(Fort Lewis Ranger newspaper) – It is widely believed that there are more boats in the Puget Sound per capita than anywhere else in the United States, maybe even the world. It’s no wonder, because if there’s one thing that’s not lacking in the Puget Sound area it’s water! And many South Sound residents look to this abundance of water for much of their recreational activity. But before setting off for a day of fishing or boating in the South Puget Sound, it’s important to familiarize yourself with safety precautions and state licensing requirements.
Though land is never more than several miles away in the waters of the South Sound, safe boating practices are of the utmost importance. It’s a good idea before venturing out into the chilly waters of the Sound to take a course in boating safety. Courses are available through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and other sources as well. For more information on boating safety education, check out the Adventures in Boating Washington Web site at www.boat-ed.com/wa/index.htm. And remember, not only is it good practice to have life jackets available for each person on board your vessel, but it’s also the law!
Besides safety precautions, boaters in the South Sound must be aware of weather conditions, tide tables, and water navigation considerations. The weather patterns of the South Puget Sound make the area susceptible to high winds. Also, fog can be an issue in late fall and spring, making visual navigation difficult, if not impossible, at times. It’s a good idea to monitor the National Weather Service marine broadcast both before setting out and throughout the day.
Because the waters of the sound are relatively shallow, and since the tides of the South Puget Sound are extreme, being aware of tide tables is particularly important — unless finding yourself stranded for six to eight hours on dry land in a boat is part of your recreational plan! Also, be aware of the water’s current. Keep in mind that currents can be very strong in narrow passages that connect larger bodies of water, such as the case in the Tacoma Narrows. By following safety guidelines, researching your boating environment, and checking weather conditions and tide tables before setting out, both the experienced and novice boater will find excitement and contentment on the waters of the South Sound.
Not only do the waters of the South Puget Sound make for great boating experiences, but they also harbor more than 50 species of sport and game fish for those who may have been bitten by the fishing bug. From cutthroat to halibut, from lingcod to the pride of the Northwest — salmon — fishing in the versatile waters of the South Puget Sound is first rate.
Before setting out with baited hooks, it’s important to understand and abide by the state regulations for licensing. A saltwater license is required for fishing for nearly all marine species in saltwater. For harvesting shellfish such as clams, crabs, and sea cucumbers, a shellfish/seaweed license is required. When fishing in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams, a freshwater fishing license is required. For more information on licensing regulations, go to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Web site at www.wa.gov/wdfw. Also, most sporting goods stores have copies of the WDFW’s pamphlet on fishing in Washington. This pamphlet gives additional information about fishing seasons, size and catch limits, and other fishing restrictions.
Once state licensing requirements have been met, it’s time to chart your course. Are you up for the challenge of snagging a powerful sturgeon? Would you like to go for the "sure thing" — bass or rainbow trout in one of the region’s numerous stocked lakes? The fish of your choice is plentiful in the waters of the South Sound; you simply need to know where to look. The deeper waters of the South Sound are great for flatfish such as sole and flounder. Salmon can be found in the waters off Point Defiance and other areas where opposing tides meet. And, of course, game fish can be found in any of the numerous lakes and rivers throughout the region, including Lake Tanwax and the Nisqually River. A great Internet resource is the Fishing in the Northwest Web site: www.angelfire.com/wa/nwfishing/index.html.
One final note on fishing in the South Sound, it’s important to be aware of a condition called red tide, which causes shellfish to become toxic. The Department of Health continually monitors the levels of toxins in shellfish throughout the entire Puget Sound, and will post a warning when red tide conditions occur. The toxins affect all shellfish, including clams, mussels, mollusks, and oysters, and can be present for many weeks, and even longer in some species of shellfish. For this reason, it is important to check red tide updates before harvesting shellfish. Red tide updates can be found daily on the WDFW Web site.
Though the land surrounding the beautiful waters of the South Sound may be densely populated, the waterways are relatively tranquil, making boating and fishing in the region quite attractive to both visitors and residents alike. From the saltwater expanses of the Puget Sound to the numerous freshwater lakes and rivers, the region’s waters will provide many hours of boating and fishing enjoyment for the outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure and sport.
Welcome to the versatile and exciting world of fishing