by Hannah Pennebaker , June 02, 2019
Too choppy to take the boat out? Want to take the kids out for a relaxing, low key adventure? Try fishing at one of the many saltwater fishing piers around Puget Sound! The summer is a prime time to bring home a tasty fish dinner for the barbeque or smoker. In the south Sound, salmon season is much longer, if not year round, for pier bound anglers. If bottom fish are your goal, there also a year round season at most piers.
Not sure what gear to bring? Start your adventure with a bucket to keep your catch in, sunscreen, and extra layers for unexpected wind. A folding chair and some cold drinks wouldn't hurt, either! Don't worry too much about tackle, a Dock Demon or an Uglystik are right at home at any dock.
If you're not sure how to catch your target species, have no fear. New fishermen and kids alike stand an equal chance at the docks. For salmon, there are several approaches you can try. Buzz bombs are a local favorite. You can tip yours with a piece of herring for extra scent, or tie on a hoochie for extra visibility. Cast out as far as you can, wait several seconds for your buzz bomb to sink, then lift your rod up and reel in, drop your rod down to let the lure flutter downwards, then repeat until your retrieve is finished. This is a tried and true method, but you can also try floating a small herring under a large 1-3oz bobber. A word of caution; during salmon season these docks can turn into a "combat fishery". It can be highly competitive at times for the best spot, just like in the rivers. Most fishermen are friendly and willing to share their space, and it's worth it for the chance to bring home a nice silver salmon for the smoker.
As for bottom fish, stock up on crappie rigs (metal high-low rigs), 1-3oz sinkers, and size 2 or 4 hooks. Any size rod and reel works for this. Bait up with squid, worms, herring, or shrimp. Cast out your line, reel in the slack, and wait for a bite. It's that easy! If the fish aren't biting, try a slow retrieve, or try fishing different depths and locations until you find them.
No matter what saltwater fish you're targeting, you'll find a spot for it on a Puget Sound pier. Most docks have convenient fillet stations, benches, and nearby bathrooms. Keep in mind all hooks must be barbless in the Sound, regardless of what you're fishing for, and all species of rockfish must be immediately released. Make sure to have a WDFW rulebook on hand when fishing for salmon, and always check for emergency rules and closures. Now that we've discussed gear, methods, and rules, let's get to know our local Puget Sound docks better.
This pier, located in Federal Way, sees plenty of heavy salmon and bottom fish action. Historically, there have been 4 docks at Dash Point. The first one was built in 1904, but disintegrated within several years. The one we know today was built in 1997. Anglers come from all over during salmon season to line up shoulder to shoulder and cast their buzz bombs. There is free gated parking, however, the park closes at sundown, and the staff will not hesitate to lock you in. Expect it to fill up quickly during pink salmon season. As for bottomfish, both sand dabs and rock sole are a common target here. The most popular rig I see is a high low rig, a 1-3oz sinker, and either shrimp or herring. There is a hole on the left side of the dock where large dogfish and ratfish lurk. There are fillet tables, bathrooms, and bait cutting stations here. This is a great dock for salmon and flounder alike.
This pier is also located in Des Moines, and is much smaller and shorter than its nearby cousin, Dash Point. It also has had quite the history of rebuilding. In 1953, this dock was washed away by a strong storm, and rebuilt in 1956. Another storm a few years ago took out part of the boat launch! Redondo still has plenty of eager fishermen for bottomfish and salmon, however. It fills up quickly in during salmon season, being a smaller dock. In the winter, this is a hot destination for catching buckets of market squid. Unlike most piers, generators are not allowed, so remember to bring a battery instead if squidding is your intent. Squid season runs from November to January, with a generous 10 pound limit. There is a paid parking lot, but it is spacious. Be wary of the boat launch at the left side of the pier when casting.
This large pier sports a fantastic variety of fish. I have caught eels, perch, rockfish, ratfish, and flounder here. Built in the 60's after the state decided to improve public access along the waterfront, it is located along Ruston Way in Tacoma. When you're done fishing, there are plenty of restaurants along the road and beautiful views if you're in the mood for a walk. Locals will tell you to fish the left side of the pier for striped perch, and the right side for dogfish. This is one of the friendliest piers around; Les Davis veterans will be more than happy to help any beginning fishermen. Interestingly, there is an octopus sanctuary in the artificial reef beneath the pier, so be sure to release any you might hook onto. This is a popular dock during salmon and squid season for a reason! There is plenty of free parking along both sides of Ruston Way, and each fishing spot has a sheltered hut with fillet tables and running water.
This pier tends to be less busy than others, as it is sheltered away from the crowds. You must walk under the Point Defiance Boathouse boat storage to access this smaller dock. It has been around since 1944 despite several fires destroying it. There is hot salmon action here, particularly during pink season. Pink buzz bombs and hoochies are the ticket here. The Boathouse offers small boat rentals, which can be great fun for a group of up to four anglers. Their shop, conveniently located next to the pier, stocks fresh herring and shrimp as well as most tackle you'll need. Like Les Davis, there is a vast variety of fish here. Fish the left side for pile perch and the right side for flounder.
I hope this guide has familiarized you with Puget Sound saltwater techniques. This is a great way to spend a summer day, especially now that the kids are out of school. Give it a try, you never know what you'll catch!
Hannah Pennebaker graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in Environmental Studies. She enjoys both freshwater and saltwater fishing adventures in the Puget Sound area with her fishing group, the Straw Hat Fishermen.