I’ll admit, I’ve been more of an angler who looks to the Sky than the sea when June 1 rolls around, but not this year.
I’ve been giddy since North of Falcon wrapped up back in mid-April about the upcoming salmon opener on Marine Area 10.
Coho are fair game in the salt off Seattle, Shoreline, Bainbridge Island and much of the Kitsap Peninsula, as well as Area 11, starting Friday, so you won’t find me up at Reiter Ponds or Cable chasing early hatchery summer steelhead tomorrow morning.
Rather, I’ll be down where the rocks are a little more worn, casting off the beach for resident silvers.
Let’s just get this out of the way now: These salmon are definitely not the size of their ocean-returning cousins that come back in September and October.
But they are snappy, can be plentiful and are definitely pretty tasty.
WDFW and the Squaxin Island Tribe cooperate to release as many as 1.8 million of these coho annually. The salmon are reared at state hatcheries and then transported to the tribe’s netpens way down in deepest Area 13, where they imprint and return to after 18 months.
Can’t say I’m any kind of expert on how to catch ’em — we’ll get to some sharper anglers’ tips here in a bit — but I’ve become increasingly confident off my local beach.
Mainly I huck 21/2-inch chrome Buzz Bombs rigged with a bumper and slightly offset double 1/0 barbless octopus hooks, but will occasionally jump up to the 3X size when I want to get some more distance.
I also use the diamond-shaped jigs in blue or green pearl, and holographic patterns. Pink has worked in the past as well.
Sometimes I add a Gold Star hoochies to the back end of the rig, and for this season, I got a mess of 2 1/8-inch octopus and 4-inch needlefish skirts from Yo-Zuri that I’m going to try from time to time (especially when Chinook opens in mid-July).
One resident coho I caught from shore last year had a shiner perch in its tummy, so I might try adding some Hyper-Vis+ tape to some Bombs to get that effect.
Cast out, reel up the slack and start jerking the lure back in, reeling down, jerking, reeling down, etc., back to the beach. You don’t really want it down on the bottom, where the hook(s) might snag up on whatever.
I’ve found morning is far better than evening, but there’s no need to be on the beach at the buttcrack of dawn, thank god. There’s a relation to high and low tides, but it isn’t absolute.
Eelgrass and seaweed can be a pain at times as patches of schmutz eddy past.
The Seattle side of Area 10 has a fair amount of public beach access, including Lincoln Park, Alki, West Point, Golden Gardens, Carkeek Park and Richmond Beach, but wading into the waves isn’t the only way to catch ’em.
Northwest Sportsman columnists Jason Brooks and Terry Wiest from down Area 11 way talked about the how-tos from a boat for me recently.
Wrote Brooks for his South Sound article:
COHO AND EVEN resident Chinook can be found at various current breaks, beaches and kelp beds throughout the South Sound. Anglers with boats can launch at the many public and private launches, but Point Defiance and Gig Harbor in Area 11 seem to be most popular. The Point Defiance Boat House also rents small boats with a kicker motor that are perfect for hitting the famed nearby fishing grounds of the Clay Banks and Owen Beach, on the north side of the Tacoma peninsula.
TO TARGET THE coho, as well as sea-run cutthroat, troll small spoons such as the Cripplure by Mack’s, with the treble switched to a size 6 Gamakatsu siwash, or a small Coyote by Luhr Jensen.
A lightweight kokanee or trout rod can make this a very exciting fishery in early June. By midmonth switch over to longer rods, as the resident coho will be putting on weight and some transient fish will begin to show.
Anglers who prefer to fish from the beach have several options in the South Sound. Narrows Park puts you on the long gravel edge of Puget Sound near the bridges on the Gig Harbor side. Another is Sunnyside Beach Park in Steilacoom, at the outlet to Chambers Bay. Penrose State Park is known for its sea-run cutthroat fishing. And if you can find access to a beach on Harstine Island, you will be in a prime location for the Squaxin coho and some native cutts.
Wrote Wiest for his Westsider piece:
With Puget Sound’s ocean-going kings and silvers still out at sea, salmon opportunities are light in June – light outside of the sometimes lights-out resident coho bite, that is.
True, these aren’t big fish – I’d bet they average only a couple of pounds – but they are salmon and they will give you a good fight on light gear in Areas 10, 11 and 13, Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.
There are two primary ways to target them, from the bank and from a boat. Fly fishermen kill it on the banks using herring patterns. These fish are generally well within casting distance with a two-handed rod. The key here is to vary the speed you strip in with to see what draws a strike.
Buzz Bombs also work from the bank, quite effectively too. Those in white, white and blue, and all-chrome earn attention from coho, which are not slow about hitting them. These fish are higher in the water column, so let the lure settle into the salt only a few seconds before starting your retrieve. The retrieve is not a steady one, but rather a jerk, reel in the slack, jerk, reel in the slack, etc., back to the beach.
From a boat, red-label herring is my favorite, run either with a Silver Horde original Kokanee Hammered dodger or just naked (I prefer the dodger myself). Plugcut the herring, but if you’re good at rigging them, a whole herring can be even better. The key is a super-tight, super-fast drill-bit-type spin.
Another effective way to attract these fish is with a herring spinner, basically a fillet of herring with the same angle as a cut-plug herring at the top so it spins tight. Use super-sticky-sharp hooks, which you should anyway, but with the spinner, there won’t be much to retain the herring once a fish hits. It’s either all or nothing as far as hooking up.
I generally use 2 ounces of lead with 50 feet of line out, as I don’t want my presentation too far below the surface. I run 8- to 12-pound leader with 15-pound mainline between the sinker and the dodger if using one. I like Gamakatsu barbless hooks in red, size 2/0 on the front hook, 1/0 on the trailing hook.
In Area 10, the areas I’d concentrate on include Jefferson Head, Golden Gardens and Duwamish Head. The last is a favorite spot of mine and is basically two minutes from the Don Armeni ramp. Troll in an oval pattern about a quarter of a mile down the Alki side, then come back and go another quarter of a mile towards downtown Seattle. This half-mile stretch almost never lets me down.
I’d stick to the north end of Area 11. Des Moines, Dash Point and Browns Point produce good numbers. Concentrate on water no deeper than 120 feet and, again, stick to the top 20 feet with your gear. The shoreline is your friend. Des Moines and Dash Point are favorites for Buzz Bombers.
On the west side of Puget Sound, Olalla is a fantastic spot for these residential beauties, especially for those tossing a fly or a Buzz Bomb from shore. That’s not to say boaters can’t target this hotspot either, but personally I’d try the aforementioned spots.
The daily limit in both Marine Area 10 and 11 is up to two coho. As always, barbless hooks are required.