Throughout much of the year we see the salmon runs of Puget Sound return. Each species returns on their own unique schedule but with surprising regularity, much like the ebb and flow of the tides.
Young Coho Salmon are flushed out of our rivers every spring, headed to the rich feeding grounds of the Pacific. While most of these salmon migrate out to the ocean, a fair number of our Puget Sound Coho feed and grow to maturity within our inland sea. These Resident Coho offer a great fishery for the salmon trolling crowds, beach anglers and fly fishermen alike.
Any angler who has ever experienced Coho Salmon fishing in the Pacific during the summer months can testify that the Silver Salmon is arguably the most unrestrained and aggressive feeders we have to fish for; Puget Sound Resident Coho are no different. Wherever Coho feed, they do it with conviction. Schools of Coho will encircle a baitball of Herring and viciously attack until there isn’t a sole survivor, it is this same aggression that allows our ocean-maturing salmon to gain an impressive one pound per week during their final few weeks before returning back to their natal rivers to spawn. While the Puget Sound is rich with forage, Resident Coho tend to be smaller than their ocean feeding cousins. Just as a salmon fisherman in any Pacific fishing port notices that Coho tend to get bigger by the week, Resident Coho also feed heavily and grow fast. Expect 10 to 14 inch Resident Coho in the spring, 1 to 2 pound Resident Coho in June, and chunky 4 to 6 pounders by early fall.
Trolling for Resident Coho in Puget Sound
Trolling can be an extremely productive method to catch these Puget Sound homebodies. Typically, the central Sound offers the best areas to catch Resident Coho, but these fish can be found everywhere to some extent. The preferred set-up for Resident Coho is a small chrome Dodger & small Spoon, Trolling Fly or Plastic Squid. Rig up a 3/0 or 2/0 Dodger with a Luhr Jensen 2” or 3” Needlefish, Goldstar 3” Kingfisher Spoon, Goldstar 2.5” Mini Squid or a Grand Slam Bucktail Mini. I like to use 30 pound leader… about 3 or 4 lengths of the dodger (so about 18” to 24”).
Resident Coho can be found feeding near the shoreline, so trolling close to shore in shallow water can be productive. If you fish nearshore, I find that trolling with no weight or a small ½ or 1 ounce Mooching Sinker is perfect. Downriggers can be a hassle nearshore, but some anglers do very well running their gear down 10 or 15 feet near the shoreline.
Trolling in the traditional salmon fishing areas of Puget Sound can produce great fishing for Resident Coho. Jeff Head, the large shoal just south of Kingston, is the most popular area to target Coho. Run your gear on the surface to as deep as 30 feet in the morning hours, then move deeper by late morning. A slow troll works well, I like to troll at 1 to 2 mph, whatever speed allows your dodger to “dodge” back and forth in the water.
Catching Resident Coho from the Shore
Shorebound anglers catch plenty of Resident Coho throughout the Puget Sound. Catch & Release fishing for Resident Coho and Sea Run Cutthroat Trout can be great from early spring through the summer months. For gear, I like a lightweight rod, but one that is at least 7’ to really get the casting distance. Small Acme Kastmasters and Luhr Jensen Krocodile Spoons are perfect for beach fishing, as are PLine Lazer Minnows, Buzz Bombs, or Crippled Herring. Depending on the slope of the beach and the depth of the water, a ¼ ounce spoon to a 1 ounce metal jig will be perfect.
Popular places to find good fishing for Resident Coho are…
Fly Fishing for Puget Sound Resident Coho
Most anglers that fly fish in Puget Sound enjoy the variety of fish available along our beaches and shoreline. At any given time, there is a mix of Resident Coho, Resident Chinook, Sea Run Cutthroat Trout, English Sole and Greenling to be caught. During summer months, the potential to catch a hefty Salmon is a real draw be it a Chinook, Coho, Pink or Chum.
Fly fishing in Puget Sound requires a 6 weight or 7 weight fly rod, a floating flyline for shallow waters and an intermediate sink flyline for deeper waters. I prefer 2x or 3x leaders that can easily turn over the larger, heavier baitfish fly patterns we use to tempt Resident Coho. The trick to fly fishing for Resident Coho is to use fly patterns that mimic the baitfish that they are feeding on. Coho typically cruise the shoreline feeding on Candlefish and small Herring. Baitfish patterns in #2 to #6, in a variety of natural colors will work well. A long distance cast followed by an erratic strip will work well. Just remember, Resident Coho are always on the search for food and are constantly on the move. Locating a school of feeding fish is the most difficult task, once you place a baitfish imitation within sight you will get them!
Areas of Puget Sound are closed to Salmon fishing at times but open to catch & release Sea Run Cutthroat fishing, and Resident Coho are a much desired incidental catch.
Summer is almost here, and the many Puget Sound Resident Coho are just a cast away! Good Luck out there!