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!