No boat bottomfish: Jetty fishing on the Washington Coast

Cast from the rocks to bring home fresh fish tacos in this iconic spring and summer fishery.

Anglers head out on the Westport Jetty at Westhaven State Park on the morning of the March 2021 bottomfish opener.

Are you looking to go fishing and bring home delicious fillets for fresh fish tacos or fish & chips, but don’t have access to a boat? Maybe you just want to save on boat fuel or charter fees while sharing an iconic West Coast experience with friends and family?.

Jetties at Westport, Ocean Shores, and Cape Disappointment near Ilwaco offer opportunities to fish from shore that require minimal gear.

In this post are suggestions for having a safe and fun day fishing off the rocks!

Washington’s coastal bottomfish season is open from the second Saturday in March through the third Saturday in October. 2024 season information and regulations are available in this news release. Always check current fishing regulations before hitting the water (or the jetty).

WDFW Coastal Region biologists and fishery managers have been working closely with federal and tribal partners to sustainably manage bottomfish (also known as groundfish) populations and fisheries, with several species off the coast of the Pacific Northwest rebounding in recent years.

There are many differant types of bottomfish including numerous rockfish, cod, shark, and flatfish species. Lingcod, cabezon, and rockfish each have specific seasons and limits within the bottomfish category; see regulations for details.

In Washington, Pacific halibut are not regulated under the recreational bottomfish season and limit, and have their own season dates and limits. If encountered, California halibut may be retained under bottomfish rules.

Surfperch and shiner perch are also not part of the bottomfish limit. Surfperch has a daily limit of 12 and shiner perch has a daily limit of 15 with no minimum size restriction. Fishing is open on the second Saturday in March through the third Saturday in October except fishing for surfperch is open year-round from the beach.

Healthy bottomfish stocks have allowed for expanded fishing opportunities, though work is ongoing to rebuild populations of slow-growing yelloweye rockfish.

Jetty fishing tips and tactics

Most jetty anglers use a stout 8- to 10-foot spinning rod to cast 1 to 2 oz leadhead jigs with plastic tails or swimbaits, letting them sink then quickly jigging them back to the rocks while trying to avoid snagging bottom (be sure to bring extra jigs; you will snag up at times). Green, white, silver, purple, and “motor oil brown” are popular jig or swimbait colors.

Another option is to fish herring, anchovies, sand shrimp, or other bait rigged under a large sliding float with a stopper roughly 10 feet up the mainline, a 1 oz inline or sliding weight above a swivel, and two 2/0 or 3/0 hooks tied on a 4- to 5-foot leader.

Kelp greenling and striped seaperch are two other bottomfish species commonly caught from Washington jetties, and are tasty eating or excellent live bait for large lingcod.

30-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader works well for both casting jigs or fishing bait under a float as bottomfish are typically not leader shy and abrasion from sharp jetty rocks can quickly sever lighter lines. Anglers specifically targeting bigger lingcod with large swimbaits or live bait frequently use 50-pound test or even heavier leaders.

A bag to keep your gear close at hand and prevent it from falling into the rocks can be important on the jetty. Many anglers bring only a stout spinning rod, a net, and a handful of jigs in various sizes and colors.

Unless you’re targeting surfperch, fishing is done on the calmer harbor side of the jetty, not into the breaking swell on the beach side. Jetties can be fished during most tides, but fishing is easiest around high slack tide when less scrambling will be required and currents are at their calmest.

Be sure to review the local weather and swell forecast using sites like the National Weather Service’s (click the map for point forecasts). It’s best to look at the weather, wind, tide, and marine swell forecast to get a general sense of the conditions for the area you will be fishing. Keep in mind that breaking waves hitting the jetty and coastal beaches are often 1.5 to 2 times the size of the forecasted swell! Fishing during smaller swell and lighter wind is highly recommended for safety and because inshore bottomfish hunker down when the waves are up.

Speaking of safety, jetties can be a dangerous environment with large, slippery rocks, sneaker waves, and other hazards. Anyone venturing onto the jetty should use extreme caution, wear proper footwear (hiking boots or felt-soled boots typically provide better traction than rubber boots), and not exceed their physical limit or experience level. Wearing a Personal Floatation Device (PFD) is suggested, especially for children.

Carry a cellphone or handheld marine radio in case of emergencies, and make sure to tell friends or family where you’re going, how far out the jetty you plan to fish, and what time you expect to return. Each year the U.S. Coast Guard and local emergency responders deploy to incidents on our region’s coastal jetties; be prepared before heading out!

Regulations and additional resources

More information on jetty fishing, gear, and tips is widely available online or from local tackle shops. A Washington saltwater or combination license is required to fish from coastal jetties.

In Washington’s ocean marine areas the daily limit for lingcod is 2 per person, no minimum size. For cabezon the daily limit is 1 per person, no minimum size. And for rockfish 7 per person, no retention of yelloweye rockfish (a rockfish identification guide is available on this WDFW webpage) and additional species closures or regulations may be present. Note the personal daily limit of 9 total bottomfish not including surfperch and flatfish, and doublecheck the fishing regulations before heading out.

Be sure to follow all local rules and regulations, including jetty or State Park closures. More information can be found on the Cape Disappointment State Park (for access to the Columbia River North Jetty and Jetty A) and Westhaven State Park (for access to the Westport Jetty) webpages.

A trip to the Washington Coast makes a great family adventure with plenty to do in coastal communities for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages; from fishing and crabbing to surfing, beachcombing, and birdwatching.

Tourist tips and lodging details are available at sites such as and The website also offers excellent recipes and tips for cooking your catch.

Good luck, be safe, and don’t forget to share your fishing success with the hashtags #FishWashington and #LifeOutdoorsWA!

An average-size jetty lingcod sporting bright blue colors. This ling was caught with a 1 oz, 4” long green and silver swimbait fished close to the rocks. Words and photos by Chase Gunnell.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.