Pinks in the rivers, coho in Puget Sound and the Straits, sea-runs in the Cowlitz, Chinook and steelhead on the Eastside, trout in Spokane lakes — there’s plenty of opportunities to be had around Washington this weekend.
Here are some ideas, courtesy of WDFW’s Weekender:
NORTH PUGET SOUND
The bulk of the pink salmon run has moved into the rivers, where anglers have had success hooking humpies. Meanwhile, catch rates for coho salmon are starting to improve, likely signaling the arrival of ocean silvers into Puget Sound.
Some of the best coho harvest numbers were seen at fish checks in central Puget Sound. For example, 214 anglers were checked with 137 coho Sept. 12 at the Shilshole Ramp, while 423 anglers brought home 295 at the Everett Ramp. The following day, 221 anglers were checked with 172 silvers at Shilshole, while 214 anglers were checked with 163 coho at Everett.
Point No Point, Jefferson Head, Possession Bar and Shipwreck should be good spots to hook ocean coho, said John Long, statewide salmon manager for WDFW. Anglers fishing those areas, or other waters of marine areas 9 (Admiralty Inlet) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton), have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but must release chinook. In Marine Area 9, anglers also must release chum through Sept. 30.
Marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay) and 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) are also open for salmon. Anglers fishing those two marine areas have a two-salmon daily limit, plus two additional pink salmon. All chinook salmon must released.
Another option is Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands), where anglers have a daily limit of two salmon, plus two additional pink salmon, but can only keep one chinook. Anglers in Marine Area 7 must release wild coho and chum.
Meanwhile, there’s still time to catch crab but the opportunity is limited. In northern Puget Sound, only Marine Area 7 remains open for crab. Marine Area 7 is open Wednesdays through Saturdays each week through Sept. 30. The region’s other marine areas are closed for a catch assessment.
The daily catch limit in Puget Sound is five Dungeness crab, males only, in hard-shell condition with a minimum carapace width of 6¼ inches. Fishers may catch six red rock crab of either sex per day, provided those crab measure at least 5 inches across. See WDFW’s sport-crabbing website ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab ) for more information.
Crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Sept. 21 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2009 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2010 fishing license. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab . Crabbers who continue to fish in an open area after Sept. 7 should record their catch on their winter catch card which is valid from Sept. 8 through Jan. 2.
In the freshwater, anglers are hooking pink salmon on several rivers, including the Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Skagit and Green.
Elsewhere, Lake Sammamish is open for salmon fishing, with a daily limit of four salmon, up to two chinook may be retained. All sockeye must be released, and fishing is closed within 100 yards of the mouth of Issaquah Creek.
Lake Washington opens today (Sept. 16) to coho fishing. Anglers are allowed four coho per day (minimum size 12 inches) from waters north of the Highway 520 Bridge and east of the Montlake Bridge.
Before heading out, anglers should check the rules and regulations for all freshwater and saltwater fisheries in WDFW’s Fishing in Washington pamphlet ( http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm ).
SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA
With the ocean salmon season coming to a close, anglers are focusing on the coho fishery heating up along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In addition, more area rivers are now open to salmon fishing, although anglers are reminded of a partial closure on the Puyallup River.
Salmon fishing at Westport, (Marine Area 2), La Push (Marine Area 3) and Neah Bay (Marine Area 4) closes Sept. 20, while Ilwaco (Marine Area 1) will remain open through Sept. 30.
However, a portion of Marine Area 3 will reopen Sept. 26 – Oct. 11 for a late-season fishery targeting coho and chinook salmon returning to the Quillayute River system. “The La Push fishery is very popular,” said Wendy Beeghley, WDFW fish biologist. “There’s still fish out there and judging from this year’s overall results, anglers should be successful.”
Anglers heading to the area may want to take part in the La Push Last Chance Salmon derby, scheduled Sept. 26 and 27. For more information, call the Forks Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-443-6757, or send an email to email@example.com
Other coastal areas open to fishing include the salmon fishery east of Buoy 13 in Grays Harbor (Marine Area 2-2), which is open daily through Nov. 30, while Willapa Bay is open daily until Jan. 31.
Beeghley advises anglers to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm for specific retention rules, limits and boundary guidelines. Anglers are also advised to check the Fishing Hotline at (360) 902-2500 for updated information on changes in coastal fisheries.
On the Strait of Juan de Fuca, anglers fishing in Marine Area 5 (Sekiu) will be able to retain two wild coho as part of their two-fish daily limit when the non-selective coho fishery opens Sept. 19-30. All chinook and chum must be released. Starting Oct. 1, anglers in the area may retain one chinook salmon as part of their two-fish daily limit.
Meanwhile, a non-selective fishery for coho and chinook gets under way Oct. 1 in Marine Area 6 (Port Angeles), where anglers will be able to retain one chinook as part of their two-fish daily limit. Through Sept. 30, all chinook, wild coho and chum must be released.
In south Puget Sound, anglers fishing in Marine Area 11 (Tacoma/Vashon Island) will be allowed to retain wild chinook as part of their two-fish daily limit beginning Oct. 1. Anglers fishing in Marine Area 13 may also retain wild chinook, but must release all wild coho.
In Hood Canal (Marine Area 12), the daily limit is four coho only. All other salmon species must be released. The same rules apply to Dabob and Quilcene bays in northern Hood Canal.
Anglers are reminded that recreational fishing on the Puyallup River is closed from noon Sundays to noon Tuesdays, Sept. 20-22 and Sept. 27-29 due to public safety concerns and to reduce gear conflicts between sport anglers and tribal fishers. The section closed extends from the 11th Street Bridge in Tacoma to the City of Puyallup Outfall Structure across the river from the junction of Freeman Road and North Levee Road. Recreational fishing will remain open seven days a week upstream of the closed section. The lower section will reopen seven days a week beginning at noon Sept. 29.
Salmon fishing is now under way on the Chehalis River, which opened Sept. 16 from the Hwy 101 Bridge in Aberdeen to the Porter Bridge. The daily limit is six fish. Up to two adults may be retained, but only one may be a wild adult coho . Adult chinook and chum must be released.
Area rivers opening Oct. 1 for fall salmon fishing include the Elk, Hoquiam, Humptulips, Johns, Satsop, Wishkah and Wynoochee in Grays Harbor County; Kennedy Creek (upriver to the Hwy 101 bridge) in Thurston County; the Nemah River in Pacific County; and the Skokomish River in Mason County.
Before heading out, anglers are advised to check the 2009-2010 Fishing in Washington rules pamphlet at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm for specific regulations.
Anglers fishing in the Quillayute system – which includes the Bogachiel, Sol Duc, Calawah and Dickey rivers – can keep two adult salmon, plus two additional adult hatchery coho as part of the six-fish daily limit.
Recreational crabbers are reminded that their summer catch record cards are due to WDFW by Sept. 21 and must be returned whether or not the cardholder caught or fished for crab during the season. Crabbers who fail to file catch reports for 2009 will face a $10 fine, which will be imposed when they apply for a 2010 fishing license. Completed cards can be mailed in or recorded online. Additional information is available on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/shelfish/crab .
Those who file their catch reports by the deadline will be entered in a drawing for one of 10 free 2010 combination fishing licenses, which allow the holder to fish for a variety of freshwater and saltwater species.
Anglers are still averaging a coho per boat most days in the Buoy 10 fishery at the mouth of the Columbia River, but the action is shifting to the Cowlitz River and other tributaries below Bonneville Dam. Several rivers will close to chinook retention Oct. 1, but new fishing opportunities – including a catch-and-keep sturgeon season above the Wauna powerlines – are also on the horizon.
Starting Oct. 1, anglers will be able to catch and keep white sturgeon Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from the Wauna powerlines upriver to Bonneville Dam.
“Fishing opportunities in the Columbia River Basin are again in flux,” said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist. “The chinook catch is tapering off, but we now have coho salmon in all of the major tributaries. “That fishery will continue to build through the end of the month, as the sturgeon fishery gets under way above Wauna.”
Best bets for hatchery coho in the coming weeks are the Cowlitz, Lewis, Kalama, Toutle, Elochoman and Grays rivers, Hymer said. Anglers have been catching both hatchery coho and chinook salmon at the confluence of the Cowlitz and Toutle rivers and where the Green River flows into the North Toutle.
Anglers may retain up to six hatchery-reared adult coho on all lower Columbia tributaries with hatchery programs, including the Cowlitz, Deep, Elochoman, Grays (including West Fork), Kalama, Klickitat, Lewis (including North Fork), Toutle (including Green and North Fork) and Washougal rivers. Except on the Klickitat River, only those fish with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar may be retained.
While coho are expected to be abundant this year, Hymer acknowledges that they can be reluctant to bite. The best time to catch them is after a heavy rain, or when water levels rise, he said. “Nothing cures lockjaw as well as a good hard rain,” he said. “The action should also pick up when the late-run fish move into these river systems.”
Meanwhile, after a record catch in August, the fall chinook fishery below Bonneville Dam has tapered off in recent days. Although fisheries for hatchery coho and steelhead remain open, anglers fishing the mainstem Columbia River must now release any chinook they intercept from the Lewis River downstream (see boundary map at http://bit.ly/AF4Qt ).
However, anglers still have an opportunity to harvest fall chinook on the mainstem Columbia from the Lewis River upstream. One of the best spots should be in Bonneville Pool at the mouths of the tributaries plus in Drano Lake and the Klickitat River, Hymer said.
The Lewis is scheduled to close to chinook retention to protect wild fish, which are expected to return in numbers just above the minimum escapement goals. Effective Oct. 1, anglers will be required to release all chinook salmon on the Lewis River including the North Fork. In addition, fishing from any floating device will be prohibited on the North Fork Lewis from Johnson Creek to Colvin Creek. Also effective Oct. 1, Colvin Creek will be closed to all fishing upstream to Merwin Dam to protect naturally spawning fish.
Several other regulations also come into play Oct. 1 to protect naturally spawning fish. All chinook must be released on the North Fork Toutle River from the Kidd Valley Bridge near Highway 504 upstream. Adult chinook – but not hatchery jacks – must be released on the Green, Washougal (from Little Washougal River upstream) and the White Salmon River (from ½ mile above the Hwy. 14 Bridge upstream). Marked, hatchery fall chinook – both adults and jacks – may still be retained on the Grays, Elochoman and Kalama rivers.
“This is one of the benefits of moving toward selective fisheries for fall chinook salmon,” Hymer said. “We need to protect naturally spawning fish, but anglers can continue to catch abundant hatchery salmon throughout the season.”
Looking for something a little different? Anglers should try fishing for hatchery sea-run cutthroats on the lower Cowlitz River. Bank and boat anglers stand a good chance to catch these aggressive foot-long fish on bait, lures, or flies.
While fishing opportunities routinely change with the seasons, Hymer admits that a recent influx of mackerel into the lower Columbia River caught him by surprise. “First Humboldt squid off Sekiu and now this,” he said. “Mackerel seldom come this far north and this is the first time I can remember fish reported in the lower river. Ocean conditions are clearly topsy-turvy this year.”
Snake River steelhead and chinook salmon fishing is slowly picking up. Catch rates are still very low for chinook in the only two open sections for that species – from the Highway 12 Bridge (near the mouth of the Snake River) upstream to the no-fishing zone below Ice Harbor Dam, and from Highway 261 Bridge crossing the Snake River (about one half mile upstream from Lyons Ferry Hatchery) upstream to the no-fishing zone below Little Goose Dam.
Steelhead catches are increasing in the upper river near the Idaho border, and along the “wall” and walkway area upstream of the juvenile fish bypass return pipe below Little Goose Dam.
Glen Mendel, WDFW southeast district fish biologist, reminds anglers that in the “wall” area below Little Goose Dam, the daily chinook catch limit is just one hatchery (adipose-fin-clipped) adult (24 inches or greater) chinook and up to two jack (less than 24 inches) chinook. In the rest of the two sections open for chinook, the daily catch limit is two marked hatchery adult chinook and four chinook jacks either wild or hatchery-marked.
WDFW Enforcement Sgt. Jim Nelson said that some anglers believe they can legally fish with two poles for steelhead and salmon in the Snake River reservoirs behind dams. Washington’s new two-pole option went into effect last month, but waters with anadramous and/or ESA-listed species are excluded from two-pole fishing, as described at http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/twopole .
“I think since these reservoirs all carry names like Lake Bryan, Lake Sacajawea, Lake Wallula, some people are confused by the two-pole option, which is available at most of our lakes, ponds and reservoirs,” Nelson said. “Adding to the confusion is the fact that the state of Idaho allows two-pole fishing in anadramous-species waters.”
In Washington, the two pole endorsement is not valid on the Columbia or Snake rivers mainstem, except Rufus Woods Reservoir and Lake Roosevelt.
Whether with one or two poles, Lake Roosevelt is currently producing good catches of big rainbow trout , according to Chris Donley, WDFW central district fish biologist.
“Sprague Lake is also really cooking, too,” Donley said. “But both Roosevelt and Sprague are open year round, so this might be the time to take advantage of the last couple weeks of fishing on trout lakes like Badger, Coffeepot, Fish, and Williams, which all close Sept. 30. Badger, in particular, has some nice carryover cutthroat trout .”
Donley noted September can be really good for yellow perch fishing at southwest Spokane County’s Downs Lake, which also closes Sept. 30. Clear Lake, near the town of Medical Lake, has brown trout biting now and usually produces good catches of crappie and largemouth bass in late fall. Clear Lake remains open through October.
“Amber Lake is taking off now for cutthroat and rainbow trout fly fishing,” Donley said. “It’s open through November, but the last two months are catch-and-release with selective gear rules.”
Bob Jateff, WDFW Okanogan District fish biologist from Twisp, reports chinook salmon are still being caught in the Brewster/Bridgeport area on the upper Columbia River. That salmon season is scheduled to close Oct. 15.
“The Methow River trout fishery is scheduled to close September 30th, but anglers should be aware that if incidental steelhead take limits are approached, sections of the river could close early,” Jateff said. “Anglers should avoid targeting steelhead during the trout fishery.”
Jateff also noted lowland lakes fishing in Okanogan County will pick up this month and next as water temperatures cool and trout become more active. Selective gear rule lakes, such as Blue Lake on the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area, and Big and Little Twin lakes near Winthrop, should all provide good fishing during the later part of September and through October.
“This is a great time to fish for rainbow trout in the Yakima River upstream from Roza Dam and the Naches River,” said Jim Cummins, WDFW fish biologist from Yakima. “It’s catch-and-release in this stretch and the low flows and mild days make fishing this time of year a real pleasure.”
Cummins says the upper Yakima should produce rainbow trout for both boat and bank anglers. “Water is no longer being released from upper Yakima River reservoirs as the result of the annual ‘flip-flop’ designed to reduced flows where chinook salmon spawn in the upper Yakima,” he said. “Not only does this increase salmon spawning habitat and protect redds from winter low flows, but anglers can enjoy the increased fishing opportunity resulting from the low flows.”
Cummins also noted fishing success for rainbow, cutthroat , and eastern brook trout in high mountain lakes is generally best this time of year. “You can enjoy mild daytime temperatures, cool evenings, and colorful vegetation and most of the bugs found in July and August are gone,” he said. “Just be aware that some hunting seasons are in progress as you hike in and out of these lakes.”