Lake Sammamish Chinook

With over 26,000 Chinook expecting to return this year (2008), this may be the time you might want to try this little gem that’s been a secret for years. Lake Sammamish has always been the “alternative” to Lake Washington when it comes to Cutthroat, but when it comes to Chinook it’s a great choice if you want to battle some big fish and don’t care that they’re not chrome bright.

And when I say big fish, I’m talking mid 20’s to 30lb fish are not uncommon. I’ve seen fish that would flirt with the 40lb mark but personally have not hooked one that big, yet!

I’ll be honest, most the Chinook you catch you’ll probably want to release after taking a look at their gnarly snout and brownish colored skin as these fish have been in fresh water for while and they’re preparing to spawn. Occasionally you’ll get one that’s not so colored up, but for the most part they’re just ugly. BUT, if you want a fish for the smoker the meat is generally firm, bright orange and will smoke up fine.

If you do choose to keep one, take care of them right away, this includes bleeding immediately, cleaning shortly after, then stuffing with ice and putting into a good cooler, see below.

Almost 30lbs of Lake Sammamish Chinook headed for the smoker

Now, how to fish for them.

The majority of these fish will congregate in front of the mouth of Issaquah Creek until they feel it’s ready to take their final swim upstream, or until the rains cause the creek to rise high enough to where they can swim freely upstream. The launch at Lake Sammamish State Park (12) provides an easy eye shot of where to fish. Basically launch and go out 100 yards and you’re ready to get the downriggers down (11). Be careful and keep your distance from the mouth of the creek. Please read the Washington State Regulations for rules and regulations regarding gear, limits, seasons and distance to stay away from the creek.

I like to troll in the 50 – 80ft area but will wonder shallower or deeper if I’m not marking fish. These fish tend to suspend so a good fish finder is a must! Where you mark fish you’ll want to adjust your downrigger. You can fish without a downrigger and/or fish finder, but the most successful fisherman here are constantly adjusting to where the fish are.

If you’re you’re not marking fish, or you don’t see other’s picking fish up, another spot where these fish tend to hold is up north where the lake narrows towards Weber Point. Fish right down the middle and do a figure 8 when you mark fish.

The stuff you use in the salt will work in the lake. Cut plug herring, hootchies, Ace Hi Flies, spoons, they’ll all work. Worden’s Flat Fish will work too! But, the most consistent producer seems to be something we’ll borrow from Lake Washington, a dodger and two red hooks.

While with Sockeye fishing in Lake Washington you can use any color of hook, you really want to stick with RED for the Chinook. And since these aren’t Sockeye, we’re going to use a little heavier leader, 30 – 50lb and a little larger hook size, 3/0 or 4/0. We’ll also troll a little faster than we do for Sockeye, maybe 1.5 – 2mph.

With all the leaders, use approx. 30″ behind a dodger, or 33 – 36″ behind a flasher. This isn’t an “exact” measurement so something in the ballpark will do just fine.

Just recently I’ve experimented with the Kone Zone and have good luck with either a cut plug herring or Silver Horde Spoon 40″ behind. This is a great way to fish since there is not drag from the flasher when you’re fighting the fish.

With either a spoon or the flat fish, use something with Chartreuse.

Your flasher, dodger or Kone Zone should also be Chartreuse. I’ve taken strips of chartreuse stickers and put them on a chrome dodger with good success.

Yes, any color is good as long as it’s green, but in this case FLORESCENT GREEN, or Chartreuse.

Scent it up! Whatever your presentation make sure and use scent. With bare hooks I’ve had good luck with Pautzke’s Krill Gel. You can also use this on your dodger or flasher. When using herring or a spoon, I’ve also had good luck with anise.

You’ll find trolling it gets a little crowded. Please watch out for those that have fish on. These are some big fish in not so deep water so they can run out quite a ways.

And please respect others and give all boats plenty of room to fish. There are some Guides that do extremely well in this fishery and they get followed almost to the point of harassment.

Have fun, catch some big ones and let them return to spawn if you don’t need fish for the smoker.