Plentiful Salmon Fishing Opportunities In Thurston And Grays Harbor Counties



By Tom Rohrer

QuinaultWhen fish are plentiful in the Thurston County area, local enthusiast put angling at the top of their priority list.

It’s not uncommon to see dozens of cars pulled over on Mud Bay Drive during late October and November, where one of the southern tips of the Puget Sound meets up with freshwater tributaries.

Nor is it shocking when the Skookumchuck and Nisqually River or Kennedy Creek are filled to the brim with fisherman and there are plenty of Sockeye, Coho, Chum and Kings to go around.

The Thurston County area has a host of year-round outdoor activities including hiking, camping, kayaking and cycling, to name a few.  Included in that list is fishing, and the countless lakes, rivers and streams provide an ideal setting during the fall salmon runs.

“It’s an exciting time,” said Conor McDonald of Olympia.  “People need to realize that there are great fishing opportunities around here.”

The various species of salmon will be more prevalent in certain areas.  Chinook and Coho salmon runs require a year in freshwater before returning to saltwater and will be found in deeper, larger rivers like the Nisqually or Skookumchuck Rivers, while Chum can meander along lower level steams like McLane and Kennedy Creek.

A day out fishing in a beautiful setting can be a fun family activity that helps both the environment and the local economy.

“It’s important to realize that salmon fishing is a renewable resource,” said local angler Erik Penner. “It generates revenue for stream enhancement and wildlife preservation through sports fisherman fees.  Fisherman put money into the economy to save fisheries. It’s good for the environment, economy and to get outdoors and spend time with family.”

Penner, true to fisherman form, was hesitant to offer specific fishing locations, noting that he catches fish “in the water, and not in a tree.” However, Penner said he took his daughter fishing at Kennedy Creek recently and that she caught a 15 lbs. chum, which also goes by the name dog salmon, due to the canine style teeth they have.

Fishing styles vary depending on location and the weather.  With the high amount of rain in late October, the water levels were too high for ideal fishing conditions. However, as the rain has lessened in the last couple of weeks, rivers are not run-out and would likely be a terrific setting for fishing.

Other hot fishing locations lie outside of Thurston County, but are not too terribly far away.  As one gets closer to the coast, more fishing areas are presented.  These rivers include the Humptulips and Chehalis River in Grays Harbor and the Queets River in Jefferson County.  Along with the rivers in Thurston County, anglers can head to the Puget Sound shorelines to track schools of salmon and can attempt to catch them using both standard and fly rods.

If fishing for salmon by boat in a saltwater bay, Penner suggests dragging an anchovy for bait.  If based in a feeder streams, where Chum salmon are very aggressive, float a corky (lure) over a active hole with a sinker on it.  “If one floats a corky a foot above the water bottom, there’s a good chance a Chum will hit it,” he says.

“It depends on regulations, and your knowledge and understanding of a particular area and those regulations,” Penner said. “You have to do research, ask around and gain experience.”

While Penner would not give out his favorite spots or ideal locations in the area, he did note that he rarely travels outside of the county to fish.

“You have to explore and get out there yourself,” Penner said. “That’s part of what makes fishing so enjoyable.”

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