Seven Places to Kayak Fish in the Strait of Juan De Fuca
The last post I wrote about strategies for kayak halibut fishing received a lot of positive feedback so I decided to take it a step further. In the past couple of years we fished the Strait of Juan De Fuca fairly extensively, mostly by kayak but sometimes on a friend’s boat.
It’s a dreamy area for a kayak angler to spend time because you can just drive up the road and there are tons of places to pull over and launch a kayak. The strait is productive and you have the opportunity to catch Halibut, several types of salmon, bottom fish, crab, and more. In this video, you can see bait fish boiling underneath me, a common site along the kelp beds in the strait.
Yet the only thing I caught that day was, well, this giant red sea cucmber:
One thing, overall, that I think can be sort of counter-intuitive about fishing the strait, is how much more dangerous it can be compared to the open ocean.
I’ve seen people mention kayaking in the strait as sort of a “warm up” or a prerequisite to fishing the open ocean, and while I think that some spots on the strait (and also in Puget Sound) are awesome beginner spots for saltwater fishing, some spots on the strait have conditions that I found much more dangerous than anywhere I have fished in the open ocean (See safety tips below, as well as the article Kayak Halibut Basics). Mostly, the strait tends to have a lot more current than where I have fished in the open ocean.
Here are a couple of general safety precautions for kayaking in the strait:
Current, current, current
There can be a LOT of current on the strait – standing whitewater waves in a river type of current – 5 to 6 miles per hour or more.
Most importantly, know that the current is strongest in shallow areas that are directly adjacent to deep areas (e.g. underwater ridges, points, and mounds) and at points or islands where the water is forced to go around something. These are the places where the current will pick up and move much more quickly than surrounding areas.
Think of the strait like a giant river – eddies in coves and bays can be moving in the opposite direction of the main current. Currents can occasionally be moving straight out or towards the shore. I like to use my GPS to keep track of my movement because sometimes it can be hard to tell how fast and/or what direction I am moving once I am further out.
Before launching your kayak on the strait (or anywhere in Puget Sound), do your research into the tides and current so that you at least have a general idea of what to expect. Here is an article I wrote about Deep Zoom, a great website for learning about tides and currents.
I don’t mean to scare anyone away, – it can also be super calm and very easy paddling depending on the location, weather, and tidal exchange.
The best advice I can give about current is to not only plan ahead, but to stay alert on the water. In a given day the current will change speed and also change directions, so if it starts to become a problem you want to notice sooner rather than later.
Prepare to be Snagged
You’re going to get snagged. It just happens. Don’t get snagged with line that is too strong to break because it can be downright dangerous. The trick is using tackle and rigging that can break off if you get snagged, but is strong enough to withstand big teeth from big fish. See my article about halibut fishing from a kayak for specifics.
Conditions on the strait are similar to the open ocean in that you can have large swell and big winds. The biggest swell I have ever kayaked in was on the strait near Neah Bay. You need to have knowledge of this stuff before you go. If you don’t, start by looking at some of our HOW-TO articles, keep doing more research, and start by going with someone that knows what they’re doing. Generally, the further west, the more the conditions are going to be reflective of the open ocean. The most protected launches on the strait face east and are therefore protected from the primary west and northwest swells.
Huge ships travel through the strait and they have the right-of-way. They usually stick to shipping lanes that you can see on the Navionics Chart Viewer or other maps. In most cases on a kayak you aren’t far enough out to be in the way, but check before you launch to see if there is a shipping lane nearby – sometimes the lanes are close to shore.
As for smaller power boats, there can be quite a few. Use a flag and any other bright gear that you have to stay visible. Carry at the minimum a whistle so that you can make noise if someone’s headed towards you. It’s not nearly as crowded as, say, the buoy 10 fishery on the lower Coumbia, but it’s definitely worth making yourself visible especially when there is swell and/or wind.
Seven Spots, from East to West
Enough about safety, you probably skipped that section anyway.
I picked these seven specific spots to share because they’re representative of the diversity you can find kayak fishing the strait, and because they’re all spots that I know I can talk about with out “blowing up” anyone’s secret spot – they’re all public launches or easy roadside pull offs. I’m also just going to talk about access and safety, not so much fish.
What I can definitely say is that halibut are a possibility at all of these spots and some of these spots are great for bottom fish, salmon, and/or crab as well. Know that fishing regulations vary depending on where you are on the strait.
#1 Port Williams County Park Boat Ramp
This is the most docile place I’ve launched and fished on the strait. If you just want to get out on the strait on a kayak and haven’t done so yet, I would check this out. The launch is a boat ramp where there has always been plenty of parking and not much boat traffic. It’s protected and there isn’t much current. And it’s free.
#2 Dungeness Spit via Dungeness Landing County Park
This is another free and super easy launch at a boat ramp. At lower tides it can be a bit muddy. It’s very shallow leaving the launch at low tides so I would be especially careful with a pedal-driven kayak.
The really cool thing about this spot is that if you time it right, you can ride the tide out to the lighthouse.
Dungeness Bay, which is directly west of the launch, fills up and drains through the narrow channel that is right at the launch, so be ready for a bit of current.
One thing to note about this area is that the southbound ship traffic lane comes very close to the end of the spit (again, you can see this on Navionics or other maps). There might be some crazy-folk that venture into shipping lanes on their kayaks, but I don’t ever want to be caught peddling away from a container ship so I just avoid them entirely.
I decided to fish this area for the first time when the strait had a small craft advisory for 25+ knot winds coming from the west. I didn’t want to skip a day of fishing, and it was the only place I could think of fishing where it would be protected enough. On the west side of the spit it was NASTY. It was still breezy on the east side, but the waves don’t have enough room to build from the west as long as you stay close to the spit.
I caught a variety of fish that day, including a huge skate and this spiny dogfish.
#3 Freshwater Bay
Freshwater is one of the more well-known spots to kayak fish on the strait, and for good reason. It’s very well protected, it’s a free launch, and some huge halibut (that made the news) have been caught there – don’t get too excited. That type of news has come from everywhere on the strait.
Here’s a photo from one morning a couple of miles from the launch.
And here is a video of me high-tailing it in because the wind was picking up very quickly.
Like anywhere else on the strait, Freshwater Bay can have good or bad weather. Inside of the bay, though, it’s very protected from wind, swell, and current. It’s a good place to launch and work your way out.
#4 Crescent Beach
Crescent Beach was the nastiest place I have fished on the strait – on the day I was there anyway. I was warned by an experienced friend about the “hellacious tide rip” when you get outside of Crescent Bay, and he was right.
I could hear it when I was paddling out of the bay. When I got to the buoy at the mouth of the bay, the whole area past that was literally standing waves – breaking waves like you would see in a river. It was peak current of the morning, so I fished inside of the bay for a while until it calmed down.
My friend also warned me about a big, sneaky rock that sits just under the surface of the water near the mouth of the bay. At certain tides and swells, like on the day I was there, it only breaks every once in a while – just infrequently enough that you could easily paddle over it without knowing until it broke right on you.
On the particular day I was there, it was a super easy launch but I knew the swell was supposed to pick up to 5-7 feet. When I got back in the afternoon, all of the surfers were out and they were raving about the 6-foot waves. This photo doesn’t do it justice, they never do, but it was definitely one of the bigger surf landings I have done.
Lastly, it’s $8 to park and launch. It’s actually $8 per person, $8 per pet, $8 for anything living, apparently.
That said, this area has some really good underwater rocky structure and you can head west from here to fish the Whiskey Creek area as well.
#5 Twin Rivers and Deep Creek
There are several places to launch a kayak in this area where the road gets really close to the strait. You’ll want wheels or a friend to help carry your kayak down the beach. Since you’re parking in a pull-off, it’s free.
These launches are pretty much entirely unprotected from swell – If there is a swell, there will be waves on the beach. Twin Creeks is a popular surf spot and the waves pick up there in particular some times.
This area, overall, has a good combination of rocky areas and some big mounds and shelves that aren’t too far from shore.
#6 Pillar Point Recreation Area
Pillar Point Rec area is another free launch where there is a boat ramp. However, at lower tides, the boat ramp can be VERY far from the water (several hundred yards). On one particular day I went it was very low when I launched, so I rolled my kayak west over to Butler creek (much closer) and let the river take me out to the strait. It was fun.
One of the times I fished the Pillar Point area, I let the outgoing current take me west around Pillar Point and past Codfish Cove. I fished the slack out there and then let the current take me east back to the launch. I definitely wouldn’t recommend that type of trip until you are very familiar with tides and current, but it really pays off when you figure it out.
This is one of my favorite areas on the strait because there are huge, scenic cliffs, and it just feels really productive. If you look at bathymetric maps you can see that from the shore it drops off very quickly.
I have also seen orcas cruising the shoreline here, which makes for an amazing day regardless of number of fish caught.
#7 Sekiu River/Kydaka Point
Once you pass Sekiu, the road leaves the water for a bit. When it returns, there is a long beach with several pull-offs where you can launch a kayak. This beach is open and unprotected so it’s only an option when there isn’t much swell. From here you can paddle east and fish Kydaka point.
Kydaka point is another area that can be really sketchy. There is an underwater rocky point that extends north from the point itself, and the current picks up speed to the point where it forms a standing, breaking wave. You wouldn’t want to go east past the point and then come back to a surprise. The nice thing we found, though, is you can avoid the strong current and waves by going out deeper to fish – sometimes it feels counter intuitive to go further away from the shore to stay safe, but sometimes it’s exactly what you need to do.
This area, like a lot of the other spots on the strait, has a good combination of rocky structure, sand, and more.
The Strait of Juan De Fuca has excellent opportunity for kayak anglers in terms of both diversity of fishing and accessibility for launching. I could easily spend a lifetime exploring the area and would highly recommend it as a kayak fishing destination for those with the necessary experience and safety gear.