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Autumn Angling

by Mark Yuasa
Photo by Graham Mansfield

MARK YUASA outlines your best bets for late-season salmon fishing in the Sound, plus gives the forecast for the winter crabbing just ahead.

Autumn is the season when colorful leaves adorn tree limbs, watching football games becomes a weekend priority, and the daylight hours start to wane. But for some, it’s a time to turn over a new page in the novel entitled Fishing, and this special chapter is called late-season fall salmon in our local marine waterways.

Now through October 31, the central and south-central Puget Sound (Areas 10 and 11) are open daily for feisty coho salmon, and the southern end south of the Narrows Bridge (Area 13) also holds a fairly good chance for hatchery coho and Chinook.

The Hood Canal (Area 12), also open daily through October 31, doesn’t garner as much attention, but anglers should take notice as it has a liberal four-salmon daily limit (release chum through Oct. 15 and all Chinook). Grays Harbor on the south-central coast is a known late-season coho fishery, and the East Bay channel is open daily through November 30 with a one-salmon daily limit (release all Chinook). Never overlook Grays Harbor as it traditionally hosts some of the largest coho in the state, and generates good fishing clear up to and beyond Halloween for migrating fish destined for the Chehalis and Humptulips river systems.

This is a shallow water fishery so don’t fret over fishing in 15 to 20 feet of water, and keep your bait bouncing on the sandy bottom with a flood tide being the optimal time. Gear of choice is a diver or a six- to eight-ounce drop ball sinker tied to a one-foot leader off my three-way swivel and a seven- to eight-foot, 20-pound leader to a tight spinning, green label plug cut herring.

Winter Dungeness Crab

An announcement from state fisheries regarding the opening of late fall/winter Dungeness crab fishing should be out very soon. The summer crabbing season ended on Labor Day, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has been gathering data from angler catch record cards to determine what areas can support a winter crab fishery.

In recent years the winter fisheries happened in the northern waters from the Apple Cove Point-Edwards Point line north into the Strait of Juan de Fuca as well as the San Juan Island region, and are usually open daily through December 31.

Dungeness crab populations in the southern reaches of Puget Sound were either in poor health or recreational crabbers attained their share of the catch this past summer. The Dungeness crab sport, non-tribal commercial and tribal fisheries caught 8,681,309 pounds in 2020 (compared to 8,636,151 in 2019) and catches have been trending downward since a record catch in 2015 when 11.8 million pounds was landed. But, despite a lower turnout during the winter, Dungeness crab are highly sought after for their firm meat that’s a hit at holiday gatherings. Winter catch rates are often better and it keeps folks busy when other saltwater fishing options are minimal.

For updates on crabbing, go to: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfishing-regulations/crab. Now it’s time for me to beat out the stormy weather. I’ll see you on the water!

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