(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
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.
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/ .
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.
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/ .