If you bottom fish in the Puget Sound, straits, or in the ocean, you need to know how to set up for bottom fishing. Below are five great bottom fishingsetups that are versatile for whatever type of bottom fishing you are doing.
The spreader setup is good at keeping your baits separated and line from tangling up with your baits.
The 3-way drop setup is great for drift fishing.
The knocker setup is best to get live bait down while let it move around.
The sliding sinker setup is also good for live baiting.
The mooching setup is good for running herring or anchovies when targeting bottom fish ( and also salmon).
One of the best spots in Puget Sound marine area for black mouth is Marine area 5; Sekiu. Here I like to fish in 50 to 150’ of water all the way from Slip Point down to pillar Point. Here you will find plenty of opportunity for great black mouth action. In Sekiu you will find even bigger black mouth then other areas in the Puget Sound. I like to fish with green flasher and a larger green spoon usually 3 1/2 inches and troll near the bottom unless I see suspended bait and then I will troll at whatever level I’m seeing the fish and the bait. You can also troll back-and-forth in front of the caves which are always good for summer fish but also winter fish.
My favorite spot for Area 10 black mouth fishing is Kingston‘s Apple Tree Cove. Apple Tree Cove is just north of the ferries and south of the marina area 10/9 borderline. Here I like to work for Apple cove trolling east to west. Trolling east to west lets you work the entire area without worrying about which way the tide is going and which way you have to troll. In Apple Cove I limited many times, even with some larger fish in the mix. At this location I like to fish black, both a black flasher and black spoon. Remember black doesn’t change color the deeper you go…..it stays black. Other colors will change and then eventually disappear the deeper you fish ‘em. Remember at this location stay alert and be cautious of the ferries.
For Marina 11, there are lots of options. One of my favorite places for black mouth fishing and Marine area 11 is Quartermaster Harbor.
In quartermaster Harbor I like to fish along the southern shelf. Here you can fish between 60 and 130 feet of water deep. Again, if you don’t see much bait don’t give up. Keep an eye open for those angled marks on your sonar that are right on the bottom.
Winter black mouth fishing isn’t for the slight of heart. When you’re winter black mouth fishing you’re bearing bad weather, rain, fog, wind, and you have to find a Point to hide behind in order to fish. Often times you have to put in many hours just to get one or two fish that are keepers. But winter black mouth fishing can be very rewarding if you put in the time to figure out the different holes that hold fish.
There are many areas in the Puget Sound which have good black mouth fishing. Starting further south, area 13 offers great black mouth fishing around Point Fosdick and, Fox Point, and Gibson Point.
Fishing Point Fosdick you will want to do this when the tides and currents lighter the day you are fishing. However, the night before you want to look for a good heavy tide pushing the bait into the area.
You can troll this area from anywhere from 50 to 100 feet deep along the shoreline and around the corner of Point Fosdick. Always try to troll with the tide or across the tide if you can.
About 20 miles from the Ilwaco jetty is a great halibut spot. Not only can you catch halibut, but also big canary rockfish and lingcod.
This Ilwaco halibut spot is on the south side of Astoria Canyon. And even though you can catch halibut nearby, you want to be right on the spot with all the boats clustered together in order to get the best action. You will see other boats and charter boats close together and there is a reason why. Halibut like sand, gravel, and also shale. If you notice the chart below, you will see markings for sand “S” and also markings for shale (normally “SH”, but this chart spells out “shale”. But there’s another factor here to pay attention to. It is the cluster of boats and therefore the cluster of baits and scents that will attract the halibut and other game fish into a concentrated area. So, if you are fishing this area with a few boats, you can spread out and fish the shale and sand next to the edge. But if there are a lot of boats, you may want to join them. As 20 or 30 boats and their baits will bring the halibut into a small area and away from the outlier boats.
The splitter bar setup is one of the easiest and most effective ways to fish for halibut. I like to rig a splitter bar set up and fish a large horse herring with a large halibut hoochie on top of it. See splitter bar setup below.
It’s not shown in the picture below, but I like to take a couple old spoons and attached them to the swivel right above the lead ball. This is an extra rattling noise that may attract a halibut.
Below is a typical set I would run off of a splitter bar. I tie my own circle hooks and then put a spin glow on top for extra action.
There’s a reason why commercial fisherman use circle hooks. Millions of pounds of halibut are caught every year and it is the circle hook that is used. Don’t get me wrong there are times where you should use a j-hook with halibut, and sometimes a combination of both a circle hook and a j hook.
For a good salmon setup lot of anglers prefer to use the cannonball sinker setup when fishing Columbia River’s Buoy 10. Below is a typical setup I like to run. I put a slider with a snap swivel for my cannonball, then I will run a 24″ heavy mono line to an Shortbus inline flasher. Then from the flasher back to the lure I will run 36″ heavy mono; 30-40lb. See actual photo of setup and sketch below.
I prefer to stuff the lure full of oil packed tuna or something similar (garlic tuna) to get the fishes attention. The oil in the tuna will release the tuna scent slowly and disperse throughout the water column.
This has proven to be a killer Buoy 10 salmon setup that no salmon can resist!!
Are you looking for a place to bottom fish in the south Puget Sound, then try KVI tower. Located within Tramp Harbor and just off the KVI tower there is a reef. The KVI tower reef is popular with divers so be careful if you see dive boats with the dive flag out. And if you’re fishing this area be sure to get there early in the season especially before the two week dive spearing season is open. KVI tower bottom fishing has lots to offer, you can catch lingcod, greenling, rockfish, and an occasional cabezon.
Consult Washington Fish and Game for more information on bottom fishing species and seasons to see which fish you can legally retain.
Warning: As of this writing using barbed hooks for bottom fish was illegal due to protections on rockfish. Be sure consult Washington Fish and Game to determine which types of hooks to use.
Alki Reef is another great place in the central Puget Sound for lingcod and bottom fishing. I’ve seen lingcod come out of this hole that were bigger than the max keeper size. Again you have to be careful when drifting the structure or you will get hung up. The last time I fished Alki Reef I caught a very large black rockfish. Of course I could not keep it, but it was great to see that those black rock fish are starting to show up in the Puget Sound after all these years of rockfish being shut down.
There are two great spots for bottom fish in the central Puget Sound but you have to get there early as the lingcod tend to get fished out. The first spot is fishing the structures on the south side of Blake Island. If the drift is right in the current isn’t too strong you can do a nice drift from east to west over the structure here. I was once told that the structure is a sunken floating Bridge but never could confirm that. Nonetheless if you drift this do it with herring, a swim bait, or any other lures you know a lingcod would go after. I’ve heard of some people also fishing live hearing or live Sandabs, but check your regulations before you do something with live bait. Slack Tide is probably the best time to fish this area has the currents that whip around Blake island begin to calm down. As a rule thumb you want to be fishing in an hour before and an hour after Slack Tide. Keep in mind rockfish in this area are not open and you’ll need to to properly release bottom fish with a salt water descending device.
Bottom fishing in Neah Bay is by far some of the best bottom fishing you will find in the northwest. My favorite spot is right off of Mushrooms Rock in about 50 to 90 foot of water. There are lots of pinnacles where you will find rockfish, lingcod, Cabazon, and Many other varieties of bottom fish. I like to drift over the pinnacles using a herring, swim baits, or Berkeley saltwater gulp swim baits. If you were concentrating just on Rockfish you can also use A double fly set up and pull up to the time.
If you want to head south out of Neah Bay for good bottom fishing, one of the best spots is just outside of Neah Bay. Starting around Dtokah Point and drifting east towards Sail and Seal rock you’ll pick up some nice rockfish and lingcod. Just passed the big rock there is a wreck which is partially exposed so you need to be careful especially in low Tide. Here you can pick up big lingcod but again be careful of your surroundings and keep an eye on the sonar as the sunken ships mast is only 10 or 15 feet below the waterline on low tides. Also there is an abundance of kelp hung off this rack so you’ll have to be careful not to lose your gear in the calf or on the shipwreck itself. In this spot I have caught ocean sized lingcod and really nice big black rockfish. Again, here you can use herring swim baits or gulp.
If you are unable to make it offshore for rockfish, don’t worry. You can fish for rockfish inside the river on the south and north jetties.
My favorite spot is the south jetty. It is about half way up the south jetty and there is a large hump. It can be great fishing, but be careful to have someone stay on the help at the controls in case you get too close to the rocks. Also, be careful traveling to the spot. There is a large sandbar in front of it and you will need to drive down the river then back up to avoid the sandbar (see graphic).
The other spot I like to fish for rockfish is on jetty A. Some will call it the north jetty. You have to be careful here as well as there are exposed rocks from the sunken jetty.
One of the funnest fishes to catch and on many people’s bucket list is a Sturgeon. Fishing for Columbia River sturgeon is fairly simple, but you must have the right set up and also go to the right spot(s).
Setting up for Sturgeon
Rod – power should be heavy and I prefer an action medium/fast. I use a Trevala because it is a lite rod that is very strong. But many anglers like an ugly stick,
Reel – should have a heavy drag and holds lots of line. If you hook a large sturgeon be ready for a big fight and you will need the drag and line to fight the fish.
Line – some anglers prefer mono (e.g. 60-80 lb), but I prefer using braid with a mono or flouro top-shot.
Set up –
off my braid (or mono) mainline I put a slider with a bead to protect the my swivel knot.
I use a triangle weight, but you can also use a round weight (depends on the bottom which you are fishing)
you can use a 7/0-9/0 hook with a 24″ leader for a sandy bottom. Longer if you are fishing on rocks or need your bait to float up away from the weight further.
Bait – you can use anchovy, herring, salmon eggs, squid, etc. No matter what bait I use I like soaking it or injecting it with Pro Cure Sturgeon Cocktail for best results.