Have you ever been to a special place you never wanted to leave? Then it’s time to set your sights for the snow-capped peaks of Olympic National Park – home to some of the state’s best fresh- and salt-water fishing. Within the park, there are 31 native freshwater fish species from 11 different families of fish, and at least 70 unique populations of salmon, trout and char, as well as five non-native fish. It might feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from civilization, but the park is just a three-hour drive from Seattle.
Reporting by Mark Yuasa
Graphics and illustration by Kelly Shea
Development by Elif Koc
Chinook at Neah Bay/La Push
The northernmost tip of Washington is the dividing point as salmon migrate south along the coast or head into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Many anglers make their summertime trek to catch large-sized chinook “king” salmon here. Fishing opens at Neah Bay from July 1-Aug. 21 or until a catch quota of 6,200 chinook is achieved. La Push is open from July 1-Aug. 21 or until a catch quota of 2,000 chinook is achieved. A robust population of lingcod, kelp greenling and black rockfish are here, too.
Largemouth bass and cutthroat trout in Ozette Lake
Ozette is the third-largest natural lake in the state, and it is open now through Oct. 31. It is best fished from a boat. Largemouth bass were introduced and are a non-native fish. Spring and summer is an excellent time to fish here. Anglers also like to fish for cutthroat trout. There is an artificial lure with barbless single-point hook rule, and it is catch and release for trout. No daily or size limit applies to largemouth bass, yellow perch, pikeminnow and bullhead.
Beardslee trout at Lake Crescent
This wonderfully crystal-blue lake with exceptional clarity is 166 feet deeper than the iconic Smith Tower in downtown Seattle, and was formed by glaciers. About 7,000 or so years ago, a large landslide dammed the lake and cutoff anadromous fish migration, including the beardslee trout, which are found nowhere else in the world. Catch-and-release fishing is open through Oct. 31. Artificial lures with a barbless single-point hook along with a two-ounce weight restriction is required. There are five fish species, including the native Beardslee, cutthroat trout (crescenti) and kokanee salmon. Two other non-recreational fish species are the pygmy whitefish and prickly sculpin.
Other viable options
While the northern Olympic coastal rivers are mainly known for winter steelhead, there are opportunities for summer hatchery steelhead. They include the Calawah and Bogachiel. The Quillayute River system received a plant of 32,910 steelhead smolt in 2014, which are expected to return this summer. The Lower Quinault, Queets and Salmon rivers are also popular places to fish. Certain sections of the Hoh River are either open or closed for fishing, so be sure to check the regulation pamphlet before going.
Trout in high mountain lakes
“There are over 650 mountain lakes that can be accessed via a short day hike or multiple overnight stays,” biologist Sam Brenkman said. “These lakes have had systematic and casual stocking of non-native trout from 1934 to 1975, and were stocked via horseback, planes, helicopters and backpack. Within the lakes, we have Eastern brook trout and several varieties of cutthroat and rainbow trout.” The Seven Lakes Basin is home to eastern brook and rainbow trout. They include Soleduck, Morganroth, Long, No Name, Lunch, Clear, Lake 8 and Round, which are accessed via an 8-mile trail starting at the end of Sol Duc Hot Springs Road. On the east side of the park in Skokomish Valley, try Flapjack Lake, which has Eastern brook and rainbow trout. Off Hurricane Ridge and Obstruction Point Road are a series of lakes that include Moose, Grand and Gladys, which are primarily for Eastern brook trout. All are open now through Oct. 31.
Surf perch at Kalaloch Beach
A relatively flat beach-line and excellent access to nearby Kalaloch Lodge makes this a prime location to easily fish for a red tail surf perch. This under-fished species and largest in the surf perch family can be caught year-round, with summer offering the best action. Surf perch average 1 to 3 pounds. Key to success is looking for depressions, drop offs and deeper cuts in the beaches where the perch tend to school up. Use a long, stout fishing rod of 10 to 14 feet and a heavy spinning reel with 10- to 20-pound test fishing line. A slip sinker, three-quarters to 1 ounce, or a pyramid sinker of 3 to 5 ounces with a three-way swivel tied to a leader 20 to 30 inches long will get your bait where the fish are. Baits of choice are sand or ghost shrimp, sand crabs, mussels, clam necks, squid and pile worms. Soft plastic jigs laced with anise scent as well as Buzz Bomb-type jigs will attract fish.
Dungeness crab in Hood Canal
A strong population of Dungeness crab can be found in the northern section, and crab abundance is still below average south of Ayock Point. Fishing is open through Sept. 5 with crabbing allowed Thursdays through Mondays of each week. The daily limit is five male Dungeness crab in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishermen may also keep six red rock crab daily, and each must measure at least 5 inches across. Gear may not be set or pulled out of the water from one hour after official sunset to one hour before official sunrise. All shellfish gear must be removed from the water on closed days. Dungeness crab must be recorded on catch record cards.
Shi Shi Beach
The 8-mile roundtrip hike at Shi Shi Beach and the Point of the Arches can be done in one day or a multiday backpacking trip. It covers a diverse trail with bridges and boardwalks that is also very primitive, muddy and semi-steep in some places. Be sure to check in at the Olympic National Park office in Port Angeles or Forks if you plan on staying overnight.
Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge
The Quillayute Needles National Wildlife Refuge and La Push at First, Second and Third Beaches are located 14 miles from the town of Forks. First Beach is the only beach accessible by vehicle. Be sure to check out the waterfall that drops onto the isolated cove at Taylor Point.
Be sure to take a trip to Ruby Beach – named for the reddish sand of the northernmost beach at Kalaloch – located about six miles north of Kalaloch Lodge. The beach is lined with vast amounts of driftwood, and is an ideal viewpoint of the legendary sea stacks (large island rock formations).
Hoh Rain Forest
The Hoh Rain Forest offers a rare glimpse of Sitka spruce and western hemlock towering up to 300 feet. The temperate rainforest (150 to 200 inches of rain annually) has the highest amount of living matter on the planet that resides on the ground, shrouded in moss, fern and horsetails.
Elwha River Bridge
The Elwha River Bridge just west of Port Angeles offers great views and is a link to the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Elwha River Viewpoint
The Elwha River Viewpoint off Highway 101 is a spot where visitors can catch a glimpse of the ever changing landscape from two hydroelectric dams removed in 2012.
Olympic National Park Visitor Center
The Olympic National Park Visitor Center (3002 Mount Angeles Road) in Port Angeles is a great starting point. Talk to a ranger about the Elwha River restoration project.
Lake Crescent Lodge
The historic Lake Crescent Lodge, built in 1915, is the perfect starting point for your summer outdoors adventure. Visitors can stay in guest rooms or a lake-side cabin nestled among huge fir and hemlock trees lining the shoreline.
Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort
The Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort is a destination spot where people can spend the night, and soak in three mineral hot spring pools and one freshwater pool after taking a trek in the rainforest.
The Kalaloch Lodge is set on a bluff overlooking the ocean. The Quinault Indians called this coastal area “Kalaloch” or “good place to land,” and it offers beachcombing, fishing, bird and whale watching - plus spectacular sunsets.
Fat Smitty’s Burgers
Fuel up on a huge burger at Fat Smitty’s Burgers (282624 U.S. Highway 101) located just south of Port Townsend. Inside just about every inch of the walls are plastered with dollar bills.
Nita’s Restaurant and Gallery
A must-stop to grab a bite is Nita’s Restaurant and Gallery (325 West Railroad Avenue) in Shelton. The small-town diner is open for breakfast and lunch, and during summer will be open Fridays for dinner from 5-9 p.m. Grab a slice of their yummy homemade pie.