Saltwater Fishing in Washington

Charter Boat sport fishing dawn in Near Bay Washington
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Fishing enthusiasts know that there’s nothing quite like the feeling of casting a line and reeling in a big catch. And for those who love saltwater fishing, Washington state offers some of the best opportunities in the country. With its stunning coastline and diverse fish species, Washington has something for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner. In this blog, we’ll explore the best saltwater fishing spots, gear, techniques, and tips for success in Washington. So grab your fishing rod and let’s dive in!

Best Saltwater Fishing Spots in Washington

Washington State offers numerous opportunities for saltwater fishing. Here are some of the best saltwater fishing spots in Washington:

  1. Puget Sound: Puget Sound is a vast saltwater inlet that offers great fishing opportunities for salmon, halibut, and rockfish. The sound is accessible from several locations, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia.
  2. Neah Bay: Located on the northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula, Neah Bay is a renowned fishing destination that offers excellent salmon, halibut, and lingcod fishing opportunities. It is also a great spot for bottom fishing.
  3. Westport: Westport is a small fishing town located on the Pacific Coast that offers fantastic salmon, halibut, and bottom fishing opportunities. The town has several fishing charters that provide guided fishing trips.
  4. Sekiu: Sekiu is a small town located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is a prime location for salmon and halibut fishing. The town is also an excellent spot for bottom fishing.
  5. San Juan Islands: The San Juan Islands are a group of islands located in the northwestern part of Washington State. The islands offer fantastic fishing opportunities for salmon, halibut, and lingcod. There are several fishing charters that provide guided fishing trips in the area.
  6. Grays Harbor: Grays Harbor is a large estuary located on the Pacific Coast that offers excellent fishing opportunities for salmon, halibut, and bottom fish. The harbor is accessible from several towns, including Aberdeen and Westport.
  7. Ilwaco: Ilwaco is a small town located on the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula. The town offers great salmon, halibut, and bottom fishing opportunities. It is also an excellent spot for surf fishing.
Jetty Fishing Rockfish and Lingcod in Washington

Types of Saltwater Fish in Washington

Washington State offers a diverse range of saltwater fish species, including:

  1. Salmon: Salmon are one of the most popular game fish in Washington. There are several species of salmon found in Washington waters, including Chinook (King), Coho (Silver), Sockeye (Red), Pink, and Chum. They can be caught using a variety of techniques, including trolling, mooching, and jigging.
  2. Halibut: Halibut are another highly sought-after fish species in Washington. They are typically caught using bait, such as herring or squid, and can be found in deeper waters off the coast.
  3. Lingcod: Lingcod are a predatory fish species that can grow up to 5 feet in length. They are typically found in rocky areas and can be caught using jigs, bait, or lures.
  4. Rockfish: Rockfish are a diverse group of fish species that can be found in Washington’s saltwater areas. They come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be caught using a variety of techniques, including bait, jigs, or lures.
  5. Flounder: Flounder are a flatfish species that are commonly found in Washington’s saltwater areas. They are typically caught using bait or lures and can be found in shallow waters.
  6. Sea Bass: Sea bass are another predatory fish species found in Washington’s saltwater areas. They can be caught using bait, lures, or jigs and are typically found in rocky areas or around kelp beds.

Best Time of Year for Saltwater Fishing in Washington

The best time of year for saltwater fishing in Washington can vary depending on the specific fish species you are targeting. Here is a general guide to the fishing seasons in Washington:

  1. Salmon Fishing: The prime season for Chinook salmon fishing in Washington typically runs from May to September. Peak times can vary depending on the specific fishing location and run timing. Coho salmon fishing season usually occurs from June to October, with peak activity in late summer and early fall.
  2. Halibut Fishing: Halibut fishing season in Washington is typically open for specific periods from spring to fall, depending on annual regulations. The dates can vary, so it’s important to check the current regulations for the specific season and area you plan to fish.
  3. Bottom Fishing: Bottom fishing for various species like rockfish, lingcod, flounder, and sea bass can be productive throughout the year. However, the warmer months from May to September generally offer more consistent action and better weather conditions.

It’s important to note that fishing conditions and species availability can be influenced by factors such as weather patterns, ocean currents, and annual fish migration patterns. It’s always recommended to consult local fishing reports, check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website, and consider hiring a local fishing guide or charter for the most up-to-date information and guidance based on your desired fishing location and target species.

Ilwaco Washington Ocean Salmon Fishing 

Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing in Washington

The choice of bait for saltwater fishing in Washington can depend on the specific species you are targeting. Here are some commonly used baits that can be effective in Washington’s saltwater:

  1. Herring: Herring is a popular bait for various saltwater species, including salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish. It can be fished whole or cut into chunks, and it attracts fish with its natural scent and movement.
  2. Anchovies: Anchovies are another effective bait for salmon, halibut, and rockfish. They can be used whole or cut into strips, and their strong scent helps attract fish.
  3. Squid: Squid is a versatile bait that can be used for a wide range of saltwater species. It can be fished whole or cut into strips, and it is particularly effective for halibut, lingcod, rockfish, and flounder.
  4. Sand Shrimp: Sand shrimp are a popular bait for salmon, especially when targeting Chinook salmon. They can be fished whole or threaded onto a hook, and their natural scent is enticing to fish.
  5. Crab: Crabs, such as Dungeness or Red Rock crabs, can be used as bait for various species like lingcod and rockfish. Crab bodies or pieces can be effective, and they can be secured to a hook with bait thread or rubber bands.
  6. Artificial Lures: In addition to natural baits, artificial lures such as jigs, spoons, and swimbaits can be highly effective for saltwater fishing in Washington. They mimic the movements and appearance of baitfish and can attract a wide range of species.

Recommended Gear for Saltwater Fishing in Washington

Here are some recommended gear for saltwater fishing in Washington:

  1. Rod and Reel: The choice of rod and reel will depend on the specific species and fishing technique you plan to use. For salmon, a medium-heavy to heavy rod and reel combo is recommended, with a line weight of 20-30 pounds. For halibut and lingcod, a heavy-duty rod and reel combo with a line weight of 50-80 pounds is recommended.
  2. Line: Braided line is a popular choice for saltwater fishing in Washington due to its strength and sensitivity. For salmon and bottom fishing, a line weight of 20-30 pounds is recommended. For halibut and lingcod, a line weight of 50-80 pounds is recommended.
  3. Terminal Tackle: Terminal tackle includes hooks, swivels, leaders, and weights. The size and type of terminal tackle will depend on the specific species and fishing technique. For salmon, circle hooks in sizes 1/0 to 5/0 are commonly used, along with barrel swivels and sliding sinkers. For bottom fishing, a variety of hooks, weights, and leader materials may be necessary depending on the target species.
  4. Fishing Lures: Artificial lures such as jigs, spoons, and swimbaits can be highly effective for saltwater fishing in Washington. It’s a good idea to have a variety of sizes and colors on hand to match the baitfish and conditions.
  5. Fishing Clothing and Accessories: Weather conditions in Washington can vary widely, so it’s important to have appropriate clothing and accessories. A waterproof jacket, pants, and boots are recommended, along with a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Other helpful accessories include a fishing net, pliers, a fillet knife, and a cooler for storing your catch.
Kayak Fishing Washington Coast

Best Saltwater Fishing Charters in Washington

There are many excellent saltwater fishing charters available in Washington, catering to a variety of fishing styles and target species. Here are some of the best:

  1. All Rivers & Saltwater Charters: Located in Westport, All Rivers & Saltwater Charters offers guided trips for salmon, halibut, lingcod, and bottom fishing. They have a fleet of fully-equipped boats and experienced guides who are dedicated to providing a safe and successful fishing experience.
  2. Highliner Charters: Based in Anacortes, Highliner Charters specializes in salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands and the surrounding waters. Their boats are equipped with top-of-the-line gear and electronics, and their guides have years of experience fishing in the area.
  3. Pacific Salmon Charters: Pacific Salmon Charters operates out of Ilwaco and Westport, offering guided trips for salmon, bottom fishing, and tuna fishing. Their boats are equipped with the latest technology, and their knowledgeable guides are dedicated to helping you catch fish and have a memorable experience.
  4. Deep Sea Charters: Located in Westport, Deep Sea Charters offers a variety of guided trips for salmon, halibut, lingcod, and bottom fishing. Their fleet includes large boats with spacious cabins, and their experienced guides are committed to providing a safe and enjoyable fishing trip.
  5. Togiak River Lodge: For those interested in a more remote and adventurous fishing experience, Togiak River Lodge offers guided trips for salmon and halibut fishing in the pristine waters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. Their lodge is located on the Togiak River and provides comfortable accommodations and excellent meals in addition to guided fishing trips.

These are just a few of the many outstanding saltwater fishing charters available in Washington. It’s always a good idea to do some research and read reviews before booking a trip to ensure that the charter you choose is the right fit for your needs and preferences.

Fishing Regulations in Washington

Fishing regulations in Washington are managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to ensure the sustainability and conservation of fish populations. Here are some key regulations to keep in mind when saltwater fishing in Washington:

  1. Licenses: All saltwater anglers in Washington are required to have a valid fishing license. Licenses can be purchased online, at a license dealer, or at a WDFW office.
  2. Catch limits: There are catch limits for many species of fish in Washington, and they can vary depending on the area, time of year, and type of gear used. It’s important to check the WDFW regulations for the specific species you are targeting and follow the catch limits.
  3. Size limits: Some species of fish in Washington also have size limits, which means that fish must be a certain size or larger to keep. Again, it’s important to check the WDFW regulations for the specific species you are targeting and follow the size limits.
  4. Seasons: Fishing seasons for different species can vary in Washington, and some areas may have specific fishing closures during certain times of the year. It’s important to check the WDFW regulations for the specific area you plan to fish and follow the designated seasons.
  5. Gear restrictions: Some areas may have restrictions on the type of gear that can be used for fishing, such as hook size, bait type, or fishing method. Be sure to check the WDFW regulations for the specific area you plan to fish and follow any gear restrictions.

These are just a few of the key fishing regulations to keep in mind when saltwater fishing in Washington. It’s important to check the WDFW regulations before heading out to ensure that you are following all rules and regulations and are fishing sustainably.

Fishing in Washington

Where to Stay When Saltwater Fishing in Washington

Washington offers a variety of options for accommodations when saltwater fishing. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Fishing lodges: Many lodges in Washington offer guided fishing trips as part of their packages. Staying at a fishing lodge can be a great option for those who want to have a more immersive fishing experience and don’t mind spending a bit more for accommodations. Some popular fishing lodges in Washington include Westport Fishing Lodges, Salmon Catcher Lodge in Kenai, and the Eagle Charters Lodge in Sitka.
  2. Vacation rentals: There are many vacation rentals available in Washington, including cabins, houses, and condos, that can be rented on a short-term basis. Vacation rentals can be a great option for those who prefer more privacy and flexibility during their fishing trip. Some popular vacation rental websites include Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway.
  3. Hotels and motels: There are many hotels and motels located near popular fishing areas in Washington, offering convenient accommodations for anglers. Some popular hotel chains with locations in Washington include Best Western, Holiday Inn, and Marriott.
  4. Camping: For those who prefer a more rustic experience, camping can be a great option when saltwater fishing in Washington. There are many state and national parks in Washington that offer camping, as well as private campgrounds. Some popular camping spots near fishing areas include Deception Pass State Park, Cape Disappointment State Park, and Lake Wenatchee State Park.

These are just a few options for accommodations when saltwater fishing in Washington. It’s always a good idea to research and book accommodations in advance to ensure availability, especially during peak fishing seasons.

Expert Tips and Tricks for Successful Saltwater Fishing in Washington

Here are some expert tips and tricks for successful saltwater fishing in Washington:

  1. Know the tides: Understanding the tides is essential for successful saltwater fishing in Washington. Fish tend to be more active during incoming tides, so plan your fishing trip accordingly. You can find tide charts online or at local bait and tackle shops.
  2. Use the right gear: Having the right gear can make all the difference when saltwater fishing in Washington. Make sure to use gear that is appropriate for the species you are targeting and the conditions you will be fishing in. It’s also important to maintain your gear and replace any worn or damaged equipment before heading out.
  3. Use the right bait: Different species of fish in Washington are attracted to different types of bait. Research the species you are targeting and use bait that is appropriate for that species. Fresh bait is always best, so consider catching or purchasing bait just before your fishing trip.
  4. Be patient: Saltwater fishing in Washington can require patience, as fish may not be biting immediately. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t catch anything right away – try different techniques, move to a different location, or switch up your bait.
  5. Be aware of the weather: Weather can play a big role in saltwater fishing success in Washington. Fish tend to be more active during overcast or cloudy days, so plan your fishing trip accordingly. Also, be aware of any potential storms or high winds that could make fishing dangerous or uncomfortable.
  6. Respect the environment: It’s important to be a responsible angler and respect the environment when saltwater fishing in Washington. Follow all fishing regulations and take care to properly handle and release any fish that you catch. Also, be aware of any sensitive or protected areas and avoid disturbing the wildlife or their habitats.
Getting a Washington Fishing License: A Simple Guide 

Conclusion

Washington state offers excellent saltwater fishing opportunities, with a variety of fish species and fishing locations to choose from. To make the most of your fishing trip, it’s important to plan ahead, use the right gear and bait, and be patient. Researching the best fishing spots and accommodations, as well as understanding the tides and weather, can also help improve your chances of success. And always remember to be a responsible angler and respect the environment by following fishing regulations and handling fish properly. With these tips and tricks in mind, you’re sure to have a great saltwater fishing experience in Washington.

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