Thoughts to determine when to fish for sea-run cutthroat and resident coho

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Roger Stephens, May 15, 2006.

  1. Roger Stephens

    Roger Stephens Active Member

    1. Weather: Cloudy days better than sunny ones. Windless days better than breezy ones.

    2. Tides: Moderate tide exchanges better than extreme or little tide exchange. Middle of moderate tide exchange better than start or end of tide exchange.

    3. Time of year: Spring/Fall(sea-run cutthroat) better than Summer/winter. Winter(Resident coho) better than Spring better than Summer.

    4. Time of day: Day break(especially resident coho) better than dusk better than mid-day.

    5 General: Going fishing anytime better than not going:rolleyes: !

    Disagree or add?

    It should be pretty obvious when I will be mostly likely to be fly fishing on Puget Sound;)

  2. Stonefish

    Stonefish Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater

    Good post. First of all, I like your #5 the best. I'll add a few things I like / dislike regard Puget Sound fishing. I fish primarily in areas 9,10 and 13. These are just my opinions, as I'm sure others will post what they like or dislike.

    1. Wind - I prefer a south or west wind. When we get clear skies like we've had lately combined with a north wind, it can make for a tough casting day. Especially if the beach faces north. I don't like a east wind either. I also prefer cloudy days.

    2. Tides - I've never had much luck on extreme tides, in particular big minus tides. You tend to get lots of salad in the water with the big lows. I like to fish tides with a minimum of 5' to 6' changes.

    3. Time of day. In the fall, I like to hit the beaches for silvers before the sun comes up if possible. There is always that first light bite. That being said, I've seen some great bites go off between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM in areas 9 & 10. Sometimes they are keyed to the change, other times not. If I had my choice between time or tides, I'd chose tides. I'd fish two hours on both sides of a good tide rather then first thing in the morning, regardless of the tide change time.
  3. gigharborflyfisher

    gigharborflyfisher Native Trout Hunter

    Another great post!! However I don't know about the sunny days being worst than cloudy ones for cutthroat, some of my best days have been extremely nice sunny days.
  4. salt dog

    salt dog card shark

    Hmmmm, if we're talking fishing from the beach, east side of area 9, I gotta go strongly with time (early) over tide. I would rather have tides AND time of course, but I consistently find a sharp drop in bites after the sun hits the water, with best being shortly after first light. I think there are bigger fish that only cruise close to shore during low light conditions, and move deeper as the sun rises. Especially, as Roger points out, for resident Coho.

    All of my Coho from the beach have been under low light conditions, this includes heavy cloud cover or fog.

    Wind: I prefer a light wind ripple, or better, over a windless day for surface flies. Gives more cover for a fish to protect against bird predation, resulting in more rises.
  5. Jeff Dodd

    Jeff Dodd Active Member

    In order to target Resident Coho, doesn't it have to be during an "Open" season for Coho in your marine area?

    I know this is a little off track for this thread, but it's something I've wondered when reading about fly fishing for resident Coho. Living on Whidbey, I have not seen resident Coho around until July or so in the areas I fish.

    Is fishing for Coho "Incident" to fishing for Coastal Cutthroat? Kind of like catching a blackmouth?
  6. Steve Rohrbach

    Steve Rohrbach Puget Sound Fly Fisher

    Roger, regarding your first point regarding windless days. While it certainly improves casting, I like a little wind chop on the surface as it reduces visibility and I believe brings more fish closer to the surface. When fishing Leland's Popper, I think a little chop increases the effectiveness of the fly. Just an opinion but I have been more successful with the Popper in the chop.

    Thanks for sharing. Steve
  7. Stonefish

    Stonefish Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater

    Yes, the area must be open before you can legally target resident coho. Lots of folks fishing cutts do catch coho. Quickly release the fish and no foul commited.
    That bring up another question regarding "resident coho". What would you define a "resident Coho" as being. I've always felt they are silvers that spend their entire lives within Puget Sound and don't migrate to the straits or ocean.
    I know about the net pen fish down south of the narrows, but what about the smaller, 2-5 lb fish you catch in area 9 in the years it is open in July? Some are clipped, others aren't. Some have sea lice, some don't. Do you think these are resident fish that stray north, or just smaller straits / ocean fish moving into the sound? I've also noticed a real lack of smaller shakers up north the past few year.
    I've also witnessed on several occasions in recent year where the fish checker detects a tag on an unclipped beach caught fish. Are these tribal fish or just fish that the state hatchery failed to clip? Perhaps Curt or someone else can chime in on this.
  8. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Stonefish -
    The un-clipped tagged fish were likely from what is called double index tags(DITs). A portion of the hatchery releases are only tagged and not clipped - the differences in the returns from the DITs and clipped fish is used to evaluate selective fisheries etc.

    Historically there always were "resident silvers" found in Puget Sound. This was likely a combination of some of the smolts taking advantage of the feeding conditions they found in the Sound and never leaving the Sound and returning "summer fish" - typically 2 to 5 #s. There still are a few wild coho that return to the head water areas of some of the watersheds during the summer - Have seen them in some rivers 80 or miles from the salt and at elevations in exess of 1,000 feet in August. Have caught wild coho in freshwater every month of the year except April and May.

    Many of the current fish from come from a delayed release program where the smolts are held longer than normal and released at a larger size which seems to increase their tendency to reside in the Sound. Even though they are released in the South Sound they tend to spread out looking for forage and can at times be found even out in the Straits. The amount of fish that remain in the Sound typically is a function of the feeding conditions they find in the sound. The resident fish are likely a combination of hatchery and wild stocks with the hatchery fish coming from both the delayed released program and the "normal" program.

    I shared your concerns about the lack of small shakers last summer. However in the last month I have seen decent numbers of "residents" at Mutiny Bay, Possession Bar, and a couple of spots in Marine Area 10. That coupled with the reports from South Sound gives me some optimism that this summer's fishing for them might be OK. While I don't fish the resident fish in the winter/spring I do fish them quite a bit during July and August and it is one of the fisheries that annually I look forward to.

    Roger -
    Great stuff -
    by far # 5 is the best guideline. While the others are generally true it should be remember that the exceptions are common enough that any time can be a good time. My very best day ever on sea-runs in the salt was in the early afternoon on the first of a flood following a big minus tide during a sunny/breezy day. We were headeing out to harvesting clams saw some jumpers and had the rods handy. Stopped to try a cast or two and never made it to the clams.

    The best conditons for off shore fishing resident coho for me at least are different than that from the beach. For whatever reason I do the best on the maturing resident coho (July and August) in deep water at mid-morning. The best fishing has always been during calm water and sunny conditions. I like to drift along the rips and seem to find the best fishing on either side of the low with the larger tidal changes producing the best conditions.

    Tight lines
  9. miyawaki

    miyawaki Active Member


    I am fond of fishing big changes of 7' and more including the big minus tides. I like the way bait is pushed around. I have also found that when baitfish are present, light doesn't matter – they get get eaten by opportunistic predators. When euphasids, which are photosensitive, are around, low light cloudless days are the ticket as well as moderate tides. As far as wind goes, Steve has it nailed. I have caught some of my largest fish in howling winds (as long as it's on my left). Wind waves combined with tidal currents can really produce a lot of "busy water" behind a surface fly.

  10. Dan

    Dan Member

    Very insightful post! What are your thoughts about fishing through the slack? Is it better to go get breakfast/lunch and come back for the change, or do you just fish through it?
  11. Jeff Dodd

    Jeff Dodd Active Member

    Great thread and lots of good information sharing here.

    Stonefish: Re: Area 9 3-5# Coho in July - I don't know if these are resident fish or not, but have wondered the same... I Know PT Bay sees resident fish around this time-frame, so I always thought they came out of hood canal into PT Bay, out to Whidbey and then back down south again. :confused:

    "It's All Good" - can't wait for July in Area 9 - If the Contractor would get the Bush Pt. Boat launch project complete, I'd be "Golden"
  12. wolverine

    wolverine Member

    In Puget sound I normally fish area 9 with occaisional forays to 10. Full moon and clear skies usually will find me on a river fishing for summer steelhead. I have never had much luck salmon fishing on the full moon. Depending on area I usually prefer to be on the water at 0 dark thirty and try for the fish feeding on herring and candlefish along the beach. Once the sun hits the water it gets tougher as the resident silvers move offshore and are often out of range from the beach fishermen. If the tide change is early and I've fished thru it I'll usually break out coffee and a sandwich, find a nice spot to take a nap and relax for a couple of hours. Often times there is a bite an hour or so on either side of a tide change. In areas where there are a lot of tide rips and back eddies that shift with the stage of the tide the fish are often brought back within range of the beach as they feed along the rip lines. When a rip gets all the way to shore things happen regardless of time of day. Later in the season when there is a mix of resident and ocean fish around I prefer an incoming tide thru high slack. I'm definately not a purist as to what tackle I use. I always have the fly rod and a long float rod with me. If they want flies - great. If they want herring under a float - thats great also.
  13. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

    Jeff -
    My theory is that the euphausid rich diet of the resident coho result in them have sockeye red flesh - much redder than the typical orange flesh color that I normally associate with coho. Therefore if clean a fish and find the red flesh I feel it is a resident fish. Virtually all the fish I keep in July and early August have that red flesh and are absolutely great on the grill. By mid August I start seeing more orange flesh fish (ocean run fish?) and get a mix of flesh colors with more and more orange colored fish as the return of ocean fish progresses. I should admit that some of my fishing buddies think I'm nuts about the flesh color but it seems to be pretty consistent to me.

    If you accept the above then in my experience those fish in area 9 and 10 during July/early August seem to be mostly resident fish. Other thoughts?

    Tight lines
  14. Stonefish

    Stonefish Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater

    Thanks for the explaining the clipped / non-clipped fish issue for me.
  15. salt dog

    salt dog card shark

    Good reason to bring a thermos of coffee and a cigar. :cool:

    However, on serious minus tides, you can fish waters you don't normally reach from the beach. On a sunny days with clear water you can see the eel grass patches while wading over the sand flats pretty far out from shore. Fishing over those I have pulled out some nice cutthroat when nothing else was happening during slack low.
  16. salt dog

    salt dog card shark

    Got out last night for a couple of hours at picnic pt beach. Caught 3 unclipped coho, all under 15 inches ....well, actually they were all seriously under 15", say closer to 8". :eek: One jumper that looked to be about 15", but no takes. Fair amount of small minnows in the salad. All fish taken or seen were just on the far side of the salad line.

    Lots of people of course after a hot day, but most well behaved, and would stop launching balls to their retrievers/skipping rocks around me, after a friendly waive and a thank you.

    Nice to get down to the water after a hot day, watch the sun set and cast a little.
  17. Roger Stephens

    Roger Stephens Active Member

    iagree with Curt about krill vs. red flesh vs. resident coho. It is hard to find a "sweeter" tastier salmon than the resident coho :beer2:

    Jim: Thanks for keeping a tally and reporting unclipped vs. clipped resident coho. It will be interesting to see what the numbers are for unclipped vs. clipped over the next year or so. It would be nice if a lot of the fish are unclipped as you found out yesterday.

  18. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Your Preferred Olympic Peninsula Fly Fishing Guide

    How about May 1st through October 31st.
  19. ChrisW

    ChrisW AKA Beadhead

    I caught a nice fat 14-15" cuttie last year at high noon/slack tide/sunny day/zero wind, over the July 4th weekend in between volleyball games. I was fishing from a kayak in about 6' feet of water. Shrimp pattern near the bottom.

    I almost always use a floating line for cutties, but these conditions led me to select a sinktip and a weighted fly. I was pleasantly surprised when my plan worked.

  20. Jeff Dodd

    Jeff Dodd Active Member

    I like your theory on flesh color - Makes sesne to me...