November might be a bit of a down time for fishing in the Northwest, but it’s a good time to give thanks for the opportunities we do have. Don’t winterize that fishing boat. There are still fish to be caught, especially in Puget Sound!
November 1 marks the opener of blackmouth fishing in many areas of the Sound. The season’s festivities kick off with the Everett No Coho Blackmouth Derby on November 4 and 5. This event sprung from the original Everett Coho Derby, which held one of the largest participation records of any salmon tournament on the West Coast.
After coho retention was shut down for the season in Puget Sound in 2016, the derby was moved to November and changed to target resident hatchery Chinook, or “blackmouth” as they are commonly known. The event, held at Bayside Marine in Everett, WA, was a success right out of the gate. Regulars at the top of derby leaderboards – the team of Derek Floyd, Lance Husby, and Scott Bumstead – put on a show, taking most of the top prizes. Seeing friends you know, meeting new people, and participating with them in healthy competition are some of the great aspects of Pacific Northwest fishing derbies. The drawing for the yearly Grand Prize fishing boat for the Northwest Salmon Derby series also takes place at this event. Go to everettcohoderby.com for more info. We’ll be there!
When it comes to blackmouth fishing in Puget Sound, tactics and terminal tackle are fairly simple. These 5- to 15-lb salmon are on the feed, so finding the bait is key. Most hot spots will be on points, banks, and bars. Large, popular areas like Possession Bar usually hold fish. Smaller spots around points or ledges can be productive places to get out of the crowds and find salmon as well.
A main baitfish in the diet of resident Chinook is sandlance or candlefish. These small, thin morsels are mainly found on the bottom. Whether downrigger trolling or jigging, most salmon will be found within 10 feet of a sandy floor. Don’t be afraid to bounce your downrigger balls in the mud, as we call it. To “match the hatch” of blackmouth prey, use lures such as Silver Horde Coho Killers or Ace Hi Flies when trolling. Tie these onto 36” to 48” of leader behind an 11” flasher and hang on.
Feeder Chinook are voracious, and the bite can be fast and furious around tide changes. They are also very good on the BBQ or in the smoker, and provide a good change of pace around the holidays for dinner, dip, or gifts. You’re always a welcome guest at get-togethers when you bring the smoked blackmouth!
Chum salmon may also be open to fishing in November in some Marine Areas of the Sound. As always, check the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife regulations and any emergency rule changes before you plan a trip.
Fishing for squid can be a fun and productive pastime in Puget Sound this time of year as well. This is mainly a nighttime activity and can be done from public piers or by boat. Squid are attracted to light, so any place with existing lighting or creating your own bright spot with spotlights or underwater lighting can be effective. Boating at night near piers or ports that provide nocturnal illumination has inherent dangers so, as always, make safety a top priority.
Squid jigs are available at most tackle stores in the region and are easy to use. When you’re in your local store picking up gear, also ask them for tips and tricks on how to catch these critters. As a simple primer, cast out to the edge of whatever light you are using and let the jig fall. Then twitch and reel in until the lure comes back to you. Keep pressure on when bringing the lure back in to keep the squid from releasing its grasp and getting away. Most lighter rods and reels will work fine for squid. Man, do these cephalopods make good eating. Calamari is one of the best dishes to prepare after you get a daily limit of five quarts or 10 lbs. What a great appetizer for Sunday football…fresh squid caught on Saturday night!
We had a pretty good summer fishing season to be thankful for in many areas of the Pacific Northwest. Even though the migrating fish may have moved through, it doesn’t mean you should migrate off the water. If you live in the Pugetopolis area surrounding the Sound, there are still fun times to be had. Getting creative and gaining local knowledge of shoulder season opportunities can pay off with seafood you catch. Until next time, get off the tryptophan, get off the couch, get out there, and go get some!