Life on the water is slowly getting back to normal as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) cracks open the door to fishing opportunities after a month-long statewide closure tied to the COVID-19 “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
A few early-summer salmon fisheries start this month and the highlight will be the coho fishery in central Puget Sound, where in recent years, the fishing has been nothing short of stellar.
This marine area is located from the Apple Cove Point-Edwards Point boundary south to the northern tip of Vashon Island. Fishing is open June 1 through November 11 for coho, and beginning July 16, hatchery Chinook may be retained. Most coho are not big and average 2 to 4 pounds, but are wonderful table fare as their main diet consists of abundant krill.
Coho tend to be found in the shipping lanes from Kingston-Apple Cove Point south to Jefferson Head. Other productive areas include Richmond Beach; West Point south of Shilshole Bay; and the eastern side of Bainbridge Island from Point Monroe south to Restoration Point. For those seeking out an early-summer Chinook (averaging 10 to 20 pounds), the Tulalip Bay Bubble Fishery – located just north of Everett – is open each week from 12:01 a.m. Fridays through 11:59 a.m. Mondays only (closed on June 15 for a tribal ceremonial fishery). Fishing is closed east of the line from Mission Point to Hermosa Point.
Southern Puget Sound south of the Narrows Bridge is open for hatchery Chinook and has been a decent early-summer fishery at places like Point Fosdick and off Fox Island’s east side at Gibson Point, Toy Point, and Fox Point. Lingcod fishing is open daily through June 15 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Sekiu east to Port Angeles; San Juan Islands, both sides of Whidbey Island, and northern, central, south-central, and southern Puget Sound.
Look for lingcod at Possession Bar on the south side of Whidbey Island; the breakwaters at Elliott Bay, Shilshole, and Edmonds marinas; Point Evans, south of Hat Island, southeast of Alki Point near the green buoys, Toliva Shoal, and the pinnacles and rocky-bottom structures around the San Juan Islands.
While freedom to wet a line has been eased, anglers are asked to play by the rules of social distancing guidelines outlined below. Also before jumping on your boat, visit the WDFW website at wdfw.wa.gov/fishing to view what is open or closed. If public safety concerns develop, WDFW reiterated that they could reclose fishing areas.
Before You Go
- Check what is open. While many state-managed land destinations are open for day use, other local, tribal, and federal land may still be closed.
- Stick to day trips close to home. Overnight stays are not permitted. This could change once the Governor Jay Inslee approves the next phase.
- Stay with immediate household members only. Recreation with those outside of your household creates new avenues for virus transmission.
- Come prepared. Visitors may find reduced or limited restroom services as staff begin the process to reopen facilities at wildlife areas and water access sites. You are advised to bring your own soap, water, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper, as well as a mask or bandana to cover your nose and mouth.
- Enjoy the outdoors when healthy. If you have symptoms of fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, save your outdoor adventure for another day.
When You Get There
Avoid crowds. Be prepared to go somewhere else or come back another time if your destination looks crowded.
- Practice physical distancing. Keep six feet between you and those outside your immediate household. Launch one boat at a time to give others enough space to launch safely. Leave at least one parking space between your vehicle and the vehicle next to you. Trailer your boat in the same way.
- Wash your hands often. Keep up on personal hygiene and bring your own water, soap, and hand sanitizer with you.
- Pack out what you pack in. Take any garbage with you, including disposable gloves and masks.
Other Upcoming Fishing Opportunities
- On the coast, Chinook fishing was scheduled to open on June 20 at Neah Bay, La Push, Westport, and Ilwaco; although as of press time each port remained closed due to COVID-19 concerns. Anglers should monitor the
WDFW website for updates.
- The spot shrimp season in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands was scheduled to reopen on May 16, but no specific details were provided prior to the magazine’s press deadline, so anglers should consult the WDFW website to see what is open this month.
- As of mid-May, WDFW staff still were in limbo on when the inner-Strait of de Fuca and Puget Sound halibut fisheries would reopen. Heather Hall, a WDFW halibut resource manager, indicated they were communicating with local port and community officials on when they could safely open the fishery. Anglers should check the WDFW for updates.
- For those making summer fishing plans in Alaska and Canada, the travel ban was expected to be lifted soon, although many small-town communities were unsure if they could handle out-of-town visitors. Before heading north, check for updates on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s website at
adfg.alaska.gov and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website at dfo-mpo.gc.ca/index-eng.htm.