Tidal current situations for sea-run cutthroat

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Roger Stephens, Mar 26, 2006.

  1. The vast expanse of Puget Sound and its shoreline can be an overwhelming/intimidating experience when intially seeking the ellusive sea-run cutthroat. Puget Sound can be thought of as a gigantic river due to tidal action. However, it can be "broken down" into a manageable "smaller scale stream" by using two factors which tend to concentrate sea-run cutthroat at certain locations along the shoreline of Puget Sound. The two factors are tidal current and shoreline bottom structure(a later write-up). Below are my thoughts and observations on tidal current situations for the sea-run cutthroat fisheries.

    Sea-run cutthroat tend to "hang out" along shorelines, points, or gravel bars that have tidal current. They will often sit along a current seam or behind bottom structure waiting for a "meal to come by" just as trout do in a stream.


    1. SLOW CURRENT: Less than 1/2 mph(9"/sec.). Not as good as moderate current. Sea-run cutthroat can be very scattered if the current is very slow.

    2. MODERATE CURRENT: Appox. 1/2 to 1 mph(9 to 18"/sec.). Best tidal current situation. The sea-run cutthroat can be almost anywhere from shallow shoreline(less current) to deeper water. However, the most likely spots are: (1) current seams, (2) areas with bottom structure. It doesn't take much for the fish to "tuck in and sit tight" out of the current even small depression can be suitable.

    3. STRONG CURRENT: Greater than 1 1/2 mph(26"/sec.). Not as good as moderate current. The sea-run cutthroat will tend to not hold in areas with strong current since they would have to expend too much energy. However, current seams, boulders, and "softer water" before the start of strong current area will sometimes hold sea-run cutthroat.

    4. SMOOTH CURRENT(can be moderate or strong current) TRANSITIONS TO MINI-STANDING WAVE(2 to 4"). Good tidal current situation. If current is sweeping across a gravel bar, there will often be smooth current across the top of the gravel bar. Often where the gravel bar starts to drop-off there will be a mini-standing wave where the break occurs. Tne sea-run cutthroat will "sit" from the standing wave and down current for 10 to 15'.


    1. MINOR TIDE EXCHANGE: Not very good and can be hard to find spots with much tidal current. Middle part of tide may be the only time to find spots with much current. In most cases, I don't fish these tidal exchanges.

    2. MODERATE TIDE EXCHANGE: Great and can find many spots with optimum current plus it is possible to fish most of the tidal exchange.

    3. MAJOR TIDAL EXCHANGE: Not as good since the current is too strong in many spots which tends to scatter the sea-run cutthroat particularly at the lower part of an ebb tide. On the flood tide I will normally try to fish the last 1/2 of the tide and on the ebb tide the first 1/2.


    1. Since moderate current areas can be prime sea-run cutthroat spots, those locations should be slowly/carefully fished down through.

    2. Before I leave the boat ramp I have already mapped out in my mind the "route" of fishing spots that I want to take that day. The "route" is based on the part of the tide exchange when there is usually optimum current at various locations. Some spots have the best current at the start of the tide exchange, others 1/2 way through, etc. So I will fish some spots on the way out and other on the way back to the boat ramp.

    3. If the there is a mini-standing wave situation, I will anchor the boat 30 to 40' up current of it or go ashore and fish it from the beach. It is an excellent situation to skate surface patterns.

    If you have any thoughts to add, have at it!

  2. It looks like you are actually ready to write that book we were always talking about Roger!

  3. James:

    I ain't about to write a book cuz I cain't speil; and my grammer ain't goud. But I am just an older guy using WFF to pass on information and help others before the Lord calls me home. Do you have a problem with that:( ?

  4. Roger, if no book, then put your journal up for auction some day. Great information nicely laid out! :thumb:
  5. Roger, thank you so much for the clear, articulate summary of tides and their impact on SeaRun Cutthroat fishing. I went to 2 different central Puget Sound beaches yesterday knowing that the tide was not moving enough to promote good fishing but because I just needed to wet a line and see how some of the new fry patterns I have been tying looked in the water. I think your observations are right on the mark. Working the seams is the most productive part of your insights. It is awesome to cast into that moving chaos and feel the pull. I look forward to your next chapter.

    I ain't got no problem wit that!

    Best regards, Steve
  6. I can't argue with anything that you've said. Good insights and a nice overview for guys who are new to the game.
  7. Probably a dumb question but... When you say "Tide Exchange" I assume you're referring to the difference between high and low tide levels? Are you also referring to how this changes throughout the month/moon cycle or is this something that is static for a given piece of coastal space?

  8. Kevin:

    You are right. It refers to difference between the high and low tide and vice-versa.

  9. Thanks for the concise info! Put a book out there and I'll buy it :)
  10. Wow. This is good information for anyone who fishes the sound for searuns.
    As an addition, I'd recommend visiting lots of spots during a very low tide. You'll see what kind of bottom and structure is out there, which really helps when it's all covered with moving salt water.
    One of my favorite cuttroat spots is just a little trough in a rocky, shelly bottom. It holds good fish on moderate to faster flows.
    I'm so far from being an expert on sea-run cutts that it's silly, but it seems like all the little things matter a whole lot in this kind of fishing.
  11. Thanks from someone new to the game.

  12. Thanks Roger for the great info. A place that I fished when I was younger. Has a bunch of movement and the fish just seem to pass by with the bait. A house up the beach from where I fish has some concrete finger bulkheads that extend out. Sounds like I should be pulling a fly over those from my boat. Might be a few fish hiding out of the current behind them.:confused:

  13. Thanks for the great post, it as been one of the better cutthroat posts that I have seen in a long time.
  14. Dear Mr. R Stephans, i mean dude, so what if your grammar and spelling isnt top notch, its like a engine, maybe its not a brand new 2006 honda four stroke, and maybe its more like a 1975 merc. but like a good mechanic a good editor and publisher would be more than glad to help you, seriously, you shouldnt have a problem!!!
  15. iagree Yes, Thanks again Mr. Roger Stephens! Great stuff...I can hardly wait to apply some of your tips....I need a rainy day here at the beach to get away from work and head up to the Sound or Canal.

    I might try a rivermouth/estuary somewhere locally...one that has a chum run. I think Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay are open...tough spots to figure out.:hmmm:

  16. fish when you can out - that's the best time to go.


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