All posts by Andy Walgamott

WA Special Hunt Permit Aps, Sales Up Sharply

Earlier today we posted news that WDFW’s fishing license revenues jumped by over $2 million in the 2009-10 license year as the agency sold nearly 940,000 freshwater, saltwater, combo, shellfish and other permits.

A reader on our Facebook page wondered about how special hunting permit sales went, so we got back with a source at WDFW who just emailed us this:

“I’m pleased to tell you that we sold 230,000 special hunt permits this year, raising $1.1 million,” says Craig Bartlett, a spokesman in Olympia. “That’s up from 125,000 permits and $654,000 last year.”

Applicants are now allowed to make more choices than ever when applying to hunt deer, elk and other big game. In previous years, hunters could only apply for all deer — buck or antlerless — on one application, but this year, they could apply for bucks on one, antlerless on another.

Each application costs $6.50 for residents, $4.10 for youth under 16 years of age and $60.50 for non-residents.

“All of those additional revenues will be used to increase hunter access to private lands and improve habitat for game animals,” WDFW game division manager Dave Ware said. “We’ve already started working with landowners around the state to achieve those goals.”

Bartlett promises a news release later today.

2 More All-depth Hali Days Added

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

NEWPORT, ORE. –Fishery managers added two days to the all-depth sport halibut fishery off the central Oregon coast. Fishing for Pacific halibut will be open July 1 and 2 at all depths.

“The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries and the International Pacific Halibut Commission decided that being open for three days had a high likelihood of exceeding the spring quota, which would come out of the much-smaller summer quota. Based on that, and the fact that the next opening is for the 4th of July holiday weekend, it was decided to only open the fishery on Thursday and Friday (July 1 and 2),” said Lynn Mattes, halibut project leader for ODFW. “If any quota remains after that time, it will be rolled into the quota for the summer fishery, which begins in August.”

The spring all-depth season for the central coast area – from Cape Falcon (30 miles south of the Columbia River) to Humbug Mountain (south of Port Orford) – opened May 13 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays only. It could have closed as early as June 5 if the 105,948-pound quota had been taken.

The central coast all-depth fishery summer season opens Aug. 6 and is scheduled to be open every other Friday and Saturday until the combined spring and summer season all-depth quota of 141,265 pounds is taken or Oct. 31, whichever comes first.

“The nearshore fishery (inside 40 fathoms) still has approximately 50 percent of its quota remaining, so fishery managers decide that no actions are necessary for that fishery at this time,” Mates said.

The high-relief area of Stonewall Bank is closed to halibut fishing to reduce incidental catch of yelloweye rockfish and canary rockfish. Both species are considered over fished and must be released immediately. The closed area is defined by latitude and longitude waypoints, which are available on the Marine Resources Program Web site:  http://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/regulations/sport_fishing/stonewall.asp

The daily bag limit is one fish and there is no minimum length for Pacific halibut. The possession limit is one daily limit at sea and three daily limits on land. The annual limit per angler is six fish.

Sport anglers are reminded possession of groundfish is not allowed north of Humbug Mountain when a Pacific halibut is aboard their vessel during all-depth Pacific halibut dates. The exceptions are Pacific cod (true cod, not lingcod) and sablefish (black cod) which may be retained with halibut between Humbug Mountain and Cape Falcon. Other non-groundfish species, such as tuna and salmon during authorized seasons, may be possessed with halibut on open all-depth Pacific halibut days.

More details on regulations can be found here or in the 2010 Oregon Sport Ocean Regulations for Salmon, Halibut and other Marine Species booklet. General regulations can be found in the 2010Oregon Sport Fishing Regulations booklet.

WDFW Coffers Get Boost During Recession

Just as their angling brethren south of the Columbia took to the water when the economy tanked, so too did Washington fishermen — and WDFW’s coffers benefitted by a couple million bucks.

A whopping 939,455 bought fishing permits of all kinds during the April 1, 2009-March 31, 2010 license year, a 14 percent jump over the year before, and the most going back to at least 2001-2002, according to state figures obtained by Northwest Sportsman today.

“Whether that’s due to the economy, a new-found appreciation of fishing or a combination of factors is anyone’s guess,” says WDFW spokesman Craig Bartlett in Olympia.

While the statewide unemployment rate in 2009 was 8.9 percent, last summer saw very large returns of pink salmon to Puget Sound, coho to the Skagit River, and silvers and steelhead to the Columbia River system.

In fact, so many steelies returned to the upper Columbia and Southeast Washington that fishery managers required anglers keep every single hatchery fish they caught on the former and boosted limits to five a day on the latter.

Oregon, of course, shared in much of that same fishing bounty, and ODFW also saw best-of-the-decade freshwater resident fishing license sales during the state’s Jan. 1-Dec. 31 license year.

Even with unemployment as high as 11.6 percent, the agency sold 303,267, 30,000 more than the next closest year, 2007, when unemployment bottomed out in the low 5s, and 50,000 more than the lowest license sales year, 2005, when 6 percent were laid off.

Interestingly, the 2005-06 license year also saw the lowest sales of the decade in Washington too, 768,593, according to state stats.

The Idaho Department of Fish & Game reported their highest fishing license sales since 1999, nearly 473,600 last year as well.

The nearly 940,000 licenses Washington sold include freshwater, saltwater, combo, shellfish and other permits, and raised $20.4 million, nearly $2 million more than the next closest year, 2004-05, and $2.7 million more than 2009-09. A 10 percent surcharge approved by the state Legislature that went into effect late last July probably contributed to the total, though how much is unclear.

In WDFW’s $432 million 2007-09 operating and capital budgets, user fees such as commercial and recreational fishing and hunting licenses, fines and forfeitures, etc., contributed $65.8 million. The Federal government pumped in $128.7 million, the state general fund $110.4 million, and the balance came from local revenues, bonds and other sources.

Commercial and recreational fishing and hunting license fees,
fines and forfeitures, and miscellaneous revenue.

Area 1 Halibut To Close

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE EMERGENCY RULE CHANGE NOTICE)

Halibut fishing will close after Friday June 25 in Marine Area 1

Action:   Close the recreational halibut fishery in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco) after Friday, June 25.

Effective date: 12:01 a.m. Sat. June 26, 2010.

Species affected: Pacific halibut

Location:   Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco).

Reason for action:   The halibut quota is expected to be met in Marine Area 1 after June 25, 2010.  Anglers are encouraged to check the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website or hotline for information regarding re-openings.

Information contact: Heather Reed, (360) 249-4628 ext. 202.

A 30K Day At The Dam

After a slight dip in the dam count on Tuesday, sockeye poured over Bonneville in record numbers yesterday — 30,374.

That tops the previous high mark by 3,262 fish, a record that’s stood since July of 1955.

Not surprising, though, that it was topped. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday’s counts were the fourth, second and third highest, respectively, on record since dam counts began in 1938.

“Lots more fish yet to come based upon reports in the estuary,” says Joe Hymer, the oft-quoted fisheries biologist in Vancouver.

(COLUMBIA D.A.R.T.)

Yesterday’s tally also brings the total for the year to 164,432, nearly 3.5 times the 10-year average through June 23. The run typically is half over by June 25, according to a fact sheet from WDFW and ODFW out early this afternoon.

The surprising run spike may be due to high water conditions. It’s certainly led to salmon managers to spike the preseason forecast of 125,000; yesterday, Northwest Sportsman learned it had been doubled to 250,000.

“We’re recommending that we open on Saturday” for retention, says Cindy Le Fleur, a Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Columbia River salmon manger in Vancouver, “but we’ve got to get the results of the meeting first.”

The meeting will be a teleconference with Oregon managers. If they buy into a fishery, the Columbia would open from the Astoria-Megler Bridge up to Priest Rapids Dam. Washington managers in Region 2’s Ephrata office would make the call on opening the river and reservoirs above PRD, she says.

“Sockeye catch is expected to remain well within ESA limits,” the fact sheet says. “The majority of the catch occurs below Bonneville Dam. Bonneville Dam passage will be 50% complete by the proposed retention start date. Staff estimates a total catch of less than 1,200 fish for the proposed season.”

The doubling of the forecast “should also allow the Wenatchee escapement goal of 23,000 to be met,” the sheet says.

The July issue of Northwest Sportsman covers how to catch sox in the Brewster Pool, as well as what’s driving big returns the past few seasons.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

This spring’s weather has produced a mixed bag of good news, bad news for Washington anglers.

High rivers and rough seas are the bad for salmon and steelhead anglers while cool weather has kept trout lakes, well, cool and productive.

But as we slide into July, fishermen will get a new target: crab. Dungies open in most of Puget Sound, as do hatchery Chinook in the Straits.

Here’s more on what’s fishing around Washington, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:
NORTH PUGET SOUND

Fishing has been slow for anglers on the saltwater, but catch numbers could rise as more marine areas open for salmon in July. On the rivers, anglers continue to cast for steelhead and spring chinook, and some have recently hooked a few nice fish.

Meanwhile, the crab fishery opens July 1 in marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island) and 12 (Hood Canal). Fisheries in those areas will be open on a Wednesday-through-Saturday schedule, plus the entire Labor Day weekend.

The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab/ ) for more information.

In Marine Area 8-2, fishing continues to be slow at the Tulalip Bay “bubble” fishery , said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist. The fishery is currently open each week from Friday through noon Monday through Sept. 6. Anglers fishing the bubble have a two-salmon daily limit. Chinook must measure 22 inches in length to retain.

The catch-and-release salmon fishery in the northern portion of Marine Area 10 continues through June 30. However, beginning July 1, anglers fishing in the marine area can retain up to two salmon daily with no minimum size limit. Anglers must release chinook salmon.

Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), which also opens July 1 for salmon. Anglers will have a daily limit of two salmon but can only keep one chinook. “The San Juans really started off strong last year,” Thiesfeld said. “Hopefully, the opener will be just as good this year.”

Looking for some competition? The Bellingham Salmon Derby is scheduled for July 9-11 with a top prize of $5,000. For more information on the derby, which is hosted by the Bellingham Chapter of the Puget Sound Anglers in association with the Northwest Marine Trade Association, is available at http://www.bellinghampsa.com/derby.htm .

In freshwater, portions of the Skagit, Cascade and Skykomish rivers are open for hatchery chinook salmon fishing. The Skagit is open to hatchery chinook retention from the Highway 530 Bridge at Rockport to the Cascade River. On the Cascade, anglers can fish for salmon from the mouth of the river to the Rockport-Cascade Road Bridge. Both stretches are open through July 15. The daily limit on the Skagit and Cascade rivers is four hatchery chinook, two of which may be adults (chinook salmon at least 24 inches in length).

The Skykomish is open from the mouth to the Wallace River through July 31. Anglers fishing that portion of the river have a daily limit of two hatchery chinook salmon. Jennifer Whitney, WDFW regional fish biologist, advises anglers to keep checking WDFW’s website for information about potential fishing regulation changes on the Skykomish River. “Returns to the Wallace River Hatchery so far have been way down this year,” she said. “We will continue to watch this run closely and if it doesn’t improve we may need to close the river to salmon retention to ensure the hatchery gets enough fish to meet its spawning goals.”

The Reiter Ponds section of the Skykomish River is also open for fishing and some anglers have had success hooking hatchery steelhead there recently. That section of the river (1,500 feet upstream to 1,000 feet downstream of the Reiter Ponds Hatchery outlet) opened June 12 after the hatchery collected enough steelhead broodstock to meet spawning goals.

Anglers should be aware that a section of the South Fork Stillaguamish River was mistakenly omitted from the new sportfishing rules pamphlet. That section of the Stillaguamish, from Mountain Loop Highway Bridge upstream, opened for gamefish June 5. Fishing regulations include catch and release, except two hatchery steelhead may be retained. Selective gear rules also apply, and fishing from a floating device with a motor is prohibited.

Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all fisheries on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

Anglers will have more options to catch salmon in the days ahead as coastal area open to retention of hatchery coho and unmarked chinook, and new fisheries open on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Crabbers will also be able to drop pots in seven popular areas of Puget Sound, starting July1.

Through June 20, salmon anglers had caught 2,759 marked chinook salmon in the state’s first selective chinook fishery off the Washington coast. All but a few hundred of those fish were taken in Marine Area 2 (Westport), where three in four anglers took home a fish. Mark rates for chinook have been averaging about 70 percent.

“The ocean fishery has been up and down from one day to the next, but anglers have definitely been taking home some nice chinook salmon,” said Doug Milward, WDFW ocean fisheries manager. “Chinook caught off Westport have been averaging around 15 pounds, which is big for this point in the season.”

Starting July 4, anglers fishing off Westport will also be able to count hatchery coho and unmarked chinook toward their daily limit. The new rule will take effect July 1 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco), 3 (La Push) and 4 (Neah Bay).

“Like the chinook, this year’s coho have been bigger than usual,” Milward said. “This fishery should keep getting better and better.”

Wendy Beeghley, a WDFW fish biologist who monitors the catch, asks that all anglers return completed logbooks after each day’s trip to help fishery managers keep track of the catch. “If you like this fishery, you can help keep it going by filling out the logbook and returning it to WDFW,” she said. Logbooks can be returned to fish checkers or by pre-paid mail.

Elsewhere, a chinook fishery will open in marine areas 5 and 6 (Strait of Juan de Fuca) on July 1. The daily limit in those two areas is two fish at least 22 inches in length. All wild salmon must be released.

Meanwhile, recreational halibut fishing went out with a bang June 19, when anglers fishing off Neah Bay and La Push closed out the season by catching most of what was left of this year’s quota.

The one-day opening, plus good weather, gave coastal anglers the chance to catch both salmon and halibut on the same day, and some took advantage of that unique opportunity, said Erica Crust, WDFW’s ocean port sampler.

Looking ahead, seven popular areas of Puget Sound will open to fishing for crab July 1, including marine areas 6 (Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca), 8-1 (Deception Pass/Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan/Port Gardner), 9 (Admiralty Inlet), 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), 11 (Tacoma/Vashon) and 12 (Hood Canal).

Dungeness and red rock crab seasons include:

* Marine areas 4 (east of the Bonilla-Tatoosh line), 5 and 13: Opened June 18 and run through Jan. 2.
* Marine areas 6, 8-1, 8-2, 9, 10, 11 and 12 (much of Puget Sound) – Will open at 7 a.m., July 1 and are open Wednesday through Saturday through Sept. 6, and open the entire Labor Day weekend.

There is a daily limit of five Dungeness crab in Puget Sound. Minimum size is 6 ¼-inches and only males in hardshell condition may be kept. In the Sound, all gear must be removed from the water on days when the fishery is closed.

The daily limit of red rock crab is six in all marine areas. Minimum size is five inches and either sex may be kept.

Crab fishing rules can be found on pages 137-139 of the 2010-11 edition of Washington’s Sportfishing Rules Pamphlet , which contains maps of all the marine areas and sub-areas. The pamphlet is free and available at the more than 600 stores where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. The pamphlet also can be downloaded from WDFW’s web site at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Before heading out, crabbers should check for any emergency rule changes adopted since the fishing pamphlet was published. Those changes can be found on WDFW’s website at https://fortress.wa.gov/dfw/erules/efishrules/  or by calling the Shellfish Rule Change toll-free hotline at (866) 880-5431.

Trout and steelhead fishing got under way June 5 in area rivers, including the Skokomish, South Fork Skokomish and Dungeness. Anglers should note that selective gear rules are in effect on those rivers to protect wild summer steelhead. Details on rules and limits are online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Tanwax Lake in Pierce County is off to a good start for largemouth bass and rainbow trout . In Kitsap County, Wildcat, Buck, Island and Wye lakes have all received high marks from anglers fishing for largemouth bass and trout. Duck Lake in Grays Harbor County also has been getting accolades from anglers fishing for trout and crappie .

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Summer chinook salmon are entering the lower Columbia River in large numbers, although catching them is proving to be a challenge. High, turbid water and floating debris have been giving anglers – especially boat anglers – a workout during the opening days of the season, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.

“Conditions are definitely tough for boat anglers,” Hymer said. “People have been catching some nice fish, but they have to deal with some extra challenges due to the high water and debris.”

Under these conditions, fishing from the bank has some advantages, Hymer said. During creel checks conducted during the first week of fishing, 1,463 bank anglers caught 62 adult chinook and released 25. The 572 boat anglers checked that week reported catching 33 adult summer chinook salmon and releasing 15 others.

Under new rules effective this year, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared chinook with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar. All wild, unmarked fish must be released. That is also the case with steelhead , which are showing up in the catch from the mouth of the Columbia River to Bonneville Dam.

“The trade-off is that this year’s summer chinook fishery is scheduled to run straight through July, rather than just a couple of weeks like last year,” Hymer said. “That wouldn’t have been possible without moving to a selective fishery.”

During the first week’s creel check, bank anglers reported catching 61 steelhead and releasing 13 others. Boat anglers surveyed that week caught eight steelhead and released five more. Anglers fishing the Cowlitz River have also been catching some hatchery steelhead.

According to the pre-season forecast, 88,800 summer chinook will return to the Columbia this year – the largest number since 2002.  About a third of those salmon are estimated to be five-year-olds, some weighing up to 40 pounds.

Under this year’s rules, anglers may retain up to two adult hatchery chinook or hatchery steelhead (or one of each) on the mainstem Columbia River from the Megler Astoria Bridge upstream to the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco  All other salmon – including sockeye – must be released.

That may change, however, given the unexpectedly large number of sockeye counted at Bonneville Dam in recent days, said Cindy Le Fleur, WDFW Columbia River policy coordinator. As of June 22, just over 134,000 sockeye had been tallied at the dam – already more than predicted – and the 26,873 counted the previous day was the second-highest on record for a single day since 1938.

“The rule requiring anglers to release sockeye was adopted because Lake Wenatchee was not expected to reach its escapement goal this year,” Le Fleur said. Given the strong return, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon may reconsider that decision during a teleconference scheduled Thursday (June 24) at 3 p.m.

The scheduled closure of the sturgeon fishery downstream from the Wauna powerlines will also be up for reconsideration during that meeting, Le Fleur said. Sturgeon fishing has been slow in that area – and throughout the lower Columbia River – for a number of weeks, which may allow fishery managers to extend the season, she said.

Any changes in the sockeye retention rule or the sturgeon season below the Wauna powerlines will be announced on WDFW’s website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ), the statewide Fishing Hotline (360-902-2500), regional hotline (360-696-6211 ext. 1010) and in a statewide news release.

For anglers hungering for shad , the Dalles Pool is clearly the place to be. During the week ending June 20, bank anglers averaged nine shad per rod although fishing was slow for boat anglers.  Below Bonneville Dam, anglers have been averaging between zero and two shad per rod.

Rather catch warmwater fish? Boat anglers fishing The Dalles Pool have been averaging two walleye and a bass per rod. In the John Day Pool, 10 boats reported catching 15 bass and seven walleye.

At Riffe Lake, bank anglers fishing at the dam and Taidnapum have been averaging two landlocked coho per rod, kept or released. Anglers should also be aware that Goose Lake north of Carson was stocked with 2,500 catchable-size brown trout and 3,000 catchable-size cutthroat June 15.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

This is the time to fish Lake Roosevelt, including the Spokane River arm, for some of the tastiest freshwater fish – walleye . Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, said walleye are distributing throughout the waterway now that they’ve spawned. The daily catch limit is eight walleye and there’s no minimum size, although only one over 22 inches may be retained.

The Seven Bays area and many other spots upstream on the big reservoir are also good for kokanee and rainbow trout fishing. The daily catch limit for kokanee is six fish, although no more than two can be wild fish. The limit on trout is five, but only two over 20 inches may be retained.

With all three species of fish very catchable, it’s a good time to purchase the new $24.50 two-pole endorsement, which allows anglers to use two poles while fishing at Lake Roosevelt and many other lakes throughout the state. For more information about the endorsement, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole/ .

Anglers might want to consider spending a weekend camping at one of the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area’s campgrounds – Evans, Fort Spokane, Gifford, Hunters, Keller Ferry, Kettle Falls and Spring Canyon. Most are on a first-come, first-served basis, but groups need to reserve camp sites. For details see http://www.nps.gov/laro/ .

Baker also noted that fishing has been good at many rainbow trout lakes in the northeast district. For example, Pend Oreille County’s Big Meadow Lake, about seven miles west of Ione on the Meadow Creek Road, is yielding catches of up to 16-inch rainbows.

At the opposite end of the region, the Tucannon River impoundments are cranking out catches of hatchery-stocked rainbow trout . The Tucannon River itself, from the mouth to the Tucannon Hatchery bridge, is also open to fishing.  Anglers who have purchased the new $8.75 Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement can retain up to three hatchery-marked steelhead from the Tucannon’s open waters through October. Selective gear rules and a prohibition on internal combustion motors are in effect upstream of the Turner Road bridge at Marengo.

WDFW’s W.T. Wooten Wildlife Area Manager Kari Dingman said Tucannon lake or river anglers, and other outdoor recreationists who camp on the area, are finding everything very green and lush, thanks to recent rains. But that ample vegetation will be fuel for wild fires soon, so she reminds visitors, including Fourth-of-July holiday celebrants, to comply with the area’s restrictions on fires and a ban on fireworks. All WDFW wildlife areas and water access sites throughout the region are under the same fireworks ban and similar fire restrictions. For details by area, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/ .

Anglers can get a little bit extra out of their fishing license at the Spokane Indians Baseball Club’s fifth annual “Fish and Wildlife Night” on Tuesday, July 6, when game tickets are discounted with the presentation of a valid fishing or hunting license. The game will feature fish and wildlife activities between innings and stadium fish and wildlife displays.

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Bob Jateff, WDFW district fish biologist, said lowland lake fishing for rainbow trout has been holding up pretty well in the Okanogan district. “Cooler, wetter weather has been keeping the water temperatures down a bit, and that has contributed to better than average catch rates for the month of June,” he said.

Jateff said good selective-gear waters are Chopaka, Aeneas, and Blue lakes in the Sinlahekin, and Big and Little Twin lakes near Winthrop.  Other waters that are still providing decent fishing are Wannacut, Pearrygin, and Alta lakes.

WDFW Enforcement Officer Cal Treser recently reported checking numerous limits of trout on Lake Pearrygin, along with large crayfish. “If you want to try spiny ray fishing, fish Patterson Lake in the Winthrop area for yellow perch and Leader Lake west of Okanogan for bluegills and crappies ,” he said.

Jateff also noted the Methow River is still running high, but as water levels start dropping, resident rainbow and cutthroat trout will be catchable. Smaller creeks and rivers can provide fishing opportunities even when the major rivers like the Methow are still running high. “Anglers should pay close attention to the regulations on the Methow because there have been a few changes this year,” he said.

Chinook salmon fishing on the mainstem Columbia River and selected tributaries above Wells Dam is scheduled to start July 1.  New daily bag limits put in place this year will allow anglers to keep up to three adult chinook salmon, but only one of those can be a wild adult. Anglers should consult the current sportfishing rules pamphlet, because there are certain areas that anti-snagging and night closure rules are in effect.

SOUTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

High water contributed to a slow start in the fishery for hatchery summer chinook salmon on the Columbia River downriver from Priest Rapids Dam and for hatchery steelhead downstream from the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco.  None of the 60 anglers surveyed in the John Day Pool had caught any salmon or steelhead, although fishing was good for other species.

During the week ending June 20, anglers fishing the John Day Pool caught 259 shad from 15 boats and 15 bass and seven walleye from 10 boats.

“The Columbia, Snake, Yakima and Walla Walla rivers are all running high, improving some fisheries, such as catfish , but making most of the fisheries, especially salmon, problematic,” said Paul Hoffarth, a WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Pasco.

Hoffarth is optimistic that fishing will pick up for salmon and steelhead as river conditions improve and more summer chinook move past McNary Dam into the mid-Columbia and its tributaries.

Hoffarth reminds anglers that all wild, unmarked chinook salmon and steelhead must be released. The daily limit is six hatchery chinook, up to two of which may be adults. Anglers must stop fishing once they retain the adult portion of their daily limit. Any steelhead retained counts toward the daily limit of two adult fish, Hoffarth said.

Steelhead fishing will remain closed for the Columbia River upstream of the Highway 395 bridge and in the Snake River until the fall.

The spring chinook fishery runs through June 30 on the Yakima, and anglers continue to catch fish in the area between Union Gap and Roza Dam. Surveys indicate that the best fishing is between the Naches River and Roza Dam. There is a daily limit of two hatchery salmon with a clipped adipose fin; wild chinook must be released unharmed.

Water levels in the upper Naches and upper Yakima tributaries are continuing to drop and clear up. Eric Anderson, WDFW fish and wildlife biologist in Yakima, said his trend should continue in the weeks ahead into the summer months, when fishing in most tributaries should be good for wild trout, cutthroat, rainbow and brook trout.

Even though waters in the Columbia and Snake rivers remain high, fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye should improve as those waters recede and get warmer, Anderson said.

Sturgeon fishing remains open in Lake Wallula (McNary Dam to Priest Rapids/Ice Harbor Dams) through July of this year. Be aware, sturgeon fishing is prohibited from Goose Island upstream to Ice Harbor Dam in the Snake River and upstream of the Priest Rapids Hatchery outlet to Priest Rapids Dam in the Columbia River (white sturgeon sanctuaries).

Anderson reminds anglers that most streams have reduced catch and size limits for trout. In addition, there are catch-and-release zones on the Yakima River above Roza Dam, in sections of the Naches River and in Rattlesnake Creek where all trout must be released unharmed. In most large mainstem rivers and streams in the Yakima basin, anglers must use single barbless hooks and no bait.

Lake fishing in Central Washington remains strong, and WDFW is continuing to stock many lakes in the days leading up to the long Fourth of July weekend. Alpine lakes are also an option in the weeks ahead.

“The high country is starting to open up as the snow levels recede,” said Anderson.  “There are many excellent opportunities to fish high mountain lakes, most of which are hike- to only.”

Information on high lake stocking in Yakima and Kittitas counties can be obtained from the website link at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/regions/reg3/r3_highlakes.htm . Anglers need to check directly with WDFW’s regional offices for high lake fish stocking information in other areas.

Meanwhile, kokanee are biting at Keechelus and Rimrock lakes. While they generally run small (9-11 inches), Anderson points out that anglers can keep up to 16 of them daily.

Powerline Lake and Marmes Pond were planted with rainbow trout earlier this spring, but Hoffarth said the cooler temperatures this spring should keep the bite going for a couple more weeks. Both of these lakes are walk-in only.

Jumbo triploid trout are being planted at Lost Lake in Kittitas County, as well as in Dog and Leech lakes in Yakima County. These fish are running about 1.5 pounds each.  Leech Lake is fly-fishing only. Also in June, 4,500 catchable-size trout and 200 jumbos are being planted in Easton Pond in Kittitas County.

Other recent lake stocking reports can be checked at the WDFW website http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/stocking/weekly/ .

WDFW advises anglers to always check the fishing rules pamphlet for details on a specific river or stream, including what gear is allowed and catch limits. The Fishing in Washington Sportfishing Rules guide is available free at stores that sell fishing licenses. The pamphlet also can be downloaded at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ . That web page also contains a link to emergency rules that have been enacted since the pamphlet was published.

Sockeye Forecast Doubled – Fisheries Soon?

Salmon managers will get together via teleconference tomorrow to talk about this year’s surprising sockeye return to the Columbia, and could open a season as early as this weekend on the lower river if they like what they see.

Over 77,000 have gone over Bonneville Dam the last three days alone — “the second, third and fourth highest counts on record,” says Joe Hymer, a fisheries biologist in Vancouver — and word is that this season’s run forecast has been doubled to 250,000.

“Some folks think it will be higher than that,” says Hymer.

While Monday’s count of 26,783 came within 329 fish of tying the all-time record of 27,112 set July 7, 1955, a total of 134,058 have topped the dam through yesterday.

Not a lot is known about how to catch the shoreline-running salmon outside of an old fashioned fish wheel, but some sockeye have been caught incidentally and released by bank anglers probably plunking Spin-N-Glos and shrimp while targeting summer Chinook and steelhead in the Lower Columbia since last week’s opener.

“Reports on the river are that there are still sockeye rolling all the way down to the estuary,” Hymer adds.

The fish are running 3 1/2 pounds or so, with some out to 5 and 6 pounds, he says.

Based on passive integrated transponder, or PIT tag, data, a large number of sockeye counted at Bonneville appear to be bound for Lake Wenatchee. While the preseason forecast called for only 14,300 fish back to the Chelan County lake, a doubling of the run size would provide enough to open up a fishery there for the second season in a row.

Yesterday we reported that 1955’s run of 237,748 was the largest on record. That was the largest on record at Bonneville according to data from the Fish Passage Center, but did not include downstream harvest. Hymer says the all-time run record is 355,300 from 1947.

As for the summer Chinook fishery, it’s been clouded by high, dirty water, but true kings from the upper Columbia have begun entering the catch, including salmon to 40 pounds, Hymer says. Best fishing has been around Bonneville.

While the volume of water has been hampering anglers, it’s delighting Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

“Everybody’s salivating over the outmigrating spring Chinook smolts,” she said this afternoon. “Two years from now, I’ll buy you a beer, dinner, a guided fishing trip for springers if we don’t get 350,000 back.”

You’re on, Liz.

In the meanwhile, I’m scrounging around for more definitive wisdom on slaying sockeye in the lower river.

EDITOR’S NOTE: THE ALL-TIME RECORD FIGURE IN THE SIXTH TO LAST PARAGRAPH HAS BEEN UPDATED FROM 319,052 IN 1952 TO 335,300 IN 1947 AFTER FURTHER CHECKING BY THE SOURCE, JOE HYMER.

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

Here’s the latest fishing roundup from around Oregon, courtesy of ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Spring chinook fishing on the upper Rogue has been good above Shady Cove.
  • Spring chinook fishing has also been good on the North Umpqua from Amacher up to Swiftwater.
  • Fishing for resident cutthroat trout is picking up in many rivers and streams. Flies or small spinners are the best bets.
  • Warmwater fishing is improving in several area lakes and ponds. Bluegill are staging in shallow water preparing to spawn and the males are very aggressive. Largemouth bass fishing at Hyatt Lake and Tenmile Lakes has been very good and a 7-pound bass was recently caught in Cooper Creek Reservoir.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca & Three Rivers: Water levels continue to be good for this time of year. Forecasted dry weather will allow the river to drop this week. Spring chinook and summer steelhead angling has been fair to good. Bobber and eggs will produce for chinook. Try spinners or bobber and jigs for steelhead as the water clears, especially in the upper river. With the good flows, boaters should find success with diving plugs or diver and bait. Fishing for cutthroat trout has been fair, with fish spread throughout the river.
  • Tillamook Bay; Fishing for adipose fin-clipped spring chinook has been consistently good, but is winding down as the month goes on. Fish are available throughout the bay and tidewater. Try trolling herring along the jetties (but stay out for the construction safety zone) or near the coast guard station, especially on softer tide series. Spinners or plugs usually produce best in the upper bay, with bobber and eggs/shrimp productive in tidewater areas. Fishing for sturgeon has been slow. Fish were reported to be jumping in the upper bay recently. Best catches generally come from the upper bay and Tillamook River tidewater during the summer time. Check baits frequently as small fish and crabs can clean your hooks quickly.
  • Trask River: Fishing for adipose fin-clipped spring chinook has been good. Fish are being caught throughout the lower river and up to the Dam Hole, with some fish available up to the county park. A few summer steelhead are available throughout the river. The season at the hatchery hole at Trask Hatchery closed to angling June 15.
  • Yaquina River: Angling for cutthroat trout is now open for the season. The Yaquina basin has a good population of cutthroat trout and can offer anglers great fishing opportunities. Generally using small spinners, spoons or other lures can be very effective. Fly fishing is also very productive. Use of bait is restricted above tidewater until September 1.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Spring chinook and summer steelhead are being landed in good numbers on the Clackamas and Sandy rivers. The bag limit has been increased to three adult salmon/steelhead in combination on these two rivers as well as on the the Willamette below Willamette Falls.
  • Steelhead and spring chinook are being caught in the McKenzie and Middle Fork of the Willamette Rivers.
  • More than 46,000 spring chinook and 18,000 summer steelhead have crossed Willamette Falls and are moving into the upper Willamette and its tributaries. Try fishing at San Salvador and Wheatland Ferry on the Willamette and around the mouths of the Tualatin, Molalla, and Santiam rivers.
  • Spring chinook are moving into the Santiam and McKenzie systems.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Fishing on Crane Prairie is the best it’s been in years with anglers catching fish up to 5 and 6 pounds.
  • Trout fishing on the Crooked River has been good, and the recent population survey found larger trout this year compared to recent years.

SOUTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing has been good in several area lakes and reservoirs including Krumbo and Pilcher reservoirs and Highway 203 and Burns ponds.
  • Trout fishing is picking up on the Chewaucan Rivera above Paisley.
  • The Powder River is open for spring chinook with a daily bag limit of two fish.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • Fishing for 8 to 10-inch crappie continues to be good on McKay Reservoir.
  • Trout fishing has been good on Kinney, Magone and Wallowa lakes.
  • Shad fishing on the Columbia River below McNary Dam is heating up.
  • There will be a free fishing event Saturday, June 26 at the Umatilla National Forest pond 5412.  The event begins at 9 a.m. and a hotdog lunch will be served at noon. The event is open to the public with special invitation to anglers under age 14. Sponsored by the Blue Mountain Flycasters and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. For information and directions please contact Bill Duke at the ODFW Pendleton office 541-276-2344.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Effective June 16 angling is open for summer chinook and summer steelhead from Tongue Point to the Oregon/Washington border.  Angling is slow but should improve when water levels decrease.
  • Shad fishing is good below Bonneville Dam.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair near Astoria.

MARINE ZONE

  • Fishing for marked coho south of Cape Falcon to the Oregon/California border opens Saturday (June 26). Only marked coho (all coho must have a healed adipose fin clip) may be retained. That season will run through Sept. 6 or until the quota of 26,000 marked coho is met, which ever comes first. The bag limit is two salmon.
  • Fishing for Chinook was slow again last week with fewer than one in seven anglers landing a fish. The “All Salmon Except Coho” salmon season from Cape Falcon to Oregon/California  border opened May 29 and runs through Sept. 6. Bag Limit: Two salmon.
  • North of Cape Falcon to the Oregon/Washington border the “Selective Chinook Season” opened June 12 with few reports of fish landed. Fishing for chinook will continue through earlier of June 30 or 12,000 marked Chinook quota. Bag Limit: All salmon except coho. Two salmon per day, all retained Chinook must have a healed adipose fin clip.
  • Fishing for halibut was good last weekend. Fishery managers will meet later this week to determine if there is sufficient quota for more all-depth open days. Three more openings – July 1-3, July 15-17, and July 29-31 – are available as long as the total catch does not exceed 105,948 pounds.
  • Fishing for lingcod remained at about one fish for every two anglers targeting lingcod. Average catches of rockfish and greenling were about three to five per angler last week, depending on the port. Success in catching lings and most other bottom fish improves as waves moderate.
  • Most crabbers had average catches between one and three crab. Crabbing in the ocean this time of year can be very productive, but also dangerous because of wind, sea and bar conditions.

Another Columbia Bass Study To Begin

A federal council has approved funding a new study of smallmouth bass predation on salmon smolts in the Columbia River to the tune of $350,000.

According to a story in last Friday’s Northwest Fishletter:

The study will look at suspected “hot spots” for smallmouth bass in the forebays at McNary, John Day and The Dalles dams, and try to compare them to tailrace areas thought not to be hot spots for the bass, based on pikeminnow catch data.

The proposal will also try to figure out the role of juvenile shad in the diets of non-native predators.

This follows up on 2008’s Biological Opinion which tasks hydropower managers with reducing the impact of introduced non-native fish on salmonids, as well as a meeting of scientific minds in late summer that year, Fishletter reports.

We summarized ideas that came out of that meeting in our February 2009 issue with the below table:

(NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN)

UPDATE JUNE 25, 2010: THE COLUMBIA BASIN BULLETIN TODAY HAS A LARGE PIECE ON THE NEW STUDY.

CBB ALSO REPORTS ON A SNORKELING SURVEY OF SMALLMOUTH BASS OCCURRING FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW ON THE UPPER JOHN DAY BY U.W. GRAD STUDENTS.

Big Sock Count Trumped A Day Later

Sunday’s huge slug o’ sockeye at Bonneville Dam, some 25,000 fish, was the second largest in 72 years of record for exactly 24 hours.

Yesterday’s count was 26,783, just 329 fish shy of tying the all-time record of 27,112 set July 7, 1955.

That bumps the overall count to 108,930 — 72,260 more than the 10-year average — and it would appear to be the highest count through June 21 since record-keeping began in 1938, a quick check of data at DART and FPC shows.

The count is also quickly approaching the preseason forecast of 125,200.

The biggest sockeye runs on record in the Columbia-Snake system occurred in the mid-1950s: 237,748 in 1955 and 235,215 in 1953.

In modern times, the 2008 run hit 213,607.

As for other species, a total of 18,731 steelhead have crossed Bonneville Dam through yesterday — more than 6,600 above the average this decade — as well as 277,389 spring Chinook, 17,397 summer Chinook, 793,465 shad and 848 lamprey.