Rule of Ebb, Tide of Moochers
Other Points of Pont No Point Salmon
by Terry W Sheely
Point No Point, Kitsap Peninsula, Puget Sound, Washington state.
There are rules at this address, rules, wraiths and troubled salmon.
First rule: Moochers’ quietly drifting plug-cut herring and crescent sinkers on flecks of tidal foam in the caprice of current pull are fishing on a plane forever removed from gear trollers; the salmon technicians who guide their fishing luck with electronics, technologies, artificials and propeller control.
The historical doctrine of ‘No Point is written in silk lines, cane rods, and cedar lapstrakes. It decrees that moochers and trollers shall not integrate at this convention point—not ever. There is no mention, however, of the jiggers and fly fishers who have lately come to flit around the edges.
Second rule: Fish the ebb.
Ignore either rule and there are justifiable consequences, one enforced by the ghosts of social traditions; wraiths from the “remember when” days that still demand their rightful respect. And the other, the ebb rule. It’s self policing. Ignore it and you won’t catch squat.
Point No Point, west of Seattle, north end of Kitsap Peninsula, the point without a point, first and last stronghold of plug-cut herring moochers and Puget Sound free drifters.
Mooching and drifting, that’s how I see this place in the bias of my memory, how I define it, how I still love to fish it and I’m a dinosaur surprised to find the downriggers and flasher gear working nearby, the beach casters with 12 food rods and oversized spinning reels hurling Buzz Bombs, chrome spoons and Point Wilson Darts, the fly fishermen wadered in neoprene and belly deep in the outflow throwing lead core, candlefish patterns and wishful thinking into the surge and swirl of WDFW Marine Area 9.
And for such a small place, a minor lump on the western edge of Puget Sound where tide and bait collide, and in utter disregard of my personal prejudice, there seems to be room to accommodate every piscatorial predilection no matter how much hardware and modern technological magic is involved.
Point No Point should be a shrine to Puget Sound salmon fishing with a special wing dedicated to mooching plug-cut herring; it’s got the history, earned the credentials, and holds the promise.
Unfortunately even shrines suffer tarnish, and like the rest of Washington’s inshore
sea, ‘No Point has had its abuses, lost its boathouse, fresh bait tank, boat launch, and burnt coffee. It is suffering dysfunctional salmon management, enduring salmon openings that deliberately bracket the best seasons, is relegated to catch-and-release kings during the sweetest weeks of the year, and is having its long-standing mantra as a mooching tradition compromised by an evolution of trolling technologies.
Yet Point No Point remains one of a handful of storied Northwest salmon slots where attendance and first-hand fishing experience is mandatory—eventually. It is truthfully impossible, I should think, to claim to be a Puget Sound salmon fisherman without having ever fished here. And despite the contemporary dysfunctions, by modern measure I find that ‘No Point is holding its own and can at times be coaxed into giving more than most anglers expect.
And those times can still be shout-it-out, write-it-down, brag-it-up exceptional, even if it may mean releasing the biggest king of your season or even your life.
It is the end of the ebb, the water is flat, the sun is high, the peak of the bite long gone, and we are floating in a shrinking flotilla of small boats and falling hope. Two more passes, I tell my wife, two more drifts and we’ll bag it. The center of the ebb had been a good one; bites, action, and kings in sportfishing nets. But that was more than an hour ago, the flow has changed, the bait scattered and the Hummingbird screen is dotless.
I turn our 17-foot center console into the small yellowish flecks of a rip remnant, kill the motor and let the current carry us into water 200 feet deep, outside the normal strike zone, outside the few boats that still fish, drifting over depths where we shouldn’t be. But they are here! Kings packed against the bottom 200 feet down, digitized echoes of salmon revealed by a Hummingbird, doing who knows what in an area where they shouldn’t be.
“Drop it, drop it quickly all the way to the bottom,” I say and she does, and quicker than it takes to write it, a double digit king chases down and crunches the looping herring, sucks in the plug cut, feels the 2/0 hook and heads up and away. When Natalie puts that king in the net, there is a cheer nearby, a shout of “attagirl.” She beams. We toast the gift and head for the ramp at Eglon. It would be silly to stay, ‘No Point delivered when it shouldn’t have and it would be presumptuous possibly even rude to expect more.
It’s not that Point No Point is benevolent, generous, or an easy study because it’s not.
What it is is topographically unique in a salmon sort-of-way.
The pouty little bulge of ‘No Point is a bulge in the right place at the ebb time.
The point is a subtle boob in the shoreline of the northern Kitsap Peninsula a conical bulge that tapers from the beach to the deep, extending from a cocked elbow of land where incoming salmon are smacked in the snout by a hard-charging currents tumbling out of theCentral Puget Sound into Admiralty Inlet. The rush is an exchange of tidal direction that carries and traps a feast of herring and candlefish and inevitably triggers a salmon bite.
It’s blessed with a shoreline of 1½ miles of mostly open gravel beach owned by a mix of public agencies that invite fishermen. It’s a bulge with feeding winter blackmouth chinook that in summer also attracts and stalls runs of ocean migrants en route to Puget Sound spawning destinies. There was a time when ‘No Point was also a springer hole of glistening promise, an ides of ambush where good anglers could shortstop 20 to 50 pound slabs in April and May, springers en route to the Skagit, and Skykomish, the Stillaguamish and Nisqually. Unfortunately, those hallelujah days of spring chinook fishing along with the heart of the summer season, are gone, sacrificed as federal and state agencies wrestle with Endangered Species Act listings, and management driven by efforts to preserve wild chinook.
Springers rush the Point in April and May, but the last open days of winter blackmouth (chinook) season arrive in the middle of April, effectively throwing a seasonal no-fishing safety net over the springers eliminating even catch-and-release
Chinook have always been the heart of the ‘No Point salmon fishery, yet the sorry fact is that fishing for the bright ocean slabs that stage here has been relegated either to catch-and-release or cut back to nearly zero. Contemporary open seasons meekly nick the edges of the most promising adult chinook periods, and most anglers now concentrate on a brief winter blackmouth season or re-rig completely and switch the chase to migrating summer coho, pinks and deep fall runs of chums.
Preservationist management is protecting the most productive periods for chinook fishing from anglers, hiding peak king fishing periods behind mid-season closures that are imposed by fish managers’ intent on resurrecting Puget Sound’s ESA listed runs of native chinook. That those runs are now so depleted that the federal government considers them to be endangered or threatened with extinction means that a loosening of the restrictions on king salmon or return to the “good ol days” of summer chinookery is unlikely, at least for decades.
Angler arguments that most of the chinook that now round the point are of hatchery origin and should be caught are being blunted by a concerted effort to reduce the number of those hatchery fish to prevent them from competing with native recovery.
It staggers my sport fishing soul that the same agencies intent on reducing wild/hatchery conflicts don’t see sport fishing as part of the solution.
They are not allowing a sport fishery to target those so-called “undesirable” hatchery chinook in the saltchuck at ‘No Point where they could be culled and eaten long before they hit sweetwater rivers. The argument from fish managers and native fish evangelists is that sports fishermen may “incidentally” whack an ESA listed chinook. It’s a weak argument but carries enough weight to close the peak season for sport fishing on hatchery origin kings despite enforced Marine Area 9 restrictions requiring barbless hooks and the release of all non-targeted salmon before they are brought over the gunwale.
While the federal rationalization is arguable, the result is a framework of chinook fishing seasons at ‘No Point that are designed to minimize the chances of anglers hooking chinook. Loss of that coveted chinook fishing opportunity has refocused angling attention at the Point away from kings and onto the passing pods of legal ocean coho, pinks and chums that follow summer into the Sound.
The save-a-native mantra frustrating king salmon fishermen has been extended all the way to restrictions on resident blackmouth salmon, the little feeder chinook that were once the winter staple of Puget Sound angling, and a fish that WDFW used to justify charging anglers a Puget Sound Enhancement fee. Enhancement revenue, they said, would be pledged to enhancing winter blackmouth chinook, numbers in Puget Sound and places like Point No Point..
WDFW got the bonus bucks, but instead of more fish and a winter-long season blackmouth anglers got fewer fish and shorter seasons. Go figure.
The winter blackmouth season at Point No Point now ends in November and re-opens in February—on either side of the December-January blackmouth peak.
The February 1 opening still delivers blackmouth, but not in December numbers, and this year will run through April 15, allowing anglers one fin-clipped hatchery chinook a day, 22 inches minimum. The tax-day chinook closure comes just as the leading edge of big spring chinook are arriving. Catch-and-eat king fishing remains closed through the summer. Not until November 1, three months later, does it re-open for a brief skirmish with blackmouth. By then the last of the ocean kings that have migrated into Puget Sound cleared ‘No Point by at least a month, spawned upriver and died.
The saving grace for summer salmon is that ‘No Point re-opens in mid-July for silvers, pinks and chums and, by default, a catch-and-release fishery on big kings.
This summer and very likely every summer until wild chinook issues fall off the funding ladder the moochers drifting herring in kicker boats at ‘No Point will make do riding the ebb tide with barbless hooks hoping for a nasty king to release, trolling July-September tides for coho and learning to love the flood of odd-year pink salmon expected to surge into the Sound in ’07.
The mile and a half of open gravel beach controlled by WDFW, DNR Beaches 68-69 and Kitsap County provides access for hand-carried small boats and is attracting a growing cadre of beach fishermen—both conventional and fly rod. The gentle gravel of the beach at Point No Point plummets to more than 90 deep just offshore. The bulge reaches far enough into saltwater so that during late summer runs of kings
and coho and sometimes even pinks are pushed within casting range of the beach.
Like the boaters just offshore, beach bombers follow the tides, fishing the west side on the ebb and moving to the east on the flood.
Flyrodders in waders with bottom-dredging lines walk into the salt and throw chrome bright candlefish and shrimp patterns toward the edge of the drop, swinging their flies in the tide run and hoping for salmon but smiling with sea-run cutthroat that seem to be on the upswing here.
From the beach gravel bank anglers with long soft rods and big spinning reels lob a mix of herring slung under enormous bobbers and metal jigs—Buzz Bombs, Stingsildas, Pt. Wilson Darts, shiny chrome Krocodile-style spoons, and thin wobbling lures like Dick Nites, Needlefish, Coyote and Pt. Defiance spoons. Bring enough weight to reach Whidbey Island.
Success for beach fishers often falls first to he who cast the furthest.
Bank anglers with itchy feet should be aware that away from the WDFW and DNR land the bottom can only be touched by boots below the mean high-tide mark and some of the nearby residents are a tad testy.
For boat fishermen the choices are more varied.
Just south of the Point is an area known as “the flats”, a shallow extension of the beach that slides gradually into the depths of Puget Sound. Flats fishers prospecting for c&r chinook try to hit the edge of the drop in about 100 feet of water and slowly mooch into 150 feet, constantly adjusting the bait to keep it spinning within 10 feet of the bottom. Oddly, coho that stack behind the point in August and September share the chinook affinity for the bottom here and are as to slam a mooched a plug cut herring at 100 feet as they are to strike a plastic squid trolled 20 feet behind the boat.
‘No Point kings are notorious bottom huggers, a trait that is especially true during the catch-and-eat blackmouth season. It’s rare to find an incoming ocean migrant more than 50 feet off bottom. Explaining why coho, normally considered top 30-foot fish, run as deep as the kings here is a matter who’s doing the guessing. Most figure that it has to do with the huge swarms of candlefish, a preferred salmon meal, that hug the bottom from mid into late summer.
One of the distinctions of ‘No Point is the force of the tidal flow. Currents rip through here, driving herring and candlefish bait to the down-current side (northwest) of the point and predatory salmon follow the bait.
While winter’s cold weather and mild tides will sometimes produce a bite on either the ebb or flood it is wild tide swings of spring and summer that nail down ‘No Point’s reputation as an ebb fishery from summer into fall.
With apologies to the long buried Florentine Poet Dante Alighieri, (suspected of being a repressed bait fisher) I feel compelled to warn those who would dare buck the Rule of Ebb, “Abandon hope all ye who choose to fish the flood, for you will go home fishless and bored.
But there’s a caveat. A flood-tide alternative and it’s close enough that knowing anglers don’t go home when the tide turns, they just slide around the corner and fish the flood at Pilot Point.
The flood tide bite at nearby Pilot Point is a convenient option following the ebb tide mandate at ‘No Point. Pilot Point is on the run to the Eglon boat launch, the closest access for trailered boats. A full day of fishing can be stolen from yard work by moving back and forth between ‘No Point and Pilot Point following the ebb into flood and back again.
The seasonal time table of Point No Point’s summer bite has most of the kings clearing the lighthouse and moving well inside by August, certainly by September. Silvers arrive in mid-July-August and stay deep into October. Pinks will begin to show in July, swarm in August and by September be upriver on the far side of Puget Sound. Odd numbered years deliver the greatest return of pinks to Puget Sound and this year the water at ‘No Point will see a steady stream of the little salmon. As chinook and to a lesser degree coho fishing has fallen in recent years, there has been a corresponding increase in pink and chum popularity. Catching pinks, so the logic goes, is better than not catching kings.
Light-tackle anglers are finding decent year-round opportunity near the beach for sea-run cutthroat and small feeder salmon—mostly trout-sized silvers.
The gentle beach decline between the lighthouse and waterline sometimes allows boat anglers and waders to fish the same silvers and kings, a perpetual test of angling etiquette.
Long time Puget Sound skipper Bill Aldridge with his dad Coley, for years ran the charter boat Jiggers out of Edmonds, loved to barrel the Westport-style boat up-tide and inside past the flotilla of kicker boats, the big bow aimed at the beach. At the last second, with a practiced flick Bill would whack the throttle spin the wheel and kick us sideways sliding into the ebb tide. The Jiggers would rock to a stop, sometimes just yards off the beach. We’d free-spool two and three ounce crescent sinker with 6 foot leaders and plug cut herring to the bottom, crank it back two turns of the reel handle and place bets on first fish.
My youngest, Brandon, lucked into his first salt water king this way when he was a skinny wannabe salmon slayer escaping elementary school, He was hanging across The Jiggersbow rail with ‘his’ freshwater bass rod—his first good rod. The unlikely combination included a plug cut herring speared on a 1/0 hook, pulled into 70 feet of water by a skinny one-ounce crescent sinker.
The chinook whacked the herring, the rod jumped and Brandon froze. Still three birthdays away from teenage, he recovered, grabbed the line in front of the Bantam bait-casting reel and pulled out foot-long strips like he’d been told, one strip, two….the chinook hit on the run, and all five feet of that little freshwater rod bucked and bowed. Why it didn’t explode at the ferrule can be written off to beginner luck, a suicidal salmon and maybe a little help from the remnant wraiths of mooching tradition. I still have the picture, big grin, posed salmon, a small finger pointed skyward immortalizing this Point No Point chinook as “The First.”
But mooching, a tradition that has defined ‘No Point for more than a hundred years,
is fading. Anglers are being forced to reshape their techniques to take advantage of the WDFW seasons that now target silvers and pinks and protect the chinook that made this place a mooching an institution. Feeding kings have a thing for the slow, easy roll of a mooched bait. They nuzzle it, flick it with their tails, mouth it gently, tease it, demand to be cajoled. Silvers and pinks, on the other hand, are run and gun feeders, race it and eat it.
A lot of us still want to mooch at ‘No Point, and do during the summer-long catch-and-release opportunity. But the salmon that are now available for the catch-and-eat fishery --silvers and pinks—are salmon that prefer to be caught on the troll.
And there is good trolling
How you troll depends on where you troll. .
Immediately south of the 1880s lighthouse that marks the point and then south along the east edge of the peninsula herring will pack in schools between 100 and 150 feet deep. Beneath that depth, at times the bottom will be alive with candlefish. Trollers mark the suspended baits with fish finders, run downriggers into range and troll flashers and artificials. The magic water is often between 85 and 120 feet deep. If the bait is marked on the bottom the odds are good it’s candlefish, and good trollers will react by towing flashers and skinny lures within 20 feet of the bottom while trolling parallel to shore.
This same area can also be fished by moochers or jig fishermen who lock their boats into rip lines near the south side in 50 to 120 feet of water and drift south.
This is an especially good area to fish during the winter blackmouth season, and because it’s a stacking point for summer ocean fish it’s popular with catch-and-release anglers.
I’ve found coho along this drift, too, but usually not until late August or September when a spinner-cut herring or flasher/squid trolled in the top 50 feet of water can produce a lot of action in a hurry. Oddly, there’s a lot of good fall silver fishing here deep into October as different runs arrive, but fishing pressure usually drops before the fish leave.
The heart of the mooching tradition is a small zone immediately in front of the point and beach.
The ebb tide romps northwest through here stacking bait and salmon close to shore, sometimes in less than 50 feet of water and always within 100 feet. Early morning and late evening shadows may find big kings suspended up tight to the bank, in just a few feet of water. The earlier, later and more overcast the day the closer to the shore you can work.
Experienced moochers slide into the salmon zone on the east side and ride the ride west until the bottom drops to 150 feet, then run up and drift it again. The tide rip will be paralleling a ledge that falls off to 150 to 200 feet. Stay on top of the ledge until it blends into the bottom west of the point.
Big tides can mean big bites, but it sometimes requires backtrolling with a kicker motor to hold position in the sloppy-fast current.
Trollers can start to edge into the mooching zone on the far northwest part of the drift, following the 120 to 200 foot shelf that marks the outside edge of the classic mooching area. For trollers and moochers and jiggers the bottom 20 feet is where the magic lives. The strong tide exchange pushes the bait and the salmon to the bottom immediately north and west of the point and even silvers are driven down in this area.
After herring (fresh, plug or spinner cut) artificial lure selection gets a bit dicey.
The common denominator is a good flasher and generally the larger the better. Hot Spot flashers are a local favorite. For silvers and blackmouth small spoons seem to work predictably well. Some seasoned trollers recommend Needlefish squid patterns, glow colored Coho Killers, Coyote and Apex. These are thin, , lightweight, bright and selected for their extreme wobbling action. Sizes should match the bait that’s in the area.
Chinook have a sweet spot for big spoons or small plugs and the perennial flasher-squid combination. During the summer Sonic Edge spoons, half-and-halfs and Coyotes are among the top producers. While I’ve never surveyed the flotilla, I’d be willing to bet that summer chinook favorite is a green glow squid behind either a green, chrome or white flasher.
The one necessity or at least a nicety now missing from the ‘No Point fishery (in addition of course to a return of reasonable chinook seasons) is a full service sport fishing accommodation.
But it’s coming. Terry Legg says so.
Since the 1920s a boathouse has served ‘No Point anglers with everything they needed; a place to park the camper, launch the boat, buy bait, tackle and snacks, monitor daily fishing conditions and post bragging rights.
The historic Point No Point Resort was bought by WDFW in 1996, along with 3.4 acres and shut down in January 2002 until it can be brought up to safety standards.
WDFW is hoping to put the boat launch back into operation within three to five years, although the timing will depend largely on the department's success in securing the necessary funding.
Re-opening the boat launch, which is likely to be an elevated ramp, is a “major priority for WDFW,” according to Legg, WDFW Region 6 Lands Program Coordinator. “A lot of people depend on that launch," agrees Sue Patnude, WDFW Region 6 director.
Boats lightweight enough to carry can be beach launched, but there is no launch at the point for trailered boats, nor is there bait, tackle or food.
The nearest boat ramp is at Eglon a few miles south on the east side of the KitsapPeninsula. This can be a rough ramp, though, potholed and often piled deep in drift wood.
The best launch in the area is a moderately long run west. The county ramp at Salisbury County Park just north of the Hood Canal Bridge is a good facility with excellent parking but it’s a run to ‘No Point, even further to Pilot Point through Admiralty Inlet, around Foulweather Bluff and east past Skunk Bay.
‘No Point is also within range of weather-worthy boats launched on the east side
ofPuget Sound at Everett or Seattle.
Despite the abuses, inroad of trollers, and evolutionary changes to the fishery, there is still a king-size point to fishing ‘No Point, and there will be every summer as long as the ebb tide runs.
Point No Point
Chinook season is limited to immature feeder blackmouth (5 to 20 lbs.) with openings during the month of November and with a second opener February 1 closing April 15. There’s a default catch-and-release fishery on in-migrating ocean chinook during the July 16-Oct. 31 catch-and-eat fishery for hatchery coho and pinks. Chums become legal Oct. 1.
Point No Point is in Marine Area 9 on the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, north
of Bremerton, WA, and on the far side of Puget Sound from Seattle, 13 nautical miles northwest ofEdmonds. It’s located roughly at the imaginary border separating Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound. The Point is about 12 miles north of the Seattle-Kingston ferry dock. From the dock follow Hwy. 104 west 3 miles, then north on Hansville Rd. NE.The Eglon boat launch is accessed by turning from Hansville Road onto Eglon Road.To reach the Point No Point beach continue north on Hansville Road and at 9.25 miles turn east on Gust Halvor Road, then north on Thors Rd. NE to the park.
Free boat launch at Eglon but maintenance is an issue here. This one-lane ramp has a shallow gradient and at low tides may require driving across a rough beach. The best all-tide launch is at Salisbury County Park just north of the east side of Hood Canal Bridge but it’s a long boat run around Foulweather Bluff past Skunk Bay to ‘No Point. Small boats can also be carried to the beach at the old Point No Point Resort, now under WDFW ownership. Beach casters can reach productive salmon water. More than 1 ½ miles of beach are under public ownership including DNR beaches 68 and 69, a slice of Kitsap County Beach and the WDFW property.
Charters & Guides
Charter boats based in the Seattle area fish ‘No Point peak seasons.
All Star Fishing Charters
(425) 252-4188, Everett,
A Possession Point Fishing Charters
Fish Finders Private Charters
All Season Charter
Eagle Enterprises Charters
AAA Craig Reedy Salmon Charters
Best Season: Catch-and-eat season:
Blackmouth feeder chinook are legal during November, which is the peak open month, closed during December and January and re-opens from February-mid April. Toward the end of this season there’s a chance to hook migrating spring chinook. Since wild chinook protections went into effect and closed down the heart of the summer season, coho have become the target of choice for most anglers. Mid July they start to show, hit their stride the last of August and first of September. Pink salmon are thick in this area during odd year mid-summer, right after the opener, and in October there’s a decent but lightly tapped chum fishery. Sea-run cutthroat are attracting a growing number of fly fishers and beach casters.
Where to Stay:
Motels and RV parks in Hansville and Kingston.
A few RV camp spots are available but no other services at the former Point No Point Resort 253-638-2233. If you need it, bring it. Good tackle and marine stores in Kingston at
Kingston Nautical Supply
Point No Point is a mooching stronghold for blackmouth and c&r kings, but also for coho that tend to run deep on the west side of the point. Use a soft, sensitive 81/2 to 9 ft mooching rod, a small squidding reel (Penn 109) or large baitcasting (Ambassadeur 7000), 15 to 20 lb. test lines, a selection of sliding crescent or ball style sinkers from 2 oz. to 6 oz., pre-tied 6 ft. mooching leaders with No. 1 to 2/0 barbless hooks, a big supply of fresh herring, for plug cutting.
Downriggers, flashers and a range of lures from standard green squids to thin blade spoons. Green or red Hot Spot flashers are a local favorite. Candlefish imitating hoochies are popular. Longtime Point No Point troller is Salmon University’s Tom Nelson who for chinook recommends: November through April Coho Killers in Glo colors, No. 3 Kingfisher Spoons,Needlefish Squid, behind a Hot Spot Flasher and a No. 3 Apex without a flasher. through September, Nelson recommends Silver Horde Sonic Edge Spoons, No. 35 Silver Horde Squid Green Glow behind a Hot Spot Flasher.
For coho September through October the Salmon University instructor recommends Sonic Edge Spoons, Coho Killer cop car color, Silver Horde Green Squid No.35 and Apex in police car or green colors.
Ying and yangers use fast-tip, 7 to 8 foot jigging rods, with braided lines, attached to Sampo or Vision stainless
ball bearing swivels. 6 feet of 25-lb. fluorocarbon leader is attached to Buzz
Bombs, Point Wilson Darts (when candlefish are in), Stingsildas, and a variety
of other brand name bottom thumpers. White, chrome, pink and green are good
colors. Bring enough weight variety to match current and bottom