Hood Canal Chum Salmon Fishing
There is a good run of fall Chum salmon in Hood
Canal because the WDFW has been raising Chum in the Hood Canal & Skokomish
hatchery which are situated at the lower, southern hook area of the canal.
Chum are raised mainly for the commercial netters, but the sport fishermen have
found they can catch some also if they diversify. WDFW says that the
yearly Chum run in Hood Canal is over 1 million fish, & that it is
underfished by sportfishermen. This is probably because some sport
fishermen think Chum were raised mainly for the commercial netters & that
the table quality is not equal to other salmon, which is untrue unless they are
taken so close to the spawning beds that they have deteriorated.
long time it was thought Chum could not be readily caught on sport gear.
Also, it takes a while to perfect the technique of sportfishing for catching
These fish may start to move in about mid October. By the end of October you should see
more coming thru, & by the middle of November the run is in full swing, and
can last up into December.
These fish have to funnel down the canal past the floating bridge. The bridge is the boundary between
WDFW marine area 9 & 12. One WDFW
fish biologist said that Chum swim in the top section of the water when
migrating, & therefore many of them seem to be confused & slowed down by the floating
bridge. The fish will swarm thru when the bridge is opened for the nuclear subs to
pass thru. If the season
is open in area 9, it may be beneficial to fish north of the bridge, early to
mid part of the
It may take 2-3 weeks for the bulk of them to move down the
canal from the bridge to the hatcheries at the southern end.
The town of Hoodsport Community Assn. puts on
a Chum Derby usually the 2nd week-end of November.
can be caught about anywhere in WDFW marine area 12, which is the canal south of
the bridge. They will be contained in the canal, as this
water body is a long & narrow section & they can not stray, plus
they are heading south to the hatcheries & home.
The main concentration of fish will be encountered south of Ayock Point
& in Annas Bay at the "Great Bend" & near the hatcheries,
to the mouth of the Tahuya River. The Hood Canal
Hatchery is right off hiway 101, in the town of Hoodsport.
The tide here is not really the
issue as it is elsewhere, but most
fishermen seem to prefer the incoming tide & up thru to the start of the
outgoing. The bank fishers/waders have a better shot at it from low tide up to mid part
of the incoming tide. The high tides seem to bring the
fish closer to the shore & into the rivers.
Size: Most of these
mature fish will be in the 12 to 15# size with a occasional monster to 20#.
boat fishing may be divided into 4 separate groups.
(Group 1) This type of boat fishing
will be from a anchored boat in shallow water, usually near the mouth of the
river at the hatcheries. There will be many bank fishermen here, so the
plan is to anchor outside of them in the channel. Most fishermen will cast
a green corky, spin-glo & or yarn just like they would for steelhead.
You could also use a spinner, fished the same way.
(Group 2) Until recently, most chum salmon were caught by salt water anglers actually fishing for different types of salmon. Standard mooching techniques will catch an occasional chum salmon. However, the odds go up if an angler focuses on areas of known chum concentrations, and fishes a small herring bait very slowly.
A recently developed fishing technique has the potential to revolutionize salt water fishing for chum salmon. A south Puget Sound angler, Greg Cloud, pioneered the use of a small herring or anchovy drifted through chum holding areas under a float or bobber.
The terminal gear is a mooching leader with double 1/0 to 4/0 hooks and a bait
of 3" to a maximum of a 4" herring or anchovy (or herring strip) fished on a weighted leader
. Run an small egg slider sinker on the mainline with a swivel to stop it
and 20" of 12# to 15# leader to the bait. This rig is drifted at a depth
that you see fish on your finder, usually from 6' to maybe 40' deep
depending on the water depth. You do not need it far from the boat, maybe 35' to
50' is enough.
This bait rig is used under a float either from a boat anchored up-current of a concentration of fish, or by letting the boat drift through holding areas and casting the float and bait out from the boat. Either way, when the bobber goes down hook-ups are almost automatic, which makes this a great way for kids or neophyte anglers to fish. In the right circumstances fantastic chum fishing will result.
If you get nothing, on the drift, slowly reel it in and start over.
One thing he has found is that the fish are spooky, so don't
drop an anchor with a big splash, or run right thru a school of these fish if
you expect to catch many there soon.
Greg has had many 10 to 25 fish (released) days with this technique, both in south Puget Sound and in Hood Canal. For more detailed information see an article by Greg Cloud "Real Chum
Fun" in the October/November 1999 issue of Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.
(Group 3) Many
boats fishing here may be trolling. First off, troll slow and with the
tide, use a 2 oz
mooching sinker and a small green spoon, Spi-N-Glo, etc. These fish tend to be in the upper 30' of water,
and many times
right on the surface and near shore. These boats tend to stay close to
the hatchery, trolling either north or south of the hatchery near shore.
For those of you who have to use a downrigger,
the word is to use a green or chartreuse squid 40" behind a green flasher.
(Group 4) Fishing in marine waters near the mouths of spawning or hatchery streams can be very productive. The best known of these nearshore fisheries occurs every year in the vicinity of the Hoodsport Salmon Hatchery in southern Hood Canal. Sport anglers found
that with several hundred thousand hatchery chum salmon returning each year, phenomenal chum fishing was available at the hatchery in November.
At first, anglers clustered at the hatchery outlet, but the crowds soon overwhelmed the capacity of the area. Chum anglers have branched out and have found less crowded, but still productive, chum fishing all along the south end of the canal.
Many anglers now find productive areas by fishing from boats.
Most other fishermen who are used to other salmon fishing
probably use a downrigger, however fishing
the shallow depth these Chum are usually found in, a diver
will also do well, however make it greenish in color. Troll slow, as this is the key to successful chum harvest,
you just want that flasher to slip-slide back and forth, try to not even get a
roll. Trolling for this group will be from the hatchery to the mouth of the
Skokomish River & out toward the Tahuya River.
The Hoodsport Hatchery is on Hood Canal. There is a special Hoodsport Hatchery sport fishing zone within 2,000 feet of the mouth of Finch Creek (see
the current Sport Regulation Pamphlet)
Chum seem to prefer the color green, whether it
is a fly, spoon, spinner, yarn or a combination thereof.
Therefore if you have to use a downrigger, hang a green glow Hot Spot with a green Grand
Slam Bucktail, squid, Coyote or Coho Killer spoon, or maybe even a green Apex
plug. You could also add some green yarn on the lures, if your little
heart desires. Also you can use a dark purple or chartreuse 3.5" squid behind
a flasher with long 50# leader 36 to 42 inches. If you run herring behind a dodger or flasher, fish the smallest whole herring you can get your hands
Here is also a place to hang on a Fish Flash
attractor in green color about 12" behind a diver.
There has not been enough secrets shared yet to
be sure that scent does any good, but a some sources say use herring
or shrimp scent.
These fish tend to run in schools, so if you
catch one, go back & try that location again. Watch the surface for
jumping & fining fish. If you are using a downrigger snap your gear on about a fathom apart the more the better,
use as many as your boat will carry. Schooling chums like lots of flashers.
You can actually get the entire school to follow you on a straight tack if your speed is right.
Some say Chum seem to be moody at
times, however it may be that they run in schools & you just have to find
them. They seem to have somewhat of a soft mouth, so
don't put a lot of pressure on them, play them out before trying to net them.
to Launch: There are a few to choose from in this area, but the main ones will be as
(1) Hood Canal Recreational Park near the Tacoma
Public Utilities powerhouse & operated by them. A good
2 lane concrete ramp with lots of gravel parking.
No loading dock, but a decent gravel shore on both sides of the
launch to beach the boat on. There is a
problem of launch or take out at a tide of anything below a 0.0 tide, as
below where the concrete ends, there is a washout
caused by power loading. No launch fee.
picnic areas also.
(2) There are a couple of private launches on the west side of the canal, one
being at Mike's Beach Resort about 10
miles north of Hoodsport. This one you have
to let him back your boat in with his jeep that he has a hitch on the
front. And a low tide may be a hindrance.
(3) Trident Cove State Park is located on the west shore about 15 miles
north of Hoodsport. It is a wide single lane
concrete ramp with a dock. The paved parking area is
up on the same level as the hiway, while there is a road
from there down to the launch area. There is a picnic
area. $5 launch fee
(4) Union Ramp, operated by Mason County. A 2 lane concrete ramp with no
dock, that is immediately West of the
Hood Canal Marina. Very limited parking.
(5) Twanoh State Park. This launch has a 2 lane concrete ramp with 2
loading docks, however the Parks Dept. may
pull docks for the winter by the time
Chum are in. No water off the concrete ramp at a minus tide & don't
back out on the gravel, as it is soft. Plenty of paved parking. There is a picnic
area. $5 launch fee.
(6) Seabeck Marina on the east shore has a sling.
(7) On the east shore there is a public launch south of Seabeck.
Hood Canal Bridge Fishing
is open for Chum after September 30.
Fishing: There is a closure at the entrance of the hatchery, so be sure to read &
understand it's boundaries. I have tried to interpret these
closure regulations at this hatchery, & have trouble understanding
it. I asked a fish checker there & apparently what it means is
that you can NOT fish salmon in fresh water, but only SALT WATER. So in essence
how I now understand it is that you can stand on the bank & cast into salt
water. You CAN NOT turn around & cast into fresh water if you
are near the stream. But as the tide comes in the shoreline changes so
that saltwater will later be all the way up to the bank. I have seen on a
low incoming tide, the stream being narrow & shallow, salmon swim between
fisherpersons legs if they were standing in the stream channel. But
they can not touch these fish, much less kick a stranded wriggling one back into
Varied fishing techniques are used in Hood Canal and other
near-shore areas, including drift bobber and yarn, flies, spoons, and spinners.
The herring and float technique described above has proven particularly effective. For more detailed information on a variety of
near-shore fishing techniques see "Chum City", an article by Tony Dunnington in the October/November 1999 Salmon Trout Steelheader Magazine.
at the Hoodsport Hatchery at High Tide
same scenario only at low tide
of this fishing will take place near the Hood Canal Hatchery at Finch Creek.
There is limited parking at the hatchery. The term bank fishing here may be misleading as
you really need chest waders. For a newby to this type of fishing, it is
interesting to walk out past the ponds at the hatchery & just stand there on
the catwalks & get an education.
Another spot is in the Skokomish River east of
Hiway 101. Many fishermen here will drift eggs or yarn & red Corkies.
Others use corkies and yarn soaked in shrimp oil, sand shrimp, brass spoons, and the like.
Some will just use 1/0 hooks and green and /or chartreuse
yarn. Chum are not picky and they are super aggressive fish.
Once you find them, it is usually not a matter of what they "will" bite on but finding something they "won't" bite on
There is another place you can bank fish also, it is called
Entai Creek, it is south of Potlatch State Park. You'll see lots of cars parked
there. What most people here use it seems, is a black corkie and green or chartreuse
yarn. Some fishermen will use flies and spinners. And the snaggers
like buzz bombs!! There are places along the lower canal where you will see
a school of them jumping and fining from along the road, you can stop and fish there also.
In freshwater chums are not that willing to hit lures. Sometimes pulling plugs, straight or with a wrap can be the ticket, but usually they have to be very fresh fish.
One successful angler advises that his two best tidewater/river baits seem to be
an orange corky with a bit of green yarn, fished as you would steelhead or a pink/white jig under a float.
Jig fishing is another method, use a hot pink, purple and
orange, hot green, under a float should do
fine, however if things get tough & you don't hook one for a half
hour, add some prawn. In the small rivers jigs
seem to be very effective.
These areas are sometimes called "Combat fisheries" as
they are usually very crowded, & if you don't tie your fish to your belt,
they may disappear by the next time you look. You really do not need
explicit directions, as when the fish are in, just look for lots of cars parked
along the road & fishermen on the banks or in the water.
As with most fish, fresh rain and therefore higher river water cranks up their bite potential.
up Finch Creek at the hatchery
taken below the hatchery 11-13-05
Care of the Fish After
fish are not as firm a fleshed as Chinook or Coho, prime saltwater caught fish
are fine table fare. As the spawning season approaches they start to
darken up, but when caught in saltwater they are usually in good enough condition
to be well worth taking home. The above fish were taken just below the
Hoodsport hatchery in the mouth of Finch Creek. Chum do not travel
far up the small rivers or creeks to spawn, so as they get closer to spawning,
even though they are still in saltwater, the flesh deteriorates. The meat
of a saltwater bright fish is normally a light pink, but can change to a gray
color & flavor disappears as spawning time approaches.
Ideally, you should immediately bleed them by
cutting the gills. Then, it is best to ice them down as soon as
possible. They are excellent this time of the year when Bar-B-Q'ed, or smoked.
Hoodsport hatchery phone 360-877-5222
Copyright © 2004-2006 LeeRoy Wisner All Rights Reserved
Originated 8-15-04, Last updated 1-06-2006
contact the author click here