Salmon Fishing at Deception Pass State Park
Washington state is blessed with some of America’s most beautiful public lands. Deception Pass State Park has to be near the top of that list. Deception Pass is a narrow waterway in the Salish Sea connecting the vast expanses of the Strait of Juan De Fuca with Skagit Bay. The narrow opening paired with the area’s huge tidal swings creates a violent current that rips beneath the Deception Pass Bridge.
This breathtaking passage is the perfect place to spend a day wetting a line, as thousands of salmon travel through the Pass every summer.
Salmon fishing is a popular activity at Deception Pass, with dedicated anglers and vacationers sharing the beach to wet a line in the hopes of bringing a few fillets back to the campsite. Salmon fishing from the beaches of Deception Pass State Park is a mid-summer through early-autumn venture. Coho (Silver) Salmon are the area’s primary draw every year, and on odd numbered years (2011, 2013, 2015, ect.) Pink (Humpy) Salmon flood through the narrow pass on their return to the spawning reaches of the Skagit River. While Coho Salmon are prized for their aggressive feeding nature, wild line-screaming runs and rich flavor, the sheer numbers of Pink Salmon make them an easy catch!
Tidal flows impact salmon fishing here greatly. During periods of heavy tidal movement, fishing can be difficult. Typically fishing is best within an hour or two from peak high and peak low tide. I have done well fishing an incoming tide as long as the tide swing isn’t that severe. If there is tidal exchange of ten feet, it is much more difficult to fish than a tidal exchange of say five feet.
Where to fish
The most popular areas to fish at Deception Pass State Park are at North Beach and West Beach. West Beach is more exposed to the westerly winds coming from the Straits, but offers easy access. The parking lot is right next to the beach, making this a pefect option with mobiliy issues or young ones. North Beach faces the pass itself, and is a short hike from the parking area. Washington State Parks did a great job making sure that you can easily find these beaches, there are signs guiding you from the park entrance to your prefered beach.
Coho Salmon at Deception Pass
Coho (Silver) Salmon migrate back in great numbers to the Skagit River. Washington state estimates for the 2011 return of Coho Salmon to the Skagit River was just over 150,000 fish. The great majority of those salmon navigate through Deception Pass to make it to their natal river. The highest catches of Coho at Deception Pass occur in August and September.
Pink Salmon at Deception Pass
Pink (Humpy) salmon only return on odd-numbered years, but they are worth the wait. The abundance offsets the fact we only get one shot every two years. Humpies flood into Puget Sound by the millions. At times the beaches of Deception Pass State Park are wall to wall anglers, but everyone is catching!
Gear and tackle for beach fishing
Use a heavy fishing rod that can handle casting lures up to two ounces. A heavy backbone is important. Metal lures like Buzz Bombs (size 2″, 2.5″, 3L and 3XH), PLine Lazer Minnows and Luhr Jensen Crippled Herring (size 1 ounce up to 2 ounce) are extremely effective. A good lure for Deception Pass salmon must have enough weight to cast a great distance, sink quickly in the ripping currents of the pass, and look attractive to the fish. Spool up your favorite fishing reel with 12 to 15 pound monofilament line. Personally I believe fishing with braided lines are better. 30# braided line is thinner than 15# mono, casts farther and sinks quicker.
I prefer smaller metal lures for Pinks. Lures colored hot pink, pearl pink, chrome and pink, or white and pink are top producers. For Coho I prefer a lure with plenty of flash. Green, blue and pink lures catch Coho consistenly.
Fly Fishing at Deception Pass
Fly fishing is extremely popular on Whidbey Island beaches. Salmon run extremely close to shore at both the West Beach and North Beach which makes his whole area perfect for fly fishing. An 8 weight rod will perform well. Floating lines are easy to cast, but I recommend bringing an intermediate shooting head to get your fly down to the fish. A variety of flies will work here. Pink or white minnow imitations (size 2-6) will work well for Pink Salmon. Choose a larger chartruese, blue or natural minnow imitation (size 1/0-2) for Coho Salmon. Vary the retrieve until you find what works. Long/slow stripping might work great for Coho one day, but it might take short/quick stripping to tempt Pinks the next. Sea run cutthroat trout, resident blackmouth and the occassional chum salmon are also caught by conventional and fly anglers.
Chinook Salmon, Coho, Pinks and even Chums are caught by beach-bound and boating anglers in the Deception Pass area. Coho and Pinks are the most abundant and as you can see by the graph below, Pinks make up a huge portion of the catch on years they are abundant.
Deception Pass is one of Washington’s most beloved parks. Campgrounds are at capacity all summer long, families crowd West Beach to enjoy a breathtaking sunset every night, and a day trip to fish its’ beaches can great memories of a lifetime. Don’t miss out on this amazing place!