For the hunter-angler, these days make for difficult choices.
Should you go bow hunting for deer or elk, or should you take advantage of rain-refreshed rivers to fish for coho or chinook salmon? With a limited number of days of hunting each year, many folks will opt to hunt each fall.
The pure angler faces the same difficult dilemma. In their case, however, it is deciding where to fish and for which species.
“For a lot of people, this can be some of the most prime times for fishing opportunities,” said Mike Chamberlain, owner of Ted’s Sports Center in Lynnwood.
“We have a ton of stuff coming up. This is some of the best fishing we have all year,” he added.
Rivers filled by last week’s rain should provide a chance to catch returning coho and chinook for the grill and smoker.
Cooler waters in lakes mean the trout, yellow perch, tiger muskies, bass and whatnot are eager to eat before the arrival of winter.
“The fish get really aggressive in the fall. When the water gets down to 50 to 60 degrees, they really start eating a lot, so they’ll hit anything,” Ron Adams of Verle's Sports Center said of the species that reside in lakes.
It's the fall feeding frenzy and now is the time for anglers to take advantage of the fishes’ biological clock.
“The amount of people who actively pursue the fall fisheries is actually pretty minimal,” Chamberlain said. “There are so many other things going on, kids back to school, football season, last of the baseball season, the big fall hunting seasons right around the corner, it just spreads people out.
“A lot of people have to decide do I go hunting or do I go fishing,” Chamberlain said. “There are a lot of hard core fishermen, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of people are spread out now and further into the fall, so you may have some of these water nearly to yourself.”
Here is a look at some of the options for the next several months:
Trout fishing in lakes
Trout that have been sluggish to bite because of warm lake water temperatures are starting to become more active and hungry. Lakes have only begun to cool in the last two weeks, thanks in part to the rain.
“This can be some of the best trout fishing of the season,” Chamberlain said. “As the water cools, the fish know they have to put on the fall feed, so they’ll hit just about anything.”
The tactics and baits that worked in the spring, as the trout came out of their winter doldrums, will work now when the leaves are changing and elk are bugling.
The fish are coming out of their colder, deeper summer holding areas and can be found feeding closer to the surface. That makes trolling with Wedding Rings, casting spinners like a Mepps’s Roostertail or flies like dark-colored woolly buggers effective methods.
Still fishermen will load up their dough baits, like Pautke’s Fire Bait or Berkely’s Power Bait, and fish them off the bottom, adjusting the depth until they start hooking fish.
The prime fall trout action should run through early November, as long as the weather does not get too cool too soon.
Anglers are reminded to check the fishing regulations, because some lakes, such as Mineral Lake in Lewis County, close Tuesday. Others, such as McIntosh Lake in Thurston County, will close Oct. 31. But fear not, there are many lakes, including Spanaway, that provide good trout fishing year round.
Try these waters: Lake Washington in King County is a good place to fish for cutthroat and rainbow trout. American Lake in Lakewood and Black Lake in Olympia are also good fall waters. Mason County options include Spencer and Nahwatzel lakes.
Much like children, yellow perch are forming large schools this time of year. While the key is finding the schools, anglers can begin their search by looking in shallower water than they did during the summer. Once the school is located, worms and perch meat are effective baits.
While bass, in particular largemouth bass, are best known as a summer quarry, they too are far more aggressive this time of year.
At the top end of the piscatorial food chain in some area lakes are tiger muskies. As they try to eat enough to make it through the winter, these already aggressive fish are even more eager to snatch their next meal. Large Roostertail spinners, big plastic grubs and chub imitations should attract a nearby muskie’s attention.
Try these waters: Lake Washington and American Lake are good options for yellow perch. A few lakes are stocked with muskies, but some of the best options now are Merwin Reservoir east of Woodland and Mayfield Lake south of Chehalis. Bass anglers might want to consider Lake Sammamish in eastern King County, or make the drive to Potholes Reservoir near Moses Lake.
Anglers have already been hitting Puget Sound and the rivers that feed into it in hopes of catching some chrome-bright coho and chinook. The action, at least in the South Sound, has been a bit slow. Right now, the best bets for catching coho are from Sekiu to Port Angeles in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. By the time we get to mid-October, some of those fish should have made their way south.
Then, just before winter arrives, anglers will have the chance to get immature chinook, better known as blackmouth, in the Sound.
The river action should also be improving.
“After this weather, we’ll get a rise in the rivers and it will cool the water, and that should bring a good push of coho into the rivers,” Chamberlain said.
As we get later into fall, anglers will switch their attention to chinook and chum.
Try these waters: The Chehalis system is getting its run of coho now, and the action should run through the end of the year in many rivers.
The Duwamish, Green, Puyallup and Nisqually will all be good options for South Sound anglers. The Humptulips will be a good spot for chinook, while the waters around the Hoodsport Hatchery, the Skokomish River, the south end of Hood Canal, Kennedy Creek between Olympia and Shelton, and Minter Creek on the Key Peninsula are traditional chum hotspots.
In the coming weeks, Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck should be good coho spots in the northern end of Puget Sound, according to Ryan Lothrop, recreational salmon fishery manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.