Puget Sound – For much of the year, most of Puget Sound hides under saltwater.
We anglers read surface currents, standing waves and current rips to find sea-run cutthroat trout and resident coho salmon.
But Puget Sound can’t hide this week from some of the lowest tides of the year.
Puget Sound always has very low tides during the summer solstice, and there is no better time to get out onto a beach and find new spots to fish.
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These spots are often high and dry during big minus tides – the tide in Eld Inlet today will drop from a high of 14.8 feet at 5:08 a.m. to a low of minus 4.5 feet at 12:45 p.m.
That means the water level will drop a whopping 19.3 feet in less than 8 hours. That is more than 2 feet an hour – it will be like watching water drain out of a bathtub.
We will have big minus tides through Saturday.
Boats moored in shallow marinas will sink their hulls in bottom mud.
All kinds of weird Puget Sound creatures – such a big moon snails, Lion’s Mane jellyfish and countless strange crabs and crustaceans – will appear.
And the fishing – and the scouting for future fishing spots – should be great.
The fishing gets hot because the dropping water levels and strong currents will feed tons of food into rips – the current seam between fast and slow water – along the beaches. Rips will form and vanish very quickly, as the water level will drop so fast.
A rip that was producing strikes from sea-run cutts will be high and dry an hour or so later.
If you’re fishing, it’s a good idea to get out on the water as early in the falling tide as possible, because our South Sound inlets will be mostly empty of water well before low tide.
Anglers with boats can keep drifting down the inlets and fish the rips until the tide goes slack.
The idea of floating along and fishing miles of beaches and hitting rip after rip gets anglers’ hearts rattling around in their chests – but those anglers might have to bob around the deep part of Puget Sound for a few hours after the fishing ends.
It might take that much time for the incoming tide to reach boat ramps and marinas. It’s hard to run a boat over a couple miles of mudflat to reach a launch ramp.
Boaters also will find shoals and reefs in new spots. In a sense, Puget Sound becomes an entirely different body of water for a few hours.
Anglers – and their families – can find plenty of interesting things where the inlets are almost dry.
This is the time to walk the beaches and find the oyster beds, ledges, rocks, submerged pilings, kelp patches and channels that often hold sea-run cutts and resident coho when water covers the bottom.
I like to take along a camera and take photos. Your photo should include landmarks – such as a tree, house, dock or shoreline rock – so you can find your new hot spot when it’s under water.
It’s also a lot of fun to just wander around on spots that are usually under several feet of saltwater.
The falling tide flushes almost all creatures that swim, drift, scuttle or ooze out of their hiding spots.
Strange little fish – sculpins and other spiny, goggle-eyed bottom-dwellers – are often trapped in backwaters and temporary ponds.
Millions of tiny crabs scuttle over the beach, and big clams hidden in the bottom muck send fountains of siphon water into the air.
Great blue herons stalk over the sticky, dangerous mud flats to ambush fish caught in ponds or crabs looking for a place to hide.
Sometimes, five or six of the big, elegant predators hunt in the same area – and screech and squabble with each other.
Kids – and adults – love all of this.
Be sure to stay on hard pebble or gravel – even if it is tempting to set out across that mudflat. That mudflat can trap you like quicksand.
Besides, there is more to see and do on the rocky, barnacle-studded parts of the beach, where Puget Sound’s mysteries are revealed – for a few hours.
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226
Ride the Tide
A visit to www.saltwatertides.com is a good way to get tide tables for this week of low water. This newspaper also publishes tide tables.
Anglers and other lovers of the outdoors who want to see an entire low tide – from high slack to low slack – will have to get up early this week. Here are the tides for Eld Inlet:
Today: High tide is at 5:08 a.m., and low tide is at 12:45 p.m.
Wednesday: High tide is at 6:04 a.m. and low tide is at 1:34 p.m.
Thursday: High tide is at 7:03 a.m. and low tide is at 2:22 p.m.
Friday: High tide is at 8:07 a.m. and low tide is at 3:10 p.m.
Saturday: High tide is at 9:16 a.m. and low tide is at 3:59 p.m.