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Grays Harbor

grays harbor johns river john river westport salmon fishing
Charts courtesy of Captn. Jack's www.capjack.com
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Salmon area

Grays Harbor – Westport

While most of the fishing that takes place near Washingtons coastal town of Westport is an ocean game, there is another fishery that happens in the fall that can produce some trophy king salmon.

Known affectionately to anglers who fish the place as Johns River, it's located east of Westport Marine Area 2.2, off the mouth of the Johns River in Grays Harbor. The place should be called the bay of pigs, as thats what your going to catch here in fact it's one of this state's last trophy fisheries where you have a chance of nailing a king over 40 pounds.

Why does this tidal area produce such big fish? The Humptulips, Satsop, and Wynoochee rivers all empty into Grays Harbor and they're all known big fish rivers.

Grays Harbor is the transition zone from salt to fresh water for these salmon heading to the rivers.

This is a tide water fishery, meaning leave your downriggers at home, you’re fishing in water that runs 10-30 ft. deep. Most of the fish I catch here are in 15 ft of water or less, many times 8-10 feet.

Large herring are the ticket here, not the Puget Sound size green label, but what we use is purple or black label to score on these fishyes the same size ones you use for halibut.

The normal Johns River setup is a 3 to 6-oz. ball sinker on a 12-inch dropper to a 4-ft. Ande mono leader with 5/0-6/0 hooks. The leader and dropper are mated together to a ball bearing swivel to make the connection.

If I need more attraction then the big herring I will use a Big Als Fish Flash. These pyramid shaped flashers give a great flash in the water and have zero drag in the water. Theyre hard to find in Westport, so stock up before the fishery opens in September.

For a rods, I use a G. Loomis SAR1265C and SAR1084C and a reel with a smooth drag that holds plenty of good 20-25 pound Ande line. Remember these fish can’t sound so they can produce some burning long runs and a cheap reel just won’t cut it here.

Tackle Tech – fixed dropper setup

The fixed dropper setup
There are two basic setups to use... the fixed setup and the sliding setup. On both setups, the first thing to do is remove the front bead chain swivel from the Fish Flash and replace it with a quality ball bearing swivel. For the fixed setup, you then just tie your dropper line to the ring at the front of the swivel, as pictured at the left, and illustrated above. At the bottom end of your dropper, use a regular snap swivel, this will allow you to change weights easily.

Tackle Tech – sliding dropper setup

The sliding dropper setup
Again, the first thing to do is remove the front bead chain swivel from the Fish Flash and replace it with a quality ball bearing swivel. For the sliding setup, you first hang a bead chain swivel on your mainline, and put a plastic bead below that... the plastic bead protects your knot. This setup is superior to the fixed setup in that if the weight happens to get hung up somehow, like when trying to net a fish, the mainline can still slip through, and the fish can run without breaking your line. Again, use a regular snap swivel on the bottom of your dropper, so you can change weights easily, as shown in the illustration above.

How To Fish Grays Harbor:
Most of the fishing takes place in front of the John’s River where it empties into Grays Harbor. There a trough located here where a lot of fish are taken. The bay is pretty featureless so any depression or ledge is worth a look and can hold fish.

The tide is the key factor when fishing here. Tide change is when these fish bite. Sometime just before or after the tide change is when the bite takes place. The rest of the day can be long and slow, with little action happening. This is a quality fishery so dont expect to limit, but it can happen.

Last year during this fishery I would take my charters out over the Westport bar and fish the 12-16 pound coho in the ocean and then run in for the tide change and fish for slabs. The only problem with this plan is getting the clients to leave the coho fishing!

The season here opens Sept 1st, however most of the best fishing is the middle of September to the middle of October. Check the WDFW regulations for current limits and closures.

Boat Ramps:
There is a boat ramp on the John's River that is fine for smaller 18 ft boats and jet sleds. It’s located just past the Ocean Spray Company on the highway to Westport. For larger boats, use the ramp in Westport near the Coast Guard Station, it’s a short run back east to the John’s River.

Pay attention to shipping traffic transiting to Aberdeen and back to the ocean. Stay in the channel especially when running east from Westport. Use the channel markers, there are many sandbars that can ground your boat in this area.

Salmon University Staff