Additional options for inland sea salmon fishing
In a season marked by good runs and frequent rule changes, it pays to have backup Chinook and coho fisheries, and these are among the better ones for Puget Sound anglers
Originally published by Northwest Sportsman Magazine
Uncertainty has lurked around several corners of this summer’s Washington saltwater salmon fisheries, but there are plenty of bright spots in August.
Since the 2022 season began, anglers have faced some closures, modifications to catch limits or pauses in fisheries around Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and off the coast.
These unforeseen inseason modifications to fisheries have become the norm in recent years — likely due to improved salmon returns and increased participation — and now require an angler to keep additional options on their list of places to fish to avoid any unexpected surprises.
In this month’s column we’ll examine some decent late-summer salmon fishing alternatives that should be on par or nearly as good as your initial Puget Sound adventure.
The inner-Elliott Bay Chinook fishery is open from Friday, August 5 through Monday, August 8 at 12 p.m. only for all Chinook. Fishing is allowed east of a line from Duwamish Head to Pier 91 up to the Duwamish River mouth, including Harbor Island (both the west and east Duwamish waterways). Additional fishing time could be added if more Chinook return than expected and is determined by inseason test fisheries. The Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. The daily limit is two salmon, and release chum.
The fishery is based on returns to the Green River, where 24,061 hatchery and 4,055 wild Chinook are predicted in 2022 (24,368 hatchery and 3,949 wild Chinook was the forecast in 2021).
There are many places within the eastern section of the bay to catch some salmon, including around the Duwamish Head marker, from the Don Armeni boat ramp to Salty’s on Alki Restaurant, the breakwater off the Elliott Bay Marina, in front of Todd Shipyards and both the west and east waterways.
As with other salmon fisheries, locating baitfish schools in the bay is an important factor in catching salmon, and knowing their habits during certain times of the day will also raise the bar to catching fish.
The prime time for the Elliott Bay Chinook fishery is usually in the early morning hours or just before sunset, although you can catch them throughout the day. These migrating Chinook tend to be in the upper water column in the predawn hours and will gradually go deeper as the sun rises.
The three most used techniques are trolling, drift or motor “mooching,” and jigging. Downrigger trolling is best since you can cover a lot of ground, especially when baitfish schools are sparse. A variety of plastic hoochies, spoons or plugs, or a cut-plug or whole herring, along with a flasher or dodger works best.
Drift or motor mooching with a whole or cut-plug herring is an old-school way to catch fish and consists of working your bait from the surface down to the bottom. You can try jigging with a 3- to 6-ounce leadhead-style jig. Be sure to take the treble off the store-bought lures and replace it with a barbless-style hook.
Coho fishing in Marine Area 8–1 along the east side of the northern two-thirds of Whidbey Island is open August 1 through October 9 for coho (closed in 2021 due to low expected salmon abundance). The daily limit is two salmon, release all Chinook and chum.
The southeast side of Whidbey Island, Marine Area 8–2, is open from August 13 through September 19 for hatchery-marked coho only. Only the portion south and west of a line between the Clinton and Mukilteo ferry docks down to the Marine Area 9 boundary is open. The daily limit is two salmon, release all Chinook, chum and wild unmarked coho.
Most anglers will troll for coho around Possession Point, in the middle of the channel up to the boundary deadline, and from the Shipwreck to Browns Bay along the eastern shoreline. Usually, it’s good for coho in mid- to late August and September.
Further north, the Bellingham Bay terminal Chinook fishery is open from August 16 through September 30. The Chinook minimum size is 22 inches. The daily limit is four salmon, and up to two Chinook may be retained.
Lummi Bay is open from August 16 through September 5 for hatchery coho only. The daily limit is two salmon, release all Chinook, chum and wild unmarked coho.
Plans call for the San Juan Islands (Marine Area 7) to reopen from August 16 through September 30 for a hatchery-coho-only fishery — keep close tabs for any emergency closures before hitting the water.
In Hood Canal, Quilcene Bay is open August 1 through 31 for a fishery directed at coho only and a daily limit of four coho. The Big Quilcene forecast is 35,243 hatchery and 256 wild coho in 2022 compared to 31,748 and 410 in 2021. This is a terminal fishery and anglers have the best success tossing jigs like a Puget Pounder, Buzz Bomb or Point Wilson Dart.
This month is also a productive time in southern Puget Sound’s Marine Area 13 for hatchery Chinook. These waters are actually open year-round, but at this time the Chinook minimum size is 20 inches. The daily limit is two salmon, release all chum, wild coho and wild Chinook. Anglers may use two fishing poles with purchase of the Two-Pole Endorsement.
Look for hatchery Chinook at Gibson Point and Point Fosdick, Fox Point in Hale Passage, the northwest corner at the Sand Spit, Toy Point, and the Concrete Dock Fox Island Fishing Pier.
Other Deep South Sound spots include Nisqually Flats, Dover Point near Zangle Cove, Itsami Ledge, Dickenson Point, Anderson Island, and Little Fish Trap Bay and Big Fish Trap Bay. Coho fishing the past few seasons here has also seen an improvement during late summer.
Lastly, many piers are open year-round for shore-bound anglers and should provide decent salmon fishing action. They are the Edmonds Marina Pier, Seacrest Pier in West Seattle, Fox Island Public Pier, Dash Point Dock, Des Moines Pier, Les Davis Pier, Point Defiance Boathouse Dock, Redondo Pier, Bremerton Boardwalk, Illahee State Park Pier, and Waterman Pier.
Anglers should consult the WDFW regulation pamphlet or website for any changes. A comprehensive list of statewide salmon fisheries can be found along with detailed marine fisheries on WDFW’s website. To learn more about in-season salmon management, visit our WDFW blog post.
(This story was written by Mark Yuasa, who is a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Communications Manager and a longtime local fishing and outdoor writer. You can find it published in the August issue of Northwest Sportsman Magazine