Once the chinook and coho are all up the rivers us Washington anglers have limited salmon choices in the salt. However, one option besides black mouth salmon fishing is Puget Sound chum salmon. Now, some anglers won’t bother with chum salmon as they think it is less tasty than other species and is fed to dogs in Alaska (aka ‘dog salmon’). Not true! The chum salmon got its nickname ‘dog salmon’ not because it’s fed to dogs, but because of the big, canine-like teeth that chum salmon produce as the spawn.
Dog Food or Good Eating?
When caught in the salt, chum salmon is actually perfectly good table fare. Of course chum salmon does need a bit more care. You need to bleed and gut the fish right away in the field and then take it home to cook and eat right away. Or, another great option for chum is to smoke it. If you find that you don’t like that way chum eats as normal table fare, then smoke it and I guarantee you will be satisfied with smoked chum.
Where to Fish for Chum Salmon in the Puget Sound
You may be wondering where to fish for chum in the Puget Sound. There is good chum fishing basically all over the Puget Sound. You can look for chum near Kennedy Creek, Johns Creek, Chico Creek, Curly Creek, Perry Creek, Whatcom Creek, McLane Creek, Eagle Creek and of course the Hoodsport Hatchery in Hood Canal.
The map below shows where there are documented spawning for fall chum. You can also see my previous article (DO YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHICH STREAMS AND RIVERS HAVE: CHINOOK, COHO, PINK, AND CHUM FOR EACH SEASON (SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER) and use the Salmonscape tool to zoom in and take a closer look.
A great place to fish for chum is near Minter Creek. Minter has a large population of chum, they harvest about 4 million chum eggs per year, so the return is usually pretty good. Be sure to check your regulations. As of October of 2022 the “waters at Minter Creek mouth within 1,000’ of outer oyster stakes CLOSED to fishing for salmon”. But fair game for chum fishing outside this boundary and beyond (check your regulations).
Setting up for Chum
Now I have caught saltwater chum on a coho killer when fishing for black mouth, so they will hit normal salmon gear from time to time. But if you want to target chum you should run either a dodger or flasher with a small hoochie. Gold is a good color to run when fishing for chum. Sometimes its difficult to find a gold flasher, so an option is to add your own gold lure tape. As for the small hoochie, I like green or purple spatter back. Since Chum eat plankton eaters, you will need to use a small mini squid.
As far as scent goes you can add a shrimp attractant to your lure and flasher or dodger is a good way to attract a chum.
Be sure to check your regulations to see if chum will be open in the Puget Sound. In 2019 the chum returns were very low (~200k), however WDFW is forecasting 723,611 (hatchery + wild) to return to the Puget Sound in the fall of 2022, which is an increase of about 198007 (hatchery + wild).
Hook ’em Deep!