The Sand Lance Colony


MA-9 Beach Stalker
This past sunny weekend I got out and did a little beach scouting and early season salmon fishing with WFF members Troutrageous and Stonefish. We didn't get much action early in the morning, but did see a big school of pink salmon fry hiding out in the kelp beds. The pink fry were a beautiful blue color, and about 1.5" long. I suspect they will soon be migrating through the Strait of Juan de Fuca on their way to the north Pacific feeding grounds.
Pink Fry.jpg

We went to a second beach a couple hours before low tide hoping to find some feeding salmon, but by this time it was getting hot out. As we waded into the shallows we spotted 3-4" adult sand lance bolting from their burrows in the sand. I was happy to see that baitfish were around in decent numbers thinking that they might attract some resident silvers to feed. We did get plenty of strikes on our sand lance imitations, but all of them were cutthroat in the 8 - 16" size range.

As low tide approached we spotted a few adult Dungeness crab in the shallows. Stonefish showed me his boot pincer crab catching technique, and we wrangled in one male keeper and released another that was in soft shell condition.
Around low tide, Troutrageous spotted several sand lance flopping on the newly exposed beach. We took a closer look and realized that the sand lance colony we had been fishing over was now fully exposed to the baking sun, and many of them never left their burrows. This poor guy was still stuck in his burrow after the tide receded.
Sun dial sandlance.jpg

Sand lance colors in bright sunlight are dazzling depending on the angle of the sun. Under water they appeared brownish or orange. With sun shining on the belly side they looked black over silver.

But when the sun was shining over their backs they had a neon green and blue-violet color.
Neon Sandlance.jpg

I'm going to play around with a black over chartreuse over violet over pearl sandlance fly pattern for future sunny day fishing trips.
Sandlance Colors.jpg

I never came close to hooking a salmon, but it was still a very fun morning. It seemed like we were spotting things that we had never seen before on the beach the entire time. All in all it was a good way to start off the salmon season.


Coast to Coast
Great pics! Your post reminds me of one morning wading out in the pre-morning darkness when the bioluminescence was heavy. Sandlance were darting out with each step and you could clearly track the glowing trail of each little fish as it shot through the water. It was a neat experience and fun morning. I can't remember if I caught any fish.


Active Member
Thanks for the report DB! I believe this addresses a thread from a week or so ago about why fish eat our chartreuse flies. It's amazing how much different things can look in varying light.

Jack, those are really nice and simple patterns! Well done.
a lot of our surf zone forage fish get that.

Down here, grunion and surf smelt get that exact same central chartreuse stripe. In fact, Id venture to say those sand lance patterns would work beautifully in the surf here with no modification


Future WFF Mod


Active Member
dime, great shot with the sand lance on your hand showing the sizes and colors. this gives us a clue on how think about our flies when we are at the vise. thanks.
this looks like a good use for the trailer hook.

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