Seattle Summer Salmon Fishing Season Shakedown Run.
Now that our inaugural salmon fishing shakedown trip just wrapped up, I feel like summer has finally started! The boat is in the Edmonds Marina for all of salmon season. And you know what? I am so excited to get in on great salmon fishing so close to my home. Chinook Salmon won’t open anywhere north of Seattle until mid-July. But you don’t have to wait because there are great fishing opportunities happening right now. Marine Area 11 to the south is already open for Chinook Salmon fishing and Marine Area 10 (Seattle’s front door) is open for Coho Salmon fishing.
This early summer salmon fishery is designed to give us a chance to catch and keep Puget Sound’s Resident Coho Salmon. They migrate into Puget Sound to feed and grow but never leave. Even though they are small during the early summer, action can be fast paced and they are a great option if you are eager for some fresh salmon. For whatever reason, Jeff Head to the northwest of Seattle seems to have the highest concentration of these scrappy salmon, year after year.
Tide Rips and Fast Trolling
Josh, Jake and I cruised across a placid Puget Sound this morning in my Boston Whaler. We headed to a place where I’ve had many good days of early salmon fishing. The area to the south of Jeff Head is alive with intermingling currents, tide rips, stacks of bait and usually a good concentration of feeding Resident Coho Salmon. Every season begins with high hopes and mixed feelings on what to expect. All I knew is that we were headed to Jeff Head and all I expected is that I was going to have fun fishing with these two knuckleheads (it’s a fun crew, what can I say?).
Where Do You Find Coho Salmon in Puget Sound?
We crossed over the bar at Jeff Head and back into deeper water. I started looking for a tide rip or any broken water I could find. Let me explain why…
You see, Coho Salmon, regardless of whether they are the early Resident variety, or their later returning cousins the Ocean fish, they are ALWAYS HUNGRY. If you can find concentrations of bait you will probably find some Coho. If you go to the bars like up onto the top of Jeff Head, where you will be fishing in less than 100′, you will definitely find the bait, but you will probably catch a lot of Shakers (Juvenile Chinook), and the more of those we catch the shorter our Summer Chinook Fishery is. So I like to go into deeper water (350′ – 500′) where there is nary a shaker in sight and the Coho are thick on the surface.
If the tide is pushing strong you might see a well defined line where the calm water meets the rippled water, there are usually weeds in it. This is where two currents converge. Bait will get pushed into the tide rip and get pinned there… and the Coho know this. Sometimes there isn’t a super well defined tide rip, but you will see an area that looks like a patchwork of glassy water and rippled water and this will hold a good number of bait and salmon as well.
So We Started Fishing
So we started fishing. I had a couple of my favorite flashers from last year ready to go, Gibbs No-Bananas and a Purple Haze. I had my favorite go-to Coho rigs tied up. A couple Gold Star white UV hoochies and an Ace Hi Fly slim, also in a white UV. Herring strips are a must with this setup. I like to run my kicker hard when we are fishing for Coho. I had it bumped up to 3-3.5 mph and that seemed to be the ticket. We ran three lines on two downriggers. The gear was staggered on the downriggers at depths of 30′, 35′ and 60′. We dropped to 100′ at one point later in the morning and caught a fish. But that 30′ to 60′ column of water seemed to hold more than enough Coho.
Coho Catching Chaos
It wasn’t more than a couple minutes and a rod buried! Jake grabbed the rod, Josh grabbed the net, I ran the boat. Teamwork was on point today! We just couldn’t keep them off! There were several times where we had a fish in the net and another one on the way. Twice we had triple-headers. I think in the couple hours we fished we had about 16 Resident Coho to the boat. It was good that we could be selective and keep only the chunkiest hatchery clipped Coho. Eventually we decided that we had our fill of salmon fishing. We caught a plump little Coho and introduced it to our cooler for the boat limit!
I can’t say that I favor fishing for Resident Coho over their Ocean counterparts that come back later in the summer, but they sure are fun to catch in June and early July before the season really gets started. They are super aggressive feeders, they put up a good fight for their size, they taste great on the grill or smoker. I never understood the people that poo-poo fishing for Resident Coho. It gives us a welcomed warmup to the Seattle summer salmon season for sure. The beauty of the Resident Coho Salmon fishery is that it only gets better from here. These fish are averaging 16″-22″ or one to three pounds right now, but just keep getting bigger as the season rolls on. Get out and dial it in now so that you are ready when they get to that five and six pound range later on!