Anchovies food of choice for some resident coho

On Thurs. I had another excellent day of fishing for resident coho. This past late winter/early spring has probably been the best consistent resident coho fishing that I have had in quite a few years for that time period. I kept a fish for dinner fare and it's stomach was stuffed wih three anchovies. The largest anchovy was 6 1/2" which is the average size for an adult anchovy. It was one of the few times which I have found an anchovy in a coho's stomach. Over the last two months it is amazing to see the variety of food sources which have been in the stomachs(herring, chum salmon fry, sand shrimp, amphipods, and now anchovies) of resident coho. This abundance of food has resulted in the resident coho growing a couple of inches and putting on significant weight/girth over the last couple of months.

When seen in the water, small anchovies(less than 3 to 4") can be mistaken for sand lance since this size anchovies are fairly slim(like a sand lance) particularly when viewed from above. When the anchovies get larger than 3 to 4", they are broader with a deeper profile. Up close anchovies can be distinquished from sand lance as follows: (1) large eyes and mouths vs. small ones for sand lance, (2) well-defined tail for anchovies vs. ill-defined tails for sand lance, (3) a school of anchovies will appear to have small sparkling light associated with it when light is reflected off of their flairing gill plates. Anchovies are light sensitive while sand lance are not very light sensitive. Both anchovies and sand lance are often seen in tightly packed schools.

Anchovies larger than 4" can look similar to herring. Up close this size anchovy has small scales(almost skin like appearance) while herring have large silvery scale and eyes.

The abundance of anchovies seems to be increasing in the near/short term in some areas of Puget Sound. So this food source should be considered by fly fishers when fishing for salmon on Puget Sound.

On Thurs. the weather was pretty sunny. Thus, there was very little surface activity by the resident coho. They were "just there" at 5 of 10 usual resident coho "hangouts". At two locations the resident coho were in water 4 to 5 ft. deep and I was able to land a few resident coho skating a new version of a top water sand lance pattern. At the three other spots a full sinking type 7 line was used to get down to the resident coho which were in water 10 to 15 ft. deep. A sequin tube clouser minnow(olive/white) was the pattern of choice. It was usually cast out at an angle of 45 to 90 degrees out into the current with a quick line mend or two plus shaking out line to get the pattern down deep. The retrieve that worked best was a short strip and pause to help keep the clouser minnow down deep. The strikes were usually "soft" so you had to be quick on the hook set.

Good stuff as always Roger. I've noticed the anchovies as well, thus my reference recently to a new 4" flashy anchovy tube fly I came up with - seems to work well in certain areas and others not so much. Thanks for the insights and info.

Chester Allen

Fishing addict and scribbler
Really interesting stuff here.....
I'm curious to see that sequin tube Clouser!
I saw some big schools of anchovies in South Sound last fall, and I'm wondering -- and hoping -- we're getting a boom in baitfish.
Anyway, the gulls were POUNDING those anchovies, and it looked like some coho and sea-run cutts were picking off bait as well. Puget Sound is a fascinating spot....

I am fascinated and enjoy trying to understand all aspects of the saltwater fly fisheries of Puget Sound.

A picture of the S.T.(sequin tube) clouser minnow, materials list, and how to fish it is on page 169 of Les Johnson's book: "Fly-Fishing for Pacific Salmon II" and also on WFF site at: photo gallery, swaps, 2007 saltwater tube fly swap, third pattern from the left top row in photograh(new materials list). The S.T. clouser minnow has been my go-to subsurface patttern for several years particularly for resident coho.

Stephen and Jim:

Appreciate your thanks and kind words! I am just a 72 year old "fud" who is trying to pass on my thoughts and experiences before the Lord calls me home. Now, if I was a younger "dud", I would probably not be showing my "hand" so readily;).


I am with you about tying up some patterns with larger profiles and more length since herring and now anchovies seem to be plentiful this year. I am going to be using slinky fibre material for these patterns. In the past, I have usually been using artic fox tail which is good for short, slim patterns.

I ve caught blackmouth up to 8lbs on a fly rod and 18lbs trolling herring around those schools of anchovies. The best puget sound blackmouth fishing I ever seen has been around those anchovies in case inlet the last few years. Forget src and res coho and fish those schools in 25-50 ft of water on the bottom with weighted goddy glow in the dark flies for blackies. I'll put up the flies I tied and have been using up later.

Bob Triggs

Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!
Can anyone attest (direct personal experience) to the history of anchovies in that area. As I understand it there was once a robust herring run there that has been gradually replaced by the anchovies. Is this true?

Milt Roe

Active Member
Abundance of anchovies in the S Sound has increased dramatically over the last 5-10 years, but I haven't noticed the same happening up in MA 11. No way to tell what the reason is - natural variability vs anthropogenic influences? Those that eat them both seem to be doing fine in spite of the presumed change in diet.

I can't say what the impact to herring has been - just that there are now anchovies there when they used to be rare. Still seem to be a good number of herring around too, but in terms of broader population changes I don't think any one knows. It is possible that the Squaxins or WDFW have some data on this.


still an authority on nothing

more algal/plankton growth in SSound due to nitrates from agricultural runoff? Anchovies are filter feeders.
that's my "scientific wildass guess":clown:


Native Trout Hunter
I have heard from a number of sources that historically very few anchovies were found in the Puget Sound, and as the Herring have been declining due to environmental degradation the anchovies are gaining more and more of a foothold...

Chester Allen

Fishing addict and scribbler
I'm going to ask a couple of fish bio friends at WDFW about the South Sound anchovies. We have some really great field fish bios here in South Sound right now, and they always seem willing to help -- and even to listen.
Thanks Roger for the info! I got to see a school of anchovies last summer up close and they weren't being pursued by other predators. It was really something to see them circling around in close circles flaring their gill plates. Cool Stuff!!

Rockfish, I would be curious to see your blackmouth chovie chaser!

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