February fishing in the Northwest will have some opportunities in the salt, and a lot more in the lakes and rivers. With Valentine’s Day right in the middle of the month, it’s a good time to think about sharing the love of fishing with your spouse or significant other. Unless, of course, that’s already your favorite thing to do together.
Whatever you do and wherever you do it, make sure to bundle up with some of those warm clothes you got for Christmas. Baby, it’s cold outside! Brrrrr! We can also have some beautiful sunny days this time of year. You’re really missing out if you don’t take advantage of the boating and fishing opportunities the Northwest has to offer this month. You’ll have some beautiful, uncrowded days if you watch the weather and pick your days. It’s pretty special being in solitude out there with the fish, birds, sea life, and your sweetheart.
Blackmouth fishing is still the big draw in the saltwater this month. This is definitely one of my favorite Chinook fisheries. It’s mostly done trolling with downriggers. However, this is some very technically challenging trolling complete with structure, currents, points, and pinnacles. It’s a lot of concentration and focused fishing. If done right, it’s hardcore fishing, especially in my backyard–the San Juan Islands. I usually use spoons this time of year. Silver Horde or Gibbs Tackle 3”-4” hardware really seems to produce in our winter Chinook fishery. Tie these to 48” of 25-lb leader behind an 11” flasher and hang on. Try to keep your downrigger cable at 25-45 degrees of blowback angle. If possible, troll with the tide. This will usually produce the most bites.
Squidding is another good way to get groceries from the saltwater in February. Puget Sound has a very productive squid fishery right now. By boat or just from one of the open piers, the best squidding is usually done at night. The key is light. Find a place with some light shining on it from boats or buildings and equipment and you might just find the squid.
Or, from a boat you can use your own lighting. There’s an art to it, but it’s mostly casting and retrieving multi-hooked jigs through the water. A limit of fresh squid gets guests running for a special and unique feast. It pretty much IS the party anytime the calamari appear.
Many large lakes are open to fishing in the Northwest in the winter. Lake Chelan, for example, has a great lake trout fishery this time of year. Whether you trailer a boat over or go with a guide, it’s beautiful up there. You have a chance to catch a real lunker in Chelan! The state record mackinaw, a 35.1-lb behemoth, was caught in February 2013 out of this long lake.
There’s some cold-weather opportunities in Eastern Washington and Idaho for Kokanee now, too. These landlocked sockeye salmon are hard fighting, fun to catch, and great to eat. Might be worth the drive to the snowy side!
Steelhead also can provide great fishing in February. Whether it’s a catch-and-release trip to the Olympic Peninsula with a shot at shaking hands with a giant ocean-fresh chromer or tangling with some of the big hatchery B-run steelies on Idaho’s Clearwater river, it’s an adventure waiting to happen. There is nothing better than the feel of a rip-snorting steelhead trying to strip all the line off your reel as he heads back to the ocean. This is a good time to hire a guide and enjoy a day with a pro. Cold temps are forgotten in some of the most beautiful rivers in the world as adrenaline takes over. It you’ve never fished for our special steelhead, you must do it at least once in your life. It’s a true Northwest experience
The first stop of 2018 on the Northwest Marine Trade Association’s Northwest Salmon Derby Series was the Resurrection Salmon Derby, held January 6 and 7. Jason Squibb took home the $10,000 top prize with an 18.28-lb. hatchery Chinook. Entry into these derbies qualifies for a chance at the Derby Series Grand Prize fishing boat! Tournaments are a really good way to connect with other anglers and have fun fishing. You never know … you just might win something too.
The Roche Harbor Salmon Classic also took place in January, but results were not in as of this writing. The Friday Harbor Salmon Classic takes place February 9 and 10. We’ll be out there competing for the big $15,000 top prize! Until next month, stay warm, stay dry, stay tuned, and stay involved! Let’s get out there, share the love, and go get some!