Washington’s most famous sea captain—the late Phil Harris of Deadliest Catch—may have made his name in the Bering Sea, but he was no doubt inspired by his state’s astounding 3,036 miles of saltwater shoreline, stretching from the mouth of the Columbia River to the bays and inlets of the San Juan Islands. Tens of thousands of chinook and coho salmon, halibut, rockfish, and lingcod school just off shore. Such marine wealth has attracted people for millennia, forming communities that have fishing in their blood.
Just north of Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco offers anglers plenty of salty optimism. Here you’ll find ready access to steady runs of salmon from July to September and the Columbia River’s stately sturgeon. The boats of Sea Breeze Charters scan the waters of both the Columbia and the Pacific for runs of coho and chinook.
Ninety miles to the north, Westport is well positioned for a day of halibut hunting as well as catching river-bound salmon. Shove off with more than half a dozen charters in search of rockfish, lingcod, and halibut specimens that can weigh up to 100 pounds.
La Push, located near the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula, is home to the Quileute tribe. Inhabitants of the Northwest since the last Ice Age, the Quileute have tapped the area’s rich salmon fisheries for thousands of years. In summer pay homage to their heritage with a salmon bake during Quileute Days or sign aboard Top Notch Ocean Charters, which offers seasonal excursions for everything from king salmon to trophy albacore tuna.