Tidal current situations for sea-run cutthroat

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

  1. Roger Stephens Active Member

    Posts: 1,199
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    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. cascade kid New Member

    Posts: 41
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    It looks like you are actually ready to write that book we were always talking about Roger!

  3. Roger Stephens Active Member

    Posts: 1,199
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    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. salt dog card shark

    Posts: 2,306
    Edmonds WA / Mazama
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Roger, if no book, then put your journal up for auction some day. Great information nicely laid out! :thumb:
  5. Steve Rohrbach Puget Sound Fly Fisher

    Posts: 606
    Seattle, WA
    Ratings: +43 / 0
    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. Anil Active Member

    Posts: 1,054
    Tacoma, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +205 / 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. kjt111 Member

    Posts: 82
    redmond, wa
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    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. Roger Stephens Active Member

    Posts: 1,199
    Ratings: +306 / 0

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

  9. troutaholic Member

    Posts: 289
    University Place, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +2 / 0
    Thanks for the concise info! Put a book out there and I'll buy it :)
  10. olyangler Pura vida!

    Posts: 17
    Olympia, Washington
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    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. Jim Fitz Member

    Posts: 446
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +3 / 0
    Thanks from someone new to the game.

  12. crazysalmon New Member

    Posts: 31
    Bellingham, Washington
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    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. gigharborflyfisher Native Trout Hunter

    Posts: 741
    Gig Harbor, Wa, USA.
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    Thanks for the great post, it as been one of the better cutthroat posts that I have seen in a long time.
  14. rock_fisher37 New Member

    Posts: 4
    San Juan Islands, Washington
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    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. Jim Wallace Smells like low tide

    Posts: 5,654
    Somewhere on the Coast
    Ratings: +540 / 0
    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 Hunter Too many people, not enough fish

    Posts: 200
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    fish when you can out - that's the best time to go.