There are blackmouth to be caught, rainbows, perch and crappie to be iced and, if the rivers would settle, steelhead to be caught around Washington.
Possibly the best bet, though, is at Lake Roosevelt
“Anglers report that trout fishing … is the best it’s been in 10 years,” WDFW reports in the agency’s first biweekly Weekender of 2010.
Adds my reporter Leroy Ledeboer in Moses Lake this afternoon, “Just talked to Gordie Steinmetz. He used two rods, Berkley Frenzies in size 5 and 7, and caught 18 in a couple hours. That’s hot trout fishing.”
Here’s more by region:
NORTH PUGET SOUND
Anglers have been reeling in some blackmouth in the marine areas and there have been a few scattered reports of steelhead caught in the rivers but, overall, fishing in the region continues to be slow.
“It’s been quiet out there,” said Steve Thiesfeld, WDFW fisheries biologist. “Effort continues to be light, and those who are getting out have had to work to find fish.”
One bright spot has been the San Juan Islands, where fishing has been fair for blackmouth, Thiesfeld said.
“Like elsewhere, there are not a lot of anglers fishing there, but those who have put in some time over the last week are finding fish.”
Anglers fishing Marine Area 7 (San Juan Islands) – as well as marine areas 8-1 (Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay), 8-2 (Port Susan and Port Gardner) and 10 (Seattle/Bremerton) – have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.
Thiesfeld reminds anglers that Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) re-opens for salmon fishing beginning Jan. 16. Anglers fishing that area will also have a two-salmon daily limit, but must release wild chinook.
In the rivers, there have been reports of anglers hooking some bright steelhead. However, returns of hatchery steelhead to a few rivers have been low, prompting the department to close portions of some rivers, including the North Fork Stillaguamish, the North Fork Nooksack and the Cascade. The early closures are necessary to ensure hatcheries in the three rivers can meet their egg-take goals for winter steelhead.
Details on those emergency rules can be found on WDFW’s fishing regulation website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fish/regs/fishregs.htm . Anglers are advised to check that website for news about the Cascade River, which could re-open soon, said Bob Leland, WDFW’s steelhead program manager.
SOUTH SOUND/OLYMPIC PENINSULA
January is typically the best month for catching hatchery steelhead, but heavy rain rendered most area rivers unfishable during the first days of the new year. After several weeks of good fishing, most anglers decided to take cover until the rain subsided and the rivers dropped back into shape.
“It’s a waiting game right now,” said Ron Warren, regional fish manager for south Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. “Lots of hatchery steelhead are moving into the rivers, but they’re tough to catch under these conditions.”
BRUCE LAMBERT OF GRAHAM SHOWS OFF A HUMPTULIPS STEELHEAD CAUGHT DEC. 30. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)
Anglers waiting for the rivers to drop might consider fishing for blackmouth salmon in one of a number of areas open in Puget Sound. Some nice fish were recently checked at the Pleasant Harbor boat ramp on Hood Canal, and Marine Area 9 (Admiralty Inlet) opens for salmon fishing Jan. 16.
Another razor clam opening is also tentatively scheduled later this month. If marine toxin tests show the clams are safe to eat, diggers will get a chance to hit the beach starting Jan. 27. Assuming the tests go well, Long Beach and Twin Harbors will be open for digging Jan. 27-31, Copalis and Mockrocks will be open Jan. 29-31 and Kalaloch beach Jan. 30-31.
Digging at all five beaches will be restricted to the hours between noon and midnight. Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager, said final word on the dig will be announced once test results show whether the clams are safe to eat. If the dig is approved, he strongly advises clam diggers to check weather and surf forecasts before heading out.
Weather and stream conditions have been a major preoccupation for steelheaders for more than a month. In early January, the drop-off in participation was especially apparent on the Bogachiel River, where WDFW interviewed only four anglers with two fish from Jan. 1-3. By comparison, 163 anglers were checked with120 hatchery steelhead – and 15 fish released – from Christmas Day through Dec. 27.
“High water has also put a damper on steelhead fishing in rivers around Grays Harbor, but that will change once we get some clear weather,” Warren said.
Wild steelhead-retention rules are now in effect on the Bogachiel, Calawah, Clearwater, Dickey, Hoh, Hoko, Pysht, Quillayute, Quinault and Sol Duc rivers. Anglers may retain one wild steelhead per license year on those rivers. On all other rivers, anglers may retain only hatchery-reared steelhead marked with a clipped adipose fin and healed scar.
Rivers are running high throughout the lower Columbia Basin, but anglers are still hooking up with inbound hatchery winter steelhead between rainstorms. Meanwhile, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge, and catchable-size rainbow are still available in a number of lakes throughout the region.
As in December, timing is key for anglers hoping to catch hatchery steelhead in the first weeks of the new year, said Joe Hymer, a WDFW fish biologist.
“Since mid-December, we’ve seen a progression of frigid-water, low-water and now high-water conditions,” Hymer said. “Catch rates have been up and down, but fishing has generally been pretty decent for anglers who hit it between major weather events.”
Some of the best fishing has been on the North Fork Lewis River around the salmon hatchery, Hymer said. During creel checks in the week leading up to New Year’s, 136 bank anglers checked on the North Fork had caught 23 steelhead and released nine others – most using jigs and bobbers around the salmon hatchery. Twenty-six boat anglers checked during the same period took home six more winter steelhead.
LARRY MADELLA'S PAIR OF STEELHEAD BIT ON NEW YEAR'S EVE, ON THE NORTH FORK LEWIS RIVER. SON JACOB ALSO CAUGHT ONE, HIS FIRST. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)
On the Cowlitz River, boat anglers fishing between the trout and salmon hatcheries accounted for the largest share of the catch. Seventy-eight boat anglers reported 24 “keepers” while 44 bank anglers accounted for four more during creel checks ending Dec. 31.
The Kalama, Grays, Elochoman and Washougal rivers – plus Salmon Creek in Clark County – should also be good bets in the days ahead, Hymer said.
“The early run usually peaks around New Year’s, but there are still plenty of fish in those rivers,” he said. “The late winter run is also starting to arrive, which can provide decent steelhead fishing in the Cowlitz and Kalama rivers through March.”
As in past years, all wild steelhead must be released. Anglers may retain only hatchery-reared fish with a clipped adipose fin and a healed scar. That also applies to spring chinook salmon , which could start entering the Columbia River in small numbers any day, Hymer said. Marked springers are available for harvest on a daily basis in the Columbia and its tributaries from the I-5 Bridge downstream until 2010 seasons are set in mid-February, he said.
As outlined in the rule pamphlet, sturgeon fishing is now open in all areas of the mainstem Columbia below the Highway 395 Bridge. Anglers may retain sturgeon daily except in the area from the Wauna powerlines to Bonneville Dam, where retention fishing is limited to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only. Fishing opportunities for sturgeon from March-December 2010 on the mainstem Columbia River will be decided by Washington and Oregon at a joint state hearing Feb. 18.
While temperatures are still a bit cold for red-hot sturgeon action, Hymer noted that anglers surveyed in The Dalles Pool caught three legal-size fish during the first three days of 2010.
Just as soon fish for trout ? During the final days of 2009, WDFW planted nearly 15,000 catchable-size rainbows in seven area waters to give anglers some options during the cold of winter. Battleground Lake got 2,500 Dec. 21; Klineline Pond 2,500 Dec. 21; Icehouse Lake (near Bridge of the Gods) 1,022 Dec. 29; Spearfish Lake (near Dallesport) 2,002 Dec. 24; Rowland Lake (near Lyle) 4,057 Dec. 24; and Maryhill Pond (in Klickitat County) 501 Dec. 29. In addition, Fort Borst Park Pond, open only to juveniles under 15 years old, got 3,029 on Dec. 28.
The hottest fishing in the region is for net-pen-reared rainbow trout on Lake Roosevelt – the Columbia River reservoir off Grand Coulee Dam on the Lincoln, Ferry and Stevens county lines. John Whalen, WDFW regional fish program manager, said daily limits of five rainbows, running 14 to 20 inches, are readily being caught from Hunters downstream. Anglers who regularly fish the big reservoir say it’s the best it has been in the past 10 years.
MARGIE CASH SHOWS OFF A NICE ROOSEVELT WINTER RAINBOW FROM A PREVIOUS SEASON. (LAZER SHARP PHOTO CONTEST)
Bill Baker, WDFW district fish biologist, said fishing for rainbow trout remains good at Hatch and Williams lakes in Stevens County. The two lakes are the only winter-only season (Dec. 1 – March 31) waters that have fish to catch. Spokane County’s Fourth of July and Hog Canyon lakes were treated last fall and will not be re-stocked with trout until spring.
Sprague Lake, on the Lincoln-Adams county line, continues to provide good catches of rainbow trout through the ice, although recent warmer weather and rain has left the safety of that ice questionable. WDFW Regional Enforcement Capt. Mike Whorton said that Sprague is under the same catch rules as Lake Roosevelt – five trout daily with no more than two over 20 inches – and the size of most fish there sometimes tempts anglers into violations. Whorton also notes that anglers who leave equipment or debris on the ice – from buckets to old armchairs – can be fined for littering.
Chris Donley, WDFW district fish biologist, reports Whitman County’s Rock Lake is producing catches of rainbow and most notably brown trout . Spokane County’s Eloika and Silver lakes are yielding lots of yellow perch through the ice, but anglers need to be cautious about “rotten ice” during recent thawing and re-freezing.
Snake River steelheading remains productive for anglers who find the fish pooled up near the mouths of tributaries. WDFW Fish Biologist Joe Bumgarner reports the latest creel check data shows the best catch rates below Hellar Bar near the mouth of the Grand Ronde River, and in the lower Grand Ronde itself where anglers average a little over six hours of fishing per catch. In the mainstem Snake, from Ice Harbor to Lower Monumental dams, steelheaders average almost 12 hours per fish caught. From Lower Monumental to Little Goose dams, the average is just under 17 hours per catch, and from Little Goose to Lower Granite dams, the average is 17.5 hours.
WDFW regional fish program manager Jeff Korth reports a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the region, but with recent warming trends he cautions anglers about deteriorating ice conditions, both on lakes and along river shorelines.
“Ice fishing for rainbow trout at the Windmill/Canal lakes in the Potholes Reservoir area in Grant County has been good,” Korth said. “Ice fishing for yellow perch has been decent at Moses Lake and at Fish Lake in Chelan County. And ice fishing for whitefish at Banks Lake near Coulee City is reportedly good. But with thawing and re-freezing, anglers need to be sure the ice is safe before venturing on or near it.”
WDFW district fish biologist Bob Jateff of Twisp reports good rainbow trout fishing through the ice at Rat Lake near Brewster, Sidley/Molson Lake near Oroville, Big and Little Green lakes near Omak, and Davis Lake near Winthrop. Patterson Lake near Winthrop is producing yellow perch in the 7-8-inch range, with some larger fish to 10 inches.
Jateff also reports that upper Columbia River steelhead fishing picked up slightly in the tributaries above Wells Dam while air temperatures were above freezing.
“Fishing will taper off as the temperatures fall and ice forms in the rivers, so anglers planning a trip should call ahead first to check weather conditions,” he said. “Anglers do best when drifting the slower-moving, deeper runs as the fish tend to hold in these areas during the winter months.”
Jateff reminds steelheaders that a mandatory retention of adipose-fin-clipped hatchery steelhead is in effect during the fishery.
The Methow River is open to whitefish from Gold Creek upstream to the falls above Brush Creek and the Chewuch River from the mouth to the Pasayten Wilderness boundary. The Similkameen River is open from the mouth to the Canadian border. Anglers fishing for whitefish in areas that are currently open for steelhead must use selective gear (single barbless lures and flies, no bait allowed).
Anglers are taking limits of whitefish on the Yakima River and other local streams, according to WDFW district fish biologist Eric Anderson. “Some of the best whitefish areas besides the mainstem Yakima are the Naches, Tieton, Cle Elum and Bumping rivers,” Anderson said. “Check the fishing rules pamphlet for specific river stretch descriptions.”
Whitefish gear is restricted to one single-point hook with a maximum hook size of 3/16-inch from point to shank, hook size 14. Fish are usually caught with a small fly tipped with a maggot. Up to 15 whitefish can be retained daily. Most fish are 10 to 15 inches. Anderson recommends that anglers concentrate fishing efforts in deep pools below riffles.
Steelhead fishing in the Ringold area of the Columbia River near the Tri-Cities is still producing for bank anglers and boaters alike, reports WDFW Ringold/Meseberg Fish Hatchery specialist Mike Erickson. “At least for the few willing to brave the weather,” he added.