March 2023 is going to be a good one! We have saltwater fisheries all up and down the Washington Coast opening up, Steelhead fisheries on the Olympic Peninsula, North Puget Sound and Southwest Washington, local Kokanee and Trout, and a Columbia River Spring Chinook fishery that is about to explode in popularity once the first couple reports trickle in. Get out and enjoy!
Puget Sound Winter Blackmouth Fishing
Marine Area 10 opened for Winter Blackmouth Salmon fishing on February 1 this year, and the fleet was out in force. There was a good bite for keeper Blackmouth around Kingston and to some extent Jeff Head, although the large number of undersize Salmon caught put a pause to our season. WDFW announced a closure starting February 11 to save some of our quota for a March opener. I am expecting an announcement any day for the March dates, and am hopeful that we see fewer undersized fish in our catch and plenty of keepers!
Marine Area 13 in South Puget Sound is currently open for Salmon fishing and is producing a few really nice sized Blackmouth. Trolling, mooching and jigging are all great tactics around the Fox Island, Point Fosdick, Point Gibson areas. From the reports I’ve heard, this isn’t a high-numbers fishery however if you catch one or two, they are going to be nice sized. As with every Blackmouth area, most of these Resident Chinook Salmon are feeding on Herring and other forage fish as close to the gravel as they can, so fish near the bottom.
Sekiu Winter Blackmouth Fishing
Sekiu is one of my favorite places to salmon fish in March. The Winter Blackmouth season opened on March 1 this year with great fanfare but very inconvenient weather. So far there have been some fishable days with great catching, and some days where everyone stayed on the dock watching whitecaps in the bay. Our upcoming trip looks like it will also fall on a questional forecast, but we hope to sneak out of Clallam Bay and find a few Sekiu Blackmouth. The published Sekiu Winter Blackmouth fishery is March 1 to April 30, however it has closed early the last few years due to out-of-control popularity and good fishing. One other highlight is that the bottomfishing season in nearby Marine Area 4 East is now aligned with the broader coastal bottomfish season and opens on March 11, which means that we can now catch and keep Lingcod there as well as Rockfish!
Washington Coast Lingcod and Rockfish Opens
My salty persona really starts to come out of hybernation in March, and a trip to Westport is usually the kickoff. All coastal marine areas will open for Lingcod, Rockfish and other bottomfish starting March 11 including Ilwaco (Marine Area 1), Westport (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3, and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4).
Weather is always a big factor this early in our saltwater season, but if you are like me and have a freezer that looks barren and empty, you just gotta plan your trip, book your date with your favorite charter, and if the weather cooperates… go!
Winter Steelhead Fishing Across Western Washington
March has traditionally been one of the most prime months for Winter Steelhead. Depending on your intentions, the overlap of peak Wild Steelhead catch & release options and early push of some runs of catch & keep Hatchery Steelhead returns make for plenty of choices if you like river fishing. We have a bunch of options to the North, West and South of the Seattle metro area.
Olympic Peninsula Steelhead Fishing
The Olympic Peninsula is a top destination for anglers searching for a great Wild Steelhead fishing experience, and March is a prime month. Current rules give us a few places where we can still fish out of a boat, but there are even more options that walk-in only, or boat-access-bank-fishing-only. Check out the latest regulation news release here, but also check for updates before you go, just in case anything changes. Many of the larger coastal rivers will have areas that will remain open for Wild Steelhead catch & release through March.
We hit the Coast a few weeks ago and it was one of the best Steelhead fishing experiences of my life. While there were quite a few boats on the section of river we floated, every good-looking gravel bar we saw was open and void of anglers. We fished everything we wanted to fish and caught some amazing Steelhead. Dirft fishing soft plastic beads and pink worms was our best tactic.
Skagit & Sauk River Steelhead Fishing
North Puget Sound’s shining light during March/April is the Skagit River and Sauk River Wild Steelhead catch & release season. We are just now starting to get murmers that a season has been finalized and dates to be annnounced (note to self, update this as the date is announced).
This is a popular fishery and one that you can fish from the bank or out of a boat. It will most certainly be an artificial lure and barbless hook fishery. Swinging flies or spoons, float fishing jigs in low water or drift fishing pink worms or big beads in high water are good options.
Cowlitz Steelhead Fishing
The Cowlitz River has long been Washington’s powerhouse Hatchery Steelhead system. In the last decade, hatchery production strategies have shifted to providing a March and April fishery, which is a little later than our typical December/January Chambers Creek hatchery strain that we see in almost every other river in Western Washington. Plunkers in the middle Cowlitz around Toledo have been picking up some really nice fish to take home. I would expect to see the jet sled fleet that works the Barrier Dam downstream to Blue Creek and Mission to start having some successful days here really soon. Also expect to see the first couple Cowlitz Spring Chinook to be caught this month as well.
Kalama River Steelhead Fishing
The Kalama has alot of fan fare this time of year. Wild Steelhead are being caught and should remain a good option through March. Whenever we get our one faux-spring day in March, my first thought is always, “I bet a Springer just swam up into the Kamala today.” Although, I’m almost always at least a month too early to be right. We will see how the Spring Chinook run materializes in the tributaries this year, but I am optimistic after seeing the 2023 Columbia River Spring Chinook Forecast.
Columbia River Spring Chinook Fishing
Spring Chinook season officially opened March 1 on the lower Columbia River, from Bouy 10 (near the mouth) to Beacon Rock (near Bonneville). It is scheduled to remain open until April 7, and we should see more and more fish push into the river as the month progresses. Cathlament is always one of the first areas to see catch rates explode, and I would expect that this year will be no different. We do have healthy snowpack right now, but nothing out of control, so hopefully the melt doesn’t all come at once! With nearly 200,000 Spring Chinook forecast for the Columbia River this year, there are alot of excited anglers headed to the big river this year.
Lake Washington Kokanee & Cutthroat Trout
Lake Washington has been a really good option for Seattle area anglers that want to get out on a nice winter day (assuming we have a few more of those coming up). Cutthroat Trout fishing has been a stable option for decades on the lake, but lately we have seen a pretty abundant population of Kokanee enter play. Kokanee fishing has blossomed on Lake Washington in the past couple years, and I have had a few friends that have caught their 5-Kokanee limit this winter. Trolling with traditional Kokanee gear at 30′ to 55′ depths have been productive. Most of the action that I’ve heard of have been in the South end of the lake, however that is usually the default area people fish in the winter and I wouldn’t be surprised if fishing was just as good elsewhere (like in front of Kirkland or the north end).
Online Shop News
Thank you everyone for your support with the shop startup!
As many of you know, Riptidefish added an online shopping component in 2021 that provided a place to pick up the gear that we recommend in our posts and reports. Well, you all have been so supportive that it became a big part of the site. We have shipped a ton of orders to many familiar faces and friends, as well as all over the country to people who read Riptidefish. In the past year we have added alot of new products from local companies and lots more planned, so much so that I really needed to think about how offer the best search and shop experience.
Introducing Seattle Fishing Company
All the products available on riptidefish.com/shop are now available on my new site seattlefishingco.com. With a bunch of new gear landing in 2023, it seemed necesarry to create a stand-alone site that was more user friendly and dynamic. Riptidefish will still be the place for my blog, reports and info. You can still grab gear here, but you will want to check out the new site too!