A beautiful sunrise greets anglers trying their luck for Chinook salmon in a local marine waterway. Photo by Chase Gunnell

Washington Summer Salmon Fishing Preview: Where and when to go, and what to catch

Best bets for Chinook and coho salmon in the Evergreen State’s marine waters as well as the Columbia River

Point No Point in northern Puget Sound (Marine Area 9) is a popular summer Chinook fishing location. Photo by Mark Yuasa

COASTAL SALMON FORECASTS COULD BE A BRIGHT SPOT

“I’m cautiously optimistic for salmon off the coast, especially when it comes to the coho forecast,” said Larry Phillips, the American Sportfishing Association’s Pacific fisheries policy director and former WDFW Region 6 director. “The positive news appears to be ocean conditions have bounced back, so hopefully that’s a move in the right direction. What I am worried about is how quickly we might burn through our quotas, especially if we see the coho return pushing a million fish and we get good weather conditions.”

COASTAL, COLUMBIA OPPORTUNITIES

The ocean sport catch coastwide quota is 27,000 Chinook (27,250 in 2021) and 168,000 hatchery-marked coho (70,000 in 2021). The “total allowable catch,” or TAC, for ocean sport and non-tribal fisheries is 54,000 Chinook and 200,000 hatchery-marked coho (58,000 Chinook and 75,000 hatchery-marked coho in 2021; and 45,000 and 25,000 in 2020).

Morning sunrise in northern Puget Sound off Browns Bay. Photo by Savannah Sullivan

SOUTH SOUND SALMON OPTIONS

The 2022 Puget Sound hatchery Chinook forecast of 201,059 is slightly better compared to 2021 and the 10-year historical average although several wild Chinook stocks are still high on the conservation priority list. The hatchery coho forecast of 387,722 shows a slight improvement from 2021 and is rebounding from poor ocean conditions seen between 2015 and 2017.

REVISED CHINOOK DAILY CATCH LIMIT IN MARINE AREAS 5–11

The new WDFW regulation pamphlet will be out soon and one change made was to the Chinook retention limit in the marine salmon fisheries. To remain consistent in Marine Areas 5 to 11, the daily limit will now be one hatchery Chinook in both the 2022–2023 summer and winter fisheries. Marine Area 13 will still have the two salmon daily limit and Marine Area 12 has a four salmon daily limit, consistent with last year.

Salmon anglers try their luck trolling for Chinook salmon at Sekiu (Marine Area 5) located in the western Strait of Juan de Fuca. Photo by Chase Gunnell

NORTH SOUND, STRAITS, SAN JUAN ISLANDS KINGS, COHO

As July rolls around, the focus for summer hatchery-marked Chinook moves to the San Juan Islands, which is Marine Area 7, and northern Puget Sound’s Marine Area 9, and fishing in both will begin slightly earlier than the past several years. A word to the wise: Just like other local salmon fisheries with a set quota, it is prudent to make plans to go fishing sooner than later.

Trolling for Chinook and coho salmon off the southern coast. Photo by Mark Yuasa

HOOD CANAL AND OTHER OPTIONS

A salmon fishery that doesn’t get its deserved attention is Hood Canal south of Ayock Point. This part of Marine Area 12 is open July 1-September 30 for coho and hatchery-marked Chinook with a liberal daily limit of four salmon and a minimum size limit of 20 inches. The areas north of Ayock Point are open September 1-October 31, but anglers must release all Chinook and chum. Quilcene Bay is open August 1–31 for a fishery directed at coho only.

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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.