Category Archives: Headlines

North-Central WA Fishing Report

(ANTON JONES, DARRELL & DAD’S GUIDE SERVICE)

What’s hottest is the trench bite for Mackinaw on Lake Chelan.  Also hot is the troll bite on Roses Lake for planter Rainbows and Tiger Trout.  And finally, the Upper Columbia Steelhead bite has been spectacular when it’s on.

On Lake Chelan, we have been doing best in the lower basin from Rocky Point down to Pat and Mike’s.  The most productive lure has been the venerable Worden Lures U20 luminous chartreuse flatfish on the downriggers.  We also like flatfish off the outrigger rods, but it has been the little F7 in purple glow that has scored on the biggest fish of the day.  Speeds of 1.3 to 1.6 mph will generate the most bites.  The best of this bite has been from about 8:30AM to Noon.  It is a classic “bankers bite”.

Roses Lake boat anglers have been having some of the best surface trolling that you are ever going to see for Rainbow and Tiger Trout.  They will eagerly bite a trolled or cast 1/8 ounce Worden’s Lures Roostertail.  A Mack’s Lures baited wedding ring will produce fish too, sans attractor.  Also, green and black wooly buggers and muddlers in sizes from 8 to 1/0 with an action disk by wiggle fin in front are effective.  Fish for these guys with 4 pound test line on light tackle.  Put a ¼ ounce sinker in front of them just to get your presentation below the surface.  You too, will call these rainbows, mini-marlin.

GUIDE AL BROOKS WITH A ROSES LAKE LIMIT. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

The Upper Columbia Steelhead fishing continues to be good on Lake Pateros using baited quarter ounce Rock Dancer jigs from Mack’s Lures.  Frankly, some days are better than others.  See this week’s pictures for a shot of 10 of the 22 steelhead brought to the boat on one of the days during this reporting period.  The season will close March 31st.

UPPER COLUMBIA STEELHEAD. (DARRELL & DAD'S GUIDE SERVICE)

Your fishing tip of the week is to test those knots before putting them in the water.  It is disappointing to lose a fish to a bad knot.

Your kid’s tip of the week is to fit those lifejackets so they are comfortable.  That will alleviate a lot of fussing and their tendency to remove them.

The safety tip of the week is a simple but often overlooked one.  Remember to pull some line so you have slack before fooling around with your hooks or lures.  Hanging on to them with tension on the line can create an excellent hookset, in a body part.  I’ve seen it happen to loads of fingers and one very memorable nose…

OR Halibut Seasons, Sturgeon Protections Approved

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Halibut fishing opens in May

The Commission approved a suite of halibut fishing seasons off the Oregon coast recommended by ODFW’s marine staff based in Newport. The largest and most popular halibut fishery is a 200-mile all-depths section of the coast between Cape Falcon near Manzanita and Humbug Mountain south of Port Orford. For this area, the Commission approved a nine-day spring halibut season and a 14-day fall season. The spring season will take place May 13-15, May 20-22 and June 3-5, with extra back-up dates of June 17-19, July 1-3, July 15-17, and July 29-31 available as long as the total catch does not exceed 105,948 pounds. The fall recreational halibut fishing season will take place every other Friday and Saturday from Aug. 6 to Oct. 30 or until the sub-area all-depth catch limit of 141,265 pounds of halibut is harvested. The near-shore season, for ocean waters inside the 40 fathom line, will be open seven days a week from May 1 until Oct. 31 or until the harvest quota of 12,284 pounds is achieved.

North of Cape Falcon, off the coast near Astoria and north to Leadbetter Point in Washington state, sport halibut fishing will be open three days a week, Thursday – Saturday, through July 18 or until 9,405 pounds of halibut is harvested. The summer season in this area will open three days a week, Friday-Sunday, from Aug. 6 through Sept. 27 or the total harvest reaches 13,436 pounds. On the Oregon coast south of Humbug Mountain, halibut fishing will be open seven days a week, through Oct. 31.

The statewide daily bag limit on halibut is one fish, with an annual limit of six fish.

The 2010 harvest limits are 15 percent lower than last year and were set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

New measures aim to protect sturgeon

The Commission dealt with several measures designed to protect the state’s sturgeon populations, which have been showing some signs of distress.

Commissioners adopted a statewide ban on green sturgeon, established a new white sturgeon sanctuary in the Willamette River, and extended an existing white sturgeon sanctuary in the Columbia River below Bonneville Dam.

The new Willamette River sturgeon sanctuary extends from the Willamette Falls about two miles downstream to the I-205 Bridge. The revised Columbia River sturgeon sanctuary begins at Bonneville Dam and continues downstream to the upstream end of Skamania Island at River Marker #82. Sturgeon fishing will be prohibited in both sanctuaries May 1 – Aug. 31, during sturgeon spawning season. Fishing for other species such as salmon, steelhead and shad will still be allowed inside the sanctuaries during the sturgeon fishing closure.

The Commission also closed a bank fishing site below Willamette Falls known as the “Oregon City Wall” out of concern that 40-foot cliffs in the area pose a risk to the safe release of sturgeon caught from the bank in this area. The closure takes effect April 1. The closure area is approximately 300 feet downstream of the Oregon City/West Linn Bridge (Hwy.43) extending upstream approximately 1,700 feet. Boat fishing in this area will still be allowed.

Ocean Salmon Fishing Options Out

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

Anglers fishing along the Washington coast will see an increase in catch quotas for chinook salmon this summer, although harvest guidelines for coho will be lower than seasons adopted last year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.

Three ocean salmon-fishing options approved today by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) anticipate a strong return of chinook along the Washington coast bound for the Columbia River this summer. But the three options also point to a decrease from last year in Columbia River coho returns.

“These options are designed to meet our conservation objectives for wild chinook and coho salmon,” said Phil Anderson, WDFW director. “Using these options as a framework, we will work with stakeholders on the coast and Washington’s inside waters to develop a final fishing package that provides fishing opportunities on healthy salmon runs while meeting our conservation goals for weak salmon populations.”

The PFMC, which establishes fishing seasons in ocean waters three to 200 miles off the Pacific coast, last year adopted recreational ocean fishing quotas of 20,500 chinook and 176,400 coho salmon. This year’s recreational ocean options are:

* Option 1 – 55,000 chinook and 92,400 coho;
* Option 2 – 47,500 chinook and 75,600 coho; and
* Option 3 – 40,000 chinook and 58,800 coho.

Nearly 653,000 fall chinook are forecasted to return to the Columbia River this season, about 234,000 more chinook than the number returning last year. The increased numbers represent strong returns to Spring Creek and other Columbia River hatcheries, which traditionally have been the backbone of the recreational ocean chinook fishery.

“The expected abundance of hatchery chinook salmon should allow fishery managers to structure seasons that enhance fishing opportunities for chinook in the ocean and the Columbia River this year,” Anderson said.

Under Option 1, the PFMC proposed a recreational salmon fishing season this summer that would get under way June 12 in all ocean areas with mark-selective fisheries for hatchery chinook. The selective fishery would run from June 12-30 or until 19,000 hatchery chinook are retained.

Selective fisheries allow anglers to catch and keep abundant hatchery salmon, which are marked with a missing adipose fin, but require that they release wild salmon. If implemented, the mark-selective fishery would be the first in Washington’s ocean waters for hatchery chinook.

For nearly a decade, the mass marking of hatchery-produced coho salmon has allowed anglers to fish selectively for coho in Washington’s ocean waters. Mass marking of lower Columbia River hatchery chinook – known as “tules” – has been under way since the mid-2000s and the PFMC is considering using this management tool in ocean fisheries for chinook, Anderson said.

Under Option 2, recreational salmon fishing would begin June 19 in all ocean areas for both hatchery and wild chinook salmon. That fishery would run through June 30 or until 7,000 chinook are retained. Option 2 does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.

Starting in early July, retention of chinook, as well as hatchery coho, would be allowed under both options 1 and 2.

Under Option 3, recreational chinook and hatchery coho salmon fisheries would begin June 27 in marine areas 1 (Ilwaco) and 2 (Westport/Ocean Shores) and June 29 in marine areas 3 (LaPush) and 4 (Neah Bay). Like Option 2, this option does not include a mark-selective fishery for hatchery chinook in the ocean this year.

While the chinook forecast is up, the Columbia River coho return is expected to be down this year. Nearly 390,000 Columbia River coho are projected to make their way along Washington’s coast this summer, compared to one million coho in 2009 – the largest return in nearly decade.

“This year’s Columbia River coho run, which is well below last year’s return, will challenge fishery managers to develop meaningful fishing opportunities while still meeting our conservation goals for coho,” Anderson said.

As in the past, all three ocean options are based on mark-selective fisheries for hatchery coho salmon.

Chinook and coho quotas approved by the PFMC will be part of a comprehensive 2010 salmon fishing package, which includes marine and freshwater fisheries throughout Puget Sound, the Columbia River and Washington’s coastal areas. State and tribal co-managers are currently developing those fisheries.

The co-managers will complete the final 2010 salmon fisheries package in conjunction with the PFMC process during its April meeting.

Meanwhile, public meetings are scheduled in March and early April to discuss regional fisheries issues. A public hearing on the three options for ocean salmon fisheries is scheduled for March 29 in Westport.

Fishery managers will consider input from the regional discussions during the “North of Falcon” process, which involves planning for fishing seasons in Washington’s waters. Two public North of Falcon meetings are scheduled for March 16 in Olympia and April 6 in Lynnwood. Both meetings will begin at 9 a.m.

More information about the salmon-season setting process, as well as a schedule of public meetings and salmon run-size forecasts, can be found on WDFW’s North of Falcon website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/northfalcon/ ).

Spokane Has New Hunter Ed Home

There’s a good story in today’s Spokesman-Review about a new “Outpost” for hunter education classes in Spokane, courtesy of a co-owner of White Elephant.

Reports Sandra Babcock:

The “area” that Pat Conley made available is a warehouse behind the White Elephant Store on Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley, which he and his family own. With the help of many hands and generous grants from the Friends of the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, the warehouse was gutted, cleaned and remodeled. High-definition television monitors for video presentations and furniture were purchased in preparation for the formal dedication of the Outpost last week. The first class begins Friday.

The article also has some good stuff about Teddy Roosevelt, seen as one of the father’s of the American conservation movement and a real key supporter for wildlife and wildlands, as well as the Pitman-Robertson Act. (I wrote about some of that stuff in a book review a couple months ago.)

And there’s this interesting tidbit from Conley on who’s taking hunter ed these days: “It’s probably 50-50 now of boys and girls. It used to be all boys and that was the norm but now it’s a lot of girls.”

Hunter Ed Classes, Field Days In OR Coming Up

(OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

A number of hunter education classes and field days are available in March and early April, so young hunters have the chance to get certified before spring turkey season opens in mid-April.

Hunter education is mandatory for all hunters under the age of 18 and recommended for any new hunter. The course covers topics like firearms safety, hunter ethics, wildlife identification, hunt preparation and techniques and outdoor survival.

Students now have three options to complete hunter education: an online course, an independent study workbook course, or in-person attendance at a traditional class taught through ODFW’s statewide network of 600 volunteer instructors. A list of traditional classes can be found here. A $10 fee is due at the beginning of the course.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/outdoor_skills/hunter/courses/index.asp

Independent study and online course students are still required to attend and complete a field day course, which typically last six to eight hours. Students receive hands-on instruction on safe firearms handling techniques, including crossing obstacles and hunting with others, situational ethics, and live fire exercises. Finally, students take a final certification exam to receive their official hunter safety card. Field day class listings can be found here. A $10 fee is due at the field day.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/outdoor_skills/hunter/courses/independent_study.asp

The online course is offered through Kalkomey Enterprises and costs an additional $15, paid to Kalkomey. The course takes approximately 10 hours to complete and includes a Field Day Qualifier Exam. Use of the online course and all practice tests is free until a student signs up to take the exam. Students who pass the online exam with an 80 percent grade or better receive a certificate which qualifies them to attend the required field day. To register for the online course, visit the following Web site:

http://www.hunter-ed.com/or/index.htm

To register for the independent study option, contact Myrna Britton (Myrna.B.Britton@state.or.us; tel. 503-947-6028) for a Hunter Education workbook, which must be fully completed when brought to the first field day class. A $10 fee is required for registration and class materials.

ODFW certifies about 6,000 new hunters each year through the hunter education program. Completion of the class is mandatory for any person under the age of 18 to hunt in Oregon, unless they are hunting on land owned by their parents or legal guardian or participating in the Mentored Youth Hunter Program.

For more information about Hunter Education visit http://www.dfw.state.or.us/outdoor_skills/hunter/index.asp

Spring turkey season is open statewide April 15-May 31. Hunters under the age of 17 may also hunt April 10-11. See the 2009-2010 Oregon Game Bird Regulations for more information.

http://www.dfw.state.or.us/resources/hunting/upland_bird/docs/ODFWbird09_10final.pdf

Obama To Ban Fishing?! Not So Fast

It seems that President Obama has weightier things on his plate these days than banning angling, but a post on ESPN.com earlier this week sparked concern around the fishing world that his administration, through its Ocean Policy Task Force, just might be up to that.

Or … it may not.

All depends on who you want to listen to.

It started with the latest coverage of the OPTF from ESPN columnist Robert Montgomery:

The Obama administration has ended public input for a federal strategy that could prohibit U.S. citizens from fishing some of the nation’s oceans, coastal areas, Great Lakes, and even inland waters.

This announcement comes at the time when the situation supposedly still is “fluid” and the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force still hasn’t issued its final report on zoning uses of these waters.
Afterwards, the charges were echoed by a cascade of blogs (collated by Media Matters) similar to this one by Jim Hoft of gatewaypundit:
More Hope and Change…
Obama’s latest assault on your rights– He wants to ban sport fishing.
Barack Obama has a message for America’s 60,000,000 anglers– We don’t need you.
There was some straight-news coverage from the Christian Science Monitor‘s Patrik Jonsson:
The Obama administration has proposed using United Nations-guided principles to expand a type of zoning to coastal and even some inland waters. That’s raising concerns among fishermen that their favorite fishing holes may soon be off-limits for bait-casting.

In the battle of incremental change that epitomizes the American conservation movement, many weekend anglers fear that the Obama administration’s promise to “fundamentally change” water management in the US will erode what they call the public’s “right to fish,” in turn creating economic losses for the $82 billion recreational fishing industry and a further deterioration of the American outdoorsman’s legacy.

And today, ESPN.com editor Steve Bowman has tagged a note onto Montgomery’s piece:

… While our series overall has examined several sides of this topic, this particular column was not properly balanced and failed to represent contrary points of view. We have reached out to people on every side of the issue and reported their points of view — if they chose to respond — throughout the series, but failed to do so in this specific column.

Bowman also says that the post — the 14th in a series that began last October — was an opinion piece and should have been labeled as such.

We do feel it is our duty to cover issues surrounding outdoor sports to the best of our abilities, and given the nature of this task force and the potential impact on all fisherman, this was an appropriate topic to address for our audience.

Indeed, this is definitely something to keep your eyes on if you’re a recreational fisherman. As the Science Monitor reports:

The final report of the (Ocean Policy) task force is expected in late March. Congress will decide its fate, unless Obama issues an executive order establishing MSP as the law of the water.

UPDATES: Even as Glenn Beck joined in the bashing, FOX News reporter Joshua Rhett Miller has a pretty good straight-news article with comments from a Federal official.

And North Carolina-based outdoors writer Jeffrey Weeks has some interesting incites from his years spent covering the wars between commercial and recreational fishing and environmental groups in three successive posts.

If you’ve made it this far and need a laugh on the whole matter, here’s a chuckle from Wednesday night’s Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, as reported by several sources:

Some Web sites are saying the Obama administration may ban fishing in rivers and lakes. The new fishing rules haven’t been announced yet, so I’m not sure what’s really going on. On Fox News, they’re saying, “Obama wages jihad on fishing.” On NPR, they’re saying, “Obama protects aquatic unicorns.”

Chance To Comment On Hunt Changes This Weekend

(WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH & WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE)

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will accept public comments on proposed changes to this year’s hunting regulations and special-hunt permit drawings during a meeting here March 12-13.

The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also will consider initial comments on proposed new rules designed to address property damage and other public concerns related to wildlife.

The public meeting in Olympia will start at 8:30 p.m. both days in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E.  An agenda for the meeting, along with WDFW’s proposals on these issues, is available on the commission’s website.  (See http://bit.ly/a9Uqdg ).

The new hunting rules proposed for the upcoming season reflect changes in state game populations since the current three-year hunting plan was adopted last year, said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.  The proposed hunting rules include a combination of new conservation measures and hunting opportunities for species such as deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bear, cougar and small game.

In addition, WDFW is proposing changes in the way random drawings are conducted for special-hunt permits, which provide additional hunting options beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Public hearings on special-hunt permits and hunting rules proposed by WDFW are scheduled March 13, the second day of the commission’s meeting in Olympia.  The commission is expected to take action on both proposals at a meeting set April 9-10 in Leavenworth.

Also at the meeting March 12-13 in Olympia, the commission will:

  • Accept public comments on a new initiative proposed by WDFW to address property damage and reduce other conflicts between wildlife and humans.
  • Consider extending the current fishery allocation policy for Columbia River summer chinook salmon by one year.
  • Receive a briefing on 2010 salmon forecasts, conservation needs and fishing opportunities.
  • Consider approval of land transactions proposed by WDFW in Pierce, Kitsap and Okanogan counties.

House Passes Budget

The Washington House on Friday night passed a supplemental operating budget that reduces $2.3 million from the Department of Fish & Wildlife.

It must now reconcile its budget with the Senate’s. The upper house of the legislature had initially wanted to merge WDFW into DNR, but decided against it.

Among the highlights from the House’s budget:

1. Reduce Outreach and Education – Funding for outreach and education programs is reduced by 6 percent in FY 2011.

2. Reduce Executive Management – The Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will reduce one executive management position and consolidate administrative and policy functions.

3. Reduce Wildlife Area Mgmt Planning – Funding for wildlife area management planning is reduced 3 percent in FY 2011,
delaying approximately 20 plans and updates and input from citizen advisory groups.

4. Charge Fees for Some HPAs * – Pursuant to House Bill 3037 (hydraulic project permitting) General Fund-State funding for administering Hydraulic Permit Approvals is eliminated as of January 1, 2011. The program will fully recover its costs through a new fee by January 2011. (General Fund-State, Hydraulic Permit Fee Account-State)

5. Fund Hatcheries Using Partnerships – State law allows the Department to enter into partnerships with local groups to support fish hatcheries. Funding is reduced for the McKernan and Mayr Brothers fish hatcheries in anticipation of the Department forming partnerships to assist in supporting the operation and maintenance of these hatcheries.

6. Reduce Fisheries Mgmt Authority – Reductions are made to the expenditure authority for five accounts for projected revenue during the 2009-11 biennium. No planned work will be reduced. (Special Wildlife Account-Federal, Sea Cucumber Dive Fishery Account-Nonappropriated, Puget Sound Crab Pot Buoy Tag Account-Nonappropriated, Washington Coastal Crab Pot Buoy Tag Account-Nonappropriated, Recreational Fisheries Enhancement Account-State) H

7. Eliminate Reg Fisheries Enh Board # – Pursuant to Substitute House Bill 2617 (boards and commissions) funding is eliminated for the Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Advisory Board. (Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group Account-Nonappropriated)

8. Restore Aviation Funding – Funding is restored for the maintenance and operation of the Department’s Partenavia aircraft. The Partenavia will continue to be used for survey missions and fish planting, and will assist the Department of Natural Resources with fire suppression coordination.

9. Maintain Core Admin Functions – The Department’s indirect rate for administration and overhead from federal grants has been reduced, resulting in a net loss of approximately $3.8 million for the 2009-11 biennium. Funding is provided to partially restore the loss from the lower indirect rate. (State Wildlife Account-State)

10. Op Costs for New Wildlife Lands – In FY 2009 the Department completed land acquisition transactions for 9,067 acres. These acres were acquired with legislatively approved and allocated capital funds through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Operating funding to maintain these new land acquisitions is provided, enabling the Department to manage new wildlife areas, natural lands, and water access sites, and to provide access, clean toilets, and weed control.

11. Wildfire on WDFW Lands – Funding is provided to WDFW to pay for Department of Natural Resources fire suppression activity costs incurred during FY 2010.

12. Fund Support Prgrms Proportionately – Funding is provided in FY 2011 to pay for administrative support services. Additionally, $250,000 per fiscal year will support the automated Washington Interactive Licensing Database system. (State Wildlife Account-State)

13. Incr Hunter Access on Private Land – Funding is provided for the Department to bring 200,000 additional acres of private land under contract for recreational access. The program is funded through special hunting permit application fees. (State Wildlife Account-State)

14. Outdoor Recreation Information – Funding is provided for Substitute House Bill 2569 (outdoor recreation information). The bill authorizes the WDFW to collect information relating to outdoor recreational access on a page of its website that is only accessible to license holders. The cost of a Vehicle Use Permit issued by the WDFW is increased in steps from $10 to $30. Individuals who purchase a wildlife-themed or personalized license plate are permitted to park at land access sites managed by the WDFW without having to display a Vehicle Use Permit.

15. Spirit Lake Fishery – A raffle-based limited trout fishery in Spirit Lake at the base of Mount St. Helens is authorized by Substitute House Bill 1838 (Spirit Lake trout fishery).

16. Voight Creek Hatchery – Funding is provided to enhance fish production at Voight Creek Hatchery.

Triploid Stocking Up For 2010

(WASHINGTON FISH & WILDLIFE COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE)

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today approved a plan that will send 58,118 large rainbow trout – 16,708 over last year’s total – to 104 lowland lakes statewide.

The commission voted to modify the stocking plan developed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff to more closely balance stocking percentages between eastern and western Washington.

Under the approved plan, 55 percent of the fish will go to western Washington lakes, and 45 percent will go to eastern Washington waters. The adopted plan will partly offset lost fish production resulting from the closure of Bellingham Hatchery.

Triploids – trout bred so that they cannot reproduce – average 1½ pounds apiece. WDFW purchases the popular triploids from a private grower under a program authorized by the Legislature in 1999.

Triploid trout, along with “catchable” size trout produced by WDFW hatcheries, provide fish for lake fisheries statewide.

The 2010 triploid trout stocking plan will be posted on the WDFW website later this month.

What’s Fishin’ In Washington

“Increasing numbers of steelhead” on the Peninsula, “strong” catch rates for blackmouth in the Straits, “a good showing of lower-river springers” in the Columbia, spring weather and open water in the Basin, perch, and fresh stockers.

That’s some of action Washington anglers are finding around the state right now, according to today’s Weekender Report from WDFW.

Here’s more:

North Puget Sound

While there have been a few reports of anglers hauling in some nice blackmouth, salmon fishing in Puget Sound continues to be slow. “To have any success in northern Puget Sound, anglers really need to put in some time on the water,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fish biologist.

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.

Thiesfeld said anglers might want to consider heading to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where salmon fishing continues to be good.

Marine areas 5 and 6 have been the hotspots, he said. In Sekiu, 23 anglers in eight boats landed 17 blackmouth during the last day in February. Anglers have also been landing good numbers of fish at the Ediz Hook ramp in Port Angeles. “The season started strong in the Strait and it’s stayed that way,” said Thiesfeld.  “It’s definitely the best bet for blackmouth right now.”

Meanwhile, numerous rivers are closed to steelhead fishing, including the Skagit, Sauk and Samish. The three rivers, usually open in March, closed early to protect wild steelhead that are listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act. The closures include:

* The Skagit River, from the mouth upstream to Highway 536 (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) at Mount Vernon, through April 30; and from Highway 536 (Memorial Hwy. Bridge) at Mount Vernon upstream to the Gorge Powerhouse through May 31.
* The Sauk River, from the mouth upstream to the Whitechuck River through June 4.
* The Samish River, from the mouth to the Hickson Bridge, through June 4.

Before heading out, anglers should check the current regulations for all fisheries in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).

South Sound/Olympic Peninsula

Anglers are reeling in increasing numbers of steelhead from rivers on the Olympic Peninsula, while catch rates remain strong for blackmouth salmon in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Lingcod fishing opens March 13 in ocean areas south of Cape Alava, and another razor clam dig is tentatively scheduled March 26-April 1 at various ocean beaches.

“This is a great time of year for fishing and other outdoor activities, but deciding where to go can be tough,” said Steve Thiesfeld, a WDFW fish biologist.  “With so many opportunities out there, anglers have to make some hard choices about how they want to spend their weekends.”

Steelhead fishing on the northern peninsula is definitely a good bet right now, said David Low, another WDFW fish biologist.  During a creel check on the Sol Duc River conducted during the last four days of February, 78 anglers reported catching 74 wild steelhead (and releasing 64 of them) along with 13 hatchery fish (and releasing four of those).  On the Calawah River, 21 anglers reported catching 22 wild fish and releasing 19.

“This is peak season for wild steelhead on most of these rivers,” Low said.  “Anglers need to keep an eye on river conditions, but fishing is definitely good right now.”

As in years past, anglers may retain only 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.

Low specifically reminds anglers that no wild steelhead may be retained on the Hoh River above the DNR Oxbow Campground.  Rules for each river are described in the 2009-10 Fishing in Washington pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Not surprisingly, angler turnout on the north coast has been strong – due to good catch rates and the fact that most rivers in the Puget Sound region are now closed to steelhead fishing.  Low suggests the Skookumchuck River as a viable alternative for anglers looking to catch steelhead.

“This tributary to the Chehalis River is a great option for Puget Sound anglers looking for a fishing opportunity closer to home,” said Low, noting that the Skookumchuck offers a strong run of late-returning hatchery fish.  “Besides, it’s pretty tough to find an empty seat in a guide boat on the Olympic Peninsula at this point in the season.”

Rather catch a blackmouth salmon ?  Several areas of Puget Sound are open to fishing for resident chinook, although marine areas 5 and 6 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca have clearly been the hotspots.  In Sekiu, 23 anglers in eight boats landed 17 blackmouth during the last day in February.  Anglers have also been landing good numbers of fish at the Ediz Hook ramp in Port Angeles.

“The season started strong in the Strait and it’s stayed that way,” said Thiesfeld, who also monitors the fishery elsewhere in Puget Sound.  “It’s definitely the best bet for blackmouth right now.”

Another option is lingcod fishing, which gets under way March 13 in marine areas 1-3, south of Cape Alava. The minimum size for lingcod in these areas 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. Additional information about the lingcod fishery and other bottom fish is available on the WDFW Fishing Hotline (360) 902-2500 or online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm/ .

WDFW has also announced plans for a razor-clam dig tentatively scheduled March 26-April 1 at various ocean beaches.  As always, final approval of the dig – the first of the spring season – will depend on results of marine toxin tests that show the clams are safe to eat.

Prospective diggers should note that the proposed dig would start on evening tides, then switch to morning tides for the final four days, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. “The digs planned this month span the seasonal change, when the lowest tides shift from evening to morning hours,” he 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.”

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, 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

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 a subsequent dig, tentatively scheduled April 16-18. Descriptions of the various licensing options are available on the WDFW website at https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov .

Southwest Washington

Spring chinook fever continues to spread on the Columbia River, although the prized fish were hard to find during the last week of February.  On the last Saturday of the month, 250 bank anglers and more than 300 boats were counted on the lower river – twice as many boats as the same time last year.  But only three spring chinook, all from lower-river stocks, turned up in WDFW creel checks that day.

“We’ve had a pretty good showing of lower-river springers, but the upriver fish are off to another slow start,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.  “So far, we have seen little evidence of the huge run of upriver fish expected this year, but that could change any day 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 1938.  While most of those fish aren’t expected to arrive until later this month or early April, it’s hardly surprising that anglers are eager to test the waters.

“This is shakedown time for the spring chinook fishery,” Hymer said. “It’s a good time to get your boat and gear in order and pick your spots before the crowds arrive.  Catching fish is a bonus at this point in the season.”

Under regulations established by fishery managers from Washington and Oregon, the fishery is now open at the following places and times:

* Buoy 10 upstream to the I-5 Bridge: Seven days per week from March 1 through April 18, except closed on the following Tuesdays: March 9, 16, 23 and 30.
* I-5 Bridge upstream to I-205 Bridge: Seven days per week from March 1-14, except closed on Tuesday March 9. Beginning March 18 through April 3, fishing will be limited to three days per week, Thursday through Saturday.
* I-205 Bridge upstream to Bonneville Dam: Bank angling only, seven days per week from March 1-14, except closed on Tuesday, March 9. Beginning March 18 through April 3, fishing will be limited to three days per week, Thursday through Saturday.
* 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.

After watching spring chinook runs fall short of expectations for the past two years,
fishery managers exercised caution in setting fishing seasons below Bonneville Dam.  In calculating the number of fish available for harvest, they set aside a 40 percent “buffer” until the forecast can be verified by data collected once the run is under way.

On area tributaries, the first spring chinook of the season has returned to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery and some springers have been showing up in the catch on the Cowlitz, Kalama and Lewis rivers.  In addition, anglers are catching late-run hatchery steelhead , particularly on the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers where the run is reaching its peak.  As an added bonus, anglers fishing the lower Cowlitz River may now keep steelhead with a clipped right ventral fin.

In other waters, anglers should be aware that March 15 is 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.

Other rule changes coming up in the days ahead will affect several tributaries to the Bonneville Pool:

* Drano Lake:   The anti-snag rule will no longer be in effect as of 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:   Starting March 16, the anti-snag rule will no longer be in effect 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.

Meanwhile, anglers have been reeling in some legal-sized white sturgeon from The Dalles Pool, although none were found in creel checks conducted the last week of February.  Sturgeon retention is closed in the Bonneville and John Day pools, and fishing has been slow below Bonneville Dam where most of the big fish have yet to awaken from their winter slumber.

In mid-February, fishery managers from Washington and Oregon adopted fishing seasons for white sturgeon that provide greater protection for declining numbers of sturgeon below Bonneville Dam.  New harvest guidelines approved by both states will limit this year’s catch below the dam to 24,000 fish, a 40 percent reduction from levels approved in 2009.  Of that total, 19,200 will be available for harvest by the sport fishery and 4,800 by the commercial fishery.

To increase protection for spawning sturgeon, fishery managers also agreed to expand the existing six-mile sanctuary area below the dam, where sturgeon fishing is prohibited in late spring and early summer. The new agreement expands the sanctuary 3.5 miles downstream to Skamania Island and extends the fishing prohibition from May 1 to Aug. 31, adding the month of August.  Oregon will also establish a new spawning sanctuary on the Willamette River downstream from Willamette Falls to Interstate 205.

Fishing seasons for retention of white sturgeon approved for the 2010 sport fishery in the Columbia River and adjacent tributaries are as follows:

* Buoy 10 to the Wauna powerlines:   The retention fishery for white sturgeon is open seven days per week through April and again from May 22 to June 26.  The fork length of retained sturgeon must be a minimum of 38 inches through April and 41 inches beginning in May. Maximum fork length is 54 inches.  Catch-and-release fishing is allowed during non-retention days.
* Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam:   The retention fishery for white sturgeon will be open three days per week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) through July 31, and again from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. The fork length of retained sturgeon must be a minimum of 38 inches and a maximum of 54 inches.  Catch-and-release fishing is allowed on days when sturgeon retention is prohibited, except in the sanctuary area from May through August.

The fishing periods will be reassessed in June based on available catch data, and may be modified to match catch guidelines.

Smelt (eulachon) dipping is now closed in all Washington rivers except the mainstem Columbia River, but fishing for walleye and bass is picking up above Bonneville Dam.  Boat anglers fishing the John Day Pool have been averaging a bass per rod and a walleye for every three rods.  The Dalles Pool is also giving up some walleye.

A recent creel check at Klineline Pond tallied 26 bank anglers with 42 rainbow trout .  Klineline was recently stocked with 2,300 half-pound rainbows, while Battleground Lake got 1,000 and Kress Lake near Kalama got 16 surplus hatchery steelhead averaging 10 pounds apiece.

Eastern Washington

Anglers enjoyed spring weather at the region’s dozen or so lakes that opened to fishing March 1, with catches coming out of open water instead of through the ice.

The seven impoundments off the Tucannon River on WDFW’s Wooten Wildlife Area in Columbia County provided lots of action on hatchery rainbow trout . Beaver, Big Four, Blue, Deer, Rainbow, Spring and Watson lakes were stocked with “catchable-size” (about one-third pound) and “jumbo” (about 1.5 pound) trout from the Tucannon and Lyons Ferry fish hatcheries.

WDFW Fish Biologist Jeremy Trump checked anglers on opening day at most of the Tucannon lakes, where fish averaged about 12 inches.  Better fishing seemed to be in the morning, except for at Big Four, where fishing was slower than expected all day. Spring Lake had the highest average number of fish caught per angler – just over three – and Big Four had the lowest, at less than one fish apiece. The largest rainbow measured was a 17.3-inch fish caught at Rainbow Lake.

Wooten Wildlife Area Assistant Manager Kari Dingman said camping activity on the area is picking up, along with the fishing, because of the warm weather.

Fishhook Pond in Walla Walla County and Pampa Pond in Whitman County were also well-stocked with rainbows for the March 1 opener, although no creel checks were conducted at those waters.

Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist, said there was good fishing at most March 1-opening fisheries near Spokane. Downs Lake was producing largemouth bass in the three- to four-pound range, along with a few rainbow trout and yellow perch . Liberty Lake shore anglers on the opener averaged one fish each and boat anglers averaged three fish each – almost all were brown trout in the 14- to 20-inch range, with the occasional winter carryover rainbow up to 18 inches. Anglers fishing Medical Lake on opening day averaged three fish each.

Donley said that anglers at Amber Lake, which opened for catch-and-release fishing March 1, averaged five to six trout each. About 90 percent of the catch at Amber was rainbows measuring 13 to 20 inches. The remainder of the catch was cutthroat trout that measured between 14 to 18 inches.

Coffeepot Lake also opened for catch-and-release fishing, and although it was not officially surveyed, Donley said fishing was slow.

Bill Baker, WDFW northeast district fish biologist, reports that fishing for lake trout and rainbows was fair at Stevens County’s Deer Lake on the March 1 opener.  Lake trout anglers averaged less than one fish apiece, from 24 to 34 inches.  Rainbow trout anglers averaged one fish apiece, from 13 to 15 inches.  Baker said the water temperature was still cold, at around 37 degrees, so fishing will likely pick up as the lake warms up.

Baker also noted the winter-season fisheries, Hatch and Williams lakes, will remain open to fishing through March 31.

WDFW Fish Biologist Marc Divens said that although water temperatures are still a little cold to expect fast action, anglers interested in warmwater “spiny-ray” species have many opportunities now and in coming weeks and months at both year-round and early-opening waters.

For year-round lakes: Lake Roosevelt offers walleye and smallmouth bass , along with rainbows and kokanee ;  Silver Lake has tiger muskie , largemouth bass , and yellow perch ; and Newman Lake has tiger muskie, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and crappie .

Among March 1-opening waters: Liberty Lake has largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch; Downs Lake has largemouth bass, yellow perch and crappie; Coffeepot Lake has bass, crappie and perch; and Deer Lake has smallmouth bass.

Anglers can gear up and learn about fishing opportunities at the third annual Great Western Sportfishing Show , March 5-7, at the Spokane Convention Center. The show includes inland trout lakes seminars conducted by WDFW Fish Biologist Chris Donley. For more information see http://www.greatwesternsportfishingshow.com/Home.html .

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/ .

Northcentral Washington

Anglers from 12 counties (six westside, six eastside) fished the Columbia Basin’s opening day on March 1 on ice-free lakes and under sunny skies with unseasonably warm weather. “There were lots of folks out, considering that the opener fell on a Monday,” said WDFW District Fish Biologist Chad Jackson of Moses Lake. “As far as fishery performance, it was a bit of a mixed bag with some good, some bad, and some under-utilized lakes.”

Jackson said the greatest effort and catches were checked at Martha, Upper Caliche, and Lenice lakes.  At Martha and Caliche lakes, anglers averaged nearly five-fish limits of rainbow trout , with several taking full limits in less than an hour. Most rainbows caught at Martha Lake were about 13 inches, with a few winter-carryovers running 16 to 24 inches. The size of trout harvested at Caliche Lake was smaller at 10 to 11 inches.

Lenice Lake was the most popular and best performing selective-gear water on the opener, with most anglers catching and releasing around six trout each in two to four hours of fishing. Most of the trout were 19 to 21 inches, with a few up to 24 inches. A few anglers surveyed by Jackson said they had caught and released a few of last year’s plants of tiger trout .

Nunnally and Merry lakes, near Lenice and also under the selective-gear and one-trout daily retention rules, were not checked on the opener. But Jackson said fishing, at least on the larger Nunnally, is similar to Lenice.  Nunnally and Lenice will be re-stocked with trout this spring, he noted.

“Two lakes that underperformed this opener were Quincy and Burke,” Jackson said.  “Despite our supplemental catchable-size trout plants, on top of sizeable spring fry plants, both lakes failed to produce a harvest rate of one trout per angler. However, since the catchable trout plant occurred only two weeks ago, I expect that these two lakes will fish a lot better as the spring progresses.”

Anglers who did catch trout at Burke had 12- to 24-inch rainbows, and those at Quincy had 20- to 21-inch fish from fry plants.

Jackson said angler effort appeared to be down on the opener at Dusty and Lenore lakes. The highest angler counts recorded during the creel survey at Dusty and Lenore lakes were eight and 13, respectively.  That made determining the overall opening day success difficult, he said.  Among the anglers checked at Dusty, one rainbow trout and one tiger trout were measured, both at 16 inches.  At Lenore, which is catch-and-release through May, anglers each reported catching about seven cutthroat trout of 14 to 22 inches in length. “Both Dusty and Lenore will be very good to fish as the season progresses,” Jackson said.

Other Columbia Basin lakes that opened March 1, but were not surveyed, are several “walk-in” waters on WDFW’s Quincy Wildlife Area – Cascade, Cliff, Crystal, Cup, Dot, George and Spring.

Matt Polacek, WDFW fish biologist, said anglers are catching yellow perch at the Coulee City Marina on Banks Lake. Pre-spawn perch can be found in or near weed beds throughout the lake.

WDFW Okanogan District Fish Biologist Bob Jateff reminds steelhead anglers that two sections of the Okanogan River will close March 15 – from the first powerline crossing downstream of the Highway 155 Bridge in Omak (Coulee Dam Credit Union Building) upstream to the mouth of Omak Creek; and from the Tonasket Bridge (4th Street) downstream to the Tonasket Lagoons Park boat launch.  Those closures are necessary to protect natural origin steelhead staging prior to spawning in those tributaries.

The rest of the steelhead areas upstream of Wells Dam will remain open until March 31, but Jateff advises anglers to periodically check for fishery changes on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm .

Whitefish remains open on portions of the Methow and Similkameen rivers until March 31.  The daily catch limit is 15 whitefish and gear restrictions are in effect. Check the rules pamphlet for all details.

Southcentral Washington

WDFW hatchery crews have been stocking catchable-size (one-third pound and nearly one pound) rainbow trout over the last couple weeks at waterways throughout Kittitas and Yakima counties.  Eric Anderson, WDFW district fish biologist, said there are lots of good fishing opportunities during these warm, pre-spring days.

In Kittitas County, McCabe Pond recently received 510 one-third-pound rainbows, Woodhouse Ponds got 810, South Fio Rito got 1,500, North Fio Rito got 3,210, and Mattoon Lake got 1,610. North Fio Rito Lake also received 700 nearly one-pounders, and Mattoon Lake got 400.

In Yakima County, I-82 Pond #4 and Pond #6 each received 2,520 one-third pound rainbows, Sarge Hubbard Pond got 308, Rotary Lake got 2,520, and Myron Lake got 504. Sarge Hubbard also received 100 nearly one-pound rainbows, and Myron Lake got 500.

All catchable-size trout plants are posted weekly on the WDFW website at   http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/plants/weekly/ .