Sekiu Salmon Fishing

Holding two nice downrigger caught king salmon

Sekiu just might be the best place to fish for salmon in all of Washington. Epic scenery, good fishing seasons and lots and lots of salmon!

I love spending time around Sekiu (pronounced CQ) and Neah Bay to fish for salmon and bottom fish. Sekiu is truly salmon fishing nirvana.

One of the challenges of fishing in the Puget Sound is that, in the lifecycle of migratory salmon, their metabolism starts to change even as they are swimming past downtown Seattle. What that means, is they are feeding less, and becoming much less aggressive at chasing down bait.

If you’ve only ever fished for salmon in the heart of Puget Sound, you may not know what you’re missing! We’ve hooked so many king salmon around Sekiu in a day of fishing, that it’s just not the same experience at all.

When I talk about fishing various bodies of water, especially the saltwater, I like to start with the geography and the hatcheries. As in, where are these salmon going? (hatcheries) And what path are they going to take to get there?

Sekiu salmon migration route

Nearly all of the salmon bound for Puget Sound are going to pass by the often sheltered waters of Sekiu. Some salmon will also choose the Vancouver Island path, but you will also have salmon bound for the Fraser River in Canada (huge system, millions of salmon) that will make the turn and go through this same accessible water.

Of course the next place the conversation goes regarding fishing for salmon in Sekiu is usually about, well why not Westport? It’s much closer for many of the inhabitants of Puget Sound. For all of you that prefer Westport, I would say “Definitely, keep going to Westport”.

What’s nice about Sekiu, is if you know how to be safe on the water out there, you can get a lot of fishing done in a small boat.

I’m going to cover a bunch of “safety on the water” and “how to plan a trip in big water type of information”, because I don’t want you to think you can just show up to Sekiu and be safe fishing wherever. There is some HUGE water at times around Sekiu which can present serious danger for the wrong boat (or the inexperienced boat captain). On average though, you will get far more safe days of fishing on the water in a non-ocean boat, than you will around Westport.

Checkout this page for an in-depth article on marine weather safety.

Now that we’ve established why you should fish for Salmon in Sekiu, let’s get into the details!

When to fish Sekiu for Salmon?

Some of the amazing scenery near Neah Bay
Some of the amazing scenery near Neah Bay

When the fish are in, duh! Okay, but seriously, there are salmon swimming around this area all the time. The really important factor is whether WDFW has approved a season for recreational anglers to target salmon around Sekiu.

The above chart shows the average chinook caught per angler in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu / Pillar Point). Basically great fishing (anything above .20 chinook per angler is solid fishing for anyone that knows what they are doing) any time it is open.

If you don’t have this link to WDFW fishing regulations bookmarked, let’s start there. In reality though, you need to know a few more things. I maintain a blog post each year that covers the current years salmon season setting process. Here’s a handy link to the 2022 puget sound salmon season. I break down a bunch of the information as it becomes available, but I’m not the up-to-date authority, so you need to always go to WDFW for official regulations.

Permanent Fishing Regulations for Marine Area 5 – Sekiu and Pillar Point

Please refer to the permanent regulations for Marine Area 5 as maintained by WDFW here.

SALMON
Entire Area
(See

on next page)
July 1-Aug. 15Chinook – min. size 22”. Other salmon species – no min. size. Daily limit 2. Up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release chum, wild coho, and wild Chinook. Kydaka Point Area Closed. See Kydaka Point Area and map next page.
Aug. 16-Sept. 28No min. size. Daily limit 2. Release Chinook, chum, and wild coho. Kydaka Point Area Closed. See Kydaka Point Area and map next page.
Mar. 1-Apr. 30Chinook – min. size 22”. Other salmon species – no min. size. Daily limit 2. Up to 1 Chinook may be retained. Release coho and wild Chinook.

Below are the active Emergency Regulations in place for Marine Area 5:

Emergency Regulations for Marine Area 5 – Sekiu and Pillar Point

Please refer to WDFW’s emergency rules page for a full list that are in effect until I can get the automation working fully again.

Unless something goes wrong this pic is updated automatically from WDFW source every 24 hours…

Additionally, the Washington salmon season setting process is called North of Falcon. That process determines with the co-managers (tribes) the actual seasons after they get approved by NOAA / NMFS. Right now, this link to North of Falcon is the only place WDFW is displaying the seasons for 2021 salmon.

If the above hasn’t confused you enough, I’m going to make it much simpler for you.

Marine Area 4 and Marine Area 5 map from WDFW regs

Sekiu and the waters around Sekiu are considered “Marine Area 5” (MA5 for short). WDFW often includes MA5 in it’s regulations covering Puget Sound.

About 3 miles west of Sekiu is the boundary line between MA5 and Marine Area 4 (MA4). MA4 is covered by WDFW in their regulations regarding Washington coastal salmon fishing.

MA4 spans from that boundary line 3 miles west of Sekiu all the way into the Pacific Ocean and south around Cape Flattery.

Are salmon being caught right now around Sekiu?

Above chart is automatically updated as creel reports start to show catches of chinook salmon

Now let’s talk about the typical seasons:

Summer Salmon Season around Sekiu

Beautiful wild king salmon caught near Sekiu
Beautiful wild king salmon caught near Sekiu

There is typically a summer salmon season around Sekiu, WA. All throughout July and even early August (if the quota has not been reached) you can target king / chinook salmon as they migrate past Sekiu on their way to Hood Canal, Puget Sound and sometimes Canada.

During this period there will also be a TON of coho. Many of these coho are the out-migrating ones so they are quite small, constantly feeding and annoying to keep off your line.

As you get into August and certainly into September you will get a lot of big adult ocean Coho that come through in huge numbers. We don’t always have a quota to fish for these coho salmon, because some anglers who struggle to hook kings in July (you know who you are!) target the mini-coho’s and eat up the encounter / impact quota. Having quota available also depends a great deal on individual river conservation issues within Puget Sound.

Keep in mind all salmon bound for all rivers in Puget Sound may be found in these waters, so it only takes one struggling run on a single river in the Puget Sound to impact how seasons are set around Sekiu.

Sometimes, they also open MA4 earlier in June as part of opening the ocean salmon seasons. With Neah Bay currently closed, it’s a bit of a run out to the part of MA4 you can fish for salmon (consult regs, avoid Kydaka Point Closure), but the experience can definitely be worth it.

Winter Blackmouth Season around Sekiu

Day 2 Sekiu sunrise early
Sekiu sunrise early

There is typically a winter blackmouth season around Sekiu. Consult this link for a full breakdown on what blackmouth are (out-migrating king salmon), and how to catch them.

Blackmouth will be around Sekiu all year around, but we’ve had a shot at them in March and through parts of, or all of April.

During April especially, you will have adult, mature spring chinook heading for hatcheries in the Puget Sound and these will provide some very nice sized salmon for that time of year.

Other fishing to be done around Sekiu

Posing with big ling

It’s hard to write about salmon fishing around Sekiu, without mentioning how many other species of fish can be targeted around Sekiu. In fact, I always intend to spend way more time chasing salmon than I actually do.

Why is that? Because bottom fishing is so much darned fun! Well, that and sometimes the people I take fishing would prefer bottom fishing to trolling for salmon.

I need to write an entire separate article about the bottom fishing opportunity as this blog page is dedicated to salmon fishing around Sekiu.

How to rig up to catch Salmon near Sekiu?

Nice 12 lb hatchery king caught at first light near Sekiu
Nice 12 lb hatchery king caught at first light near Sekiu

In general when it comes to fishing for salmon around Sekiu, I’m going to recommend you troll with downriggers. This is one of the simplest, easiest and effective ways to consistently catch salmon anywhere.

Luckily for you I’ve prepared an in-depth guide here of how to fish for salmon with downriggers!

What if you don’t have downriggers or don’t want to deal with them? Or maybe you only have 2 downriggers, but 5 people on your boat who want to fish for salmon? In that case, you should strongly consider mooching for salmon.

Mooching for salmon is a more advanced technique, but it puts a fishing rod in each anglers hand, which can make it a more engaging way to fish compared to downriggers. I’m not prepared to cover all the ins and outs of mooching for salmon on this page, and there are already some excellent articles out there which cover what you need.

One of my favorite styles of mooching that requires less individual angler skill is motor mooching, which I did write an in-depth article about. Here is my guide to motor mooching for salmon, which I primarily wrote about as a technique I used to hook kings in Sekiu and in Port Hardy.

There are many flashers that are really designed to get a near-end-of-the-journey salmon to bite after their metabolism has slowed down. You can leave those at home.

I don’t want to be redundant with the other articles I’ve linked, but I’ve had a tremendous amount of success hooking king salmon using these Coyote flashers in both blue and green.

I’m generally running a small spoon like a coho killer, kingfisher or gibbs skinny gee behind these flashers in herring aide or cookies and cream patterns for the most success. There’s a lot of gear that will work as these salmon are still aggressively feeding.

Where to fish for Salmon around Sekiu?

Unlike articles about fishing in the rivers, when it comes to saltwater I tend to share everything I can…unless I don’t! Look, there’s a lot of room for everybody on the water to get it done, so you can count on what’s shared here is qualify info.

To the maps!

Sea caves in front of Sekiu
Sea caves in front of Sekiu

One of my most favorite favorite favorite things about Sekiu, is the ability to leave the marina on the kicker and start fishing within a few minutes. Specifically, I’m talking about the caves immediately west of Clallam Bay.

On the opener in 2020, we were 2nd boat out of the marina, motor mooching the caves in barely fishable light. The boat in front of us? Landed a 37 lb hatchery king, which ended up being one of the biggest salmon of the year in the area.

I start trolling or motor mooching the caves in 40-50 ft of water and than work deeper. Especially on an ebb tide, this is where I’m going to start my day.

Slip point to east 2 miles
Slip point to east 2 miles

My second favorite area is to run east towards Pillar Point. If we have a flood current going west to east, I will start fishing right before the Slip Point green buoy. We’ve hooked many king salmon in this area from 90 to 250 ft of water 60-80 ft of wire on the downrigger. There’s also a ton of small coho in the area, so watch out and keep your speed up.

I will often troll the flood in 60-90 ft of water all the way to Pillar Point zig zagging my way around, picking up salmon until I run out of flood current.

It’s very easy to then just ride the ebb all the way back until you limit out or make it back to Clallam Bay.

You can just as easily motor down to Pillar Point or halfway there on an ebb and troll back in.

Sekiu to Kydaka Point
Sekiu to Kydaka Point

My 3rd favorite troll is from the Sea Caves to Kydaka Point. Again 60-120 ft of water can get it done. You will need to pay attention though as the ridge line extends north or south at times (depending on which direction you are trolling) so it can shallow up or get deeper quite quickly.

Clallam Bay troll
Clallam Bay troll

Lastly, don’t neglect Clallam Bay. Start inside of Slip Point on the eastern edge and troll all the way across, hugging a 90 ft depth line until the Sea Caves.

How to plan a trip to Sekiu?

Masons olsen resort landmark

The stupid simple advice here is to just go whenever it’s open. Seriously, there’s going to be salmon to catch as long as the season is open.

The more complex answer is that, plan your trip months in advance around the typical season open dates, but keep an eye on the salmon season setting process and as you get into the week of your trip, watch the weather.

The only wrong answer here about when to go, is waiting to hear a good fishing report. Fishing will be great if open, just plan on going!

Even with a tough offshore weather situation, you will typically still be able to fish the sea caves and a few other areas close by Clallam Bay. Look at the NOAA marine forecast for swell height, duration and direction.

Map of Sekiu waters showing protected geography

Most ocean swell comes from the west or southwest, which the waters around Sekiu are protected from due to the geography of a NW angling shoreline. Northwest swell direction will convert Sekiu into an extension of whatever’s going on in the Ocean.

Also, if you decide to venture a few miles north, you will find very similar conditions as to whatever the ocean is doing as you lose that close-to-shore protection from the geography.

The other factor is wind. A NW, N, NE or E wind will all be felt in a pretty direct and brutal way around Sekiu. Whereas wind coming from the W, SW or S again has protection due to the geography.

Also, you can pretty much count on the wind kicking up in the afternoon around Sekiu. The water around Sekiu in the afternoon can go from decent to sporty incredibly fast and depending on your boat, navigation experience and passenger comfort level, this can present significant challenges and safety issues.

You can also count on water conditions being worse nearby major points like Kydaka and Slip. If conditions are marginal, stay close by and in-between those points. We’ve found ourselves in huge water around Slip Point at times.

Yes, these are sheltered waters, but they are also big water. All water deserves our respect and appropriate planning and preparation.

If you have a question about safety and trip planning, don’t hesitate to ask, I respond to all such questions as I want to help you stay safe.

Where to stay in Sekiu, WA?

Masked up eagle and our fish bags at Masons Olson
Masked up eagle and our fish bags at Masons Olson

Now, we are on to the fun stuff!

I’ve stayed at Mason’s Olsen Resort in the tent areas. I’ve stayed in a very nice clean room at Van Riper’s. In the 2021 season, I’m staying at a new campground called Bella Vita Resort.

I’ve not had a bad experience yet!

I know there are some folks who have stayed at the wrong place, but there are so many nice folks in Sekiu who will ensure you have a successful stay, give some of these places a try (and others I haven’t mentioned).

Primitive tent camping spot in Sekiu
Primitive tent camping spot in Sekiu

One thing I will say is that if you bring a tent, there will be somewhere for you to stay. Mason’s Olsen will find a place for you.

Now, if you show up in the summer on the weekend, there may not be boat moorage available and it may take some time to get your boat in the water, but rest assured these Sekiu folks are complete pro’s at getting everyone who wants to launch and park, the ability to do so.

Early is the key. Get on the water early, get your fishing done early and get off the water before the afternoon wind starts.

Wrapping up this topic of Salmon Fishing near Sekiu

Nice haul of kings caught near Neah Bay
Nice haul of kings caught near Neah Bay

One more thing I will say related to how to fish, and in particular with downriggers that may be a bit different than the interior of Puget Sound.

  1. Don’t drop your downrigger ball all the way to the bottom, you will hook an 8″ ling you may never feel and you will just be wasting your time
  2. Troll faster. Cover water. These salmon are hungry and will chase down your offering. You will also keep smaller fish away from your gear (of which there is plenty!)

Lastly, drop any questions in the comments below. If it doesn’t appear right away it’s because I’m spam filtering, but I will get to your comment and approve it as quickly as I can…unless I’m out in Sekiu fishing without any wifi…which is highly likely in July! In that case, follow me on instagram @pacificnwbestlife and DM me there, I answer / respond to all DM’s.