The month of October never gets any respect. After all it falls at a time when the warmth of summer seems like a distant memory, days are getting shorter, jackets become an essential part of daily wear, morning dew covers every nook and cranny outside, and Christmas items are showing up on store shelves.
But if you’re angler like me it also means the Pacific Northwest waters are still teeming with fishing opportunities and there’s plenty of time to get “hooked” before the winter holidays roll around.
On top of the autumn fishing list is salmon in local marine waterways and despite the Washington Department of Fisheries (WDFW) and their co-managers chiming the alarm bell that a predicted Puget Sound coho forecast of 670,159 – up from 557,149 in 2018 – it appears that the run could end up being on par.
“In Sekiu there is still tons and tons of new fish coming in,” said Brandon Mason, owner of Mason-Olson’s Resort in Sekiu before it closed on Sept. 30. “We haven’t even come close to seeing the end of the run. I think everyone needs to give this run more time to come in. All the salmon this year have been running late.”
WDFW said late last month a majority of coho had smaller body sizes throughout Puget Sound; many tribal directed fisheries had very low catches; and the in-season encounter estimate was about 5,000 coho greater than predicted for the entire month of September.
This prompted WDFW to lower the daily limit of coho to one as part of a two salmon daily limit effective on Sept. 23 in Marine Areas 5, 6, 7, 8-1, 9, 10, 11 and 13. Since then some of these areas have closed so check dates below of what’s still open.
Yet soon after the rule was implemented coho catches began to increase and the size of fish was better as seen in the Everett Coho Derby on Sept. 21-22 where the average weight was 5.40 pounds.
While we hold our breath on what the eventual outcome will be, anglers can still wet a line in central Puget Sound (Marine Catch Area 10) which is open through Nov. 15 for coho or chum; the Dungeness Bay terminal fishery open Oct. 1-31 for coho; the northern portion of east side of Whidbey Island (Area 8-1) open through Oct. 31; Hood Canal (12) open through Dec. 31; and southern Puget Sound open year-round. Be sure to check the WDFW pamphlet, app or website (https://wdfw.wa.gov/) for details on where you can fish.
Puget Sound chum add to the color of the fall rainbow of fish
Add to the fishing equation a hard-fighting fall chum – better known as dog salmon for their gnarly, toothy jaw line at spawning time – with an expected modest Puget Sound return of 642,740.
Target coho and chum in Area 10 at Jefferson Head, Richmond Beach, West Point south of Shilshole Bay, Meadow Point, Kingston, Point Monroe, Allen Bank off Blake Island and Southworth.
Also be sure to watch the chum catch rates at estuarial areas like Kennedy Creek in Totten Inlet, Johns Creek in Oakland Bay, Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal, Chico Creek in Dyes Inlet and Curly Creek near Southworth.
Other chum locations are North Bay near Allyn, Perry Creek in Eld Inlet, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek south of Potlatch State Park, and the public-access shores off Highway 101 from Eldon to Hoodsport.
The eastern portion of Grays Harbor is also open through Nov. 30 for coho; and the La Push bubble fishery is open Oct. 1-13 for chinook and hatchery coho.
Anglers have been targeting migrating salmon in coastal rivers like the Chehalis, Clearwater, Bogachiel, Calawah, Humptulips, Hoh, Willapa, Queets, Quinault, Sol Duc and Wynoochee. Locally, try the Green, Nooksack, Puyallup, Skagit and Stillaguamish. Anglers should consult the WDFW regulation pamphlet, app or website for what is open and what type of salmon species you can target in each river system.