11 Fishing Charters
Top Puget Sound Destinations
Top Fishing Charters in Puget Sound
Fishing in Puget Sound
Anglers spend their time in Puget Sound fishing for some of the most iconic prizes in the Pacific Northwest. This massive inlet stretches from the waters south of the San Juan Islands down to Olympia, WA. With its many branching waterways and canals, the Sound reaches deep into the mainland, drawing Salmon, Lingcod, Halibut, and other fish in from the Pacific Ocean.
The result is stellar fishing, which has drawn people to the Sound for tens of thousands of years. Today, you’ll find Puget Sound fishing charters in towns all over the region, including major cities such as Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Olympia. With well over 1,000 square miles of water, you’ll find no shortage of sport fishing opportunities here.
Salmon are at the top of many anglers’ lists. These waters are home to several different species, including Chinook (King) Salmon, Coho, Chum, Pink, and juvenile Chinooks known as “Blackmouth” Salmon. Anglers have a blast catching resident Blackmouth Salmon in winter, while they mainly target other species in late summer. Pink Salmon only enter the Sound in years that end in odd numbers.
When they’re not hunting down Salmon, anglers make the most of Puget Sound’s superb bottom fishing. Depending on what part of the Sound you decide to fish, you could reel in the likes of Flounder, Halibut, Lingcod, Cabezon, and more. To make the most of local bottom fishing, plan your trip sometime in May or early June, when the season for Lingcod is open. You can catch Flounder in many parts of the sound year-round.
Dungeness Crab are open to harvest from July through early September. In some years, the season re-opens in October and November. Halibut are a rare find in these waters, typically in the northern reaches of the Sound, and anglers are only allowed to fish for them on pre-selected dates in May.
Where to Fish
North Puget Sound
At the far north of the Sound you’ll find great fishing in the waters around Deception Pass, Skagit Bay, Port Susan, and Port Gardner. These pockets of water offer plenty of angling from the shoreline and small boats, with the opportunity to catch a variety of bottom fish as well as Salmon. Here you’ll find Greenling, Cabezon, Lingcod, coastal Cutthroat Trout, Salmon, and the occasional Halibut. A modest Chinook fishery runs from late May through early June. You can fish for resident Chinook between November and April. Coho also swim in these waters, peaking from July to mid September. During odd years, you can catch Pink Salmon.
Heading south toward Hansville brings you to Admiralty Inlet, another portion of the Sound’s northern waters with excellent fishing for anglers aboard smaller boats. Here you’ll find more great winter Salmon fishing, followed by relatively strong runs of migratory Chinook and Cohos in late summer. Pink Salmon also make an appearance here when the time is right. You’ll find excellent fishing for Lingcod, Cabezon, and Halibut in May and early June.
Continuing south, Puget Sound branches into two main bodies of water separated by the Kitsap Peninsula. To the west of the peninsula lies Hood Canal, which boasts excellent fishing for Chinook, Coho, Chum, and Pink Salmon. Here you’ll find a year-round supply of coastal Cutthroat Trout, with a peak season from March-May. Bottom fishing is prohibited in Hood Canal, except for a brief period from July through September when you can fish for Flounder.
The water east of Kitsap Peninsula, between Seattle and Bremerton, produces some of the best fishing in the area. Whether you choose to board a local charter boat or to cast a few lines from shore, you’ll have great success fishing for Salmon, sea-run Cutthroat Trout, Lingcod, and Flounder.
Blackmouth Salmon are the main event in Seattle from late October through April. After a brief close to the season, Salmon fishing picks up again with large Chinooks in July, as well as Cohos and Pinks (in odd years). You won’t catch Halibut here, but there’s plenty of Flounder to make up for it all year. Lingcod and Cabezon open to harvest in May. In winter, night fishing for Squid from local piers is especially popular.
Tacoma and Vashon Island
Past Seattle sits Vashon Island, directly across the water from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The water between the island and Tacoma on the mainland offers excellent fishing for anglers with access to small boats or from the shore. Here you can enjoy fishing for Chinook throughout most of the year, including winter Blackmouths and migratory Chinook in summer. This area sees excellent fishing for Pink Salmon in odd years. You can catch Cutthroat Trout, Flounder, and Surf Perch year-round in this area. Similar to Seattle, pier fishing for Squid in winter is popular here.
South Puget Sound
The water south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge offers the unique opportunity to catch Salmon year-round. In fact, this southern portion of the Sound is the only body of water in the entire state where it’s legal to do so. Coho inhabit these waters almost all year, peaking in early months and again from August to November. Chum Salmon visit from September through December, preceded by Pink Salmon in years that end with an odd number. Here you can also fish year-round for Flounder, Squid, and Cutthroat. Pier and shore fishing around the south of Puget Sound is excellent, especially from March through May.
Puget Sound Fishing Styles
Trolling and Mooching
If you’re after Salmon, you can count on plenty of trolling to get the job done. Bottom trolling is especially effective, usually in 100-130 feet of water. A variety of baits and lures will entice a bite, including spoons, plugs, Herring, and plastic Squid.
Another method that anglers in Puget Sound rely on heavily is “mooching.” This traditional technique is best described as a form of drift fishing. Anglers hold the rods in their hands the entire time, allowing the bait to sink and reeling it in repeatedly to catch the Salmon’s attention. Many prefer this technique to trolling because you can feel the pull as soon as a Salmon strikes.
Bottom fishing will help you catch Flounder, Halibut, Lingcod, and more. Mullet, Pinfish, Shrimp, Spots, and Croakers are all effective baits. Even bouncing a jig head along the bottom will produce results when fresh bait isn’t available. When targeting Halibut, using the freshest bait possible is crucial, since these fish hunt by scent. Some anglers apply oils and pastes to their bait to increase the scent.
The protected waters of Puget Sound are the perfect place for fly anglers to target Salmon and Cutthroat Trout. Contrary to popular belief, you can find marvelous fly fishing opportunities in the Sound all year, including Cutthroat in winter and all species of local Salmon as they come and go. You can enjoy fantastic fishing for Coho Salmon from August through October. A 6-wt rod works well, along with a variety of flies, depending on the season. Tan, gray, and olive Clousers, Chum Baby, and Grizzly Minnows are just a few of the flies that locals find effective.
Need to Know
Anglers age 16 and above must purchase a WA fishing license. A single day license costs around $10 for residents and $20 for non-residents (prices subject to change).
It’s important to note that fishing seasons and regulations are not the same in all areas of Puget Sound. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides information about which species are legal to keep in specific areas online. Booking one of many Puget Sound fishing charters is the best way follow local regulations.
Puget Sound Fishing Seasons
In January, it’s all about Blackmouth Salmon! Anglers in Puget Sound go wild over this small, hard-fighting fish. Fly fishermen have a blast targeting sea-run Cutthroat Trout.
Blackmouth Salmon and Cutthroat are available almost everywhere in the Sound at this time of year. At night, anglers line the piers in Seattle and Tacoma for winter Squid fishing.
More great fishing continues as the resident Blackmouth Salmon stay strong through winter. Depending on where you fish, dropping a line or two to the bottom will produce Flounder.
In some areas, Salmon season closes in April. This is an excellent time to turn your attention toward bottom fishing. Flounder are abundant and easy to catch, which makes them perfect for a family fishing trip!
May is the prime time for bottom fishing in Puget Sound. Lingcod and Cabezon are finally open to harvest. In the northern reaches of the sound, you may catch a Halibut here and there.
Great bottom fishing continues, with Lingcod, Cabezon, and Flounder available in most parts of the Sound. In some places, Chinook are starting to appear.
Come July, anglers in Puget Sound are gearing up for Salmon season. Chinook are here in full swing, with Cohos right behind them. In odd years, they’re joined by Pink Salmon. The season for Dungeness Crab is open.
August is a great time to explore the Sound, with your choice of bottom fishing for Cabezon and Flounder or trolling for a variety of Salmon species. You can add Crab to your cooler on the way back.
September is your last chance to experience the sheer variety Puget Sound has in store. You can still fish for many Salmon species, in addition to Flounder, Cabezon, and Crab early in the month.
You can expect good fishing for Coho Salmon in October. In southern Puget Sound, you’ll find excellent fishing for Coho, Chum, and Cutthroat Trout. Flounder fishing is fair.
If you’re in the market for Salmon, your chances are best in the southern waters of the Sound, where you can still catch plenty of fish and keep them. Otherwise, it’s all about bottom fishing!
Fishing opportunities are limited in December. The season for Salmon is closed in most parts of the sound, and Flounder are scarce. You can catch Cutthroat Trout on fly or fish for Squid from the piers in Seattle.
Puget Sound Fishing Calendar
What People Are Saying About Puget Sound
"Half day trip with Wind Knot Guides"
I loved my trip with Capt. David. We got on fish right away and when or if a fish took a hook he’d let me do as much or little as I wanted to re-outfit and get back in the water. As an avid steelhead/salmon fisher I super appreciated getting to have hands on. I highly recommend his charter for those like myself or the first timer. I am from California, Wind Knot Salmon Guides filled my first ever Washington salmon trip with hilarious stories, caught lots of fish and I had a great day in the Sound.
"Fun Trip With Captain Haug"
This is very convenient for those living in the Seattle-area, especially during the Coho run. Not even 10 minutes of sailing and you are on the fish. Very much worth it.
Top Targeted Species in Puget Sound
- Size 10-50 lbs
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Inshore, Lake, River, Nearshore
- Size 2-6 lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Inshore, Lake, Nearshore, River
- Size 10 to 35lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Low
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore
- Size 3-5 lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Inshore, Lake, River
- Size 1 to 5lbs
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities Average
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Flats, Backcountry
- Size 4-6 inches
- Food Value Excellent
- Game Qualities None
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Offshore, River