Gone Fishin’: salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands

Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly travel blog

With just a little over two months left in Washington State, Tom and I have been eagerly trying to tick off a few bucket list experiences that we hadn’t yet accomplished. Batter up: salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands.

This area is a year-round salmon mecca, and not so coincidentally, Anacortes is a major fishing hub. Given how much I love to eat seafood, I thought it was high time I delve a little further and go straight to the source: the ocean!

So yesterday we set our alarm for the crack of dawn to take to the water with Highliner Charters, one of Anacortes’ most popular fishing charters.

The 6am call time was a little tough, even with the help of coffee. However I was assured the early start would reap the most reward, and sailing out of Anacortes’ Skyline Marina during sunrise was pretty amazing.

Seabirds and Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

After a short boat ride toward Lopez Island, we arrived at our first fishing spot for the day. A few moments later our awesome leaders, Brett and Rick, had everything assembled and ready to go.

Today we were fishing for chinook salmon, also known as king salmon.

These kids tend to hang out toward the bottom of the sea floor, so we were fishing ‘trawler style’ – the boat moving slowly while heavy weights kept the line and bait right near the bottom.

I’ve now decided this is the perfect way to fish. We got to sit back and relax, watch the rods and wait for a salmon friend to bite.

It was really relaxing to be on the water, watch the wildlife and enjoy the beautiful scenery. With no other boats around, we had the place to ourselves!

We spotted bald eagles and falcons, and enjoyed the company of some seals who were looking for catch of their own.

Beautiful scenery while Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

Dani Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

It wasn’t too long before Tom reeled in our first catch of the day, Sid the Salmon.

Tom fishing Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

Whenever the nibbles became quiet, Captain Brett would relocate the boat to a new area, and we were quickly reeling in a few more fish.

Even me – possibly the world’s worst and most impatient fisherman – managed to reel one in!

Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly travel blog

Despite the wind and choppy seas, the Highliner crew found us great fishing spots in more protected areas. Brett and Rick were super friendly and welcoming, and very knowledgeable about the area and best places to fish. I can’t think of better people to spend a day on the water with.

They also took care of all the hard stuff, and mildly gross stuff (shall I say, making sure our salmon went from alive to not alive).

Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

Our last stop of the day, Reef Point, was our rockiest but also the most rewarding, as Tom pulled in our biggest salmon of the day!

Washington fisheries has a strict limit of one chinook salmon per person per day, so once we had caught four – about six hours after we set sail – it was time to return to the marina! Some local seals welcomed us home, and clearly they were in search of some leftovers!

Seals in Skyline Marina Anacortes - Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

Here were are with Sid & Nancy, Siegfried and Roy. Apparently it’s weird to name your catch, but whatever.

Our catch of the day Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

So much seafood.

I think the next few weeks are going to be full of pan-seared salmon, bbq salmon, salmon tacos, salmon benedict, smoked salmon. If you have a favourite salmon recipe let me know!

This was my first fishing charter experience, and the benefits are clear: all equipment, bait and tackle is provided, I could get a fishing license on the spot, the crew takes care of all the hard work and cleaned, filleted and bagged our catch. Washington has rather strict and often-confusing fishing laws (allowable catch and catch limits can change seasonally and year-to-year) so I found it incredibly helpful to have professionals guiding the day.

Of course the biggest advantage is the access to the crew’s local knowledge: they know these waters like the back of their hand, and it really offered the best experience.

Salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands Washington State - Live Recklessly

A day salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands would be great for avid anglers or just curious occasional-fisherman like myself!

If you plan to try it, I highly recommend Highliner Charters!

Read more from the blog, like how I spent a weekend on San Juan Island, a Friday Harbor dining guide, searching for orcas, and my ideas for an awesome spring weekend trip in Washington State.

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The PNW is a seafood mecca, so salmon fishing in the San Juan Islands seemed like the ultimate activity. A beautiful day in one of Washington State's most beautiful locations. Read more at www.liverecklessly.com

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