Jordan D. - 5/1/2004
Summer salmon fishing in the Puget Sound can be one of the hottest fisheries around. First, on odd numbered years, there is an absolutely huge run of Pink salmon that are known to be in the Puget Sound as soon as early July, but the main run doesn't come until August. The next run of fish that comes through is the Coho salmon run. These fish also begin to show in early July, but the bulk of the run doesn't get here until late August. There is also a special fishery in the Tulalip Bubble for Chinook salmon that can offer some very large fish. This fishery tends to be hit and miss for as long as it's open. As you read through this article I will explain some of the most productive techniques for fishing for these types of salmon.
Pink salmon are the most abundant in terms of numbers that return to area 8-2. The reason for this is because there are huge runs that are returning to the Skagit and Snohomish river systems. The female pink salmon is often mistaken for its cousin the Coho salmon. The distinguishing factor is the large spots on their sides and tail. The male salmon will begin to grow a hump extending from the back of their head to the middle of their back and can be easily identified. The female Pink salmon averages about 5 pounds, while the males are slightly larger averaging about 7 pounds.
Pinks tend to stay towards the top of the water column, almost never going deeper than fifty feet down while in the Puget Sound. While trolling for them, the perfect trolling speed would be around 1.5mph, but most times they aren't known to be very picky. By far the most popular set-up for catching Pinks off of a downrigger consists of a white Hot Spot flasher in either the 8" or 11" models with an 18", 25lb leader to a small pink squid on the 8" flasher and a 25", 25lb leader to a 3.5" pink squid for the 11" flasher. If downriggers are not available to you, a good set-up to go with would be an 8" white dodger made by Luhr Jensen followed by an 18" inch leader to a pink mini squid. To get this set-up down I would use either a banana weight anywhere from 3-6 ounces depending on how deep you want your offering to be, or a diving planer like a deep six or a dipsy diver. These divers will bring your set-up down as deep as fifty feet and will trip and stop diving as soon as you get a fish on. Another option for catching these fish and also the most exciting is to chase around jumping fish, cast 2 1/2 inch pink buzz bombs and to them and jig them back by raising your rod tip a couple feet and immediately dropping it, while reeling in the slack. Don't think that just because you don't have a boat you cannot go out and catch Pink salmon as well as the boaters, because you can. Mukilteo beach offers some good Pink fishing also. The technique here is the same as it would be in the boat if you’re casting to jumping fish. A longer rod will aid you in fishing off the beach, for longer casts and better hook sets, but isn't absolutely necessary. Cast your pink buzz bomb out as far as you can and jig it back as slow as you can without hitting the bottom. You may feel out of place with other people on the beach, but you'll look like your know what your doing when you catch that first Salmon and you won't even realize it. All of these techniques explained will also bring in the occasional Coho as well. Although these set-ups work the best, fisherman using Coho gear, which is similar to the gear used for Pinks except that it is in different colors, often catch Pinks.
The pink salmon tends to be the least desirable as far as the meat goes, because they have very oily meat that isn't very tasteful compared to other salmon meat. Unlike most salmon types, the meat on a pink salmon is a light shade of pink, while most salmon meat is a red color. The best thing to do to preserve the meat of a Pink is to bleed them, gut them and put them on ice right after you catch them. They can be good on the BBQ if properly taken care of and are as good as any other salmon when smoked.
Coho salmon fishing in the sound can be some of the most exciting fishing that the Puget Sound has to offer. They range anywhere from 5 pounds up to 15 pounds. Occasionally there are fish caught that weigh 20 pounds or more. Although there is a wide variety of the size of Coho that can be caught, the average Coho is about 10 pounds. Their distinguishing characteristics are their white gum line and small spot on the upper part of its tail. Most of these fish are returning to the Snohomish river system and the Skagit river system.
Coho, like pink salmon, tend to stay relatively shallow, staying in the upper 75' of water, but unlike pinks, they will occasionally go as deep as 100'. The perfect trolling speed for Coho is around 2.5 mph. Coho are very aggressive and a faster trolling speed will draw their attention better than a slow trolling speed. There are a variety of different lures that can be used for Coho. Trolling with downriggers is by far the most effective method of catching Coho. Probably the most effective set-up is an 11" green/glo Hot Spot flasher, followed by a 30", 25lb leader to a green/glo squid with a herring strip attached. The herring strip is just a filet of one side of a herring attached to the top hook of your double hook set-up on your squid. If you prefer to fish spoons, a coyote spoon or a Coho killer spoon will work well. Popular colors include the army truck, 188, cop car, yellow tail, funky chicken and Mr. Magoo. Troll these spoons about 40" behind your flasher, on a 30lb leader, since it has an action of its own and doesn't need the movement of the flasher. Other popular lures include the Grand Slam Bucktail, which can be fished with or without a herring strip, and a wide variety of squid in various color combinations. If you like to jig, my personal favorite jig is a 3-inch buzz bomb on pearl/green. Other popular colors are Army Truck, pearl/pink, or perch pattern. If you prefer to mooch, or don't have downriggers, it can be a very effective method of catching these fish. Basically the deal with Coho fishing is that if you find a school of fish and you put something in front of their face, they will hit it.
As far as table fare goes, the Coho salmon is one of the best tasting salmon there is. The majority of the time the meat of the Coho will be a deep red that is begging for the BBQ. Once again, the meat of these fish will be best preserved if you bleed, gut and put the fish on ice as soon as possible after catching them.
Area 8-2 is home to a unique fishery just outside of the Tulalip Indian Reservation. Tulalip bay has a returning run of King salmon that have been recorded to be as big as fifty pounds! Although these fish are present, most fish that are caught here are "cookie cutter" fish weighing around 18lbs. The distinguishing characteristics of King salmon are their black gum line, and irregular black spots on their back.
The Tulalip Bubble is not your typical King fishery though. You can leave the bait at home because these fish aren’t feeding. When your fishing for these Kings your basically going for a reaction strike and a Flasher/Squid combo or a flasher/coyote spoon combo will work just as good as herring. I have found that trolling about 2.5mph has produced better for me, rather than trolling at the normal slow speed that you are used to, while fishing for Kings. As far as what color of flasher and squid combos to use, the same gear that you used for Coho will also work for the Kings in this area. As far as what color pattern coyote spoon to use, the best producers have been the cop car, funky chicken and the 188 half green and glow, in that order. As you would for Coho, if you put this on a 40” leader behind a flasher you should be ok. For the people who don’t have downriggers, there are many who jig for these kings and do quite well. Popular jigs are the Point Wilson Dart Candlefish in 2 ¼oz in pearl or green and pearl, Megabaits in the 2-3oz size in the glow back pattern, 2oz crippled herring in all white, and Buzz Bombs in the 3 or 4 inch size and the pearl/pink, pearl/blue or Army Truck patterns. These Kings tend to be spread throughout the water column; it is just a matter of having your rods set at different depths and finding where they are at on a specific day. Watch the tides too. The best time to fish is the two hours before high tide, the slack tide and two hours after high tide.
As far as table fare goes for these fish, they are like any other King salmon that you eat, delicious. Last year I even got a white meat King from the Bubble, which was a pleasant surprise. Since these fish will consistently run in the high teens, you can prepare them a variety of different ways. Personally, I BBQ these fish with a variety of spices and lemon juice. Any way that you prepare them they are great tasting.
In conclusion, this article has covered most of the techniques that are used for salmon fishing in area 8-2. I hope that it will help you in your salmon fishing experiences this summer. Remember that it is all barbless hooks in these areas also. Good luck and have fun fishing the sound this summer.