Puget Sound is one of the Pacific Coast’s largest inland waterways, and offers a great variety of saltwater fishing opportunities. Puget Sound fishermen focus most of their effort on salmon, and rightfully so. The Puget Sound receives several million returning salmon each summer, plus a productive winter blackmouth fishery. Being a successful angler in this massive saltwater area, but with a little understanding of the tides, locations and techniques, catching salmon minutes from home can be a breeze.
Puget Sound Summer Chinook create a lot of buzz as the kick-off to Puget Sound’s salmon season. South Puget Sound receives the first amount of action, since it opens earlier than North Puget Sound or Central Puget Sound. Usually opening day is filled with a handful of true Summer Chinook and plenty of smaller, resident feeder Chinook. Summer Chinook make their way into the Sound in July and August, at this point fishing turns hot. From Midchannel Bank near the entrance of Puget Sound to Point Defiance in Tacoma, Chinook are caught by anglers of all skill level throughout the summer. Summer salmon fishing truly is Puget Sound’s recreational pastime. August is the Sound’s most productive month, with large numbers of Chinook, plus the additional couple hundred thousand Coho and in odd-numbered years…millions of Pink Salmon. Saltwater salmon fishing remains good through September, and for anglers with a competitive side, several salmon derbies in August & September bring out anglers of all skill levels to enjoy friendly, social fishing events.
The fact that anglers of all experience levels can enjoy a day on the water makes fishing the Puget Sound a great pastime. Whether you own a sailboat and want to fish for a few hours during a sunny summer afternoon, or your vessel is already a saltwater fishing machine, or own a small dingy and want to key in on the morning tide change before work, chances are if you’ve got some good info and put in a little effort, you can be a successful angler.
Twice a day, the tides push a huge amount of water into Puget Sound, and back out again. Tidal movements greatly influence all marine life in the Sound. Every point of land that sticks out into the Sound creates massive swirling eddies, which concentrate bait and salmon. When the tide pushes into the Sound, anglers fishing any area must key in on the correct location to be successful. Understanding the tides are as important as the tackle used, speed trolled, or depth fished. A tide book is a great start, but checking out a good nautical chart and thinking about what happens when water moves is invaluable.
Salmon Fishing Techniques haven’t changed much since the invention of the downrigger, though we as anglers seem to over-complicate things. New products come out every year, as well as new marketing schemes. Our credo is this: Start with the basics, most great salmon anglers have a basic arsenal of gear that works. Some new products on the market are worth trying out, but don’t give up on techniques and tackle that have brought fish to the net year after year.
So after all the hard work put into rigging up, doing your research and organizing your outing…the most important part is “Get on the water, fish and have fun!” Experience on the water will indefinitely help make you a successful salmon angler.
Puget Sound Salmon Fishing Seasons
Fishing seasons change annually in Puget Sound, not only to protect threatened runs, but to also capitalize on unexpectedly high returns. Always consult the WDFW Fishing Regulations before your next trip. WDFW Fishing Regulations
Chinook (King) Salmon
By far the Puget Sound’s most sought after salmon species, a hatchery Chinook salmon fishery is extremely popular during summer months. Several “bubble” fisheries are open throughout the Sound at certain times of the year as well.
Resident Chinook (Blackmouth) Salmon
WDFW’s winter blackmouth program opens up new winter and spring fishing opportunities. By using a special rearing process at the hatchery, managers can create a Chinook salmon smolt that resides in the Puget Sound and never travels to the ocean to mature. Blackmouth are caught throughout every corner of Puget Sound from 6 inches to 20 pounds.
Coho (Silver) Salmon
Throughout August, September and October, saltwater anglers head out in droves to catch their share of the 750,000 to over 1 million Coho that annually return to Puget Sound. A fair number of smaller resident Coho can be caught as early as June in central Puget Sound!
Pink (Humpy) Salmon
Pinks return to Puget Sound in phenomenal numbers. Between 3 to 5 million migrate back to Puget Sound every odd-numbered year (2011, 2013, 2015). The massive schools of “humpies” stay shallow and are easily caught. Fast action for Pinks occurs as early as July 4 at Sekiu to as late as mid-September in Everett.
Chum (Dog) Salmon
Chum are large, hard-fighting fish that gain the respect of anyone who has battled one. An ocean fresh Chum, void of their unique spawning colors, can easily be mistaken for a Sockeye or Coho. Chums enter the Sound in September, and can be found in great concentrations in the shallow bays at the mouths of many Hood Canal and Kitsap Peninsula creeks.
Sockeye (Red) Salmon
While the Sockeye is considered one of the tastiest of all salmon species, with its extremely high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, an effective fishing method has elluded Puget Sound fishermen. Sockeye return to the Baker River (Skagit River tributary) and Seattle’s Lake Washington, both are extremely productive fisheries. Being plankton feeders, and lacking the feeding aggression that other salmon species have, they are extremely difficult to catch in saltwater.
Puget Sound Fishing Ports
Puget Sound offers a variety of Ports, Marinas and Launches which recreational anglers can take advantage of. With all of the fishing options Puget Sound anglers have, there is usually a launch or marina within close proximity.
Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juan Islands. A major marina and several launches make accessing the San Juan Island’s fishing grounds easy, many pleasure boaters and fishing vessels begin their Island voyage at Anacortes and moor at one of the San Juan’s many harbors and marinas.
Port Townsend is a great place to access the eastern Straight of Juan de Fuca fishing areas such as Hein Bank, Dallas Bank, Eastern Bank just to name a few. Great salmon fishing is a stone’s throw from the harbor at Midchannel Bank in Admiralty Inlet, plus close-in halibut fishing at Admiralty Bay and Mutiny Bay.
Everett is north Puget Sound’s largest port. Port of Everett’s massive 13-lane protected boat launch can accommodate over 300 boat trailers. Everett’s 2,050 slip marina is one of the largest on the West coast. With some excellent salmon, lingcod & halibut fishing nearby plus opportunities for shrimping and crabbing, it’s no wonder why so many consider Everett home base.
Edmonds offers a sling launch and a top-notch marina. For larger rectreational boats, Admiralty Inlet and the Eastern Straights are an option, and salmon fishing at nearby Possession, Apple Tree Cove Point, Point No Point and Jeff Head give Edmonds based anglers plenty of options.
Seattle is Washington’s big city, with some big fishing options within view of the city’s skyline. Elliott Bay is urban salmon fishing as seen nowhere else. Productive central Sound areas include Jeff Head, West Point, Four Mile Rock, Dolphin Point and Duwamish Waterway. Seattle offers several marinas and several boat launches to urban anglers ready to hit the water.
Des Moines offers easy access to Three Tree, Dolphin Point, Point Beales and Point Robinson. A quaint marina offers services such as fuel and a sling launch.
Tacoma salmon anglers are a huge part of Puget Sound’s fishing heritage. Salmon hot-spots like Commencement Bay, Slag Pile, Clay Banks and Point Defiance are a stronghold for those who meat-line, mooch and jig. Many Tacoma anglers truly know how to work a cut-plug and read the tides. Point Defiance offers a protected launch, close to the action.