Thinking about going fishing? Here's your primer...

The islands are know for their outdoor sporting possibilities and there is nore more rewarding (or tasty!) than salmon fishing.

Before you get started, make sure you purchase either a one day or full season license whether you are a Washington state resident or not. Once you have your papers in hand, read over the WA state guide for access while you’re on the water (if you are on the west side of San Juan Island, your cell coverage automatically switches to Rogers, a Canadian cell provider – this means expensive international roaming charges) regarding salmon ID, rules and regulations.

The key to a good day of fishing is knowing were and when to drop your line. Most local commercial and sport fishermen will take their favorite fishing hole locations to the grave with them, there are a few resources available to anyone willing to take the time to Google them (like Salmon University).

To save you some time here are a few that we actually use ourselves…

Where to Go

Although salmon runs are never 100% predictable, the West side of San Juan Island, specifically the Salmon Bank on the south west side of the island is a traditional route for all makes and models of salmon.

On Orcas Island, you’ll be sticking to Lawrence Point and Rosario Strait on the east side of the island.

Check out the Washington State Fisheries map for move specific info.

Types of Salmon


(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Other Names: king, tyee, blackmouth (immature)
Average size: 10-15 lbs, up to 135 lbs
Fall spawner: Fall, Spring and Summer runs


chinook salmon

Chinook salmon are the biggest of the Pacific salmon, with a few people developing to more than 100 pounds. These immense fish are uncommon, as most develop chinook are under 50 pounds.

Spawning: Most chinook produce in huge streams, for example, the Columbia and Snake, in spite of the fact that they will likewise utilize littler streams with adequate water stream. They have a tendency to bring forth in the mainstem of streams, where the water stream is high. As a result of their size they find themselves able to produce in bigger rock than most other salmon.

Chinook spawn on both sides of the Cascade Range, and some fish travel several miles upstream before they achieve their generating grounds. As a result of the separation, these fish enter streams early and embody the spring and summer runs. Fall runs produce closer to the sea and all the more frequently utilize little beachfront streams. All chinook achieve their producing grounds by fall, so as to generate.

Rearing: Chinook fry rear in freshwater from three months to a year, contingent upon the race of chinook and the area. Spring chinook have a tendency to stay in streams for a year; fish in northern territories, where the streams are less productive and development is slower, have a tendency to stay longer. Chinook fry use mainstreams and their smaller portages.


(Oncorhynchus kisutch)

Other Names: silver
Average size: 6-12 lbs, up to 31 lbs
Fall spawner

coho salmon

Coho salmon are seen as the most hard fighting salmon for their size and are fun on light tackle. Americans often call them “Silvers” probably because they don’t turn color quite as quickly while heading up the rivers to spawn.


sockeye salmon

Sockeye salmon are seen as the best eating salmon. They are also the most tricky to catch unless they are in large schools. Most Sockeye salmon are caught in commercial seine nets.  During the 1980’s sportsfisherman started to figure out how to catch sockeye on a fishing line.


chum salmon
Chum salmon are generally harvested by commercial fisherman in seine nets as well. The Chum eggs are a prize for many Japanese people who love caviar. Chum salmon look quite ugly by the time they make their way up the river to spawn.


pink salmon

Pink salmon are seen as the least desired to catch as they are quite small, don’t fight much and give off quite a putrid  smell. They are the most plentiful of the salmon species.