Hood Canal Fishing – A Guide on Beginning and Expert Salmon Fishing

salmon fishing hood canal
Check fishing regulations before heading out to the Skokomish River to fish for salmon. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.


By Douglas Scott

SKOK1215 SITE Logos Twin Totems FINALAround the world, Hood Canal is synonymous with delicious-tasting seafood. From the rare, yet delicious, spot shrimp to the incredibly huge geoducks and the succulent oysters of Hama Hama, millions of pounds of seafood has been shipped out of the region, showcasing the incredible variety of locals foods we eat. As a staple of the diet for thousands of years, the foods around Hood Canal are timelessly tasty. Salmon fishing on Hood Canal is underrated and thanks to the work of local fisheries, the numbers are steadily increasing.

salmon hood canal
Salmon swim in Hood Canal, a great local place to catch dinner. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

When most people think of salmon fishing on the Olympic Peninsula, they think of rivers like the Wynoochee, Sol Duc, and Queets, skipping over the Skokomish and the Quilcene. Off the coast in salt water, Westport and Neah Bay take the glory while the Hood Canal is quietly becoming a local favorite.

Hood Canal is also the site of the return of the sockeye salmon to the Skokomish River. In 2014, the Skokomish Tribe reached an agreement with Tacoma Public Utilities District which has helped build the infrastructure to see sockeye salmon returning to the North Fork Skokomish River for the first time in nine decades.

While that is great news for the Skokomish River, anglers all around Hood Canal are gearing up for what promises to be a great year of salmon fishing. Starting in July, with the most activity coming in August, fishing for chinook salmon will be incredible along the Hood Canal. Chinook salmon will also be great to catch in August along the Skokomish River, while Coho will be strong in and around the Quilcene River area. 2015 is also an odd-numbered year, meaning that Pink Salmon will be returning.

salmon fishing hood canal
Check fishing regulations before heading out to the Skokomish River to fish for salmon. Photo credit: Douglas Scott.

Be aware that fishing is restricted in certain regions at certain times of the year, so checking the fishing regulations page on the Skokomish Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife websites will be your best bets to be updated and aware of any changes. There are 12 regions along Hood Canal where fishing may be open to the public, so checking ahead will ensure you are fishing legally.

Mendy Harlow, the Executive Director of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group in Union, tells us that this year’s sockeye run will be small, but the Skokomish Tribe is working on reintroducing sockeye to the Skokomish watershed. The Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group works closely with the great work that the Skokomish are doing, helping ensure strong salmon runs for future generations. However, this year’s drought may have a severely negative impact on this and future years of salmon.

“The species that will be most impacted by the drought will be summer chum salmon,” says Mendy. “Typically, they come into the river between August 15th and September 30th, but this year they are likely going to see low water flows and will enter the river late in season.”

Despite the drought conditions, thousands of fishermen are expected to descend on Hood Canal this summer and fall, hoping to catch their limits each day. For the best bets on Coho, stick to the east shore of Hood Canal as that is where they historically congregate. On the west shore, your odds of catching a chinook are higher than catching a coho.

Salmon Fishing in Olympia
Head out to the Skokomish River and Hood Canal to catch your salmon limits.

Your best bet for catching your limit of hatchery chum, chinook and pink salmon are going to be in three main locations in the southern end of Hood Canal. There are numerous other locations to fish, but these are a few great for beginners or those looking for an easy to get to location.

Starting at the Lilliwaup hatchery, chinook are often caught near Lilliwaup Creek in the summer, with migratory coho a possibility during September. South of Lilliwaup, Hoodsport gives anglers an awesome location for fishing with chum, chinook and pink salmon possible to catch from the shoreline during the summer and fall months. In Hoodsport, those new to fishing and the region should try their luck along the south side of the hatchery.

Fishing along the Skokomish River is an experience everyone needs to have, but be aware it can be quiet crowded and competitive. Your best location is east of the hatchery toward the Great Bend of Hood Canal. Finally, Belfair State Park, around the eastern side of the Great Bend of Hood Canal gives those looking to catch chum or coho a fantastic location. Starting in August and going through November, catching a salmon is best done by fly-fishing or using a bobber and bait.

For more information on where to fish, and the current rules and restrictions, contact the Skokomish Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. They will be able to answer all of your questions, as well as direct you to their favorite spots with tips on what gear to use.  Skokomish fishing licenses can be purchased at Twin Totems Grocery & Deli near the Lucky Dog Casino.

With their help, salmon fishing along the Hood Canal and the rivers of the eastern Olympic Peninsula will become a yearly adventure for you, your friends, and your family.


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