LaPush Salmon/Bottomfish Fishing

Getting There : LaPush is a small coastal Indian town at the mouth of the Quileute River, slightly north and west of Forks Washington. This town is on the Quileute Indian reservation, so you need to abide by their tribal regulations.

If you are coming from the eastern part of the peninsula as from Port Townsend, you will be on Hiway 101. About 1 mile before you get to Forks, Hiway 110 heads west and ends at La Push, which is about 14 miles.

Coming from the south and Aberdeen, again on Hiway 101, head northwest toward Lake Quinault, on past to Forks. About a mile past the town of Forks, take Hiway 110 west to it’s end at La Push.

Marina : The Quileute Indian tribe has recently built a marina and which has a good launch, 96 slip moorage and a fuel dock. There are Showers and Restrooms, boat pump-out, fish processing available. The marina is open 7AM to 7 PM Monday thru Sunday. The harbormaster can be reached at 360-374-5392 or VHF channel 80 using the call sign of “Quileute Marina”. The word is he does not take reservations other that prepaid monthly berthing. Prepay the launch fee and get your berth assigned at the Harbormaster’s office on the western end of the boat basin before you launch. The marina has fuel, however it has been known to run out on a heavily used halibut opener. The precaution would be to bring some 5 gallon gas cans and if need be, run back to Forks for enough fuel to get by until they get a delivery, which is usually the next day.

Billy Brux is the Harbor Master now and he is making some changes, he has a card lock system for fuel so you can fuel up your boat even when the marina is closed, the fuel there does not have ethanol so you don’t need to worry about a big shot of water and alcohol in your gas, he’s put in a new gas dock. And is working on replacing all of the docks, he has frozen bait and sometimes ice from High Tide.

There can be confusion as to assigned mooring berths, if you happen to be there on heavily used days like the halibut openers. During the height of one of these the seasons, all the berths may be taken. It is advisable to return early to reclaim your berth, OR leave your electrical power cable tied to the dock in plain view at your berth. Some boaters will leave extra bumpers tied to the dock to “save” their space. Others have been known to make up a sign with their boat name & attach it to the berth area to save it.

There is assigned boat trailer parking and if any trailers are parked in the vehicle area and not moved within the time requested by the harbormaster by him posting a notice on the trailer, it will be towed off.

There is a fish cleaning station on the upper dock near the marina office, but to access it from water, you have to tie up to the fuel dock, thereby blocking other boats who need to refuel. Many fishermen will purchase a 2′ X 4′ plastic folding table and use it for a portable cleaning station on the dock near their boat. If you choose this table method, make a back for it so your fish won’t slide off and be lost under the dock (one fisherman lost 1/2 of a nice halibut this way).

When cleaning fish, during heavily used periods a sign is posted on the docks to not dump the carcasses in the marina waters as this tends to attract more sea lions. These carcasses need to be hauled out and dumped in the river or ocean. However it is OK to throw out the small skins and guts that the sea gulls will eat as soon as they hit the water. These sea gulls get brave and will even sneak up behind you, take fish fillets right out of your plastic bags 2 feet from you if you are not watching.

RV Spots / Accommodations : However if you have your boat moored here, you can park your camper in the parking lot overlooking the boat basin for an extra $2.00 a day. There are not any hook-ups for this option however.

There is Quileute River’s Edge Restaurant 360-374-5777, near the marina office. During the summer there will be garbage dumpsters and “Honey Buckets” placed strategically around the marina.

Quileute Nation Ocean Beach resort 360-374-5267 or 800-487-1267 Click here for website. Also click on the thumbnail below for a map of their complex. This is within walking distance of the marina.



The accommodations and check-in office apparently is the Lonesome Creek Store and Resort, 490 Ocean Dr. La Push WA 98350 phone 360-374-4338 for the resort or 360-374-4333 for the store This also doubles as a general store, on the left just as you come into town.

There is another RV and camp grounds back about 6 miles at the intersection to Mora, called Three Rivers Resort & RV, 7764 Lapush Rd, Forks, WA, 98331 phone 360-374-5300 or click here for their website They have camping, RV sites & cabins, restrooms and showers plus a restaurant.

There is a nice motel/cabin/RV park there

You can get beer about 3 miles away at Three Rivers Resort. There are restaurants at LaPush and Three Rivers. The town of Forks is 12 miles away if you need a supermarket or fuel.

The US Coast Guard station is located at the northeast end of the marina.


 Boat launch at La Push with the main moorage to the left  & float D visible.  The Coast Guard moorage on the right. Coast Guard Bar Restrictions

USCG : The Coast Guard’s operations are on the east end of the boat basin. The phone number for this station is 1-360-374-6469. The Coast Guard has a yellow sign on the upper end of their boat coverage (as seen in the upper RH picture) to the east of the launch. IF the wave height is over 4′ the there will be 2 yellow flashing lights on the upper sides of this sign. This indicates a rough bar and they have closed it for crossing.


“For those of you who fish out of LaPush we have just installed an AM radio transmitter, identical to the kind you see broadcasting highway information. The broadcast, on 1610 AM, has the local weather and bar conditions as well as any restrictions placed on boats due to hazardous conditions. The signal can be heard at about Three Rivers. You can also call in and hear the same broadcast by calling 360-374-6993.

The same type of system is currently operating on the Columbia River. All the major coastal entrances will have the same system in operation by the first of the year 2007. If you want to check the bar conditions and get the current local weather for the Quillayute River, 360-374-6993 phone number will also get you to the pre recorded messages.” (10-31-06)

 Heading Out : Your best bet would be to pick a day where you can cross at either a high or low slack tide unless the water is relatively flat. However time and tides many times do not coincide with fishing needs.

Going out, from the boat basin, you enter the Quileute River, you will turn left, then head downstream or west. Water depth may be only 10′ deep. The channel is not wide, follow the small buoys and the south jetty out to it’s end, James Island will be on the Northwest, (RH). You pass between the island and the end of the south jetty. The slot is minimal in comparison to other river bars, by Google Earth measurements it is only 100 yards wide. Once you are past the end of the jetty you are basically in the open ocean. You will however notice (if the tide is right) a awash rock on the north side of the channel near the island which may be awash depending on the tide, so don’t hold close to the island once you are past it. Most of the boats crossing the bar head south toward #2 buoy and make a big circle around the island if they are heading north or northwest. Once you get across the “Bar” the channel is only 20′ deep and runs in a mostly southerly direction.

Once you are out, if there is a westerly wind, when leaving this narrow entrance, if you loose track of time and think you are now in the open ocean, you have to be careful the waves don’t push you on the beach. After you leave the protection of James Island, and you dally around, the wind and waves tend to shove you toward the beach if you are not careful.

The good news however is during fishing season, the weather conditions are usually not that severe plus the island and the jetty somewhat protects most of the entrance. One exception exists: on the halibut openers in the spring, a heavy southerly or southwesterly wind, and the swell then comes directly into the mouth of the river and in this event, simply do not go fishing, especially if you have to cross on a low tide.

The bar is narrow and has a turn to port (left) going out at the outer part of the bar. If you have to cross at a less than ideal tide, you are broadside to the normal swells that are coming in from the West plus they bounce back off the jetty, Wash Rock, and James Island so it can get choppy. You’ll need to have enough power to get through quickly. Just outside it is shallow in relationship to other bars, at low tide, there is 20’ + of depth so that shouldn’t be a real problem. Going out and coming in it is best to stay in the middle to the South shore of the river along the rip rap. It is deeper there. Just need to keep an eye out for Indian nets.

Here the Coast Guard is in training just south of the bar, look at the breakers rolling on the beach and the muddy shallow  water farther out  Here the Coast Guard boat coming back in just inside the end of the jetty, in a stormy foggy day

The above photos are not to scare you away, but to inform you what can happen in bad conditions. The good news is, this is not the customary wind and during the summer, it is unusual. If the prevailing summer winds are west-northwest then these are mostly blocked by James Island, making the normal trip to the ocean the easiest and quickest on Washington’s coast. However you may get a southwesterly wind and if it is considerable, you may need to call the Coast Guard and or take a look yourself at the bar conditions.

Lastly, many knowledgeable boaters use this general rule, if looking at, or listening to a marine weather forecast, if the sum of the Wind Waves + the Height of the Swell meets or exceed the Time, in seconds, STAY HOME. This is called by some as the waves/time being squared.

If it gets nasty the Coast Guard will close the bar.


Wind Wave, 3-4 ft + Swell, 7 ft. = 11 total

Time, in seconds = 10 STAY ON THE BEACH

(Wave + Swell exceeds Time)

Slack Tide ; It’s surprising how many fishermen believe that slack water occurs simultaneous to high tide and simultaneous to low tide, when in fact it occurs significantly later. Sadly, it’s written as such in many accounts and once something is printed, it then becomes the gosphul. In reality, the time lag between high tide to high slack water, then between low tide and low slack water is about 1 hour per 3 foot of tide differential. That is to say, if the difference between high water and low water is 6 feet in your locale, it will take about 2 hours for the momentum of the tidal current to unwind.

As an aside, slack water lasts approximately 30 minutes and there are two slack water periods per tide cycle. Despite popular belief, the tidal current does not flood for 6 hours and ebb for 6 hours, because the tide is running only 11 out of the 12 hours. The above all being said, wind can also add to this situation.



Chart of the channel & marina

GPS Locations :  Listed here are some of the GPS locations that may prove usable.


LaPush dock 47-54-70 124-38-40 . . .
Quileute channel entrance 47-54-38 124-38-70 . . .
James Island (southwest end) 47-54-40 124-38-70 . . .
Q buoy 47-53-50 124-40-50 . . Salmon
Quileute Needles 47-52-53 124-38-27


. Bottomfish
Carroll Island 47-58-50 124-43-75 . . Bottomfish
Awash Rock 47-58-90 124-43-72


. Bottomfish
Sea Lion Rock 47-59-58 124-43-65


. Bottomfish
The Rock Pile 47-57-00 124-50-21  130′ 7 1/2 miles Ling Cod
Inside the “C” halibut closure 48-08-244 125-03-413  640′ . Halibut
North of the closure 48-34-85 124-57-05 . . Halibut
SW corner of closure 47-59-863 125-17-379


30 mile run Halibut/Lings

 All the photos below were taken at near a high tide on a calm day.  

  Looking out the south jetty to James Island   An Indian fisherman netting in the channel

Looking out at the “Bar”, distance from the south jetty to island is about 300′

Outside, looking back at the slot with Little James Island directly astern

It is suggested however you take a GPS reading of this entrance for safe return if happens to be foggy.

This location can be a sleeper as for fishing, in that not that many fishermen go out of here, however some some Westport charter boats are running out of here for halibut. Salmon season can be very productive, plus there are plenty of small rock islands near shore that abound with Sea Bass, Cabezon, & Ling Cod.

 Bottom Fish : You can be in prime sea bass and Ling Cod locations within 15 minutes of leaving the boat basin. Just go out around James Island, hang a right heading north, there are many small islands and rock reefs that may be partially submerged. One word of caution, is that there can be many partially submerged rocks that can play havoc to boat hulls and props is you do not pay attention when running closer, within a mile or so of shore. However these can all be excellent bottomfish locations. These locations are so numerous that there is no need to save any GPS numbers, just find rock structure and watch your depthfinder, get the lure in the water. Most lures will be jigs of some sort in from 1 to 3 oz. size. However if you have some old freezer burned herring, this is a good chance to put it to use, as these fish are not that picky. Just rig it up on a short mooching leader with about 2 oz of lead.

One location that is frequented by many fishermen is for Ling Cod is The Rock Pile, which is a rocky hump about 7 1/2 miles NW & at about 130′ of water. However as of 2006 the regulations are restrictive at 20 fathoms for bottomfish, and that puts this location off limits at any time there is NOT a halibut season running.

Once we saw lots of fish on the depthfinder screen directly under the boat, but nothing could be caught, in bringing the jig in it was observed the sea bass were just playing with the worm tails. In retrospect, maybe this would have been the time for small chunks of herring, or changing to a SMALLER jig.

The large Ling Cod below was taken on a small live sea bass near one of the many islands. If this happens, you will have to net the Ling soon as it is not hooked, but just holding onto your hooked smaller fish.

Ling Cod taken near Carroll Island on live kelp greenling after a day of halibut fishing


Halibut : Most of the halibut fishing well probably be north of the river entrance. There is a large “C” shaped closure north of here, most fishermen will fish in the open part of the “C” or south of the closure. You need to mark the closure on your GPS and or plotter, so you can be sure you are fishing in legal waters. Some even run farther west, to a prime location that is about 30 miles from the harbor known as SW-2. If this on your itinerary, it is suggested that you run with a partner boat for safety’s sake, plus take extra fuel.

The halibut closure northwest of LaPush, it is shaped like a big C with the center open for halibut fishing. The open area is about 5 miles wide and 4 miles north and south. The opening GPS is 48-11-00 / 124-58-00 on the NE corner, 48-11-00 / 125-11-00 on the NW corner, 48-04-00 / 125-11-00 on the SW corner, 48-04-00 / 125-59-00 on the SE corner. Most of the depths here will be from 85 fathom (510′) on deeper.

Halibut Closure


I am sure that by looking at the charts, you should be able to find fish in a reasonable proximity to the harbor, without going that far.

Salmon : Well, I have not fished salmon out of this location, (hope to remedy this situation summer of 2012) so I will relay info I have obtained from a friend who has done it a lot years ago.

It appears that the best salmon fishing is from the Q buoy, (straight out from the entrance) north to Carrol Island (Latitude 48.00.00) The normal “go to” location is straight out and North to near the Rock Pile, it is about 8 miles on a 270 heading from the outside of James Island. It can hold lots of fish, but it is a long run for here, you can often do just as well in closer. Later in the season the fishing can be hot near the Q buoy (the old skunk buoy). Most of these Chinook will not be deep, at from 30′ to 50′ down. Many who fish here use mooching gear or troll with a diver. Also for those of you who may be a downrigger person, there are a number of sea spikes in this area where you can get a cannon ball hung. Even a few awash rocks to be on the outlook for.

In talking to some of the locals who fish out of here, they told me it was a perfect place for small boats in the month of August. The water is pretty much flat with no bar to cross like at Westport or the Columbia River. There are lots of salmon and bottom fishing areas within a few miles of the marina. You could be fishing out of LaPush by the time you got from the marina to the bar in Westport. In the late fall WDFW runs a late special season and there is usually a salmon derby associated with this timing. This time of the year it is not crowded so lots of slips should be available in the marina as well. It is not uncommon for the locals to use 16 foot skiffs to fish here in the fall.

Water temp is important at LaPush. Colder water is better. It is not unusual to run in warmer water with a high plankton count some distance out from shore. Not sure if it is surface flow (warm on top of cold) or if it goes deeper. You can also spend some time just off the beach around the what everyone used to call the “Skunk Buoy” which is outer entrance buoy (now replaced by the Q buoy), troll North / South which can also be productive.

The drift can be pretty strong at times. And usually it seems to run north to south.

Safety : Fog is always a concern here. A GPS plotter would be a must for this area and radar is a wonderful invention that can be put to good use here also. Without GPS plotter when you are off-shore, the coast looks a lot the same. Heading East gets you to shore, but not necessarily where you want to be. And closer to shore in the fog can be dangerous because of the numerous rock islands, (large and small). Remember LaPush is the only port between Neah Bay and Westport and either is a LONG run.

There can be an occasional “Sleeper Wave”, but this can happen about anywhere. On 5-14-05 a 22′ Seasport took one of these broadside & rolled it over while bottomfishing near Hand Rock in 46′ of water. It threw the 2 the fishermen from the rear deck into the water with the skipper still inside, he swam out & helped pull the others onto the trim tabs of the overturned boat. Another buddy boat was nearby & picked them up. The boat was then mashed against the rocky shore & destroyed by the time when the Coast Guard could get there as they were in another rescue mission at the same time & by then this crew were safe aboard another boat.

In retrospect the skipper decided that fishing in a spot where the depth goes from 120-40 in a short amount of distance will be avoided on days with wind/current/weather. This is most likely what happed as a large swell bounced up & back from the under water ledge and built up a already large wave that had to have been 50% larger already. He was sea bass fishing and the stern was quartering to this wave, filling the open rear deck, sucking the boat under. His best guess is that the wave that hit him was around 18′ tall and moving fast. He said it was ALL OVER IN 3 SECONDS FLAT.

Wear your Personal Flotation Device at all times when on the water.

Heading Back in : Under normal conditions, the bar crossing is uneventful, but as said before, it can be dangerous if high southwesterly winds are prevalent, specially on a low tide. If you are heading back in from the north, just pull in toward shore, run toward Carroll Island and Sea Lion Rock, then to Cake Rock, the next island will be James Island. Swing wide, line up with the buoys & head into the slot.



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