Fishing in Seattle: The Complete Guide
Dec 14, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Famous for attractions such as the Space Needle, an obsession with coffee, and its rock and roll history, the Emerald City has long been an iconic destination. But besides the music, another thing that’s going to blow you away is the fishing in Seattle. With access to the bounteous Puget Sound, the area surrounding the city features some of the most thrilling angling on the West Coast.

A photo of the skyline of Seattle, with the Space Needle and the Great Seattle Wheel visible.

Carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago, Puget Sound is home to a whole assembly of game fish. As it serves as an exit point for many local rivers, the sound is a Salmon fishing paradise. In addition to this, you’ll also find several lakes in and around Seattle, expanding the list of targets even further.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the ways to tackle these waters. We’ll also introduce some of the most popular fish species in Seattle and spots where you can find them. In case you’re already planning a trip, we’ll also mention local regulations you should keep in mind. If you’re ready to learn more about fishing in Seattle, read on!

Top Seattle Targets

Whether you’re fishing Puget Sound or any of Seattle’s lakes, you’ll be able to catch something no matter when you visit. However, the target species change over the course of the season, both due to regulations and the way fish migrate. Have a look at some of our local favorites, along with the seasons you’ll get to reel them in.

Salmon

Around these parts of the Pacific Northwest, Salmon are the biggest angling rockstars. These fish are fantastic battlers, capable of switching directions on a dime and leaping into the air to try to shake you off. There’s a lot of debate on which species of Salmon fights the best, but what’s certain is that you’re in for an exciting time whichever one you hook.

An angler standing on a boat, holding a big Chinook Salmon caught fishing in the Puget Sound.

With five different types of Salmon racing through its waters, Puget Sound is an amazing place to catch these fish. The species you’ll generally come across include Chum, Sockeye, Coho, and the mighty Chinook Salmon. On odd years, you’ll also see Pink Salmon swimming about.

The prime time to go Salmon fishing in Seattle is during the summer. The season peaks during July and August when you’ll be able to find plenty of mature King Salmon, as well as an abundance of silvery Coho. Once quotas fill, the fishing closes for the remainder of the year. However, the season may reopen as early as January, depending on the state of the fishery. If so, you’ll get to enjoy fishing for juvenile Chinook, also known as Blackmouth Salmon.

Lingcod

No matter how you look at them, Lingcod are not the prettiest of fish. They’re bottom dwellers, armed with about 500 sharp teeth which they use to crush squid, crab, and sometimes even Salmon. They can also get fairly big, really making it seem like you’ve just pulled out a monster from the depths. But whatever Lingcod may lack in terms of looks, they make up with their absolutely delicious taste.

A man on a boat, holding a huge Lingcod, reeled in while fishing in Seattle.

Around the beginning of May each year, the waters surrounding Seattle turn into a Lingcod battleground. The season typically extends until mid-June, offering anglers a window of opportunity to reel in these tasty fish. Just be careful where you drop your line, as fishing in waters deeper than 120 feet is prohibited in most parts of Puget Sound.

Flounder

The sound is also home to a small species of Flounder called Sanddab. These fish like to lurk on the sandy seafloor, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Due to their diminutive size and the fact you can hook into quite a few of them within one outing, they’re a great target for families and beginner anglers. Besides these, you’ll occasionally see other types of flatfish, such as Rock Sole and Starry Flounder.

A boy holding a fishing rod and two Flounder he caught.

While Flounder season is generally open year-round in Washington, they’ll often move out of reach during the winter months. Other times of the year, you can usually find them at depths between 40 and 120 feet. All you need to do is drop your bait to the bottom, pull it up a bit so the Flounder can see it, and then the action is on!

Dungeness Crab

Besides the fantastic Salmon fishing and various bottom dwellers you can find while fishing in Seattle, the area is also home to Dungeness Crab. These crustaceans are unique to the West Coast and make for an exquisite delicacy for any seafood lover. Best of all, you can combine crabbing with just about any other type of fishing, as all you need to do is set out the traps and wait.

A closeup shot of a male Dungeness Crab on a dock, and another crab in the cage next to the first.

Across Puget Sound, you’ll typically get two opportunities to catch Dungeness Crab. The first season takes place during summer, often starting around July. This means you’ll be able to combine crabbing with some absolutely blazing Salmon fishing. The second season usually runs during November or December, making Dungeness Crab a fantastic target if the fishing is slow.

…And More!

Of course, the species we mentioned so far are just a few of the many fish you’ll find prowling through Seattle’s waters. Fishing in Puget Sound, you’ll encounter Dogfish – a small type of Shark. Occasionally, you’ll also see Steelhead – the saltwater version of Rainbow Trout and Washington’s state fish. However, as their numbers have been dwindling since the 70s, Steelhead fishing is heavily restricted until populations recover.

A man preparing to release a beautiful Steelhead he caught fishing near Seattle during winter.

Also, don’t forget the various reservoirs you can explore around Seattle. Even within the city itself, there are several ponds with Bass, Perch, and Bluegill swimming through them. Just outside Seattle, you’ll find larger lakes holding Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout, as well as a bunch of other species. It really all rests on what you want to go for and how you want to do it.

Best Ways to Fish

Charter Fishing

In terms of the variety you’ll get and general efficiency, nothing beats charter fishing. Aboard charter boats, you’ll be casting a line with captains who’ve been exploring Seattle’s waters for probably most of their lives. Not only that, but they’ll also provide all the specialized equipment, whether you’re planning on fishing or crabbing.

A charter boat speeding through the blue waters of the Puget Sound, with forest scenery along the coast.

The techniques captains employ while fishing in Puget Sound are generally suitable for novices. If you opt for Salmon, you’ll usually go trolling, while with Flounder and Lingcod, you’ll be bottom fishing. Either way, charter fishing is a great option for beginners and families. And, in case you’re looking for more of a challenge, an experienced captain will know exactly how to entice the bigger fish, too.

Pier Fishing

Of course, there’s plenty of angling you can do even from shore. With lakes such as Green, Washington, Sammamish, and Ballinger all within a short drive, Seattle is a prime location for anyone looking to just relax and do some pier fishing. You’ll just have to get all your equipment and bait ready, and make sure you honor the regulations.

An angler with his back turned towards the camera, leaning on the fence on a pier in Edmonds, with a fishing rod behind his back.

When it comes to the species you can catch from shore, the various lakes in the area offer a healthy mix of Bass, Trout, Perch, and more. Also, if you’re lucky enough to visit Seattle during the Salmon run, you can set up on the coast of Puget Sound or the Duwamish River, and hook these fish from shore.

Kayak Fishing

The waters of Puget Sound are tucked in and protected from the ocean, making them fairly calm. Pair that with its surrounding lakes, and it’s easy to see why Seattle is a great place to go kayak fishing. Also, compared to renting a boat or hopping on a charter, kayaking is way more economical.

Two kayakers navigating through Puget Sound, with a lush forest in the background.

Depending on how experienced and equipped you are, there are a number of ways you can fish from a kayak. Even if you’re not comfortable fishing from the vessel itself, you can just use it for transport and cast out from any prospective shore. Nowadays, many kayak anglers rig their vessel for trolling. In Puget Sound, trolling with a kayak can net you all kinds of Salmon.

Fishing Spots in Seattle

Seattle is surrounded by numerous bays, inlets, and canals. This means that anglers who plan on fishing in Puget Sound will have a considerable number of nooks and crannies to explore. Add to that some of the lakes we mentioned earlier and you’ll be pretty much spoiled for choice. To make things simpler, have a look at some of our top areas to visit while fishing in Seattle.

An aerial view of Seattle and the Puget Sound waters that surround it.
  • Edmonds: Located about 20 minutes north of Seattle, Edmonds serves as a great starting point for anyone looking to fish in Puget Sound. The waters around this little city are a vibrant Salmon battleground, and you’ll also have easy access to bottom fishing spots if you want to catch Flounder or Lingcod.
  • Marine Area 10: Puget Sound is divided into 13 different sections. Marine Area 10 covers the waters in the vicinity of Seattle and Bremerton. Here, you’ll be able to chase after different types of Salmon and bottom-dwelling fish. In recent years, some parts of the area have been closed for Chinook fishing. However, if you visit during winter, you could get a shot at some Blackmouth.
  • Lake Washington: As the largest in the county, Lake Washington features some amazing freshwater fishing. Feisty Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout inhabit the lake, and so do other species such as Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Perch, and Crappie. There are many piers scattered along the lake’s coast, making it a great shore fishing destination.
  • Mid-Channel Bank: Positioned at the very end of Admiralty Inlet, the Mid-Channel Bank is one of the hottest Chinook Salmon fishing spots in Puget Sound. The area lies at the very north of the estuary, meaning you’ll need to get ready for a boat ride if you’re departing from Seattle. You shouldn’t hesitate to go for it though, as the area offers some truly exciting angling.
  • Point Defiance: If you head south from Seattle, you’ll get the chance to fish Point Defiance. The narrow channels in the area create bottlenecks for migrating fish, turning into fantastic fishing spots during Salmon runs. In addition to that, the waters around the nearby Vashon Island often feature great Flounder fishing.

Seattle Fishing Regulations

All great angling adventures start by learning about the local rules and regulations. If you’re fishing in Seattle, and Washington in general, you’ll need to buy a fishing license before your trip. This applies to all anglers aged 15 or older, whether you’re planning to catch fish or go crabbing. There are different permits depending on if you’re fishing saltwater or freshwater, and you can get more information on those in our dedicated Washington fishing license guide.

An infographic image that says "Seattle Fishing Regulations" and "What You Need to Know" against a blue background.

As far as fishing regulations go, you should keep in mind that they change between the different marine areas Puget Sound is divided into. This means some species may be closed for harvesting in one part of the sound, but open in another. To find out more on how these and other regulations work, we recommend visiting Washington’s eRegulations page.

Seattle: A West Coast Fishing Heaven

A photo of whales surfacing in the waters of Puget Sound, with forests and snowy mountains in the background.

When you find yourself in Seattle, here’s what you do: Hop on a boat, blast your favorite Jimi Hendrix tune, and start trolling for Salmon. While you’re out there on the water, lower your bait to the bottom and reel in some Flounder. And if it happens that the Dungeness Crab season is open, make sure to either let your captain know you want some of that crabby goodness, or set whatever reminder you need so you don’t forget your crab pots. If you ask us, there’s no better way to spend a day on the Jet City waters.

Have you ever been fishing in Seattle? What’s your favorite type of Salmon to catch? Tap the comment button and let us know!

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