Following on the Washington summer salmon preview in the June issue, we take a look further out in the calendar to highlight fall opportunities everywhere from the Columbia River system to Puget Sound and the coast. Guide Bill Harris prepares to net a fish for buddy Mike Bolt at Drano Lake in October 2022. (Photo by Northwest Sportsman Magazine)

Salmon Season Planner, Part II


With 2024–25 Washington Chinook, coho and chum salmon fisheries now officially set, here’s a look at the top fall, winter and spring opportunities.

Story originally published in the Northwest Sportsman Magazine June issue

We highlighted Washington’s 2024–25 summer salmon season possibilities in the June issue of Northwest Sportsman Magazine, and now let’s look at opportunities from this September through April 2025!

While many tend to focus on fall hunting seasons or other activities — we’ll keep school and work out of the equation — you’ll be surprised to know that a decent number of salmon fisheries are well worth your time to catch late-migrating Chinook, coho, and chum.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) fishery managers are planning to keep close tabs on possible summertime mountain snowpack issues, potential drought, high water temperatures and low water level issues in rivers and streams. Keep in mind that these conditions could have an impact on salmon migration and fish survival. They could lead to potential in-season management changes or closures to freshwater sport salmon fisheries in the late summer and early fall timeframe.

If you missed out on the June issue, be sure to get a copy and read up on more helpful tips to improve your time on the water during July and August, since right now we’re just heading into peak salmon season, with a multitude of choices blossoming across Washington!

Nothing says September like silvers, and there will be plenty of marked and unmarked coho salmon to chase on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands and Puget Sound. See the regs for retention rules, as they differ by marine area and timeframe. (Photo by Mark Yuasa)


Fall is peak time for migrating coho and look for them in all open marine areas of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The combined 2024 Puget Sound hatchery and wild coho forecast is 722,134 — down slightly from 760,029 in 2023 — and should provide decent fishing like what we saw in 2023.

There are many areas close to the greater Seattle area that provide fishing excitement for coho, including Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton Area) and Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island), which are both open for nonselective coho fishery through Nov. 15.

In these two areas, spend your time in the deep-water shipping lanes off Jefferson Head, Kingston/President Point, Richmond Beach south to Meadow Point north of Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Shilshole Bay south to West Point, Elliott Bay, Blake Island, the Fauntleroy Ferry area southeast to Dolphin Point, both sides of Vashon Island, Redondo Beach to Dash Point and the Tacoma area of Commencement Bay, and around Point Defiance Park from the Slag Pile to the Clay Banks.

In Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet), you can chase hatchery coho through Sept. 23 and then it switches to nonselective coho Sept. 24–30.

While you should look at the obvious places in Marine Area 9, coho can often be found in more obscure locations, including the unmarked shipping lanes and channels where tide rips are commonly found. Most anglers will fish Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Point Wilson north of Port Townsend; the east side of Marrowstone Island; Fort Casey, Bush Point, Lagoon Point, Maxwelton and Double Bluff off the west side of Whidbey Island; Point No Point; Possession Bar; Scatchet Head; and Pilot Point.

Fishing in Marine Area 8–1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) is open for nonselective coho through Oct. 13, and Marine Area 8–2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) are open for nonselective coho through Sept. 24.

Look for fish along the entire southeast side of Whidbey Island from the Possession Point Bait House to the Clinton Ferry Terminal at Columbia Beach and the Langley/Sandy Point area, as well as on the mainland side in Browns Bay and from Picnic Point to Mukilteo, plus Hat Island, Camano Head, the west side of Camano Island from Camano Island State Park north to Rockaway Beach, outside of Oak Harbor and Utsalady Bay.

The Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) revert to a nonselective coho fishery Sept. 1–29. Look for coho along the outer edges of the island chain — the west side of San Juan Island, Rosario Strait and north sides of Waldron and Orcas Islands.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) and Marine Area 6 (East Strait of Juan de Fuca) are open for hatchery coho through Sept. 26 and then switch to nonselective coho from Sept. 27 through Oct. 15.

The Sekiu area is known to generate some larger-sized ocean-migrating “hooknose” coho. Remember that the main coho migration highway along the entire stretch of the Strait is located well offshore, usually anywhere from a mile to two miles out in 200 to 300 feet of water and even deeper off the edge of the main shipping channels. Keep a sharp eye out for tide rips and current breaks where krill, baitfish and hungry birds tend to attract coho.

It is a relatively easy fishery, and coho are usually found early in the morning and late in the day from right on the surface down to 50 to 125 feet. Even though downriggers are effective when trolling at the exact depth, many fish are simply caught by anglers using a whole or cut-plug herring behind a four- to six-ounce banana weight. On some days when the coho are thick, you can even skip troll a bucktail fly or a “cut-plug hotdog wiener” — verified by yours truly — with scent along the surface.

If the catch quotas don’t get eaten up prematurely, the coastal ports of Marine Area 4 (Neah Bay), Marine Area 3 (La Push), Marine Area 2 (Westport-Ocean Shores), and Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) will still be open for Chinook and hatchery coho in September. Marine Areas 4, 3 and 2 are scheduled to stay open until Sept. 15, and Marine Area 1 until Sept. 30. Again, all ports could close sooner if catch quotas are met.

The Bellingham Bay Terminal Fishery is open through Sept. 30 for those looking to catch a late Chinook or coho; Samish Bay is closed.

In Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal), a 2024 forecast of 103,742 coho (down slightly from 112,710 in 2023) should provide some good times. Areas south of Ayock Point are open through September 30 for coho and hatchery Chinook; Oct. 1–15 for coho only; Oct. 16–31 for coho and chum; and Nov. 1–30 for chum only. Areas north of Ayock Point are open through Oct. 15 for coho only; Oct. 16–31 for coho and chum; and Nov. 1–30 for chum only. The Hoodsport Hatchery Zone is open through Sept. 30 for coho and hatchery Chinook; Oct. 1–15 for coho only; Oct. 16–31 for coho and chum; and Nov. 1–30 for chum only. There are fishing closures around several river mouths and bays in Hood Canal during the fall period to be aware of.

Hanford Reach upriver brights are one fall salmon fishery to really look forward to. Centered on the free-flowing Mid-Columbia River below Priest Rapids Dam, it serves up nice-sized Chinook. The author’s son Tegan Yuasa caught this one on a guided trip with guide Austin Moser. (Photo by Mark Yuasa)

Switching to the other side of the state, the Columbia in the Hanford Reach area comes alive from September through mid-October for fall Chinook, better known as upriver brights or URBs. Every year brings a different scenario in this free-flowing 50-mile stretch of water between dams and set amidst an awesome landscape and scenery. The 2024 URB forecast is 261,800 compared to a 2023 forecast of 278,500 and an actual return of 338,991.

Fishing from below Priest Rapids Dam to the Old Hanford townsite powerline crossing remains open through Oct. 15 for Chinook and coho. Look for the best action around White Bluffs and above Vernita Bridge. To track the optimum time to hit the Hanford Reach, anglers will closely monitor the fish counts at McNary Dam, located a mile east of Umatilla, Oregon. A variety of gear will catch fall Chinook, so be sure to carry a wide arsenal in your tackle box. Water speed and currents will dictate what style of gear to use.

Also know that most of the fishing grounds are found above and below the rough gravel boat launch near the Highway 24/Vernita Bridge, which turns into a small village filled with motorhomes, campers, tents and boat trailers. Anglers who stay here should refer to WDFW’s Medium blog to learn about changes coming this fall and in the coming two years to address damage and ensure safety at the site.

September nibbles and bites: While many fall river fishing opportunities are set to open in September, anglers should check the WDFW website for emergency closures and rule changes. Lake Washington north of the Highway 520 Bridge is open Sept. 16 through Oct. 31 for coho. The Tulalip Bubble Terminal Fishery is open Saturdays and Sundays only from Sept. 7–22. Sinclair Inlet and Port Orchard are open for coho and hatchery Chinook through Sept. 30, then Oct. 1 through Nov. 15 for coho only. Sections of the Samish River are open in September and can be a productive Chinook fishery but be sure to check regulations and rules; the area below yellow marker at wingwall is open Sept. 14 for veterans and active military only. Whatcom Creek is open Saturdays and Sundays only through Sept. 15 for hatchery Chinook.

WDFW fishery managers are pointedly noting that they will be watching river levels come late summer and fall due to a low winter snowpack and that it may impact some salmon fishing opportunities. These Westside anglers are trying their luck for adult and jack coho. (Photo by Northwest Sportsman Magazine)


In Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound), fishing is open year-round for salmon, but in October, try around the Squaxin Island area. That’s where a good number of hatchery-produced coho — the 2024 forecast is 48,081, up from 45,417 in 2023 — should yield decent action. There are many other passages, inlets and bays where coho are readily available. Northern and southern Budd Inlet also have certain rules, so be sure to check the 2024–25 WDFW regulation pamphlet for details.

In the eastern Strait, Dungeness Bay is open Oct. 1–31 only for hatchery coho. The 2024 coho forecast for the Dungeness River is 14,305 compared to 14,654 in 2023.

Many anglers tend to give up on Buoy 10 at the mouth of the Columbia River once the Chinook have passed, but others will stick around for a hatchery coho fishery open daily through December 31.

Along Washington’s southcentral coast, Marine Area 2–2 (Grays Harbor) east of the Buoy 13 boundary line is the gateway to decent fall coho fishing. WDFW is forecasting a Grays Harbor basin return in 2024 of 143,051 compared to 214,271 in 2023. Anglers should check the 2024–25 WDFW regulation pamphlet for catch limits and regulations.

The Grays Harbor North Bay Fishery is open through Sept. 15 for hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho only. The harbor’s coho fishery (you can also retain chum) mainly occurs in the south channel (referred to as the East Grays Harbor fishery) just outside of the Johns River boat launch — located just west of Aberdeen off Highway 105 — and is open Sept. 16 through Nov. 30.

Anglers start their trolling pattern at the “Goal Post” (a set of rotting wood pilings), which is the entrance marker to the Johns River, and then point their bow due east into the south channel.

The south channel is a trough running east to west along the shoreline toward the Chehalis River mouth. Many anglers use the O’Leary Creek mouth or Stearns Bluff, a landmark hillside just east of the Johns River, as the ending spots for their troll pattern.

Fishing gear consists of a 6- to 10-ounce sinker ball to a three-way slip swivel with a triangle-shaped rotating flasher and a 6-foot leader attached with a cut-plug herring and/or a spinner lure. Let out 12 to 25 pulls of fishing line — this is a shallow-water fishery, with depths of 15 to 35 feet — so your bait or lure presentation is spinning just off the sandy bottom or at mid-depth when you mark fish higher up in the water column.

Just upstream of Grays Harbor, there is an active troll fishery for coho during the fall on the lower Chehalis River from the Montesano boat launch to the lumber mill.

October nibbles and bites: Keep tabs on Lower Columbia tributaries, as certain rivers like the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis can produce some fun late-season salmon action. Several Puget Sound region rivers are also open in October, including sections of the Cascade, Green, lower Snohomish, Nisqually, Nooksack, Puyallup and Skagit. If you plan to fish in a river, be sure to check what salmon species you can retain, specific regulations, emergency closures and when fishing is open by going to the WDFW website or regulation pamphlet. The Westport Boat Basin sees a fair number of pen-raised coho returning in the fall and is open through Jan. 31, 2025; check the 2024–25 WDFW regulation pamphlet for specific rules directed at the boat basin. Lake Sammamish is open Oct. 1 through Nov. 30 for coho only, and then Dec. 1 through May 31, 2025, for hatchery coho only.

The terminal chum fishery off the Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal is open Nov. 1–30 and provides good shoreline access to anglers looking to hook into these feisty hard-fighting fish. (Photo by WDFW)


Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) is open Nov. 1–30 for chum and popular places include Hoodsport Hatchery terminal fishery area, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport. The fall chum forecast is 254,900, compared to 231,153 in 2023.

Many coastal river fishing options could come to life for salmon in the late fall and early winter, including the Bogachiel, Calawah, Chehalis, Hoquiam, Newaukum, Quillayute, Quinault, Satsop, Sol Duc, Skookumchuck, Wishkah and Wynoochee.

In particular, the Humptulips River stands out for late-season fishing as fall Chinook and coho begin to arrive in early October, and it can be decent well into December. Fishing is open Sept. 1 through Oct. 24 for salmon (only hatchery Chinook and hatchery coho and all chum can be retained) and from Oct. 25 through Dec. 31 for salmon (only hatchery-marked coho and all chum can be retained).

On the southern coast, there are also some options to catch salmon on sections of the Naselle, Nemah, North and Willapa Rivers. The normal-timed coho run is typically made up of hatchery fish and the late run is typically comprised of wild coho. The best time to fish for these fish is November through January.

Whatever river system you choose, be sure to check the 2024–25 WDFW regulations pamphlet and WDFW website on when fishing is open and what salmon species you’re allowed to keep. All river openings in the fall are highly dependent on potential later summer drought, high water temperatures and low water level issues in rivers. This could lead to in-season management changes or closures.

November/December nibbles and bites: Any fall and winter chum salmon fisheries in estuaries of Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound) are dependent on in-season updates on chum abundance, winter chum conservation implications and co-manager agreement. Anglers can keep tabs on the WDFW webpage for any changes at places like the Kennedy Creek estuary in Totten Inlet, Johns Creek estuary in Oakland Bay, North Bay near Allyn and Perry Creek in Eld Inlet.


Marine area fishing options are slim during this time, but you can still find winter hatchery Chinook and resident hatchery coho lurking in Marine Area 13 (South Puget Sound).

Under proposed 2024–2025 permanent regulations, the mainstem Lower Columbia from the I-5 Bridge to Buoy 10 is open daily from Jan. 1, 2025, through March 31, 2025 for early spring hatchery Chinook salmon fishing. The 2025 forecasts will come to light sometime in early winter. These spring Chinook primarily enter freshwater from February through June — although some poke their noses in by January — with the peak occurring in April and May.

And while winter blackmouth opportunities are a sliver of what they used to be, there are still chances to fish in the cold rain for feeder Chinook in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Central Puget Sound and deep southcentral and southern Puget Sound. (Photo by Mark Yuasa)

MARCH 2025

Winter hatchery Chinook fishing begins in earnest with Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton Area) and Marine Area 11 (Tacoma-Vashon Island) open March 16, 2025, through April 30, 2025. Each marine area could close sooner if the total encounter threshold or sublegal Chinook (those under the 22-inch minimum size limit) and wild “unmarked” Chinook encounters are achieved sooner.

The Marine Area 10 total winter Chinook encounter limit is 4,787 (4,953 last winter), total unmarked encounter limit is 735 (953) and total sublegal encounter limit is 4,055 (4,181). In Marine Area 11, those figures are 1,196 (1,191 last winter), 209 (259) and 840 (816).

Locating baitfish, knowing key underwater structure and tidal influence are key during the winter period. Most fish tend to hunker down right off the bottom, so trolling, mooching bait and jigging are the preferred fishing methods.

Most will target winter Chinook — commonly referred to as blackmouth for their dark gumline — off the Clay Banks at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Point Dalco on the southwest side of Vashon Island, the “Flats” outside of Gig Harbor, Southworth, Allen Bank off the southeast side of Blake Island, West Point off Shilshole Bay, Point Monroe, Richmond Beach to Shilshole Bay, Kingston/President Point and Jefferson Head.

And there’s always Marine Area 13, since it is open year-round. Most will try off Gibson Point, south of the Narrows Bridges on the west side, Hale Passage, Fox Island, Johnson Point and Anderson Island.

APRIL 2025

In the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Marine Area 5 (Sekiu and Pillar Point) is open for a winter hatchery Chinook fishery from April 1–30, 2025. Length of the 2025 winter season will be dictated by the total sublegal Chinook encounter limit of 2,168 (3,707 in winter 2024). Pro tip: Be sure to book your trip on the front end of the season rather than later because these waters could close sooner if the preseason projected catch is exceeded.

Sekiu is known for producing larger-sized fish in late winter and early spring. Chinook range from five to 13 pounds, with a few hitting 15 to 20-plus pounds. The key to success is locating baitfish and fishing certain areas during an outgoing or incoming tide.

Most will start at the Caves, located around the corner of the breakwater from the resort docks, and head toward Eagle Bay. Other choices include the green buoy off Slip Point, Mussolini Rock, the Coal Mine and Slide areas, or further east to Cod Fish Bay and Pillar Point. Troll with downriggers using a rotating flasher with a whole or cut-plug herring, plugs, spoons, Needlefish or a variety of plastic squids. Others will drift or motor mooch with herring or use jigs like a Point Wilson Dart, Crippled Herring, Dungeness Stinger or Buzz Bomb.

Regardless of when or where you go, before heading out check the 2024–25 WDFW regulations pamphlet, available now at statewide tackle shops and license vendors or on the WDFW emergency rules webpage.

(Editor’s note: Mark Yuasa is a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife communications manager and longtime local fishing and outdoor writer.)



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.