the great natural beauty and awesome fishing that our region has to offer.
John’s Jigs have been on the market since I started fishing for Steelhead, they are a great choice for anyone needing to build a selection of Summer Run jigs. All of their jigs are tied with ultra-durable rabbit fur on Gamakatsu hooks. They are available in almost every color combination you could imagine. They catch plenty of Summer Steelhead. I always have my jig box stocked with a few black, purple, red and nightmare patterns during the summer.
Over the Edge Jigs
Over The Edge Tackle offers some of the most unique Steelhead jig patterns that I’ve come across on store shelves. Whoever is designing these patterns gets an A+ for creativity. I really like the looks of their low-profile Jig-L-Bum series for summertime low-water conditions, and the Roe-Bot series because it infuses the use of beads into a low-profile design. High quality design and all jigs are tied on high quality Gamakatsu hooks.
Aerojig Hackle Series
Aerojig makes a Hackle Series that is arguably one of the most widely used jigs on the market. These jigs offer a unique hackle tail and slender profile that is perfect for lower and clear water conditions. All jigs are tied on high quality Gamakatsu hooks. Even during early summer, when our rivers flow high and cold due to snowmelt, the brighter orange and pink Aerojig patterns are exceptionally effective.
Worden’s Maxi Jigs
Worden’s Maxi Jigs have a lot going for them, they use super high quality Owner hooks, the beaded body is very fishy, the designers reached out to the region’s top fishing guides to create a bunch of great looking color patterns, and they catch a lot of Steelhead.
Trout Beads have been an extremely popular in the past few seasons. These mega-lifelike salmon roe imitations were initially designed for Alaska’s trophy Rainbow Trout fisheries, but once Steelheader’s got hold of ‘em… the rest is history. Go to any river throughout the Pacific Northwest, and you are likely to come across a few bead fishermen. It is somewhat complicated to explain why these are so effective, but I will keep it simple. Summer Steelhead live in the river for around six months before they spawn; they must feed occasionally. In Alaska the bead anglers catch a lot of Rainbows because they usually fish in areas where thousands of salmon are spawning, matching the hatch so to speak. In our Northwestern rivers, we don’t usually have areas where thousands of salmon spawn during the summer months, and yet our Summer Runs love to bite the bead. I think that these lures capitalize on the Steelhead’s trout-like characteristics. I also believe that the sight of a small egg imitation pulls on the curiosity strings of a Steelhead, and that in itself is enough to induce a strike. Get some beads.
Drift bobbers are one of the essential items needed to drift fish for Steelhead. Corkies are one of the most widely used drift bobbers, they are available in hundreds of colors and many sizes. A Corky can be fished solo above a bare hook, it can be fished with yarn (scented or unscented), it can be fished with bait. The purpose of a Corky, as its classification as a drift bobber might elude too, is to float (lift) the offering of bait/yarn a little bit and keep it above the river cobble as it drifts along with the current.
Cheaters are another popular style of drift bobber. Like the Corky, they are buoyant and help lift the offering off the river bottom, they are available in lots of colors and a few sizes. It you want to get a little crazy, grab a pack of mylar-winged Cheaters and give them a go!
Little Cleo Spoons
Little Cleo spoons are a very useful lure for those that enjoy swinging metal for Steelhead. Unlike other spoon companies, the smaller spoons are not only thinner but also smaller in profile, which I really like. All spoons have a brass or nickel finish, which means they aren’t as flashy as a full gold or silver plated spoon. Pick up a few ¼ oz and 2/5 oz Little Cleo’s for your summer arsenal.
R & B Spoons
R & B Lures are a local company that crafts all of their spoons and spinners in Oregon. Their spoons are very highly sought after (yet hard to find). Aside from basic silver and gold patterns, they also have some really cool looking blue, green, red and purple spoons that catch fish.
Rvrfshr spoons are one of the more popular offerings in the Puget Sound area and this Seattle-based company focuses only on the products that are super effective. I personally know the owner, who does way more “field testing” than is probably necessary, but it is nice to know that a guy that makes fishing tackle actually goes fishing now and again. Their half & half, silver, gold, copper, and brass finishes are all worth having in the tackle box.
Rvrfshr spinners also made the list because they have some redeeming characteristics that others lack. They are heavier than other spinners on the market. They come in a variety of blade colors and body colors, including some really cool metallic body finishes. They are local. Swinging spinners for Summer Runs can be a lot of fun!
Blue Fox Vibrax Spinners
Blue Fox Vibrax Spinners are a true classic. These lures will catch about anything that swims, and while they are best known for their effectiveness while targeting Coho and Chinook Salmon, many a Summer Steelhead have been beached by your’s truly on a Size 3 or Size 4 Metallic Blue.
Rooster Tail Spinners
Roostertail Spinners are one of the best lures available to catch trout, but these buggy-looking spinners are a great late summer option for Steelhead as well. As the summer carries on, Steelhead become more acclimated to the river and take on trout-like characteristics. They will feed on Caddisflies, Stoneflies and other bugs, and will have a tough time turning down a black or brown Roostertail that goes swimming by.
Lindy River Rocker
I have always been a huge fan of the all-time favorite Tadpolly plug, but it is from a bygone era, and not readily available. Lindy has designed a plug similar to the Tadpolly, but with better colors available and a few new sizes, this one is going to be a great choice for anyone looking to pull plugs this summer.
Maglips 3.5 plugs have been one of my favorite lures since they came out. Yakima Bait Company designed these to run true, swim deep, and catch fish. Lots of great colors to choose from. YBC did their homework on this one!
During the summer, when our rivers get too low and too clear to run the bigger and more colorful plugs, the Bait Diver setup comes out to play. Rig up a small cluster of cured roe, a full or part of a live sand shrimp, or a cured prawn and backtroll through your favorite fishing hole. I like to run a tiny Spin Glo above the bait to lift it from the bottom and give it a little added attraction.
When you fish every single day, it is sometimes not easy to remember every little detail about every single trip, and that is exactly why I like to take photos. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when I browse through the fishing pictures from days gone by, it helps me draw details from my memory bank. I found this photo today from a great day’s worth of fishing sometime last week.
We had a group of folks on board that were a pleasure to fish with, pictured above is Bob, one of the day’s guests. Bob showed up to the boat to chit chat about our trip the evening before, and I could sense he would be a fun one to have on the boat. He brought his own rod and reel, which isn’t uncommon, but rare that a guest would have the perfect setup for the targeted species (perfectly matched rod for the fishing method plus the same braided line that we use on our own rods).
Bob had a new rod that he wanted to try out, and I thought it would be perfect for today’s Lingcod & Rockfish adventure. Later in the day, when I saw Bob’s rod double down into a hefty Lingcod, I smiled a little, glad that he had a chance to nail a respectable fish on his new setup. I didn’t weigh nor did I measure this monster Lingcod that Bob caught out of Westport, but regardless of whether it was twenty or twenty-five pounds… it was a memorable fish, caught by a memorable Bob.
The sweet taste of freshly caught Dungeness Crab is one of the uniquely Northwest experiences that help define our region. And guess what? The Puget Sound Crab Season is going to open here on July 3. Puget Sound is Seattle’s summer playground, it is where thousands of us go to, or yearn to be, when we wish to escape the grind that is everyday life. And while our metropolitan fishery seems to be getting ever more popular each year, recent test fisheries show that the bounty of Dungeness Crab in Puget Sound is as healthy and plentiful as ever.
Crab Season Basics
All marine areas of the Puget Sound share some basic regulations.
- Daily Limit for Dungeness Crab: 5 Males Only. Hardshell. Min. carapace 6.25″
- Daily Limit for Red Rock Crab: 6 Male or Female. Hardshell. Min. carapace 5″
- No Pulling or Setting Gear: 1 Hour after official sunset to 1 Hour before official sunrise.
- Puget Sound Crab Catch Card required. Must fill out immediately after retaining crab.
- 2 Pots/Rings per licensed person.
Puget Sound Crabbing 2014
The vast majority of crabbing effort occurs in Central Puget Sound, North Puget Sound and the Hood Canal. Catches close to Seattle, Everett and Tacoma can be excellent early in the season but limits of Dungeness can become a little more difficult to find later in the summer.
[table caption=”Puget Sound Dungeness Crab Season 2014″ width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Sekiu,MA 5,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
East Straits,MA 6,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Deception Pass,MA 8-1,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Port Gardner,MA 8-2,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Admiralty Inlet,MA 9,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Seattle,MA 10,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Tacoma,MA 11,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Hood Canal,MA 12,July 3 thru Sept 1,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
San Juan Islands & Bellingham Crabbing 2014
The southern extent of Marine Area 7, including most of the San Juan Islands and the Bellingham area, is a popular area to plan a summer getaway. One of the main reasons that this area has a later opening date is due to the condition of the crab in the area. When Dungeness Crab start to molt, their shells are soft and the quality of the crab meat is lower. Typically, crabbing is only allowed after the majority of crab in the area molt and return to their hardshell condition, and the further north you go… the later in the summer that occurs.
[table caption=”San Juan Islands South Crab Season 2014″ width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
San Juans & Bellingham,MA 7S,July 17 thru Sept 29,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
Strait of Georgia Crabbing 2014
This is one of Western Washington’s more remote areas, with scattered islands that are dotted with seasonal cabins and beach homes. Crabbing can be excellent in this area but the season is short.
[table caption=”San Juan Islands North Crab Season 2014″ width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Gulf of Georgia,MA 7N,Aug 15 thru Sept 29,Thurs – Mon,Tues & Wed
South Puget Sound Crabbing 2014
Crabbers in Puget Sound’s southern extent get a season that is a month longer than other areas. Angler effort in the Deep South Sound isn’t that great, and since Dungeness Crab can be found in hardshell condition early on, crabbing opens on June 1. The Dungeness Crab may seem to be less abundant here than in other parts of the Sound, but local crabbers seem to do just fine.
[table caption=”South Puget Sound Crab Season 2014″ width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Deep South Sound,MA 13,June 1 thru Sept 1,7 Days a Week,-
Summer Steelhead are one of the most prized catches that swim in our Pacific Northwest rivers. This beautiful specie resembles an oversized Rainbow Trout, often having the same coloring as their lake-locked brethren, but at first glance it is obvious that these creatures are a sea going sort. If you are a fisher who just recently moved to the Pacific Northwest, or are simply interested in trying out a new fishery, then you are exactly the person I wrote this for. I hope you find this information useful. I hope it helps solve the puzzles of Steelhead fishing during summer months. I hope you will soon see the first Summer Run on the end of your line.
Summer Steelhead Basics
Historically speaking, Steelhead were found in Northwest rivers throughout the year. Currently in most rivers, we classify Steelhead as either a winter-run or a summer-run. In Western Washington and Oregon, Summer Steelhead return to their rivers from May through September, yet won’t spawn until December and January; Winter Steelhead will return October through March, yet won’t spawn until April through June. Summer Steelhead that return to the Inland Northwest, those that are returning to the tributaries of the Upper Columbia River and Snake River, will reach their destination from September through December. So realistically, throughout our region, Summer Steelhead can be caught from May through December in fairly fresh form.
Summer Steelhead are a true thrill to catch. They typically weigh five to fifteen pounds. They are widely available throughout the Pacific Northwest. The pleasant summer river environment they live in allows them to actively travel, actively feed, and actively chase down lures, flies and baits. Once hooked they are acrobatic, often jumping and leaping out of the water numerous times. They are one of my favorite fish to pursue, yet they are a challenge to catch at times.
To successfully fish for Summer Steelhead, one needs to know where to find them. One needs to assess the water conditions and decide what equipment best suits the situation. One needs to have appropriate tackle. The beauty of fishing for them in the summer is that they will take a wide range of offerings; it is only a matter of selecting the best technique and the best lures for that specific time frame. Most of this comes only with experience. I could write an entire book on the subject, but let’s start off with the basics that will get you out on the water.
Summer River Conditions
If you have spent any time walking along our Northwest riverbanks, you know that our rivers are moody. A river may be a raging torrent, but its neighbor may be not much more than a trickle. You might approach a river that has high flows one week, but low and clear the next. What influences river conditions during the summer?
There are two main elements that shape current river conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Rain and Snowmelt.
First let’s talk about rain. Rain is synonymous with the Pacific Northwest. Not only to we get more than our fair share of it, but Mother Nature is, let’s be kind, generous with the number of days per year that we have drizzle and gray skies. April and May, sometimes June as well, are typically very wet months. The heavy river flows in the spring allow out-migrating baby Salmon and Steelhead a fast track to the Pacific, they also make for a fairly easy commute upriver for early returning Summer Steelhead. July through September are generally dry, which means that as the summer progresses, the rivers have little to replenish their flows once the snowpack is gone (we will talk about that in a minute). Anglers rejoice at any news of a mid-July squall, as it can lift the river levels just enough to turn on a hot Steelhead bite for a few more days. Usually by mid-August most Northwest rivers are very low, very clear, very warm, and very difficult to fish. Cooler evenings and lower light conditions in September and October can be a godsend to Steelheaders on the Westside, there is usually a resurgence of fishing activity. That being said, the vast majority of Summer Steelhead are caught in June, July and August.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, our high country holds a healthy snowpack for most of the early summer. It is the snowfields deep in the Cascade Range, the Olympic Mountains, the Sawtooths, and the Rockies that feed our rivers midway through the summer. On an average year, snowmelt is a major contributing factor to higher river flows usually through June, sometimes deep into July. On the Skykomish River during the summer months, you can check out the USGS river gauge and see that flows actually increase at night from snowmelt that occurred the day prior, then drop during the day as a reaction to the cooler evening temperatures in the Cascade Range. This is a daily occurrence until the Cascade snowpack is gone. Pretty interesting stuff. Once that snowpack is gone, fishermen pray to the rain gods for a summer freshet.
Several of the most famed Summer Steelhead rivers are dammed. As electricity demands and irrigation needs are met by altering the flows released by dams, it can make for constantly changing conditions that a Steelhead angler must adapt to. I will leave it at that, as each river that has dam regulated flows has its own unique situations throughout the summer. That’s one for you to figure out.
Summer Run Finesse
Deciding what equipment to use is a big part of Summer Steelhead success. During high water conditions, heavier line, heavier leaders (10 pound or 12 pound) and larger offerings will work just fine. When the water clears, the fish tend to be more selective and lighter leaders (6 pound or 8 pound) are typically used. As the summer progresses and rivers drop, I shift from baiting a whole live Sand Shrimp to just a piece of the tail, and downsize from a quarter coin sized cluster of cured roe to just over the size of a dime. I am constantly amazed at just how many Steelhead key in on tiny offerings, even when the water isn’t crystal clear.
When our rivers are flowing higher and greener during the early season, filled with fresh snowmelt, brighter jigs, larger & brighter drift bobbers (Corkies and Cheaters), maybe even a mylar-winged Spin & Glo. But as the waters recede and clear up, the most dull-colored jig or the smallest drift bobber can be too much at times.
Summer Steelhead Baits
In sections of the river where bait is legal to use, it can be the most effective offering. Certain baits are popular is certain areas. Many Oregonian Steelhead fishers love drift fishing a small Crawfish tail in the summer. On Western Washington & Oregon rivers, those that are within close proximity to the saltwater, it is hard to turn down a few dozen freshly dug live Sand Shrimp. In Washington’s Southwestern rivers, such as the Lewis and Cowlitz, cured Coonstripe Shrimp are widely used, as they are along the riverbanks of the Upper Columbia River tributaries of Eastern Washington & Oregon and Idaho. Wherever you plan to go fishing and regardless of the local bait favorites, one of the most widely used and most effective Summer Run baits is a cluster of cured salmon eggs/roe. If you can get your hands on some high quality eggs, you will catch fish. When quality salmon roe isn’t available, many Steelhead fishermen will head to the local grocery store and by previously frozen Shrimp (21-60 count is popular), cut them into bait-sized chunks and fish them either colored and cured or just plain.
There are also several baits that will catch Steelhead at times, but are not as widely known or used. Some anglers swear that in the most challenging water conditions of later summer, a live Nightcrawler is the bait of choice. On rare occasion I have passed guys on the trail that were walking out with a limit of Summer Steelhead caught using small chunks of Squid. Very late into the summer, as Steelhead tend to act more trout-like, a Periwinkle, a Stonefly or any other large local insect can and will catch fish. But in general all the baits mentioned in the paragraph prior to this one are the standard, go-to baits.
Drift Fishing for Summer Steelhead
Drift fishing is a great technique that has been around as long as folks have been wandering the banks of our rivers. Basically, to drift fish means that you use a snap swivel tied to your mainline, attach a small weight to the snap part, and to the swivel part you tie on a short leader to your offering. Most of the time, a piece of pencil lead or a slinky weight is the best. Cast directly out or ever-so-slightly up current and allow your offering to tumble along the bottom. Use barely enough weight so that when your offering is drifting down the current, it ticks the river cobble only a few times.
When I bring my drift rod along, I usually try and use some form of bait, mainly cured roe or live Sand Shrimp. On occasion, I will use nothing more than a drift bobber, a Trout Bead, or a drift bobber matched with a small tuft of yarn (smeared with scent if possible).
Those that drift fish come to the realization that regardless of just how perfect the drift is, the current always pushes the mainline and creates a belly – there is never a truly direct connection, so sometimes a Steelhead will pick up the offering and you will barely notice. Light bites. Concentration is key. Float fishing is way easier.
Float Fishing for Summer Steelhead
Arguably the most widely used technique in the Pacific Northwest. Float Fishing, often times referred to as Bobber Fishing, is deadly effective. Not only is float fishing the perfect technique for the beginner, but it is also the preferred method for many veteran Steelheaders. Float fishing basics: drifting the current with your offering suspended under a bobber. For the most part, when guys bring along their float rods, their offering is a Steelhead Jig. These jigs are usually quite small, fly-looking thingies, weighing around 1/16 ounce to ¼ ounce. The best jig colors and patterns to use vary based on location and river conditions. Ocean-fresh Summer Steelhead have many of the same characteristics of Salmon, they strike out of curiosity, they strike out of aggression. They prefer flashy Spinners & Spoons, they like brightly colored jigs. In early summer, when the Steelhead are fresh and the water is high and green I will use jigs that have a larger profile that are brightly colored, lots of light pinks, oranges, reds, purples. The longer Summer Steelhead spend in the river, the more they take on the characteristics of Trout. They will feed regularly. They will eat bugs. Buggy looking jigs catch fish later on. In the late summer, when the river is running clear and the Steelhead have been in the freshwater for a while, I will use blacks, purples, black/red, blues, browns, olives.
Summer Steelhead Jigs
There are plenty of varieties of Steelhead Jigs. Most are tied with chenille, rabbit fur, marabou and hackle. There are jigs with beaded bodies. Some jigs have a big profile and a lot of volume. Some jigs are tied very sparsely. Personally, I tie most of the jigs that I use, but there are a few brands that I really like to fish with. Aerojig makes a really fishy hackle series that is popular across the Pacific Northwest. Beau Mac has a series of bead-bodied jigs that catch a lot of fish. Spirit River has numerous styles of jigs that are very unique, very effective, and very cutting-edge. John’s Jigs offers a variety of rabbit fur jigs and they have been a staple in my jig box for years.
There are countless jig companies across our region are tying up some really cool creations as well.
Summer Steelhead Beads
Fishing with Trout Beads was once a uniquely Alaskan method. Anglers headed north would scour the bins of Anchorage fly shops for the most perfect, life-like salmon egg imitation; Rainbows of the north are known to station themselves downstream from masses of spawning Salmon, gorging themselves and getting fat and chunky on the loose eggs that never make it into the gravel. Although it is rare for a Summer Steelhead to consistently feed on loose salmon roe (especially in the summer when there really aren’t many actively spawning fish in the river), they do key in on salmon roe imitations, especially single egg imitations during the summer.
Fishing with Steelhead beads on the rivers of Washington, Oregon and Idaho is a fairly new thing. At first glance at a small bead, one might wonder why the heck a Steelhead would waste the time to strike at it. But the trout-like characteristics of Steelhead make these beads work very well. In some areas, like the upper Skykomish River, fishing beads under a float is fairly standard. Bead fishing on the Cowlitz River has just become a staple method this year, but most guys drift fish them.
Bead fishers tend to be a very skillful group. Out of the best bead fishermen that I know, from the Oregon Coast to Washington’s Puget Sound rivers to Alaska’s Situk utilize a wide variety of bead colors and sizes. To keep it simple, pick up a couple packs of beads that are bright and colorful (high water) and subtle and natural (low water). Pick up a variety of 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, and even though they may seem disproportionately humungous, some 14mm beads as well.
Summer Steelhead Spoons
Swinging spoons for Steelhead is a true art form, a very effective art form. They are a great option when the drift is fast and choppy; these heavy lures get down quick. These heavy hardware lures come in a variety of shapes, styles and finishes. Basically, to fish for Steelhead with a spoon, one simply casts the spoon directly across the current and lets the spoon swing in the current. When I swing spoons, I try to envision it fluttering just above the river cobble. As the current pushes my line, I will free-spool a little extra line to keep the spoon from lifting. As I feel the spoon make contact with the river cobble, I will raise the rod tip just a bit to raise the spoon off the bottom. It can be quite technical. When water conditions are high and green, 2/5 ounce or ½ ounce spoons are perfect for most drifts. Preferred finishes at silver-plate, gold-plate or a half & half. As water conditions clear, smaller spoons in a nickel, copper or a black finish would be my go to choice.
Summer Steelhead Spinners
Spinners are the lightweight hardware alternative to spoons. A few of my most memorable Steelhead have been taken with spinners. The spinner’s profile cause it to not sink as quick as a spoon, so drifts that either have a soft current or are shallow will be a perfect place to roll a spinner. I typically will cast slightly upstream and allow the spinner a few seconds to sink before I start my slow retrieve. I retrieve just fast enough to both keep the blade spinning and keep the spinner from contacting the river cobble. Early in the season, I primarily use Size 3 and Size 4 spinners, a lot of silver blade with a green, blue, purple or pink body. Later in the season, I downsize to a Size 2 or Size 3 spinner and my favorite finishes are copper, black, silver and brass.
Summer Run Steelhead are one of my favorite Northwest catches, they are a challenge to hunt, a thrill to battle, offer up a great base for smoked or grilled fish, and they give us yet another excuse to get out and enjoy the outdoors during our warm Northwest Summers. Viewing a hefty Summer Steelhead leaping out of the water at the end of the line is a sight that everyone should experience. Best of luck out there everyone and have a great summer!
Hello Everyone! We’ve just wrapped up a very successful spring fishing season, many folks managed to catch a few Rainbow Trout at their favorite local lake, land that Barndoor Halibut out in the Pacific Ocean, haul in a few limits of Spot Shrimp from the Hood Canal, and many more enjoyed great fishing across the Great Pacific Northwest. We’ve only just begun to fish! June is a great month to be a fisher up here in the upper left hand corner of the country, and I wanted to do a little write-up on some of the month’s best fishing options.
Throughout Washington & Oregon there are almost too many fishing opportunities to choose from. And regardless of your favorite target species, there is great fishing to be had. While the month of May offers anglers along the Coast and the Puget Sound the first taste of saltwater fishing, Lingcod fishing remains a strong option for many, and the first Chinook Salmon start to show up in many marine areas. Rivers on both sides of the Cascade divide will see fishable numbers of Spring Chinook returning and are a huge draw on rivers such as the Cowlitz, Columbia, Wenatchee, Yakima, Snake and Icicle. We have our Summer Steelhead kick-off in early June, with an overwhelming excitement in the fishing community for warm weather river fishing. Western Washington lowland trout lakes will still be producing stocked Rainbow Trout, and with a lighter-than-normal snowpack our lower level alpine lakes in both the Olympic and Cascade Ranges will provide a little fishing fix for our high altitude hiking crew. Washington has lots of fishing going on this month, get your trip planned!
June Saltwater Salmon Fishing
June marks the very beginning of our Northwest saltwater salmon fishing season. Many of Washington’s marine areas open for salmon fishing this month, and the few early season mark-selective Chinook fisheries on the coast that opened up last month should remain strong until the general season opens later.
Westport (Marine Area 2)- Opening day for salmon fishing in Westport was the earliest it has been in many years. With a large numbers of Columbia River Chinook predicted, our early mark-selective fishery was pushed forward a few weeks. Opening day was May 31, and since then there have been a fair number of Hatchery Chinook caught. Most boats have been seeing a few opportunities most days, but every day that passes should mean greater numbers of Chinook migrating into the area. The daily limit up until June 14 is two fin-clipped Chinook, then it shifts to the regular season when limits change to daily limit two salmon, only one of which can be a Chinook (clipped or unclipped), release Wild Coho. The real challenge with fishing for salmon in the ocean is locating them. Early season anglers stay close to the beach, fishing in 30 to 50 feet of water with divers or downriggers. Later in June many anglers head out to the offshore areas in search of fish.
Neah Bay and La Push (Marine Areas 3 & 4)- The early mark-selective Chinook fishery in Neah Bay and La Push were designed to offer the folks out after Halibut another option on non-Halibut days. It was a huge win for everyone. You can go out to Neah Bay for a Thursday Halibut day, fish Friday & Saturday for Hatchery Chinook, then round up your long weekend with Sunday Halibut fishing. There were a few Chinook found offshore during the early season, but the real excitement begins June 14 when our main coastal salmon season begins. As of June 14, the daily limit is two salmon, both Hatchery and Wild Chinook can be kept, release Wild Coho.
Seattle (Marine Area 10)- Even though we have plenty of early season opportunities on the Washington Coast, it is nice to have a few options closer to home. Seattle area anglers will be able to enjoy a full month of Catch & Release saltwater fishing in Marine Area 10, which is a great chance to get out on a nice day and fine tune your saltwater strategies for the general season. The northern section of MA 10 is open in June, north of a line from Meadow Point (Ballard) to Point Monroe (North Bainbridge Island). There are a fair number of Resident Coho hanging around Jefferson Head and quite a few large Chinook have already started to migrate back to our inland waters. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am for summer salmon fishing in Seattle!
Tacoma (Marine Area 11)- Fishing for salmon opened on June 1 in Marine Area 11, and early reports, as usual, are mixed. Dust off the downriggers and troll around Three Tree Point (Burien), Dolphin Point (North Vashon), Point Beals (Mid Vashon) and Point Robinson (South Vashon) for your best bet. The Tacoma guys working the Slag Pile and Point Defiance have seen a few nice Chinook, but those that have experience with this entire area know that most boats catch less than one salmon a day. Fine tune your skills, study the tides and put in your time and you’ll increase your odds.
South Sound (Marine Area 13)- Not too many people travel to Marine Area 13 to fish for salmon, but local Tacoma and Olympia based anglers can see some pretty good salmon fishing here early in the season. South Puget Sound has some interesting things going for it. It opened for salmon on May 1, the earliest season in Puget Sound. Anglers can keep two salmon, release Wild Chinook. Marine Area 13 is the only area in Puget Sound where anglers may fish with two poles each, if they purchase the Two-Pole Endorsement with their fishing license. The numerous islands, inlets and passages offer a complex fishing region with plenty of places that Chinook will concentrate based on the tide. I know that sounds vague, but it is just one of those places you really just have to get to know to have consistent success.
June Lingcod Fishing
Puget Sound- Lingcod fishing has been great this year and most folks that head out on the Sound can scratch out at least one fish a day. While much of the smaller and most well known areas do get fished out by the tail end of the season, there are still lots of Lingcod to catch. Try out Possession Bar, Foulweather Bluff, Double Bluff, Blakely Rocks and other areas with prominent structure to catch your June Lings. Daily limit is one Lingcod and the slot limit is 26” to 36”. The season will remain open through June 15.
San Juan Islands- Throughout the Islands are countless rockpiles, rocky cliffs, reefs, underwater ledges and other structure that makes this region a Lingcod fishing paradise. The beauty of fishing in the Islands is that even though the Southern and Eastern areas are fished heavily by folks launching out of Bellingham and Anacortes, there is just too much structure to fish! Even through the tail end of the season, anglers find great fishing for Lings. This season there were reports of phenomenal fishing, some reported that the sheer number of oversized Lingcod in the area outnumbered catches of keeper Lings, but I didn’t hear a single complaint from the guys that could only catch the Trophy Lingcod that needed to be released. Daily limit one Lingcod measuring 26” to 36”. Open May 1 thru June 15.
Neah Bay- Halibut season has ended in Neah Bay and after the last day of fishing, the great exodus of private boats occurred. Solitude has returned to the North Coast, and June is a great month to plan an adventure to Neah Bay or La Push. Neah Bay Lingcod fishing inside the 20 fathom line will remain open through the summer, and with a two Lingcod limit (min. size 22” no max. size) plus ten Rockfish in the ocean, a day with calm seas can yield high catches. Even if you own a smaller fishing boat, Lingcod fishing inside the Straits at Neah Bay can be quite good and although the Rockfish limit is reduced to six, a productive day of fishing will give you plenty of fillets of white fish.
Westport- Lingcod fishing has remained strong out in Westport. While most private boats are headed out to try their luck with Chinook, quite a number of charter boats are still booking bottomfish trips, and limits are the norm. Reports from boats such as the Slammer, Ranger, and Reel Elite all have been stellar and should continue throughout the month. It is common for a charter boat to head out with fifteen guests and return with a boat limit of 150 Rockfish and 30 Lingcod. So load up the bottomfish tackle box and sharpen those fillet knives! Every charter boat has their own favorite little honey holes, and heading out on your own for the first time can be daunting. It takes quite a bit of effort to find bottomfish structure out at Westport, but many boaters will catch plenty of Lingcod and Black Rockfish by the South Jetty, drifting parallel to the rocks, jigging with curly tail grubs. Just don’t get caught out there during the Max Ebb portion of the tide, it gets a little bumpy out there!
June Halibut Opions
Sekiu & Puget Sound (Marine Areas 5 thru 10): Halibut fishing is more of a May endeavor, but the tail end of the Puget Sound season extends into June. Get those spreader bars and chum bags ready for Saturday June 7, the only day to fish for Halibut in Marine Areas 5-10 this month.
Crabbing in June
Ilwaco (Marine Area 1)- A few locals have reported decent catches of Dungeness out at the mouth of the Columbia River. Crabbing in the river is open year round with a daily limit of 12 Dungeness Crab per person. Check out Ed’s Bait & Tackle in Ilwaco (360) 642-2248 for the latest reports, they’ve got plenty of rockfish and salmon carcasses to bait those rings.
Westport & Ocean Shores (Marine Area 2)- Crabbing in Westport is just starting to get good. Earlier reports from the commercial crabbers was pretty dismal, with most of the catch hauled in falling just under the six inch minimum. The reports went from about one keeper per eight pots to great catches near the shore. A buddy of mine dropped two pots on his way out salmon fishing and pulled up nine keepers… so pretty darned good! Remember that the ocean currents require a very heavily weighted pot.
South Puget Sound (Marine Area 13)- This is the first area to open for Puget Sound Dungeness Crab. Crabbing in the Deep South Sound has been going strong since it opened on June 1 and should continue to be good throughout the summer season. I’d key in on the area from Zittel’s Marina down the shoreline to the Nisqually Reach. I talked with Cathy at Zittel’s and she said that guys were reporting great crabbing in that area and on the south side of Anderson Island. Most folks are setting their pots at 100’ to 125’, which for most of us used to setting pots up north is pretty deep. Weight those pots down so they don’t drift and avoid times when there is a large tidal exchange.
Spring & Summer Chinook Fishing
Cowlitz River- Spring Chinook fishing has been very good. Many of the fishing guides that spend time on the Cowlitz had great fishing throughout the Blue Creek, Mission Bar and Toledo areas and now that the run is at its peak, bank anglers are also seeing some pretty consistent Chinook fishing at Barrier Dam. The mix of Spring Chinook and Summer Steelhead right now really makes a trip to the Cowlitz River a no-brainer.
Skykomish River- Fishing on the Skykomish River has been pretty good since the June 1 opener. Skykomish Hatchery Chinook are all returning to the Wallace River Hatchery, and fishing from the mouth of the Wallace downriver through the lower reaches of the Skykomish has been fairly good since opening day. Cured roe has been the bait of choice, whether fishing roe under a bobber, free drifting from a boat, or backtrolling diver & bait.
Yakima River- Spring Chinook will be available below Roza Dam for any eager Yakima Valley anglers. This is a popular fishery that yields quite a few keepers. 3,500 Chinook are expected back. Daily limit is two Hatchery Chinook.
Wenatchee River It has been eons since we’ve been able to fish for Spring Chinook on the Wenatchee River. The last Springer was caught and kept on that river about twenty years ago. But due to a forecasted return of 10,000 Chinook returning to the hatchery. WDFW was issued a brand-spanking-new federal permit that allows a mark-selective fishery on the river in an effort to protect any endangered Wild Chinook by removing more Hatchery Chinook from the spawning grounds. The Wenatchee opens on June 6 and will remain open until further notice, so check the emergency rules page on the WDFW site for updates.
Icicle River- The little creek that meanders through Leavenworth will be a worthwhile option for anyone on the Eastside of Washington looking to catch a salmon this month. Fish have been caught regularly since it opened for fishing on May 23 and both the bank bound anglers fishing near the hatchery and the drift boat anglers have been finding a few Spring Chinook. All of the standard Spring Chinook methods can be productive here, but the regulars especially prefer to fish with small Herring (plunking, on divers, drift fishing, you name it-they fish it). Daily limit is two clipped Spring Chinook.
Summer Steelhead Opportunities
Check out my write-up on Washington Summer Steelhead Season 2014.
Coastal Streams- Olympic Peninsula rivers open on June 6, and although most of the folks that head way West keep pretty hush-hush about it, a few reports have trickled out from the Coast. Fishing has been decent, but low water conditions have made for a more challenging time on rivers such as the Humptulips, Wynoochee and Bogachiel.
Cowlitz River- Fishermen on the Cowlitz River have primarily been targeting Spring Chinook, but Summer Steelhead are just now starting to show. Expect fishing to just keep getting better, as these fish steadily build their numbers throughout July. Summer Steelhead are caught at Barrier Dam, Blue Creek and further downstream. On some years the summer return of Steelhead is exceptionally high, when that happens fishing at night for Steelhead (glo-balling) can be a real thrill.
Skykomish River- The Sky opened for fishing on June 1, and loads of hot reports have been pouring in. Fishing was incredible at the Reiter Ponds Hatchery area, with many bank anglers catching their limit of two. Bank anglers at several more popular lower river spots also reported good fishing. Drift boat anglers floating from the High Bridge to Sultan drift have seen a healthy number of Steelhead as well. Overall, the Skykomish River is a great close-to-Seattle option for anyone looking to catch a Summer Steelhead.
Final thoughts regarding June fishing
I could have written so much more about the amazing variety of fishing opportunities we have here in Washington, so this report is just a taste of what is available this June. Beyond our great Salmon, Steelhead, Lingcod and Crabbing options, there are hundreds of lakes that offer stellar Bass fishing, Trout fishing and Walleye fishing this time of year. We have great opportunities to go Shrimping in Puget Sound, Clam Digging in Hood Canal, Surf Perch fishing on the ocean beaches and so much more. I really hope you all can find the time to plan at least one fishing trip this month. And for you out there that find time to make a couple trips, challenge yourself to try a new fishery, one that you’ve never experienced, one that you always have thought about. Best of luck on the water everyone!
Today was yet another day of Salmon and Lingcod fishing. It was yet another day where salmon fishing was slow but fishing for Lingcod and Rockfish was fantastic. There were a few reports of Salmon caught, but most of the reports that we heard on the radio were of Wild Chinook that were released. We spent the morning fishing along the beach just south of the South Jetty at Westport, then we worked our way north. Three hours of trolling divers yielded two hooked Salmon, neither fish made it to the boat. So we picked up the gear and headed out to target Lingcod.
The Lingcod were very hungry today. As we drifted, we hooked Lingcod at a fairly fast pace. There were a few we kept that were just over two feet long, and a few that were fairly large. At the end of our first drift, I pitched a swimbait right up against an exposed rock and hooked the perfect sized live bait, a small Kelp Greenling. I rigged it on our backup rod, hopped up to the bow and dropped it down. As soon as I felt the tap-tap of the weight hit the bottom, the rod viciously doubled over. Grabbed by a Lingcod! I looked to the left, next to me was Gary… he had just landed a Ling. I looked back to the other side, there was Larry by the cabin… he hadn’t had a chance to tug on one yet. So I rounded to bow, all the while keeping tension on the Lingcod, but by the time I got over to Larry to hand the rod off, the fish was up and ready to be scooped. There it was, just two feet from the surface, it was a beautiful Blue Lingcod, gripping the back half of that small Greenling, swimming with a serpentine motion, oblivious to our motive. Net! I need a net over here! Ian scooped it and we had ourselves another keeper. We snapped a few photos, you know… for the archives, and threw it in the fish box. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get it over to Larry fast enough, but at least we had one for him to take home. My next goal was to get him on a nice Lingcod.
We fished throughout the noon hour, and our fish box was steadily filling up with bottomfish. Gary caught a beautiful Blue Cabezon, with coloring unlike any I’ve ever seen. We caught a bunch of Black Rockfish, a smallish Cabezon, some other Greenling, and a few other Lingcod.
Black Rockfish were easy to come by. We fished an area that definitely had quite a few of them around. We positioned just off of a hump that gradually came up to an exposed wash rock. At the beginning of each drift, we had sporadic bursts of action, some Lingcod, some Rockfish. At the end of each drift as we neared the wash rock, we would get into a decent Black Rockfish bite.
Ian hollered at me, “Look what I’ve got!” He smiled and held up a tiny Black Rockfish. Live bait! I headed back to the bow to join Larry, and dropped it down. He took the rod, eager to experience a live bait grab. We drifted and fished, the live bait rig didn’t produce. Larry was focused, he was ready. I noticed that everyone else, whom were fishing with swimbait/shrimp fly setups, was catching fish. I asked Larry if he wanted to switch, since the live bait had not produced, and he obliged. Not more than 60 seconds after we switched, I lifted into a Monster Lingcod.
The Ling forced the rod tip downward toward the water, an obvious beast. Larry gasped. I lifted into it, reeled steadily and handed the rod off. It was a struggle for me, then Larry, to manage such a beast. It definitely had the advantage. He could lift it about ten feet, slowly and steadily bringing it up, then it would rocket back to the seafloor.
After about five minutes of back and forth the rod went limp, Larry and I shared a sigh of disappointment. He reeled up to find that the Ling had sawed through the leader. Fifty pound monofilament leader. It was a beast. The beast won the battle.
While I don’t ever refer to myself as an expert in anything, working on a charter boat in Alaska, and having fished religiously for Lingcod in Washington for the past dozen years, I have seen some big fish. My personal best is 62 pounds (weighed on an official scale). While I don’t think this fish would’ve beaten that record, it definitely had more mass, more viciousness, and more fight than a 44 inch fish we released in Puget Sound a few weeks ago.
Regardless of any speculation, it was a nice fish.
Larry ended up getting a keeper Lingcod later that day so all was right with the world and our day on the water was filled with great moments.
We fished again today on the Pacific Ocean out of Westport. First off, I am a true believer that honesty is the best policy; Salmon fishing sucked so we decided to show our guests some awesome Black Rockfish action today. Far to the north of Westport and the entrance to Grays Harbor, the flat beaches of Ocean Shores gradually give way to the rolling hills of Iron Springs and Moclips. Further north lays a wild and rugged coastline, one of towering cliffs, roaring beachside surf, sea stacks and rocky pinnacles, and some phenomenal inshore fishing. Few venture this far away from port, and the phenomenal fishing that is found closer to Ocean Shores and Westport make it difficult to justify the extra run time, but the scenery is unlike anywhere on the Washington Coast.
We reeled in our salmon trolling gear and headed north. The small native village of Taholah exists at the mouth of the Quinault River, and just north of there are the ominous cliffs of Cape Elizabeth. The entire area is nearly untouched by civilization. Aside from the rooftops of Taholah, I would guess that our view today was the nearly unchanged since George Vancouver sailed the HMS Discovery northward in the late 1700’s, exploring the wild unknown that is our Pacific Coast.
Today our discovery was a phenomenal school of aggressive Black Sea Bass.
No member of our crew had experienced fishing on Washington’s Coast before. Jen & Jessica were from Indiana, freshly graduated from university and on a month-long trek across the American West before returning home to begin their careers. Mike & Rebecca and their folks were out on the ocean near Westport for the first time. Captain Ian and I were both excited to share this special place with our guests. We made the long run and now it was time to find the fish.
After cruising around the inshore near the Cape for a bit, Ian located a healthy school of Black Rockfish on the sonar screen. The water was about thirty feet deep and the bottom was comprised of continuous rock piles and crevasses. We set up for the first drift and everyone had their rods readied. Short light-tackle spinning rods with a double shrimp fly setup.
Six lines were dropped and most of the rods were doubled over with fish before the dropper weight hit bottom. When folks experience the fast-paced fishing action that happens when we go after Rockfish, the one word that I think best describes their reaction is shock. They get bit well before they expect to, all of the memories of past fishing shortcomings flash through their mind, and they try to remember how to react. How can there still be a place where fishing is this good? Like the good ole days. Present tense, these are the good ole days. After the first few hefty Rockfish are lifted into the boat, those four pound slabs with their tails rapidly slapping the deck, the reality sets in that… YES THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!.
Within fifteen minutes, we were ankle deep into Black Rockfish. Everyone reeled up. Ian fired up the motors to reposition for our second drift. I cleared the deck of fish, each fish was bled and tossed in the fish box. Thirty. Thirty fish in about fifteen minutes. Our next few drifts followed suit. More often than not, when I went to grab the fifty pound line we tie our dropper shrimp fly setups with, I would be lifting not one, but two Rockfish into the boat, one on each fly. This is the action we dream of, and the coastline in front of Cape Elizabeth offers it up.
I love taking folks out when they are here to experience something new and don’t know what to expect. When they are ready for an adventure and especially when we can show them some great fishing.
Another day in the books.
We spent another day fishing off the Washington Coast, searching for salmon and finding a few and exploring the remote inshore reefs near Point Grenville near Tahola, it was a great day.
Our crew was a pretty lively group, they were a fun bunch that were a pleasure to take out.
Our primary goal was to find a few Hatchery Chinook, which have been somewhat challenging to locate out here at Westport. Most of the reports from both the commercial trollers and the charter boats have been mediocre at best. The opener for the early mark-selective Chinook fishery was pretty good, and a few boats did well, but since then it has been a little bleak. Everyone has been fishing close to the beach, either the South Beach between the jetty and Grayland, or the North Beach from the jetty to the Quinault Beach Casino. We headed north, hopeful that we could find a few feeding salmon.
Trolling in the morning was a little slow. Scratch that – it sucked. Regardless of the lack of action, the crew was in good spirits and had a blast. Chris whipped out his phone and we blasted ACDC from his Pandora app, we joked around, told stories, and just flat out enjoyed ourselves. They we got bit! We battled a healthy Chinook to the net, checked for an adipose, found one, and released it. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get to keep it, but it was nice to see the beautiful specimen. After a full morning of trolling around, we headed north to explore some of the finest inshore bottomfish structure around.
Fishing around the rockpiles near Point Grenville was fantastic. Winds and currents were light near the shore, so we drifted around the structure just as planned. Occasionally, the winds will push the boat faster that is preferred and fishing can be tough; you just move too fast to fish well, but not today. Today was good.
We loaded up on Black Sea Bass, which are a real thrill to catch. These feisty three to four pound fish jump at the chance to scarf down small swimbaits or shrimp flies. We typically rig up a double hook rig with either a lower swimbait-upper shrimp fly or a double shrimp fly set up, both seem to catch plenty. While I always think that the Lingcod prefer larger baits, but many of the Lingcod that we catch out here mainly feed on smaller Anchovies… so catching a ten pound Ling on a shrimp fly isn’t out of the question. We kept five Lingcod, one of which was a real monster, probably in the twenty pound class. Chris caught that one and was really pleased with it.
Once we had a good number of Lingcod and our limits (sixty) of Black Sea Bass, we headed back to the South. On the way back, Captain Ian saw a number of birds feeding on top of what seemed like a large amount of bait, so we stopped. Seas were calm, and it was a perfect day to clean our catch of Rockfish and Lingcod, while working the Herring/Diver gear for a possible last-minute salmon bite.
Our last ditch effort to put a salmon in the boat paid off. Big Time. Just as I began to fillet our Rockfish, one of the rods buried from a salmon grab. Fish on! We cleared a nearby rod, left everything else fishing, and raced around each other trying to get the net ready, keep the lines cleared, and keep the fish on. Scoop. Hatchery fish. Yes!
Within the hour, we had one hook-up after the next. We landed our first hatchery fish right off the bat, then the second, then the third, and finally once we had all the rods fishing, on to the fourth! Chris grabbed the rod and the chaos that ensued was most accurately described as a fire drill. Once again, we were dealing with a tough fighting Chinook, and once I scooped it up with the net, there was a sigh of relief that we got it, then once we saw that we could keep it (hatchery fish), we were stoked!
As soon as I lifted the salmon into the boat, Ian gave everyone notice to reel up. Then we heard Al from the stern yell, “NO WAY!” I looked over and his rod was doubled over… Fish on again! I didn’t even have time to clear our last fish from the net, and we were dealing with a thrashing Chinook about ten feet behind the boat. We scrambled, Al fought the good fight, and in the net went our fifth hatchery Chinook of the day! We were on cloud nine!
Both the captain and I had a good feeling about fishing the afternoon for a bit, but neither of us truly expected such a drastic change in fishing action from the morning. It was awesome. We stayed out longer than normal but it was well worth it. With five salmon in the box to show for our efforts, we decided to call it a good day.
We headed back to port with a fish hold full of sixty Black Rockfish, five Lingcod and five Hatchery Chinook Salmon. It was epic fishing, calm seas and clear skies, and a fun crew, all of which I hope to fish with again. Good job guys!
Today was my first day fishing for salmon in Westport. I hopped aboard the charter boat Reel Elite for the day. Salmon fishing in Westport is usually a July and August endeavor, but we have the opportunity of fishing earlier in the season for Hatchery Chinook Salmon. With record returns destined for the Columbia River, everyone is excited about the prospects of great fishing this summer. We are excited too. The first couple days of the early season have been somewhat hit and miss, no one in the Westport harbor will argue that one. We still had our hopes up for a decent day.
Our primary mission was to find a few salmon, and that we did. Our boat is set up to fish six rods, two on the bow, two at the rear of the cabin, and two at the stern. Our rods are all rigged with Delta Divers and a chocked herring. My fishing partner showed me a really slick way to rig whole herring so that they spin, and it seems to be just what the fish want. We released a small Wild Chinook right of the get-go, it was a nice reminder of what those King Salmon actually look like.
While the crew was excited just to hook one , it was the second fish, a Hatchery Chinook, that really got everyone going. Although the first couple moments of action were a good omen, we didn’t really see much activity for the next few hours. With slow fishing for a while, we decided to get everyone into some Rockfish. Captain Ian zipped up to one of his nearby rockpiles and we cruised around for a few minutes, finally locating a small school of Rockfish. I got everyone ready to set their gear at a moments notice, Ian positioned the boat perfectly, and we gave the command, “Drop em down!”
We hit our target, we dropped our gear right into the center of the school. It was unbelieveable fishing for a few moments. I absolutely love being part of the chaos that ensues during a really good Rockfish bite. When you find them in a dense school, it almost seems that as the Rockfish dart to attack the lures, it triggers competitiveness in the others, creating a frenzy of feeding activity below and a frenzy on the boat deck above. Once that small school of fish offered us what it could, we searched around and found a few other rocky areas to fish and rounded out our limit of sixty Black Rockfish. We did only have one Chinook Salmon to show for our efforts so far, but having a fish box full of Rockfish really made everyone feel good about our day’s accomplishments.
On the way back to port, we spotted an area along the forty foot contour line that held a fair amount of bait, so we set the salmon trolling gear and fished while I filleted our Rockfish catch. It is more challenging to fillet fish on a moving boat, but the extra effort yielded us a beautiful Chinook for our guest Del. I saw the rod next to the cabin pulse with force as line tore from the reel, the clicker was zinging! I literally pushed Del, who was in front of me in the cabin, out the door and toward the rod. He grabbed it and the battle was on. Within a few moments we were clearing the other lines, trying to avoid any tangles, and struggling to get the net out, which was already stowed on the top of the cabin. I scooped Del’s fish and we rejoiced when we saw that we could keep it. Del’s fish was a great way to cap of a great day of fishing!
I always tell myself, “you have to invest more time fishing for Summer Runs,” and usually, I don’t listen to myself enough. Summer is a hectic time of year for most people that live around here, myself included. We spend months indoors, pining, waiting for warm weather, waiting for a break from the rain, waiting for a break from darkness, waiting for summer. I have spent the past four summers working at a fishing lodge in Alaska, so my time to fish for Summer Steelhead has been limited to the first two weeks of June before I leave. And usually, by the time the rivers open to fishing, I am deep into the frenzy of preparing to leave home for three months. Ordering gear, last minute home projects, yardwork, packing; time flies. So in the past my Steelhead fishing has been limited to about one or two half-assed last minute trips… I made a promise to myself that this year would be different. Yesterday was the first trip of hopefully many this summer to the river. Romey and I spent the morning exploring the Skykomish River near the Reiter Ponds Hatchery. Fishing was good.
Romey picked me up early in the morning and we drove through the Snoqualmie Valley and then Sky Valley to Reiter. On the drive through our valley, an odd sensation came over me. It was the same feeling I have experienced on other first outings in years’ past. We are headed out to the river to go fish, yet I have nothing more than a lightweight shirt on my back, lush green trees and grass lines the highway, I am not worried about rain or cold weather, I am not used to this. We spent the last several months fishing in bitter cold weather, drifting the serene yet barren rivers of a Northwest winter. Summer Steelhead fishing is for fair-weather fisherman, and I will proudly call myself to their ranks for the next few months. Traffic was light, we scored some extremely fresh Sand Shrimp in Monroe and even found a few open parking spots . The first day back visiting an old friend, the Skykomish River.
We put on our waders and walked down the trail towards the river. When we got to the river, there was a solid line of fishermen from the creek all the way down to the tailout. We squeezed in at the end of the line and spent the first part of our morning drift fishing the tailout. Not a lot was happening. Don’t get me wrong, there were fish being caught, and as we walked past all of the guys lined up fishing Reiter, there were a few fish in the water tied off on stringers, maybe four or five. We fished a half hour and there were a handful of Steelhead caught upriver from us. We felt like we had put in enough time at the tailout to know whether or whether not it was going to happen. Time to move on.
We decided to fish our way through the fast water toward the Cable Hole downriver. I brought both a float fishing rod and a drift rod, but followed Romey’s lead and spent the entire morning drifting roe. We got to a spot that looked halfway fishy, with a nice seam right in front of us. After a few drifts, I felt the classic tug of a Steelhead chewing on my bait. I reeled down on it and set the hook. WHAM! Fish On!!.
One of the defining characteristics of the Summer-run Steelhead is its desire to leap, jump and cartwheel in the air. Seeing a Steelhead on the end of the line jump is both a total thrill and a nerve-racking sight. Every leap is an opportunity for that fish to throw the hook. Now it wasn’t a second into this fight that I realized this particular Steelhead had a hankering for acrobatics. Pull-pull-pull-jump! Zip-zip-cartwheel! I would guess that the fish jumped a half dozen times. Not only was I dealing with a fish that was going ballistic, but the all the area around our fishy seam was a roaring torrent of white water. One long distance run from my fish and bye bye! Luckily, my first Steelhead of the year cooperated, and within a few minutes of battle, I slid it up onto the shore. What an awesome experience! We rejoiced, took a few photos, and continued fishing. It wasn’t long before Romey found a fish to play with, but his was a little more clever and came unhooked after a few seconds. You can’t land every Steelhead you hook, I guess, but Romey redeamed himself a few minutes later. We hit the Cable Hole, another beautiful Steelhead run just below Reiter. I walked downriver to find some solitude, and before I could set up my rod, Romey was hooked into a scrappy Summer Steelhead. I raced over to help him land his fish, which is no easy task on these steep-bank Upper Skykomish River drifts. It wasn’t huge, nearly a carbon-copy of my five pounder, but a beautiful specimen all the same. It was a great day for me, for Romey, for most folks up at Reiter. And although some folks scoff at the idea of spending so much time writing about a two-fish-fer-two-fellas type of day, the memories made were worth writing down.
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!
This year’s summer fishing season should give folks plenty of opportunities to catch Summer Run Steelhead in every corner of Washington State. Returns for 2014 summer-runs look very strong, and I anticipate that it will be a great season. Washington state is such a unique place, with a drastic range of environs, from the pine forests of the Eastern Washington foothills to the rain soaked coastal river valleys to the broad and mighty Columbia River. We have so many great Steelhead streams in our corner of the world, and I truly hope that everyone takes at least a few days to try their luck out there this summer.
Columbia River Summer Run Steelhead
The Columbia River draws the most attention from anglers around the Pacific Northwest. And while most folks head down to the Mighty Columbia to go salmon fishing, the returns of Summer Steelhead are staggering. The estimated return of upriver Summer Steelhead (just those that will pass over Bonneville Dam) is set at 281,000, which is a little less than last year but an impressive return nonetheless (doesn’t factor in returns from Lower Columbia Stocks). One look at the smolt plants on the rivers that pour into the Columbia really showcase just how many fish will return for us to catch!
Summer Steelhead return to the Columbia en masse, and as you can see by the table below, the run starts strong in the Lower Columbia and tributaries in June and progresses upriver until December. The best fishing in the lower river is typically found in June and July, but in the upper stretches of the river on the eastside of the state, fishing can be good in October and November and December. So even though we designate these fish as “summer run”, these fish do have quite the distance to travel upriver and fishing in the Upper Columbia doesn’t really peak until the fall months.
Steelhead fishing seasons on the mainstem Columbia River are set, but always check WDFW Emergency Rules before your trip for any possible closures. Also take note, that aside from a Catch Record Card for any Steelhead fishing you plan on doing statewide, there is a unique Columbia River Salmon & Steelhead Endorsement that needs to be purchased from your local license dealer, it is required to fish any part of the Columbia River or any of its tributaries. Summer Steelhead are caught by both boat anglers and bank anglers alike, and there are some phenomenal bank fishing spots along the entire length of the river!
[table caption=”Columbia River Mainstem Summer Run Fishing” width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
River Section,Best Fishing
Astoria to Longview,June thru July
Longview to Portland,July thru August
Portland to Dalles,July thru August
Dalles to John Day,July thru September
John Day to McNary, September thru November
McNary to Tri-Cities,September thru December
Tri-Cities to Priest Rapids,October thru January
Wells to Chief Joseph, October thru December
Lower Columbia River Tributaries 2014
The rivers that pour into the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam offer up some of the most classic steelhead waters that we have in our state. This region of the state is a Steelheader’s dream. Smaller rivers such as the Kalama, Washougal and Elochoman offer a great place to hike into a favorite spot or float the river in a drift boat. These are the places where the solitude of an uncrowded section of water on a warm summer day, and a cartwheeling Steelhead on the end of your line can create memories that help us get through the winter.
Then there are the rivers such as the Cowlitz that is a hive of activity throughout much of the summer, where a nice mix of Summer Steelhead and Salmon offer plenty of action for those that don’t mind the crowds. Buzzing upriver around a few other sleds to make another drift, side-drifting four lines to effectively cover the run, and leaving the river with a limit of Steelhead all caught on light tackle makes some folks beam with excitement.
Whatever is your preference, whatever sized river you prefer, whatever type of vessel you enjoy fishing from, there is a special place for you in Southwest Washington on the Columbia River Tribs.
[table caption=”Lower Columbia River Systems” width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Name of Stream,Smolt Released,Best Fishing
Elochoman River,33000,June thru July
Kalama River,90385,May thru September
Cowlitz River,571529,June thru August
South Fork Toutle River,14953,Just thru August
Green River,24974,June thru August
N.Fork & Main Lewis River,261797,May thru September
East Fork Lewis River,15000,June thru July
Upper Columbia River Tributaries 2014
Many of the rivers and streams that feed the Upper Columbia offer great Steelhead fishing. Generous smolt plants give us plenty of returning fish to catch from the Methow, Wenatchee, Walla Walla, Grande Ronde, and many others. Most of the upper river returns peak in September and October, but several locations will offer good fishing through December.
This is bobber &jig country; bank anglers fish below many of the dams and in the tributaries with small dark jig patterns, but tossing spinners, swinging spoons, and fly fishing will put a fair number of Steelhead to the beach as well. Some of the upper tributaries are managed with a “wait and see” method of season setting.
Because so many different things can factor in to how those upriver runs fair, such as outmigration over a dozen dams, predation, water temp, water flow, ect… Fish managers look at the estimated return early on, but will open up the more popular tributaries after they witness strong counts over the dams.
[table caption=”Upper Columbia River Systems” width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Name of Stream,Smolt Released,Best Fishing
N.Fork Washougal,62822,May thru July
Drano Lake,24003,July thru September
Klickitat River,91664,June thru October
Walla Walla River,102177,September thru November
Touchet River,143708,September thru November
Snake River Lower,137841,September thru November
Tucannon River,51124,September thru November
Grand Ronde River,176902,October thru December
Columbia River (Ringold),186143,July thru September
Columbia River (Wells),31860,October thru December
Wenatchee River,188721,September thru November
Methow River,304358,September thru November
Okanogan River,81465,September thru November
Washington’s Coastal Summer Steelhead 2014
When most fishers talk about “The Coast”, they are referring to the Westside of the Olympic Peninsula. Wild rushing rivers that sluice through the temperate rainforest in the National Park to collide with the Pacific. Wild Summer Steelhead can be found in a few of these rivers, I have caught Steelhead in the Queets during practically every month of the year.
The rivers that are still planted with hatchery produced Steelhead Smolts are few, just a couple, but each offers a unique fishery. Expect solitude on the Coast at the Humptulips and Calawah during summer months. Expect a crowd on the Wynoochee’s stretches early on. Once the snowmelt subsides, low clear flows make fishing a little more challenging, which makes each Steelhead landed even more rewarding.
[table caption=”Washington’s Coastal River Systems” width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Name of Stream,Smolt Released,Best Fishing
Quillayute River (Calawah),49500,June thru September
Humptulips River,31028,June thru August
Wynoochee River,60000,June thru August
Puget Sound’s Summer Steelhead 2014
Puget Sound’s summertime fishing opportunities revolt around a vibrant saltwater salmon fishing season and a remarkable array of Steelhead opportunities in local rivers. The Skykomish River’s snowmelt fed flows host a great mixed fishery for Summer Chinook and Steelhead. The Green River’s remote upper watershed is filled with hidden runs and pools, as well as great fishing at the Green River Gorge and Flaming Geyser State Park. Fly fishermen capitalize on the fly-only waters of the North Fork Stillaquamish. We have plenty of fishing opportunities to be thankful for in Puget Sound. If you have never caught a Summer Steelhead out of our local waters, the thrill is indescribable.
Unfortunately a local special interest group the Wild Fish Conservancy, who’s mission is to protect wild fish populations at any cost, has successfully filed a lawsuit to cease our fishing opportunities in Puget Sound rivers for Steelhead… in the future, the Skykomish River will be the only in all of Pugetropolis to be stocked, so most likely this year and next will be the last time we will see a fishery in any Puget Sound river for steelhead in the next dozen years… unless you want to pig-pile in the Sky Valley. So get in some local fishing time while you still can.
[table caption=”Puget Sound & Strait of Juan de Fuca River Systems” width=”500″ colwidth=”100″
Name of Stream,Smolt Released,Best Fishing
N. Fork Stillaquamish,76255,June thru August
Skykomish River,187500,June thru August
Green River (Icy Creek),19984,June thru August
Green River (Big Soos),60000,June thru August
Duckabush River,238,June thru July
I just got my hands on some of the new Blue Fox Vibrax Spinner colors today and boy do they look fishy! The original spinners are some of my favorite lures, I’ve caught Summer Steelhead, Winter Steelhead, Chinook, Pinks as well as plenty of Coho both at home and in Alaska. These new painted blade spinners look sweet, make sure you add a few to your summer arsenal.
These hot new colors are available in size 3, size 4, size 5 and size 6.
I fished out of Westport today aboard the charter boat Reel Elite for Lingcod and Rockfish. Fishing was pretty fast paced and we had our limits in no time. While the marine forecast was for fairly calm seas, it was a bumpy ride in the morning, as it seemed that there was a mixed swell direction and some chop on the top. Luckily the water calmed down by the time we started fishing. We cruised 10 miles north of the entrance to Grays Harbor to a little rockpile we know about. Armed with a double shrimp fly setup, Ian set ourselves up for two drifts to see what we could find. We knocked out half our limit of Rockfish, but it seemed that by our third drift fishing had really died down. There were six anglers on board, and both Captain Ian and I knew that if we wanted to ensure limits of both Rockfish and Lingcod for everyone, a change of scenery was needed.
Sonora Reef lies about 25 miles north of Westport and has some of the best inshore structure one could hope to find. The reef isn’t much of a secret, as it can be found on most charts, and everyone in the charter fleet knows of its existence. It is a long run to get to Sonora from Westport, but well worth it if you don’t mind burning the fuel. It is truly a special place to fish. Black Rockfish swarm around the wash rocks near the reef, and Lingcod stack onto every rocky ledge, even as shallow as 20 feet. We hoped that making the extra long run up to the reef would give us our boat limit and allow for plenty of time to cruise back and clean our catch.
We motored around searching for a big school of Rockfish. These fish aren’t necessarily difficult to catch, and once you drop your gear into a school, a feeding frenzy often follows. In as shallow as 25 feet, we marked plenty of fish holding tight to the bottom. It must have been the combination of bright sun, clear water, and shallow depths that kept the fish from schooling mid-water. We dropped six lines and the frenzy began. Double after triple after quadruple. We caught thirty before we knew it, and after a final count of 78 Rockfish for 6 guests and 2 crewmembers, we were close enough to a boat limit of 80 to move on to a Lingcod spot. Occasionally we can scrape up an entire limit of Lingcod at the reef and avoid having to move into deeper water, but the Rockfish were so numerous and so aggressive… we didn’t land a single Lingcod up north!
So we cruised off to a favorite Lingcod spot. We passed the Slammer, one of Westport’s premier bottomfish-catching-machines anchored on a prime spot. I checked their report later in the day to find that they absolutely crushed it with 20 anglers: 41 Lingcod & 200 Rockfish. I have nightmares about filleting that many fish at once! But cheers to those guys for offering up another great trip to a boat full of happy anglers. We hit our spot and worked for our 12 Lings, but we got em! All in all it was a great day, and I was stunned at how fast paced the Rockfish catching up north was. Can’t wait until the next trip!
Today I helped out Captain Randy with Northwest Fishing Charters on a Lingcod trip. We had phenomenal weather and great fishing at Possession Bar. I have never fished with Randy before, and was excited to finally get the opportunity. He has been running a charter business on Puget Sound longer than I have been fishing, so I was very interested in getting to fish with a veteran Lingcod angler. We had a great group on the boat, a family from Maryland that wanted to experience what local Seattle area fishing has to offer.
Randy operates a Uniflite Salty Dog named the Dom Perignon which is moored at the Everett Marina. We met a little early to rig rods and get a game plan together. While we each consider ourselves decent fishermen, we hashed out our strategy for the day. Steve, Lauren, Ben and Sam met us at the dock at 7am and we were off.
We issued fishing licenses and headed over to Hat Island to catch a day’s worth of live bait. Randy had a really efficient way to fill the live-well. He rigged up a double dropper setup with small barbless baitholder hooks and tipped them with a small chunk of cialis generic, it caught fish and was extremely durable). We set up a drift in about seventy five feet off the Southeast edge of the island. It didn’t take long before we had a dozen small Sand Dabs in the livewell and were off to find our guests some Lingcod.
We cruised south to Possession Bar under bluebird skies, everyone soaked in the beautiful view. Mount Baker was visible to the north, Rainier loomed over Seattle to the south. A perfect day to show off our neighborhood to visitors. We had an incoming tide throughout the morning with a very small exchange of about 4 feet. When drift fishing for Lingcod, a small exchange is nice because it allows the captain to easily back the boat up to keep the lines at a vertical angle but still cover ground, so to speak.
Our first few drifts at Possession weren’t anything to write home about, in fact they were downright disappointing. We hooked a couple anenomes and even one that was affixed to a beer bottle. As of the first hour, our guests would’ve had a great we didn’t catch anything except a beer bottle! story to share… and those don’t look too good on Yelp! We kept at it. Our drifts were perfect, and we had the boat positioned over some great bottom structure. Our sonar screen image showed off small rockpiles and depressions, even a few fish hunkered on the bottom. We knew we would eventually get em!
As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, and soon our luck would drastically change. As we drifted over some fishy-looking structure, one of our rods doubled over. It was a classic live-bait takedown. A few short throbs, then a steady load of the rod. Fish on! Steve grabbed the rod to battle our first fish of the day and wham! The rod on the other side of the boat doubled over in the rod holder! We fought both and landed one, a nice 27 inch keeper. We made quite a few more drifts and hooked one after another. Steve had his keeper in the fish box and I had just netted Sam’s first Lingcod, both were nice fish, but what happened next was the highlight of our day.
Ben was up next. As his rod folded over, I grabbed it and reeled down on a hefty fish before the handoff. A true monster was on the end of Ben’s line! Line ripped off the reel as the fish headed straight back to the bottom. He battled it for a while, and all the while keeping his composure. Not once did he offer the fish any slack, nor did he horse it in. He fought the good fight. And as I dipped the net underneath the biggest Lingcod I have ever seen in Puget Sound, we all cheered! We boated it to get a quick measurement; the beast taped out at 45 inches long. I have released a big 42 inch fish at Foulweather once, but this one appeared as if it could’ve eaten that dink! We snapped two quick photos of it before reviving and releasing it. It is my belief that these large fish deserve the protection that they are given, and I always tail them in the water until they are ready to swim away on their own, this one took a minute to revive but swam away to live another day. What a thrilling experience!
As the day came to a close, we battled and lost a few other Lingcod. Those buggers can come unlatched pretty easily when fishing with live bait. Just as Randy gave the call to reel up the gear for the return to port, Lauren grabbed her rod and got hammered by a fish!
“I think there’s something big down there!”
She had a little bit of a tough time with the rod, so I gripped the butt of the rod to give it a little stability while she cranked. She was excited but calm and steadily cranked it all the way to the surface… Lift, Scoop, Net in the boat, our third keeper taped out at 34”. Randy and I were pretty darned excited that everyone on the boat was able to battle a Ling to the net.
All in all we had about a dozen opportunities, of which we experienced three double-headers (which really goes to show that when you find the structure that Lingcod like, you can find quite a few fish in a small area). We ended up with three very nice keeper Lingcod: 27”, 28” and a 34”. The monster Ling that we released really capped off the day and made it special for all of us.
Today we headed to the Hood Canal in search of its famed Spot Shrimp. The residents of the Canal are a laid back type of folk, living on the rural fringe of civilization that offers breathtaking scenery, plenty of great shellfish harvesting options, and is just enough of a drive to keep half of Seattle from settling its shorelines. It boasts phenomenal fishing for Spot Shrimp, and with plenty of dedicated Shrimpers chomping at the bit for a shot at ‘em, the harvest quota gets gobbled up pretty quickly these days, meaning that shrimpers from Ludlow to Lilliwaup only get a few days a year to shrimp. My friend Ryan called me with an invite the day before and I leaped on the opportunity.
A dozen years ago, I travelled with friends to see what all this hype was about. We wanted to see for ourselves what so many had told us, that You Just Gotta Go Try It! So after some planning, we secured moorage at Pleasant Harbor Marina, and had a phenomenal time. I realize now as I did then, that even with a full boatload of shellfish licenses, if you know what you are doing and conditions are right, you can limit the boat in any marine area north of Tacoma pretty easily. But the Canal is a treasure, and just spending time on the water there, admiring the Olympic Mountains to the west, and the steep wooded bluffs of the Kitsap Peninsula is alone worth a trip. So I knew it would be worth a little drive.
By using the terms hype and gobbled up quota and you just gotta go, you will understand that Hood Canal Spot Shrimp are no secret. Boats speckle the Canal’s waters as far as one can see, all hovering along that narrow ribbon of water above the magic depth of 200 to 275 feet. This is where we find them. There is a carpet of Spot Shrimp, sometimes so thick that one can see mass piles of them on the fish finder (at least a dozen salty old timers have sworn this to me). Long lines of trailers crawl towards the boat launch patiently (and occasionally impatiently) waiting their turn. Pots are set extremely close to other pots. Lines can cross and tangles do happen. It can seem like a frenzy. Today was not one of those days. Ryan’s father has a slip at a small marina just south of the Hood Canal Bridge. Ryan and I rendezvoused at his home in Seattle to carpool up. We hit the 7:10 Edmonds ferry and made a quick trip to Ludlow. It wasn’t a half minute from parking at the marina to shoving off. We were on our way.
We headed south to Toandos and waited for 9am, the official start time for the day. Nine to One. That is our window. We needed three limits, 240 Spot Shrimp. Shouldn’t be too tough, we are with the master. Gary lives and breathes this kind of stuff, he is in his element. I admire his bait mixture, it looks good and I wouldn’t mind getting the recipe. I pry, he withholds. True to the Shrimper code I guess. We joke about his homemade bait spoon. But I am more than fortunate to be on board. So we hit 9am, and everyone within sight deployed their first pot. We set all four pots within close proximity. We were on a steep drop off, and running a shallow one at 200 feet and a deep one at 260 feet still kept our gear within a one hundred yard sphere.
Our target was a one hour soak. Gary was anxious and excited. “If you two weren’t here I would’ve pulled em up already!” Waiting for the first pull is always the longest. After that, by the time all the pots are found, pulled, emptied and baited you’ve almost given that initial pot an hour… so it goes quick. We joked around, and one by one the old timers who moor their boats at Gary’s marina idled by to chit chat. “They won’t let me pull them up Larry! The wait is killing me!” You could tell that everyone was pleased to be on the water and in a very jovial mood. We finally hit that one hour mark gave Gary the go ahead to take us to the first buoy. We were off to pull our first pot of the day.
The day couldn’t have been better. Bluebird skies and no wind, and the minor tidal exchange made our task a breeze. Our first pot yielded seventy, and the second, third and fourth each yielded about fifty. I’ve witnessed one pot with over three limits before, but we didn’t experience any gaggers today. We had just shy of our three limits, so Gary only dropped three pots on our second set. I am sure that just one would’ve sufficed, but there sure were a lot of little ones, so we figured we would see if we couldn’t cull out the littlest and find some jumbos. Sure enough each pull yielded about fifty shrimp each, so we picked out the largest and threw back the rest. It’s a bitter sweet sensation one gets when he lets go a hundred beautiful Spot Shrimp after waiting a year to catch them. But we had our limit and were pleased with the day. The water was flat calm, and we enjoyed a few raw Prawns with Soy and Wasabi on the ride in.
We had another phenomenal day on the water and I can’t imagine that anything could’ve gone smoother. Plus a bounty of eighty large Spot Shrimp for the family really added to our accomplished mission. Thanks guys!
I had the pleasure of working as a deckhand for All Rivers & Saltwater Charters this weekend in Westport, Washington. Captain Ian Winder and I took a great group of guys out for an express Lingcod and Rockfish fishing trip on the Reel Tight. I jump at the chance to fill in for Ian’s fulltime deckhand, as this boat is a flat out blast to fish from. Saturday’s trip was nothing less than spectacular with fast action, easy limits, and a very happy crew!
Our group of six clients met us at the Reel Tight at 6 a.m. Brian & Larry drove down from Spanaway and the other four (Carl, Jeremy, Nate & Robbie) drove down that morning from Seattle. We cruised across a relatively calm Bar, and headed north up the Coast to a few of our favorite inshore Rockfish spots.
There are a few small rockpiles to the north of Grays Harbor that have been pretty consistent for Black Rockfish. Typically we are fishing in water 20 feet to 50 feet. We made a few drifts over our favorite spot, each generic viagra 100mg. Our client’s tandem shrimp fly setups were getting hammered! Each drift produced multiple double and triple hookups, often times our clients would haul in two Rockfish at once. While a Rockfish limit of 10 per person may seem like a lot, when you get into schools of aggressive fish, the limit is reached fairly quickly. We limited (60 Black Rockfish) within an hour. Time to head to our Lingcod spots.
We headed into deeper waters to target Lingcod, and the fishing was very consistent. Today we fished for Lingcod in waters 100 feet to 150 feet deep. Drifting with Herring was the ticket. The drifts were long, and each produced at least a few hookups. Most of the Lingcod we encountered were in the keeper range of 22” to 30”. After a few hours in our offshore spot, we had our limit of twelve Lingcod to add to the fish box. Ian piloted us back to port, I filleted the catch.
With calm seas and a great group of guests, days like this remind me of why I love it out here in Westport!
Today was another action packed day of fishing on the Pacific. Our target was a boat limit of Halibut and Lingcod caught in the deepwater canyons at the edge of the continental shelf. Our gear was ready. Our crew was eager. Today would be my third and final day of Halibut fishing out of Westport, and I was in a really good mood! The weather would be beautiful, the water would be calm, and the fishing should be easy. We greeted everyone at the boat early in the morning and cruised out of Westport’s harbor before the sun rose.
On board we had Logan, Blake, Mike, Katie and Danny. All were very excited about our prospects, and as stories and anecdotes from our last we days of fishing were shared, the excitement only grew. We were planning to explore a little today, even though we knew where to easily find a limit of Halibut, it is always a smart move to try out new areas every once and a while.
We headed straight for an interesting piece of deepwater structure that was out 25 miles due west of the entrance to Grays Harbor. Our first drift yielded a few small Halibut and a Lingcod. Not bad! Our second yielded a few unwanted fish, including a Dogfish and a Skate. Not good! While seeing new species is something that I usually enjoy, the folks reeling them up from 500 feet would have preferred it if those fish happened to be something that would’ve added to our needed limits. By our third drift we added our fourth Halibut and third Lingcod to the fish box, as well as a beautiful Bocaccio Rockfish that Katie reeled up. We were two hours into fishing and not even halfway to our fish box. I know that for most this sounds a little overzealous, but when you factor in a two hour run to the fishing grounds and a two hour run back, time is of the essence. So the question: grind it out here or make a move? We made a move.
We cruised north to our favorite little spot at the edge of Quinault Canyon. Today it was home to half the charter fleet, as the captains of the larger charter boats knew they could pretty much guarantee every guest their limit of Halibut. We dropped three lines and hooked three fish instantaneously. We had made the right choice. After releasing the smaller Halibut, we finished off netting our seventh and final Halibut. Our crew felt accomplished, and we were enjoying sore arms under a bluebird sky. With a limit of Halibut resting in the fish box, we had time to seek out our Lingcod. We zipped inshore to a rocky area to dredge some herring. It took only a few drifts to find a limit of Lingcod as well.
Our days catch included seven beautiful Halibut in the 20 to 30 pound range, thirteen Lingcod in the 24 to 33 inch range, a Bocaccio Rockfish and a few Black Rockfish as well. We cruised back to port at a speedy clip, and I had most of the fish filleted and bagged before we had the boat tied up in the slip. Another great day at Westport, it was an awesome day guys!
Earlier in the year I was on more or less a fishing hiatus, lately it has been more of a fishing bender. I arrived at Westport a few days ago to play the role of deckhand on the charter boat Reel Elite and while I’ve had two solid days of offshore fishing, I just couldn’t get enough. After a morning full of errands and unnecessary busyness, I decided to dedicate a few hours to fish the Westport Jetty. I wouldn’t be able to get all geared up to hit the max flood tide, but I still was eager to go wet a line. The weather was absolutely beautiful, today was definitely a Mandatory Sunscreen Day.
With nothing more than a light pack with a few essentials and a fishing rod, I was ready to test my luck. It was almost a year since I last fished at the south jetty at Westhaven State Park, and probably two years since before that. I used to consider myself a regular here, and in my younger years have spent many days working the rocks for Lingcod and Rockfish. Westport’s jetty is arguable the best place on the West Coast to shore fish for the Pacific’s bounty of bottom fish.
Equipment: 9’ medium action spinning rod. Spinning reel spun with 30 pound Power Pro braided spectra with a 4’ shock leader of 20 pound mono.
Tackle: 1 ounce jigheads and Berkley Gulp 6” grubs, New Penny, White Glow & Nuclear Chicken.
I arrived soon after the tide change, and as Grays Harbor emptied, it created a ripping current along the bayside of the jetty. I peered from atop the jetty to see what looked like a fast flowing river. Not fishing that side. So I went to check out the ocean side and found that while the tide was most surely going out, the current wasn’t nearly as fast. Current not ripping: CHECK. Swells on the Oceanside small & safe: CHECK. Not a fisherman in sight: CHECK. It looked good!
The water was clear and I fished the underwater structure for about 100 feet of jetty. Numerous grabs, numerous rocks snagged as well. But I ended up coaxing out two smaller Cabezon and a nice Greenling that I released. In all honesty, I was searching for Lingcod and Black Rockfish, but I guess for an hours worth of fishing, I will take what I can get. I did hook two Lingcod, but both won the battle. I got the first Lingcod to the surface and it thrashed and came off the hook before I could grab it. The second darted out from a rock ledge below where I was standing, swatted at my lure just below the surface, and I just couldn’t get a hookset in before it gave a few headshakes and was free. I still consider the few hours out there a success and oh yes, I will be back.
Sunday was our second chance at Halibut fishing in Westport this year. I fished aboard the charter boat Reel Tight with Captain Todd. With the way our trips had been going, we were very excited for another day of fun on the water and expecting to limit the boat on both Halibut and Lingcod for 6 passengers plus ourselves. We knew exactly where to find the Halibut, and while we have a Lingcod spot that is almost a guarantee, Todd was excited to find our guests some big Lings out in a few deepwater spots he had fished years ago.
Me: Great to meet you, my name’s Andrew and I am your deckhand today. (handshake).
Rich: Good to meet you Andrew! So how long have you deckhanded down here for halibut?
Me: This is my second day! Hop in the boat and let’s go!
While the answer shocked Rich somewhat, honesty is always the best policy. The crew had a rookie deckhand for their Westport Halibut trip, but they needn’t be worried. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I have made quite a few trips to Neah Bay with friends, fished for ‘Buts in the Puget Sound, and spent the last 4 years at a fishing lodge in Cordova, Alaska where I had handled more than my fair share of Halibut. But up until last week, I had never been given the opportunity to fish for them in Westport. I can now proudly check that one off the list. So off we went.
We cruised out of the Westport harbor and across a placid Grays Harbor Bar. The ocean couldn’t have been calmer, and I would guess that the swell was under 4 feet and spaced very far apart. Our target was the Quinault Canyon to the northwest of Westport. When we reached the Halibut grounds, we were greeted by about half of the Westport charter fleet plus a few private sportfishing boats, you would think a 5 am departure would give you a head start, I guess not.
It appeared that every guest aboard was excited to be out on this Halibut fishing charter, along with the possibility of taking home a big one. One of the guests mentioned that they didn’t mind releasing “a bunch of chickens” to get that barndoor. I was excited to see a big Halibut as well, but from what I have been told, most of the structure in Westport holds averaged size fish. This is not the land of barn door Halibut. When I mentioned that the average fish we were likely to keep was in the 20 to 30 pound class, they took that statement with a grain of salt.
Eventually our two hour cruise to the Halibut grounds came to an end, as we neared the dozen or so charter boats already fishing at the edge of Quinault Canyon. This deepwater canyon pierces eastward from the ocean’s abyss eastward into the continental shelf. It is along the edges of this canyon where Halibut can be found in high concentrations. We were not the only ones that know this, and the spot we stopped at was one of the more popular spots to fish. We set up for our first drift. For the first drift, we kept things simple and deployed only three lines to lower the chance of tangles. Once our gear reached the sea floor (900 feet beneath the boat), it took about a minute for all three rods to hook up. Three lines, three Halibut on! After a few minutes to battle these fish from the deep, one by one they came into view. First one: 15 pounds, released. Seconds one: 20 pounds, released. Third one: 22 pounds, released. I knew that these fish were close to the average size, but asked the guys if they wanted to keep their fish. “Nope! Let’s try for a bigger one.” So we continued on. After releasing numerous other fish, and witnessing nearby charter boats keeping pretty much every halibut they brought up, the guys decided that the 20 to 30 pound fish we were catching was better than the average. So we filled the fish box. Our Halibut limit was filled before 9am, which gave us plenty of time to search around for some deepwater Lingcod.
Pipe Jigs are a deepwater Halibut and Lingcod angler’s best friend. They are made by filling a copper pipe with molten lead and attaching a huge treble hook. They are simple and don’t give an angler much hassle with fouled gear. They are heavy so they sink fast and stay on the bottom. The contact of the two dissimilar metals creates an electric charge that attracts deepwater fish to strike. We cruised around to a few spots, made a few drifts, and searched for some good rocky deepwater structure. Eventually our search paid off and Captain Todd put us into some excellent fishing. Drift after drift produced multiple quality Lingcod, as well as a few more Halibut that were fought and released. By the end of the day we had our boat limit of Halibut, our boat limit of Lingcod and were very happy with the results of our exploratory deep water Lingcod hunt.
As we cruised back to Westport, I filleted our catch and separated out each guest’s fish into bags. It was a great day of fishing, we had great weather, we had a fun crew. My second day of Westport Halibut fishing was in the books, and I sure can’t wait until we head out again!