Are you Interested in going spearfishing off the magnificent coast of Washington? If you are, read on to find out about the best locations, types of fish, and regulations when spearfishing in Washington.
The Washington Coast (157 miles) with its rocky cliffs, beautiful islands, and quaint towns is a land of adventure. It’s filled with a coastline that’s beautiful and challenging for the beginner and avid spearo.
I have had some great times spearfishing in Washington and I’m here to tell you about some places I have enjoyed with friends and family and the types of fish you’ll enjoy spearfishing and eating. Let’s get started!
Washington Spearfishing Regulations
Are you able to spearfish in Washington State? Yes, you are. You are able to spearfish in Washington for personal use in saltwater, except for Salmon, trout, steelhead, and sturgeon – Washington Spearfishing Regulations.
You are also permitted to spearfish in lakes and rivers for non-game fish. For example, you couldn’t spearfish for salmon, steelhead and trout.
Best Washington Spearfishing Locations
A word of caution, the places I recommend to spearfish in Washington are typically not for the novice spearo. At times conditions can be challenging and unsafe. Always spearfish with a buddy. More on safety as you read on…be safe!
Neah Bay is located at the most northwest corner of the United States. It is absolutely fantastic for diving and spearfishing. The water is clear and nutrient-rich for marine life. You can use a boat, kayak, and also shore dive.
I would recommend driving to Curley’s Dive Resort in Sekiu and ask them about how the current conditions are. If interested Curley’s is a great place to stay and has a small dive shop to pick up supplies if needed (air station). It’s always great to speak to locals for up to date information.
Side note, I prefer to free dive when spearfishing, but many use tanks in the area, and I’m ok with that. I’ve done it in my early days of spearfishing, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite on the subject. You will also experience some deep water in Neah Bay, so tanks are beneficial.
Neah Bay jetty
If you would like to do a shore dive Neah Bay Jetty is excellent. The last time I went the visibility was fantastic. About 40 – 50 ft. I would say. Let me tell you a little bit more about what to do.
First, when you drive out to the jetty check with the Big Salmon Shop that it’s ok to go for a dive and to spearfish. It should be ok but it’s good to be respectful of the locals – Makah Indians. If you stopped at Curley’s Dive Resort they will also give you some good pointers. You will also need to purchase a Makah Indian Reservation Recreation tag in order to park.
You want to spearfish on the west side of the jetty. I’ve never gone spearfishing on the east side because frankly I was told it’s not worth it…”just dive the west side”.
There are some great kelp beds out there filled with fish but as always be safe. Side note: If you’re new to spearfishing or swimming through kelp, be calm and take it slow. Many times an excited swimmer or diver will get tangled in kelp and it can result in the worst possible outcome. Sadly, my understanding is this has happened around this spot. Please be safe and always dive/spearfish with a buddy.
Do a “kelp crawl” – calmly push the kelp down or away from you and it will typically separate and gradually move away from you…take your time! It should be a given but always carry a dive knife with you. If you do get tangled in kelp you can cut yourself out…calmly. Here’s a dive knife I recommend if you’re interested.
Types of Fish
What types of fish will you come across? Your common rock cod, sea bass, and two of my favorite – Lingcod and cabezon…my buddy and I maxed out our limit quickly the last time we were there. These types of fish are what you will find throughout the Northwest.
I’ve speared lingcod and cabezon out in the open sitting on rocks but in most cases you will find them hiding in rock holes or small caves. I would highly suggest bring a small dive light and shine in holes and small caves to see what’s lurking. Many times you find two eyes looking right out you. Don’t get overly excited…take aim and there you have it, a beautiful lingcod at the end of your spear. Regulations on size and limits do change, so here’s a link to confirm the latest with WDFD.
My experience spearfishing along Neah Bay Jetty was awesome and I highly recommend it. The visibility was great the day we went out and you couldn’t beat the marine life. The trek is a little bit long but hey you’re a spearo and will do what it takes. Now got checkout Neah Bay.
San Juan Islands
If you’re up for an adventure and want to get away from the mainland, the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast just can’t be beaten. The islands are absolutely beautiful and are a special place to go spearfishing.
My buddy was getting married on San Juan Island (there are many islands) and of course I brought my gear. If you’re not familiar with the waters of the Northwest they are cold, so bring a wetsuit…6mm plus…I brought a 7mm with hood. Here’s one I recommend.
We were staying in the town of Friday Harbor for the wedding and the day after the wedding we decided to explore the island and took off heading northwest along Roche Harbor Road towards the town of Roche Harbor. It truly is a beautiful drive and my cell phone started to go back and forth thinking it was Canada. Yep, if you haven’t been to the San Juans you are just southeast of Victoria Island, Canada…another beautiful place with excellent spearfishing…we’ll chat another day about British Columbia spearfishing.
We couldn’t resist, we were about 2 miles from Roche Harbor and we came across a spot where we could pull over and park. We climbed down the rocks and sat on the rocks, talked about our game plan, and looked out. There was a small rock formation poking out of the ocean about 50 yards out…perfect! Let me tell you the spearfishing was incredible. Two Lingcods each and my buddy also speared a cabezon. There were many rock cod but we didn’t go after any. The visibility was about 35′ or so with a little bit of kelp…perfect spearfishing conditions. Just a great weekend all around.
Ruby Beach is another beautiful location located in the Olympic National Park. It’s not just great for spearfishing but the entire family can enjoy the beach and ocean. It’s very similar to Cannon Beach in Oregon if you have ever been there (Oregon spearfishing). It also has sea stacks coming out of the ocean, just like Cannon Beach…but smaller ones (more of them). Whenever I see a sea stack I get excited. It’s pretty simple really. When you get to Ruby Beach just lookout and pick a rock formation coming out of the ocean. swim or wade out to it and you’re in spearfishing heaven. I’ve brought out many a lingcod around those sea stacks. To my surprise I’ve never been able to get a cabezon. I actually don’t think I’ve ever seen one out there in the waters of Ruby Beach (they’re out there, I’m sure).
The last of my favorite destinations to spearfish is Cape Flattery. I advise this location is not for the beginner spearo. The ocean can get really big here and if you’re not a strong swimmer skip it and go grab a beer. The first time I tried there was too much swell and it wasn’t worth the risk. Again, I advise being very cautious whenever you swim/spearfish in the open water in the Northwest or anywhere for that matter. If the conditions aren’t safe, don’t do it. There will always be a safer day.
So, when I finally got a chance to do some spearfishing at Cape Flattery it was worth the wait. We did do some hiking to get to our entry point..a little tiring but the conditions were fantastic. There was an abundance of rock cod and my two favorites, you guessed it, lingcod and cabezon. It was time to eat!
You will see the below recipes throughout my blog…simple and good!
As you have probably guessed, I love to eat Lingcod and cabezon. Here’s a couple of ways how to prepare these great fish that I enjoy. Hope you do too!
- Beer batter them and have some delicious fish n’ chips. The following quick recipe is for 8, 4oz fillets, so add ingredients accordingly. 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of garlic powder, 3 tablespoons of paprika, 2 teaspoons of black pepper, 1 egg, 1 bottle of your favorite beer and a little salt. Mix all the ingredients together adding the beer last. Once complete dip the fish completely in the batter until they are fully coated. After that, dip the battered fish into 2 quarts of hot vegetable oil (365 degrees). You want the batter to turn a nice golden brown (about 10 – 12 minutes). Once done there you have it…delicious!
- Saute them – This is quick, easy and delicious. 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and get that going. Put the fish in and add some garlic and white wine. Add pepper and salt to taste and you are done.
Some recommended gear suggestions are below. As mentioned a good thick wetsuit is a must in the Pacific Northwest. Look for a wetsuit that is around 7 mm. Here’s also a link to my Recommended Gear page where you can find other useful gear when spearfishing.
Here are a few of my top recommendations, I found super useful when spearfishing:
There you have it. My favorite spots to go spearfishing in Washington State. Neah Bay/Neah Bay Jetty, San Juan Islands, Ruby Beach, and Cape Flattery. They’re all fantastic and if you can go… spearfish them all! Remember to stay calm and to look in holes, crevices, and even small caves when spearfishing for the big ones – lingcod and cabezon.
Again, sorry to harp on it but always use caution and your wits when spearfishing in the Northwest. The surf can get big and dangerous. There is always another day to go spearfishing. That being said when the conditions are right, it’s one of my favorite places. Even when I’m not spearfishing. Get out there and enjoy!