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SW WA, Columbia Fishing Report

COLUMBIA RIVER

(TANNA TAKATA, ODFW)

Salmonid angler effort increased significantly in the lower Columbia River this past weekend with 1,634 boats and 528 bank anglers counted on Saturday’s (3/20) flight.  Catch rates for spring chinook have improved and should continue to be good for the next few weeks.

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed no catch for five bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Bank: Weekend checking showed three adipose fin-clipped spring chinook adults, one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook jack, and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped spring chinook and two unclipped steelhead released for 257 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boat: Weekend checking showed 83 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and three adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus seven unclipped spring chinook and one unclipped steelhead released for 367 boats (945 anglers).

Estuary Bank (Jones Beach to Clatsop Spit): Weekend checking showed one adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and four adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus one unclipped steelhead released for 90 bank anglers.

Estuary Boat (Puget Isand to Tongue Point): Weekend checking showed 30 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus six unclipped spring chinook and two unclipped steelhead released for 70 boats (172 anglers).

Bonneville Pool: No report.

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed no catch for 10 bank anglers; and two adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus five unclipped steelhead released for two boats (four anglers).

John Day Pool (Columbia River above John Day Dam and John Day Arm): No report.

STURGEON:

Sturgeon effort remains light on the lower Columbia River.  Boat and bank anglers in the gorge are catching a few legal size fish.

Gorge Bank: Weekend checking showed three legal white sturgeon kept, and 41 sublegal sturgeon released for 38 bank anglers.

Gorge Boats: No report. Effort is increasing.

Troutdale Boats: Weekly checking showed four legal white sturgeon kept, plus two oversize and 34 sublegal sturgeon released for five boats (nine anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank: weekend checking showed no catch for five bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats: Weekend checking showed one legal white sturgeon kept and 29 sublegal sturgeon released for six boats (20 anglers).

Estuary Bank: Weekend checking showed no catch for three anglers.

Estuary Boats: No report.

Bonneville Pool Boat and Bank: Closed for retention. No report.

The Dalles Pool Boat and Bank: Weekly checking showed one sublegal sturgeon released for 29 bank anglers; and one legal white sturgeon kept, plus two oversize, and 49 sublegal sturgeon released for 10 boats (22 anglers).

John Day Pool Boat and Bank: Closed for retention. No report.

WALLEYE:

Troutdale Boats: No report.

Bonneville Pool Boats: No report.

The Dalles Pool Boats: Weekly checking showed two walleye kept for three bank anglers; and six walleye kept, plus three walleye released for nine boats (15 anglers).

John Day Pool Boats: No report.

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

(JOE HYMER, PACIFIC STATES MARINE FISHERIES COMMISSION)

SALMON/STEELHEAD

Cowlitz River – Anglers are catching steelhead along with some spring chinook and sea run cutthroats.

Last week, Tacoma Power recovered 339 winter-run steelhead and 11 spring Chinook adults during five days of operation at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.  During the week Tacoma Power employees released 16 winter-run steelhead into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton and 45 winter-run steelhead and ten spring Chinook adults into Lake Scanewa behind Cowlitz Falls Dam.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 5,090 cubic feet per second on Monday, March 22. Flows will likely be reduced to 4,000 cubic feet per second by the end of the week. Water visibility is ten feet.

Kalama River – Anglers are catching steelhead.

Lewis River – Light effort and no catch was observed.

Wind River – Bonneville Pool level is very low making it difficult to launch boats. It’s expected to remain this low at least through April 3rd as the US COE is performing maintenance.

Drano Lake – Light effort and no catch was observed.

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Last week we sampled 2,909 boat anglers (1,268 boats) with 315 adult chinook and 10 steelhead.  In addition, we sampled 471 bank anglers with 5 adult chinook and  3 steelhead.  Overall, 85% of the adult Chinook and 92% of the steelhead caught were kept.  Of the 260 adult chinook sampled, 59% were upriver stock based on Visual Stock Identification (VSI).

Effort was up substantially from the previous weekend with 1,634 boats and 824 bank anglers counted during last Saturday’s March 20 flight.  At the same time last year, just over 1,400 boats and nearly 500 bank anglers were counted from Buoy 10 upstream to Bonneville Dam.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some steelhead.

STURGEON

Lower Columbia below Bonneville Dam – Slow for legal size fish.  Effort remains fairly light with 55 boats and 37 bank anglers counted during Saturday’s flight.

The Dalles Pool – Boat anglers are catching some legals.  Fishing is slow from the bank.

WALLEYE AND BASS

The Dalles Pool – Including fish released, bank and boat anglers averaged just over 0.6 walleye per rod.  Some bass were also being caught by boat anglers.

TROUT

Klineline Pond – Bank anglers averaged 2.8 rainbows per rod during creel checks last week.  Planted with 1,500 half-pound plus rainbows March 15.

Lake Sacajawea in Longview – Planted with 4,300 catchable size rainbows March 15.

Leroy Burns Pond in Wahkiakum County – Planted with 3,022 catchable size rainbows March 16.

Razor Clam Dig A Go

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

The results of marine toxin tests are in, confirming that clams are safe to eat, and clearing the way for the spring’s first razor-clam digs on ocean beaches later this month.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) today set March 26 – April 1 openings at various ocean beaches. Prospective diggers should note that the opening starts on evening tides, then switches to morning tides for the final four days, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager.

“The digs span the seasonal change, when the lowest tides shift from evening to morning hours,” Ayres said.  “As in past months, razor-clam digging will be allowed after noon for the first three days of the opening, but will then switch to morning hours starting Monday, March 29.”

Days, tides and beach openings for this dig are:

* Friday, March 26, (4:29 p.m., +0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Kalaloch
* Saturday, March 27, (5:19 p.m., -0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks, Kalaloch
* Sunday, March 28, (6:04 p.m., 0.0) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Monday, March 29, (6:35 A.M., -0.1) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Tuesday, March 30, (7:22 A.M., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Wednesday, March 31, (8:07 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Thursday, April 1, (8:52 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only

The National Park Service scheduled the dig at Kalaloch Beach, which is located within the Olympic National Park, to coincide with those at other coastal beaches.

The Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival ( http://www.oceanshores.org/clams.html ) is also scheduled to correspond with the March 27 dig on Copalis Beach.

Another dig is tentatively scheduled on morning tides in mid-April at Long Beach, pending final marine toxin tests.

Any 2009-10 annual shellfish/seaweed license or combination license is valid through March 31. However, a new license will be required for anyone age 15 or older to participate in the April 1 dig. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

Ayres said WDFW expects to announce additional razor-clam digs in late April or early May on most beaches, noting that several natural events have left more clams than usual available for harvest in spring.  Those events include stormy weather in December, a marine toxin closure in January and last week’s tsunami advisory on the coast.

“Razor-clam diggers had a bumpy ride earlier this year, and we’re doing everything we can to add some additional digging opportunities,” Ayres said.

Beaches open include:

* Long Beach , which extends from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point.
* Twin Harbors Beach , which extends from the mouth of Willapa Bay north to the mouth of Grays Harbor.
* Copalis Beach , which extends from the Grays Harbor North Jetty to the Copalis River, and includes beaches near Copalis, Ocean Shores, Oyhut and Ocean City.
* Mocrocks Beach , which extends from the Copalis River to the southern boundary of the Quinault Reservation near the Moclips River, including Iron Springs, Roosevelt Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips.
* Kalaloch Beach , from the South Beach campground to Brown’s Point (just south of Beach Trail 3) in the Olympic National Park. Visitors to the park are advised to consult area bulletin boards for park safety and other information.

Upriver Springer Catch Improves

The Bonneville Dam count is still just roughly one-tenth of the 10-year average, but the percentage of upriver-bound spring Chinook in the Columbia improved markedly during test-netting yesterday.

Of 58 captured, 25 were headed for tribs above Bonneville while 22 were returning to lower Columbia rivers such as the Willamette, Cowlitz and Lewis, according to a fact sheet issued by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife this afternoon.

The origin of the remaining 11 couldn’t be determined through visual stock identification techniques.

Tests the previous two Sundays had only captured one upriver Chinook, and only eight Chinook overall.

The fact sheet also says:

Mainstem sport catch through March 14 includes 700 hatchery Chinook (100 released) from 21,500 angler trips.  Stock composition (based on VSI) is 32% upper river stock.  Winter steelhead handle includes 150 fish kept and 40 released.  Chinook catch and effort is generally in line with pre season modeling.

In the sport catch, stock composition overall is slightly different from preseason expectations with the lower river component comprising a greater proportion of the catch than expected.  Stock composition has gradually been increasing towards upriver as the season progresses.

Only 13 Days For Sound Halibut Anglers

Peter Leutz was none too happy when saw this year’s halibut season proposals.

Eager to dip Halibut Hound, his Sea Swirl, into Puget Sound’s Area 9 this spring, he was furious to learn last month that there might be just 12 days of fishing – less than half last year’s total and only one-third of 2008’s.

Leutz, a Seattle cop, describes halibut fishing as his “passion,” “hobby” and part of his “soul.”

“It feels like it’s being ripped away from me,” Leutz told me.

I phoned up a state fishery manager to find out what was up. She explained that the proposed three-day-a-week fishery (’09’s was four, ’08’s five) was due to the Fed’s overall 15 percent lower quota for halibut, as well as anglers crashing quotas by 57,000 pounds last year and 30,000 the previous season.

Leutz wasn’t buying it.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “My boat’s been sitting since September. I’ve made $8,000 in payments. And now only 12 days of fishing – minus weather …”

Turns out we’ll actually get … 13 days in the Sound.

WDFW announced this morning that fishing in Marine Areas 6 through 10 (Strait, Port Angeles Admiralty Inlet and Everett) will be open three days a week (Thurs., Fri. and Sat.) May 1-30, except for Memorial Day weekend when they will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be open May 28 through June 19 on the same schedule.

The 2010 combined catch quota for these areas is 50,542 pounds.

Elsewhere, the seasons are as follows:

Columbia River (Ilwaco): Marine Area 1 will open May 1, three days a week, Thursday through Saturday until 70 percent of the quota is reached, or until July 18. The fishery will then reopen on Aug. 6 and continue three days a week (Friday through Sunday) until the remaining quota is reached, or Sept. 27, whichever occurs first. The 2010 catch quota is 13,436 pounds.

* South Coast (Westport/Ocean Shores): Marine Area 2 will open on May 2, two days a week, Sundays and Tuesdays.  During the fourth week in May the fishery will be open Sunday only (May 23).  Beginning the following week the fishery will resume the Sunday, Tuesday structure until the quota is reached.  The northern nearshore area will be open seven days per week, until the quota is reached. The 2010 catch quota is 35,887 pounds.

* North Coast (La Push/Neah Bay): Marine areas 3 and 4 will open on May 13, two days per week, Thursdays and Saturdays, through May 22. If sufficient quota remains, the fishery will reopen June 3 and 5. If sufficient quota remains after that opener, the fishery will reopen starting June 17. The 2010 catch quota is 101,179 pounds.

Marine areas 11 and 13 will be closed to protect rockfish, which may be caught incidentally by anglers fishing for halibut.  Three rockfish species in Puget Sound are currently under consideration for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act.

As in previous years, Marine Area 12 (Hood Canal) will remain closed due to low dissolved-oxygen conditions.

Portions of marine areas 2, 3 and 4 also will be closed to fishing for halibut and bottomfish to reduce the chance that anglers will unintentionally catch yelloweye rockfish. Retention of canary and yelloweye rockfish is prohibited in all coastal marine areas.

All Washington waters open to halibut fishing have a one-fish daily catch limit, with no minimum size, and a possession limit of two fish in any form.

ODFW Studying Sturgeon Spawning Area Below Falls

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Researchers from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife recently began surveying the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls to learn more about a previously unknown white sturgeon spawning area.

According to Tucker Jones, ODFW white sturgeon project leader, researchers were surprised to discover white sturgeon spawning in the Willamette River last spring. Until then, the only known spawning grounds for the lower Columbia River white sturgeon population, which includes sturgeon in the lower Willamette River, was immediately downstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

“White sturgeon are important recreationally, commercially, culturally and ecologically,” said Jones. “Identifying another sturgeon spawning area is a big deal.”

Researchers have received a $44,187 grant from the ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program to help get a clearer picture of the extent and timing of sturgeon spawning in the Willamette.

To determine the level of white sturgeon spawning activity downstream of Willamette Falls, researchers will try to collect eggs using substrate mats that will catch the eggs as they settle on the river bottom. Sturgeon are broadcast spawners, laying their eggs throughout the water column. The eggs then sink and adhere to the river bottom to incubate.

Tucker planned to conduct the survey from April to the end of June, when seasonal water temperatures are usually optimal for sturgeon spawning. However, unseasonably warm weather this spring has prompted an earlier start to the research.

In time, researchers hope to map the exact size and location the spawning area in the Willamette River, and document when spawning takes place and what environmental conditions, such as water temperature, influence spawning activity.

The white sturgeon is an ancient species of fish native to the Pacific Coast of North America from Alaska south to Baja California. They can live in the ocean, estuaries or freshwater rivers, but only spawn in the Columbia, Sacramento, and Fraser river systems. Growing up to 20 feet long, they are the largest freshwater fish in North America.

The lower Columbia River sturgeon population provides an important and popular recreation fishery and almost 180,000 lower Columbia River white sturgeon were harvested by anglers between 2003 and 2008.

The discovery of a sturgeon spawning ground in the Willamette River recently prompted the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt new sport fishing regulations to help protect spawning fish. These include: a) establishing a seasonal sturgeon spawning sanctuary on the Willamette River between Willamette Falls and the I-205 bridge from May through July, and b)  closing the bank fishing area in Oregon City known colloquially as “The Wall.”

The ODFW Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, which provided funding for the research, was created by the Oregon Legislature in 1989 and is funded by a surcharge on sport and commercial fishing licenses and commercial poundage fees. The program’s seven-member citizen board reviews fish restoration and enhancement project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

For more information on the Fish Restoration and Enhancement Program, or to view information regarding current R&E Program applications, visit www.dfw.state.or.us/fish/RE or contact program coordinator Laura Tesler at (503) 947-6259.

Wolf Shot On Palouse Just East Of WA Border

A farmer shot and killed a young wolf on the Palouse just east of the Washington-Idaho border near the small town of Farmington.

The incident occurred in early March, according to regional conservation officer Mark Hill of the Idaho Department of Fish & Game.

The man, believed to be a Washington farmer, was checking out his property about 2 miles from the state line at the time. Hill says the man says he threw a stick at the wolf, but it was reluctant to move.

Hill says that the man claimed his dogs were eager to tangle with the animal so he shot the wolf to protect them.

The officer describes the wolf as a 60-pound female; its carcass was being shipped to Boise.

Hill says the man was issued a warning because he didn’t report the kill within 72 hours as required by Idaho law. However, he was probably not aware of the requirement either, he adds.

It’s not unusual to have wolves on the edge of Idaho’s Palouse, Hill says, but the proximity to the Washington border makes it noteworthy.

The two states do share a pack of wolves, the Diamond group, which denned in extreme Northeast Washington last spring and spent approximately 90 percent of its time in the Evergreen State, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2009 report.

Washington has one other confirmed pack of wolves and probably shares a pack with Oregon in the Blue Mountains.

The USFS is investigating reports of wolves above Lake Chelan. A spokeswoman in Spokane told Northwest Sportsman earlier this week that the Department of Fish & Wildlife continues to get reports of tracks, howling, scat and glimpses of animals in Eastern Washington, and says she wouldn’t be surprised to see new packs this summer in North-central, Northeast and Southeast Washington.

The state is working on a management plan to recover the species.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

(ASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE)

The popular spring chinook season is picking up on the Columbia River, steelhead fishing is going full tilt on the Olympic Peninsula and a pair of razor-clam digs are tentatively scheduled late this month and next.

Rather fish for trout?  More than 30 lakes in the Columbia Basin will open for trout fishing April 1, followed by the statewide lowland lake opener April 24.

Here’s more from WDFW’s Weekender:
NORTH PUGET SOUND

With the region’s rivers closed to steelhead fishing, anglers’ attention has turned to salmon in the marine areas of Puget Sound. Anglers fishing 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) have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook. Marine Area 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) is closed to salmon fishing.

Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW biologist, said effort has been light in the region and fishing continues to be slow. “There have been a few blackmouth caught, but overall it’s been a real grind for anglers fishing the waters of northern Puget Sound,” he said.

Thiesfeld said the Strait of Juan de Fuca is the better bet for anglers looking to hook a blackmouth – resident chinook. Anglers fishing marine areas 5 (Sekiu) and 6 (eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca) have a daily limit of one chinook.

Meanwhile, a couple of lakes in King County that are open year-round have been planted with catchable-size rainbow trout . Angle and Green lakes each received 10,000 rainbow trout recently. Check out WDFW’s weekly stocking report for catchable trout on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/index.htm .

SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA

The fishery for wild steelhead is peaking on the northern Olympia Peninsula, and blackmouth fishing is still going strong on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Rough seas have slowed the start of the lingcod fishery, but ocean beaches are tentatively scheduled to open March 26 for a weeklong razor clam fishery.

And just in time for spring break, WDFW is stocking several lakes in Mason and Grays Harbor counties with trout – some weighing up to five pounds apiece.

“Fishing opportunities are really picking up throughout the region,” said Ron Warren, regional WDFW fish manager.  “By the end of the month, there should be something for just about everybody who likes to fish or collect shellfish.”

As local schools count down to spring break, WDFW is planting 5,000 catchable-size rainbow trout in Duck Lake, Lake Sylvia and Vance Creek (Elma) Pond #1 in Grays Harbor County.  Lake Nahwatzel, in Mason County, will receive more than 3,000 catchable-size trout and several hundred coastal cutthroat.

Larger trout, averaging three to five pounds each, also will be planted in the four lakes in time for the spring-break fishery. Vance Creek (Elma) Pond #1, south of Elma, will be open from March 29 to April 4 for juvenile fishers, seniors over 70 and WDFW-licensed anglers with disabilities. The other three lakes are open year-round.

“This is a great opportunity for folks to enjoy early-season fishing during local schools’ spring vacations,” said Richard Ereth, a WDFW fish biologist in Montesano.

Ereth noted that a new daily bag limit is in effect this year on Duck Lake and Vance Creek (Elma) Pond #1. The new limit is five fish, including up to two fish over 15 inches.  When bait is used, anglers must stop fishing after the first five fish are landed, regardless of whether the fish are kept or released.

Meanwhile, steelhead anglers continue to catch – and often release – high numbers of wild fish on rivers around the northern Olympic Peninsula.  On the Sol Duc, 63 anglers reported catching 100 wild steelhead (91 released) and eight hatchery fish during a creel check conducted March 12-14.  Elsewhere, success rates ranged from about a fish to two fish for every two rods.

Anglers fishing for blackmouth salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca have also continued to rack up good catch rates.  While fishing has generally been slow elsewhere in Puget Sound, 10 anglers checked five fish in Seiku and 27 anglers checked 13 fish at Ediz Hook during a creel survey March 14.

But those hoping to catch lingcod off the south coast haven’t been quite so fortunate.  Heavy seas kept most boats at the dock for several days after marine areas 1-3 opened for lingcod fishing, said Wendy Beeghley, another WDFW fish biologist.  “Based on the latest reports, they may not be able to get out for another week,” she said.

The minimum size for lingcod in marine areas 1-3 south of Cape Alava is 22 inches, with a daily limit of two fish per angler. In Marine Area 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores), recreational fishing for rockfish or lingcod is not allowed in waters deeper than 30 fathoms. Marine Area 4, north of Cape Alava, remains closed to lingcod fishing until April 16.  Additional information about the lingcod fishery is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm/ .

Those eager for the final word about a razor-clam dig at ocean beaches tentatively scheduled March 26-April 1 don’t have to wait much longer.  Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said the results should be available by Friday, March 19 from marine toxin tests required to make sure the clams are safe to eat.

Prospective diggers should be aware that the proposed dig is scheduled to start on evening tides, then switch to morning tides for the final four days, Ayres said.  “The digs planned this month span the seasonal change, when the lowest tides shift from evening to morning hours,” he said. “So digging will be allowed after noon for the first three days of the opening, but will then switch to morning hours starting Monday, March 29.”

Tentative days, tides and beach openings for this month’s dig are:

* Friday, March 26, (4:29 p.m., +0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Kalaloch
* Saturday, March 27, (5:19 p.m., -0.1) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks and Kalaloch
* Sunday, March 28, (6:04 p.m., 0.0) Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks
* Monday, March 29, (6:35 A.M., -0.1) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Tuesday, March 30, (7:22 A.M., -0.7) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Wednesday, March 31, (8:07 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only
* Thursday, April 1, (8:52 A.M., -1.0) Long Beach and Twin Harbors only

SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON

Spring chinook salmon fishing is starting to pick up on the lower Columbia River, although anglers are still working hard to catch fish.  During a creel survey conducted during the second week of March, checkers counted 86 adult chinook and three steelhead among the 1,103 boat anglers contacted.  Just one chinook and two steelhead were counted among the 196 bank anglers contacted.

“Spring chinook have been striking in fits and starts, but catch rates should start ramping up any day,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “Regardless of how big this run turns out to be, fishing will almost certainly improve in the days ahead.”

Hymer said boat anglers, fishing between Cathlamet and Vancouver, have taken most of the springers hooked so far this year.  Lower river stocks – including some lunkers up to 30 pounds – have accounted for about half the catch, although upriver fish have been increasing in number in recent days.  As of mid-March, the fishery was drawing approximately 600-800 boats to the lower Columbia River on weekend days.  Those numbers are also expected to increase along with more fish and hopefully spring-like weather.

“If you put in some time, there’s a good chance you’ll take home a spring chinook,” Hymer said.  “Boat anglers have better odds, because the river’s so low right now.”

According to the pre-season forecast, 559,900 spring chinook salmon – 470,000 of which are upriver bound – will return to the Columbia River and its tributaries this year, the largest run since at least 1938.  Under regulations established by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon, fishing is now open at the following places and times:

* Buoy 10 upstream to the I-5 Bridge: Seven days per week through April 18, except closed Tuesdays in March.
* I-5 Bridge upstream to I-205 Bridge: Three days per week – Thursdays through Saturdays – from March 18 through April 3.
* I-205 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam (Bank fishing only): Three days per week – Thursdays through Saturdays – from March 18 through April 3.
* Bonneville Dam to McNary Dam: Seven days per week from March 16 through May 31. Bank fishing only from Bonneville Dam upstream to the Tower Island power lines, six miles downstream from The Dalles Dam.

Anglers fishing below Bonneville Dam may retain one adult spring chinook salmon per day, while those fishing above the dam can keep two per day. As in previous years, only hatchery-reared fish marked with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar may be retained.  All wild spring chinook, identifiable by an intact adipose fin, must be released unharmed.

Spring chinook fishing opened March 16 on the lower Wind River and at Drano Lake, although Hymer noted that the action won’t pick up there until more fish pass Bonneville Dam.  Anglers can check fish counts at the dam on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/op/fishdata/home.asp .  Anglers should be aware of several changes in fishing rules on tributaries to the Bonneville Pool:

* Drano Lake: The anti-snag rule was removed March 16.  Starting April 16, fishing around the outlet of Drano Lake will be limited to bank fishing west of a line projected from the eastern-most pillar of the Highway 14 Bridge to a posted marker on the north shore.
* Wind River: The anti-snag rule has been removed from the mouth upstream to the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge.
* Klickitat River:  Starting April 3, anglers fishing from the Fisher Hill Bridge downstream will be able to retain two hatchery chinook, hatchery steelhead or one of each as part of their daily limit.  Fishing will be open four days per week – Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Below Bonneville, spring chinook are starting to make an appearance in several tributaries, although late-run hatchery winter steelhead continue to make up the bulk of the catch on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers.  At the Cowlitz Hatchery, 24 adult spring chinook and 225 winter-run steelhead were recovered during the second week of March.  A creel survey that week on the Cowlitz turned up 17 hatchery steelhead and one adult chinook among 44 boat anglers.  Eighty-eight bank anglers had caught 14 hatchery steelhead and released two others.

The odds of catching hatchery steelhead were even better that week on the Kalama River, where 12 boat anglers had caught five fish and released three others.  “Fishing for late-run hatchery steelhead is peaking right now, providing a great fishing opportunity as more spring chinook move into the rivers,” said Hymer, noting that anglers have also been catching some steelhead in The Dalles Pool.

Anglers should be aware, however, that March 15 was the last day to fish for steelhead on Abernathy, Cedar (Clark Co.), Germany, Mill (Cowlitz Co.), Rock (Skamania Co.), Salmon (Clark Co.) creeks and on the Coweeman, Elochoman, Grays, East Fork Lewis and Washougal rivers.

Meanwhile, sturgeon fishing has been slow, although boat anglers have been catching some legal-size fish in the Kalama area as well as in The Dalles Pool, where walleye fishing is starting to heat up along with the weather.  Boat anglers fishing there have been averaging a walleye per rod, along with some bass .

Trout anglers should know that WDFW recently stocked Battleground Lake with 3,000 rainbow trout averaging half-a-pound apiece.  Nine recycled winter steelhead were also planted in Kress Lake on March 10.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

The Grand Ronde River, a tributary of the Snake River in the southeast corner of the region, is providing good steelhead trout action. Steelheading has been reportedly excellent near the mouth of the Grand Ronde and near the mouth of Cottonwood Creek, which flows into the Grand Ronde northeast of Troy, Oregon.

The seven impoundments off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County, which opened March 1, continue to produce catches of hatchery rainbow trout . Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes have been stocked with “catchable-size” (about one-third pound) and “jumbo” (about one-and-a-half pound) trout from the Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

WDFW fish biologist Chris Donley of Spokane says some of the March 1-opening waters in the central district are also seeing good action on rainbow trout.  Notable are Amber, Downs, Liberty and Medical lakes in Spokane County. Liberty and Downs recently received more catchable-size hatchery rainbows (see the WDFW Trout Plants at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/   for details).

Downs Lake, on the Spokane-Lincoln county line east of Sprague, is also already providing catches of largemouth bass .  Liberty and Medical lakes are also producing catches of brown trout .

Year-round fisheries at Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, and Rock Lake in Whitman County, remain good, Donley said. Sprague is all rainbows and Rock has both rainbows and browns.

Donley also noted Lake Roosevelt, the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam, is good for rainbows and kokanee , “if you can find the fish.”

The region’s winter-season fisheries in Stevens County – Williams and Hatch lakes near Colville – offer completely open water fishing for stocked rainbows for the rest of the month. Both close March 31.

Anglers can also pick up lots of information at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council’s 50th annual Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show , March 18 – 21, at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. An indoor kids’ fishing pond, where youngsters can learn to cast and actually catch trout to take home and eat, is one of the highlights of this event.  A non-profit organization, the Council donates proceeds from the show to fish and wildlife projects. For more information about the show, see http://www.wildlifecouncil.com/ .

NORTH-CENTRAL WASHINGTON

Over 30 waters in the Columbia Basin lakes open to fishing April 1 and WDFW district fish biologist Chad Jackson says prospects are fair to good.

“With one exception, all these waters are located either within or adjacent to the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge south of Potholes Reservoir,” Jackson said.  “Over half are planted with spring and/or fall rainbow trout fry. Although most are in need of rehabilitation to rid them of competing fish species, nice sized trout can be found in many, including Upper and Lower Hampton lakes, North and South Teal lakes, and the Pillar-Widgeon chain of lakes.”

Jackson notes that anglers who plan on fishing the refuge area lakes, especially the hike-in ones, should remember that – with the unseasonably warm weather the Columbia Basin has been experiencing the past month – rattlesnakes may be out earlier and in greater numbers than normal.

Dry Falls Lake, which also opens April 1, is located just northeast of Park Lake within the Sun Lakes State Park southwest of Coulee City. The 99-acre lake is under selective gear rules and a one-trout daily bag limit.

“Opening day success at Dry Falls in previous years was a little slow because of cold weather,” Jackson said. “But this year abnormally warmer air temperatures are heating up the lake much quicker and it may very well fish better on this year’s opener. I expect anglers to take 13-14-inch yearling rainbows and carryovers up to 24 inches, just like the last two years.

Brown and tiger trout are also planted into Dry Falls Lake. Jackson reported that a total of 9,900 rainbow, 1,000 tiger, and 1,000 brown trout fry were stocked into Dry Falls Lake in 2009.

“Some of the Columbia Refuge area lakes also offer excellent fishing for warmwater species,” Jackson said.  “Probably the best opportunity is at Hutchinson and Shiner lakes. Since their rehabilitations in 1997, these two lakes have developed into quality fisheries for largemouth bass and bluegill .  Anglers should note that only non-motorized boats are allowed on these two lakes.”

Other warmwater fishing options are the Coyote, Bobcat, and Hayes creek ponds located just south of Morgan and Halfmoon lakes.  Jackson says these ponds are relatively small and shallow, so they warm up quickly, and offer good fishing for largemouth bass.  Another option might be Deadman Lake located just off McManamon Road next to Halfmoon Lake.

Further north in the region, steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia River above Wells Dam is scheduled to close one hour after sunset on March 31.

“Steelheading can be very good during the month of March as fish become more active due to warming water temperatures,” said WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp.  “Remember, there is mandatory retention of hatchery adipose-fin-clipped fish up to the maximum daily limit of four steelhead.  And since March 15, there are two section closures on the Okanogan River – one is from the first power line crossing near Coulee Dam Credit Union Building in Omak upstream to the mouth of Omak Creek, and the second one is from the Tonasket Bridge on 4th Street downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.  Selective gear rules are in effect for the Okanogan, Similkameen and Methow rivers.”

Several Okanogan County lakes open to fishing April 1.  Jateff says Spectacle Lake, southwest of Tonasket, should produce catches of yearling rainbow trout up to 12 inches, with carryover fish to 15 inches.  Washburn Island Pond, a diked oxbow of the Columbia River near Fort Okanogan State Park, mostly produces largemouth bass with some bluegill available.

Other waters opening on April 1 for catch-and-release fishing are Davis and Campbell lakes near Winthrop, Rat Lake near Brewster and Big and Little Green lakes near Omak.  Predominant species for these lakes are rainbow trout.

“Anglers planning to fish the Winthrop area lakes — Davis and Campbell — should check first as the ice may not be completely melted by the opener,” Jateff said.

SOUTHCENTRAL

WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson of Yakima says fishing is still good in the region’s year-round-open lakes.

“We just stocked more hatchery rainbow trout in I-82 Ponds 1, 2 and 3 near Yakima,” he said. “About 2,500 one-third-pounders went into each of those waters this week. More will go into other waters in the region by the end of this month or early next month.”

See the WDFW website for weekly catchable-size trout stocking details at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .

What’s Fishin’ In Oregon

“Fantastic steelhead fishing on the Wallowa, Grande Ronde and Imnaha rivers continues,” reports ODFW, but don’t overlook spring break trout stocking in Willamette Valley ponds.

Here are more highlights from ODFW’s weekly Recreation Report:

SOUTHWEST ZONE

  • Winter steelhead fishing has been good on the North Umpqua. Through the end of January over 2,500 winter steelhead had crossed Winchester Dam – one of the highest counts in the last 10 year. Remember only fin-clipped steelhead can be harvested.
  • Many area lakes and reservoirs are being stocked this week in anticipation of Spring Break.
  • March is an excellent month to fish for steelhead in the Elk and Sixes rivers.
  • Anglers have caught some early-season spring chinook in the lower Rogue River and the chinook season will continue to build into April.

NORTHWEST ZONE

  • Nestucca River: Steelhead angling should be fair to good as the river drops after recent rains. Fish are spread out in the river system. Look for a mixture of hatchery and wild fish. Drifting lures or bait near the bottom has been productive. Spinners are generally a good bet in the upper river also.
  • Trask River: Steelhead angling is fair to good. Fish are spread out through the river, including the forks. A few hatchery fish are being caught, but expect more wild fish in the catch as the season goes on. River levels rose last weekend, so fresh fish should be moving in.
  • Wilson River: Steelhead angling is fair to good. Fishing conditions were marginal after recent rains, but the river is dropping. Boaters on the lower river have done well side drifting. Drift fishing or bobber and jigs have produced for bank anglers. Good numbers of fresh fish should be entering the system.

WILLAMETTE ZONE

  • Spring chinook are now being taken on the Willamette River and in the Multnomah Channel. Catch success has been variable but will improve soon.
  • Winter steelhead fishing is good in the Clackamas and Sandy rivers and Eagle Creek. Steelhead are spread throughout both systems and some good catches have been reported.
  • Sturgeon fishing is fair on the lower Willamette River.
  • Trout stocking gets into full swing this week at sites throughout the Willamette Valley.

CENTRAL ZONE

  • Haystack Reservoir offers some good spring fishing for 12 to 18-inch rainbow and brown trout.
  • Flows and water temperatures have been good on the Hood River and, as a result, winter steelhead fishing has been good.

NORTHEAST ZONE

  • McKay Reservoir opened to fishing on March 1 and should provide some good spring fishing for rainbow trout, yellow perch and brown bullhead.
  • McNary, Hatrock and Tatone ponds will be stocked with rainbow trout this week.
  • Anglers have been catching both stocked trout and kokanee on Wallowa Lake.
  • The great steelhead fishing continues in the Grande Ronde and Imnaha basins.

COLUMBIA ZONE

  • Spring chinook should be available in increasing numbers on the lower Columbia for boat and bank anglers.
  • Legal-sized sturgeon are being caught by bank anglers in the gorge.

MARINE ZONE

  • Bottom fishing is good when ocean conditions permit. Calmer oceans usually mean better fishing success. Lingcod are in shallower waters to spawn. Divers may find success spearing along rocky jetties for ling cod and black rockfish.
  • Herring are spawning in many coastal bays now. Fishing for herring can be great fun with kids using light tackle. Watch for birds diving into the herring schools and try to get in on the action. The aggregate daily catch limit for herring, sardines, anchovies and smelt is 25 pounds.

Columbia River Fishing Report

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE)

Salmonid angler effort decreased slightly in the lower Columbia River this past weekend with 603 boats and 183 Oregon bank anglers counted on Saturday’s (3/13) flight.  Catch rates for spring chinook are improving, and should get much better in the coming weeks.

Gorge Bank & Boat:

Weekend checking showed no catch for 11 bank anglers.

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed three adipose fin-clipped spring chinook kept and two unclipped spring chinook released for 29 boats (62 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for 61 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boat:

Weekend checking showed nine adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus three unclipped spring chinook released for 100 boats (241 anglers).

Estuary Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for three bank anglers.

Estuary Boat:

Weekend checking showed 20 adipose fin-clipped spring chinook and one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept for 41 boats (93 anglers).

Bonneville Pool:

No report.

The Dalles Pool:

Weekly checking showed one adipose fin-clipped steelhead kept, plus four unclipped steelhead released for 20 bank anglers.

John Day Pool (Columbia River above John Day Dam and John Day Arm):

No report.

STURGEON:

Gorge Bank:

Weekend checking showed eight legal white sturgeon kept, plus one legal, one oversize, and 21 sublegal sturgeon released for 33 bank anglers.

Gorge Boats:

No report. Effort has been very light.

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed no catch for four boats (13 anglers).

Portland to Longview Bank:

Weekend checking showed no catch for 12 bank anglers.

Portland to Longview Boats:

Weekend checking showed no catch for three boats (nine anglers).

Estuary Boats:

No report.

Bonneville Pool Boat and Bank:

Closed for retention. No report.

The Dalles Pool Boat and Bank:

Weekly checking showed one sublegal sturgeon released for 27 bank anglers; and four legal white sturgeon kept, plus three oversize, and 122 sublegal sturgeon released for 10 boats (29 anglers).

John Day Pool Boat and Bank:

Closed for retention. No report.

WALLEYE:

Troutdale Boats:

Weekend checking showed no catch for one boat (one angler).

Bonneville Pool Boats:

No report.

The Dalles Pool Boats:

Weekly checking showed no catch for five bank anglers; and 14 walleye kept, plus three walleye released for 10 boats (21 anglers).

John Day Pool Boats:

No report.

Spokane Sportsmen Form Backcountry Advocacy Group

Rich Landers details a pair of Spokane sportsmen who’ve formed the Washington chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a group that establishes — in the Spokesman-Review reporter’s words — “a sportsman’s voice for protecting roadless areas and the traditions they uphold.”

Joe Mirasole and Jeff Holmes say they’re nonpartisan, don’t care what religious views you hold, don’t discriminate between fly guys and bait soakers and have no position on the wolves.

“Those are all distractions from the fundamentals of protecting roadless areas for wildlife and for our kids,” Mirasole tells Landers.

Imagine that in this overly politicized era.