One spring Chinook down, 469,999 to go.
Or something like that.
While news of the first springer of the year may distract some anglers, there are plenty of other fishing opportunities to be had around Washington — rainbows, blackmouth, steelhead, browns, kokanee, sturgeon and more.
NORTH PUGET SOUND
Most marine areas in Puget Sound are open for salmon, but blackmouth fishing has yet to heat up this year.
“I’ve heard reports of anglers reeling in a salmon here and a salmon there, but overall fishing for blackmouth has been slow,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist.
Marine areas 7 (San Juan Islands), 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 9 (Admiralty Inlet) are open for blackmouth – resident chinook. Anglers fishing those marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.
Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.
In the rivers, steelhead fishing continues to be slow as well. Some hatchery steelhead have been reeled in recently at Reiter Ponds on the Skykomish River and at Tokul Creek. There also have been reports of some wild steelhead in the Pilchuck and Wallace rivers, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.
Leland reminds anglers that the Green River is closed to fishing from the 1st Ave. South Bridge upstream to the Tacoma Headworks Dam, and the Skagit and Sauk rivers close Feb. 16. With low steelhead returns expected back to those rivers, the emergency closures are necessary to protect wild steelhead, Leland said.
Meanwhile, a portion of the North Fork Nooksack River re-opened Feb. 2.
Details on all of these emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .
Freshwater anglers looking for a change of pace might want to try fishing for cutthroat trout in Lake Washington. The daily limit is five trout, but rainbow trout measuring more than 20 inches and steelhead must be released.
SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA
Several new areas of Puget Sound are opening to blackmouth fishing, more wild steelhead are moving into coastal rivers and another razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled for later this month.
“Blackmouth fishing has been pretty slow around the Sound, but these new areas could be a different story,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist. He was talking about marine areas 11 (Tacoma-Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal), both of which opened to fishing for resident chinook salmon Feb. 1.
Starting Feb. 13, anglers will also be able to fish for blackmouth in marine areas 5 and 6 on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
There is a daily limit of one chinook, measuring at least 22 inches, in all of those areas, although anglers fishing for blackmouth in Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) can keep two fish per day. Marine Area 10 (Seattle-Bremerton) closed for blackmouth fishing Jan. 31.
Rather fish for steelhead ? This is the time of year when wild steelhead begin moving into coastal rivers in large numbers and – as of Feb. 1 – most of those rivers were in good shape for fishing, said Randy Cooper, another WDFW fish biologist.
“Fishing has been pretty good on the lower Hoh River, although the Sol Duc has been drawing the largest number of anglers,” Cooper said. “Hatchery steelhead are clearly winding down, but the fishery for wild fish should keep improving through the month.”
Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. Specific rules for each river are described in the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm
WDFW has tentatively scheduled an evening razor clam dig at several ocean beaches in late February, pending the results of marine toxin tests. Shellfish managers are optimistic that elevated levels of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) – which disqualified Long Beach from a dig in late January – will have dissipated by then.
“The toxin appears to have moved up the coast from Oregon, where it has cleared up enough to open beaches for razor clam digging,” said Dan Ayes, WDFW coastal shellfish coordinator. “That’s a good sign, but it’s still important that diggers here wait for a final announcement on the opening before they hit the beach.”
Approved digging days in February for specific beaches are shown below, along with evening low tides:
* Friday, Feb. 26, (4:49 p.m., -0.7) Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Saturday, Feb. 27, (5:34 p.m., -0.9) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Sunday, Feb. 28, (6:16 p.m., -0.8) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
Harvesters may take no more than 15 razor clams and must keep the first 15 taken, regardless of size or condition. Each digger’s limit must be kept in a separate container. All diggers must have an applicable 2009-10 fishing license to dig razor clams on any beach. A license is required for anyone age 15 or older.
Anglers can buy a combination license or an annual shellfish/seaweed license. Also available are razor-clam only licenses in annual or three-day only versions. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov . A list of state license vendors is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/vendors/ .
The first spring chinook salmon of the year was caught Feb. 1 in the Columbia River off Davis Bar, west of Vancouver. The fish reportedly took a cutplug herring on a “downhill” troll with the current.
So began the 2010 spring chinook fishery, which could promise to be one of the best on record. With over 550,000 springers predicted to return to the Columbia River this year, anglers are already prospecting for early arrivals.
Columbia River anglers may retain hatchery-reared spring chinook under last year’s rules until fishery managers from Washington and Oregon meet to establish new fishing seasons for the remainder of 2010. That meeting, which is open to the public, is set to begin at 10 a.m. Feb. 18 in Oregon City, 211 Tumwater Dr.
But since the bulk of the spring chinook run isn’t expected to arrive until mid-March, anglers may want to consider some other options between now and then:
* Winter steelhead: Anglers fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging one to 1.5 steelhead per rod, although 70 percent of the fish were wild and had to be released. Meanwhile, late-run winter steelhead are beginning to move toward the hatcheries on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where they were raised. The fishery for late-run fish tends to peak in late February and early March, although some late-run steelhead are already beginning to show up in the catch.
* White sturgeon: Catch rates of legal-size sturgeon have picked up above Bonneville Dam in recent days, likely triggered by warming water temperatures. Sturgeon fishing in the lower river remains slow, but that could change if smelt return to the Cowlitz River in greater numbers than expected. Sturgeon regulations for all areas of the lower Columbia River listed in the Fishing in Washington rule pamphlet will remain in effect through February. New seasons will be set by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon at a public meeting scheduled Feb. 18 in Oregon City, Ore.
* Smelt: Projecting another poor return, WDFW is limiting the Cowlitz River sport fishery for smelt to four days this winter. The Cowlitz will be open for smelt dipping Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27, between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a 10-pound daily limit. Sport fishing for smelt on the mainstem Columbia River opened seven days per week, 24-hours day, starting Jan. 1, although anglers catch very few fish there. Commercial boats on the Columbia landed about 2,700 pounds of smelt in January, but the catch dropped off during the last few days of fishing.
* Trout: While nothing is certain, anglers have a pretty good chance of catching trout – some averaging eight pounds – in lakes planted by WDFW during the winter months. At Klineline Pond, 106 bank anglers caught and kept 123 catchable-size rainbows and 10 broodstock rainbows and released another 106 catchables and three brooders during the last week of January. During that week, Klineline was stocked with 4,500 catchables, Lake Sacajawea in Longview got 3,000 catchables and Battleground Lake got 1,500 catchable, plus 150 surplus hatchery steelhead averaging eight pounds each. In addition, a couple of lakes in the gorge (Rowland Lake near Lyle and Spearfish Lake near Dallesport) got a total of nearly 100 broodstock rainbows averaging four pounds each.
During the last week in January, Tacoma Power recovered 44 winter-run steelhead, five coho adults and one jack during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator. Also that week, Tacoma Power employees released five winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 11 winter-run steelhead and one coho jack into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.
Ice on lakes throughout most of the region remains questionable since daytime temperatures have been above 40 degrees. Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said the two winter-season rainbow trout lakes – Williams and Hatch lakes in Stevens County near Colville – remain iced over and a few folks are fishing through the ice. But ice fishing is definitely “at your own risk,” he said. Baker encourages anglers to check WDFW’s ice fishing safety information at http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .
Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said there is open water at the northeast end of Sprague Lake, and anglers continue to catch the lake’s big rainbow trout . Year-round Eloika Lake in north Spokane County has mostly open water for anglers.
Year-round Rock Lake in Whitman County rarely freezes up completely and has been providing good open-water fishing for rainbow and brown trout .
“But the best bet right now is still Lake Roosevelt,” Donley said. “The rainbow trout and kokanee fishing there is very good, especially on the south end.”
Steelhead fishing is also good in the Snake River drainage, especially on the tributaries like the Grand Ronde, Touchet, Tucannon, and Walla Walla. When water levels drop and the water clears, steelhead are harder to catch. But the fish are there, so persistent anglers can be successful. Anglers fishing the system can retain hatchery steelhead, but are required to release all wild fish. See the details in the rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .
WDFW fish biologist Matt Polacek recommends year-round Banks Lake in Grant County for good fishing opportunities for rainbow trout and kokanee.
“The main lake is ice free,” he said, “but a small group of anglers are also catching whitefish and perch through the ice on the south end of Banks Lake.”
Warmer weather has opened up previously iced-over sections of the Methow and Okanogan rivers, providing some good winter steelhead fishing. WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports catch rates of one fish for every six to eight hours of fishing for the last two weeks.
“Jig and bobber setups for the gear fishermen, as well as smaller flies under float indicators for the fly fishermen, have all been producing catches of steelhead,” Jateff said.
Jateff reminds steelheaders that both the Okanogan and the Methow are under selective gear rules and no bait is allowed. Retention of hatchery-origin fish with clipped adipose fins is mandatory, up to the daily limit of four. Anglers should make sure to gain permission before crossing private property alongside both of these rivers.
Meanwhile, ice fishing opportunities on Okanogan County lakes has been reduced due to warming temperatures.
“The ice in some areas appears to be unstable,” he said. “However, Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area is still producing catches of yellow perch , with a few rainbows mixed in. There is no minimum size and no daily limit on yellow perch in Patterson because we actually want anglers to remove as many as possible.”
For information on ice-fishing safety, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/factshts/ice_fishing.htm .
The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary. The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border. Jateff notes those fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).
Three out of 14 boat anglers fishing the John Day Pool on the Columbia River took home a legal-size sturgeon, according to a creel survey conducted the last week of January. “Legal-size sturgeon must measure between 43 and 54 inches in fork length,” said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish biologist. “New regulations went into effect last year changing how sturgeon are measured from total length to fork length. Fork length is defined as the distance from the tip of the nose to the middle of the fork in the tail, and that’s the length you record on your catch record card, even if the card has the old ‘total length’ column.”
Hoffarth notes the sturgeon fishery in this area will remain open until the quota is reached and closure announced.
“Walleye fishing in the Tri-Cities area and upstream in the Snake River is beginning to pick up,” Hoffarth said. “Anglers are reporting fair catches below and above McNary Dam and in the Snake River below Ice Harbor and Little Goose dams.”
Hoffarth says steelhead fishing in the district has been spotty this winter but should pick up in late February and early March.