From Northern California to Alaska, this past summer season has had a lot of highlights. There was much better fishing for salmon and tuna and even a few surprise species around the Northwest this year.
This was a nice revelation, as we had been in somewhat of a downturn across the board in the past few seasons. Ocean conditions and the myriad of factors that follow them seem to have been the biggest culprit in the scarcity of fish. As with many things, it’s mostly cyclical. So, let’s be grateful for the uptick and look back at the good times and good fishing that we had this year.
It all kicked off with reports from Northern California of lights-out chinook fishing. Coho made an early appearance off Oregon’s coast soon after. Then in June, the kings and silvers made a splash on the northern Washington coast. Halibut, ling cod, and bottomfish produced pretty well, too.
When July rolled around, the Strait of Juan De Fuca had a lot of life in her. Hordes of bait, birds, whales, porpoises, and salmon just made the banks in the western Strait come alive. It’s easy to get giddy with rods going off at once as cetaceans breach all around. When places like Swiftsure turn on, they are on! Neah Bay and Sekiu, the old standbys, were kicking out fish. Places further inside such as Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands opened up and started producing for hatchery Chinook. It wasn’t always red hot fishing, but enough to make it worth getting out much of the time.
Moving ‘round the outside, I started hearing from longtime West Coast Vancouver Island anglers that they were in some of the best fishing they’d seen in decades.
The Chinook may not have been as big on average as they were in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but they were as plentiful. Places like Ucluelet were loaded with kings and silvers. Movin’ on up, southeast Alaska made some memories this year with better salmon fishing than the last couple years. Halibut also cooperated. British Columbia saw pretty good salmon fishing to the north and the mouth of the Fraser River really got jumping in mid-August.
Probably the headliner of the season was the fast and furious tuna fishing and an appearance of rare pelagic species off the northern Oregon and southern Washington coasts. August saw at least a couple striped marlin hooked, chased, fought, and lost out of Ilwaco and Westport. A couple big (for this area) bluefin tuna hit the scales locally at over 90 pounds.
Mako sharks were around too. Here’s a hot tip: don’t bring an angry mako on deck unless you’d like your boat and crew potentially chewed. These sharks are good eating, and if you’d like to keep one, it’s best to have them subdued before bringing them aboard. The albacore action was good into September and the fish were closer than in past years. It was really fun fishing for a lot of folks that got out into the blue water and made some memories.
October doesn’t mean fishing is over. In fact, some of my favorite angling has been done in the Halloween month. Coho salmon still provide opportunity in the saltchuck, so do resident Chinook. Areas from Puget Sound to British Columbia can provide open seasons and good fishing.
Scrappy blackmouth, although usually smaller in the fall, are still a nice treat. And the real prize could be some big Northern hook-nosed coho. Do your research and plan a trip to chase fish in local waters or some place a bit farther. As always, familiarize yourself with the regulations where you plan to fish and check for any emergency rule changes and closures. Know before you go!
Fresh silvers can provide good fun when river fishing this month. Twitching jigs has become the preferred method for many anglers. Simply put, this means casting out and retrieving a jig while twitching it up and down. It’s fun and productive! Also, chum salmon are usually willing biters and hard fighters in the streams. Don’t forget Chinook salmon fishing on the Columbia River. October is the time places like the Hanford Reach turn on. Fraser River in B.C. can be good for sturgeon in the fall and provide something different as well. If you don’t have a river boat or have never fished the big rivers, booking a guide is a great way to spend the day and learn the ropes.
So that’s a wrap for opportunities in October and a look in the rearview at an awesome 2019 summer season. Next month we’ll dive downrigger into one of my favorite subjects, blackmouth!