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Copyright 2006 DartJigs.com 

          Spring & Summer Jigging In The San Juans Is Hard To Beat

Long winter nights followed by bone-numbing gray days while standing knee-deep in my favorite steelhead drift are over.  As the sun hangs overhead longer with each passing day, the drizzly days of springtime invite saltwater lovers to dust off the "bay boat" in preparation of the upcoming salmon season.  That's right... We will have a salmon season this year -- limited by design, but a season with opportunity throughout the state. 

May is a perfect time of year to wet a line and there's no better place to take the first fishing trip of the year than the picturesque, and easily accessible San Juan Islands.  Rain or shine, the San Juan Island archipelago offers anglers, boaters and island hoppers a variety of opportunities.  While countless people flock to the islands for one thing or another, the most important activity in my mind is fishing -- chinook fishing to be specific. (When fishing regulations allow). 

Almost any vessel, from 12-feet and up can take advantage of some form of fishing.  Anglers can launch their crafts at Deception Pass State Park, Washington Park or Skyline Marina.  From any of these locations, anglers need only to travel a short distance to decent salmon and bottomfishing.  The small boater can take advantage the great salmon fishery at Fidalgo Head or a decent bottom fishery around Burrows Island near Skyline Marina.  Anglers launching from Deception will enjoy fishing the bay for Skate, {they look like stingrays} or just jigging for schools of herring. 

Anglers who are lucky enough to launch sea-worthy crafts larger than the go-almost-anywhere-length of 16-feet will be amazed with the watery wonderland that awaits.  So too are the famous San Juan Island blackmouth, mature, stream-bound chinook, lingcod, halibut and rockfish.  Top areas in May are: Eagle Bluff, Thatcher Pass, Hein Bank, Salmon Bank and Middle Bank.  A word of caution though, regardless of vessel size, be sure to have all safety standards up to Coast Guard approval.         

Mature chinook pass through the area from May through the end of July in route to the rivers and streams of their origin.  It's these fish that attract the most loyal island anglers.  On some days, skillful anglers might fight half a dozen chinook in the larger than 12-pound class.  While most of these chinook range from 12 to 25-pounds, a few monsters over 30 are taken each year. 

However, there is a catch -- on not keep in this case -- all chinook over 30-inches in length must be released through June 15th.  The limit of sub 30-inch salmon remains two and remains two after that date until July 31st.  Beginning August 1st through September 30th, anglers are allowed four salmon per day, only two of which may be chinook. 

Jigging for salmon is probably the easiest way to latch onto an island fish, of any species.  Once almost any fish is hooked while jigging, a life-long love of Pacific Northwest saltwater fishing overwhelms the lucky angler.  I know that's a strong statement, but it happened to me, therefore I believe it to be true! 

All that's needed for anglers to begin their jigging career is a medium to heavy action rod, a level wind or spin casting reel loaded with 15-pound test monofilament, a fish/finder and a handful of 2 1/4 ounce greenback, chrome-sided Pt. Wilson Darts candlefish jigs.  Without these exact jigs, you might as well stay home.  Years of experimenting with every jig on the market has proved this jig most popular among hungry mature chinook.  When it comes to bottomfish, if it sinks to the bottom, stays there any length of time and you don't loose it, it's sure to catch fish. 

Learning to jig is easy.  During spring and summer, salmon feed on Pacific Sandlance, AKA, candlefish.  Most San Juan Island salmon take the jig within 5-feet of the bottom, so stay "on the deck" with the jig.  Anglers simply disengage their reel and let the jig free-fall to the bottom.  As soon as a pause or thump is felt, engage the reel and set the hook hard.   When the jig hits bottom, reel three turns to avoid a bottom grabbing rock, then begin the gentle up and down motion synonymous with jigging. 

Each angler has a unique stroke or swing that often resembles a yo-yo motion.  A steady upward swing of the rod followed by the rod tip pointed quickly toward the water is a productive way to jig.  Salmon will attack a jig more often on the fall than the retrieve or up-swing motion so stay alert. 

Finding salmon in the San Juans is easy if you concentrate efforts along the Rosario Strait corridor, where migrating and spawning candlefish attract hungry, feeding salmon.  "Where you find bait, you should find salmon" says Marc Krueger, owner/operator of Fish Tales Guide Service in Anacortes.

Calm waters, along the edges of the Rosario Strait corridor offer plenty of opportunities to find schools of candlefish, herring and salmon that feed on them.  These productive areas also shield anglers from inclement weather.

Currents play an important role when jigging the San Juan Islands.  As the currents rush through the islands, they create eddies and pockets that trap bait, which in turn attract feeding salmon.  Most of the hot spots mentioned earlier are within easy range of Anacortes and they offer all the necessary ingredients that spell FISH IN THE BOX. 

Here's a couple more locales that should provide top jigging action in May, June and July: 

Black Rock and Pointer Island: Check your tide or current tables and fish here during the ebb tide.  Concentrate efforts along the edges of the small bank, usually in the 90 to 120-foot range.

Decatur Head: Decatur fishes well on either tide.  Jiggers cover the large flat between James Island and Fauntleroy Point with excellent results.   Often times, jigging and fish-catching takes place in 30-feet of water.  Don't overlook the steep drop-offs close to shore at Decatur Head, they provide excellent shallow water action when baitfish are trapped against the rock precipice. 

Secret Harbor: Jig in 60 to 90-feet of water on either side of the shelf in the middle of the harbor.  Find the bait and jig within 5-feet of the bottom.  An ebb or flood tide is productive here and don't be surprised if a "Flatie" scarfs down your jig.

Sinclair Reef: Located between Sinclair Island and Lawrence Point.  The easiest way to find this productive hotspot is to simply locate buoy 16, directly over the mid-section of the reef.  The tide rips through Sinclair Reef making fishing difficult except during the end of the ebb and slack tide.  The reef shelfs off at 72-feet and is surrounded by deeper water.  The most productive depth is the 120 to 130-foot ledge. 

Since tides and direction of current-flow affects where and when salmon will be found, especially in the San Juan Islands, anglers should know when and where to find "prime" water.  The best way to keep track of currents in the San Juans is to use a current guide.  Tide tables alone will not give enough information to be helpful to the "Rookie" fishermen.  Anglers can learn when and where to drop a jig for salmon and bottomfish from CAPTn JACK'S tide & current almanac and their current atlas of the same name.  Both are available through a marine supply or sporting goods store. 

If you would like more information about fishing the San Juan Islands, or you would like to get on-the-water expert help, you may want to call a knowledgeable guide in the area.

Copyright DartJigs.com 2006