You likely have heard that salmon fishing in Puget Sound and its tributaries is currently closed until further notice due to the inability of the native tribes and WDFW to agree on a fishing plan. This is due to an especially low forecast for salmon, especially coho, combined with many years of animosity between the different groups of anglers. Suffice it to say the reasons are deep and complex, and go beyond a specific season, species or fishery.
No matter exactly what you may believe the root causes are, who should get how much blame, or what the fix is – I think we can all agree that it is sad, on many levels, to have this disagreement and closure of fisheries.
1. Hit The Columbia
If you are really dying to scratch that salmon itch, then remember that the closures are for the Puget Sound area. The Columbia river is forecasted to have a good return of chinook and decent one for sockeye.
Pack up the car and go out on the Big C. Tributaries to the Columbia, like the Cowlitz, Wenatchee, Methow and several others will all have their salmon seasons.
This may take more time and money than your usual haunts, but its better than sitting at home in front of the TV, right?
2. Get Back To Basics
Many salmon anglers got their start fishing other species, like trout. Go down to your local stocked lake and cast out a worm under a bobber, lean back, and let the nostalgia wash over you.
Even though fishing for salmon is a lot of fun, each year I really do enjoy the time I spend going out for some catch & release trout on really light gear. There is something nice about going back to your roots, and focusing on the fun, rather than stressing about catching.
3. Introduce Someone To Fishing
Take off your hardcore serious fisherman hat, and focus on getting others into the sport. For many people, especially kids, they are excited to get out and catch anything. It doesn’t have to be some trophy salmon for them to be happy.
Take some time to introduce someone new to the sport, starting them with the basics for easy to catch species like trout or perch. Instill in them a sense of value for our fisheries and a respect for the spot.
These people may turn into future fishing buddies, or may even support recreational fishing when such issues come up for votes.
4. Learn a New Species
If you are anything like me there is always more fishing I want to do than I have time to do. Not doing my usual salmon fisheries may be the time to finally learn how to fish for bass, or catch my first walleye.
Washington is blessed with a multitude of different waters and species of fish, lets take advantage of that.
Take time to learn something new – who knows maybe you’ll find you enjoy it as much as salmon fishing.
5. Take Up Fly Fishing
Fly fishing is a completely different approach than most us of use with conventional gear. Matching the hatch, light presentations, and simple lures.
Many local fly shops and guides offer classes and opportunities to try out the latest equipment, making it easy to get started. They also offer various starter kits that can get you out fishing without breaking the bank.
As an added bonus I’ve found that much of what I’ve learned fly fishing, I am able to apply to conventional fishing – making me a better angler overall. So even if you decide it isn’t for you, you’ll get value out of it for other fishing.
6. Go Crabbing
If you haven’t tried crabbing, maybe this is the year to start. While letting your crab pots soak isn’t as active as working your way through a run – you do get a tasty reward at the end.
It is easy to get started, as most local tackle shops will have deals on basic crab pots and related accessories.
This is also a fun thing to do with kids. They love seeing the crabs in the pot, and helping with measuring them. It is a bit of a change from the fish you quickly bonk and then throw into the box.
Believe it or not, but there is fishing outside of Washington. Some of it is even better than here. The Fraser river in BC gets an absolute ton of salmon. Montana is a trout fisherman’s paradise. Flaming Gorge has huge kokanee. The south is known for its catfish and bass. Mexico has tons of interesting saltwater fish.
Now finally a year you can go fish those places without worrying you are missing a great salmon fishing here.
8. Take A Hike
If you like to hike, then take along a pack rod and try fishing some of those alpine lakes. From what I’ve heard many of those lakes get almost no pressure, and the fish are eager biters.
Online you can find many enthusiasts which are willing to share advice on lakes and
hikes, and even good equipment to pack in. One friend of mine even takes a small inflatable raft which he paddles around the lake with flipper gloves on his hands. He tells me the whole thing is just a few pounds.
Not only will you enjoy some fishing but you can get some exercise and enjoy some very nice scenery.
Shad are, I think, one of the hidden gems of northwest fishing. Even though they are kinda ugly, and from what I’ve heard bony when you eat them, they can be fun to fish for.
They start showing up in the Columbia around mid May, and last into early July. Daily counts over the dams have been known to reach the 100,000 range. Just think about that for a second. That puts the best day for any salmon species crossing the dams to shame.
If you can’t catch a fish with those sorts of numbers, then maybe it is time to hang up your rod. Of course be prepared to fish with a few hundred of your closest friends.
Regardless if you want to keep them, or just enjoy the fun of man vs fish, shad can be a fun thing to do.
10. Build Something
Lastly if you can’t get out and fish, then at least you can be home doing some fish related project.
Maybe this is the year to build a custom rod, or really organize your fishing storage, or make some repairs to the boat.
One friend of mine has recently bought a 3D printer, and is experimenting with printing lures. He has even caught some fish on them already.
What are your plans?
I’d love to hear your fishing plans, assuming Puget Sound salmon fishing stays closed.
Lets keep this focused on fishing, and comment elsewhere if you want to express your frustration at the situation. I don’t want to be having to delete a bunch of comments focused on name calling, violence and hatred.
In any case here is a quote from Henry David Thoreau to ponder during this trial “Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”