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Andrew Bennett Breaks Down Seattle’s Sea-Run Cutthroat Fishing
Posted on April 8, 2014

SRC in Photarium

Eddie Bauer fishing guide Andrew Bennett has traveled the globe to remote locations in search of some world-famous fish. But one of his favorite fishing experiences is in his very urban hometown of Seattle, Washington. The Puget Sound is known for its salmon and steelhead fishing, but amidst the skyscrapers, sprawl, and nearly constant traffic back-ups, one of the often overlooked favorites of the 206 fly-fishing crowd is the sea-run cutthroat. Bennett gives us a basic education on our special hometown fish. —LYA Editor

Fishing the Sound

Words by Andrew Bennett, Images by Keith Robbins and Ed Sozinho

Here in the Puget Sound region where Eddie Bauer makes its home, salmon and steelhead are the best-known game fish.  In the early 1900s, Eddie himself was an avid salmon fisherman, and salmon and steelhead anglers today put in many hours on Puget Sound locations near Seattle and on the rivers in the area.

One local fish that’s often overlooked, though, is the sea-run cutthroat trout.  These beautiful local fish provide great angling opportunities, with incredibly easy access just minutes from even downtown Seattle.

Sea-run cutthroats, or SRCs for short, have a life cycle that’s a lot like that of a salmon or steelhead.  They hatch in freshwater rivers and streams, head out to the saltwater to feed and mature, and then return to the freshwater to spawn.  During the time that SRCs spend in the saltwater, they don’t go to the open ocean like salmon and steelhead do. They typically stay within 10 miles of their native stream.  That makes for excellent fishing nearly year-round in areas with lots of stream mouths like Puget Sound!

SRCs do a lot of their feeding in very shallow water right off the beach.  Fly anglers using 5- and 6-weight rods have great chances to catch fish by simply casting on foot from one of countless public access areas around Puget Sound–even big public beaches like Lincoln Park and Golden Gardens.  No complicated gear is required–just the same rod, reel, and waders that you’d use trout fishing on most rivers, and a saltwater fly line.  Most SRC flies imitate the baitfish that make up the bulk of the diet of these fish. Old standards like the Chartreuse and White Clouser have caught countless cutthroat trout in the saltwater.

Beach fishing is a really easy, low-maintenance way to catch SRCs, but there are also some benefits to chasing them from a boat.  Boat anglers still cast into shallow water off the beaches. They just pull the boat close to shore, drift with the tide, and cast towards the shoreline.  Setting up these drifts on the tide allows boat anglers to cover more water in their search for fish, and if a particular beach doesn’t seem to hold fish on any given day, it’s quite a bit easier for a boat angler to just pick up and move!  Local guides like Keith Robbins and Chris Senyohl take care of all the details and deliver an incredible day on the water–just minutes from the Space Needle.

Seattle Urban Fishery

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Author: - Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

  1. Rod Hamilton

    Hi Andrew; Great article an tips on searun cutties. One of my favorite fish that swims. I fish the shores of Vancouver Island, in fact come home from the tropics just to time it so I’m casting my six weight to cutties as the fry are leaving the rivers.

  2. Ed Sauriol

    Ah how I miss fishing Puget Sound for SRC’s. These fish are there nearly all year, and provide the angler with a good chance to catch a decent size trout without travelling to a distant blue ribbon stream. Cutts are easy too. They would probably hit a Snickers bar if we could figure out how to get it on a hook.

  3. Andrew Bennett

    Thanks for the good words, guys! Great to hear from folks who love SRCs as much as I do.

    Ed, agreed on the Snickers bar – how do you think that would cast on a 6 weight?

  4. Gary Watson

    Great article enjoy hearing others speak out about one of nature’s most beautiful fish. And yes they are around all year. They love log and rocky areas for cover. I have done well on sandy rocky beaches. Plan on spending time this winter on the Hood Canal and the Bays around Port Townsend. SRC’s are just so much fun to catch on light fly fishing gear.

  5. John McKindley

    I live near the Puget Sound in a small inSeattle suburb known as Normandy Park just south of Burien. I don’t use a fly pole but I do use flies on a 10’medium weight steelhead rod with a spinning reel. I use clear water fillable bobbers and a six foot 4lb leader. I’ve had good luck with this setup. Some of my favorite flies are the muddler minnow pink, chartreuse, white, brown, and olive or a combination of these colors in the form of a clouser fly. Pistol Petes which are basically a wolly bugger with a silver spinning prop on the front, decievers work well, and a fly I can’t remember the name of. It looks like a small red worm with a gold head and hook in the center. I’ve also had luck putting a spinning prop on the front of a wolly bugger, deciever or muddler minnow. These fish strike hard and put up a good fight. It’s all catch and release with single barbless books which is probably why its the fastest growing fishery in the Sound. Now it’s time to save up for a six weight fly rod and some lessons. They also hit a variety of spinners, spoons, buzz bombs, blue fox and other lures but they are most fun to catch with flies in my opinion. Happy fishing!!!

  6. Mo

    Any good SRC beaches in Olympia?

  7. Andrew Bennett

    Hi Mo,

    Thanks for stopping by! I haven’t fished the Sound much around Olympia – sorry I don’t have any specific recommendations for you.

    Look for structure and current and give it a go!


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